§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
My Lords, it falls to me this afternoon to move the Second Reading of the Iron and Steel Bill. I cannot, I imagine, hope that this is likely to be an entirely uncontroversial measure. I shall no doubt be told by one or other speaker on the opposite Benches how wicked it is for any Government to undo their predecessors' work. That, my Lords, is an argument that we have already frequently heard since the present Government came into office, and it has, I can fully appreciate, considerable merit for the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong. For under that thesis, as it is expounded, 354 it is apparently perfectly legitimate for them to make whatever changes they like in our social and economic system, however fan-reaching these changes may be, but it is morally wrong for us, when the country entrusts us with the reins of power, to attempt to undo them. That is one-way traffic, with a vengeance. And it must, I should have thought, lead ultimately to the complete socialisation of this country. That, presumably, is what noble Lords opposite would like; but I think it is fair to comment that if the country also had wanted that, it would not have returned us to power. The fact that it has returned us, I suggest, is a sign that it does not want it.
At the same time, I will certainly agree so far with noble Lords opposite as to say that violent fluctuations between unrestricted private enterprise and totalitarian Socialism are not likely to be to the advantage either of industry or of the country. Her Majesty's Government recognise that fact, and they are therefore not by this Bill proposing the return of the industry to unrestricted private enterprise. What we have tried to do is to find some middle line between the opposing views—what I think the Minister of Supply on the Second Reading of this Bill in another place called a "commonsense solution." That, I believe personally, is right; for in politics—as we all know if we have any experience of them—one can never, even if one wants to, put the clock right hack where it was before. In any case, to try to do so is not, I should have thought, compatible with an evolutionary society, and that we are an evolutionary society is, I think, common ground and, an the same time, our proudest boast.
It is perfectly true that we, on this side of the House, believe in private enterprise and in the encouragement of individual incentive. We do not share the view which was once expressed by one of the leading members of the Labour Party that individual incentive is "an appeal to the selfish motive." We do not share that view. Nor, I imagine, is there any large body of opinion in this country that does entirely share that view, at any rate when applied to their own lives. I suspect that even some noble Lords on the other side of the He use have at one time or another felt the spur of individual incentive. That is what at has brought them to the top of their professions. Without 355 that spur this country would be a very "poor" place indeed, in every meaning of that adjective.
For that reason, Her Majesty's Government have decided to return the industry to private hands—under which, after all, it became great—so that individual initiative can have fuller play. But they believe, equally, that it is to the interest of the community to harmonise individual initiative and the national interest, both by co-operation between privately-owned companies and also, as your Lordships know, by a public supervisory Board, composed of members representative of management, the employees and the consumers, with the addition of some members of an independent character. That is an example of that evolution which first materialised, as your Lordships know, in the machinery of the Iron and Steel Board, established by the late Government and operated by them between 1946 and 1949.
If I may say so with real deference, had the late Government continued on the lines on which they started, we might well by now have achieved an agreed solution of this very difficult problem. For the machinery of that Board, it is, I think, common ground to say, proved extremely successful in combining private enterprise with public supervision. It was during, that period that private enterprise laid the foundation of the expansion which is taking place to-day. It has been claimed, I understand, by some spokesmen of the Party opposite, that this expansion was the result of nationalisation. I hope that they will not make that claim here this afternoon. No doubt, any case can be bolstered up by a trained advocate, by means of a judicious manipulation of figures. I myself could claim, if I wished, that nationalisation had demonstrably failed merely because production seriously declined, as we all know it did, in 1951. But I do not propose to use that argument, because any of us who have studied this question at all know that the decline in that particular year was largely due to a shortage of raw materials.
Equally, it would I think be entirely bogus—if I may use such an epithet—for noble Lords opposite to argue that nationalisation had been proved a success merely because production recovered in 1952 to 16.4 million tons of ingot steel 356 and is likely to be higher yet this year, reaching a total of 17.5 million tons. Noble Lords must know perfectly well, if they have any experience of the subject—and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Wilmot, and others have—that this gratifying increase is largely—I should say mainly—due to capital expansion schemes which were put in hand by the industry under private ownership in the years immediately after the war, before nationalisation became an accomplished fact. It was the new blast furnaces which were planned at that time which increased pig iron production from 9.633 million tons in 1950 to an expected total of over 11 million tons in 1953. Further, raw materials were secured under the industry's own arrangement to expand home ore production and increase supplies of imported ore. But all the admirable arrangements which have produced this most desirable result were made, I would emphasise, not by the Iron and Steel Corporation but by the industry itself; and increased supplies of scrap were secured through organisations built up by the industry in collaboration with scrap merchants' organisations.
