§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
I beg to move,That this House regrets the decision of His Majesty's Government to bring the Steel Nationalisation Act into immediate operation during this period of tension and danger thus needlessly dividing the nation on Party political issues and disturbing the smooth and efficient working of an industry vital to our defence programme.Last week, the Conservative and Liberal Parties gave their support in all the Measures which were deemed necessary for national defence. In spite of the very serious criticisms that could be made of the mismanagement of our defence problems and the inadequacy of the remedies, the Government Motion was passed without Division or Amendment. Furthermore, the Bill prolonging the period of compulsory Service from 18 to 24 months, imposing a very heavy sacrifice on British homes and families, was carried through the House of Commons in a single day, and has now received the Royal Assent.
This was done because everyone realised the grave and growing danger in which we stand, and we have all agreed that an immediate strengthening of our Forces, in conjunction with those of our Allies, gives the best hope of averting a third world war and of escaping ruin should it break upon us. The speed and unanimity with which these far-reaching decisions were taken by Parliament sent a message forth to the world, of British national unity, rising above internal quarrels, and in spite of the virtual equipoise in this House between parties, grievously divided as they are. Only the magnitude and imminence of posssible mortal dangers could have enabled us to present this encouraging example to the friends of peace and law all over the world.
While, however, this beneficial process was going forward in Parliament, the Government were secretly preparing a new and deadly blow at national unity and co-operation by an act of party aggression which was bound to plunge us, and evidently has plunged us, and all our affairs into violent controversy. The action of the Prime Minister in taking such a step at such a time and in such circumstances will, I believe, be sternly 1720 judged by the nation and by history. [Laughter.] Laughter will not carry it off.
Objection is always taken on the other side of the House to the argument that, judged by the votes cast at the recent election, here is a Government resting on a minority of 1,800,000 votes, and that this applies particularly to the nationalisation of iron and steel, which was a definite, direct and leading issue at the polls. The Prime Minister argues, if I understand him aright, that seats alone must count, and that the adverse votes of the people, however numerous, are irrelevant and should not influence Government policy. This theme does not do justice to the spirit of democratic institutions, nor is it at all in accordance with the way in which things have long been done in British public life.
The theory that a mandate has been granted by the election for any change, however sweeping, which has been mentioned only as an afterthought in the party manifesto, goes far beyond the bounds of reason. To claim that a majority of two, three, four, five, or whatever it is, gives the Government a title to impose on the other half of the nation, and in this case the larger half, any law they may choose to propose is carrying meticulous logic to dangerous extremes. It is liable to make the fortunes and fate of any country that is so circumstanced dependent entirely upon accident and hazard. Very few democratic and parliamentary constitutions in the world are so devoid of safeguards as our own. Half of the nation ought not, in such circumstances, to claim the right on so slender a margin to knock the other half about and ride rough-shod over it.
His Majesty's Government, in making far-reaching changes, should strive to act in harmony with a substantial preponderance of the mass of the people, and to interpret their general wish. That has always been the British way of working our constitution—there have been some lamentable exceptions, such as we see now—and it is only in this manner, I venture to think, that our affairs can be handled in the public interest and our unwritten constitution made to work. Parliament can, of course, only decide by voting, but Ministers of the Crown who force the House to take decisions which rend the nation upon the vote of an individual Member or a handful of Members 1721 one way or the other, are abusing their trusteeship. I am quite sure that the underlying common sense of British democracy will endorse these general propositions. If all this be true in tranquil times, how much more is it true in these days of common peril and common action in so many spheres?
The British steel industry is a prime feature in our exports and the foundation for a thousand secondary trades and productive processes. It has served us well in the dollar struggle, which was certainly serious enough, but now in addition we are urged by the Government to support and aid in a re-armament effort, which is almost unanimously regarded in this House to be urgent and vital. This armament effort cannot possibly proceed, except with the smooth, efficient working of the steel industry at its highest. To disturb and damage the steel industry at this juncture is to disturb and damage the whole effort which occupied our attention last week.
The record of the steel industry in recent years has been magnificent. The output of the industry has expanded from its low point of five million tons a year in 1931, when hon. Gentlemen opposite were largely in office—I mean their party was largely in office. As I say, it has expanded from five million tons a year in 1931 to 16 million tons at the present time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Under a Labour Government."] Yes, certainly, and why spoil it now? Each year when the present Government have set a production target, now vital to our re-armament, the steel industry has surpassed the target. Steel prices have risen by considerably less than the general rise in industrial prices, and are below the general level both in Europe and in the United States. The Government are, in fact, picking out for fundamental disturbance the one great basic industry which, of all others, deserves the prize for its efficiency and its smooth working expansion.
Nothing is more remarkable in the history of the British steel industry than the good relations that have prevailed between the employers, management and the employees. I have known in my time a." succession of leaders in the iron and steel trade union. I served in the Government in the First World War with Mr. John Hodge, who became an important Minister. Then there was Arthur Pugh, 1722 who fought a splendid fight on my behalf for a 12½ per cent. increase which, as Minister of Munitions in 1917, I wished to give to what I may call the non-commissioned officers of war-time production, the men who teach the dilutees and have taught them. I am sure that on both sides of the House there is a general respect for Mr. Pugh. I did not know Mr. John Brown, and I have only once, some time ago, met Mr. Lincoln Evans, the present General Secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation.
These remarkable men have played their part over the last half century in the Labour movement, and in the relations of ownership and labour in the key and basic industry of iron and steel. It is a fact that, apart from the General Strike of 1926, there has never been, for more than 50 years, a dispute in the steel industry which was not settled by the well-known machinery without a major stoppage of work. Why this industry of all others should be selected for the malevolence of Socialist politicians is impossible to understand.
There was the argument that industries which were failures and could not give good service to the public should be nationalised, but here, especially since the war, there has been the finest service. There was the argument that better service would be given by the employees if they were under the direct control of the State. But there is really not much margin now for further effort on the part of the steel workers. They have outstripped all demands made upon them. There is the argument that monopolies should not be in private hands and that so great an organisation as the steel trade should not be free from public control. But this is all met, and more than met, by the excellent arrangements which have been in force under the Iron and Steel Board, and which have proved and vindicated themselves by results.
This new stroke of party faction by a Government already confronted with a vast superiority of potentially hostile forces in Europe, and also by the challenge of the Communist fifth column here at home—this new stroke, I say, took all of us and our friends abroad by surprise. [Interruption.] There was no need for the Prime Minister to take this hazardous course at the present moment. [Interruption]. 1723 I am sorry that the facts that I am unfolding give so much pain and cause so much confusion, but it only shows the guilty consciences and lack of conviction which prevail on the benches opposite.
There was no need for the Prime Minister to take this hazardous course at the present moment. The Iron and Steel Act gives 12 months' latitude for fixing the vesting date. The reason given by the Minister of Supply on 28th April last year, nearly 18 months ago, for taking this flexibility was plainly stated by him:There may be industrial or political developments which would make it harmful for the iron and steel industry to be transferred on that date."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th April, 1949; Vol. 464, c. 430.]The date he was then speaking of was May, 1950. But all his reasons for safeguarding flexibility are stronger than ever today, and the provision which he made in the Act leaves the whole of 1951 open.
Now, however, the Government have decided to appoint a Corporation on 2nd October, in order to facilitate vesting at the earliest possible date at the beginning of 1951. Surely there have been bothindustrial and political developments which would make it harmful for the iron and steel industry to be transferrednow, which would fully have justified using this provision of the Act to see whether, in the face of common danger and on the basis of common action in defence, this Parliament might not have had a better chance of life and honour.
Let us look at the industrial developments to which the Minister referred. There has been one which is of the first importance. A new proposal has been put forward by the economic committee of the Trades Union Congress, in their report to their Brighton congress, as an alternative to more nationalisation. The report, which was approved by the congress without any dissenting vote, states in paragraph 14 thatif further extensions of nationalisation are to be justified and acceptable to the community the existing schemes must be shown to be successful.Some judgment is then attempted in the report upon the existing schemes, which are specifically referred to as "coal, transport, electricity, gas and aviation."
The report leads to the conclusion that it is only when these existing schemes can 1724 be shown to be generally successful that further schemes should be undertaken. The Trades Union Congress report says that no clear judgment can yet be reached on this. There is a significant paragraph in the report which reads:It may further be that in important cases a more practicable means of public control, alternative to both public ownership and development councils, would be the Statutory Board of Control on the lines of the tripartite body described in paragraphs 38 and 39"—that is to say, on the lines of the Iron and Steel Board. In order that there may be no mistake I will read the bulk of paragraphs 38 and 39, the relevant parts of which are as follows. First, paragraph 38:Development councils are not an appropriate form of organisation for all private industries, and particularly for those which are already highly integrated. Consequently, an alternative method of public control over private industry which deserves further consideration is the statutory Board of Control. This method has already been used by the Government, for a short period, in the iron and steel industry with the intention of securing a measure of control pending the transfer of the industry to public ownership.[Laughter.] I am not quoting unfairly. Here is paragraph 39:The Iron and Steel Board was composed of representatives of employers and workpeople with independent members, one of whom was Chairman. Its functions were to review and supervise the industry's development schemes; to supervise the industry generally and to administer such direct controls over production, distribution and imports as were needed; and to advise on price policy. What the Board lacked, however, was power to compel private firms to undertake schemes when and where they were considered necessary in the public interest, and it had no authority to undertake such schemes on its own initiative. If this form of control were to be used in appropriate cases it might be possible to extend the functions of such Boards to include the power to set up their own undertakings, either to promote development which would otherwise not take place or to act as a yardstick of efficiency for the rest of the industry.This report was presented to the Congress by Mr. Lincoln Evans, the general secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, in a speech which contained a significant sentence. I did wish to quote a great part of the speech because I admired its thought and structure so much, but this particular sentence is a relevant one:If the community can exercise sufficient control over industry without accepting the 1725 risks and liabilities of ownership, that is a matter which should have the serious concern of everybody.We on this side of the House are opposed to a general application of the principle of competitive public ownership which might, if clumsily or malevolently applied, lead to the ruin of slowly-built-up private businesses, or which, if unsuccessful, would only cause a further burden on the taxpayer. I stated the objections to this method in the strongest terms in the election, and I do not in any way recede from them.
I am informed that the Iron and Steel Federation do not by any means close the door upon such an extension of the powers of the late Iron and Steel Board, within the limits of their own industry, and that they would welcome a discussion of the subject. If that were so, and an agreement were reached, the steel question would be settled, at any rate for the present years of crisis—matters could always be renewed and revived—in a manner agreeable to both sides in the industry.
It would be a serious matter for Parliament to reject such a solution in a strictly limited sphere on the single ground of objecting in principle to competitive public ownership. Certainly both the grave and thoughtful report, which represents responsible conclusions of the Trades Union Congress, and the speech in which it was presented, are in refreshing contrast to the partisanship of His Majesty's Government. The Trades Union Congress report seems to seek practical solutions by agreement and good will. The Government are athirst with campaigning zeal and long for party triumph.
These pronouncements by the responsible trade union leaders, taken in conjunction with the dangers that surround us and draw near, might well have been made the subject of careful consideration not only by the Government but by the House. The flexibility of the Act gives the necessary time, and the general situation the natural impulse. I am told that the Iron and Steel Federation are agreed, not only in principle but in a great measure of detail, with the recommendations of the trade union report. Why, then, should the Government not take advantage of this wide area of agreement in the interval provided by the Act, in order to see if a better solution might 1726 not be offered to us than can be made by party warfare?
The decision of the Government to precipitate this internal crisis by immediately bringing the Iron and Steel Act into operation, setting up their Corporation, and fixing the vesting date at the earliest moment, has prevented a settlement which might well have led us into a very different atmosphere than is now, I fear, to be our fate. It might have given this House of Commons not only a longer life but an opportunity of rendering memorable service to the nation as a whole; but all that has been brushed aside by the Prime Minister, acting for the party doctrinaires on the political side of the Socialist movement. Instead of our being led into fairer fields, the Prime Minister has chosen to aggravate and inflame political and party strife, not by words only—we all use words in party politics—but by deeds. Actions speak louder than words and they cut deeper.
The initiative throughout has rested with the Government. The power of action is in their hands only. The choice was theirs, and the responsibility for what is going to happen falls on them and on them alone. The Opposition have neither the power to act nor the choice of methods which are open to the Government. It is; our duty on grounds far wider than party to protest to the utmost of our strength against this sudden and untimely decision, arrived at in the midst of our perils and common action.
Why then should the Prime Minister, in the same week in which he had asked for and received the support of the whole House on the hard measures which he thought it his duty to propose for national safety, strike a blow at this vast and complicated sphere of our productive activities at the very moment when their smooth-working efficiency is more imperative than it ever was before? He is not only fomenting national discord for party purposes but, by disturbing the whole steel organisation, he is placing an obstacle, which may be very serious, in the way of the swift re-equipment of our Defence Services. This will, I am sure, be condemned all over the country and all over the free and friendly world as both reckless and unworthy.
The right hon. Gentleman the other day accused me of being party-minded. Everyone would naturally be shocked if 1727 a party leader were party-minded! But we are all party-minded in the baffling and unhappy period between election decisions and between parties so sharply divided and evenly balanced. However, the nation may be assured that, whatever the conduct of the present Government and dominant party may be, the Conservative and, I believe, the Liberal Oppositions will not, I am told, withdraw in any way the aid they have offered and given to all measures for the national defence. We shall do our utmost to encourage recruiting, and we shall be prepared to accept additional burdens wherever they are shown to be unavoidable.
I trust that all Conservatives and Liberals throughout the country will not be deterred by this vicious by-blow from doing their utmost to stimulate production in all its spheres. After all, there are millions of Conservative and Liberal trade unionists throughout the land, and I say to them from here—and my voice carries some distance—that they must not let themselves be discouraged in their national efforts by the political and party manoeuvres of a fanatical intelligentsia—the Home Secretary is laughing; I did not mean to include him in the intelligentsia.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I was quite sure the right hon. Gentleman did not. That was why I laughed.
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. Gentleman could surely find other things in life to laugh at besides those which do not include himself. Otherwise life might be rather gloomy for him. I was saying—a fanatical intelligentsia obsessed by economic fallacies.
Let us look for a moment at the new Corporation which has been set up to be the agent and instrument of the Government in nationalising a curiously hand-picked but nonetheless dominant portion of the iron and steel industry, with far-reaching reactions throughout a far wider field. At its head is a millionaire Socialist, a recent recruit, who, I am informed, enjoys the reputation of being one of the strictest and sternest monopolists in the country. Hardly any of the Corporation members have the slightest knowledge of the steel industry. One has already resigned.
1728 How can this Corporation compare with the tripartite Iron and Steel Board which commends itself to the Trades Union Congress and is even held up as an alternative model and has proved itself in every respect by its notable success? This change can only mean an immense impoverishment of the brain-power and experience which we never required more than we do now and profound disturbance of the life of the whole industry and of its innumerable ramifications.
Leaders of the steel industry, both employers' and workers' representatives, have declined to become members of the new Corporation. Can we blame them for refusing to identify themselves with a policy which they consider—and I think rightly—wrong and prejudicial to the work to which they have given their lives and a policy which they claim was disapproved by the nation at the General Election? They will, I am sure, continue to manage their particular firms, in so far as they are allowed to, in a faithful and loyal effort to limit the harm which is being so wantonly done, but no man can be blamed for refusing to take personal responsibility for an experiment of which he wholly disapproves and which he is sure will be harmful and for which, in his opinion, no decisive mandate has been given by the electors.
No doubt in the conflict so gratuitously forced upon us, these men will be covered with abuse and slime by the party opposite. If they are attacked, let me read what the Minister of Supply said in the House of Commons on 16th November, 1949. It has been quoted before but it is very necessary that it should receive the widest publicity at this moment. He said:In an atmosphere of political tension and uncertainty it would plainly be unwise to proceed now with the selection of individuals to serve on the Corporation. Men who may well be best suited for this responsible task might understandably be reluctant to commit themselves to accepting such a position, and throw up their present jobs, as long as they think there is a possibility, however remote, that the Corporation may not, after all, be established … I think that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that the success of the nationalised industry will depend to a considerable extent on the calibre of the men serving on the Corporation, and that it would be folly "—a word we have heard in other quarters—to rush our selection of these people unnecessarily."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 2042–3.]1729 I have a long past of speeches to look back upon, but it always refreshes me to look back on something which I said a year or two or even 10 years ago and to find out that it exactly fits the circumstances of the moment. I therefore offer my congratulations to the Minister of Supply who, nearly a year before the event, forecast this picture of the situation with astonishing accuracy and not entirely without happy colouring.
The word "folly" is mentioned. I take that word and also the mood from "The Times" and "The Manchester Guardian"—those eminent symbols of wise, measured, superior judgment and responsibility. We are bound to proclaim the "folly" of the proposals for immediate action which are now thrust upon us.
We believe that the Iron and Steel Act now to be brought into immediate force will seriously damage the efficiency of production through the centralisation of responsibility which the new Corporation will involve. We believe that added risks and burdens will be thrown on to the taxpayer. We believe that the position of consumers who are also manufacturers in relation to prices and other matters will be further weakened by vesting control in a public ownership Corporation in the place of an impartial non-ownership public board.
We believe that the position of labour in the industries affected will be weakened by concentrating control in a Corporation identified with ownership in the place of an impartial public board on which an active and responsible labour interest was jointly represented together with the management. We believe that the trade unions in their report, and the Iron and Steel industry in particular, have offered a solution which, from every angle, offers superior advantage both to the employees and to the safety and progress of our country.
The Government supporters place some hopes upon being able to darken counsel by spreading the allegation that the Conservative and Liberal Parties were willing, under the Schuman Plan—get ready to cheer now; a long breath—to hand over British iron and steel to the control of a supra-national European cartel which would have the power to close any mine or factory in Britain by a majority vote.
1730 I do not think hon. Gentlemen—and I gather that from their rather quiescent mood today—will get very far with this falsehood in any prolonged national discussion. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait and see."]
We thought, and we still think, that the representatives of the Government could perfectly well have gone to Paris and taken part in the discussions, it being clearly understood by all parties that they could break them off at any moment. [Laughter.] I have often gone to discussions which I could break off at any moment. [Laughter.] Do not be too sure that there may not be other discussions which can be broken off at any moment. There may be discussions in this House which the House may decide to break off at a suitable moment. As I have just said, the representatives of the Government could perfectly well have gone to Paris and taken part in the discussions, it being clearly understood that they could be broken off, and that in any case all the results were to be submitted for ratification to the House of Commons and all the other national Parliaments concerned.
It would have been an advantage not only to Europe but to our own steel industry for British representatives to have been present at meetings upon a project which carried with it many hopes for the ending of the Franco-German quarrels which have wrecked Europe in our lifetime and, by removing them, thus to strengthen the foundations of peace. We might have helped others and helped ourselves, and we should have run no risk at being committed to anything in the slightest degree—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—which affected the full control of the House of Commons.
We may, indeed, be encouraged by the adoption of this argument as an electioneering tactic, because it shows how weak is the Government case upon the main issues that lie before us.
§ Mr. Churchill
The hon. Member may set himself up as a judge, but I must ask him to take his place in the general assembly of the House and not to assume that his will be the casting vote upon a decision of such moment.
1731 There is another point I must mention before I close. On Friday last, the Minister of Labour made a serious statement to us about the Communist conspiracy to disturb and cripple our industrial life. He told us of the steps which were being taken, and of the possibility that legislation would be required. We are entirely at one with the Government in grappling with the Communist menace in our midst, and we shall no doubt support any legislation brought before the House, provided that the normal foundations of British liberty are not affected and that the right to strike, upon which British trade unionism is founded, is not in any way impaired when it is used by responsible official trade unionists.
§ Mr. Churchill
We must also preserve our sense of proportion. It seems difficult to believe that the activities of the small number of Communists in our midst could at the present time inflict upon our defensive effort, or upon our national unity, anything like the injury that will be done to us all by this Act of party sabotage.
Now let me say what would be the policy of the Conservative Party—[Laughter.] Why should hon. Members opposite laugh? I have never seen that side of the House behave so disreputably. It does not affect me with 50 years' experience. I have seen many awkward situations. Hon. Members opposite only reveal the deep, internal, mental and moral malaise which distresses and disturbs their consciences.
Now let me say what is the policy of the Conservative Party, and, judging from the public declarations, of the Liberal Party also, on iron and steel. [Laughter.] I like hon. Members to laugh. It may be undeserved but it may not be unrequited. What is now, and what will be the policy of the Conservative Party should the burden of public affairs be entrusted to us?
§ Mr. Churchill
We shall, if we should obtain the responsibility and the power in any future which is possible to foresee, repeal the existing Iron and Steel Act, 1732 irrespective of whether the vesting date has occurred or not. We shall then proceed to revive the solution which has been set forth in the Trades Union Congress Report and which is accepted by the Iron and Steel Federation, and we shall set up again the tripartite Board, which has been proved to have worked so well. This would be the policy if we had the power, either before or after another General Election.
The Prime Minister seemed vexed the other day because I had described him as "sullenly resolved to lead only half the nation." Certainly he has provided us with an illustration of my words this afternoon. It is, however, a compliment to anyone that they should be considered to have a chance of leading the nation. It is that hope which lends the highest honour to public life. Is he not, I ask him, throwing away a golden opportunity of serving the whole nation at a crisis in its fate? Take the famous words of Mr. Gladstone:Think well, think wisely, think not for the moment but for the days which are to come.Let me, however, state the position in clear and unmistakable terms. If the Government were even now, even at this moment, to allow an effort to be made to settle the steel question on the lines suggested by the Trades Union Congress report, which are accepted by the employers, and to agree to use the latitude they have fortunately reserved to postpone the operation of the Act, we might well reach an all-party agreement within the lifetime of the present House of Commons. If the right hon. Gentleman says now that he will postpone the operation of the Act within its approved compass with a view to pursuing with common sense and good will a settlement on lines that apparently have the approval of the trade unions and the Steel Federation, I will, of course, at once withdraw this Motion. On the other hand, if he remains set upon his wrongful course, we have no choice but to resist him to the utmost of our strength. And let there be no doubt that the responsibility rests upon him for consequences which no one can foretell.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I need hardly say that the advice of His Majesty's Govern- 1733 ment to the House is that this Motion, moved in characteristic language and terms by the right hon. Gentleman, should be rejected. We believe that it is contrary to the public interest. We believe that it is mischievous and meant to be mischievous. We believe that it is calculated to impair the national unity—[Interruption.]—on a matter of vital economic policy, and that the attitude of the Conservative Party, of the steel employers and of some of the Press, is an attempt deliberately to sabotage a great basic industry.
There is plenty of evidence to the end that the Conservative Party, another place, the employers and some others, have done their very best to see to it that, the nation having proclaimed for a policy of public ownership in 1945—[Interruption.] I will come to 1950 in due course without any fear or trepidation I say that the nation having declared for that policy in 1945, this whole business has been a conspiracy against the Constitution. The Leader of the Opposition, knowing that all this is true, with his not unusual form assumed the offensive and accused the Government of doing the very thing that he is doing. He accused my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of having hatched a deliberate plot to upset the national unity at this time. He accused my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Minister of Supply of having plotted and carefully worked cut the timetable so that the announcement should be landed into the middle of the Defence Debate last week. What absolute nonsense.
The process of implementing the Iron and Steel Act has been taking its normal course. [Laughter.] Yes. It started with a challenge that was made to the Government on 6th March, 1950, in the Debate on the Address, when there was a Debate on the specific question of whether the Government should be permitted or not to implement the Act. The House by its decision authorised the Government to implement the Act. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was specifically challenged on the point, and he gave a careful, calm and straightforward answer to the question that was put to him. He said:There is nothing to be done in the matter immediately, but that statute is on the Statute Book and our purpose is to give effect to Acts passed by Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March 1950; Vol. 472, c. 66.]1734 In the light of that Debate, including the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the House, by a majority—
§ Mr. Morrison
This is a new attempt at a veto. These Gentlemen opposite are the new Molotovs. The veto used to be exercised by the House of Lords. They are now proposing to exercise a veto by the Opposition Front Bench. What utter revolutionary unconstitutional nonsense this is.
