Clause 11. — (Transfer to Corporation of Securities of Scheduled Companies.)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th April 1949.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Fraser Mr Hugh Fraser , Stone 12:00 am, 28th April 1949

I want to take up one or two things which the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said. The hon. and learned Gentleman, alas, is not in his place, but during one of his frequent interruptions this afternoon he issued what I thought was a very clever challenge to this side, in saying that this was a purely political move on our part. Of course it is, because the Bill is a purely political move of the most disastrous sort. We sat in Committee for 36 days and we have seen throughout that there is no plan in the Minister's mind. There is no plan whatsoever except the plan which already exists—the plan put forward by the industry; and in no way is there any possibility of this Bill improving the state of the steel industry for many years to come, if at all. That is the first point. We on this side have seen that this is a purely political Measure.

The second point is that our political motive in moving the Amendment is this: we believe that when the 1945 Election was fought, this Bill was so dimly adum- brated in the political programme of the party opposite that the country needs to review now the whole matter, so that what is meant by this nationalisation Bill is made clear to all. What was meant in 1945 was far from clear. We now see the whole gamut and range of goods which the definition "the relevant portions of the steel industry" embraces.

Thirdly, we on this side seriously believe, from the history of this Bill, that a considerably longer period of time is needed. Let us look back on what has happened. The Minister talked about nine months or ten months being necessary. It almost reminds one of the scene not so long ago with the Ministry of Food when they did not know whether the time for gestation of a cow was nine or 11 months. Certainly, from our experience so far, the period of gestation for a Socialist Bill is about half a century. I should like to refer hon. Members opposite to the remarks of the late Minister of Fuel and Power, now Minister for War, who said: We have talked about these matters of nationalisation for a great many years but have never thought out in any detail what their full implications were. That has become clearer and clearer as we have got on with the Bill.

In 1945 we had this pretty little picture of nationalising the relevant sections of the iron and steel industry. In 1946 we had a Debate where the Government were so hardly beaten that even the "Tribune" had to come forward and suggest that the Government should cut their economic cackle and talk straighter Socialism. Then we came to 1947, when there was an economic crisis and, because of the foreign exchange position, the Bill was withdrawn. Incidentally, at that time, the Minister of Supply, who made such a hash of his first adumbrations, was fired. Then we came to 1948. A Bill was brought forward, such a weak and wretched Bill, as the Minister himself admitted; it was put up, had to be sent upstairs and came down completely revised by hon. Members on this side. The first two Clauses had been entirely altered and improved, and so forth and so on throughout the Bill. This Bill will now go to the House of Lords. It has already been—