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Steel Workers (Re-Employment)

Volume 22: debated on Monday 19 April 1982

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the progress made in finding replacement jobs for workers declared redundant as a result of steelworks closures.

No national information is available on the success of individual redundant steel workers in finding new jobs. But it is clear that the creation of the necessary new and secure jobs in the areas affected depends primarily on the right economic conditions for industry, which our current and economic policies are intended to create.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, while a number of us appreciate that there are difficulties in finding new jobs in steel areas, we were alarmed to read of the BSC's sale of Redpath Engineering to Trafalgar House, which will result in about 600 or 700 redundancies? Will the hon. Gentleman also comment on the rumour that the sale was made for a miserable £10 million and ask his friends at the Department of Trade whether the transaction creates a monopoly?

There is agreement in principle between the BSC and Trafalgar House for a sale. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is a matter for the commercial judgment of the BSC. It does not require the consent of the Secretary of State for Industry. Trafalgar House has said that it expects that there will be 600 or 700 redundancies, but that it will do its best to find alternative employment elsewhere in the group, and the redundancies would, of course, be spread throughout the areas where Trafalgar House is located.

The price is also a matter for the BSC and I see no reason to distrust its commercial judgment. I understand that it took professional advice. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the question of a monopoly, and I can tell him that the size of the companies involved means that the issue is being considered by the Director General of Fair Trading.

Did my hon. Friend read last Tuesday's Financial Times, which reported the rumour that the European Commission is about to announce a package of aid for steel closure areas and that Scunthorpe is not to be included? Is it not outrageous that, with 8,000 redundant steel workers in my constituency. the area is not to be included in any package of measures? What assistance will his Department provide to Scunthorpe and what representations will it make to the Common Market?

As my hon. Friend knows, I am aware of the problems of Scunthorpe, and it is certainly one of the most adversely affected steel closure areas. I assure my hon. Friend that we would not want his constituency to be placed in a disadvantageous position by any special measures to help other steel closure areas. His area ought to be entitled to the same aid as other areas.

The Minister said in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie) that no national figures were available, but is he aware that redundant steel workers form a significant proportion of the large number of unemployed in the Northern region, which still has the most unemployed in England? Ought not the Government to make special provision for redundant steel workers?

The original question was whether we could identify the reabsorption of steel workers. Unemployment and re-employment figures do not detail the previous occupations of individuals, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that we recognise the special position of steel closure areas. That is why BSC (Industry) has been operating and why European Investment Bank and ECSC schemes are available to help to deal with those grave problems.