My right hon. Friend announced deliberately that the Government were going to proceed to implement the Act. What are the Opposition grumbling about? That is what we are doing and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply has been taking the normal course of implementation that has been taken in respect of every Act of nationalisation; and it so happened that he was ready to make an announcement last week. What would the Opposition like? Would they wish, in order that he should not announce this in the middle of the Defence Debate, that we should wait until the House was up and then announce it in the Press? Would they have preferred that? We would not have done such a thing.
Parliament was sitting and we knew, as Parliament was sitting, that there might be certain comments made by the Opposition about it. Therefore we thought it right not to evade Parliament but to make an announcement even if it was in the middle of the Defence Debate. Now that is held against us as a naughty thing to do, as a criminal thing to do, as, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, a direct plot on the part of the Prime Minister to upset national unity. The biggest expert in upsetting national unity is the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
What about 1914, where was the right hon. Gentleman then?
§ Mr. Morrison
I held certain views and principles and I stuck to them and I do not regret it. If there are cries of "1940," this party comes out of the claims of national unity very well and I must add that there is no one who enjoys upsetting national unity more than the Leader of the Opposition—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] He is enjoying every minute of it and hon. Members should not be so touchy. After all, the Leader of the Opposition made some complaint, in perfectly good humoured terms—which he usually does because he likes Parliamentary debate; he thinks that is one of the things Parliament is for, the clash of opinions and policies and, if I may say so, I agree with him—this afternoon in perfect good humour he made some protest about some good humoured commentaries and ironical applause from this side of the House. I think that as he made some protest, it is up to hon. Members opposite, who as they would think, ought to be better behaved than we are, to set my hon. Friends an example.
The right hon. Gentleman said that this industry served us well during the war. I was Minister of Supply for a short time, until I was deputed to go and do something else, on which transfer, if I may say so, the Leader of the Opposition has been very generous in his books—
§ Mr. Morrison
I hope the right hon. Gentleman's supporters will note that. It is true that there was a great deal of co-operation between the iron and steel industry and the Government of the day, both when I was Minister of Supply and when Sir Andrew Duncan and others held that office. It is quite true; but it is the case that when the war broke out and, indeed, for some years at the beginning of the war, one of our grave embarrassments was that British iron and steel capacity was much below what it ought to have been. It was a serious embarrassment in our armaments production, and if it had not been for the aid of the United States, which we were very glad to receive, we should undoubtedly have been in great difficulties.
The right hon. Gentleman said with a smile that the industry admittedly was in a bad way in 1931 and, of course, there were loud cheers from his supporters. It 1736 is quite true. I think any suggestion that that was the fault of the minority Labour Government would be rather out of proportion. The fact is that the state of the iron and steel industry in 1931, of depression, restrictions on production and the tendency to close down plants without regard to the consequences—the state of the iron and steel industry and certain other industries of a restrictive character was one of the causes of the economic and financial crisis of 1931, for which the Labour Government was blamed.
The right hon. Gentleman says that steel prices are below the general level. That may be true—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is true."] I was not getting into a state about it, why do hon. Members? My impression is that they have gone up somewhat more than some of the prices and charges of socialised industry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members can easily check up. but what the right hon. Gentleman forgot, or omitted, to say was that the Minister of Supply and his predecessors have, in the name of Socialist economic planning, been carefully imposing economic price controls on the industry and that is why the prices are low.
If the Tory Party had been returned to office in 1945, it is highly probable that those economic controls and price controls would have been scrapped and the situation would have been different.
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. Gentleman's argument seems to have great difficulty, no doubt not through any fault of his own, in distinguishing between truth and falsehood.
§ Mr. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman once escaped the Rules of Order by inventing the term "terminological inexactitude." He has now invented another term which means exactly the same thing. I take it in good part. But I must say the right hon. Gentleman was not fair—I do not want to put it higher, I am not good at inventing these other terms—I must say he was pretty slick, that is the nearest I can think of, with the special report that went to the Trades Union Congress from the General Council on the public control of industry. It is a very able and valuable report, and I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has read at any rate part of it. For all I know he may have read the lot, but, if he has, I must say he has been very naughty this 1737 afternoon in the way in which he has presented to the House a sub-edited version. This is one of those constructive, able, documents for which the General Council is now so well known—[Interruption]. It is so, and the right hon. Gentleman himself has paid them a tribute. The back benchers opposite need not manifest their anti-trade union bias all of a sudden.
The report deals with the objectives and the general issue of the public control of industry which, as the report sets out, can take a number of forms. It deals with the various methods of public control—public ownership, direct or indirect controls over the policy of private industry, materials control and so on and the public supervision of private industries in efforts to improve themselves. In the course of that document is a passage to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, which refers by way of illustration to the old Iron and Steel Board. But that was never put in as an argument against the socialisation of the iron and steel industry, not in the least.
The General Council say that there is public ownership as a method of public control, there are economic controls, the supervisory board, the Co-operative movement and various other forms whereby the common good can be served by institutions which are not primarily out for profit, or which, if they are out for profit, should be subjected to proper control and public supervision. This is the same approach in principle as that in the Labour Party document "Labour and the New Society," and to make out that the T.U.C. is not heartily with us in the course we are taking is utterly ridiculous and is removed from the truth.
The report gives the old Iron and Steel Board as an illustration of one way of supervising private industry. And how long has the Tory Party been enthusiastic about the supervision of private industry? Indeed they should not become too keen about the old Iron and Steel Board, because some time ago the employers' representatives on the Board went on strike, if I may say so. They walked out, and did so not because they were dissatisfied with the work of the Board but because they objected to the Government contemplating public ownership. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] 1738 But think of all the trade unionists and Socialist's who served on committees appointed by Tory Governments in order to help the community even though there was a Tory Government. How long has it been right that men of importance should walk out merely because they do not agree with the political composition and the political policy of the Government?
§ Mr. Summers (Aylesbury)
Will the right hon. Gentleman in fairness tell the House that not only the employers' representatives took the action of leaving that Board for reasons stated by them, but that representatives of the consumers and the independent members did so at the same time?
§ Mr. Morrison
I suppose that they were all of a certain political opinion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] In any case the employers took the lead, as the employers today are taking the lead in boycotting appointments to the Iron and Steel Corporation. At all events the Board is dead, and that is how it died: it was killed by assassins of a political character.
The right hon. Gentleman omitted the most important passage of this T.U.C. report. It says, very fairly and in characteristically restrained T.U.C. language, which I respect as I gather the right hon. Gentleman also does—I wish he would model himself on the T.U.C.:While it is obviously impossible to say exactly what would have been the position of these industries had they not been nationalised there is every indication that public ownership has resulted in a general improvement.They are quite right, as I shall show in a speech on Friday night this week, which I commend to the House. They add, and this is surely some evidence:It has been stated for example by one prominent industrialist, Lord McGowan "—who is a very keen friend of the Leader of the Opposition and a great supporter of his, as I have reason to know—that if the coal industry had not been nationalised output would now have been one million tons less per week, that is to say a quarter of the total output.This is the document which the right hon. Gentleman is trying to suggest has run away from and is against nationalisation. His really was, if I may say so, a somewhat unjust summary of the report.
§ Mr. Churchill
I really did not suggest at all that this document abandoned the principle and the aim of nationalisation. On the contrary, if my memory serves me, I read a passage which showed that that was not so. Why I quoted the document was to show the very large measure of agreement which existed in regard to the control of a particular industry through a statutory board.
§ Mr. Morrison
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's reasoning but I do not think he has understood this report. The whole purpose of that reference to the Iron and Steel Board was merely to give an illustration of one of the possible forms of public intervention in economic affairs, that was all. It was not in the least a suggestion that instead of nationalising iron and steel we should have continued with the Iron and Steel Board. I wished to make that perfectly clear.
The right hon. Gentleman has said that employers and workers have refused to serve. I have dealt with the employers. I know some of these folk. I am very sorry at the attitude they have taken. Some of them are competent people, some of them are not so competent as some people think. There are plenty of other people in this industry and outside it who are also competent. But the right hon. Gentleman was very unjust when he suggested that Mr. Lincoln Evans had refused to serve because he did not agree with the policy behind the Act.
§ Mr. Morrison
Then what was the point of saying that employers and workers in the industry had refused to serve? What was the point of it, if it was not to give an impression that members of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation were against public ownership? Let us look at the facts. I had lunch with Mr. Lincoln Evans today—[Interruption.]—it was not a dinner. That was the one mistake. I must say that the gentleman who comes out with these private affairs should be recruited to some totalitarian secret service; he would do very well. Let us see what the Confederation said. This is a letter written to the Minister of Supply:The Executive Council of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation welcomes the Steel Bill and places on record its satisfaction that the Government are now introducing a Measure to bring the industry under public ownership.
§ Mr. Morrison
I knew that would come, that is why I have brought myself up to date. The date is 1948, not so long ago. I took the opportunity of asking Mr. Lincoln Evans, who is the General Secretary, and knows this union very well. He is a very competent union official and an exceedingly able and public spirited man. Mr. Lincoln Evans shows undoubtedly that he himself remains a supporter of public ownership, and that the only reason why he did not wish to serve on the Corporation was not on account of a disagreement with that policy, but a reason which has often faced trade union officials and will face them again, when they have to decide if it is their public duty to act on a Corporation—whether they could be more useful to their trade unions and to the General Council and to the nation by remaining trade union officials, or whether they should go into the public service.
For perfectly honourable reasons, he decided that, in his circumstances, he could serve the nation best where he was. He assured me—[Interruption.] It is no good the hon. Gentleman engaging in this demonstration—implying either that Mr. Lincoln Evans is not telling the truth or that I am not telling the truth. He told me today, and I said, "Can I quote this?" He said I could do so, and that he remains a supporter of the Act, of its implementation and of the public ownership of the iron and steel industry.
§ Mr. Alport (Essex, Colchester)
If that applies to trade union leaders, does it not also apply to employers?
§ Mr. Morrison
I would only add this on the point I am now dealing with. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply reminds me, Mr. Lincoln Evans has said what I said he said, and he has also said it to my right hon. Friend. [Interruption.] Is this some Tory snobbery at the expense of this side of the House? Mr. Lincoln Evans not only said what I said he said, but he said also to my right hon. Friend and myself that he would give to the Government and to the new Corporation every assistance and help of which he was capable, which is in notable contrast to the attitude of the employers, with 1741 whom my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply will deal in greater detail later on.
Reference has been made to the Schuman Plan. I only want to say this, very shortly. When we were invited by the Government of the French Republic to go into consultation on the Schuman Plan it was on the specific and required basis that, if we went in, we must accept in advance what we have since come to call the supra-national authority, or the over-riding authority. His Majesty's Government took the view that we could not accept the invitation on that basis, and we urged them to invite us on more free terms. The Opposition challenged the decision of the Government; the Opposition dissented from our decision; the Opposition demanded that the Government should go into these discussions together with these terms, notwithstanding—[Interruption.]
Well, I know they put in a reference to Holland, but the French Government had specifically denied such a consideration in our case, and, notwithstanding that, the Opposition said we were wrong. I say that it is perfectly legitimate for our people, in a great public controversy, to say that while the Conservatives are willing to put the British iron and steel and coal industries under an over-riding international authority they are not willing that John Bull shall own his own iron and steel industry.
It is further urged that we, the Labour Government and the Labour Party, are plunging this industry into uncertainty and disruption. It is all the other way about. This industry, if there had not been trouble with another place and some disagreement and consequent delays in the passage of the Bill, would have been placed under public ownership before the last General Election. Therefore, in so far as there is uncertainty, it is not the fault of the Government. It is partly the fault of the Opposition, partly the fault of the employers and partly the fault of another place. Now they want still more uncertainty and delay.
The Opposition want us to give an undertaking, having passed over two General Elections, to let it be submitted to a third General Election. We think it is time that the industry should know where it stands, and we have taken steps 1742 accordingly. Indeed, it is imperative that this great industry, which is vital to the whole of the Government's rearmament programme, should be fully geared to the national needs, and promptly responsive to national requirements without the risk of certain gentlemen going off on strike against the nation. It is not the Government who are trying to disrupt; the people who are trying to disrupt are the Iron and Steel Federation, the employers' organisation with their boycott, and the Opposition's mischief-making.
The right hon. Gentleman has said, and he is repeatedly saying, that there should be no controversial legislation at this time, or, at any rate, that we should not introduce controversial legislation or any controversial matters, to avoid upsetting the national unity. He argues this basis of non-controversial legislation particularly on an allegation that we are guilty of a breach of faith with the electorate, to which I will come shortly and with which I do not agree. He is really asking for the Opposition to have a right of veto over the Government's legislative programme, which is monstrous and constitutionally bad.
It means that the right hon. Gentleman wants to be predominant in running the country, whether he is in power or not. I am not blaming him, because that is characteristic of the whole traditions of the Conservative Party. They believe that they were born to rule, and I am sure that, when they sit over there and look at this Front Bench, it gives them a feeling which makes them say, "We really ought to be there." Of course, if this doctrine is to be logically applied there is only one logical end, and that is a Coalition, which is what some of them want. We do not want it.
§ Mr. Morrison
Do not let the right hon. Gentleman make any mistake. Half the jokers who speak from that Front Bench want a coalition. It is so, and it is no good their denying it. I say that it is the logical end, because, if the Government are not permitted to do anything except by permission of the Conservative Party, the logical end is a coalition, and we are not willing to support that idea.
The right hon. Gentleman says that they gave us support last week. It is true that they offered to support the Government in 1743 the Lobbies if there was a Division. Fortunately, there was no Division, which I think was a good thing; but I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that, when he makes an attack of partisanship, it reminds me of Lenin's definition of support, when he urged the Communists to support the Social Democrats in the sense that a hangman's rope gives support to an executed person. That was a statement of Lenin's which I have never forgotten in my relations with the Communist Party.
Supposing, notwithstanding two Elections, we abandoned the nationalisation of iron and steel. We have to take into account the fact that there would be great disappointment among the workpeople in this industry, who, everybody agrees, have worked well. I do not say that they have the right to determine whether there should be public ownership or not—that is a matter for the public as a whole—but their trade unions support it, the Trades Union Congress supports it, and in our great iron and steel centres Labour Members have been returned. One gentleman, Mr. Alfred Edwards, who was foolish enough to join the Conservative Party—and somebody who is not here had better take note of this—stood for Middlesbrough, primarily on this issue, and was soundly defeated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Pensions, who did very well with a result on which we all congratulate him.
I believe that not only the workers but the technicians in this industry will welcome this change in a high proportion of cases. It will give them more elbow room and greater chances for the re-adaptation and modernisation of the industry than would otherwise be the case.
Now let us come to the constitutional point about the right of the Government to do what we are proposing to do. After all, many people have supported the public ownership of iron and steel. Earlier, somebody—I think it was my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply—quoted the Leader of the Liberal Party who, at any rate, was associated with a declaration in favour of the public ownership of iron and steel. Indeed, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said in a speech during the last Parliament something to the effect that the Federation was in a situation which was not satisfactory 1744 because it was a monopoly which denied freedom to its constituent elements, but was not subject to an adequate degree of public control, and that it was very difficult indeed to enforce it.
That is part of our case, and, therefore, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will yet find it possible to change his mind upon these matters. The Liberal Party, I suggest, ought to be somewhat careful in the course it takes. Twice in its history it has co-operated with the Conservative Party in bringing down minority Labour Governments.
§ Mr. Morrison
That does not altogether improve the situation. It is true that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's party twice put us in, and twice put us out. The Liberal M.P.s—I am not talking about the 2,600,000 outside, because, after all, they did resist the blandishments of the Tory leaders—in 1924 submitted to the Conservative manœuvres and voted in the same Lobby which brought down the Labour Government.
What happened to the Liberal Party? What happened is what always happens to it when it gets tied up with the Tories. What happened to the Liberal Nationals? There they are, but one would not know them from any other Tory. The combination of Tories and Liberals put the Labour Government out in 1924. What happened to the poor Liberals? They had 157 seats in the 1924 Parliament, and when the election came at the end of the year they went down to 39.
§ Mr. Morrison
The Tory Party machine knows exactly what it is doing with the Liberals. It is flirting with them; trying to absorb them. In the last election they tried to bully them out of the ring and flatter them at the same time. But the purpose of this manœuvre is to destroy Liberalism. There was another experience in 1931 when there were not so many Liberals to destroy. Once again they cooperated with the Conservatives who squeezed the Labour Party out of office, and afterwards they both entered a Coalition. But when the election came a little later in the year, the Liberals proper—I am not including the so-called Liberal 1745 Nationals—dropped from 59 to 37 seats. There were not so many to lose, but it was a notable drop.
I put it to Liberal Members, and to the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has gone on record in favour of the principle of the public ownership of iron and steel—[Interruption.] I know this is very inconvenient to the right hon. Member for Woodford, but I put it to the Leader of the Liberal Party who has not been unfriendly to the public ownership of iron and steel, and to his friends, that the Tory game is to destroy them as much as to destroy us. They are not likely to destroy the Labour Party, but they will have a good go at destroying the Liberals. Up to now the Liberals have suffered from the flirtations of the Tory Party. However, it is their funeral; it is a free country, and everybody is entitled to commit suicide in his own way.
§ Mr. Braine (Essex, Billericay)
Has it ever occurred to the right hon. Gentleman that people's political actions are sometimes activated by national rather than party considerations?
§ Mr. Morrison
I agree, and I am very glad to hear that observation coming from the Opposition benches where, at the moment, it is very welcome.
If we look back on the Parliamentary history and the electoral history of this matter, we see that in 1945 we won on this issue, among other issues. There was the delay with their Lordships' House which made it inevitable that we should compromise and leave over the setting up of the Corporation until after the election. That was done, and that is why we are in the situation in which we find ourselves this afternoon. But the argument was that the Act should not become operative until after the election. Well, we won the election, and we are now implementing the Act. I suggest that the Opposition are guilty of trying to upset an arrangement which was come to, from mixed motives if one likes. But at any rate that was the essence and upshot of it; the matter was held over until after the election. We won the election, and here we are bringing it along.
It is argued that the votes cast showed that the country was against the public ownership of iron and steel because Liberal leaders, and Conservative leaders, 1746 declared against it in their manifestos. First of all, it is an assumption of the Leader of the Opposition that 2,600,000 Liberal votes were equal to 2,600,000 votes which agreed with the Conservative Party, at any rate on this issue, or on any other issue on which the right hon. Gentleman likes to disagree with the Government. But I do not believe that is the case.
Frankly, I wish I knew what were the motives of the 2,600,000 who voted Liberal. So does the Tory Central Office; so do the Liberal Central Office and the Liberal leaders. In fact, we all wish we had a complete psycho-analysis of the 2,600,000 Liberal voters. But what is abundantly clear is that, having been bullied and cajoled by the Tory leaders and the Tory Central Office and candidates to vote Tory, they certainly voted against the Conservative Party at the election. I am bound to admit they did not vote for the Labour Party either but, in view of the dead-set that was made at them, including the use of Liberal labels which Tory candidates had no right to use, undoubtedly that vote tended to be a Radical vote in a high proportion of cases, and was an anti-Conservative vote. But that does not stop the right hon. Gentleman. He would annex their votes to the Conservative Party and say, "They really meant to vote for me."
§ Mr. Churchill
Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me to express a hope that he will, before he sits down, return for a few moments to the actual subject of the Motion before the House, and tear himself away from these intriguing electoral calculations in which his soul is buried?
§ Mr. Morrison
I used to think the right hon. Gentleman was a bonny fighter. What I am saying is absolutely relevant to the argument that we have no electoral mandate to proceed to implement the Iron and Steel Act, and because I am winning the argument the right hon. Gentleman is getting thin-skinned about it. I will add this at the risk of his intervening again, that if those 2,600,000 Liberal or Radical voters had the straight question put to them, "Which would you prefer, public ownership of the iron and steel industry or the present Leader of the Opposition as Prime Minister?" my guess is they would vote for iron and steel.
1747 The right hon. Gentleman argues that it is electoral votes rather than the composition of Parliament that should determine Parliamentary policy on specific issues. I do not accept that. This is novel constitutional doctrine. If he came back with a majority in the House, but a minority of votes, would he still repeal the Iron and Steel Act?
§ Mr. Morrison
Then I am to assume that if—and it is a very big "if"—the right hon. Gentleman were to be returned at the next Parliamentary election, which is not coming just yet—
§ Mr. Morrison
It depends on tonight, I quite agree. If the right hon. Gentleman were returned with a Parliamentary majority, but with a minority of votes in the constituencies, I gather he would scatter his present argument to the four winds and proceed with a repeal.
§ Mr. Churchill
I consider that a Government which has not got a majority behind its Parliamentary representation should feel itself considerably limited and restricted in its right to make far-reaching changes of policy.
§ Mr. Morrison
We cannot pursue the matter any more; the answer is clear.
Let me give a little history which flatly contradicts the right hon. Gentleman, and in which he participated. I do not want to dwell on the point but it is the case, often brought up by the Tory Party at the time, that the Liberal Government of 1910, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member, not only was in a minority of votes but was dependent on the Irish Party in Parliament to keep them in office, and the Irish Members were elected on totally different issues from those which brought the Liberal Members to the House. The right hon. Gentleman did not mind that. He was in the Government then.
Let us examine this new doctrine that Governments, having got an electoral majority behind them, should be discreet and not do bold and especially contro- 1748 versial things. Let us look at 1927. That was the year of the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, the anti-trade union Act with which the right hon. Gentleman was prominently associated. It was an Act which was vital in its interests, to the people we represent. If it is defended on the ground of the General Strike, I answer that it went very much beyond considerations of the General Strike. It was a vicious attack on the trade union movement and was meant to weaken the Labour Party and the unions. It had not been in the Tories' election manifesto, as iron and steel was in ours, nor had they a mandate to do what they did.
§ Mr. Morrison
I agree. The Tory attempt to elevate or depreciate—whichever one likes—the General Strike of 1926, one of the most characteristically gentle British affairs ever experienced in our history, into a revolutionary movement is childish. At the end Mr. Baldwin came into the House and said, "Peace in our time, O Lord" and brought in the anti-trade union Act as quickly as possible. The Tories had not had a mandate for that, nor an electoral majority.
In 1924—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Red Letter."]—in the Red Letter Election if the House likes—the people who had voted Conservative numbered 8,040,000. Those who had voted otherwise numbered 8,600,000. Here was the right hon. Gentleman himself doing the very thing he has just said no Government should do. We fought the Bill relentlessly and he cannot say he had the Liberals behind him because the official Liberal attitude was against that Bill and, on division on Second Reading, 20 Liberals voted against, as compared with seven who voted for it, and there were some abstentions. So the right hon. Gentleman has never lived up to his own constitutional doctrine, and apparently he has no intension of doing so in the future.
The merits of the case for iron and steel nationalisation is not the issue particularly before the House today. That has been argued threadbare. The issue before the House [...] whether we are entitled constitutionally, and as a matter of Parliamentary decency, to implement this Act. Our answer is that we had a mandate for it in 1945. It went through 1749 all the proper Parliamentary forms in the Parliament of 1945–50. It was in issue at the last election. We shall see tonight whether there is a majority for the implementation of the Act or not. It is an exceedingly serious decision that the House is to take.
The Prime Minister has made it known—and I can tell the House on his behalf—that all the full consequences of the decision must follow. Believe me, we shall not be afraid. We shall fight the election on the whole of our policy, with all the vigour at our command, if that may come; but let not hon. Members opposite cheer before the event. We shall see. This industry has been the subject of examination and of Parliamentary consideration for quite a time. I put it to the House that the Government is not being unreasonable in implementing, not a regulation, but a full Statute, a full Act of Parliament. We believe it is in the interests of the country, including rearmament, that that should be done, and we ask for support in the House of Commons for the course we propose to take.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I had not intended to try to intervene in this Debate until a later stage but, in view of the speech to which we have just listened and the attack made upon the Liberal Party, I think it is only right that I should attempt to catch your eye now, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
§ Mr. Morrison
My intention, if I may say so, was to attack the Liberal leaders and to say some very kind words about the 2,600,000 Liberal voters.
