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

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 William Williams Mr William Williams , Heston and Isleworth 12:00 am, 25th July 1949

Three main arguments have been used in the Debate. The first is that we ought not to experiment with a key industry, because we are in a time of economic crisis. It is clear that hon. Members opposite have quickly forgotten that we have been in a time of economic crisis ever since this Government came into power. [Laughter.] It is also clear from that interruption, that the Tories are being characteristically dishonest in attempting to father that crisis upon us. Before we came into power, a letter was written by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) to Mr. Morgenthau, Secretary to the United States Treasury, describing Britain as a bankrupt country. That was the inheritance that we received. I dare say that hon. Members opposite will sneer when I say that the way this Government have tackled that crisis and, in part, the Government's policy of nationalisation, have prevented the crisis breaking in tragedy about our heads.

We have heard spurious arguments about the results of nationalisation, particularly of coal. I was brought up in the mining valleys and I can say from my own experience that, so far from the Tories being in a position to make cheap sneers, if the coal mines had not been nationalised, we should not be having coal at £5 per ton, but hardly a ton of coal at all. That being so, I suggest that if hon. Members opposite are as anxious as they profess themselves to be, in particular when they are talking about reductions in Income Tax, to re-establish our economy they should give credit where credit is due. Credit is due to this Government for the way in which, by their policy, which has been consistent, faithful to their promises and wise, they have averted tragedy that has overwhelmed many other countries in Europe which have also received Marshall Aid. Italy, of course, is a striking example.

The other argument which has been used frequently is that after four years, this Government have no mandate to pursue promises and policies that they declared they would pursue when they were first elected. That comes strangely from the lips of people who belong to a party who, 10 years after their mandate had elapsed, when they had been defeated frequently at by-elections, were still maintaining that they had the right to govern, and to govern according to the decisions of the Government of that time.

So far from allowing ourselves to be misled, for instance, by an argument such as that of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. D. Eccles) that it is essential that the Government should govern with an eye not on their mandate but on changed circumstances, I would suggest that it is quite frankly impertinence for hon. Members opposite to arrogate to themselves the right to determine in what circumstances we should change our mandate. It is the Government who have to determine whether or not they are entitled to regard circumstances as so changed as to justify them in breaking their promises. We do not, as a practice, on this side of the House, break promises; we leave that to those specialists in government.