§ Mr. Cant
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the crisis in the British steel industry".The gross mismanagement of the restructuring programme of the British Steel Corporation almost led last week to the first major national strike in the steel industry since 1926. In the case of the Bilston plant, it was conceded that the agreed procedures had not been followed, and the closure letter was withdrawn. Mr. Bill Sirs said, in effect, that it had all been a bit of a shambles, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that it had been a bit of a mess.
More tragically, in the case of Shelton steelworks, which was closed by the BSC on 23rd June, it was conceded by Dr. Grieves, director of personnel and social policy, that the proper procedures had not been followed and that there had not been any consultation with the TUC steel committee. This raises legal issues which I propose to take up with the Lord Chancellor, but it has meant a loss of 1,600 jobs, whether this is due to callousness, administrative bungling or sheer incompetence.
36 There are now further rumours, relating to other important plants in this country to which this principle of closure by stealth is likely to apply. I need only mention Corby, Shotton, and even Port Talbot.
The crisis has also thrown up and left unresolved the role of the Secretary of State vis-à-vis the BSC and the TUC steel committee. I think that this is of great importance to the House.
Finally, at the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation annual conference, Sir Charles Villiers, chairman of the BSC, stated that it was now "gravely doubtful" whether this country would ever he a low-cost steel producer, throwing doubt on the basic strategy of the BSC.
These are the reasons for my request.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) did me the courtesy of notifying me this morning, before 12 o'clock, that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the crisis in the British steel industry".As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 9 I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the Order but to give no reasons for my decision. The hon. Gentleman has raised an important matter. I listened carefully to what he said. But I have to rule that the hon. Gentleman's submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order, and therefore I cannot submit his application to the House.