§ Mr. Davies
I am accustomed to that form of kindness from the right hon. Gentleman. I have had it now for something like six years. Anyone listening to this Debate, and especially to the speech just delivered by the Leader of the House, would imagine that the crisis for which this House was summoned back had now disappeared, and that there was no need whatsoever for the arguments about conscription or anything else. The right hon. Gentleman scarcely made a single reference to the seriousness of the situation. I would remind the House that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) began and ended his speech with a very serious reference to it, couched in the most serious terms.
1750 The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House rightly stated what was the issue before the House—whether the Government are entitled at this moment to implement the Act, which is certainly upon the Statute Book. But before I come to that, and as he has so often referred to us and to our position, may I point out what has been our position throughout? First of all, can anybody deny that we are an independent party, that it is fundamental in our faith that liberty comes before everything else, that we are not Socialists and never will be Socialists? That is fundamental. The right hon. Gentleman has gone through the history of my party. It was the first party to assist Labour people to enter this House; they came here with every assistance which could be given to them by the Liberal Party. When the Socialists became the major party in numbers in this House, it was the Liberal Party which gave them the chance of office, in 1924.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we then turned them out. Surely he remembers all that took place. A very serious question was raised, and Mr. Asquith proposed that an inquiry should be held into it. The Labour Government led at that time by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, did not want the inquiry and preferred to go to the country, with the result that they were defeated. Again, in 1929, the Labour Party had more Members than anybody else, but they were in a minority and, again, it was my party which put them in office. Then, the right hon. Gentleman states, we turned them out of office. What happened was that there was an economic crisis and his own party tendered their resignation. Some of them were prepared to serve under a new Coalition; some were not. He accuses us once again of having turned them out, but they turned themselves out.
What has happened since? The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that we have fallen in numbers. To what is that largely due? So long as I support and vote with the Government, then I have been accustomed, since I have been here, to all kinds of commendations from the right hon. Gentleman. Certainly that is so if I denounce the Conservatives; then, of course, I am a statesman and all is well. But if I dare criticise or disagree with a Socialist policy which I think is not a Liberal policy—
§ Mr. Davies
Is all non-Socialist policy Tory policy? Is that all the hon. Member knows about the political history of this country?
When I do that, then, of course, I get a serious warning about what is likely to happen. Then I am "playing politics." The right hon. Gentleman never plays politics. If there is anyone in this country who has tried to copy Tammany Hall in political manipulation it is the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman says it is the Conservatives who killed my party. We fought the Conservative Party, and fought them successfully, throughout the century. But who set out deliberately to kill the Liberal Party? Will the right hon. Gentleman deny that he has done so? I ask him now to say that he did not deliberately set out to do so on the London County Council. That was his policy. Kill the Liberals first, he said; kill the Progressives and then it will be easy to deal with the rest. That is exactly what he has done, and I challenge him to deny it.
Because we are today carrying out not only the pledges which we gave before and during the election but carrying out the Liberal policy of that time, I am accused of selling the pass to the Conservative Party. Every Liberal Member, every Liberal candidate, put that policy in the forefront of his election address. We did that, and here is the difference between us: we also put it in such broadcasts as we were allowed to make. We were allowed to make only three. [An HON. MEMBER: "Whose fault was that?"] The Government's fault.
§ Mr. Morrison
These were private consultations and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would agree with me that they had better remain private, but, since the right hon. and learned Gentleman has accused the Government of being solely responsible, I would point out that they were three-cornered discussions between the parties. That was the agreement which was reached.
§ Mr. Davies
And I was in a minority. I asked for equality, but there was no response. Be that as it may, the Government spokesmen had eight broadcasts. Did they then announce to the country, 1752 "We have put the Iron and Steel Act upon the Statute Book and we mean to carry it out"? Not one word was mentioned about steel. They knew the danger. But we tried to remind the electorate of what was at stake.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that this Measure was passed by the last Parliament and is now an Act of Parliament. He is quite right in saying that it was put in the Labour Party's manifesto of 1945. It was passed through the last House with a majority of over 200. Then, I agree, under compulsion put upon them by another place, the Government agreed to postpone the operation of the Act until after the election. The election has taken place. What has happened to the majority of 200? The Government wonder whether this will go through tonight. The 200 has dropped to under 10. Yet this is the moment which is chosen to drive the policy through.
May I also remind hon. Members that this is the one Act of nationalisation which was carried through the last Parliament without conforming to the rules laid down by the right hon. Gentleman himself? I did not think it would be necessary to quote them, but I rarely go about without having a copy of the right hon. Gentleman's words with me. He laid down these as the conditions under which nationalisation should be brought before the House of Commons and turned into an Act of Parliament. He said:But we are going to nationalise certain industries and if we take the series of industries with which this Government are dealing, either the case must be proved for them, or the case must be proved against them. I agree that, in the argument about nationalisation, there is the onus upon the party that is proceeding to nationalise, to prove that the nationalisation is in the public interest. I agree that the party in power proposing these things ought not to do it for political or doctrinaire considerations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 2637.]That was in the last Parliament. What single reason has been given for passing this Measure? What is more, this is one industry into which there was no inquiry before the nationalisation Bill was brought before this House. That was how it was passed—with a majority of 200.
Now we come to this stage, to which the Prime Minister, both in his broadcast and in his speeches in this House, has 1753 called attention. What is the reason why we have been brought back? Our men are now in Korea, either in the Navy or in the Army, and some have already died; and our one hope is that the area of the present hostilities will not be extended. Yet the Government themselves choose this moment, when we have been called here for another purpose, to say, "Yes, we are going on with this Act, and we are determined to put it into operation." The Minister of Supply came to the House and made that statement here last Thursday.
It is perfectly clear and known to everybody that not only is The right hon. Gentleman then said, "What counts is that we have got a majority in this House." Something under 10. Yes—and under the electoral system which we have at the present moment. Does anybody object to that? I say, further, it is an unfair electoral system, and that it is known to be unfair. Had we a fair electoral system, the Government would be in a minority in this House as well as outside. That is the position. But how different is the behaviour of this Government from that of the Liberal Party whom the right hon. Gentleman has derided. I wish that he would study more carefully what my party have stood for in times of crisis.
The Iron and Steel Act was introduced in the last Parliament for the first time. Since then there has been a tremendous drop in the majority of the Government. In 1914 my party had risked its whole existence for a quarter of a century on two matters, both of them really questions of principle—Home Rule for Ireland and the Disestablishment of the Church for Wales. We had to fight some nine elections. In many of them we were successful. Nevertheless, whatever we did in this House, we were opposed by another Chamber, and we then had to carry on that 1754 fight until at last we reduced the power of the Upper Chamber, and we were back to 1910.
What were we then going to do to pass these Measures through this House, and, in spite of the House of Lords, put them upon the Statute Book? What then happened? The Welsh Disestablishment Bill had passed through this House three times and it was now an Act of Parliament, in spite of the other Chamber. The Irish Bill had passed twice and was due to come up for the third time. It could not be postponed.
What happened? Somewhere about the end of July 1914 an archduke of Austria was killed, and at once there was a state of tension. Nobody realised how near war was, but there was a state of tension. We were not even in the position in which the Government is today. We could not wait for the Bill, otherwise we could not have the advantage of the Act of 1911 that we had passed.
I would commend to the House the words of Mr. Asquith at that time when, in the interests of national unity at a moment of tension—war had not broken out: it was still 30th July—he spoke these words for the reading of which to the House I make no apology:We meet today under conditions of gravity which are almost unparalleled in the experience of every one of us.Is that not true today? A far more serious position may overcome us than we had to face on 4th August, 1914.The issues of peace and war are hanging in the balance" —so they are today—and with them the risk of a catastrophe of which it is impossible to measure either the dimensions or the effects. In these circumstances it is of vital importance in the interests of the whole world that this country, which has no interests of its own directly at stake,"—perfectly true—should present a united front, and be able to speak and act with the authority of an undivided nation. If we were to proceed today with the first Order on the Paper, we should inevitably, unless the Debate was conducted in an artificial tone, be involved in acute controversy in regard to domestic differences whose importance to ourselves no one in any quarter of the House is disposed to disparage or to belittle. I need not say more than that such a use of our time at such a moment might have injurious, and lastingly injurious, effects on the international situation…. We therefore propose to put 1755 off for the present the consideration of the Second Reading of the amending Bill … in the hope that by a postponement of the discussion the patriotism of all parties will contribute what lies in our power, if not to avert, at least to circumscribe the calamities which threaten the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th My, 1914; Vol. 65, c. 1601.]I commend that to the Government today. For 25 years we had been fighting for this amending Bill. Nevertheless, we acquiesced and said, "Very well, although we desired this, we will postpone it for the time being." The situation is still serious. We still want as much unity as is possible. The Government would lose nothing by postponing the operation of this Act for a while. I want to believe and I do believe that they sincerely believe that Socialism and nationalisation of the steel industry will improve production. I think that it will not; that, on the other hand, it will cause chaos in industry at the present time. I could have understood what they were doing if iron and steel production figures were going down, as they did to our consternation, in 1938. But they have now reached a figure beyond our expectations, and if further armament is required, the production is there.
I end on this note. Do not destroy the structure that has done so well for generations, merely because the plastering does not meet with the approval of some. We may need, and need more urgently than many of us think, the assistance of this structure and its shelter before very long.
§ the House divided upon this matter, but that the country is divided, too. Here we are, almost equally divided in the House, and, so far as the country is concerned, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, there was a vote of over 2,000,000 majority against the Government. It was not a vote for the Conservatives, but it was a vote against the nationalisation of steel and Socialism. What else was it? We are not Socialists: hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Mr. Jack Jones.
§ Mr. Hughes
On a point of order. Am I not in order in asking the right hon. and learned Gentleman to complete one of his arguments?
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
Once again I welcome the opportunity of taking part in a Debate which has a distinct 1756 relation to the industry from which I come. Today we have heard the usual oration from the Leader of the Opposition. It started with a series of remarks about my right hon. Friend, descended to the depths of mud-slinging, and finished with the remark that this Act, if implemented, would mean the disunity of our nation and, in effect, disruption of the present magnificent effort being made by the steel industry.
I congratulate the Government on being the first Government in history which has carried into effect what it said it would do. That, of course, is a shock to the Opposition. It is the first time the Opposition have ever had to face, or indeed to recognise, a Government which has laid down a policy and then proceeded to implement it, despite all that has been said and done against it. The Government have, as I asked in my Second Reading speech on behalf of the men I had the honour to represent, kept faith, and I here and now pledge those men to continue to keep faith with this Government. Many points have been made by the Opposition, but I cannot for the life of me find out, in any shape or form, how the continuity of the present high productive level will be disrupted, except by some destruction designed, created, and deliberately executed by those people who are represented on the Opposition Benches.
I want, if I may, to take my time over this speech. First, I reiterate the declaration I have already made several times on the Floor of this House: that the present production figures are, in every sense of the word, attributable directly to the fact that the men in the industry went on to a continuous working week and have undergone serious sacrifices of time, leisure, wage structure, and so on, because of a firm promise made to them that the first Socialist Government with power, would pass and implement the Iron and Steel Act. I know that that statement has been declared by the Opposition to be untrue. No one can assess what the position of the industry would have been today had we had a Tory Government in power.
Do the Tories really believe that those men have made those sacrifices because they believe in the power of vested interests being continued, in capitalist 1757 domination and in the geological wealth of this nation being exploited for the benefit of the few?
§ Mr. Maudling (Barnet)
Is it not possible that the men concerned may have made those sacrifices because they knew that the country as a whole needed the steel?
§ Mr. J. Jones
I will come to that point in a moment. The men have understood and realised that the economic needs of this country depended upon a peak production, and this Socialist Government, with their planning and control of our economic needs, designs and desires, have seen to it that they worked in harmony with these men, and have implemented the promise made. It is primarily because faith has been kept that these men have made those sacrifices and kept production at a point that, please God, would be maintained even though by a miracle, we had a Tory Government in power. I speak as one who believes that, even were there to be a Tory Government in power, the needs of the nation would still be the same, and good patriotic Socialists would be prepared to give what not quite so good or patriotic employers do not appear to want to give. I will return to that later.
The Government have decided to go ahead with this Act. They have decided to set up the Corporation, but I warn the House, the Government and the country not to expect spectacular results overnight because this industry is now due to be publicly owned and controlled. The industry is tired; plant is tired; the men are tired; the men are weary, but never weary of well-doing. There will not be spectacular results either in production or in benefits accruing to the individual people who work in the industry. The men in the industry are not expecting this industry to be nationalised for steel workers. They are expecting the industry to be nationalised for and on behalf of Britain, for the common good of all, not for the particular and peculiar good of the individuals primarily concerned therewith. I warn the Government that plant is worn out and requires replacement, and that men have been pushed and worked to such a point that spectacular results beyond the present production position, cannot and could not be attained.
1758 But there is at least one real consideration: at long last these men can now see themselves using their labour, their skill, their brawn and their brain in the interests of the nation as against, as previously, the interests of those who owned and controlled the industry. That is the vast difference. I can understand Opposition Members not appreciating, and not wanting to appreciate, that people can work for their country in preference to working for individuals. That is something foreign to their nature, and I would not expect them to appreciate it; I would not expect them to know how it is possible. But I can assure them from the bottom of my heart, with all the sincerity I can command, that that is the real position as far as the men in the industry are concerned.
§ Mr. Osborne (Louth)
I take it the hon. Gentleman is making the point that the steel workers will work better, and continue to work better, because the industry is owned by the nation. Would he not agree that in the first two weeks after the coalmining industry was taken over there was a great spurt of production, but that subsequently production fell, and that the first zest did not last more than a month?
§ Mr. J. Jones
I repeat what I have said already. Since Socialists came to power, since these men were given a definite promise of having some say in the running of the industry in which they have such a vast interest, they have given of their best and will continue to do so. I warned the House specifically not to expect any spectacular results overnight because the industry is about to be publicly owned and controlled, and I have already given my reasons.
We now have the Corporation, which has been set up at the instigation of my right hon. Friend, under whom I had the privilege to serve in the last Parliament. The Corporation was originally intended to procure and obtain from within the industry, regardless of political allegiance, the best men that could be got to run the industry in the interests of the nation. What has happened? I listened with great care to what the Leader of the Opposition had to say about disruptive elements, and about what would happen. What has happened? If I am correctly informed—and I claim to be as correctly informed as most people in regard to this industry— 1759 the Steel Federation, the employers' side, which is not to be confused with the Iron and Steel Confederation, the union side—were given a free and unfettered opportunity to nominate men for positions on the Corporation. That is as it should be.
The Minister gave the assurance to the House that the best men would be recruited from all walks of industry—financial, productive, technical, scientific and those with a knowledge of trade union leadership—to get the best Corporation possible. What was the Minister confronted with? The Federation—and I make no complaint about it, neither do the Government—made it clear that on principle they opposed the Act. No one can complain of people who abide by their principles. But if I am rightly and correctly informed, as I believe I am, because otherwise it would be a vile thing to say in this House, they went further than that. In addition to making the declaration that they would not in any circumstances nominate persons of intelligence, of scientific knowledge and all the rest of it, who would be necessary to the Board, they said that, so far as lay within their power, they would try their utmost to see that the Corporation was not a success.
Let us assume that the position was reversed, that the Leader of the Opposition was the Prime Minister of today, and the industry had been nationalised. The Leader of the Opposition makes a declaration that they are about to de-nationalise the industry, and would do it with a majority of one. What would be said of the men if they turned round and said, "If you dare to suggest de-nationalisation, we will not serve the industry and the State"? Nothing would be too bad to say about them, and I would be the first to say it. They would be called saboteurs, left-wingers, anti-Britishers, Quislings—everything derogatory that could be said about them would be said about them, and rightly so.
I want to say a word about the Corporation which has been set up. If I were asked could I put my hand on my heart and say that the men within the industry art really and completely happy about its composition, the answer would have to be, "Certainly not." There is nothing perfect in this world. There are no perfect Governments, and anything 1760 that is perfect I do not want to to be associated with, because if it is perfect, it cannot be made better tomorrow, and if it cannot be improved tomorrow, I have no time for it. Having regard to the circumstances in which the Minister found himself, he had to restrict his choice to those available.
Hon. Members opposite who represent Sheffield Divisions should congratulate themselves that it was possible for one Member at least of their own party to defy the definite ban which had been put upon them. That individual is known to most of us, and he is to be congratulated on having the courage and guts to be willing to go on the Corporation. I have an intimate knowledge of that individual, and for the Leader of the Opposition to say that no man on the Corporation has a knowledge of the industry is utter and complete nonsense, because that particular individual is as well-versed in the intricacies of the production side, the user side and the engineering side and of negotiation as any man in the nation. He may not have so much knowledge of the producer side as the user side and the engineering side, but the fault of there not being a tip-top production expert on the Corporation lies on those who withheld their names from the selection list.
Steel is not talked about enough in this House. We hear a lot about coal problems and transport problems, but steel also has great problems confronting it. There are, of course, the problems of continuity and progress in the present new installations which are being built. Only those who understand the industry and have worked in it all their lives, can realise what the great works now being built in South Wales mean. Sociological problems will have to be faced by the Corporation arising out of such large organisations coming into being. What would the Tory Party have done with sociological problems of that type? What did they ever do with sociological problems? The answer is nothing. This Government has done more in five years to put industry on its feet in places where industry did not exist at all particularly in South Wales, than any Government in history. There were men rotting on the road-side honest-to-God steel workers and miners rotting by their thousands through lack of such a policy as is now being executed by the present Government.
1761 There are vast problems to be faced. One is the question of continuity of raw material supplies to the industry. I know what is being said about that in regard to the Western Europe position, particularly in Germany. Is Germany to be allowed to re-arm or partially rearm? If so they could put the point of view that steel production in Germany depends on supplies of raw material, particularly in regard to scrap, and that scrap at the moment is coming here in bulk from Germany.
Continuity of supplies of scrap alone is going to be a headache. The question of coal supplies of the right type—the right fuel and ash content—is another vast problem. Then there is the question of oil supply to this country, now that oil is being largely used in lieu of coal. All these are great problems. The question of refining ores coming from abroad, stock-piling and similar strategic matters are all vast problems which have to be faced by the new Corporation, and they will have plenty to do.
Those who are concerned with production at this moment have made it very clear that they do not intend to help to make the Corporation a success. One peculiar feature about steel which should be of great assistance to the Corporation is that as soon as any particular works comes into operation, the production of that plant and every unit in it is known to the management and to the men, and it will be an easy matter for the Corporation at once to institute an inquiry wherever they find the average production declining and remove those responsible.
A lot has been said today about the attitude of mind of the leader of my trade union. It is true that his name has been quoted on every Tory platform. I ask the House to concern themselves with the agreed opinion of the executives of this union, and to take less notice of individual opinions. I say, here and now, that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House was perfectly correct when he said that, as late as noon today, reiteration of my particular union's policy had been forthcoming. They stand today where they stood when they themselves formulated the policy we had in 1932.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about great men. As a child, I 1762 was privileged to sit on the knee of John Hodge and to learn something about industrialism and socialism from him and there are men like Arthur Pugh, a great industrial statesman, who, despite his age, could well be of assistance in dealing with these problems and men like John Brown whose name has been bandied about. He was the originator of the declaration of my union on public ownership and control in 1932.
Then we come to our present leader, who, rightly, told the Minister of Supply that the T.U.C. has been weakened because of the number of T.U.C. leaders that have been taken away. Is that policy of weakening the T.U.C. structure by continually taking away its best members to continue? This man holds the position of chairman of the economic committee of the T.U.C., and he felt that in the interests of his membership and of the county, he could better serve the State by staying where he was. That is a correct statement of the position. I want to be completely frank with my ex-Minister by telling him that we regret that at least one other man coming from this field of industrial statesmen, with the great knowledge that many of them possess, is not to be found giving his services to the Corporation. That position may be rectified, as I hope it will be rectified, because these men are looking to the Government to see that the great structure they have built up, and all that it means, shall be at the disposal of the Corporation.
There are other problems facing the industry. There is the question of a fully integrated research department. I know it will be said by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Enroll) that this exists today. Of course it does—because much has been done since the iron and steel Measure was first introduced. As a matter of fact, the take-over should be smooth and easily done, because the iron and steel industry has been privately nationalised already. There will be no question of having to find out where a certain company got its iron ore from, or where it obtained its scrap. For years these opponents of bulk buying have been buying scrap, coal and all the other essentials in bulk. For years they have been advocates and exponents of bulk buying, in spite of all this talk of competition in industry.
1763 Then there is the question of the upgrading of men with ability and the question of nepotism, which is not found in America where a man with ability gets the job. I agree that that too is not so much in evidence as it used to be. Much has been done to improve the structure of the industry, but it has been done only since the threat of nationalisation came vividly before the country, which is the point. Again, there is the question of welfare and the 42-hour week, on which our men made another great sacrifice by putting it into cold storage for the time being. We cannot expect men or machines to continue at the high pressure that has been imposed on them.
It was my candid and convinced opinion that, in peace-time, the Government should own and control the raw materials the Almighty has given us. How much truer is that under the present circumstances in which we find ourselves? We now have the Government declaring that we must spend £3,400 million on defence. That is a vast sum which has to be worked for, earned and paid by the people of the country. Would it be right, in these circumstances, to see a repetition of what happened before previous wars—because of the need for rearmament, profits being increased at a time when the country should not be called upon to spend one penny more than is necessary to safeguard its interests?
The men I have the privilege to represent are the finest the country possesses, and I say that judging by results. These men will rejoice that they have a Government which has kept its promise. We hear a lot of talk about the next election, but let any Member sitting opposite come into my constituency, or go into Middlesbrough, Newport or Sheffield, where the workers live, and contest a seat. He will see how he gets on. The steel workers have no right to demand nationalisation for themselves. That would be wrong. Syndicalism would be wrong on the part of any section of the community. They have a perfect right, however, having regard to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, to say that they are entitled to work for and on behalf of the State and the Government in the industry to which they belong and of which they are so proud, and the Government and the State should, in my opinion, be proud of them.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones (Birmingham, Hall Green)
I wish to declare an interest in the subject matter of this Debate, in that I occupy an executive post with the British Iron and Steel Federation. I may be regarded, therefore, as one of the dark and sinister plotters referred to by the Lord President of the Council, but despite that I hope Members will listen to what I have to say without prejudice. In the two speeches we have heard from the other side there have been many irrelevant things said on the issue we are now discussing. Not the least was the richly deserved tribute with which, in itself, I entirely agree, paid to the workers in the industry. They have worked excellently, and far be it for me to attempt to depreciate their efforts; but an army, however good its soldiers, will never achieve victory without good weapons and good generalship.
The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. J. Jones) referred to the problem of raw materials and the output we have had could not have been reached without them, but raw materials do not fall like manna from heaven. I can assure the hon. Member that I have sat month after month at meetings of the executive council of the British Iron and Steel Federation, and that each time these difficult and important problems of the supply of raw materials have been carefully planned for months ahead; each time there has been stimulus and pressure on individual companies to keep up their output, a stimulus exercised in fulfilment of a pledge given to the Minister of Supply that, despite the Measure for nationalising iron and steel, every effort would be made to keep up output. Without that pressure, no matter how valiant the efforts of the men, the output figures could not have been obtained.
Both the speeches to which we have listened from the other side seemed to me to show a lack of appreciation of the differences which divide the two sides on this issue. What appeared to me to be a particularly flagrant example was when the Lord President of the Council referred to the fact that we on this side are averse from any kind of supervision of industry. I should have thought that in these days we were all agreed on two things; firstly, that in any large industry such as the steel industry it is right that the State should express concern, whether 1765 it be on grounds of defence or on social grounds, and secondly, that there is advantage in an organisation which looks at the problems of an industry such as this as a whole.
