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Steel Industry

Volume 33: debated on Monday 6 December 1982

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3.30 pm

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 British Steel Corporation's proposed redundancies in Newport, Gwent."

Despite the fact that we had a full-scale steel debate in the House last Wednesday, the Minister of State, Department of Industry did not mention the redundancies and the Secretary of State for Industry did not put in an appearance. In the few days since the debate, at the Orb works in Newport, which is part of the Associated Products Group, 214 redundancies were announced, at Llanwern, 350 redundancies were announced and at Whiteheads works, 197 redundancies have been announced. That is a total of more than 750 jobs lost in Newport.

It could safely be said that the crisis in the steel industry is due to lack of demand, and especially to the decline in our manufacturing industry. However, the flow of imports into Britain also gives cause for concern. The Government should now say "Enough is enough" to those imports, or there will be no steel industry in Britain.

Even more significant is the behaviour of some Ministers. Why were the redundancies not reported to the House during the debate last week, if only as a matter of courtesy? The omission displays negligence, or even a lack of courage. It certainly displays a lack of frankness with the House and it places in my mind a question mark over the integrity of those Ministers.

One could also ask about the Secretary of State for Wales. Why is he not standing up for the industry in our area—

Order. The hon. Gentleman must concentrate his argument on justifying why we should have an emergency debate.

The Secretary of State for Scotland is standing up for the steel industry there. Perhaps the Secretary of State for Wales is afraid that if he were to tender his resignation it would be accepted.

The steel industry is vital to the economy of South Wales. The House is entitled to a full statement that will rectify and clarify the omissions of last Wednesday. I ask you to accept this motion for an immediate debate.

The hon. Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) gave me notice before 12 o'clock midday that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the fact that more than 750 new steel redundancies in Newport were announced on Thursday 2 December and the failure of the Secretary of State for Industry to notify the House of that development in the steel debate the previous evening."

The hon. Gentleman has brought to our attention a serious matter—redundancies in the steel industry. The House knows that, under Standing Order No. 9, I am directed to take into account the several factors set out in the order but to give no reason for my decision.

I listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman said, but I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I accept your ruling, but I wonder whether you could give the House some guidance. Last week about 6,000 jobs were lost in the steel industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) said, many of those jobs were lost after Wednesday's debate. The Government are supposed to be reviewing the matter, but while that review is taking place thousands of jobs are being lost and no account has been given to the House of Commons since last Wednesday. Would you give us some guidance on that?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Newport (Mr. Hughes) applied for a debate under Standing Order No. 9 on the somewhat narrow ground, although I appreciate his anxiety, of the new redundancy figures announced for Newport. However, more redundancy figures have been announced for Port Talbot. Would it have made a difference to your ruling if my hon. Friend had made his application, or if he or I were to make one tomorrow, for a debate on the steel redundancies in South Wales that were not disclosed in last Wednesday's debate?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not disagree with your ruling on my hon. Friend's application. My hon. Friend referred to the position following the debate in the House on Wednesday. However, this morning—my hon. Friend may not have heard this—his constituency sustained further blows because of redundancies at Whiteheads, which are additional to his figures. Will you consider a future application on this matter, Mr. Speaker?

The House is aware that I have listened carefully to the points of order and that I am well-versed with the situation. However, I must be guided by the factors that guide me in all the applications that come before me, and I cannot change my ruling.