HC Deb 02 April 1973 vol 854 cc12-4
11. Mr. Kaufman

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what consultations he has had with the British Steel Corporation regarding the regional policy aspects of siting a steel mini-mill in the Greater Manchester area.

Mr. Emery

Regional policy aspects of the British Steel Corporation's 10-year development strategy, including the siting of mini-mills, were fully considered in the consultations leading up to my right hon. Friend's statement on the 10-year development strategy for the BSC—[Vol. 848, c. 1576.]

Mr. Kaufman

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that since the Government came to power male unemployment in the Greater Manchester area has risen by 63 per cent., that the situation will be seriously aggravated by the forthcoming closure of steel manufacture at Irlam, that the only aid held out by the Government has been one advance factory, described by the Manchester Evening News as a shed, and that the hope of a mini-mill held out by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry last December has been disposed of in the statement made by Lord Melchett at Shelton last week? What will the Government do to bring us some work in Manchester?

Mr. Emery

The Government have taken more measures to assist the Manchester area and to bring industry to areas of high unemployment than were taken by any previous Government. When he visited Shelton last week the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation said that although Shelton was also a possible site for another electric arc plant it would not be possible at that stage to make any further statement.

Mr. James Lamond

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Government's efforts have so far been singularly unsuccessful and that even if they were able to bring 30,000 new jobs for men to the North-West Region the unemployment level would still be reduced only to the national level, and that if they wished to bring it down to the level in the South-East they would have to bring 65,000 new jobs for men to the North-West? Has the hon. Gentleman grasped the magnitude of the problem facing him there?

Mr. Emery

Not only do the Government appreciate the problem but they have been taking positive steps to deal with it. The decline in unemployment and the rise in job opportunities in the area are welcome and helpful signs.

Mr. Varley

Will the Minister clear up the question of the second mini-mill? On 25th January the Minister for Industry made a categoric statement to the House that two mini-mills would be required, one in Scotland and one elsewhere. Last week Lord Melchett said at Shelton that it was not yet clear whether the second mini-mill would be required. Are we to believe Lord Melchett or the Minister for Industry?

Mr. Emery

May I take this opportunity of making the situation absolutely clear? Perhaps I can remind the hon. Member that it states quite clearly in Command 5226 that perhaps two new smaller electric arc steelworks"— which are mini-mills should be built, one of which should be located in Scotland. That is quite clear.

Mr. Golding

Is the Minister aware that Lord Melchett said that the mini-plant is to go to South Wales? Last week Lord Melchett announced the sacking of 1,600 men at Shelton, and he has made it clear that steel production will end at these works years before any arc furnaces are installed. Is the Minister also aware that these decisions have followed quite clearly from the low steel targets set by the Government and that men in all these areas are looking to the Government to provide alternative work before their jobs disappear?

Mr. Emery

The hon. Member is talking about the need to enlarge steel-making capacity. If that line were to be adopted there would be a greater redundancy factor, because there would be a move to more modern plant and that would mean even greater closures. In that sense, Labour Members are misleading the country. I do not believe that the Chairman of the British Steel Corporation has stated where the mini-mill intended to be built outside Scotland will be placed.

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