§ Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)
(by private notice): To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the consequences for the economy of Lanarkshire and Scotland of the announcement of the closure of Ravenscraig.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang)
May I repeat the Government's deep disappointment at British Steel's decision, because of market conditions, to close Ravenscraig. I do not for one moment underestimate the distress that will be felt by the work force, their families and the local communities concerned. I believe that British Steel owes it to its employees to explain and justify the decision.
The Government's responsibility is to seek to create economic conditions in which new industry will be encouraged to develop in Lanarkshire, replacing the jobs lost. That is a task on which we embarked some time ago. I believe that the action that we have already taken in Lanarkshire, and the proposal that we are now making for an enterprise zone, mean that we can take a positive view of the economic future for Motherwell and north Lanarkshire.
The closure, when it happens later this year, will mean the loss of 1,220 direct jobs. We estimate the loss of a similar number of indirect jobs in the Lanarkshire travel-to-work area, making a total of more than 2,400. This could result in an increase in unemployment in the area of just under one percentage point. Other job losses elsewhere in Scotland resulting from the closure could take the total figure to more than 3,000.
The economy of Lanarkshire does not, however, depend on steel. It is already much diversified. Indeed, steel's contribution to Scottish gross domestic product is less than 1 per cent. Nevertheless, a closure of this size will cause difficulties for the local economy. That is why, to supplement other measures already in hand, we have accepted the case put forward by the Lanarkshire working group for an enterprise zone to be created.
When British Steel announced, in 1990, the closure of the Ravenscraig hot strip mill and the Clydesdale tubeworks, I convened the Lanarkshire working group. That group's report—published in June last year—took account of speculation that there would be further steel job losses. It recommended a detailed early-action programme aimed at providing attractive serviced sites which would bring private sector investment to Lanarkshire. I accepted its findings, and many of its proposals are now being implemented. Some £120 million-worth of infrastructural investment is under way in Lanarkshire in the current year.
Those measures are already bearing fruit. The Lanarkshire development agency is leading regeneration efforts, with ready co-operation from the other bodies represented on the working group. Funding for 13 of the industrial sites identified is going ahead this year. There is now a wealth of development activity in the area, geared to replacing lost steel jobs with a range of companies which should give Lanarkshire greater economic security than a declining steel industry has been able to provide.
Further public expenditure of some £50 million in the enterprise zone, if approved by the European Commission, is expected to lever private sector investment of £250 670 million into north Lanarkshire and to secure 7,500 net additional jobs. That project would come on top of the successes that our earlier initiatives have already achieved. In the past four years, unemployment in Lanarkshire travel-to-work area, although still too high, has fallen by almost 9,000. That is evidence of the area's underlying strength.
I am confident that the enterprise of the people of Lanarkshire, supported by the initiatives that the Government are taking, will enable the area to surmount its present difficulties and to develop new economic strengths. I am determined to help it to do so.
§ Mr. Dewar
Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that in Scotland there is an almost universal view that, in respect of Ravenscraig, the Government have promised much but done nothing? The widely held feeling is that, for far too long, the right hon. Gentleman and his immediate predecessors have paid lip service to the campaign to save Ravenscraig, but have not lifted a finger to help. The right hon. Gentleman's estimate of the number of jobs likely to be lost as a result of the final closure of the plant is insultingly complacent.
While recognising that, after the demolition job done by British Steel, the appearance of a buyer is very much a long shot, may I ask the Secretary of State whether the Government will do everything they can to keep that option open? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that, if interest is shown by any party, the Government, for once, will provide whole-hearted support?
Does the Secretary of State recognise the need to explore the possibilities of new technology—in particular, thin slab casting? He will recall that this was identified in the Arthur D. Little report as an option worth considering, and I know that Scottish Enterprise has been doing some work on it. If a practical proposal does emerge—I stress the word "if"—will he be prepared to concede direct Government involvement in the form of a joint venture?
Will the Secretary of State remember that jobs at Hunterston are also at risk? Is he prepared to make the necessary resources available and to commission Scottish Enterprise specifically to look at the potential of Hunterston as a deep-water port?
If a buyer cannot be found and closure therefore goes ahead, will the Secretary of State enforce the principle that the polluter pays? Is he aware that Lanarkshire development agency estimates indicate that it may cost about £200 million to reinstate the sites abandoned by British Steel? Does he accept that it would be a defeat for justice, an offence to good sense and a further humiliation of the Government if British Steel were able to walk away from the damage that it has done?
