HC Deb 23 May 1977 vol 932 cc995-7
8. Mr. Ifor Davies

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the estimated cost of the strike at the Port Talbot steelworks.

17. Mr. Michael Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement about the economic consequences of the strike at BSC, Port Talbot.

Mr. John Morris

Although this is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, I understand that the cost to the British Steel Corporation up to 21st May was about £13 million. This does not take into account the very substantial costs there will be of restarting operations and overcoming the disruption brought about by the strike, or of the import costs and losses of export earnings.

Mr. Davies

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that this disastrous strike, which has very little, if any, public support, will have a serious effect on the tinplate industry in my constituency and on industry in the whole of West Wales? Is he aware of the ominous trend whereby the British Steel Corporation has decided to hold up its development plans? In view of the seriousness of the situation, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider convening a meeting between the head office of the union, its officials, and the BSC to explore the possibility of finding a basis upon which work may be resumed?

Mr. Morris

I understand fully the force of my hon. Friend's comments. During the strike I have done what I could as a local Member of Parliament to see whether there could be some movement by the parties in the interests of the whole area. I appeal earnestly to those on strike to respond to the appeal of the TUC steel committee. In my opinion, it would not be helpful to say more at this stage. I trust that hon. Members will wait to see what transpires from a meeting which I hope will take place this week.

Mr. Roberts

What is the estimated cost of the strike to the many small businesses dependent on the steel industry, particularly the haulage and maintenance businesses and construction companies?

Mr. Morris

The cost cannot be calculated. Plainly it is additional to the sum that I have mentioned. But the whole area will suffer until the matter is resolved. I trust that the House will note my comment that it would be best at this stage to await developments this week.

Mr. Anderson

My right hon. and learned Friend will know from his local knowledge that it is a question of the effect not only on exports but on the economy of the whole of South-West Wales. He will realise that his initiatives in trying to work behind the scenes to bring peace are known to his colleagues locally. Does he agree that Wedensday's meeting is likely to provide the best way out on a basis of dignity for all concerned in this sad dispute?

Mr. Morris

I am sure that my hon. Friend's remarks will be noted.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

I associate myself and my colleagues with the appeal of the Secretary of State for a satisfactory outcome to this very sad dispute. However, bearing in mind the serious consequences for many other companies in this part of Wales and the implications of the BSC's announcement of postponement of the £835 million investment, can the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that he or the Secretary of State for Industry will give further information to the House at the earliest opportunity and will keep us informed of developments?

Mr. Morris

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend. Let us see what happens in the course of the week.

Sir A. Meyer

Does the Secretary of State agree that these unhappy events greatly strengthen the case for maintaining Shotton in full production as a balancing plant?

Mr. Morris

I do not think that that adds one iota to improving the situation. I have asked the House to see what happens in the week. Anything said now will not help matters.

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