HC Deb 26 July 1976 vol 916 cc8-10
5. Sir A. Meyer

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he next intends to visit Port Talbot.

Mr. John Morris

As the hon. Member may be aware, Port Talbot lies within the constituency which I have the honour to represent in this House. I accordingly make frequent visits, the most recent having been at the end of last week.

Sir A. Meyer

During his trips to Port Talbot, by helicopter or otherwise, will the right hon and learned Gentleman find time to read the letter in the Financial Times on 22nd July from Dr. Kay in which he argued that the Secretary of State for Industry was right to limit the extension of Port Talbot steelworks to 4 million tons? If the Secretary of State agrees with that, would he not also agree that the way is now open for investment in modernising the open-hearth furnaces of Shotton, and will he soon press for an announcement?

Mr. Morris

I saw the letter from Dr. Kay. I am sorry that I cannot agree with him, particularly in view of his past interest in the matter. The hon. Member had best have regard to what he himself asked for in the debate on 20th February 1973, when he said that all he wanted was an assurance—[Interruption]—will the hon. Gentleman allow me?—that there would be no rundown in Shotton in 1974 or 1975 or he would not be able to support the Government at the end of the day. All he got from Mr. Boardman, who was replying, was an assurance that there would be no closure until March 1975, at which he trooped into the Lobby with 294 others.

Mr. Ifor Davies

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the development of the steel industry in Port Talbot has an important bearing on the development and future of the tinplate industry, the bulk of which is located in West Wales, much of it in my constituency? Is he aware that the local action committee and all the local authorities are convinced that, unless the development of steel goes forward in Port Talbot in accordance with BSC strategy, the future of the steel industry in this country, facing foreign competition, will be very poor?

Mr. Morris

No one has been more anxious than I for the development of Port Talbot. Only last Friday I discussed with the works council development committee the Government's offer of an investment of £350 million. It was conveyed to me that the committee was most anxious for BSC to take up immediately the Government's offer and get on with it, although it is fully aware of the local problems.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Is it not the fact that the £350 million does not add to iron- and steel-making capacity? Can the Secretary of State challenge the view that in the two-and-a-half-year period of delay which has just ended not a single extra ton of iron and steel capacity has been achieved and that the absence of decisions about vital issues is gravely damaging to the steel industry in Wales?

Mr. Morris

If the hon. Gentleman has discussed this matter with his hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Sir. A. Meyer), he will know that it is of the utmost importance to all local communities for a proper study to be made of all these matters. These studies are continuing, and I hope that we shall reach the right decision at the end of the day.

Sir. A. Meyer

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.