Where we begin to differ is in this respect: while we strive to achieve those two objectives—State interest and common consideration of an industry's problems—it is also important that we should try to preserve the thrust and verve of traditional private enterprise. Hon. Members opposite have never appreciated the importance of reconciling these objectives. They have striven after the first two, but they have disregarded and sacrificed the third, and by so doing, they have threatened to undermine their own handiwork, namely the nationalisation schemes. By contrast, it is the pride—I use the word deliberately—the peculiar pride of the steel industry that it has played a pioneering role in successfully combining these three objectives—State supervision, common consideration of the industry's problems and, at the same time, the preservation of competitive thrust and striving. It has therefore achieved an organisation which is at all points superior to nationalisation.
The Government's first intimation to the steel industry that they were contemplating nationalisation was in the spring of 1946. At that juncture, the industry represented to the Government that they could obtain all they wanted through a supervising agency—the Iron and Steel Board. The distinction between the Board in its relations with the industry and the Minister in his relations with the nationalised industry is that the Minister, as we have learned in this House in the various Debates on nationalisation, is an interested partner; he is, the whole time an apologist. But the Board was a disinterested, unbiased external agency. To that extent and for that reason its supervision was all the more effective.
§ Mr. A. Jones
I shall deal with that argument in the unfolding of my thought, if the hon. Member will allow me. It is reasonable to suppose, and the industry so 1766 thought, that if experience of this kind of control was successful, any scheme for nationalisation would be shelved.
Only eight months later, however, the industry was informed that the Government were going ahead for their plans for nationalisation. The reason given was, to say the least of it, peculiar. It was not complained that the control was unsuccessful: it was objected only that the Board was ill-equipped to deal with certain hypothetical—I emphasise hypothetical—circumstances. It was said, "Suppose the Board considered that a certain investment should take place and the industry was unwilling or unable to undertake that investment, either because of lack of capital or because it was repelled by the bleak commercial prospect."
As was indicated in the T.U.C. report to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) referred, this objection could perfectly easily have been met by endowing the Board with power itself to undertake investment. That was not decided, however. The alleged defects, which were not defects of fact but were conjectural defects, were to be met by a solution which was entirely out of proportion to their magnitude, namely, by comprehensive public ownership. What happened was that to crack a nut the Government took into their hands a sledgehammer.
I turn to 1948, and I shall deal with the interjection made by the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo). The Iron and Steel Bill was tabled in this House in 1948. It seemed highly unlikely then that vesting would take place in the lifetime of the last Parliament. Of necessity the Bill raised the question of the future of the Iron and Steel Board. The industry thereupon proposed to the Government that the Board should continue for a further period of two years. The Minister—I am sorry he is not in his place—replied that he could regard the Board only as a stop-gap arrangement. Can hon. Gentlemen opposite expect men of ability and reputation to perform a job which the Minister describes as being a stop-gap job? That is why the Board came to an end.
§ Mr. J. Jones
Would the hon. Gentleman agree—I know he will agree with the facts because he is well versed in them—that the Minister declared that this was a stop-gap pending nationalisation?
§ Mr. A. Jones
That in point of fact confirms and supports my argument. My point is merely that the Minister could not expect then, and could not today expect men of ability and reputation, to discharge what he himself described as a stop-gap function.
The moral of this history is that throughout these years the industry confronted the Government with a challenge, namely, that the legitimate end of public control could be better achieved by means other than public ownership. Each time they were confronted with that challenge the Government backed away. Each time they evaded the test. What had happened was that the party which describes itself as progressive had long since closed its mind. No reason, no experience of other nationalisation schemes, no evidence of a successful working alternative—nothing would deflect them. I suggest that the decision we are debating today is in exactly the same character.
The Lord President of the Council made great play of the fact that the application of this Act was necessary in order to go ahead with the re-armament programme. I should like to spend some time in dealing with the industrial objections to this decision and in trying to explain the effect which the application of the Act will have on the re-armament programme. If the argument is a little difficult, I ask the House to forgive me as the point with which it is concerned is very important.
There are two problems which re-armament poses for the industry, the problem of raw materials, of keeping up output and indeed of keeping down cost when there is a tightening pressure on raw materials; and, perhaps more immediately important, the problem of the redistribution of emphasis as between one steel product and another. To deal with that problem calls above all for a suitable kind of organisation. The organisation of the iron and steel industry as it existed before the war was one which comprised steel melting and an entire range of steel products, that is the form in which the steel is used—steel castings, forgings or whatever the product may be.
The virtue of that organisation was that in this way the problems appertaining to the supply of steel products were looked at in their entirety. It was on this fundation that the war-time control and the 1768 post-war control of the Iron and Steel Board worked. For war purposes and for re-armament the organisation was highly suitable. In the case of the steel industry the re-armament programme expresses itself in terms of so many tons of forgings, required for ships, guns or whatever it may be, so many tons of alloy steel, etc. If an organisation had within its purview 100 per cent. of forgings production, 100 per cent. of alloy steel production and so on, it could plan, and cope with the problems involved. That was how the control worked. The new Corporation is quite a different conception, and the hon. Member for Rotherham showed complete misapprehension on this point. The conception of the Corporation arises out of the undue obsession of the party opposite with the word "basic." The Corporation is not founded on products. It is set up to take within its embrace a selected number of firms. These firms cover practically the whole of the steel melting activity of the country, but they cover only in part the making of finished steel products.
§ Mr. J. Jones
Would the hon. Member be good enough to agree again that there is some reason why it is impossible for the new Corporation to put into operation the known best practices of the existing system?
§ Mr. A. Jones
That is precisely my point, surely. My point is leading up to showing that the Corporation, as a planning instrument for re-armament purposes, is inferior to the organisation it displaces. I am ready to meet any reasonable argument, but the hon. Member has uttered an irrelevancy. The Corporation is designed to cover, for instance, 45 per cent. of the forgings output of the country, and 68 per cent. of the alloy steel production of the country. That Corporation cannot plan for the whole of the forgings required for the re-armament programme, nor for the whole of the alloy steel requirements. It can. act and speak only for the firms within its-own compass. The ostensible purpose of this Act is to secure planning. Judged by the Government's own criterion, this organisation is a defective instrument of planning.
It is defective for another reason. The organisation which is now displaced makes for a harmony of interests within the 1769 whole industry, because it includes all products. The new organisation does not. Many makers of steel products are outside it, and they are the commercial rivals of the Corporation, while at the same time dependent upon the Corporation for their raw materials. The significance of that situation at the present juncture is that it cannot but make for suspicion and distrust. The harmony of an entire industry is shattered. I suggest that that cannot but harm the re-armament programme.
§ Mr. W. T. Williams (Hammersmith, South)
I intend no discourtesy to the hon. Member who is addressing the House. I am very interested in the arguments he is putting. Am I to understand that the logical conclusion is that all that we are doing is not nationalising enough of the industry, and that if we were to carry it further, all the points that the hon. Member is raising would be met?
§ Mr. A. Jones
No. Some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo), have never understood the difficulty in which their party finds itself in nationalising this industry. If they try to nationalise processes and products they have to divide firms into half. The Government chose to avoid that step, as a complicated and impossible one, and they decided merely to nationalise firms. By nationalising firms they split up an organisation based on products, and it is now that the Act is going into application that that difficulty will become apparent.
One of the arguments put forward by the party opposite for the application of this Act is that it is desirable to end the uncertainty in which the iron and steel industry finds itself. I suggest that whatever the uncertainty may have been, it was as nothing compared to the confusion in which the industry is now plunged on a fundamental problem of organisation. An organisation which coped with the last war is discarded and the new one that arises in its place is defective in its very conception. No one has any idea of how the deficiency is to be remedied. The past statements of the Minister of Supply on this question have, to say the least, not been very clarifying. Over the speech made by the Lord President of the Council there brooded, as far as this subject was concerned, a blissful silence.
I would now like to deal with the political aspects of this decision. I should be 1770 prepared, even if there were no international tension and if the country were not being summoned to put forward an effort of re-armament, to contest the legitimacy of this decision. I would do so on the following grounds. The essence of—I will not say "democratic government" because "democracy" is an abused term in these days—good government surely is that there shall be some concurrence between the acts of the governors and the will of the governed. Hon. Members cannot dispute that proposition because it has been the whole aim of every one of our constitutional struggles. On this side of the House we would maintain that even a popularly elected assembly can transgress this principle. We would go further, and contend that to secure respect for that principle is one of the purposes of a Second Chamber.
It was in the light of that conception that the other place secured the reference of the Iron and Steel Act to the electorate at the last election. I am perfectly well aware that hon. Members opposite do not share that view, perhaps do not admit the need for any check upon a popularly elected assembly. If that be their view, it is all the more incumbent upon them to recognise that a popularly elected assembly should exercise restraint in what it does. I am not questioning the sovereignty of this House, or its formal title to do whatever it likes. But I should like to express agreement with a doctrine enunciated by Lord Hartington in 1886. It was expressed in these words:There are certain limits which Parliament is morally bound to observe, and beyond which, morally, Parliament has not the right to go in its relations with its constituents.The gravamen of the charge against the Government is that in taking this decision they are going beyond those moral limits. They are taking advantage of a majority in digits to force through a Measure to which, to put it at its lowest, half the nation is apposed. That, I suggest, is the negation of good Government, but, on top of that, to do it at a time when the country is facing external dangers is the negation of good leadership.
The Government go further even than that. The hon. Member for Rotherham turned to the Opposition and members of the steel industry and reviled them for sabotage. I would remind hon. Members that the Government which does this is a 1771 Government which throughout the lifetime of the last Parliament showed itself intransigently bent on carrying out this idea and which is now transgressing constitutional ethics and the elementary requirements of good leadership. To turn round after all that and say to the rest of us, "Waive and abandon your views, bend and accommodate yourselves with us or else we will arraign you before the country for obstruction," is to use the language and strike the attitude of tyranny—or, in the words of the Lord President of the Council, of a Molotov.
Then there is the suggestion that in this instance the Opposition should abandon their convictions. In a time of emergency nobody is required to sacrifice his conscience or abandon his views. It is traditional and desirable only that those who wield power and therefore have the responsibility for initiating action should refrain from putting into practice onesided views. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh; they laugh because it represents a sacrifice to them. But such a sacrifice is the penalty of power, and if those who hold power shrink from its penalty they themselves throw into question their fitness to hold power.
I want to describe what seems to me to be the Government's choice. The Iron and Steel Act was conceived, I suggest, in a revolutionary temper of mind. If it is the ambition of the party opposite to be a Jacobin party, a party of the sans-culottes, as the "New Statesman" would have it, then let it persist in the Measure; but if its ambition is to do more than that, if it aspires to establish a broader and more lasting hold in the country than any Jacobin party can ever attain, it will do differently and follow a more constructive course. Time has eroded the doctrine of nationalisation. It has made hay of it. To persist now with the application of the Iron and Steel Act is, in addition, a tragic piece of nonsense. It is for hon. Members opposite to show whether or not they can match the occasion.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
We on this side of the House are very grateful for the political advice which we have just received from the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. A. Jones). As my right 1772 hon. Friend the Lord President said, we are quite prepared to put the test of what we do today before the public and we are confident about the result. As to the ethics about which the hon. Gentleman spoke, it seems that if one has a large majority then there are insufficient representatives of the other point of view and one must be careful about what one does, while on the other hand, if one has only a small majority one must again exercise restraint. It seems to me from what he says that the Government should only do what the Opposition wills. That seems very odd in my rather more elementary view of constitutional procedure.
The solution which the hon. Gentleman proposed for the industry was not unlike that proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. The fundamental thing in those solutions is that the ownership of the shares in the industry should remain in private hands. Flattered though the T.U.C. might be to find themselves so prominently associated with the Opposition point of view—I do not need to go into the perversion of the T.U.C. report because the Lord President has already dealt with it—I think the T.U.C. would welcome the proposals put forward by the hon. Member and the Leader of the Opposition if they would also propose that if the industry were nationalised and they took power and de-nationalised it, they would transfer the shares to the T.U.C. If that was a condition of denationalising the industry, we should realise that they were sincere about the form of organisation for the public good and not about the form of ownership for the profit of the private purse.
The Lord President said that today we were not concerned so much with the detail of the Iron and Steel Act because it is already an Act, but I should like to say in passing that there was some interesting reading in the newspapers on Saturday. I read in the "Sheffield Telegraph" that on the Sheffield Stock Exchange the valuations of the shares of companies concerned were approaching take-over prices. It seems to me that the valuation which we put on these concerns is, perhaps, a little high.
§ Mr. Osborne
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the take-over price depends upon the value of the stock offered, and if the stock which is offered in repayment has a market value which 1773 is much below its nominal price, the market price of these shares will be much below the take-over price?
§ Mr. Mulley
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman but I am aware of the workings of the Stock Exchange. We are told that profit depends upon risk. If the industry is to remain in private hands—if the Opposition wins the next General Election—it would seem that it is worth risking a little more than the nationalisation take-over price to get the benefits of private enterprise, but the fact remains that when the industry is in that uncertain position the public are not prepared to pay even the take-over prices. We know that it is difficult to value any industry but I think it is fair to take a capitalist valuation of a capitalist industry. We on this side of the House cannot take responsibility for the workings of the Stock Exchange, defective though we know them to be.
I have one clarifying point to make about our attitude to public ownership. We do not regard nationalisation as a form of artificial respiration for an industry which has been milked dry and left in a dying condition on the State doorstep. That is why there has been the most bitter opposition in this House to the taking over of profitable industries such as steel and road transport and no suggestion that coal and the railways should be returned to private enterprise.
There are other special reasons why the steel industry should be publicly owned, over and above the general argument for nationalisation. First, it is a key industry and fundamental to our economy in peace and war. Because steel is so important, through investment policy, the steel industry must naturally form an important part of any full employment policy. If we look back to the restrictionist policy pursued by that industry in the 'thirties, there is no doubt that investment was discouraged by the artificially high price maintained by restriction and thereby the depression was deepened and lengthened. That meant, in human terms, an intensification of unemployment. Also there is an enormous amount of economic power vested, in the ownership of that industry.
I would go further and say that at the present time there are two reasons which make its transfer more urgent than it was when this matter was first discussed. 1774 There is the question of re-armament. Looking back to the 'thirties we recall that there was a great demand, not only from Socialists, that armaments industries in all countries should be publicly controlled. Hon. Members may say, "That is what we propose—public control," but it seems to me, as a taxpayer and as a representative of taxpayers, that if we have to make weapons of war there is no reason why profits from that misfortune should go into private pockets.
§ Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)
It it not a fact that the majority of firms that make weapons of war, as the hon. Member calls them, are not within the scope of the nationalisation Act?
§ Mr. Mulley
Obviously any armament is based largely on steel. We know that there are also profits to be made in other industries. If the hon. Gentleman is prepared to table a Motion that we should extend the scope of nationalisation to all industries manufacturing armaments, I shall be glad to second it.
The second reason, which probably hon. Gentlemen opposite will not recognise, is that there is a great need to put forward a positive alternative to Communism. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but it indicates the fact that they have not learnt any lessons from history. I say it is incumbent on this country to show the world that there can be a development of democratic economic planning for the welfare of the whole community as an alternative to the revolutionary development of Communism. I contend that control of the steel industry is essential to that democratic economic planning.
§ Mr. Mulley
I have made the point about ownership. Why should the profits from public control go into private pockets?
There is another illogical argument advanced by hon. Members opposite. The argument has already been levelled against the recently appointed Corporation for the steel industry that it is in the hands of people who know nothing whatever about the industry. If that is so, it would seem only logical to suppose that the future of the industry should be decided by those who know about it, by 1775 those who work in it. If anyone looks at the voting record of the steel constituencies, they will know the answer of the steel workers, not only of the manual workers in the industry, but of the technicians too. Because it is only the financial interests that are drawing high salaries from the industry, which have to be carried by the industry, and while they may be important under the present set up, they have no productive function if the industry is under public control or ownership.
I am privileged to represent a constituency in the City of Sheffield, a city whose fortunes depend more than those of any other, on the future of the steel industry. It is one which has made a greater contribution than any other to our recovery because of the important expansion of its steel production. From talking to steel workers I know their attitude on this matter. They voted as they did in the last election, and as they will vote again, because they recognise that this is basically a simple issue. It is an issue which we have seen before, and which we shall see again, of vested interest, privilege and wealth pitted against the public interest and the interests of ordinary people.
§ Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)
May I ask the hon. Gentleman, is that not the type of propaganda that he has been preaching in his Sheffield constituency and that is why he is back here? The position is being sold.
§ Mr. Mulley
The hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings) represents a constituency in which there are no steel workers resident—
§ Mr. Mulley
If the hon. Member believes that the workers of Sheffield are not able to think for themselves, that they do not understand the issue involved. I 1776 think it is high time they were informed of his point of view.
What is the calamity with which we are threatened? Are hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to organise a managerial strike against co-operation with the new Steel Corporation?
§ Mr. Mulley
Steel is made by steel workers, and we in Sheffield will continue to make steel whether or not hon. Gentlemen opposite agree that the industry should be nationalised. I cannot see that there is any great calamity facing the industry if we act as we are bound to act under an Act of Parliament already on the Statute Book. To put the matter briefly, steel will be made by steel workers and by the technicians who understand and run the industry. The only losers will be the people who at present own the shares of the firms concerned but, as I have said, we are paying a valuation substantially above the present Stock Exchange value of those shares.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Renfrew, West)
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), asked, what is the calamity which faces us? I can give that answer clearly and easily. My constituency is a big user of steel. Amongst other things it is a shipbuilding constituency. The calamity we fear is that the minute competition returns to the world markets with a nationalised steel industry, our competitive ability to sell ships abroad will vanish, and the results will be heavy unemployment in my own constituency and in many others in this country. That is the calamity we fear.
§ Mr. Mulley
But the hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. A. Jones), was concerned from a precisely opposite point of view, because he said that under nationalisation, competition would return in the industry.
§ Mr. Maclay
That is a tortuous interpretation of the extremely interesting argument put forward by the hon. Member and is quite unrelated to what I have just said. What has impressed me in this last hour or so is that we have had two arguments from the other side as to why this Act should be implemented. Quite a number of reasons were put forward by 1777 the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park, and we had a sincere speech, as we always have, from the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. J. Jones). The arguments of the hon. Member for Rotherham are most understandable. He says that he is a Socialist, that he believes Socialism is a good thing, and that, therefore, we are to nationalise the steel industry. At least we know what he means, even if we do not agree with it. But what has that argument, or the argument of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park—who told us quite a few things which I must not try to cover now—to do with the mandate, about which we have heard so much? We have heard a good deal of argument also about the constitutional propriety of going ahead on the figures of elections.
Let me remind hon. Members what the mandate says. The Minister has heard this argument before, and I am afraid that he will have to put up with it again. It says:Public ownership of iron and steel. Private monopoly has maintained high prices and kept inefficient high cost plants in existence. Only if public ownership replaces private monopoly can the industry become efficient.According to hon. Members opposite, that is the sole reason why we are debating this evening—because that is the mandate which appeared in the 1945 election programme of the Labour Party; there has never been any other clear statement to the country except that one. Do not let us talk about the 1950 election programme—
§ Mr. Maclay
Let me finish this The 1950 election programme is really an extremely good mandate. Its one and a half lines out of, I think, 12 pages read as follows:… and when private monopoly is replaced by public ownership, the steel industry will be responsible to the nation.
§ Mr. Mulley
Is it not obvious, because of the Debates in this House, the text of the Bill itself and the opportunities available, that anyone wishing to form an opinion on iron and steel before voting in 1950 had every opportunity before registering his vote?
§ Mr. Maclay
I am not quarrelling too much with that, but am disposing of any argument that the 1950 programme was a mandate or that the question was speci- 1778 fically put to the country by the party opposite. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) pointed out with a good deal of relevance that not one word was breathed about iron and steel by any Labour Party speaker during the election broadcasts. [Interruption.] I have had reports. Can hon. Members opposite tell me of an instance? I will withdraw if I am wrong, but I do not think that even a single word was said about it in the broadcasts.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
Let me assure the hon. Member that he is quite wrong so far as. I am concerned.
§ Mr. Maclay
The whole House, I am certain, is extremely sorry that we did not have a broadcast from the hon. and learned Member. I said specifically, "in broadcasts." I had better get on, otherwise I shall be in trouble.
The Labour Party today have not said, "We are a Socialist Party, therefore we are nationalising iron and steel." That is not the case they have made. They have said that private monopoly has maintained high prices. Take the price record of the industry back to 1934 and 1935. By 1939, in practically every type of product, British production was competitive with anywhere in the world. Do hon. Members opposite deny that? No, of course not. What about prices today. We all know that they are lower in every type of product, with possibly only one exception, than anywhere in the world, and certainly equal in quality.
§ Mr. Maclay
We had that one in the last Parliament. That is a useless argument. The subsidies did not go to the producers, but to the consumers. Let us get this thing clear. If hon. Members opposite find that they are nationalising steel under false pretences, I hope they will vote with us; their consciences will not let them go ahead. The price argument does not stand for a minute. Does any hon. Member argue with me? I apologise, Mr. Speaker, but I remember that at the beginning of the last Parliament you said that debating speeches were desirable in this House, and I am trying to find out whether any hon. Member opposite can substantiate his own mandate. The argument that "private 1779 monopoly has maintained high prices" falls completely.
§ Mr. Mulley
Does the hon. Member deny what I said, that, because of the cartel in the industry, not only in this country but internationally, steel prices between the wars were higher than they need have been?
§ Mr. Maclay
Steel prices fell in the most fantastic way up to 1931 and 1932, and from then onwards, after there was protection in this country, prices began to pull themselves together. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite know quite well that the reason why the steel industry of this country and of most other countries was in a desperate state was that competition had run riot. There was subsidising abroad, and all sorts of other reasons. But I had better get on with my speech.
§ Mr. J. Jones
The hon. Member has a particular interest in the shipping industry. Would he tell the House why in that period, within two years, ships' plates cost his own organisation a difference of between £11 4s. a ton and £24 12s. a ton?
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not know the years to which the hon. Member refers, but I will tell him this. During the very bad years we had to use Belgian steel, which was very competitive in price with ours, but latterly after 1932, British steel became competitive with anything on the Continent. We had better leave that, however, because hon. Members opposite cannot—[Laughter]. I will not accept that we have done anything but win that point. No one opposite can say flatly that high prices in the British steel industry have been the rule since 1931 in relation to anywhere else in the world, including the United States.
The next accusation was that the industry kept inefficient high cost plants in existent. Of course, at any given moment, all plants are not of equal efficiency—they cannot possibly be. The modernisation of a steel plant is a very long, slow process. I am not an expert, but I think that that is right. Between 1932 and 1939, hon. Members opposite should remember, it was not possible for the industry to do more than it did in the way of bringing its plant up to date, because as it got its programme going we entered on the first 1780 phase of rearmament. Firms were ordered by the Government of the day not to put their plants out of production for long periods because that was too big a risk in the prevailing international situation. Therefore, the second part of the mandate—that the industry kept inefficient high cost plants in existence—falls down.
Now we come to the final and really magnificent phrase:Only if public ownership replaces private monopoly can the industry become efficient.I doubt whether any 12 words have ever been so full of wrong implications and utter nonsense as these.
§ Mr. Maclay
I hope that the hon. Member will follow this right through, because there is a test of honesty in that mandate: either it is dishonest, or it is not. Let us deal with this last sentence very briefly.
What is meant by "private monopoly?" Was the British Iron and Steel Federation a monopoly? No, of course not; it was an organisation brought into existence for a specific purpose. I do not need to go through the whole detail of how it functioned, because hon. Members must know that by now. No one can say that with 2,250 firms in the industry, and about 100 large firms, the British Iron and Steel Federation, working in relationship with the Government from 1932 onwards in the way that it did, was an offensive monopoly. I accept that the British Iron and Steel industry is one which presents special problems. It has great strategic, economic and social importance to the nation; it cannot be allowed to remain disorganised in modern conditions. Therefore, there was a very special problem of relationship with the State which had to be studied. If ever an industry made real progress towards solving one of the almost insoluble problems of our day—the relationship of great industries, subject to heavy world fluctuations of trade, with the State—the British steel industry was well on its way to solving that relationship.
