HC Deb 23 July 1979 vol 971 cc2-3
1. Mr. Crowther

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he will next meet the chairman of the British Steel Corporation.

19. Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he proposes next to meet the chairman of the British Steel Corporation.

The Secretary of State for Industry (Sir Keith Joseph)

I have frequent contact with the chairman.

Mr. Crowther

When the right hon. Gentleman next meets the chairman, will he give a firm assurance that the Government will not be denationalising the Rotherham works or any other profitable establishment of the BSC? Is he aware that there is anxiety among steel workers in my constituency about that possibility in view of the well-known Conservative doctrine that anything that makes a profit should be privately owned?

Sir K. Joseph

We certainly do not intend any attempt at wholesale denationalisation in the steel industry.

Mr. Jones

When the Secretary of State next meets Sir Charles Villiers, will he confess that it was unwise of him to put the chairman under duress by hustling and dictating behind closed doors on steel matters, particularly on the Shotton issue? Will the right hon. Gentleman please urge a rethink on the fate of steel making at Shotton, bearing in mind the bludgeoning that the social fabric of the area will receive if the 7,000 redundancies take place? Will he understand that in my area the comunity has no confidence in his handling of steel matters and believes that he has as little capability in that direction as Count Dracula would have in running a blood transfusion service?

Sir K. Joseph

The previous Government said that the steel corporation must become viable and that capacity must move into line with demand. We are saying the same thing. We debated the position at Shotton the other day.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

When my right hon. Friend next meets the chairman, will he call to his attention the extreme importance of new coke ovens to the viability of iron making at Distington, in the Workington area?

Sir K. Joseph

Management is for the board of the steel corporation. I shall see that my hon. Friend's question is passed to the board.

Mr. Hooley

Is the Secretary of State aware that the target of a financial break-even by March next year is totally ridiculous? Will he revise that target and give an assurance that the BSC will have sufficient financial assistance to maintain its important industry over the next few years?

Sir K. Joseph

The target is difficult, but not impossible.

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