HC Deb 10 July 1972 vol 840 cc1160-2
12. Mr. Roy Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what recent discussions he has had with the British Steel Corporation concerning matters of joint concern.

Mr. Peter Thomas

I keep in close and regular contact with the British Steel Corporation about the steel industry in Wales.

Mr. Hughes

In the defence of Welsh interests, the right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to display all the eloquence of a Trappist monk. Is he not aware that in the past two years more than 3,000 redundancies have been notified in the Newport area alone and that many more are on the way? What is he doing about it? Why does not he at least make a simple gesture by placing Newport in the development area and thereby give some hope to our people?

Mr. Peter Thomas

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the corporation's investment has been stepped up substantially from £80 million in 1969–70 to£265 million this year, and that Welsh projects will account for about one-third of the corporation's investment in 1972–73.

Mr. Barry Jones

Since it appears likely that the British Steel Corporation will announce the closure of Shotton's 12 open hearth furnaces, which at present provide 7,000 jobs, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman guarantee that there will be no announcement about this possible closure while the House is in recess?

Mr. Peter Thomas

When an announcement is made about the British Steel Corporation's long-term plans, which of course, will take into account regional aspects, certainly I hope that a statement about the Government's decision will be made in this House. As for Shotton, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that no decisions have been taken.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the loss of 7,000 jobs in North Wales would be disastrous for the area. Will he tell us what steps he is taking to avoid that catastrophe?

Mr. Peter Thomas

As the right hon. Gentleman may or may not know, I have had meetings with representatives of local authorities in the area and of both sides of industry. I have discussed the matter with the British Steel Corporation. I do not think that I can add anything to what I have said, namely, that no decision has been taken by the British Steel Corporation about the future of Shotton.

Sir A. Meyer

Can my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that in considering this matter the Government will not allow mere book-keeping considerations to be decisive?

Mr. Peter Thomas

The Government have said that the decision initially must be one for the British Steel Corporation. Clearly the Government will then have to consider the corporation's representations, and the Government have said that regional considerations will be taken into account.

Mr. Michael Foot

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to the announcement that the British Steel Corporation will make of its long-term so-called strategic plans for the industry. Since he has said that this is initially a matter for the British Steel Corporation, will the Secretary of State say what representations his Department has made about the proposed figure of 28 million tons steel production in this country? Has not the Welsh Office made representations against that figure? If the industry were to be kept down to such a figure, it could be disastrous for the industry as a whole and for Wales in particular.

Mr. Peter Thomas

The figure was not fixed at 28 million tons; there was a range. It was accepted by the British Steel Corporation.

Mr. Foot

Does not the Secretary of State agree that the figure of 28 million tons was put forward not by the British Steel Corporation but by the Government? I am asking what representations the Welsh Office made about that figure.

Mr. Peter Thomas

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The figure, which was originally an inflated figure suggested by the British Steel Corporation, was, after the British Steel Corporation had gone into the matter more carefully, revised to between 28 million and 36 million tons.

Mr. George Thomas

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of those replies, I give notice on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends that I intend to pursue the matter further on the Adjournment.