Does the Secretary of State accept that his claim that the Government have already contributed £120 million to fund the regeneration of Lanarkshire has little or no credibility? That figure relies heavily on existing budgets and simply does not measure up to the scale of the crisis. The Wishaw general hospital was the subject of an existing proposal, and the budgets of the Lanarkshire development agency and of the East Kilbride development corporation were already in place. The new money is simply inadequate.
Why has it taken so long to reach a decision about enterprise zone status for Lanarkshire? As he himself pointed out, that step was recommended by his own 671 working party as long ago as June 1991. Is it correct to say that Treasury resistance was overcome only as a result of the disaster of the closure announcement? Does the Secretary of State expect any difficulty over European Commission approval, and when does he expect a decision on the matter to be reached?
In a letter dated 5 February 1991 to my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), the Prime Minister recognised explicitly the difficulties facing Lanarkshire and promised that there wasno intention of neglecting these problems.Eleven months later, there has not even been preliminary contact with Brussels about one of the central provisions that the Secretary of State alleges that he has accepted. We believe not only that enterprise zone status must be secured, but that British Steel must meet the cost of site reclamation, that the break-up of the East Kilbride development corporation must be stopped, that there must be a much more determined commitment to investment in training and education, and that there must be an end to the nonsense of the proposed privatisation of British Rail, which would have disastrous consequences for the infrastructure strategy for Lanarkshire.
Will the Minister seriously reconsider his half-hearted response to the working party's proposals? Does he not recognise that the depressing history of indecision and delay just will not do? False optimism about the economy, and sympathy easily given, will do nothing for the workers at Ravenscraig and Hun terston. If the right hon. Gentleman will not give commitment and drive to the fight for economic recovery, the electorate will look to others who will.
§ Mr. Lang
The hon. Gentleman accused me of doing nothing, yet we have heard nothing from the Opposition as to what they would do. Perhaps in the course of questions, he or others in his party will tell us what they would do. All that we know so far is that the Labour party has abandoned the commitment given by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) in February 1988 to renationalise the steel industry. Plainly, nationalisation is now recognised by the Opposition as a course of disaster.
On the question of a buyer for Ravenscraig, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) knows, the prospectus included an undertaking that any commercial offer would be considered when Ravenscraig was no longer needed by British Steel for steel-making. I put it to Sir Robert Scholey that that undertaking would be triggered, and he confirmed that that was the case.
The hon. Member for Garscadden asked me about thin slab casting. That was considered in the Arthur D. Little consultants' report in July last year, which identified considerable difficulties but recognised that it was a possible development. However, no interest has been expressed in it. The hon. Gentleman asked whether the Government would contemplate a joint venture. First, that suggests that the Government are the organisation which should be managing the steel industry, and I totally disagree. Secondly, it suggests that someone else might come forward for a joint venture. So far, no one has come forward.
The hon. Gentleman asked me about Hunterston. I confirm that I intend to commission a consultants' study as a basis for determining future planning policy there. He asked me about cleaning up the environmental consequences of steel making. That is certainly something that we 672 shall seek to investigate further with British Steel, which has already undertaken to clear the site down to ground level and to leave it in a tidy condition—further than the legal requirement.
On the question of the £120 million of economic infrastructural investment, the hon. Gentleman complains that that is in existing budgets. Of course it is. We put it into the existing budgets with precisely this situation in mind. Incidentally, it does not include the Wishaw hospital. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If Opposition Members had no perception that there might be job losses in the steel industry in Lanarkshire, if they were not thinking ahead and contemplating further measures which might be needed, they must be out of touch with reality.
As for the enterprise zone, the recommendation from the working party came to me last June. Since then a detailed proposal has been worked up and negotiations have continued within Government. As a result of the initiatives that I embarked upon during the Christmas recess, approval has been achieved within Government for submission of an application to the European Community. I hope that that will achieve European approval in April, but it is a matter for the Commission and not for me.
