HC Deb 21 June 1972 vol 839 cc472-5
Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the statement published yesterday by the British Steel Corporation on the future of the Scottish steel industry. I preface my application for this debate by saying that no announcement made in the past decade in Scotland has caused so much anger and bitterness as the announcement made yesterday.

I would submit that the matter is urgent because, while the statement was made only yesterday, only three weeks ago in this House we put specific and important questions regarding the future of the Scottish steel industry to the Government and were told then that it was primarily a matter for the Corporation and that answers could not be given.

The statement has caused so much concern and dismay among thousands of people in Scotland that it is right and proper now that hon. Members, particularly those representing Scottish steel constituencies, should have their say and should be given specific answers to this vitally important problem. It is also specific insofar as the statement made by the deputy chairman of the Corporation concerns Scotland alone.

I would also submit that this is a vitally important matter for all the people of Scotland. It appears from the statement that 7,500 people in my country will lose their jobs in the steel industry—people who have given a lifetime of service to it. There are also those who supply that industry. For every job in the steel industry in Scotland there are probably three or four jobs supplying the industry, and these men will likewise lose the employment in which they have worked for a number of years.

It is also important to bear in mind that these men will be losing jobs in a country which already has an unacceptably high level of unemployment, with no light at the end of the tunnel. It is not only the steel workers and those who supply the industry who will suffer, but the whole community. While the statement made yesterday started off as a basis for discussion there are few people in Scotland who really believe that at the end of the day the result will be different from that published yesterday by the Corporation. For these people—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I really must apply the same rule to each side of the House. I have already reproved another hon. Member for making the kind of speech I think he would have made if the application had been acceded to. I must ask the hon. Member to obey the same rule. The point he has to make is why I should grant an emergency debate.

Mr. Mackenzie

It is important because 7,500 people and their families in Scotland are terrified out of their wits today, wondering what is to happen to them tomorrow. There have been no compensatory developments announced. It is also important to note that this could spread and whole communities could die in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire and elsewhere if 'this plan comes to fruition. We want to impress upon the Secretary of State for Scotland and his colleagues that they must show a sense of urgency in standing up to the British Steel Corporation. This country is governed by the Government and not by the British Steel Corporation or anybody else. It is for all of these reasons that we on these benches regard it as important that this matter should be urgently discussed without delay.

Mr. Speaker

I had received intimation from both sides of the House that this application would be made. The hon. Member has made the application. I have listened to him carefully, though because of the notice I was given I was able to consider the matter beforehand.

I want to impress upon the House that my decision does not reflect in any way upon the merits or the seriousness of the situation or the sincerity with which the application has been put forward. It is simply a procedural decision whether there should be an emergency debate today or tomorrow on this matter.

I am afraid that I cannot accede to the application.


Mr. Ross

On a point of order. Have you had any request, Mr. Speaker, from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement on the very serious announcement made in Scotland—and outside this House—yesterday about redundancies in the steel industry? If a request were to be made to you by the Leader of the House, the Secretary of State for Scotland, or someone from the Department of Trade and Industry to make a statement about that now, would you accept it?

Mr. John Mendelson

In view of the great national significance of this announcement by BSC and the equal concern in other steel areas of the country I want to add my question, Mr. Speaker, to you whether you have in this situation received a request from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I have had several telephone calls from my area in south Yorkshire asking me to press the Government to make a statement this afternoon.

Mr. Eddie Griffiths

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will remember, from your knowledge of the industry and from following the debate on steel, that the Government made it quite clear that the British Steel Corporation was carrying out a strategic inquiry into future investment policy that it would then undertake, and that it would be submitted to the Government in due course, and that they would announce at the back end of this year where the BSC would be going in the next eight years. I would submit to you, in support of the request for a statement on the redundancies of 7,000 in Scotland, that that is an integral part of the—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have ruled on the Standing Order No. 9 application in regard to that point. It is not a point of order. I have to say this again and again when similar questions are put to me. I have no doubt that the point made by the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie) and supported by his hon. and right hon. Friends will have been noted.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since the Leader of the House is present, perhaps I might put to him, through you, Mr. Speaker, the possibility that we might have a statement about this matter tomorrow, and an early debate if we cannot have one today?

Mr. Orme

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many hon. Members on this side of the House representing English constituencies have been approached about a statement that it is said will be made tomorrow about Irlam Steel Works in Lancashire. That matter is directly linked to the Scottish matter raised under Standing Order No. 9. Has the Leader of the House or the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made any representation to you that a statement will be made in the House at 3.30 tomorrow?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot allow this to go on. These are all matters highly appropriate to the Business Statement tomorrow. I cannot allow discussion on the business of the House to occur day by day on what are alleged to be points of order. They are not points of order.