I am not going to argue to-day that nationalisation has already wrecked the iron and steel industry; that, clearly, is not true. During the period that has elapsed between the passing of the late Government's Act and now, individual iron and steel companies—fortunately, as we think—have remained separate entities, with their own local responsibility; and much of the old spirit which existed before nationalisation—at any rate according to the information which I have received—still obtains to-day. Moreover, of course, the very efficient central services which the industry itself built up also continued by agreement with the Iron and Steel Corporation.
But that situation, however happy it may be, is one which I am quite certain it will be agreed could not permanently continue. Indeed, the Corporation was constrained—or, if it had continued, would have been constrained—by its obligations under the 1949 Act to assume ever-increasing control of the companies. It was bound to do this; and as a result, quite inevitably, there would have been more and more centralisation, more interference in the planning of finance, of production, of the supply of raw 357 materials, and in the day-to-day work of the individual companies. As a result, the individual initiative of these companies to which I have referred would have been gradually sapped by this increase in centralised control. All the dangers which flow from monopoly—and I would point out that while monopoly can be private, it can equally be public—would have made themselves gradually felt. Either the removal of healthy competition would have led to a slackening off of effort, which would have been utterly disastrous to us in our present situation, or, even if that did not happen, the consciousness of those engaged in these industries that they were not risking their own money would inevitably, whatever they intended, have led to irresponsibility and to that type of extravagance which I am sorry to say has made itself felt in so many other nationalised industries in the past.
Moreover, apart altogether from these general perils which are inherent in nationalisation, there are for the iron and steel industry, I submit, special dangers flowing from the policy of the late Government. As your Lordships know, the effect of the existing Act, the Act of 1949, was to divide the industry into two parts—that owned publicly and that owned privately. The arbitrary and illogical nature of this division was perhaps to some extent inevitable in an industry which has so many ramifications as the iron and steel industry, especially as this division was based on ownership and not, as it ought to have been, on the nature of the work being done. But the result, and a very bad one for the industry, was that under the Act part of it came under the control of the new Iron and Steel Corporation and part did not. Nor in this anomalous situation has there been any serious attempt to provide common services for the whole of the industry. Indeed, the Corporation—and I am not trying to say that they have done poorly in the matter—since they were owners of only a part of the industry, were not in a position to do this. The situation was saved only by the realism of the Corporation, who came voluntarily to an agreement with the Iron and Steel Federation, under which the latter continued their existing activities of providing services for both the publicly- and the privately-owned concerns. But that 358 was a position which clearly could not continue permanently in a predominantly nationalised industry. Finally, the Act created a monopoly—and a monopoly to which the Government's own Monopolies Act did not apply.
Such, in our view, were the disadvantages of the Act which is at present on the Statute Book, however well intentioned it may have been. Her Majesty's Government believe that those errors are mistakes which can be put right by the provisions of the present Bill—which I should now like to expound very briefly to your Lordships. I will do this as shortly as I can, for I know that there are many other noble Lords who wish to speak. Nevertheless, the fact that the Bill has already beer discussed and ventilated in another place does not, in my view, relieve the Government of the responsibility of saying something about the provisions here also.
I begin by saying that Part I of the Bill provides for the repeal of the Iron and Steel Act of 1949 on a day to be appointed by the Minister, and for the transfer of all the assets and liabilities of the Iron and Steel Corporation, with the exception of rights and liabilities in respect of Iron and steel Stock, to a new Holding and Realisation Agency to be set up for the purpose of restoring iron and steel undertakings to private ownership. The Corporation will cease to exist as soon as they have presented their final accounts to the Minister—and this, it is expected, as your Lordships know, will be accomplished within a month of the appointed day.
Part II of the Bill covers the first leg, if I may so call it, of the Government's policy for the iron and steel industry, namely the creation of a new supervisory body to cover the whole industry; and I would emphasise the word "whole." It provides for the setting up of an Iron and Steel Board and lays down the qualifications for membership of the Board. The intention is that members will be drawn from iron and steel producers, the consumers and the trade unions, with an independent chairman and a number of independent members. The Board's primary duty will be to exercise a general supervision over the iron and steel industry, including companies owned for the time being by the Holding and Realisation Agency to which I have 359 already referred. Your Lordships will see that the operations covered by the term "iron and steel industry" are defined in the Third Schedule to the Bill. Broadly, they include all processes using the main materials of steel making—that is, pig-iron and ferrous scrap, and all processes which convert these materials into the raw materials for engineering and other industries.