The hon. Gentleman suggests that the Government's response to the working group report was half-hearted. We have accepted the vast majority of the working group's proposals and a considerable number of them are already under way, including the development of 13 industrial sites in Lanarkshire to help to prepare it for inward investment.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)
Is the Secretary of State aware that the announcement has been long expected and long feared in Motherwell? Over the years and over the generations, so much effort has been put in to the building, strengthening and operating of the steel industry that there is incomprehension and a great sense of sadness and loss in Motherwell today. The campaign waged by the steel workers has been recognised and supported by the people of Scotland and far beyond. It has been recognised but not supported by Ministers, who have approached the whole exercise with total blindness and naivety since the privatisation announcement, which dismisses them for the lightweights they are.
As the decision has been expected for so long, people are baffled by the bungling and prevarification shown by the Government over the enterprise zone. The Secretary of State was wrong. He has submitted not one enterprise zone proposal but two. The Treasury estimated that the first proposal would cost £100 million, and it was knocked back. After the closure of Ravenscraig, the Secretary of State makes a second proposal at half the cost estimated in the original proposal.
Is the Secretary of State aware that Lanarkshire development agency is not able to pay for the training of sub-contractors at Ravenscraig, which is to close within six months, because of petty Government regulations excluding it from paying people who are already in employment?
Is the Secretary of State aware that the Prime Minister asked the Under-Secretary of State to look into the new motorway link between the M8 and M74? The Under-Secretary of State has written to me saying that that is a matter for Strathclyde regional council.
Is the Secretary of State aware that, having razed Ravenscraig to the ground, acccording to consultants 673 appointed at the prompting of the Secretary of State, there is a £200 million bill to be met for clearance of the site? The Government have not a clue how to approach that problem.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the various Government agencies involved—the Warren Spring laboratory, Ianarkshire development agency, and the national engineering laboratory—have not been consulted or introduced to each other or asked to consider the problems, although Ministers are responsible?
Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government have left little time between the last date for the general election, which could be as late as July, and the closure date of September, when British Steel may consider that its obligation to offer for sale has expired? Will the Secretary of State therefore offer the Opposition full access to Scottish Enterprise, to public agencies and to all concerned so that we can properly examine the options that an incoming Government will face?
Is the Secretary of State aware that the people of Lanarkshire, of Motherwell and of Scotland are fully prepared? We are getting on with the process of redevelopment. All we want to be rid of is this traitorous Government.
§ Mr. Lang
I quite understand that the hon. Gentleman, as a Member of Parliament for the area, feels very strongly. I understand the feeling of sadness and loss in the area and I share the huge disappointment of the people of Motherwell and of north Lanarkshire at British Steel's decision. When the hon. Gentleman talks about naivety, he must recognise that British Steel operates in international trading conditions that are fiercely competitive. It operates in a market where, to use its own words, there is "a deep global recession". Its profits and interim results are down from £307 million to £19 million. It is naive not to recognise international trading conditions and the need for companies such as British Steel to adapt to them.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned training. We are extensively committed to training and retraining in the area. About 6,000 people are on youth and adult training schemes in the area, and the Government expect to spend some £40 million through the iron and steel readaption benefit scheme for retraining.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned roads. We are already studying closely the possible fast link between the M8 and the M74 and the junctions between the A8 and M8.
The Government are investing enormous effort and resources in redeveloping the infrastructure of Lanarkshire, not as some short-term, temporary or Johnny-come-lately measure but building on what we have been doing throughout our period in government. As I said in my response to the question asked by the hon. Member for Garscadden, unemployment in Lanarkshire has fallen by 9,000 in the past four years. How many parts of the rest of the United Kingdom can say that against a background of general recession?
§ Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)
The Secretary of State and his crony, who earlier was sneering at some of the answers, have presided over the most odious industrial betrayal in modern Scottish history. Is he proud of the fact that he has complied with and connived in every stage of 674 the closure of the Ravenscraig works, from Gartcosh through privatisation to the hot strip mill? Is he proud of the fact that, having told the Lanarkshire Labour Members for two years that the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Employment have no role to play in intervening, today of all days a Department of Employment press release should announce proudly that it is dispatching, for planning purposes, Government officials and expertsto ensure the availability of good quality, relevant training for the thousands likely to lose their jobs through the decline of the steel industry in Poland"?Does it not speak volumes that Departments could not intervene to assist in Scotland but can dispatch people to Cracow rather than to Motherwell? Does it not show that the contempt in which the Minister is held by the people of Motherwell is almost exceeded by the contempt in which he is held by Government Departments and his own political party?
