HC Deb 12 January 1978 vol 941 cc1852-3
Q1. Mr. Neubert

asked the Prime Minister whether he has any plans to make an official visit to Gidea Park.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

In the absence of my right hon. Friend, who is away on his official visit to South Asia, I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Neubert

In the absence of the Prime Minister, will the Lord President explain why my constituents in Gidea Park should continue to subsidise British Steel's losses, running at £10 million a week, when the Corporation is overlarge, underefficient and riddled with restrictive practices? Will he arrange, without further obstruction, for the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries to have access to the correspondence between the Secretary of State for Industry and the Chairman of the BSC so that the House of Commons and the taxpaying public may know whether there has been incompetence or a cover-up, or both?

Mr. Foot

I am not quite sure whether the best time or the best way to deal with this matter is in reply to a supplementary question of this nature. However, I would say to the hon. Gentleman that in all the dealings with the Select Committee—and I fully understand the public interest in the matter—both the Government and the British Steel Corporation abided entirely by the normal conventions about the supply of information and internal messages to the Select Committee. If there were to be a departure from that general principle, it would raise some much more general questions. The first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question also raises wide industrial issues. But certainly it is the Government's intention to sustain a major steel industry in this country, and I hope that the whole House will agree with that proposition.