The Board's powers of supervision are widely drawn. It has particularly to keep under review productive capacity; the supply and distribution of raw materials and fuel; prices; the arrangements for the promotion of research, training and education; the safety, health and welfare of employees in the industry; and joint consultation. In addition to these general duties of supervision, the Board is given direct powers at strategic points, in particular in the three vital matters of development, prices and raw materials. Accordingly, the Bill provides that the Board shall take steps to secure the co-operation of the industry in the adequate provision and use of production facilities in Great Britain, and any investment overseas that may be necessary to safeguard supplies of iron ore. Where, for one reason or another, it is unable to persuade the industry to undertake developments which are considered necessary—and experience since 1939 suggests that such circumstances are not very likely to arise—the Board may report to the Minister, who is given power, on receiving such a report, to finance and undertake the development himself.
The Board is also empowered—again often consultation—to require its consent to be obtained to schemes of major capital development which are likely to affect the efficiency and the balance of the industry in the country. But it is quite clearly laid down that it can refuse a proposal only if it is likely seriously to prejudice the efficient and economic development of production facilities. For the Government, believing as they do in the advantages of private enterprise, feel that it is a serious matter to refuse to allow a company to spend its own money in the way it thinks best. For this same reason provision is also made for an appeal to the Minister against a veto by the Board.
Another provision enables the Board to determine maximum prices to be charged, 360 in the United Kingdom, for iron and steel products. Such a provision, it is felt, may be necessary to enable the Board to ensure that the price structure of the industry is sound and consistent with its general policy and is such as to encourage the most efficient and economic, as well as adequate and competitive, production. It will also enable the Board to protect the consumer should there be a case where competition amongst producers is inadequate to secure a fair and reasonable price. In another clause, the Board is authorised to arrange for the importation of raw materials and finished steel, in case industry itself should fail to make adequate arrangements—although I would say again that our experiences in recent years suggest that there is no reason to suppose that the Board will, in practice, have to exercise this power. It is a reserve power for use in case of emergency. Your Lordships will, indeed, have noticed that throughout Part II of the Act—I should say "of the Bill": I do not wish to be premature—emphasis is placed on the need for full consultation between the Board and both sides of industry. This is in line with the Government's view that private enterprise should be given full play, subject to such guidance as is necessary in the public interest.
In a word, the Board is there only to guard public interests and to guide private interests. It is the Government's hope and belief that it should be able to do this more by its prestige and influence than by the use of its direct powers and they are confident that the Board will receive the fullest support and cooperation from the iron and steel industry itself. I ought perhaps to mention here that one of the means by which the Board will be able to make its influence felt is through the publicity which will be given to the annual report which it is required to prepare for submission to Parliament. Noble Lords may also note, from the White Paper on Iron and Steel policy, that the Government will consult the Board when any question arises of modifying the import duties on iron and steel.
But however well the supervision of the iron and steel industry may operate, we recognise that there are bound to arise some matters of wider national interest on which the Government of the 361 day may wish to intervene. Accordingly the Bill gives reserve powers to the Government on the important matters of development, price and raw materials. I have already referred to the Minister's power to finance and undertake development where the Board considers it necessary in the interests of efficient economic and adequate production. He is also empowered, after consultation with the Board, to undertake development or to keep works in being on his own initiative, where he is satisfied that it is in the interests of the country to do so. There may, for example, be strategic reasons at one time or another for doing so.
There is once more a provision that the Minister may direct the Board to fix the maximum price of any iron and steel product where this is necessary in the national interest and is consistent with efficient and adequate production. Finally, the Minister is empowered to direct the Board to import finished steel where, after consultation with the Board and with industry, he considers that the supply of this product is, or is likely soon to be, inadequate. These reserve powers of the Minister will in themselves afford a valuable opportunity of Parliamentary scrutiny, which I think it is common ground in all parts of the House should be stimulated where possible.
