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Bsc: Measures To Reduce Losses

Volume 416: debated on Thursday 15 January 1981

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3.16 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures they have taken to ensure that the British Steel Corporation's losses are reduced and what further measures are proposed in the future.

My Lords, the BSC chairman, Mr. MacGregor, submitted a corporate plan to the Government on 12th December. The plan contains proposals for increasing efficiency and reducing losses significantly. The Government are currently considering the plan, and expect to announce decisions on it at the end of January.

My Lords, will my noble friend tell the House how much of the present subsidy of £971 million in the current financial year is accounted for by redundancy payments? Can he assure the House that, while the Government are considering the plan for next year and for the future, they will ensure that substantial economies are made and that the cash limit for the coming year will be a substantial reduction on the present cash limit?

My Lords, I can say to my noble friend that my advice is that, of the present provision of some £971 million, about £300 million represents a sum for redundancy and is therefore a one-off payment. I cannot comment on the second part until the Government have come to their decision about a corporate plan, but I can say that we would expect a significantly smaller figure.

My Lords, may I ask the Government how we can have confidence in what the Government are doing when the moment that Mrs. Thatcher's "wonder man", Mr. Ian MacGregor, put his foot into this country 27,000 men lost their jobs and more have lost their jobs since then? How can we have confidence in what the Government are doing?

My Lords, I think that one of the few things which are not controversial between the parties, or indeed in other areas, about British Steel is that it has been over-manned for a very long time.

My Lords, can the noble Earl say, in addition to the £300 million paid out for redundancy, how much is being paid in interest payments on money already borrowed?