Should not the Secretary of State today pledge that Ravenscraig will remain for sale up to and including the date of the general election and that he will insist on that, that the Government resources of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Employment will be used to assist not only Poland, but the sale of the Ravenscraig plant worldwide, and, more importantly, that the Government will actively intervene to investigate and financially assist the development of new technology in thin slab casting production, which is perfectly legitimate for financial aid under the European Economic Community? Is not the fact that the Minister cannot announce that today, when the Government can announce initiatives in far-off Europe, a reflection to the people of Motherwell and Scotland of his total failure and inability?
§ Mr. Lang
It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman thinks it more appropriate to indulge in sterile invective than to seek positive ways forward. On the availability of Ravenscraig for sale, I have already made it clear that the chairman of British Steel still considers that the undertaking included in the prospectus is triggered by the announcement of intended closure. Thin slab steel is a matter for British Steel. If it viewed that as a potentially commercially attractive proposition, it would embark on that. That is certainly not something on which the Government should appropriately embark.
§ Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
Does the Secretary of State agree that, although the news about the Ravenscraig closure is depressing, alarming and sad, it is nothing more than sickening hypocrisy for the Labour party and the Scottish National party to complain as they have unless they can make a specific proposal that Ravenscraig—including the strip mill and not without it—is for sale and they have the agreement of the European Commission for such a sale to go ahead, particularly bearing in mind what Bob Scholey said to the Select Committee?
Does the Secretary of State further agree that it is political rubbish for Opposition Members to talk about enterprise zones when they know, because of the way they voted and the views of their leaders, that there is absolutely nothing that the Government can do about an enterprise zone without first having the approval of Brussels?
I accept that the Secretary of State is doing a fine job fighting for Scotland, but will he have the courage to tell 675 the Opposition the facts of life and stop them exploiting the misery of the people of Lanarkshire for purely political purposes?
§ Mr. Lang
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. For the past five years I have been trying to tell the Labour party the facts of life, both as Minister with responsibility for industry and as Secretary of State. Sadly, Labour Members prefer to live in the past and talk Scotland down rather than look to the future and help to build Scotland up.
§ Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
Will the Secretary of State now accept that he and his Government are substantially responsible for last week's announcement of the closure of Ravenscraig? To step back in time, before privatisation he refused to promote a company based on the assets of Scottish Steel, which could have provided competition to British Steel and the necessary investment, and he has pursued economic policies that have deepened the recession to the point that Ravenscraig has been closed two years earlier than provided in the worthless assurances given to the Government by Sir Bob Scholey.
Will the Secretary of State accept that there is little confidence in his parroting Bob Scholey as the source of authority for any future investment or the sale of any plant in Scotland? Will he accept that not only Ravenscraig but all the remaining steel assets in Scotland, including Hunterston, should be made available for sale to ensure that next century, when a new deep-water steel facility is required in Scotland, it will have behind it a body that has shown commitment to Scotland, which British Steel has not?
§ Mr. Bruce
—will the Secretary of State ensure that the development capabilities of the Scottish new towns are used in the development promotion of Lanarkshire and that their expertise is used to attract the necessary inward investment to replace at least some of the jobs that he and his Government have so disastrously destroyed?
§ Mr. Lang
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not hear me say that unemployment in the Lanarkshire travel-to-work area had fallen by 9.000 in the past four years. Part of the reason for that is the inward investment that the Government have attracted to East Kilbride in Lanarkshire.
On the global recession in steel products, if the hon. Gentleman does not believe British Steel, he should look at the other major steel producers in Europe to see how they are faring.
At the time of privatisation, the separate privatisation of the Scottish steel industry was considered extensively. The advice of the Government's advisers and the Government's own conclusion was that that could not be done viably. When the steel industry was nationalised by the Labour party, it scrambled and destroyed the individual identities of the previous free-standing Scottish companies, took control to London and changed the company into a product division structure so that the Scottish plants became the end of a branch line. It therefore became impossible to privatise the steel industry on a Scottish basis separate from the rest of the United 676 Kingdom. I looked at that proposal sympathetically but, sadly, too much damage had been done under nationalised ownership.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
Is the Secretary of State prepared to accept any level of responsibility for his policy paralysis as the crisis in Scottish steel has deepened, or indeed for the actions of his predecessor who sent Ravenscraig unprotected into the hands of a hostile private monopoly? Has he seen the positive proposals released this afternoon from the shop stewards of the Dalzell plate mill? They argue that, for a total investment of under £200 million—less than the clean-up costs of the Ravenscraig site—a world-class pipe and plate mill could be established, which would require increased production through the Ravenscraig plant services. That steel complex would be well able to compete effectively in the lucrative offshore markets round the coast of Scotland. For that or any other positive proposal to come to fruition, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the first thing that must be done is to take the entire assets of British Steel in Scotland into public ownership?