There are two further matters which perhaps I should mention before leaving this Part of the Bill. The first is the provision to ensure that the Board is kept in touch with, and consulted about, matters concerning the European Coal and Steel Community. This provision will, I am sure, commend itself to all your Lordships, in whatever part of the House you sit. The second matter has been the subject of considerable discussion in another place and in the Press, and that is the position under the Bill of the iron and steel foundries. The Government consider that it would be quite illogical to exclude foundries from the supervision of the Iron and Steel Board since they consume some 5½ million tons of pig-iron and scrap a year—about a quarter of the total supply. The foundries, as is well-known, are, in the main small although numerous. The large numbers ought to ensure that competition within this section of the industry, and, indeed, between it and other in- 362 dustries, such as drop forging, can keep prices competitive; and the small size of the unit makes it very unlikely that the Board would wish to have schemes of development submitted to it for approval. In view, however, of the concern that has been expressed in another place, Her Majesty's Government have excluded foundry products from the clause of the Bill dealing with the consent to the provision of production facilities; and they have specially limited the circumstances in which the maximum prices of castings and forgings can be fixed by the Board.
I should like now to turn for a few minutes to Part III of the Bill which deals with what I may call the other leg of Government Policy, that is, the restoration of nationalised companies to private ownership. The disposal of the shares in steel companies will be undertaken by the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency which is to be appointed by the Treasury. Your Lordships will have noted that this Part of the Bill gives the utmost flexibility. This is intentional because the Government are determined to get an adequate price for these shares and if, indeed—I can say this quite clearly and frankly to your Lordships—satisfactory offers are not forthcoming, the securities will not be sold. There is, therefore, no obligation upon the Agency to effect such sales within a given period of time—that is the elasticity to which I referred. The Agency will be under the general control and direction of the Treasury, who in turn will be answerable to Parliament.
It is not our intention that the Agency should interfere in the day-to-day management of the subsidiary companies, but it will be responsible for promoting efficient direction, primarily through its power of appointing the boards of directors, and it will have power to merge or regroup Agency companies where this is felt to be necessary. In order to ensure, however, that nothing shall be done which is likely seriously to prejudice the efficient economic and adequate supply of steel and iron products the Agency is required to consult the Board before proceeding with the grouping or regrouping of the undertakings of an) subsidiaries of the Agency. If the Board advise against the Agency's proposal, it cannot be proceeded with under this Bill unless the Treasury 363 direct the Agency to do so; the Treasury, in turn, can give such a direction only after they have laid a minute before Parliament and two sitting weeks have elapsed since the minute was laid.
The provisions of this Part of the Bill may seem complicated to those of your Lordships who, like myself, I must confess, have no particular claim to a knowledge of accountancy; but I am told by the experts that they will enable effect to be given to the most business-like arrangement for disposing of the assets; for providing for the continued finance of development in the industry in the interim; and for winding up the affairs of the present Corporation. I would emphasise once again the Government's determination to get an adequate price for these assets and to dispose of them in such a manner as to avoid any interruption in the steady expansion of iron and steel output.
My Lords, such is the nature of the Bill which it is my agreeable duty to recommend to the House to-day. I recognise entirely that it will not satisfy doctrinaire extremists at either end of the Parliamentary scale—neither those who approve only of free enterprise without any restraint whatsoever, nor those who believe that no industry can flourish unless it is completely socialised, both in its ownership and its administration. It will not satisfy either of those two extreme groups. No doubt those two schools of thought, and especially perhaps the latter, are well represented in both Houses of Parliament. But there is one thing of which I personally am quite certain—they are neither of them characteristic of the British people as a whole.
It has often been said in this House, even since I have been here, that the British are not a nation either of doctrinaires or extremists; they are, above all, practical and objective. They know perfectly well that in the modern, highly integrated world, liberty cannot be entirely unrestrained; and equally, they do not believe for one moment that all the problems in an industry can be solved by handing over the shares to some public body. What they want, I am certain, is the largest measure of individual liberty that is compatible with the overriding needs of the community, and that is 364 what, in the industrial sphere, this Bill seeks to provide. It is for that reason that I commend it with confidence for the consideration and, I hope, the approval of this House. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ 3.12 p.m.
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
My Lords, I am sure you will have shared with me my satisfaction that the noble Marquess, the Lord President of the Council, is in charge of this Bill to-day, for it is a complicated and peculiar measure and we are greatly at advantage in having his clarity of mind and charm of exposition to help us on our way. The Government are indeed especially fortunate, for it does call for very particular gifts to commend this remarkable Bill to an analytical and critical Assembly such as this. When the noble Marquess described the ideal, average, reasonable man, as being neither entirely prejudiced in favour of bureaucratic all-pervading Socialism nor completely favourable to unrestricted private enterprise, he was describing in flattering terms my own point of view.
