HC Deb 11 March 1987 vol 112 cc279-80
4. Mr. George Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland by how much unemployment in North Lanarkshire has risen since May 1979.

Mr. Lang

Between May 1979 and January 1987 unemployement rose from 15,531 in the former North Lanarkshire travel-to-work area to 35,089 in the new Lanarkshire travel-to-work area. As a result of changes in the travel-to-work area boundaries and in the method of the count, those figures are not comparable.

Mr. Robertson

While the outrage of Caterpillar dominates the dismal picture that the Minister has highlighted, is he aware that there are other examples in that area of conglomerates pulling out and abandoning ship, for example, Reyrolle Belmos in my constituency, where Northern Engineering Industries is simply abandoning the area, and 40 years of local history, and taking with it all the tools, machinery, drawings and brand names, as well as 300 jobs? It is also blocking any possibility of anybody else taking over the factory. For how long will the Minister and the Government allow our industrial life-blood to drain away before taking any action to stop it?

Mr. Lang

The company has taken a commercial decision based on its perception of the demand for its products in power stations, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that our attempts to help the area are reflected in the substantial Motherwell and Coatbridge projects, with a budget of around £57 million in the Motherwell project, which has been extended to 1990. That has attracted £80 million of private sector finance and helped to create or safeguard more than 4,000 jobs.

Dr. Bray

Did the chairman of the British Steel Corporation volunteer the closure of hot-rolled coil capacity at Ravenscraig in the present Eurofer round? Has that offer now been withdrawn as contrary to the Government's commitments at Ravenscraig arid elsewhere?

Mr. Lang

I am not privy to the deliberations of Eurofer, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the commitment given again recently by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, that we remain committed to a five-integrated-plant plan for BSC, and that nothing can be done to prejudice the subsequent decision before 1988.