HC Deb 19 December 1941 vol 376 cc2240-1
35. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Prime Minister what proposals for the nationalisation of war industries have been submitted to the Government; and whether the House will be given an opportunity to debate them before a decision is reached?

The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Attlee)

Various schemes of this general character are, of course, from time to time publicly canvassed or suggested in Debate, but there is no kind of list that I could usefully supply, nor do I think that any special discussion is called for at this moment.

Mr. Stewart

With regard to the proposals put to the Government by a political party of this House, will the right hon. Gentleman repeat the undertaking given by the Minister of Labour on 4th December that all such proposals must first come before the House?

Mr. Attlee

I would refer the hon. Member to the speech made by the Minister of Labour.

Mr. Stewart

Is that pledge repeated by the Government?

Mr. Silverman

Under the Act which we passed 18 months ago, is it not the case that the Government, if they thought fit, could take any such action as they thought necessary without first having a general Debate in the House?

Mr. Attlee

Yes, I think the hon. Member is quite right but the question asked by my hon. Friend below the Gangway was directed towards the procedure followed by this House.

Sir Percy Harris

Is not the position in each case judged on its merits, and when it is in the public interest to take over a particular industry the Government have actually the power to do it now?

Mr. Attlee

The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly right; there are many instances in which the Government have taken action.

Mr. Thorne

Will you consider the socialisation and not the nationalisation of industry?

Mr. Henderson Stewart

May I ask a further question, because it is not clear where we stand? Will the right hon. Gentleman repeat the assurance of the Minister of Labour, regarding general proposals coming from this House for the nationalisation of war industries, that all such proposals must be considered by the House before they are considered by the Government?

Mr. Attlee

I do not think my hon. Friend is correctly interpreting what my right hon. Friend said. It is not the custom of this House that the Government, when they make themselves responsible for any question of policy, should first bring it up in the House.

Mr. Stewart

I am sorry to press the point, but it is important. The Minister of Labour stated that on a vital question of that kind all such proposals "will have to be put forward in the House," and that is the assurance I am asking to be repeated.

Mr. Attlee

I do not think that is a correct interpretation.

Mr. Stewart

It is a correct interpretation. I am quoting from the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Buchanan

The hon. Member need not worry; the Government have no intention of doing anything.