Because the Iron and Steel Act, 1949, which this very cumbersome Bill is going to repeal and which was passed after so much deliberation, inquiry, consideration and debate, established a "middle of the road" course, and because it was neither unrestricted private enterprise nor Whitehall bureaucratic Socialism, many of us supported it. When we examine this present Bill and the state of affairs which will obtain if and when it has been passed, I think we shall be grievously worried as to whether we have got an improvement. I doubt very much whether at this time of day, if they had not committed themselves hastily to political pledges which many must now deeply regret, the Government would have proceeded with this Bill at all, because it is conceived in political prejudice and it is, if ever a Bill was, dictated by blind adherence to dogma. Here is a doctrinaire measure designed merely to satisfy a political doctrine—it fulfils no other purpose.
The iron and steel industry in this country in present circumstances cannot be a truly competitive private industry. I believe in private enterprise. I believe that private enterprise has conferred great 365 boons upon the community, and that by private enterprise we have much yet to do and far yet to go. But there are some special services, some vital undertakings, which are so woven into the fabric of our life, which comprise so important a part of everybody else's business and which are, as in this case, so essential to our trade and commerce in peace and to our defence and survival in time of war, that they cannot be left to competitive private enterprise. To impose these obligations upon boards of directors who, by the very nature of their office and the obligations of their articles, are required to serve the interests of particular groups of shareholders; to impose these national obligations, often charged with heavy financial commitments and responsibilities, upon groups,of company directors appointed and elected for entirely different purposes, is to make nonsense of phrases like "private enterprise" and all these doctrinaire words. What we have to do, I suggest, is to find a way of operating this industry which will give us the highest measure of competitive efficiency in the markets of the world, which will supply the raw materials to other industries in the most efficient manner, in adequate quantity and quality at the lowest possible price, which will give a good life to the people who work so hard in the industry—and it is a hard industry all the way through—and which will at the same time regard as a paramount obligation the national considerations upon which the very survival of our people depend.
It is my sincere belief that the original arrangement which was worked out for the transfer to public ownership of the essential iron and steel-making concerns in the 1949 Act, was the best way we have yet devised of securing the highest common factor of the somewhat conflicting obligations. It was a new form of public ownership. It was worked out especially for this quite unusual and unique industry. I am not ashamed of some responsibility for it myself. It was the very opposite of the centralised, bureaucratic, Whitehall-controlled undertaking which we used to think about as the only possible way of securing nationalisation. It left intact all the many companies which came under its purview. Their famous names, their world-wide reputations, the particular and 366 peculiar skills resident in their own staffs, their boards of directors, were not interfered with. I have been looking at the Report of the Iron and Steel Corporation which was presented last year. I see that as regards the 450 directors of the companies that were taken into ownership by the Corporation, there were only thirty-nine changes, so that there was continuity of management. Boards of directors continued to function with no more change in their daily work than if the shares in their companies had been sold by individuals to one another—a thing that is taking place on the Stock Exchange every day.
One of the advantages claimed for the 1949 Act was that it did, in fact, preserve all that was best in private enterprise, while relieving the boards of directors of those national financial obligations which it is no part of their business, and no part of the business of their shareholders, to undertake. That Act was passed, and this industry has bet operated under these new conditions now for over two years. I certainly do not claim that the record of the steel industry during these last two years is entirely, or chiefly, due to the circumstance of nationalisation—if that is what the Government call it; I much prefer to call it public ownership." But, surely, we had a right to expect that the noble Marquess, on behalf of the Government. would have produced some reason, would have pointed to some flaw in the functioning of this apparatus, which justifies this revolutionary, doctrinaire change; because this thing is working. During the last year production and profits have been rising. Consumers of the raw materials manufactured by this industry have every reason to approve of the present organisation, and one would have expected that there would have been marshalled some facts of failure, some flaws of organisation, something which would have justified once more throwing this industry into the melting pot—perhaps that worn-out metaphor is justified when talking about this particular industry—for into the melting pot it is,going.
What is going to happen from now on if this Bill is carried into law, at this time, when the overriding need of this industry and of all dependent upon it—and it makes the raw materials of more than half of our total export trade apart 367 from its own—is to have the means for a surge forward in capital development, which has lagged behind owing to the years of the war and preoccupation with armament requirements? Everything is uncertain. Nobody, in any of these companies, knows what is going to happen to them. They are to be handed over to this Agency which the noble Marquess said, I think, is the third leg, or the second leg of the Government's policy. In point of time, and it may be for a very long time, this is the only leg that will be walking. This is the receivership which is charged with the duty of selling-off all these assets to someone else. To whom? There are over ninety major producers of iron and steel. They employ hundreds of thousands of people. Upon their future the fate of whole cities and towns and districts depends.