If this Act is implemented, all that work will go for nothing. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] The one uncontrollable monopoly—a State monopoly—is to be created. Hon. Members who have spoken before me have made very clear why, 1781 with the structure of the British Iron and Steel Federation and the Steel Board which used to exist, we had a really flexible and workable relationship with the State. From the point of view of planning—that is not mentioned in the mandate but a valid argument by hon. Members opposite, and one which might be arguable, for nationalising steel would be that it would help in national planning.
The whole structure of the old Steel Board could have been a vast help to planning; but how can any Government be dispassionate enough to think of the long-term interests of the steel trade, in relation to the economy of the country—I do not care which Government is in power—when there are periodic elections? If the State owns the industry and has financial responsibility for the industry, its decisions are always going to be coloured by political implications. We will not get honest long-term planning of the steel industry if this Act is implemented. I am not in this respect deliberately attacking the party opposite; I think it is bound to happen with any Government that when the State owns all the shares in the steel industry, there cannot be dispassionate planning.
The steel industry of Britain was moving steadily towards the solution of a very difficult modern problem, the relationship of great industries to the State, but if this Act is implemented that progress will be wiped out altogether. We will start yet another experiment, because this is not the same set-up as the other nationalised boards. I think it has been accepted that the other nationalised boards have been a hopeless failure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They have not worked and no one is satisfied, management or men. I have not yet found anyone, the T.U.C. or anyone, who says that the structure of any of the nationalised industries is right. Here is another experiment, and of all the lunatic moments to risk an experiment in the steel industry, this is it.
There is one question which hon. Members should put to themselves before voting tonight. Is there any evidence in this country or in any other in the world that State ownership has produced better quality or better prices? That is the simple issue which hon. Members ought to put to themselves and I defy them to find solid evidence that State ownership 1782 has ever produced better quality, or better prices. If they said, "Yes, we have evidence," one would have to argue more about it. We would have to analyse it. but I do not think it is possible to find that evidence.
If hon. Members take the responsibility of putting this Act into operation, they are committing themselves to something which the nation will bitterly regret in years to come. It may not be for three, five, seven or more years, because the industry is working now in a way which will keep it efficient for some years to come but eventually quality will go down, prices will go up and our competitive efficiency, which is the one thing which matters to Britain, will be wrecked.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
The hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) always speaks with great vehemence and I think that most of us on this side of the House would admit, with great conviction and sincerity, but he does not carry conviction to the other side of the House, to which he is speaking, in spite of his vehemence. The hon. Member just now was coming very near to suggesting that there had been no complaints about the price of steel between the wars, but I seem to remember that there was a rather picturesque complaint by Lord Nuffield which referred to the whole steel régime and its consequences. The hon. Member was challenging us just now to mention a single instance where State ownership and control had led to better conditions than existed before—
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Better quality or price. I take as one example the electricity régime in this country, which is one where that could be claimed with absolute honesty. [HON. MEMBERS: "Price?"] The price now is actually less per unit than it was before the war and everyone is beginning to feel now in this country that at last they have an electricity service; that is something which is very new. Even in the villages, where conditions are admittedly difficult, this is most certainly the case.
§ Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)
The Government's Economic Survey, published this year, stated that owing to the export of electrical generating machinery 1783 there will be a shortage for many years, both for industry and for domestic users.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
The hon. Member is very disingenuous. Surely he has also observed that there has been a considerably increased consumption of electricity in this country and that people are now having electricity who never even thought of having it before? I do not wonder one bit that hon. Members opposite should be a little touchy on electricity, because there has been such a vast improvement of conditions beyond what obtained between the wars and, of course, during the war.
The hon. Member for Renfrew, West, was quite right to come back to the question of mandate. I do not think we can consider this question properly unless it is in its proper historical perspective. That is the main question we are here to talk about this evening. We are not here to discuss the merits or demerits of the Iron and Steel Act, because that is an Act. The hon. Member is perfectly right to bring in this question of mandate again, and I welcome the fact that he has done so. Going back to 1945. I do not think there can be any question that there was as much a mandate for the nationalisation of certain industries, including steel, as there ever was for anything.
§ Mr. Maclay
My case is that it was a false one, a false prospectus, and the statements have never been proved, although they were in the mandate.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Of course, it is a false mandate from the point of view of the hon. Member, but the fact is that it was put before the people and that is what I understand as a mandate. We also know that there was so much to be done in the last Parliament that taking the industry into public ownership and control and away from the present masters had to be left very nearly to the end. It was for that reason alone that the Opposition had the chance of fighting this issue again, and only a very few months ago. in the last General Election, when the Leader of the Opposition received such a handsome trouncing from the electorate—
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Then this matter having gone twice before the electorate, we know what this manoeuvre means. It means that this is an attempt on the part of the Opposition to cheat from this House what they failed to win in the country. All I can say to them is, "Not on their lives." We owe it to our constituents—and we are deeply conscious of the trust they have placed in our hands—to show them that we shall not be deflected by such party manoeuvres as this from carrying out an Act of Parliament which was placed on the Statute Book as a result of a mandate as clear as any mandate has ever been, in my lifetime at any rate.
I submit that we owe it to the democracies abroad to show that in this country when a Labour Government receives a mandate, it will carry it out. I think we owe it also to the men who are engaged in the iron and steel industry in our country. We owe it to them to take away from their shoulders the dead hand of the masters which at present lies heavily on them It seems to me that one of the worst features in the present régime in the iron and steel industry is that no matter how good a man may be at his job, how skilful, or what technical ability he may have, at any moment he may be quietly suppressed because someone else wishes to put in his place another who has some family or financial connection with the "high-ups."
§ Mr. Jennings
Would the hon. Member accept that one of the members of the new Corporation is a man in Sheffield who joined as an office boy and is now managing director of the firm with which he is connected?
§ Mr. Mallalieu
Oh, yes, there are exceptions everywhere, and the one mentioned is a very honourable one, but on the whole we owe it to the people who have staked their lives on the success of the industry to liberate them from this dead hand and release all their energies, skill and ability to the service of their fellows. If any confirmation were needed of the fact that the present magnates know perfectly well that the situation I have been suggesting as existing in the steel industry today is true, it would come immediately from the campaign which they have undoubtedly carried out and sustained, and for which 1785 they have used their chosen instrument, the party opposite—that campaign about "jobs for the boys." That is the old Goebbels technique. If people want to hide something or to distract attention from some particular dirty piece of work they are doing themselves, then they at once claim that their opponents are doing it, which is exactly what is going on now.
I have one criticism of the proposed Corporation, and I hope it will not need to be made for very long. It is that there is nobody on that Corporation at present who has that peculiar and intimate experience and knowledge of the industry which is given to those who have worked in the industry all their lives as workers. That decision may very well be changed at a later stage, but I think what has happened is that the Government have been affected by this campaign about "jobs for the boys." They have gone to the other extreme. They have been so afraid of it being thought that there was even a taint of suspicion against them that they have excluded their own side—the workers' side—to an undue extent.
It is being widely said that it is rash to swop horses in mid-stream. It was said the other day in another place by the leader of the Tory Party that it was criminal at this juncture to do this thing. The answer is that no such thing is being done. If the present managers and directors want to behave in an efficient manner, there is nothing on earth to stop them behaving in that manner in the future. If it is true that they have always given their selfless service to the community, what is to stop them giving that selfless service to the community in the future? Of course, if there is to be a campaign of "ca'canny" and non-co-operation in the board-rooms of the industry, then very grave injury could be inflicted upon the national interests and wider international interests. No one would deny that, and there has been, unfortunately, some evidence already that such a campaign is being worked up at the present time.
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply can tell us, when he comes to reply, what was it that made Mr. Maclean change his mind so quickly between Thursday and Sunday. Was it a change of his own opinion, or was it that somebody came to him and told him what would happen to him if he 1786 did not resign; that he would be ostracised and turned out of all commercial life? Some of us know the pressure which can be put by hon. Gentlemen opposite and their friends when it comes to securing their own ends by unconstitutional methods, they having failed to secure those ends by proper ways with the electorate and in this House. If non-co-operation develops, I hope the Government will bear in mind something that was said by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour when talking about Communist saboteurs—that it might be necessary at some stage to deal with such people for the destructive work they are carrying on. I hope they will bear in mind these people in their clubs and board-rooms who behave in just this manner.
There is rather an interesting campaign going on in a minor way in the steelworks at the present time. It is being put around that when nationalisation becomes operative, prices will at once go up, and, of course, that means unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite apparently agree with these managers, fortunately a minority, who are putting such stories about. What do they think the steel workers are made of if they believe that sort of stuff? Anybody who puts out a story such as that to the steel workers has no right to be a manager, because it shows he has a contempt for their intelligence. He should be removed.
It is interesting to notice how enthusiastic hon. Members opposite have been about the Government engaging in international adventures such as the Schuman Plan. They got cold feet at a later stage at Strasbourg, thanks to the Government's foresight. I am glad to say that the Opposition in this House—and many of them if the vote goes a certain way tonight may be out of it before very long—seem to think that these alliances and entanglements could be entered into without involving us in liabilities or responsibilities. I submit that it behoves us to see that we are not faced with a shortage of steel should an emergency come,—which God forbid—as we were in the years before the Hitler storm broke upon Europe, thanks to the restrictive, monopolistic and selfish policy of these very same magnates, for whom we are now asked to shed tears.
1787 There is a very big gamble going on in all this move by the Opposition which is embodied in this Motion. The gambler is none other than the owner of Colonist II. What are the stakes he is preparing to throw in? He is prepared to throw this country, in the present state of world emergency, into the turmoil of a General Election for party advantage, but I have heard, and I dare say many other hon. Members have heard, too, that some of the more responsible of his followers are beginning to wonder which party is going to gain advantage out of his manoeuvre. I gather that some of them have their doubts and hesitations about his leadership. He is taking his chance and reckoning his odds, not upon the effectiveness of his own followers but upon the misfortunes of some members of the Government party, who are overworked to sickness in the service of the people. This is the challenge which we are here to meet. If the Opposition want to meet it tonight they can do so, and face the consequences; we shall meet them face à face and corps à corps; but if they come they will have to come over our sick beds, even if it is not over our dead bodies: and it may even be, as happened on a previous tragic occaactually be over the bodies of some of our dead heroes.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) founded his case, as did the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, on the word "mandate." I think it might not be out of place to inquire for a moment or two what that word means. The word "mandate" is one which has been defined by a great authority on constitutional matters. In Jenning's book on "The Law and the Constitution" there is a definition which the House would, I feel sure, like to bear in mind. It is in these words:It is a convention, established by practice, that the policy of the country shall be changed only after a definite expression of opinion of the electorate.The word "definite" is a very important one. It is not an unnatural word to use when one remembers what the word "mandate" itself means. A mandate is a command. If we consider the position at present, how can it be said 1788 that the Government have a mandate in the sense that I have indicated? A mandate of that kind surely means that the Government are in a position to carry through whatever Measures they think fit, in their own time, in their own manner, and without any disturbance of business, in a normal Parliamentary fashion.
Contrast that with the position today. Is it consistent with such a mandate that Ministers should have to work in the Palace of Westminster, because they cannot go to their own offices? Is it consistent with such a mandate that it should be impossible to send representatives abroad to important conferences? Is it consistent with such a mandate that the Government tonight must rely on the stretcher vote? I say that it is conclusively proved that there is no such position today. A mandate definitely involves a working majority, which the Government today do not possess.
§ Mr. Awbery
Is it not a fact that we received the mandate in 1945, and that the Bill became an Act of Parliament before the election of 1950? We received the mandate, and implemented the wishes of the people.
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall)
Would the hon. and learned Gentleman say what was the mandate to repeal the Iron and Steel Act?
§ Mr. Heald
There is no question of any mandate to repeal the Iron and Steel Act until the matter is put fairly and squarely to the country in such a way that a decisive answer can be obtained, and that is the duty of any statesman today.
Today, there are two alternatives, and only two, which a statesman would take if he were in the position of the present Prime Minister. The first is this. If he feels confident that the country really will give him a decisive mandate in the sense in which I have used the word, it is his 1789 duty to go to the country and get it. [HON. MEMBERS: "He has got it."] I say it is his duty to go to the country and get it. The other alternative is that, if he feels, as so many good judges in the country feel today—people who can hardly be described as factionist, and whose support the Government is only too glad to get when they can—if it is the fact, as they say, that at present it is not possible for the Government to obtain such a decisive mandate, then it would be the duty of a statesman to say at this time what Mr. Asquith said, which was quoted with such telling effect this afternoon. Perhaps I may say that, on that particularly interesting occasion, I had, as a small boy, the great privilege of being brought here by accident by my schoolmaster and of hearing Mr. Asquith make that great speech.
The Government have done neither of these two things; they have done something else. Why have they done that? It is generally recognised that they have done it for one reason only—because it was necessary to purchase the support of the real Socialists, who object to conscription and re-armament, and to purchase it by the promise of the implementation of the Iron and Steel Act. If any proof were needed of that, it was seen today when there was the rare spectacle, unique in recent months, of the Minister of Health sitting side by side with the Prime Minister, and sitting there with a smile of triumph on his face, but not carrying on any friendly conversation with his neighbour. By that act of his, the Prime Minister has certainly reasserted and confirmed his reputation as a very exceptional political party boss, but he has destroyed, finally and absolutely, any chance he ever had of going down to history as a statesman.
Whatever else is said about the mandate and what it is or is not, there is one mandate which each of us here has. It is a mandate from his constituents to do what we feel certain they would wish him to do. My constituents sent me here definitely pledged that I would work to repeal the Iron and Steel Act. It is, therefore, my solemn duty as a Member of Parliament tonight to vote for this Motion. I shall do so with a clear conscience, and, if it results in the Government being defeated, their blood will be upon their own heads.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Blyton (Houghton-le-Spring)
We have had in this Debate a rearguard action by the Conservative Party in its historic rôle of defending the profit-makers in industry. They "kidded" the miners about the Sankey Commission when they said that they would accept the result of the Sankey Commission both in the spirit and the letter. It was the Coalition Government, predominantly Tory, with the addition of the Liberal Minister, Lloyd George, that disregarded the whole of that Sankey Commission Report for 30 long years. The Opposition defended the worst employers that Britain has ever had, the British coal owners, and I am pleased today that our Prime Minister refuses to let down the steelworkers and the people who have spent many years of their lives in that industry.
We are told that the steel workers are not too happy about the decision to implement the Iron and Steel Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Glanville), who represents one of the biggest steel works in this country, the Consett Iron Works, in North-West Durham, has received this telegram:This meeting of Consett Joint Branches of the British Iron and Steel and Kindred Trades Association notes with gratitude and satisfaction the Government's determination to honour pledges on steel nationalisation by the recent announcement of the formation of the Steel Corporation. Please convey to the Prime Minister assurances of loyal support from 5,000 steel workers in North-West Durham.—(Signed) Secretary, Consett Joint Branches, Iron and Steel and Kindred Trades Association.The Leader of the Opposition, who was a member of the Government that betrayed the miners 30 years ago, has followed today the same line as he did then. In the concluding parts of his speech he tried to extricate his party from the result of his barging into the House and demanding that we should go in for the Schuman Plan. The Tories would support the supra-internationalisation of coal and steel, but they were not prepared to allow the people of this country to nationalise iron and steel.
The steel barons, who have had tremendous economic power for too many years, are well organised within the Conservative Party, and that party are fighting today to satisfy their paymasters that they are putting up a formidable struggle 1791 to keep their profits. It is not so much national unity that disturbs the Opposition. Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds made a profit of £7,982,000 for 1950. Dorman Long, on their group trading, made a profit of £5,109,000. I could go on for a long time quoting figures. That is the sort of thing for which the Tories are fighting, not so much this lip-service to national unity.
I listened all day to the Debate on the Schuman Plan. The Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, in that Debate, asked himself whether the Opposition would have been prepared to enter discussions as a result of which a high authority would be established whose decision would be binding upon the nations who were party to the agreement. He said, "Yes, provided we have safeguards." Therefore, he was prepared to accept the Schuman organisation, whose decisions had to be final and binding before one entered into negotiations.
§ Mr. P. Roberts
I think the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring is forgetting the words "enter into discussion." It is quite untrue for him to say that anyone is prepared to accept an authority. The position was that we were prepared to enter into discussion.
§ Mr. Blyton
The Conservatives moved that we ought to go into the Schuman Plan on the same basis as the Dutch Government entered into it. The basis for Dutch participation was that they would accept the principle of the supra-national authority and, if they did not like it, would come out. It must be remembered that M. Schuman, the author of this plan, told them pretty straight at Strasbourg that there was to be no tinkering with the basis of the supra-national organisation. Be that as it may, the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) said in that same Debate on the Schuman Plan, before the Recess:The Labour Party have failed to understand this employment aspect of the problem, and their Government cannot now retrieve their mistake. That is why all those who believe in peace and employment should support this Motion. Let them realise that only the defeat in this House of our British isolationists will restore the prestige of our country and bring hope to countless millions on the other side of the Channel."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 1977.]Hardly had we taken a vote in this House than the Conservatives went to 1792 Strasbourg. They produced a plan which incorporated the condition that there should be no supra-national authority and it gave the right of veto to the Committee of Ministers. That was an absolute somersault in relation to their position on the Schuman Plan, and they did not land on their feet; they landed on another part of their anatomy. This plan went before the Council, and its history ought to be told to the British public. This plan was signed by all but one of the representatives of the Conservative Party. The only one who did not sign it was the Leader of the Opposition. He was there; why did he not sign it? That was known as the "Macmillan-Eccles Resolution" plan.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Preston, North)
The hon. Member was at Strasbourg, and so was I. He should know perfectly well that, in his speech in the Assembly, the Leader of the Opposition made a perfectly clear statement endorsing and approving the proposals and suggestions put forward by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. Harold Macmillan) and his hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham.
§ Mr. Blyton
That may be so, but we still want to know why the Leader of the Opposition did not sign the agreement. I will tell the House why. There was a struggle in the Tories' own camp. There were many Tories who detested a supra-national organisation. They showed their displeasure by refusing to vote. The hon. Member for Chippenham said in the debate on the Schuman Plan at Strasbourg, in relation to his plan:The Conservative proposals might be a disappointment to Mr. Blyton because they deprive him of an electoral weapon.The Tories changed their horses when they found that the supra-national issue was going to be unpopular here, because they wanted to make the French think they were with them and the English think they were not.
This plan was placed before the Council of Europe. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley pleaded with the Council not to take a vote on it but just send it to a Committee, because he knew it would be defeated in the Council that day. When it went to the Committee there was no Conservative Member to handle the baby they had sent there. It fell by the wayside and then they moved 1793 an amendment, which was eventually whittled down to one sentence, inviting the British and making arrangements for them to come in.
That is the story of Tory hypocrisy in relation to the Schuman Plan. It should be ventilated in the country to let people know that what the Tories intended to do if they had the power, was to hand steel and coal to the internationalists while, at home, they denied the right of their own people to own and control the industry.
I take the view—it may be a humble view—that if we have the right in this emergency to conscript the young men of this country—and I agree with that view—then we ought not to have qualms about the wealth and profits of the steel barons who make fortunes out of national emergencies. These people, who created Jarrow half a mile from where I live, where nine out of ten were unemployed, had the power to stop an industry—a steel works—coming there; they left the men to rot through unemployment. In Ebbw Vale the steel barons did the same. They have tremendous power to cause poverty and devastation to people's lives. I stand four-square for a miners' constituency. We nationalised the pits, and the miners are for ever thankful that we did. I stand, with the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. J. Jones), behind the Government, facing the terrific barrage in the Press, facing the terrific attacks which have been made, and facing the sabotage which will probably come. We are pleased that tonight we shall be able to vote in the Lobby, once again, to show the Tories that we on this side of the House stand for the common people and not for the steel barons who wield their tremendous power from Steel House.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Summers (Aylesbury)
I am glad that in the steel industry there is not manifest that bitterness and hostility between management and men that was so clearly revealed in the speech of the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. Blyton). During the first half of his speech the hon. Member endeavoured to show that there was something inconsistent between what he described as the willingness of the Opposition to internationalise the steel industry and their reluctance to nationalise it; and he spent the second half of his 1794 speech endeavouring to show that, in the question of internationalising, the view of the Opposition at Westminster had become something quite different when they reached Strasbourg. I think anyone who endeavours to follow the hon. Member's intricate reasoning will have some difficulty in following his gyrations.
Before referring to the more important aspects of this Motion, I am sure it would be proper that I should disclose a personal association with the industry inasmuch as for some 25 years I have been a member of a firm scheduled for nationalisation under the Act, the implementation of which we are discussing today.
When they read the speech of the Lord President of the Council, I think many will say that he spent a great deal of time on political history and very little time in telling the House and the country why it is in the public interest that the Act should be implemented at this stage. In my belief, the people of this country are very much more concerned with the wisdom of nationalising now than with the strict constitutional entitlement upon which the Government have based their arguments. An hon. Member opposite, interrupting a speech made by one of my hon. Friends, based his claim to act as is now proposed, on the fact that a mandate was given in 1945. Does the hon. Member suggest that there is nothing relevant in any change in the situation which has happened since then? Does he suggest that there is no relevance in the performance of the industry since the war; no relevance in the fact that we are now asked to re-arm the country against potential danger? I suggest that any such limited interpretation of a mandate as one which would ignore such changes in circumstances such as those I have mentioned is far too strict an interpretation ever to pass the test of common sense.
We are told that only by implementing the Act will uncertainty be ended. Only one thing can put an end to the uncertainty about the future of this industry—a General Election with a satisfactory majority for one side or the other. So long as there is a likelihood of another General Election in the relatively near future, so long will it be impossible for anyone in the industry or outside it to feel sure that the decision taken tonight, whichever way it may be, will remain for any appreciable length of time.
1795 The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. J. Jones) appeared to claim a very intimate knowledge of the motives by which steel workers are actuated. As has been said about the coal miners on earlier occasions, he would have us believe that steel workers appear to put forward their greatest or their least effort according to the political climate of the day and that the fact that their efforts are needed by the country is regarded by them as a comparatively minor affair. My experience of people is that their best efforts are generally put forward in the interests of their families—and a very laudable motive it is, too.
Is no account to be taken of the increased output which has come about—40 per cent. per man over pre-war; as a result of the millions of pounds that have been spent on new plant and on the longer hours which have been worked in the steel industry? I think it is a gross exaggeration to suggest that purely political hopes and ambitions are the causes of the change with which we are all so satisfied.
I do not propose to dwell at any length upon the merits of nationalisation in principle. I know that when I was doing other things, hon. Members in the last Parliament had a great deal to say on that subject. Reference has already been made by the Leader of the Opposition to the undoubtedly magnificent record of the industry since the war, and I do not propose to enlarge upon that. But, in considering that, it is necessary to appreciate that, under the present arrangements, the Government have ample powers to guide and influence the industry without changing its ownership. I shall have something to say about prices in a minute or two, but I would point out that the Government have control over prices and control over development, exports and imports. The Lord President has told us:that the only justification for private enterprise is that it shall be efficient, economic, really enterprising and shall work to the common good.What more does the right hon. Gentleman want than the performance of the steel industry since the war?
It is because of their complete inability to show a practical reason for this step, based on reality, that hon. Members opposite are compelled to bring forward for public consideration all sorts of other 1796 arguments quite unrelated to the position which the country faces in terms of rearmament. We are asked—and reference to this has been made in earlier speeches today—to approve this step in order that large profits shall not accrue to the shareholders in the steel industry as a result of re-armament. I would refer, in passing, to a remark made last week by the hon. and learned Member for Horn church (Mr. Bing), who said:When there are wars and rumours of wars, it is good growing weather for the house of Vickers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 13th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 1188.]Perhaps the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch may be interested to know that the house of Vickers is not scheduled and will not be affected in the slightest by this business of taking the profit out of re-armament.
Hon. Members opposite ignore the fact that the price of steel is not settled by what the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring would no doubt call "the steel barons"; it is settled by the Government of the day through the instrument they use for that purpose. If increased profits were to result from re-armament, that could either be through a bad fixing of prices by the Government themselves or by two other things—perhaps by greater output. I want the House to realise that the limit of output in this industry will not be the volume of orders it has to execute, increased perhaps by the rearmament programme; the limit on output will be the limit of the raw materials that are available. That will not be affected in the slightest by the decision consequent on the programme put before us last week.
