HC Deb 20 December 1989 vol 164 cc347-8
7. Mr. Allan Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what meetings he has had recently concerning employment in Renfrew district; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

I recently met a deputation of local councillors and trade union representatives led by my hon. Friend when we discussed the economic situation in general in Renfrew district, and in particular the possibilities for protecting jobs at Armitage Shanks in Barrhead.

Mr. Stewart

I thank my hon. Friend, and congratulate him on his immediate acceptance of the proposals put to him at that meeting by Renfrew district council, the trade unions and the shop stewards. Does he agree, however, that there are a number of disturbing features in what has happened—for example, the attempt by senior management just after the announcement to provoke industrial action by locking out of the factory honest, decent people who simply wanted to go to work as usual? Will he emphasise to the holding company, Blue Circle Industries plc that a positive response to constructive proposals would be in the interests not only of the work force and the community, but of the shareholders of this large, profitable and well-known company?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend's concern about, and involvement in, the company's problems are well known and I pay tribute to them. The decision must be a commercial one for the management of Armitage Shanks, but I am very pleased that the Scottish Development Agency is to participate in a feasibility study of employment opportunities in the area. Which I consider to be a constructive move. I have written to the chairman of Blue Circle Industries plc the parent company, urging him to defer the redundancies until the study can take place.

Mr. Allen Adams

I thank the Minister for his prompt action. Does he not agree however, that the parent holding company, Blue Circle Industries plc, is indulging in downright grammatical inexactitudes in trying to allege that the decline in industry in Barrhead is due to the fall in the lira, which it claims has led to the dumping of sanitary ware in Scotland and in Britain as a whole? Does the Minister agree that the real reason for the decline is undiluted greed on the part of a company which made £231 million last year?

Mr. Lang

I cannot agree with the argument to which the hon. Gentleman refers. He mentioned the Italian lira and imports of products from abroad. In fact. the movement of the lira in the past 12 months has helped domestic production and reduced the threat of imports.