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Steel Industry

Volume 977: debated on Monday 28 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement of the effects upon industry generally of the dispute in the steel industry.

In the weeks ended 12 and 19 January, it is estimated that production in manufacturing industry was about 2–3 per cent. less than it would have been in the absence of the British Steel Corporation dispute. Most of this loss of output was attributable to lack of production at BSC itself.

Does the Minister agree that if there is to be any kind of regulation of secondary picketing it should be done by legislation, passed through Parliament, and not by judicial fiats from the Court of Appeal? Is he aware that that ruling flies in the face of the recent judgment of the House of Lords in the McShane case, which means that Lord Denning has fallen over his feet once again?

My right hon. Friend has made it clear that it would not be proper for this matter to be discussed by the House at this time. If the hon. Member wishes to see this issue dealt with in legislation, he should support the Government's Employment Bill.

Will my hon. Friend comment further on the wise remarks made by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther), who regretted the many mistakes made by successive Governments in investing in the steel industry? Does he agree that the hon. Member was making the case for denationalisation, because he was making the case for more independence and more diversity in the decision-making of the steel industry?

Order. Will the hon. Member be kind enough to wait until the end of Question Time, or does he feel that he must make his point now?

I am inclined to agree with my hon. Friend. At present the Government try to "double guess" management, and generally management is much more capable of deciding these things for itself.

Order, I have been listening very carefully. My predecessor in the Chair, the late Lord Selwyn-Lloyd, gave a ruling on 4 December 1973, on a similar situation to that which faces us now. He said:

"It can be argued that the judge has made a mistake, that he was wrong, and the reasons for those contentions can be given within certain limits"—[Official Report, 4 December 1973: Vol. 865, c. 1092.]
What is wrong is to impute any motive at all to judges acting in responsible office.

Order, I shall take this up at the end of Question Time because it could be important for us later in the week as well as today.

If the hon. Gentleman raises his point of order, that will preven another question from being asked.

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but this is extremely important. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to ask the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) to withdraw the word "rigging".

I did not like the word "accomplices". The House will be aware that any imputation of motives against a judge is out of order. Reference to a judgment and criticism of it may be made.

May I make it plain, Mr. Speaker, that I did not use the word "rigging"? The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) should apologise. I said "rigged up an industrial relations Act of their own". What is the present position of the secondary pickets who are on strike in South Wales? What will happen to the British Steel Corporation if the situation worsens any further as a result of what has happened during the past few days?

The hon. Gentleman is expecting me to answer questions that I am not qualified to answer. I can tell him that an application for leave of appeal has been granted. I suggest that he awaits the outcome.


On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of what has happened earlier, may I ask whether there is any redress for an hon. Member who has asked a question and who then hears another hon. Member deliberately, grossly—outrageously, indeed—misquote that question? If that happens when Question Time is almost over, and when it is impossible for the hon. Member to correct the misquote, does he have any form of redress?

Order. The hon. Member has found a form of redress by raising a point of order. He has made his point of view quite clear.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When I replied to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery), I inadvertently used a wrong word and I may have misled the House. The question concerned the Denning judgment, and I said that application for leave to appeal had been granted. I should have said that aplpication for leave to appeal has been filed.