It was alleged at the time when the transfers were made that the price paid in compensation was far too little, that the shareholders received far less than the real value of the undertakings. Well, that may be so; I am not going to argue about it now. But, at any rate, the amount paid out was over £250 million. Where are the buyers for £250 million worth of assets to-day? There is a provision in the Bill which must surely be a meaningless provision, and must have been known to be meaningless by those who drafted it, that the Board shall try to find, and give preference to, the original shareholders. Which of the original shareholders is coming into the market for these vast undertakings, many of which have been amalgamated and others of which will be amalgamated and made still larger before the sales take place? I should think there is only one possible class of buyer—the great investing corporations or the insurance companies. Is this private competitive enterprise? Why go to all this trouble, and cause all this upset and uncertainty, to transfer the holdings from a public agency to, say, a Prudential agency? What particular virtue, knowledge or experience have the staff of an insurance company which will enable them as owners to run such a concern as Guest Keen Baldwins better than the people who are owners to-day? Yet that is what this means. You can use the words "private enterprise," but if you mean 368 real, competitive, thrusting private enterprise in the steel industry, it will not come back. What we have here is a national industry performing a national function, and no amount of use of political slogans will change it.
What is going to happen when this Agency is established? It says in the White Paper that it will take years—yes, it actually says years, here in the White Paper—to sell off these assets. What is going to happen during all these years, vital, critical, years, not only for the iron and steel industry but for the future of Britain? What is going to happen to this most basic of all British industries? It is going to be in the hands of a receiver with the duty of selling it off as best he can. As to who will constitute this Agency, we are left in complete doubt. They are people who are going to be appointed by the Treasury. They are not even to be appointed by the Ministry of Supply, which has acquired great knowledge and experience of this industry. The Treasury is concerned purely with financial circumstances, yet, during all these years, it is this little body of Treasury appointees who are going to administer the steel industry in place of the Steel Corporation. It might go on for years and years and, in effect, the companies are in vicarious receivership, waiting for a buyer. What sort of circumstances are these for driving forward into a new world where we have to take our place and hold it? How long is it going on? For many years.
The noble Marquess made considerable point in his very able speech about the desirability of not having a split between the national sector and the private sector. Here is not a split, but a chasm, between those who have been sold to so-called private buyers and those who cannot find a buyer and remain nationalised. There is a split, if you like. Who is going to be sold first? Presumably, the most prosperous will be sold first; but the most prosperous undertakings in this set-up are by no means the most vital in the national interest. And it is those that will be left in the hands of the receiver, seeking and searching for a buyer; and through the long weary years the Treasury gentlemen will have to carry them on somehow. I do not think there will be many of your Lordships who will contradict me when 369 I say that this is an unheard of piece of commercial organisation, introduced with a frivolity and a complete lack of responsibility to satisfy doctrinaire politicians who gave hasty promises in the hope of attracting votes. It cannot he justified either on the facts of the industry's position or on the outlook for the future, so far as anybody can see.
Now we come to the regulatory and supervisory functions. What sort of supervisory functions are there? It seems to me that those who believe most in private enterprise can pick the biggest quarrel with this kind of supervision. It is control of a niggling, roving, negative kind, which does all sorts of harm and very little good. My right honourable friend in another place described this ramshackle vehicle as having been fitted with brakes but having no accelerator. It can stop things, but it cannot promote things. It can say, "No," but it cannot insist on, "Yes." It has all sorts of power to inquire and obtain information, but no kind of power to do anything with it. It has power to stop schemes of development which it does not like, but it has no power to promote development where within the industry itself that development is not forthcoming. So this remarkable carriage not only has brakes but no accelerator: it seems to me it has an exhaust pipe but very defective steering gear. In fact, it can do nothing to influence the real future of this industry. It can only make itself a nuisance and impose those kinds of control which are the most irritating and at the same time unproductive.
I will not detain your Lordships with further discussion about this industry. It has had considerable political uncertainty in recent years. In view of the loyal way in which the industry has carried out the Act of Parliament that was passed, after so much deliberation in two Parliaments, I should have thought it had earned a period of political quiescence, when it might concentrate on the business of bringing the industry fully up to date, and of making those changes to which attention is drawn in the most interesting Report of the Anglo-American Productivity Council, which says that the industry is too diverse, is badly sited arid has too many small capital units. That is the kind of treatment this industry wantsߞpolitical peace and every kind of help to go forward on its immense task. This 370 Bill can do nothing but bring the maximum amount of uncertainty, and the future remains obscure indeed.