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Special Steels (South Yorkshire)

Volume 33: debated on Tuesday 30 November 1982

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I have received notice of an application under Standing Order No. 9 from the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) on the steel industry. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the debate on steel tomorrow will be on the Adjournment, which means that it will be an extremely wide-ranging debate. In view of that, I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he wishes to proceed with his application.

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to proceed.

The hon. Gentleman must not make today the speech that he would make if called by the Chair tomorrow. Others will also want to speak tomorrow.

As the matter which I wish to raise under Standing Order No. 9 will have no place in tomorrow evening's debate, I wish, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, to raise it today.

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
"the announcement by BSC that more than 1,700 jobs are to go in South Yorkshire as BSC Special Steels cuts steelmaking by about 15 per cent.".

I believe that the matter is specific. for it has been confirmed by public announcement and private communication.

The matter is important because South Yorkshire Special Steels is in a different market from any of the large five steel plants whose future is the subject of current speculation. Presumably it is the five large plants—Ravenscraig, Redcar, Llanwern and two others—that are the subject of continuing exchanges between the chairman of the corporation and the Secretary of State for Industry. Accordingly, it is the future of these five plants that will be the focus of attention in tomorrow's brief debate on steel.

This is the view of BSC for it has clearly—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making a wide-ranging speech. He must confine himself to giving me reasons why the issue that he is raising is urgent and important and why I should grant an emergency debate.

I know that you will be helpful to me, Mr. Speaker. You are always helpful to me and to other hon. Members who seek to make submissions under Standing Order No. 9. You have questioned the propriety of my submission, Mr. Speaker, and I am doing you the courtesy of presenting an argument to meet your query. I was rather surprised that you did not find my argument acceptable. However, I was only halfway through it.

Order. I still find the hon. Gentleman's statement unacceptable. He must either come to the issue that he seeks to raise under Standing Order No. 9, as every other hon. Member has to do, and explain the urgency and immediacy of the application, or I will have to ask him to resume his seat.

I have confidence that you, Mr. Speaker, will be helpful to me. I know that that is your reputation. I shall come to the point.

The British Steel Corporation has clearly conducted a market survey for engineering steels over the next year—it made a similar appraisal of the stainless sector, which led in June to an announcement of 600 job losses in my constituency—irrespective of the present review of BSC' s plant configuration.

The matter is urgent, for while the chairman of BSC and the Secretary of State for Industry conduct their current review the haemorrhaging of jobs in South Yorkshire continues. This is because South Yorkshire's specialised products have been chiefly hit by Government policy and domestic recession. As a result, manpower levels have been slashed by more than half under this Government. In the past 18 months, the men who have lost their jobs could have filled the Chamber 15 times over. After five other redundancy announcements this month, yesterday's announcement will give November the grim record of the highest number of announced redundancies.

The tragedy is that the latest crisis has come at a time when the gains from past sacrifices were beginning to materialise. Productivity, quality and delivery times have all improved dramatically, as the chairman acknowledged in the corporation's latest annual report. The men feel bitter that they have had to bear an unfair share of the consequence of the Government's industrial problems and of those that face the whole of Europe. They greatly resent the fact that British steel makers are having to accept a greater burden and penalty because of European policies and the Government's policy. The Secretary of State for Industry refused in June to contemplate any change—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making the speech that he would have made—

Order. In my judgment, the hon. Gentleman is making the speech that he would have made on general grounds had he been granted his emergency debate. He has appealed to my judgment, and I now appeal to his. He is a good House of Commons man, and he knows what he should do on a Standing Order No. 9 application.

I come to my conclusions, and I am grateful to you for your helpfulness, Mr. Speaker. I was merely about to ask how many more jobs will have to go in South Yorkshire, an area that is fast sliding into economic chaos, before this Government realise that what is probably now at stake is the survival of the economy of South Yorkshire.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) gave me notice this morning before 12 o'clock that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing

"the announcement by BSC that more than 1,700 jobs are to go in South Yorkshire as BSC Special Steels cuts steelmaking by about 50 per cent."

The House listened to the hon. Gentleman drawing our attention to a very serious matter. The House is also aware that on the Adjournment tomorrow everything that was raised this afternoon could have been raised, and could still be raised, by those hon. Members who will be called in the debate.

I have given careful consideration to the hon. Gentleman's representations, but I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order. Therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.