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Brymbo Steel

Volume 174: debated on Monday 18 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to maintain steel making at Brymbo steel.


To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to secure the maintenance of steel making at Brymbo steel.

At my request, the Welsh Development Agency has been exploring with United Engineering Steels all the possible options for the future of Brymbo steelworks.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for getting Welsh Development International to market Brymbo steel world wide. He must know that potential bidders may be put off because they may think that United Engineering Steels will want to close the plant rather than allow it to compete. Will he take this opportunity to say that no potential bidder, person or business should fail to show an interest or be prepared to make a bid, no matter what steel business they are in? There must be a possibility, whatever happens, that United Engineering Steels will be prepared to sell Brymbo as a going concern.

I should make it clear that I have asked the Welsh Development Agency to explore all possible options—and I stress the phrase "all possible options". I know of no circumstances in which United Engineering Steels has said that it would not be prepared to consider a positive and constructive solution for the future of the Brymbo steelworks.

The Secretary of State must be aware that only last week Brymbo steelworks achieved a record tonnage from its melting shop and that the work force are extremely hardworking and concerned about profitability and competition, as they have been for many years. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will take that into account when considering negotiations with UES and that he will also bear in mind that the steelworks is not being closed because it is not competitive or profitable. This is a completely different situation. Will the right hon. Gentleman take that into account?

I readily endorse the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the work force and merely add that the record that was broken last week had been set just the week before. This morning I had the opportunity of inviting in representatives of the work force, who confirmed what the hon. Gentleman has said. I know the Brymbo community and I know that it is a strong and important community in north Wales. I am certainly prepared to do everything possible to help it.

First, may I offer my right hon. Friend the warmest welcome to his new responsibilities? Is he aware that in a very short period he has already established a reputation as one who will fight hard for the interests of Wales—in conflict, if need be, with market forces which might otherwise allow so fine a work force to be disposed of?

I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I do not go too far down the route that he has opened up for me, save to say that although the ultimate decision about the future of the works must rest with the company, I am determined that the Welsh Development Agency should explore all possible options. Only this morning I received a progress report from its chairman, Dr. Gwyn Jones, who has taken such a personal interest in the project.

I join fellow hon. Members representing the county of Clwyd giving the strongest in support to the Brymbo work force, whose reputation stretches way beyond the constituency of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek). I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's assurance that all options will be explored and I know that he will take on board the cross-party belief in Brymbo throughout the county. Does my right hon. Friend accept that we are all behind him in every effort that he can make to keep the steelworks open?

If I needed any pressure, I confirm that it has come from all parties. The greatest pressure, however, must be attributed to the community which, as has already been said in these short responses, has established one production record after another and has a reputation for quality. That is why it is receiving such support from all hon. Members.

First, I sincerely congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment to the Cabinet. It is a great achievement and he now heads a fascinating Department of State. I wish him well in all that he seeks to do for the people of Wales. Nevertheless, does he agree with the Bishop of St. Asaph that the company at Brymbo should collaborate in every way in finding a new buyer for a going concern? Does he further agree that it is wrong for an anonymous board of directors far away from loyal, productive Brymbo to have taken a decision which has plunged Brymbo and all its community into uncertainty and dismay?

Finally, is not it a grave comment on our industrial prospects that the superb and excellent steelworks at Brymbo is being hawked around the embassies of the world for a buyer when it is still highly productive and highly profitable? Given the right hon. Gentleman's detachment from the Cabinet's non-interventionist, market-forces stance, and his assurance that he will help, we now call on him for a supreme effort to help the Brymbo steelworks.

First, I thank the hon. Member for Ayln and Deeside (Mr. Jones), as I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Clwyd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer) and for Delyn (Mr. Raffan), for their warm welcome to me at the Dispatch Box. I regard becoming Secretary of State for Wales as the greatest honour that can be achieved in the House, bar one—[Interruption.] I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for reminding me that that one is your own.

I met the Bishop of St. Asaph in north Wales last week, when he made the point just made by the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside. I accepted the validity of it then, as I do now. We shall not make much progress by castigating the company. I met representatives of the company two days after the initial announcement, when they readily responded to my request to make their books and financial information available to the Welsh Development Agency. I know of no circumstances in which the company has said that it would be at all unreasonable about the eventual solution.