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Volume 33: debated on Tuesday 7 December 1982

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asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 7 December.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

Has the Prime Minister seen today the unanimous report of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs which says that to close Ravenscraig would be to devastate the west of Scotland? If the Secretary of State for Scotland can openly oppose that closure, why cannot the Prime Minister stop making cryptic comments and openly oppose what would be a disastrous closure?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry will be making a statement about all five major steel plants before the House rises for the Christmas Recess.

Will my right hon. Friend take time today to express the absolute abhorrence of people throughout Britain at the appalling attitude of Mr. Ken Livingstone, who has invited front men from the IRA to Britain? Will she also comment on Mr. Livingstone's refusal to comment on the outrage that was perpetrated last night?

May I take the last point first? I believe that the whole House will join in sending its deepest sympathy to those who were bereaved and injured in Northern Ireland last evening. This is one of the most horrifying crimes in Ulster's tragic history. The slaughter of innocent people is the product of evil and depraved minds, and the act of callous and brutal men. No words can express our absolute revulsion and complete condemnation.

However, nothing will deflect the Government from their resolve to free Ulster of terrorism and to restore peace to Northern Ireland. We should pay tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the security services, whose selfless service we admire. We shall not rest until the merciless killers are brought to justice.

Even before yesterday, most right hon. and hon. Members were astounded that the invitation to which my hon. Friend referred was ever issued. I believe that the nation would now find it intolerable if it were not withdrawn.

First, may I say on behalf of all Labour Members how strongly we condemn this wanton act of mass murder? We have always condemned those methods and we shall continue to condemn them. We will do everything in our power to ensure that such methods will not succeed. Anybody who doubts our determination in that respect has not followed these events over many years. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), our spokesman on Northern Ireland affairs, has reiterated that on many occasions. We will do everything in our power to stamp out and defeat those who conduct such campaigns of mass murder.

Now may I turn to the other questions, because we must proceed with them as well? Who is in charge of the steel industry?

Our views on the bombings have been known and they remain the same. If anybody—

Order. I know who, but not what. On a day like this, I suggest that the House should settle down and proceed.

I hope that nobody in the House will try to use the bombings for political purposes.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I cannot hear what the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are saying. It is this crowd here—not my hon. Friends on the Front Bench below the Gangway, but these Social Democrats in front of me. Will you please tell them to shut up until they are called, Mr. Speaker?

Order. I welcome such support. We do our name and reputation no good by trying to shout down hon. Members when the House wants to get on with serious business.

I return to the steel industry. Nothing will dissuade us from protecting the jobs and livelihoods of people in the steel industry. They are matters of major importance to the House and the country. Who in the Government is responsible for the steel industry? Is it the Secretary of State for Industry, the right hon. Lady or the Cabinet, because it is several weeks since the Secretary of State for Industry said that he was taking responsibility? Since then, every week, more steel workers have lost their jobs. How soon will the Government make a statement on the subject? Is it not a fact that the Government have taken responsibility for the steel industry and must answer to the House and the country?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry has already told the House, as I have on a number of occasions, that there will be a political decision on the future of the five major steel plants. The Secretary of State for Industry is considering the British Steel Corporation's corporate plan for next year. He will be able to make a statement to the House before the House rises for the Christmas Recess.

It is not just the five major plants, but the thousands of workers who are losing their jobs in other plants. When will the Government make a statement about their jobs?

Last week we had a major debate on the steel industry, when the facts and figures were given and comprehensively debated.

Will my right hon. Friend find time today to ask the Leader of the Opposition to join her in seeking the withdrawal of the invitation to the political apologists of murder and mutilation, who have been invited by Mr. Ken Livingstone? It is an affront to the people of London.

My hon. Friend has already heard that I think that it would be intolerable and insensitive if that invitation were not withdrawn. Those who have suffered and been bereaved would feel it deeply. What the Leader of the Opposition says is a matter for him.