ON THE eve of today's Commons debate on the closure of the Ravenscraig

strip mill, the Government came under renewed attack, with claims that

Mrs Thatcher was guilty of double-dealing, while Trade Secretary Mr

Nicholas Ridley was accused of dereliction of duty.

Announcing that the Labour Party will step up its campaign over the

closure, Mr Gordon Brown, the party's trade and industry spokesman, asks

in a letter to the Prime Minister whether she or Mr Ridley have examined

British Steel's ''effective commitment'' to the pre-privatisation

guarantees made to both Ravenscraig and the Dalzell plate mill.

As the owner of a golden share in British Steel, and as the recipient

of guarantees about Ravenscraig and Dalzell, Mr Brown says, the

Government has a clear duty to question the company.

''Privatisation cannot excuse the Government of responsibility to

ensure these guarantees are upheld. But it seems that neither the Prime

Minister nor the Trade Secretary has bothered to speak with British

Steel to assure themselves about the company's real intention,'' Mr

Brown said yesterday.

''The question is whether Mrs Thatcher will demand of British Steel

that they reconsider and reverse the strip mill closure decision. Praise

from the Prime Minister for a workforce which she then betrays by not

even challenging British Steel over their assurances is


Mr Ridley is guilty of dereliction of duty, he claimed, because his

only action has been to demand inaction.

In another attack on the Government's response to the closure

decision, Liberal Democrat leader Mr Paddy Ashdown said Scottish

Secretary Mr Malcolm Rifkind's political reputation was now hanging by a


Challenging Mr Rifkind on allegations that he knew in advance of the

closure plans, Mr Ashdown has urged him to answer when did he know, why

was the announcement delayed until after the Scottish Conservative Party

conference and the regional elections, and what action has he taken to

save Ravenscraig.

Last night, a spokesman for the Scottish Office rejected claims that

Mr Rifkind knew of the plan before the official announcement was made.

He said: ''We had no knowledge of the proposal to close the strip mill

before last Tuesday. We did, of course, know the guarantee had run out

and knew about the production pauses.''

Before today's debate, Ravenscraig convener Mr Tommy Brennan will meet

Mr Rifkind and provide him with a detailed dossier on how the plant

could be saved as a profitable organisation.

''The message we will obviously be asking Mr Rifkind to carry down to

London is that the Scottish steel industry must survive. We will also be

furnishing him with facts and figures which back up our case for the

retention of the strip mill and Ravenscraig as a whole,'' he said.

Leader Comment8

THE Ravenscraig campaign has led to fierce debate. On Page 18 Herald

writers put forward widely differing views on the steel question. MURRAY

RITCHIE says there is still time to save the Scottish industry and that

it is worth saving. ROBERT McLAUGHLAN, says such talk, like that of the

united politicians last week, is humbug.