The only other way in which profits could increase is by reduced costs. Here let me point out that but for much of the increased charges upon this industry through the nationalised coal trade and the increased charges on the industry through the nationalised transport of this country the price of steel could already have been brought down. Is it so very wrong that there should be an incentive to reduce costs in this country? There is already a restriction of dividends, and I suggest that the alleged need to try to keep profits out of re-armament, at any rate so far as the steel trade is concerned, where ample safeguards exist, is done for no other purpose than to prejudice the 1797 ignorant minds for the purpose of a party platform.
We are told this should be done because the steel men want it. I beg leave to differ; but I am not going to be drawn into any argument as to the evidence on which either view is based, because there is no precise evidence on which strict conclusion could be drawn. The hon. Member for Rotherham said earlier that his main responsibility in this matter was to keep faith with the Socialist promises that he made to his constituents. I say his chief responsibility is to keep faith with his public responsibilities which are related not only to his constituents but to wider considerations affecting the national interest.
I noticed that several speakers were at pains to say that they do not claim this right solely because the steel men would like it, and that that in itself is not an adequate reason why this step should be taken. No doubt, great influence could follow from the view they are said to possess. The point I want to make is this. If it is so very important that we should take notice of the alleged opinion of men in the steel trade, why was it not of much greater relevance when the road transport industry was threatened with nationalisation, and it was abundantly clear that the men in that industry wanted none of it. Why was not greater attention paid to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who knew quite well what the people in that industry wanted? What I am saying still remains the view of the people of that industry, and if anybody doubts it let him ask a lorry driver.
§ Mr. Awbery
Is it not the fact that the men in the transport industry wanted nationalisation of their industry?
§ Mr. Summers
The vast mass of the people, the overwhelming majority of the people in the road transport industry—I am speaking of road transport—did not want their industry nationalised, and they do not want it nationalised now.
§ Mr. Summers
I am not going to give way or to be drawn into detailed discussion. I am going to make my speech in my own way and make my own points as I think fit. This question whether or not the particular section of an industry 1798 holds particular views has a certain importance, but no more than a certain importance. I do not propose to spend more time on it out of proportion to the other matters to which I want to refer. The third reason adduced, and the most important in terms of current affairs, is that the steel industry should be nationalised now so that the nation may be assured of an adequate supply of raw materials for the equipment of the Armed Forces of the Crown. It has been explained that far from there continuing to be a co-ordinated administrative machine available for important sections of the industry under these proposals there would in fact, be a marked division made through the acquisition of only a limited number of firms in the industry. I do not think that several hon. Members opposite appreciated the point.
Let me tell the House in the following important sections of the industry what proportions of firms making these products which will be taken over and what proportion left independent: in heavy forgings, 45 per cent. will be taken over and 55 per cent. free; in dropped forgings, only 6 per cent. taken over, and 94 per cent. free; in steel castings 33 per cent. taken over and 77 per cent. free; in wire, 49 per cent. taken over and 51 per cent. free; in bright bars, 24 per cent. taken over and 76 per cent. free. In other words, in all these sections of the industry more than half the capacity—it is capacity to which these figures relate—will not be under the direct control of the Corporation.
§ Mr. Summers
From the industry. Some of these terms may not be familiar to some hon. Members of this House; therefore, I think it is relevant to say that the types of product with which we are concerned, at any rate in connection with armament, affects guns, instruments, crankshafts, many gear wheels, tank track links, and bolts and nuts. It is suggested that if there is such satisfactory machinery now for the co-ordinated supply of these particular raw materials why will the introduction of the Corporation preclude the continuance of that same efficient machinery? The whole point is that we must not have division of loyalty and responsibility, and one portion of the 1799 industry dependent on the other for its raw materials.
But if there is to be a continuance of the satisfactory administrative machinery that we want, it will not be because the Corporation has been set up: it will be because the firms concerned willingly continue to co-operate, which it does not require any passing of an Act to ensure at all. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) or the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Mulley)—I cannot be certain which—spoke of the "dead hand"—I think that was the phrase he used of the managements that would no longer be there when nationalisation was passed. So far as I have understood it, it is not the intention of the Government to break up the companies after they have been taken over as financial units; and I understand that the managements are to continue as before. But if the managements are to continue as before it becomes all the more appropriate that we should consider the make up and the duties of the Corporation, since that is the prime change which will follow from the implementation of this Act.
Although it has been mentioned once today I think it deserves such stress that I propose to read once again the opinion expressed by the Minister of Supply why, in his judgment last year it was quite understandable that responsible members of the steel industry, could at that time, at any rate, decline an invitation to join the Corporation. He said:Men who may well be best suited for this responsible task might understandably be reluctant to commit themselves … as long as they think there is a possibility, however remote, that the Corporation may not, after all, be established."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 2042–3.]The advice given then is just as valid now. We have heard attempts made today to throw discord into the harmonious workings of the industry between the Corporation, if it is actually set up, and the senior executives in the industry, by suggesting that there has been some form of deliberate conspiracy resulting in the complete refusal of any invitations to join the Board.
§ Mr. Summers
I cannot understand why it should be regarded by the Government as perfectly reasonable for a trade union official to give reasons why he prefers to decline the Government's invitation, and as sabotage of the national interest if an employer, for reasons which to him seem equally valid, refuses the same invitation.
§ Mr. J. Jones
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that there is a great difference between a trade union official who believes that he can be of greater service by remaining where he is, and having no embargo placed upon the rest of the membership of his union instead of serving the State on the Corporation, and the present policy of the Steel Federation which says, in effect: "None of our members shall be nominated, and we hall see to it, so far as lies in our power, that this is not a success"?
§ Mr. Summers
I know the hon. Gentleman is trying to draw a distinction between the motives of the two types of individual, but he leads himself into this ridiculous position, that if a trade union official declines the invitation, believing he can better serve his country by looking after his men because such men are so rare, it will be impossible adequately to man up the Corporation which will be needed. That will be impossible if responsible, intelligent trade union officials say to themselves—maybe quite rightly; I do not know—" I am sorry, but there are so few of us who can do justice to our trade union responsibilities that you must excuse us from joining your Corporation." That only goes to show how completely top-heavy this business is. Moreover, is it not about time that people ceased saying that anybody who takes exception to the policy of the Government is necessarily unpatriotic for adopting that line.
Considerable reference has been made to the absence of trade union officials from the Corporation. I should just like to quote one extract from a speech which I understand was made by Mr. Lincoln Evans—for whom I have considerable regard and whose motives I do not wish to analyse because I do not feel capable of doing so—when addressing, I think it was, the Labour Party Conference:Anyone who is naive enough to believe that the change over to public ownership was in itself an answer to the problem is finding out now that that was not the case.1801 I do not know whether he shares the view of his predecessor, Mr. John Brown, who was national secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation for a number of years, who, writing in the "Sunday Times" in October, 1948, said:The Government's plain duty is to leave well alone. Any interference in the existing circumstances may well set back the recovery of the country and nullify any advantage the nation hopes to obtain from E.R.P.Now who is to be in charge of this business in this industry? What are the types of people who are to evoke this tremendous enthusiasm from the steel centres, of which we have already heard this afternoon? The Minister of Health has had some views to express on the nature and experience of those in charge of the steel industry. It is not, I think, irrelevant at this stage to remind the House of what they were. In November, 1949, he said:A very large number of the so-called steel masters are accountants using the brains of the technicians. I know some of these accountants. They were brought into the steel trade by the banks. They know as much about the making of steel as my granny.Perhaps the Minister of Supply will assess the qualifications of the right hon. Gentleman's granny from the fact that he has already seen fit to appoint three accountants out of six members of this Corporation, and appoint her to the vacancy just created.
A series of accountants, a soldier, a trade union official in a union not having first-hand experience of the steel industry, and one man from the steel industry itself having had little or no experience of production, but concerned almost exclusively with wages, are to be the team we are asked to approve, and in whom the country is asked to have confidence to shoulder the added responsibilities that they will now have to undertake. Is it really to be imagined that that is what the steel men thought would be the implementation of this promise to nationalise the steel industry—that their destinies should be in the hands of people with no experience of the industry itself?
What will people abroad think of this step. We have talked about the free democracies watching what we are doing. We were told last week that it is very important that the steps we take, not only in re-armament but in other ways, should have regard to the leadership 1802 which Europe expects from us, and that we should pay attention to such views. What a contrast between the decisions in such matters as this made in Norway by their Socialist Government, who in the interests of national unity have decided to postpone steps of this kind, and the action of the Government here at the present time.
What will the Americans think? [Interruption.] I hear strange noises from hon. Members opposite. They know as well as I do that the Prime Minister has come to this House and told us that the re-armament programme upon which our national security depends, in concert with others, is dependent upon the good will and mutual co-operation of the great American public, who have already made such sacrifices for us.
§ Mr. Summers
I could not hear what what the hon. Member said, but it is necessary that we should have regard to opinion in America if we are to ask them for their help, and if we are to have any regard for the experience in the United States whereby they have put up such a magnificent productive performance in the years that have gone by.
This Corporation will have far greater responsibilities to discharge than is sometimes imagined. During the war I had some experience of the Steel Control, and in the Ministry of Supply towards the latter part of the war. At that time we had no export trade to keep going; we had no investment programme, such as we now describe it, to maintain, as well as dealing with the problem of re-armament. These problems will require very intricate study and very experienced judgment if they are to be resolved in the best interests of our country. It will be many years before this team loses its amateur status, and I shudder to think what we shall lose in the process.
Only two courses appear to me possible. Either these gentlemen, realising their inability effectively to challenge the views that will be put before them from the industry will decide that their best course is to relapse into semi-retirement and become just futile Fabians serving their country in the best way open to them, or, alternatively, they may seek 1803 suddenly to interfere and through ignorance create chaos and confusion as a result of their appointment by the Government. This is a shocking business. Judged by the needs of the situation, there is no justification for it, and I am quite sure that there are, at any rate, some hon. Members opposite who know quite well that to ignore the powers of elasticity which are open to the Government and to nationalise at the earliest date permissible under the Act is a national blunder of the first order. I ask those hon. Members to search their consciences to see whether it is not necessary as a result to put national security and national unity before party loyalty, and, by supporting this Resolution, decline to join the ranks of the guilty men.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
I am very glad indeed to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, immediately after the speech made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers). He started by saying that for a number of years—I forget quite how many—he had been intimately connected with a firm which is now on the list to be scheduled. I, on my side, unaccustomed, as I admit, to speak on this topic, have for 18 years—almost the whole of my career—been intimately connected with a firm, of which I am now chairman, which uses steel. We are an engineering firm and employ and fabricate considerable quantities of steel.
In that sense I wish to put a few points which have had at least 18 years' practical experience behind them. I have been asked how many people the firm employs. I admit that 18 years ago the firm employed only two, of whom I was one. It had the phenomenal capital of £5. We now employ 150 people and next year will turn over about £250,000.
§ Mr. Usborne
Private enterprise entirely, and it is precisely because I have had this experience of private enterprise that I am determined tonight to give some of my experience to the House.
I am not greatly concerned with the superficial argument about a mandate. It evidently does not get us very far. I 1804 listened to the hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Mr. Heald), who made it clear that a mandate was something which concerned a decisive decision. In other words, a mandate is a mandate when it gets him what he wants, and, if it does not, it is not a mandate. I personally believe, whether or not the House now agrees, that we have a mandate for it, that what we will do tonight is the right thing. Abraham Lincoln was right when he said that it is the duty of a Government to do for the people that which they require done but cannot do for themselves. I think that everyone will agree that the duty of a Government of this country, at this particular time, is to maintain what has come to be called the Welfare State.
I put that, briefly, as a State which maintains fair shares and full employment. That is something which the people want but cannot provide for themselves. It is, therefore, the duty of the Government to provide that for them. Whatever the people decided in the last two elections, they decided that they wanted that. There can be no doubt whatever on that score. Now, I put it to the House that, in fact, it is essential for a Government, pledged—mandated, if one likes the word—to maintain full employment and fair shares, to hold in its hands the essential economic key. If anyone doubts that steel is that key, I would ask him to remember that we measure the economic output of a country by the number of million tons of steel which it produces. It is quite evident that it is a very important key—and one we must maintain in the hands of the Government if that Government is obliged, on behalf of the people, to provide fair shares and full employment.
The question that we are really deciding tonight, however, is whether we ought to do that now or a little later. There is no doubt, in my mind, that the Government must own this section of the steel industry, because it is the economic key necessary for the maintenance of full employment. Let us, for instance, visualise the possibility of world recession or slump coming upon us. That is not too hypothetical. Last year there was a report issued by the United Nations organisation called "The Report on Economic Trends and Full Employment," which made it abundantly clear that what most of the important 1805 industrial nations were doing today was not adequate for them all to avoid unemployment; and we must be prepared for the beginning, shortly, of a recession.
We should, therefore, take steps to cope with that situation. If a Government are determined, and has promised the community it governs, to maintain full employment, they cannot risk a large section of the economy of the country suddenly deciding, of its own volition, to close its factories. That would create dislocation and disorder and make the management of economy in an economic storm impossible. For that reason, the Government must see that the big steel firms do not close unless the Government want them to close.
That is why, if we are to face a period of recession and maintain full employment in it, we must have the national ownership of this section of the industry. One thing which we cannot do by mere controls is to make a private firm continue to work when it is making a loss. We cannot compel it to do that. It is because we have to face the possibility that, in the interest of the nation as a whole, it may be necessary for some firms in the steel industry to continue for a period to work at a loss in the interests of the good planning of the whole community that the Government must prepare to take over the major steel firms. If necessary, and if it happens to be in the interests of the community, a section of the economy should continue operating even if it makes losses.
If that is surprising to any hon. Gentleman, and he is connected with industry, let me ask: How often does he close a shop or a particular section of a factory because the shop records show that it has made a loss over a few months? Everyone who runs a firm knows that there may be, and often are, departmental shops, which, on their own balance sheets show a loss and which are maintained for the good of the whole. It is precisely for the same reason that it may be necessary for the steel industry in this country, for a period—I know not how long—to be maintained at a loss in order to provide fair shares and full employment for the nation. It is owing to the prospect of a recession that it is essential to take this industry into public ownership.
1806 Why should not the Government, in order to maintain the good of our people, take over only those industries which private enterprise cannot run successfully? Heaven knows, since 1945 we have had to take over the mines to keep them going and the railways to keep them moving. Why should not the nation now, for a change, take over an industry which is making profits?
Does anyone seriously believe that the excessive or extra profits these steel firms are likely to make in the next two years will be due only to their zeal, skill or enterprise? Will it not be partly due to the fact that the nation has, unfortunately, been obliged to take part in a war? I believe it to be neither right nor fair to the people of the country to allow these extra profits, which will undoubtedly be made during this particular time, to go into the pockets of those who have not displayed, nor can they ever display, any extra enterprise or skill. They are already doing superbly.
§ Mr. Remnant (Wokingham)
Does not the hon. Member agree that a large proportion of these additional profits will go straight to the Treasury, if profits are, in fact, made?
§ Mr. Usborne
I know all about that, and it is very right and proper that it should be so. We have a Welfare State, out of which we as individuals draw great advantages, and it is right that we should pay for them. I pay my taxes because it is the most effective way of getting what I want most cheaply, and any intelligent person will agree for precisely the same reason.
§ Mr. Profumo (Stratford)
I am trying to follow the argument. The hon. Member, as a reason for taking over the industry, has told us that the iron and steel works in the country must be kept open in these vital years, but he has gone on to argue that in the next few years this industry is going to make profits which it would be wrong for private people to have. If that is so, why not do what my right hon. Friend has suggested—delay nationalisation for the next four years?
§ Mr. Usborne
I am obliged for that intervention. The hon. Member happens to be my Member of Parliament. I can tell him that I did not vote for him. and 1807 perhaps I might add that I hope I can now educate him. I said that the United Nations report, which was issued about this time last year, indicated that adequate steps were not being taken to stave off the possibility, indeed the probability, of a world recession, but since then a new factor has emerged, which we hope may not be a permanent one. It is quite possible that the war in Korea will soon be over, though I am not too optimistic. When that war is over may we not have a period of a much cooler war, something much nearer a state of peace than we have had before, which will bring about the very conditions that tend to a recession? There are reasons which make it necessary, in facing the future, to take over the steel industry, reasons that have been given in this House dozens of times.
The question at issue is: Why we are doing this now? I say that because there is a bit of cream—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] Precisely; I thought I had made my point clear to those who can understand. I quite admit that the reason why I support the action the Government are taking tonight is precisely because it is the right time, and it is fair for the community to take over these firms when there is a period of profitability lying ahead. I freely admit that.
Let me say something else which may provoke another "Ah!" from Members opposite. Some people say that an industry should only be nationalised because that is the way to get the particular product produced cheaper, better and more efficiently. I think that there is an argument for that occasionally, but I do not support nationalisation for that reason. I believe that we have to nationalise certain industries in order to treat the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is the nation's balance-sheet as a whole which is what matters.
It may well be that in the pursuit of the national interest steel prices will rise. It may be as well to take over some industries, even if in the process they are less efficiently run, provided we can make the whole economy of the country work more efficiently by doing so. I shall not be greatly surprised, nor will it materially affect the support I give to the Government's action, if prices of steel does rise. One reason is that it may be in the 1808 interests of the country as a whole to push up our export prices of steel a little, which is not so easy to do in the circumstances of today as it may be later. In that case the rise, if it occurs, is something which I do not want to have thrown in my teeth. I am not advocating the setting up of the Iron and Steel Corporation because it is the only efficient way of producing steel. I do not think that that has much to do with the case. What matters is that the nation shall be better off after the industry has been nationalised than before it was nationalised.
I represent one of the constituencies of Birmingham. I am a comparatively small business man in the city. According to the last census, I see that there are 11,000 firms in Birmingham employing fewer than 20 people. In my constituency there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of these little men. Birmingham is built on the enterprise of these little men, and it is a very important contribution to the country's welfare that they make. Last Friday there was an article in the "Birmingham Gazette" about this Debate, which started by saying:Small steel firms in the Midlands which are not included in the Government's nationalisation plans fear that they will be squeezed out of business if the threatened period of shortage of materials becomes acute.I know that there are men in small firms of all kinds who wonder if they will get squeezed out of business; but in business one is always wondering that. It is a question of who does the squeezing, whether it is a private firm or the nation. In my personal experience I made all the mistakes in the book during the first five years. I made a bad mistake, however, when I tried to threaten one of the really big firms connected with the industry to which I am attached. They did everything in their power to make my business and my life impossible, but, fortunately, luck was with me and I survived.
There is, in my view, no reason to suppose that the Government or a Corporation operating a nationalised industry will be more ruthless than were some of the big firms operating under private ownership. My own view is that there is much evidence to the exact contrary. Nothing is so savage and so ruthlessly imperialistic as the big private firm, and nothing is greater than their power today. In this connection, It is, of course, pos- 1809 sible for a monopoly, whether privately owned or nationally owned, to be selfish, and I ask the Government to keep in mind the need to think continually of the interests of small firms.
I know that the Government and my own party in particular understand the contribution which small firms make. I know very well how difficult it is for a Government corporation and for the bigger private firms—for the latter I will say it is impossible—to remember constantly, as they ought to do, the importance of the little man. I say to the little men—I have had experience—that I cannot see any evidence at all which leads me to assume that their future and their interests will be any worse off than they are now. Indeed, they should be a lot better off. The Government must remember the importance of these little firms and give them a square deal. I am sure the Government intend so to do.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Robson-Brown (Esher)
The evening is passing and the time is limited. We ought to bring the Debate back once again to the matters that are most important. I believe that there is only one thing that matters in the present national emergency—how are we to get the maximum amount of steel from the steel mills for the armaments of our country. Nothing else of any kind matters in comparison with that. In my opinion a very great decision rests on the men in the iron and steel industry. They have to decide what are their personal actions to be in face of Government action should the vote go against the Motion before the House. The decision, hard though it may be in some cases, is perfectly plain. The national interests must be placed before all other considerations, either personal or political, and I recommend that attitude of mind to every member on the Government Benches.
Very much is at stake at this time, and I believe that every man in the industry, whatever his level may be, should do his best in spite of present action and stand to his post. It is a terrible tragedy that the men and the industry at this time should be the battledore and shuttlecock of party strife. Every Member in this House, in going into Division, has a grave responsibility. Whatever happens, come what may, not a single British soldier's life should be in danger because 1810 the right weapon was not in his hands at the right time. As a result of nationalisation that may well happen.
At this time we should be getting the last ton of steel out of the last furnace; we must drive the industry as it has never been driven before, and that cannot be done effectively with a steel bureaucracy. No wonder that today in the Kremlin they are rejoicing, because, our country at this moment, is faced with a double gamble.
First, we are still faced with the battle for economic survival of the country and the closing of the dollar gap. There has been no change in this position in the last few weeks, but what has been superimposed upon it is that we now have to carry the additional burden of re-arming on top of the rehabilitation and recovery of our nation. It is no exaggeration to say that steel and its products carry upon their shoulders the responsibility for the success or failure of British recovery. The nation's chances of peace depend on steel, for it is only by steel that we can keep the enemy at bay.
This brings me now to the consideration of the Iron and Steel Corporation. Every man and woman in the land is entitled to his or her political or ideological beliefs; every man has a perfect right to accept nomination to any board of any kind. At the same time we must remember that when we carry out the pledge which we have given, as Conservatives, to denationalise steel we shall expect the men in the industry to support the judgment and the decision of the Government of the day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If that is not so, what virtue is there in democratic government of any kind? Hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways.
This is a free country, and we say that while we do not question the right of a man to act upon a board we do not give way on our rights to question his ability, his experience, or his capacity to direct the affairs of this great industry. The questions that the House has to ask itself are: Does the proposed Corporation contain men of ripe and tested experience to act as leaders of the industry? Does it contain men of practical experience in the making of steel? Does it contain any man who knows anything about the sale of steel and particularly export markets? These are obvious questions, and the answer to every one is, "No."
1811 There has been great play tonight about why the leaders of the steel industry have not been prepared to act upon this Corporation. The answer has been given very effectively by previous speakers, and I have not the time to deal with it, but this I must say: men cannot be maligned and called profiteers one day and then be expected to eat humble pie and serve on a Government Corporation to carry out ideas in which they have no faith. That is unreasonable. The men in the steel industry had complete and absolute confidence in the Iron and Steel Board which was disbanded, and something similar to that Board would have been the answer to the present dilemma of the Government. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in magnificent language and in his own inimitable style, recommended the Government to follow a proper and dignified course in this matter, having regard to the emergency existing in the nation's affairs.
I have only one or two minutes left to make one or two further points. The first is that this House should know that at no time was the British steel industry a member of any international or European cartel. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am making these statements upon the Floor of the House in all seriousness. Every time we met during the European cartel we had the better part of the bargain. We had to fight in the years between the two wars to prevent the country from being the dumping ground for the world. The country, generally, as well as the steel trade, knows that we had to fight the world for our trade. We shall have to fight it again.
The country has been told that the Government have taken over the steel industry to stop the wicked shareholders from making fantastic profits out of rearmament. There was never a more gross or deliberate lie. The shareholders of the steel trade are hundreds of thousands of little men and women. Those are the wicked shareholders. The Minister of Supply knows that no huge profit is possible in the industry, nor would I or my party tolerate it. He knows that his Department and their officials control and fix the profit margin of every type of steel-making organisation 1812 in the industry, large and small, and have done so for many years.
It is right that the country should know that the shareholders have been prepared to make great sacrifices by ploughing back their profits into their organisations. In spite of the threat of nationalisation, more than £240 million have been spent in the last few years in developing plant all over the country. The whole world has watched the remarkable output figures of the British steel industry going up and up. I prophesy, that, in the years 1951–52–53, in spite of nationalisation, the output of the industry will still go up and up, to 17.25 million tons, because the plants of that increased production have already been built. Some hon. Members opposite are turning hungry eyes on the profits of the industry. The answer is that the overall profits should also increase if there is increased production. Make no mistake, re-armament depends entirely upon steel. It is now proposed that we should create another colossal Frankenstein monster of nationalisation, at a most dangerous time in the life of the nation.
