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European Community Employmentstudies

Volume 889: debated on Monday 7 April 1975

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19.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will now 'reopen discussions with the EEC on studies concerning employment problems in South Wales and redundancies in the steel industry.

I expect that discussion of two studies—a British Steel Corporation project relating to steel redundancies and a Department of Employment sponsored project on the impact of moving a Government office to South Wales—will proceed with the Community. A study of the employment problems of South Wales will not be submitted to the EEC for joint sponsorship, and we do not intend reopening discussions of that case.

Why has there been no discussion since spring last year? Will the Minister assure the House that the people of South Wales, in particular the steel workers of Ebbw Vale, will not suffer as the result of the Government's failure to conduct these discussions?

The steel workers to whom the hon. Gentleman refers will gain from the fact that my right hon. Friend took the decision that the best way to undertake research of this kind was to enable the Welsh TUC to make up its mind whether the project was being undertaken in the way in which it wanted. That is why, on 5th August last year, my right hon. Friend wrote to the Secretary of the Welsh TUC asking for the TUC's views. As a result, the work is being discussed with officials of my Department with a view to its going ahead under the sponsorship of Ruskin College, Oxford.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that for every ton of steel we export to Europe 17 tons come into the country? Does not that suggest that the Common Market strategy of the British Steel Corporation is a disaster for our steel workers, who are likely to be made redundant and put on short-time working? Is there not an urgent necessity for a full-scale debate on the future of the British steel industry?

I cannot confirm without reference back the figures of the import-export balance mentioned by my hon. Friend. The steel industry, perhaps of all industries, found it hardest to recover from the effects of the three-day week as well as from other difficulties last year. I note particularly what my hon. Friend said about the need to examine the future of the steel industry in the light of the European Community.