HC Deb 05 February 1973 vol 850 cc3-5
3. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the terms of reference of the task force which is to look into the employment position in Flintshire following on the proposal of the British Steel Corporation to phase out steelmaking at Shotton.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Thomas)

It will report on the needs of the area in terms of new industry, the creation of new jobs and improvements in the environment and infrastructure.

Sir A. Meyer

Can my right hon. and learned Friend answer three questions? Can he say whether it will be within the terms of reference of the task force to recommend particular improvements to the infrastructure, such as better road communications? Secondly, will it be permitted to express an opinion as to whether the time is not overdue for Flint-shire as a whole to have development area status? Thirdly, will it be permitted to recommend that there should be a postponement of the beginning of the process of the rundown?

Mr. Thomas

Certainly it will be within its terms of reference, which are wide and flexible, to look at infrastructure matters, particularly communications. Development area status will certainly be one of the factors that it will take into account. It will not be within its remit to appraise the British Steel Corporation's strategy, although it will obviously consider questions of timing.

Mr. Barry Jones

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the steel workers at Shotton still feel that the closure is unjust and will campaign against it? How does the Secretary of State propose that Members of Parliament and trade unionists should have contact with the task force?

Mr. Thomas

The task force, and other task forces, will be conferring with all interested bodies, including trade unions, local authorities and CBI, and all people in the area who are interested.

Mr. Ellis

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that, whatever may be the merits of the plans of the British Steel Corporation, the creation of the task force is clearly a stopgap which has to be undertaken because of the failure to consider the specific question of this important part of our economy—namely, steel—other than in a very narrow context? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman urge upon his Government colleagues the need to reconsider these plans and to slow down their operation while the problems are considered in the broadest national economic context?

Mr. Thomas

The whole British Steel Corporation strategy has been fully appraised. These task forces are not stopgaps but forces which are set up to deal with the problem which undoubtedly exists.

Mr. Michael Foot

The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the whole position has been appraised, but does he not agree that in Shotton, as elsewhere, the question of when it might be possible to introduce new industries has not been appraised and, therefore, it is the bounden duty of his Department to demand the lifting of any limitation on the reports of the task forces? The task forces surely must have power to report to the Government on the possibilities of the introduction of new industries.

Mr. Thomas

The terms of reference are very wide and flexible. The task forces are going to these areas to assess the needs of the areas. They will look at the question of timing to consider whether the timing which has been announced will be sufficient to allow them to propose what they wish to propose, but they are not entitled to appraise the strategy of the British Steel Corporation which has already been appraised by the Government.

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