§ Mr. Lang
The hon. Gentleman knows that my Department prepared a detailed report on Dalzell, which we submitted to British Steel, arguing the case for maintaining it and establishing the single plate strategy based upon it. British Steel has rejected that: on the other hand, Dalzell remains in operation and remains unaffected by the decisions to close Ravenscraig. I hope that, as a result of recent trading conditions, the prospects for Dalzell are lengthening rather than shortening.
If the hon. Gentleman believes that nationalisation is the solution to the problems of the steel industry, he should have a word with the Labour party, which committed itself to the renationalisation of that industry—it would have been the third time it had been renationalised—but even the Labour party has now realised that renationalisation is a dead end.
§ Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)
Would it not be more sensible to look to the future than to the past? In that context, I am glad to see that the shadow Secretary of State for Wales is in his place, because I remember when, 10 years ago or more, he and I. and others, argued the case for the Sommers works at Shotton vis-à-vis Ravenscraig. We suggested that it might be better to keep the north Wales steel-making capacity there rather than in Scotland.
North Wales, in the end having accepted reality, has got more industry and diverse industry. Corby has got more industry as well as more diverse industry. The coal industry of south Wales, having declined, has got more industry and more diverse industry. The north-east shipyards have got more industry and more diverse industry. So far as the Opposition are concerned, to try to revive a cause is beyond me. We have nothing to be ashamed of. Let us look to the future, not to the past.
§ Mr. Lang
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The House is also indebted to him for reminding us that the problems of steel closures is not confined to Scotland. Many towns in England and in Wales have experienced substantial job losses as a result of steel closures. In Corby, unemployment, at its height, reached 35 per cent., but as a result of the type of measures that we are taking in Lanarkshire, unemployment there fell to as low as 4 per cent. last year. In the early 1980s in Scunthorpe, 677 unemployment was at 20 per cent., but it is now down to around 10 per cent. I believe that the measures that we are taking in Lanarkshire will create the same long-term beneficial effect in that region and will not only bring down unemployment, but broaden and diversify the Lanarkshire economic base, making it more secure for the future.
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I wonder whether the Secretary of State realises that his answers have been so complacent that they have come across as a further betrayal of the Scottish people? His speech reminded me forcefully of an inept bereavement counsellor who persuades a bereaved person that bereavement is not such a bad thing and that everyone should experience one. One of the Secretary of State's greatest failures is that he did not even stand up to some of his own Back Benchers, who called the Scottish steel workers "subsidy junkies" and claimed that they were unproductive. He totally failed to answer that. Finally, did the Secretary of State know that the Secretary of State for Employment was providing training for Polish steel workers? If so, why did he not at least demand the same for the people of Lanarkshire?
§ Mr. Lang
I do not think that provision of advice on training matters to other countries precludes the necessary provision of training advice and financial assistance within the United Kingdom. In that context, my responsibility is to Lanarkshire. I am confident that the training measures, like the other infrastructural measures that we are providing, are relevant and will meet the needs of the area in preparing for the future.
The hon. Lady talked of betrayal. Betrayal was to pour some £14 billion into the steel industry to prop up uncompetitive and overmanned plants and to fail to modernise them, embrace new technology or help them prepare for the future. Belatedly, reality dawned on the industry and it began to make headway and became profitable. We must now consider the need to find a diversification of Lanarkshire's economy to attract new companies. I hope that, when we attract new companies to Lanarkshire, the Labour party will prevail upon its trade union friends to treat them sensibly, rather than the way they treated Ford in Dundee.
§ Sir Michael Grylls (Surrey, North-West)
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the real issue is the fact that, in view of the international recession, British Steel is fighting for its life? If we stop British Steel taking the commercial decisions necessary for its survival in the world as it is at the moment, we shall end up with no steel industry. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that some good could come out of the disaster in Lanarkshire if all resources are brought in, as happened in Corby and other steel closure towns? Will he assure the House that he will give maximum support to British Steel Industries, which helped the regeneration of former steel sites, and that he will fight hard in Europe to ensure that that enterprise zone is created? The House of Commons will be angry if that proposal is spiked by the European Commission.
