There is also the question of how to distribute available supplies of steel in the best interests of the national economy. The Corporation is not responsible for supplies. Since the war the Government have been helping industry to obtain supplies—I had to answer a Question about it only this afternoon. That help will continue.
As for distribution, it is, of course, not the function of the Corporation to distribute steel to industry. Where necessary, distribution must be regulated by an allocation system. The distribution of sheet steel and tin plate has been controlled for a long time. General steel and alloy steel were freed from control in the middle of 1950. However, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer informed the House last June that, in view of the deterioration of the supply position, it would be necessary to re-impose control. A stop-gap priority system was introduced as the quickest way of dealing with the immediate situation. Subsequently, the late Government announced that they would introduce a full allocation scheme.
In the last week we have carefully reviewed the position and have decided that this allocation scheme, which had not yet come into operation, should go ahead and should include both general steel and alloy steel. The scheme will be similar to that which was in operation before. The necessary statutory order will be issued as soon as possible—in about a week or 10 days—and the scheme itself will take effect from 4th February, which I am advised is the earliest it can be brought into operation.
I have spoken so far about various specific aspects of this problem. I should like now to say a word about the broad objective which we hope to achieve through this Bill. We recognise fully that any scheme which may be adopted for the steel industry must, if it is to succeed, give confidence that it is going to be lasting. We have only got to nationalise, de-nationalise and re-nationalise an industry often enough, and there will be very little of it left. Somehow we have got to find a way of lifting steel out of the arena of political controversy. That is not going to be done by leaving the industry nationalised, any more than by making it completely independent.