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Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): Will the Secretary of State answer the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) about which communities will lose the other 3,000 jobs?
Has the company given details of those job losses? The Secretary of State says that he has had extensive talks with the company. Has Corus said that it did not want to give details on job losses to the DTI because when Vauxhall did so, they were leaked to the press and the poor people who were losing their jobs learned about it on local radio?
Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South): It is appropriate that my right hon. Friend should know of the anger of the work force on Teesside and in my constituency at this devastating news. They believe that their livelihoods and their families are unquestionably in desperate straits. My right hon. Friend will also want to know that my constituents' anger has been increased by the fact that they heard the news on the radio. Representatives of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation were refused the opportunity to discuss with management what options existed to save jobs.
My constituents have also been told that a further 3,000 jobs are to go. It is possible that they will hear on the radio the news about where those jobs will be lost. The work force are angry and their families are exceedingly anxious. My constituents would like to know how many times the Government approached Corus to achieve a resolution. Did the Government offer the company an effective package worth some £85 million, which it refused even to contemplate?
I understand the anger that my hon. Friend's constituents must feel. It is bad enough to lose one's job, or have it threatened, but I hope that all hon. Members will agree that to learn about it from a local radio broadcast is unacceptable. We have begun the consultation on information in part to find a better way forward, to ensure that a similar event does not occur in the future.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): Is the Secretary of State proud of his record and that of his Department? He did not know about BMW or Corus, and he makes statements to protect the textile industry while wearing a South African suit. Is it not about time that his job went too?
Mr. Byers: I do not know where the hon. Gentleman's suit was made, but he will be pleased to know that I am wearing an English-made suit. Perhaps a Whip will find out soon where the hon. Gentleman's suit was made.
On the serious point, the reality is that the Government engaged with Corus, but that Corus did not want to enter into dialogue with the Government. On behalf of the Government and the 6,000 steelworkers who have lost their jobs, I am asking Corus today to think again and to work with us, to find a better way forward and to overcome the company's difficulties.
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on setting out very clearly the miserable way in which Corus has dumped British workers on the scrap heap. Sir Brian Moffat now joins Sir Ian MacGregor in the history of treachery in the steel industry: both have treated British steelworkers in a miserable way, and both have been honoured with knighthoods. That is a great pity.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Corus refused to discuss aspects of the plans that it was making, and that it blocked the Government's efforts to begin the process of regeneration by refusing to give the age profiles of the workers in their plants? Will he further impress on Sir Brian Moffat that it was that work force who earned British Steel such profits that it was able to throw £700 million at shareholders to get them to agree to the merger with Corus? I wonder what those shareholders are thinking about Sir Brian's actions now. I hope that further representations will be made to Corus to try to save something from this disaster.
Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend knows from his constituency experience exactly what large-scale job losses mean in the steel industry. If I recall correctly, in the Tory years about 10,000 steel jobs were lost in his constituency, so he will know at first hand the difficulties that will be encountered. We will certainly continue to make representations to Corus. I hope that in the face of the anger that has been expressed today and the shock felt by the communities and the individuals affected by the decision, Corus will engage far more constructively and that it will reconsider its announcement.
Mr. Byers: We have been working for some time now in this area because of the needs referred to by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that in the very near future we will be able to make proposals, perhaps as part of a package in response to today's announcement. As I said, I hope that Corus will reconsider its position, but if it does not, we will need to introduce a package of measures to provide help for those affected and, in that context, we will need to address the issue referred to by the hon. Gentleman.
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): I am glad that my right hon. Friend mentioned the experience of Tower colliery in my constituency. When the previous Government and the Coal Board wanted to shut down the pit, the workers said no and set up a workers' co-operative. Will my right hon. Friend put every pressure possible on Corus to allow the men to be given the chance to run their own business? The men know better than anyone where efficiency savings can be made in the industry. Give the men in the industry a chance if the owners have failed.
Mr. Byers: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I met Sir Brian Moffat this morning, we made exactly that point about providing an opportunity for workers at Llanwern, who suggested last week that they were interested in taking over the plant. We urged him to give detailed consideration to the proposal. Corus has resisted so far, but I hope that in the light of today's announcement it will now give detailed consideration to the proposition from the ISTC.
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury): Of course, mass sackings are not consistent with the image of an economically buoyant Britain that the Government wish to spin in the run-up to an election. However, the Secretary of State has to accept that the board of Corus is acting not capriciously but because the company is making losses. That is happening because of the cheap imports of steel to this country and because a loss is made on every ton of steel made here. Until the Government are prepared to face up to why that is happening, there will continue to be a haemorrhage of jobs from the steel industry and from UK manufacturing. When will the Government show some leadership on that issue?
Mr. Ian Cawsey (Brigg and Goole): My right hon. Friend will welcome the news that if he can have conversations with Corus over the aid package that has been put in place, workers at the Scunthorpe site will support him in all his endeavours. Scunthorpe and the north Lincolnshire area are losing objective 2 status, which is in a transitionary phase. Four hundred jobs could be lost at the Scunthorpe works on top of the 670 jobs already lost. Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking to look at the objective status of the north Lincolnshire area and to see what further money can be invested to assist in the regrowth of that economy and to help those people find jobs?