§ Mr. Lang
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for injecting a sense of commercial realism into the debate. British Steel Industries have already set up workshops in Coatbridge and Clydesdale, where 25 new small businesses have been attracted employing some 140 people, and they now plan 678 to build a 50.000 sq ft workshop in the Strathclyde business park. and a youth enterprise centre. Those realistic and sensible proposals will help the general effort toward strengthening the Lanarkshire economy.
§ Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)
Does the Secretary of State not feel ashamed to come to the Dispatch Box with not one Tory Scottish Back Bencher sitting behind him? Just a week after the closure decision, is he not ashamed to bleat plaintively that British Steel has not yet put forward an official spokesman to explain why all those jobs will be destroyed? Why does the Secretary of State cling on, almost innocently and certainly naively, to the figure of some 2,200 jobs being affected, when everyone in Scotland knows and all authoritative experts have said that the number is closer to 7,000? A much greater number will probably be affected. If Lanarkshire is to be able to look forward to the new industries which we hope will replace the jobs lost through the damage to the steel industry, we must at least hear the truth about the scale of what is needed and what the Government intend to supply.
§ Mr. Lang
Two of my, hon. Friends are ill and are therefore unable to be here today. The figure for job losses which I gave was not 2,200, but more than 3,000, taking account of indirect jobs across Scotland. The figures for Lanarkshire which my Department has produced equate almost exactly with the figures from the Fraser of Allander Institute, which also took account of the closure of the hot strip mill and of Clydesdale last year, and of the indirect jobs related thereto.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is a private notice question. However, I fully understand its importance for hon. Members with Scottish constituencies and. indeed, for the whole of the United Kingdom. I will call two more from each side and those whom I have not been able to call—[HON. MEMBERS: "Each side?"] Order.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I will look with consideration on those whom I have not been able to call today when we come to DTI questions on Wednesday.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Labour party knows perfectly well that the decision at Ravenscraig, however regrettable, was entirely inevitable? Will he assure the House that, in the best tradition of Conservative duty towards those unfortunate people, he will see to it that every effort that the Government put into recreating jobs and into bringing new jobs to Ravenscraig will be properly co-ordinated, and that he will ensure that the European Community is revved up in the matter?
§ Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)
Has the Secretary of State read the article by Mr. Alf Young in today's Glasgow Herald? Does he agree with Mr. Young's analysis of the future of the British steel industry and the future of Scottish sunrise industries? If so. does he accept that we need a far-reaching reappraisal of Scottish 679 economic policy, rather than policy made on the hoof, which is what we have had from the Secretary of State throughout the period? Will he now give an undertaking that there will be a long, hard look at what needs to be done to ensure the maintenance of Scotland as a major manufacturing nation?
§ Mr. Lang
I always read Mr. Alf Young's articles with enthusiastic interest, although I do not always find myself in total agreement with all his conclusions. The hon. Gentleman asked me whether we would take a long, hard look. We have been taking a long, hard look for some time at the economic problems of Scotland and of Lanarkshire. It is as a result of the initiatives that we have developed that unemployment in Lanarkshire has been falling over the past four years and is 9,000 lower than it was four years ago.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
So that we are left in no doubt, will my right hon. Friend once again ask the Labour party to make it clear whether it would reopen Ravenscraig?
§ Mr. Jimmy Hood (Clydesdale)
When did the Secretary of State last have words with Sir Leon Brittan about the possibility of an enterprise zone in north Lanarkshire? The Commissioner's statement is not in line with the Government's statement. What assurances can we have that the enterprise zone—if the Commission agrees to it—will include the whole of north Lanarkshire?
§ Mr. Lang
I was last in touch with Sir Leon Brittan when I wrote to him on 7 January. I am sure that he and his directorate will give positive, fair-minded and sensible consideration to the application for an enterprise zone. I hope that that will lead to a conclusion in favour, and that we shall then be able to get that initiative under way on top of all the other initiatives. I anticipate that the real advantage of the enterprise zone will be the generation of substantial private sector investment, because ultimately it is private sector investment that will stimulate the renewal of Lanarkshire.