I would sum up the situation by saying that Act puts too much power in the hands of too few men who have too little knowledge. Even if they had the responsibility for the control of the whole industry, they have neither the knowledge nor the experience. I sincerely hope that somehow or other we shall find some solution of the terrible impasse into which the industry has been put. If hon. Members opposite defeat the Motion tonight, I tell the Prime Minister that it is his duty to take this matter once more to the nation by a General Election or by referendum, so that the nation can give a final and clear decision and the industry will know exactly where it stands and will cease to be the cock-pit of political party battles, and play its vital part in the rehabilitation of the nation.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Mort (Swansea, East)
It is very tempting to follow in the footsteps of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson-Brown) but I have not the time to do so. Even if I had, I do not see that there is any need to plead the case for nationalisation of steel. That case has been fully established a long time ago in this democratic institution. The principle has been passed through this House on two 1813 occasions. With other hon. Members I sat during 29 meetings of the committee on the Steel Bill, which has since been through the other place. A lot of speeches tonight have sought to establish the case for nationalisation of the steel trade, but I suggest that that phase has passed. In the short time at my disposal I should like to deal briefly with the Motion that has been put down by the Opposition.
Mr. Bernard Shaw gave some very sound advice on one occasion, and I want to apply it to the Motion. He said: "Don't ask a man what he believes. Watch him." In the Motion we are charged with dividing the nation upon a party political issue. Is there any hon. Member who was in this House while the Iron and Steel Bill was passing through it who can honestly say that we have not given every opportunity to discuss and to decide that issue?
§ Mr. Mort
The charge of dividing the nation on a political issue cannot be levelled against the Government but it can justly be held against the Opposition. We are told that this is a period of tension and danger. We all realise that, but if the fears of the people materialised and there came a national calamity again in the form of a world war, is any hon. Member suggesting that it is not best to arrange now, when we have the opportunity, to bring the steel trade under the control of the people?
Profits have been mentioned. We are told that we are disturbing the smooth and efficient working of the industry. Many hon. Members have declared their interest in this matter. I have an interest too, because I invested 35 years, the best part of my life, in the steel industry. I claim to have some knowledge of the operative side as well as of the managerial side. I am not going to suggest to the House that every steel operative is an enthusiast for the nationalisation of steel. I will not suggest anything of the kind. 1814 One hon. Member opposite referred to the steel worker as being more concerned about the interests of his family. Yes, definitely. The man's interest in his family does not mean only the wages which he takes home at the week-end. The reply to all this, as hon. Members ought to know, was given many years ago when the organised element in the iron and steel industry, the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, made a declaration and published a pamphlet officially advocating the idea.
How are we going to disturb the efficient working of the industry? Output figures absolutely refute the suggestion that the industry is being disturbed on either the operative or the managerial side. In May, 1946, the output was 13 million tons, in November, 1948, when the Bill was published, it was over 15 million tons and in November, 1949, when the Bill became law, the output had riser to over 16 million tons. The whole trend of the industry refutes the accusation that the industry is being disturbed.
If there is any disturbance of the smooth running of the steel industry the Tory Party has very great responsibility for it. there is no doubt about that. We have seen the evidence of that in many of the speeches made here and in the conduct of sections of the industry. The nation need not fear disturbance in the steel industry from those who voluntarily decided to work a seven-day week, not because they were requested by the Government to do so but because it was in the national interest. There will be no disturbance on the operative side. I hope that the result of the Division tonight will tell the steel workers that more than anything else the Government—this is the point of importance to the ordinary worker—is a Government which does not go back on its work. Ordinary working men like people who keep their word.
§ Mr. Mort
I want to make one suggestion to the Minister in regard to the Steel Corporation which is in the interests of the smooth working of the industry. I do not know what efforts have been made, but he should certainly endeavour to put on the Corporation a direct representative with personal knowledge of the heavy steel 1815 side and also someone with personal knowledge of the sheet and tinplate section. If the Minister bears that in mind I have no fear about the future.
The clamp which has been put round some sections of the industry should be released and the Tory Party should realise that they are kicking against the pricks and that it is no use opposing this Measure any further, because the people of a democratic country have decided in favour of it. What is the country fighting for? We are fighting to establish a democratic way of living in the world and yet the Tory Party are prepared to go back on the decision of this democratic country. We have decided democratically that the industry must be nationalised and tonight we shall take another step forward towards the system of society which I believe we all desire, though we on this side of the House have a more practical way of approaching it than have the Opposition.
§ Air Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down, will he answer this question? Does he really believe that had the new Steel Corporation been in charge of the industry in the last four years the increased production would have been obtained?
§ Mr. Mort
Absolutely. I have just related an incident which gives the best illustration of the calibre of the men working there. If they decided voluntarily to work a seven-day week to assist the Government in the national interest, as they did, does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean to tell me there would have been any slackening of effort? In fact the effort would have been speeded up.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I have only a few minutes at my disposal, but I want to associate myself with what is being said from this side because some of the arguments used from the Opposition benches were a feature of the campaign in Central Ayrshire during the General Election. We have Colville's Steel Works at Kilbirnie and Glengarnoch, and many steelworkers work in my constituency. They were most enthusiastic in attending my meetings to instruct me that the Government must implement the Act which was then on the Statute Book.
1816 I shall direct my remarks to my own Front Bench. I want to consider the grave issue raised by the action of the Opposition in their intention to try to prevent an Act of Parliament from becoming operative. Their friends have influenced the situation in such a way that the Government have difficulty in securing top level men of experience in the steel industry to form the new Board. Even though they are considered to be the best people in the industry at the executive level, if the Tories and their friends are not prepared to serve in the national interest the Opposition will be pushing us into the position where the Government will need to consider the appointment of people who are Socialists in belief and who are prepared to carry out the will of the people and of the nation.
That declaration which we are being pushed into by the actions of hon. Members opposite would be the most popular thing this Government could do so far as the rank and file of the country are concerned, because we have been getting rather perturbed at the Government being too fairminded in setting up boards which are overweighted with Tory opinion. Indeed, we believe that in many instances we could claim that sabotage methods have been employed. While, today, we are considering, quite rightly, that we must have due regard for security measures in this country, we have been talking in the main about Communism and Communist agents. It is time the Government were looking at Torism and Tory conspiracies as much as at the Communist plots about which the Tories talk so much. As I see it we have here a conspiracy against an Act of Parliament, against the will of the people, and the Government must pay as much attention to that conspiracy as they do to searching the Communist ranks.
We know from experience that the higher stratum of Toryism and society in this country has no love for the Measures we put on to the Statute Book. I would not trust them very much as to the measures they would take to destroy them. If we dismiss all this verbiage we have had from the other side today—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I believe that the real heart of the problem is the question of the profits which are now being made by the industry and which it will make in the armaments drive. If hon. 1817 Members opposite would be honest to the people for whom they are acting and honest to their own consciences, they would not be talking so much about national interest; they would be telling us flatly and plainly that it is profits with which they are concerned.
I congratulate the Government on this forward step which they have taken. They are doing something in the real interests of the country. We will make certain that any profits made from national need will be ploughed back into the national pool. I, at any rate, thinking of the steelworkers in Glengarnoch and Kilbirnie, will go into the Division Lobby tonight clear in conscience that I am doing the right thing in the national interest.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) was completely sincere when he said that the chief concern of us on this side about this matter is the question of profits. If he really thinks that, and if any of his hon. Friends on those benches think the same, it shows how difficult it is to speak a common language on these very controversial issues. As far as I could see, the hon. Gentleman was finding conspiracies "under every stone and up every avenue" as the late Mr. Ramsay MacDonald used to say. Not content with the pursuit of Communist conspiracies, he is also in full cry after Tory conspiracies.
§ Mr. Eden
The hon. Member nods his head. If I understood him aright, the Tories have been conspiring on the boards which the Government have already set up. I never heard of that one before. I thought that the boards the Government had already set up were perfect in all respects. It seems that I am wrong, but no doubt the Government will amend their boards if they want to and improve them in the light of the hon. Member's suggestion.
§ Mr. Manuel
The point I was making was that, through the friends of the right hon. Member not being prepared to serve, we are being pushed into the position of having to appoint Socialists who will serve.
§ Mr. Eden
I feel for the hon. Member more than words can possibly express, but I am very sorry it is not in my power to help him. The only way out to him is to persuade his friends either to do the best they can out of the such poor materials as he thinks they can lay hands upon, or to drop the Measure altogether, in accordance with proposals I shall make.
The hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Mort) seemed to think that some of us might want to speak or might hold views in disparagement of those working in the steel industry. I do not think that that is true. I have not heard anybody say that in any part of the House. The only argument there has been during the day is, who is to get the credit for the good work the steel industry has done—
§ Mr. Eden
I know some hon. Members opposite say that it is despite the free enterprise under which it operates. Some of us on this side think it has something to do with that free enterprise, but whichever way one looks at it, there has been no disparagement whatever of the work that has been done.
A little while ago, when my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Robson-Brown) was speaking, he was interrupted by the hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) and I took down the words as the hon. Member is a little, shall I say, ebullient in interruption from time to time. He asked what would have happened if there had been no national emergency. I think that is quite a topical question to which the House might address itself for a moment or two and I was very glad to see it passing, albeit figuratively and for a moment or two, through the mind of the hon. Member for Sparkbrook because, of course, it is what should be lying beneath our thought in our approach to this subject at this time.
1819 I agree that we do not want to debate the Iron and Steel Act as we have debated it many times, and certainly I have debated it for my share of the time. I shall not do that, but I wish to reply to certain observations of the Lord President of the Council and others. What we need to do is to apply our minds to this situation in the present context, which is dominated and should be determined by the national emergency in which we find ourselves.
Now I come to the Lord President of the Council, who flung many charges across the Floor of the House this afternoon in his attempt to indict the Opposition for putting down this Motion. Some of his charges were rather quaint. Amongst other things, he accused us of being Molotovs. I think he ought to consult with the Foreign Secretary about the definition of a Molotov. Then he might be a little nearer the mark than he was this afternoon. After all, we are not trying to exercise the veto—
§ Mr. Eden
No, we are not. All we are doing is to ask the Government—and I do wish we could get this across to the benches opposite—to make use of permissive powers which they themselves, in their own wisdom, have placed in their own Act of Parliament; that is all. I put it to the Lord President that if that were all Mr. Molotov had ever tried to do at Lake Success the Foreign Secretary would have happier results to show the world than unfortunately he has today.
None of us expects or asks the Socialist Party to give up its faith in the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry or, indeed, in nationalisation as a whole. On the contrary, from the point of view of the next election, we hope they will proclaim it with just a little less timidity than they did at the last. We do not ask them to give it up; we ask them to proclaim it. We do not ask them to repeal this Act; we do not even ask them to amend it, so reasonable are we. We certainly do not ask them to go back on their word as the hon. Member for Swansea, East, was so upset that he would have to do, but to fulfil the word of the Act. We ask them to make use of the terms of the Act which permits the postponement of the vesting date.
1820 How long? would be a pertinent question if Ministers were interested in this point of view. It is for the Government to weigh that in the light of the national and international situation and of the re-armament programme which only last week they asked the House to approve, and the resulting obligations which the Front Bench have to shoulder. A reasonable postponement might be to the spring of next year so that the matter could be looked at again—[Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members on the back benches to laugh, but, presumably, there was some reason why the Government put in this permissive Clause and it is to falsify facts to pretend that when we ask for the permissive Clause to be operated we are trying to denounce the mandate of the nation. Nothing could be more reasonable, and nothing more completely in contrast to what I have no doubt at all we should have been asked to do in the like circumstances.
Of course the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, "But if you do that, look at the uncertainty you will create." Within its limitations that is a good point, but only within its limitations because that uncertainty is nothing to the uncertainty which the Government will create if they set up this Corporation which is admittedly—as Members in all parts of the House have said—unsatisfactory in its composition, in political conditions of complete uncertainty. That puts the industry face to face with a much more uncertain future than would a definite declaration now to the effect that, "For a year we continue as we are. Then, may be, in the political situation which then exists, we will try to put through this proposal on a basis which the country as a whole will have endorsed."
The right hon. Gentleman at times used some very violent language this afternoon. [An HON. MEMBER: "NO."] Oh yes, he did. I have jotted down some of it. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would not recognise it. He attacked the Iron and Steel Federation, and accused them of trying to disrupt the industry. I do not suppose for a moment that he really thinks that. Many Members of this House have known Sir Andrew Duncan for a great many years. Many who were members of the previous House will remember the speech which Sir Andrew made on this subject, which was 1821 listened to with an attention I have seldom seen surpassed in my Parliamentary experience. I cannot think of anybody to whom language of that kind is less applicable than to him. I should like to say here that to my knowledge he has shown throughout this business, not only in the last year but through many years inside and outside the House, patience and forbearance, and a desire to reach agreement if that could possibly be achieved.
The right hon. Gentleman's history was terribly loose here and there. He spoke about the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act, 1927, to which he gave his own particular picturesque nomenclature. He accused the late Lord Baldwin of introducing it with the cry of "Peace in our time." Lord Baldwin did not do anything of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. I remember the "Peace in our time" speech very well. It was not made in 1927, after the General Strike or the general lock-out or what anyone calls it, but in 1925, two years before. It was made in an attempt, which was successful, to induce a back bench Member on our side of the House to withdraw his trade disputes Bill, because Lord Baldwin thought that the industrial situation was tense and he was most anxious not to aggravate it. That is not at all the picture which the right hon. Gentleman gave the House this afternoon. Most of his history was masked by that inexactitude.
We maintain that to proceed as the Government now intend to proceed is to risk confusion in a key industry at a vital time. Let me give the House one or two reasons why we take that view. Control by the Steel Board, as this Government set it up in 1946, covered the whole of the industry—500 companies. Nationalisation under the Iron and Steel Act will cover perhaps only half the industry, and the divisions are very hard to justify, especially in relation to the re-armament programme. Confusion will be created. The industry will be divided into two parts. That has always been one of the worst features of this Act.
I request the attention of the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply for the Government to the following fact. Under this Act, to take three of the elements essential for re-armament, first alloy bars and sheets, 68 per cent. of the industry pro- 1822 ducing them will be nationalised; 31.8 per cent. will not be nationalised. In the case of steel castings, 23 per cent. will be nationalised and 76 per cent. will not. Taking steel forgings, 44.5 per cent. will be nationalised, and 55.5 per cent. will not. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether that is going to be a very happy method of dealing with that industry which has to produce the essentials of our re-armament programme? Perhaps he will tell us when he replies?
Nobody is going to deny that re-armament will make a movement towards a wartime economy as opposed to a peacetime economy. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, under a war economy, the industry was arranged in sections according to products, and not according to companies. Nationalisation will cut clean across these natural divisions, and the strange consequence of this scheme is that, although the Government will nationalise a part of the industry, it will have less control over the remainder than was provided by the Steel Board when it was in existence. Of the firms which belong to the Iron and Steel Federation, about 100 are to be nationalized, and about 400 will stay outside. The industry will be completely disrupted, and yet, if some such basis as was visualised by Mr. Lincoln Evans, in the speech to which my right hon. Friend referred—admittedly not for this industry, but the principle is there—if some scheme like that could have been worked out, the Government could have had the industry in the closest contact over the whole field and the industry would have been glad to help them in the fulfilment of their re-armament target.
The right hon. Gentleman told us tonight that nationalisation was an issue at the last General Election. I am very glad to hear that. I think this is the first time that a Member of the Government has admitted anything of the kind. If the right hon. Gentleman will look at earlier speeches in this Parliament on the matter, he will find that that is so. It is quite true that we did everything we could to draw the attention of the country to this issue of steel nationalisation, which the right hon. Gentleman now says was an issue at the last election. We did. It is no good the hon. Gentleman shaking his head; the Lord President said it, and. if Ministers are now getting cross with 1823 each other, I cannot help it. It is not my business. I say that the Lord President has said that it was an election issue.
§ Mr. Eden
An issue at the election. Well, that has not been admitted to us before. The previous argument has always been that the whole thing was settled in 1945, but now we have an admission that this was an issue in 1950. Certainly, we did everything we could to make it an issue in 1950, and there is no dispute about that. In the opening broadcast which I made on behalf of the party to which I belong, I dealt with it. it was in our election manifesto and in almost every speech made by hon. Members on this side of the House, and it was in the Liberal Party's manifesto as well. [Interruption.] Certainly, it was in all our speeches throughout the election; we never stopped talking about it. If the hon. Gentleman doubts that, he is welcome to the tedious task of reading what I said. Yet no Socialist spokesman referred to it in a broadcast at all. It was a coy little election issue. I am told that 90 per cent. of the election addresses of Socialist party members—thank heaven, I have not read them all, but somebody else did it for me—contained no reference to this issue at all.
Now, what about the Minister of Supply? I thought that, if anybody would be eloquent to his constituents on the subject of iron and steel nationalisation, it would assuredly be the Minister of Supply, and so I fortified myself tonight with his election address. The photogravure is excellent, indeed admirable; the layout is unimpeachable; the print fine, but rather expensive, and the signature has a natural flow which is altogether apt. On the back is an account of the right hon. Gentleman's achievements, but nowhere, on the back among his achievements or in the middle among his promises, is the slightest reference to the iron and steel industry.
All I can say is that if Ministers really felt so deep and abiding an enthusiasm for this Measure, if they were so utterly determined, even if their majority was one or two that, at all costs, they would put it through the House of Commons, one or two might have said something about 1824 it. One or two did. The Foreign Secretary said boldly and well, and the Minister of Works also said boldly and well, but two out of 60 or so is a pretty poor average.
The House must recall that the Socialist Government in the last Parliament accepted that the issue should not be settled previous to the General Election of this year. There was a speech by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) who was for a while, as we know, a Minister, and, I regret, from every point of view, that he ceased to be one not long ago. He said something about this which is good, and I commend it to the House as putting our case very well. He said:The compromise between the two Houses "—in contrast to the Lord President's views of another place—will be, if accepted, in the best traditions of English Parliamentary Democracy I welcome the step the Government have taken. It was always clear to me that until we had a General Election on this issue we should not get the type of person to stand for these boards that we would like to get."—Wise man, perhaps that is why he has had to move back a peg or two—A man would not be likely to jeopardise his future economic prospects by offering to drive a car which might never start. The electors are the final arbiters in this matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 2051.]I agree with him. Whatever else the electors may or may not have said, they certainly did not give emphatic support for this proposal, which was scarcely put to them by the Government at all.
The serious feature of this business is the extent to which the Minister of Supply has gone back on his own good advice-Nobody would deny this, is a very weak Corporation with which we have been presented. That has been said by hon. Members in all parts of the House. It is so because the Government have set it up during a time when they have a precarious political majority and the future is uncertain. As a result, it is much weaker than any of the other bodies which preside over any of the other nationalised industries and yet, in many respects, it has a more difficult and certainly more complicated task to discharge.
We have this unrepresentative assortment of uninspiring names, but it is no use blaming the individuals concerned who 1825 did not feel they could serve because, in present conditions, they are simply giving effect to the right hon. Gentleman's own warning, which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition quoted earlier this afternoon. It is, of course, nonsense to pretend that the Conservatives and Liberals would have caused an upheaval in the steel industry by bringing it under some form of authority on the lines of the Schuman Plan. I do not suppose the Lord President himself thinks that. If that change had taken place it would not have affected the problems of ownership or management in the least, as the "Manchester Guardian" very forcibly pointed out. One of the advantages of the Schuman Plan is that it does not attempt to interfere with the issue of ownership one way or another.
It does not; there are all kinds of mixed ownership under the plan. In point of fact, the supra-national authority, as this Government have called it and as the French have never called it, has already become an authority which is going to work with representatives of Governments. I was quite sure that that would happen, that it could not remain a completely independent authority, and so it has proved; and if the right hon. Gentleman wants to know my authority he should read Mr. Schuman's speech made at Strasbourg the other day when he said:One conclusion should be drawn; the authority cannot be completely independent.Of course, we always knew it could not be completely independent when we got down to the discussions, and so it is going to prove. The Governments will have to be associated with the authority, whatever countries join it. That, therefore, is an issue about which I hope we shall hear no more false accusations. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I wish I could argue further, but my time does not permit. I will give one more quotation from Mr. Schuman:Governments cannot afford to remain indifferent to decisions which might well seriously upset the whole economic equilibrium or the social stability of the country.That is exactly what we said would happen if we were wise enough to go in. If hon. Members will do me the honour to read what I said they will see that I pointed out that if we went into the discussions we should find that we should come to an arrangement which did not 1826 mean that the Government had no power to carry out its own responsibilities. We all knew that that would happen and it is what has happened, but if hon. Members wish they can use that bogy; I do-not think the electors will be impressed.
§ Mr. Eden
I have only two minutes left and I must be allowed to continue. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should be careful about using this argument. At their conference they said they were all in favour of an international authority, a supranational authority, provided they were all Socialists. What is the difference between us? They are for a supra-national authority, a real one, provided everyone concerned is a Socialist. We are for a measure of international collaboration, whether those with whom we work are Socialists or not.
Finally, there are two clear alternative policies for steel. One is embodied in the Iron and Steel Act. It takes into State ownership 92 companies—firms engaged in varying degrees in engineering and other activities as well as the activities which are to be nationalised. The other policy is to exercise control or supervision over the iron and steel industry, that is to say, over the whole production of the various iron and steel products, by a public board which is independent of ownership and which includes individuals, drawn from management, labour and consumers. That is the kind of proposal behind the policy which forms part of the T.U.C. document, admittedly not for this industry. Again, it is the proposal also put forward by the Liberal Party and ourselves in the course of the election.
Cannot we yet find agreement on this latter course and give it a trial while there is this acute, sharp division between the parties and this limited and narrow majority? I know that the Prime Minister can say, "I have my technical majority." He has; probably he will prove it in the Lobby tonight. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, I do not know. But that does not decide the issue; that is not what matters. What the Government ought to feel is that they have the country behind them in this experiment. [HON. MEMBERS: "We do."] How can they feel that when the House is completely divided on this issue? Hon. Members opposite must know in their 1827 hearts that at the very most 50.5 per cent. are for them on this issue. I would say it was more like 48.3 per cent. and probably much less.
Surely Ministers must be a little impressed by those sections of the newspapers—[Laughter]—and hon. Members should not laugh at their friends—like "The Observer," which wobbled carefully on the fence during the General Election, like "The Times," which was quoted with great enthusiasm the other day by the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs for the praise it had given to the Government. Certainly there are papers in this country, and rightly so, who do all they possibly can to find excuses for things the Government do, but this time there was hardly one. Surely that must make the Government feel that it is just conceivable that they are not absolutely 100 per cent. right.
In resisting this appeal in the last Debate the Prime Minister asked why we had put the Motion down now. There is plenty of time, he told us. We were rather criticised for raising the issue at all. I think it is just as well we did. Now we are at this late hour. Now, I believe that the country is much more perturbed than, perhaps, hon. Gentlemen in the House think about the international situation that confronts us. I believe it wants unity. Now, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may say it is in our power—of the Opposition—to create that unity. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] All right, but let hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite look at what they are asking us to do. They are asking us to drop, not only the principle, but the issue upon which we fought the Election. We are not asking them to drop anything. We are not asking them to amend their Act or to repeal their Act, or even withdraw their principle.
What we do ask them to do is to make the attempt on that basis which the T.U.C. have accepted in another context, and which has been found successful for other industries heretofore. If they will do that, we will do all that lies in our power sincerely to make it a success. I believe myself that if the Prime Minister will do that he will add to his record, and I really do not see why hon. Gentlemen need be so apprehensive that they will be thought to 1828 have let anybody down. If we asked them to repeal, I could see that they would feel that, but we are not asking them to do other than to act within the international situation that confronts us. I still ask the Government to do it. The responsibility is theirs. Nobody but they can rise to it.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Supply (Mr. G. R. Strauss)
The Motion which the Government is asking the House to reject… regrets the decision of His Majesty's Government to bring the Steel Nationalisation Act into immediate operation …and merely for the sake of accuracy I want to point out two inaccuracies in the wording of the Motion. The first is that many provisions of the Act are already in operation, and, second, there is no such Act as the Steel Nationalisation Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The Act is called the Iron and Steel Act. It was before the House a very long time, when most of the points which have been put forward by the Opposition tonight were very fully discussed.
