Clause 3. — [General Duty of the Corporation.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Iron and Steel Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1949.

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Photo of Mr Edgar Granville Mr Edgar Granville , Eye 12:00 am, 25th July 1949

I have listened to most of the Minister's explanations and his replies to the various new Clauses and Amendments: and I was frankly very surprised at the lack of reality on the part of the right hon. Gentleman in not accepting this Amendment, which was moved by the Liberal peers in another place. I am not sure whether the reply of the right hon. Gentleman was prepared in his own Department, or whether it was prepared in the Treasury, but I should have thought that his refusal to accept the Amendment was purely academic. If we are about to face an economic crisis or blizzard in this country, as had been referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, I cannot imagine that the Chancellor of the Exchequer—in an industry which will have the power of life or death over not only our internal production and manufacture of engineering industries, but in the majority of the export trades—will allow the Minister to leave with the Corporation absolute and complete control over the iron and steel industry in the six, nine, or 12 vital months ahead. I think the reply of the right hon. Gentleman is academic, and I cannot see that the Chancellor will do anything other than say that absolute power must be retained by the Minister, and must not be handed to the Corporation to begin the gigantic experiment of how this is to be carried out in the terms of the Bill.

As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) said, there is nothing extremely difficult about carrying out the suggestion in this Amendment. There is a great deal of experience available in the ordinary technique of holding companies taking over and consolidating, and so on. I should have thought that through the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan), and the Iron and Steel Federation, and with the tremendous control which the Minister and his Department had over this industry during the war, all the taxation and financial information required was available. Surely, as has been said, this would have been a unique opportunity, in this experimental process of nationalising industries, to prepare a scheme before vesting date, benefiting by trial and error, so that the House and the Minister might keep the absolute control of this vital industry during the economic crisis which lies ahead.

I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to change his attitude. So far, I do not think he has accepted one Amendment. I appeal to him to retain the control which the march of events will force him to retain.