One of the major pleas that were put forward by the Leader of the Opposition and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) is that, instead of transferring this industry to public ownership, as provided in the Act, there should be a control board. That was the basis of most of our arguments when the Bill was before the House; it was discussed at great length, and on the recommendation of the Government, supported by the T.U.C., and fortified by the action of the employer members of the board, who resigned from it at a critical moment Parliament decided that the board proposal was no good.
We also discussed, during those long Debates, another problem which has been raised again tonight and the House ought not to think that it has been raised now for the first time. This is the reference to the organisational difficulties that may arise, as a result of only part of the industry being included in the nationalisation provisions. Well, it is true that there are organisational difficulties, but they are not serious. They can well be overcome—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—but I want the House to realise that this is not a new issue. It was debated at length, and Parliament came to a verdict on it.
1829 Perhaps I can, at the same time, get rid of another matter which has been raised once or twice, and that is the statement which I made in November about the inadvisability, at that time, of appointing members of the Corporation. I made that statement because, as a result of the compromise we were forced into by the action of the House of Lords, the Corporation could not be set up before October of this year. It was physically impossible. Moreover it was quite clear, at the time I made that statement, that there had to be an election within a few months. It was obviously common sense in view of those two dates, to say at that time: "I am going to wait till the election is over, because anyhow the Corporation cannot be set up before October."
I have always said, and so had hon. Members opposite, that delay—keeping the industry in suspense—was a very bad thing. Now the election is over, and the Corporation can be set up on 2nd October. For reasons which I will give in a few minutes, the Government came to the conclusion that further suspense and uncertainty was most undesirable, and we are, therefore, perfectly justified, in the entirely different circumstances which now exist in proceeding to appoint the members of the Corporation.
The Motion further says that the Government are'"needlessly dividing the nation on Party political issues.I think all those who have heard the tone and temper of the speeches delivered by Conservative Members must surely feel that they are setting about getting party unity in a very queer way. The effect of their speeches must inevitably be to widen the gulf between the parties and to engender greater bitterness between us than there was before. It is, therefore, difficult to accept seriously their contention that their main purpose is to establish national unity. As a result of this Debate they have done the reverse, and the responsibility is theirs.
Of course, the Conservatives have alleged that in this matter it is the Labour Government who are disrupting the nation. It seems to me that the Conservatives have become infected by Moscow propaganda techniques. It will be remembered that the Russian Communist spokesmen asserted that the 1830 Korean conflict was started by an unwarranted attack by the South on the North. So, today, the Conservatives, in their onslaught on the Government, assert that we have initiated the party war; whereas, in fact, all we want to do is to carry out, peacefully and with the minimum of friction, an obligation laid upon us by an Act of Parliament.
Before I leave the subject of national unity I should like to refer to the very powerful and moving speech made by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). He drew a parallel, and said that the Liberal Party, in its day of greatness, in 1914, just at the outbreak of war, gave up on 30th July a Bill—the Government of Ireland (Amendment) Bill—on which the Liberal Party had set its heart—in order to get unity with the Conservative Opposition, and he suggested that we should do the same. Let me make two comments on that: first, I suggest that the circumstances were entirely different, because there was already a war raging in Europe at that date.
§ Mr. C. Davies
All that had happened at that particular date was that Austria had served an ultimatum upon little Serbia. No war had yet started.
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not want to quarrel on this point. The statement was made, according to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, on 30th July. Austro-Hungary had declared war on 28th July. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Korea?"] However, the real point is this. I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that—although maybe he did not appreciate it—his observation was a direct criticism, if not attack, on the opposition to the Liberal Party of the day. He implied, as, indeed, was the fact, that to get party unity the Liberal Party, with its big majority, had to sacrifice its principles to the Conservative minority. It always seems to be the case, according to the views of the Conservatives, that if national unity is to be achieved, other people must give up their principles and embrace those of the Conservative Party. I would only add this further point: on reflection, now, is the right hon. and learned Gentleman quite certain that his party was wise in giving up the Home Rule Bill at that time?
§ Mr. Strauss
Might there not possibly have been greater peace in Ireland and much difficulty avoided if that Bill had not been given up?
§ Mr. Churchill
How high was the level at that time, when the Irish Nationalist Party ranged itself with the nation, and Ireland was described as the brightest spot in the British Empire.
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not wish to pursue, tempting as it would be, an examination of later Irish history. It is known to hon. Members, and I think that they can come to their own conclusions.
The Opposition rest their case for the request which they put to us on two legs. First, they say that we did not get a majority at the polls in the last election and that, therefore, we are really not entitled to proceed. I would remind the House that out of the nine Governments which this country has had since 1918, six of them did not get a majority at the polls, and if this doctrine which is now put forward were accepted, or had been in existence during the inter-war years, those Governments would have been paralysed, or would have been forced to accept and implement, not their own principles, but those of the Opposition. That, of course, would have been quite ridiculous.
But that is the doctrine which they now ask us to accept in their last ditch attempt to prevent this key industry passing into public ownership. To put it quite bluntly, they are asking the Government today to act as if the Conservative Party had won the election. They refuse to accept the fact that they lost it, that Labour won it, and that we do not propose, at their request, to abandon our principles or betray our supporters or the steel workers who are working in the knowledge that the industry is to become publicly owned. Nor are we prepared to alter, as they appear to suggest, British constitutional practice in order to make it serve Conservative Party interests.
Even if this plebiscite theory which the Conservatives now put forward were tenable or defensible at all I suggest that it breaks down in the conclusions that the party opposite desire to draw from it. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington referred to my election address. I am very glad that he read it, 1832 and I hope that he felt a better man afterwards. I should have thought that it was recognised by all parties in this House, taken by any criterion—election addresses, radio speeches and party documents—that the nationalisation of this industry, while it was an issue at the election, was not a major issue, and certainly not the major issue. I am perfectly certain every London Member will say that at his meetings there was very little interest in this question. I believe—I cannot be certain without looking it up—that not only I but also my opponents, Liberal, Conservative and Communist, did not mention the matter in their election addresses.
The fact was that in areas such as London, where people have no direct interest in iron and steel, this issue was a minor one; but it was a fact that in certain areas of the country it became for certain personal or geographical reasons, a major one. In Newport and East Middlesbrough, for example, there were candidates who made their anti-nationalisation views their primary appeal to the electorate, and as is well known they were overwhelmingly rejected by the electors.
In another area, Sheffield, a major steel producing and consuming city, there was, naturally, more interest—one assumes that there was more interest—in this issue. There, the anti-Labour votes, putting Conservative and Liberal votes together, increased by 30 per cent. over 1945, but Labour votes increased by 54 per cent. Similar results were seen in another town in the country which has a particular interest in steel, Jarrow. It seems clear, therefore, if we do attach any weight at all to the plebiscite argument, that where the issue was directly put by candidates specially interested, and where the electors had a special interest in the steel industry, the electoral verdict was decisively in favour of public ownership.
The other and very important leg of the Conservative argument is that change of ownership now will be damaging to our Defence programme. I can assure the House and the country that we have considered this issue primarily from the point of view of the international situation, the economic strength of the country and the need to ensure that we 1833 have adequate defences. There are two reasons why, from the Defence aspect, it is, in our view, essential to proceed with this Measure immediately. There is a general one, and that is that the steel industry, during the last war—I am not saying through faults of its own—was inadequate to meet our needs. As a result, millions of tons had to be imported and the industry was subjected to quite a number of strictures from Parliament—the Select Committee on National Expenditure—about its doings.
I have not the time to quote these, but I should like to quote, for the benefit particularly of the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and his colleagues, the opinion of the "Manchester Guardian" at a very critical time in the war, January, 1941. It said:The steel industry has somehow been unable to put the full power behind the wheels. Its failing is perhaps inherent in an organisation which must balance the interest of its members with those of a nation at war.That is a general consideration, and I think it would be as true today as at any previous time.
There is a particular consideration. The transfer of shares from one hand to the other—from private individuals to the Corporation—will not by itself affect the amount of steel poured out from the furnaces except in so far as the morale of the steel workers might be adversely affected if we refrained from implementing the Act. But from the organisation and long-distance point of view, it is essential that uncertainty in this industry should be removed at the first possible moment. That was the view expressed by the Conservative Party in their Amendment to the Address on 9th March last. In that Amendment they regretted thatthis vital industry will be kept in a state of anxiety and suspense."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 474.]They were quite right. The industry has been left too long in a state of suspense and anxiety, with harmful effects.
There is the question of the second development plan of the industry. The, House will remember that there are two development plans. One is nearly complete; at least, all the major decisions have been taken. The second one is being held up. Why? Because it is not known who will be the authority to carry it out, who will be responsible for it, and how it 1834 is to be financed. Therefore, although this uncertainty does not, I admit, have any immediate effect on the strength of the steel industry, it is bound to have an effect, if it continues in a year or two's time, when our defence demands on the industry may be at their maximum.
That being so, I have no hesitation at all, as the Minister mainly responsible for the production of defence equipment in this country, in saying that the acceptance of the Motion before us, which would involve indefinite further delay, would have a damaging effect over the next few years on our ability to build up, with speed and certainty, the necessary arms we may require for our defences. I very much hope for that reason—that all important reason—that this further delaying Motion will not be accepted by the House.
Hon. Members have criticised quite severely the membership of the Corporation. I was fully aware that in these circumstances, even if the Corporation had consisted of archangels, the Conservatives would have said that their wings were too large or their halos too small. I am not the slightest bit disturbed by that criticism. I will say this, however, because I think it is important, and in reply particularly to some of my hon. Friends, the House will notice that out of a possible 11 Members of the Corporation 7 had been selected. This leaves room for the selection, later, of more people from either side of the industry.
Complaint has been directed to the fact that the Corporation does not contain the names of more people occupying leading positions in the iron and steel industry. I was reluctant to enter into this aspect of the question, but as the matter has been raised I think the House and the country are entitled to know the facts. I was anxious, as were the Government, to have some leaders of the industry serving on the Corporation. I therefore invited their spokesmen to submit to me the names of experienced men who would be acceptable to their fellow industrialists for inclusion in the Corporation. However, the Executive Committee of the Steel Federation decided that such a list should not be submitted to me on the grounds that in their opinion the Government had no mandate to carry out the Iron and Steel Act. They warned me, at the same time, that the Corpora- 1835 tion, deprived of such people, would be unable successfully to plan the steel industry.
Further, I was informed that every effort would be made to dissuade any important man I might approach from serving on the Corporation. In short—
§ Mr. Strauss
Most of this has come out in public pronouncements by Sir Ellis Hunter and others. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] If there is anything which I have mentioned which has not come out, they are in the records of the conversations between myself and the members of the Steel Federation, and, with their permission, I will willingly publish them.
In short, these people decided to threaten, and indeed they did carry out, a political strike. I do not know whether the Conservatives endorse their action. If they do, they have no right to complain to me that these people are not serving on the Corporation. They must complain to the political leaders of the Federation. Hon. Members have probably read the statement made by the director of Hadfield's recently, in which he said that there was a gentleman's agreement throughout firms in the industry not to serve on the Corporation.
I hope that the House will note that this is not a question of a number of people individually and independently coming to a decision that they do not want to serve on the Corporation. This is concerted action by a number of people for the specific purpose of sabotaging an Act of Parliament. It seems to me, and I think it will seem to many people inside and outside the House, that such action is so irresponsible and so
|Division No. 64.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Baldock, J. M.||Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Texteth)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Baldwin, A. E||Birch, Nigel|
|Amery, J. (Preston, N.)||Banks, Col. C||Bishop, F. P|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Baxter, A. B.||Black, C. W.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Boles, Lt.-Col D C (Wells)|
|Ashton. H (Chelmsford)||Bell, R. M.||Boothby, R.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R (Blackburn, W.)||Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston)||Bossom, A. C|
|Astor, Hon M||Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport)||Bowen, R.|
|Baker, P.||Bennett, W. G. (Woodside)||Bower, N.|
§ shocking that it deprives those who have taken it of any right to own and control this great industry.
§ Fortunately, there are many people in the industry who, I am certain, do not take the same view as some political leaders. The great majority, I am sure, do not. Fortunately, I have been able to find members for the Corporation—in spite of the sneers which have been made—first-class people of outstanding ability, who are fully competent to do the job with which they have been entrusted.
§ This Act was passed by the last Parliament, and twice a Government has been elected pledged to this Measure. We are now told we must win yet another election before we implement it. What do hon. Gentlemen think this Act is? A challenge cup to be retained by the victor after winning it three times? We believe, as we have declared to the country in two elections, that this Measure is essential in peace-time to maintain full employment and, in wartime, to provide adequate defence for our country. We are determined, because we believe that it is essential to remove uncertainty, to implement this Act as soon as possible.
§ The question we have to settle tonight is not whether this Act is good or bad—that question has been settled already—or whether it is right or wrong. We believe that it is right and that it is more urgent today than ever before. We ask the House to say that it must now be implemented, and to vote down the Tory Motion.
That this House regrets the decision of His, Majesty's Government to bring the Steel Nationalisation Act into immediate operation during this period of tension and danger thus needlessly dividing the nation on Party political issues and disturbing the smooth and efficient working of an industry vital to our defence programme.
§ The House divided: Ayes. 300; Noes, 306.1841
|Division No. 64.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Baldock, J. M.||Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Texteth)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Baldwin, A. E||Birch, Nigel|
|Amery, J. (Preston, N.)||Banks, Col. C||Bishop, F. P|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Baxter, A. B.||Black, C. W.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Boles, Lt.-Col D C (Wells)|
|Ashton. H (Chelmsford)||Bell, R. M.||Boothby, R.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R (Blackburn, W.)||Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston)||Bossom, A. C|
|Astor, Hon M||Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport)||Bowen, R.|
|Baker, P.||Bennett, W. G. (Woodside)||Bower, N.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Headlam, Lieut.-Col Rt. Hon. Sir C||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Bracken, Rt Hon Brendan||Heald, L. F.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Braine, B||Heath, Edward||Nabarro, G|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Nicholls, H|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W||Nicholson, G.|
|Brooke, H. (Hampstead)||Higgs, J. M. C||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Browne, J. N. (Govan)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Noble, Comdr. A. H P|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Hill, Dr C. (Luton)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nutting, Anthony|
|Bullus, Wing-Commander E. E||Hirst, Geoffrey||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Burden, Squadron-Leader F. A.||Hollis, M. C.||Odey, G. W.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'Id'n)||Hope, Lord J.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D|
|Carr, L. R. (Mitcham)||Hopkinson, H. L. D'A.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss P||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Channon, H.||Horsbrugh, Miss F.||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Howard, G. R. (St. Ives)||Osborne, C.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O|
|Clarke, Brig, T. H. (Portsmouth, W.)||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Perkins, W. R. D|
|Clyde, J. L.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Peto, Brig, C. H M|
|Colegate, A.||Hudson, W. R A (Hull, N.)||Pickthorn, K.|
|Conant, Maj R. J. E||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.)||Hurd, A. R.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Prescott, Stanley|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne)||Hyde, H. M.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hylton-Foster, H. B.||Profumo, J. D|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon H. F C||Jeffreys, General Sir G||Raikes, H. V|
|Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R.||Jennings, R.||Rayner, Brig. R|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O E||Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown)||Redmayne, M.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Remnant, Hon. P|
|Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip—Northwood)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Crowder, Capt. John F E. (Finchley)||Kaberry, D.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Cundiff, F. W.||Keeling, E. H||Roberts, P. G. (Heeley)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness)|
|Darling, Sir W. Y. (Edinburgh, S.)||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W H||Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lambert, Hon. G.||Robson-Brown, W. (Esher)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Lancaster, Col. C. G||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Langford-Holt, J.||Roper, Sir H.|
|de Chair, S||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|De la Bere, R.||Leather, E. H. C.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Russell, R. S.|
|Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D||Lennox-Boyd, A. T||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D|
|Donner, P. W.||Lindsay, Martin||Sandys, Rt. Hon D|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M.||Linstead, H. N.||Savory, Prof. D. L|
|Drayson, G. B.||Llewellyn, D.||Scott, Donald|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)||Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)|
|Duthie W. S.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Smithers, Peter H. B. (Winchester)|
|Eccles, D. M.||Longden, G. J. M. (Herts. S. W.)||Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington)|
|Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Low, A. R. W.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.)||Snadden, W. McN|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Fort, R.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W)|
|Foster, J. G.||McAdden, S. J.||Spens Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone)||McCallum, Maj. D.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. R. (N. Fylde)|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Stevens, G. P.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Macdonald, A. J. F. (Roxburgh)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Gage, C. H.||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||McKibbin, A.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Storey, S.|
|Gammans, L. D.||Maclay, Hon. J. S||Strauss, Henry (Norwich. S.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)||Maclean, F. H. R.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|MacLeod, lain (Enfield, W.)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Gates, Maj. E. E||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Summers, G. S|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd||MacManaway, Rev. J. G.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Glyn, Sir R.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Granville, E. (Eye)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Teeling, William|
|Gridley, Sir A.||Manningham-Bullar, R. E||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Grimond, J||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thompson, K. P. (Walton)|
|Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)||Marples, A. E.||Thompson R H M (Croyden W.)|
|Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Marshall, D (Bodmin)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S.)||Thorp, Brigadier R. A|
|Maude, J. C. (Exeter)||Tilney, John|
|Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Maudling, R.||Touche, G. C.|
|Harris, R. R. (Heston)||Medlicott, Brigadier F||Turton, R. H.|
|Harvey, Air-Codre. A V. (Macclesfield)||Mellor, Sir J.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Molson, A H. E.||Vane, W. M. F|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir G. S.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K|
|Hay, John||Morris, R. Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Vosper, D F|
|Head, Brig, A. H,||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Wade, D. W.|
|Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Wakefield, Sir W. W (St Marylebone)||Wheatley, Maior M J (Poole)||Winterton, Rt Hon Earl|
|Walker-Smith, D. C.||White, [...] Baker (Canterbery)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Ward, Hon. G R (Worcester)||Williams, C. (Torquay)||York, C.|
|Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Waterhouse, Capt. C.||Williams, Sir H G (Croydon. E.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Watkinson, H.||Wills, G||Mr. Drewe and Brigadier Mackeson.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Kenyon, C.|
|Adams, Richard||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N (Caerphilly)||Key, Rt. Hon C. W|
|Albu, A. H.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||King, H. M.|
|Allen, A C. (Bosworth)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W)||Kinghorn, Sqn-Ldr E|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Kinley, J|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Kirkwood, Rt. Hon D|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Ewart, R.||Lang, Rev. G|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon C. R.||Fairhurst, F||Lee, F. (Newton)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Fernyhough, E.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)|
|Ayles, W. H||Field, Capt. W. J||Lever. L M (Ardwick)|
|Bacon, Miss A||Lever, N H (Cheetham)|
|Baird, J.||Finch, H. J.||Lewis, A W. J (West Ham, N.)|
|Balfour, A.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington. E.)||Lewis, J. (Bolton, W)|
|Barnes, Rt Hon. A. J||Foot, M. M.|
|Bartley, P||Forman, J. C||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Bellenger, Rt Hon F. J.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M|
|Benson, G.||Freeman, J. (Watford)||Logan, D. G.|
|Beswick, F||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Longden, F. (Small Heath)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A (Ebbw Vale.)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon H. T N||McAllister, G|
|Bing, G. H. C||Ganley, Mrs. C. S||MacColl, J. E.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Gibson, C. W||McGhee, H G|
|Blyton, W. R||Gilzean, A||McGovern, J|
|Boardman, H||Glanville, J. E (Consett)||McInnes, J.|
|Booth, A.||Gooch, E. G||Mack, J. D.|
|Bottomley, A. G||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P C||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Bowden, H W||Greenwood, Anthony W. J. (Rossendale)||Mackay, R W G (Reading, N.)|
|Bowles, F. G (Nuneaton)||Greenwood, Rt Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)||McLeavy, F.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E M||Grenfell, D. R||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Brockway, A Fenner||Grey, C F.||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H|
|Brook, D (Halifax)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Broughton. Dr. A D. D.||Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Gunter, R. J||Mallalieu, J. P W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Haire, John E (Wyeombe)||Mann, Mrs J|
|Burke, W. A.||Hale, J. (Rochdale)||Manuel, A. C|
|Burton, Miss E.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)||Mathers, Rt Hon George|
|Callaghan, James||Hall, Rt. Hn. W. Glenvil (Como V'lf'y)||Mellish, R J.|
|Carmichael, James||Hamilton, W. W||Messer, F|
|Castle, Mrs. B A||Hannan, W.||Middleton, Mrs. L|
|Champion, A. J||Hardy, E. A.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Hargreaves, A.||Mitchison, G. R|
|Clunie, J.||Harrison, J.||Moeran, E. W|
|Cocks, F. S||Hardman, D. R||Monslow, W|
|Coldrick, W||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Moody, A S|
|Collick, P||Hayman, F. H.||Morgan, Dr. H. B|
|Collindridge, F||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A (Rowley Regis)||Morley, R.|
|Cook, T. F.||Herbison, Miss M.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Cooper, G. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Cooper, J. (Deptford)||Hobson, C. R.||Mort, D. L|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham)||Holman, P.||Moyle, A.|
|Cove, W. G.||Holmes, H. E. (Homsworth)||Mulley, F W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Houghton, Douglas||Murray, J. D|
|Crawley, A.||Hoy, J.||Nelly, W|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S||Hubbard, T.||Meal, H|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P J|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||O'Brien, T.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oldfield, W. H|
|Daines, P.||Hughes, Moelwyn (Islington, N.)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Dallon, Rt. Hon. H||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Orbach, M.|
|Darling, G. (Hillsboro')||Hynd, J. S (Altercliffe)||Padley, W. E|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Paget, R. T.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon G A||Paling Will T (Dewsbury)|
|Davies, R J. (Weslhoughton)||Jarmer, B.||Pannell, T. C.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jay, D. P. T.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Jeger, G. (Goole)||Parker, J.|
|Deer, G.||Jeger, Dr. S W (St Pancras. S)||Paton, J.|
|Delargy, H. J||Jenkins, R H||Pearson, A.|
|Diamond, J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Peart, T. F.|
|Dodds, N. N||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Poole, Geoil|
|Donnelly, D.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Popplewell, E.|
|Dugdate, Rt Hon J. (W Bromwich||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S)||Porter, G.|
|Dye, S.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Ede. Rt. Ho J. C||Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)||Proctor, W. T|
|Edelman, M.||Keenan, W.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Pursey, Comdr. H,||Sparks, J. A.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Rankin, J.||Steele, T.||West, D. G.|
|Rees, Mrs. D.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gn, E.)|
|Reeves, J.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.||White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)|
|Reid, T. (Swindon)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J||White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E)|
|Reid, W. (Camlachie)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G R. (Vauxhall)||Wigg, George|
|Rhodes, H.||Stross, Dr. B||Wilcock, Group-Capt C A. B|
|Richards, R.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith||Wilkes, L.|
|Roberts, A.||Sylvester, G. O.||Wilkins, W. A|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Thomas, D. E. (Abardare)||Willey, D. G. (Cleveland)|
|Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T (Don Valley)|
|Royle, C.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Shackleton, E. A. A.||Thurtle, Ernest||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Timmons, J.||Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)|
|Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon G||Winterbottom, R. E (Brightside)|
|Shurmer, P. L. E.||Tomney, F.||Wise, Major F J|
|Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Turner-Samuels, M||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Usborne, Henry||Woods, Rev. G S|
|Simmons, C. J.||Vernon, Maj. W F||Wyatt, W. L|
|Slater, J.||Viant, S. P||Yates, V. F.|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wallace, H. W||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S)||Warkins, T. E.|
|Snow, J. W.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Weitzman, D.||Mr. William Whiteley and Mr. R. J. Taylor.|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir F||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
Question put, and agreed to.