Orders of the Day — Steel Industry and Road Haulage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th November 1951.

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Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park 12:00 am, 12th November 1951

One result of the rather exciting prelude to the speech made by the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown) is that I did have the pleasure of listening to him before making my speech. I commend that speech to the Minister of Supply for him to note that from a practical steel man the emphasis is on public control and not on private ownership, which is very different from the kind of nonsense we hear talked from the benches opposite by people who have no knowledge of the steel industry.

I should like to extend to the Minister of Supply the courtesy, which is traditional in regard to those who speak for the first time at the Government Despatch Box, of saying that we congratulate him on his appointment. While we shall attack him very hard in the days to come, we shall do so not in his personal capacity but in his official capacity as Minister of Supply. I should not like this occasion to pass without making that reference.

I have a very great sympathy with the Government in their desire to denationalise steel and road haulage. In the last week we have seen the election manifesto of hon. Gentlemen opposite torn to shreds and forcibly masticated by their own Front Bench spokesmen. We must therefore feel sympathy for them in their desire to cling to the remaining tattered shreds which are the subject of this Amendment. We are accustomed to seeing Conservative Party election manifestos repudiated in the course of time. I remember that the late Earl Baldwin even repudiated his own election address 12 months after it was issued.

But is it not without precedent to have the Prime Minister coming, on the first day of a new Parliament and, to use a metaphorical expression, taking down his trousers and asking the electors to chastise him for having obtained his seat under false pretences, and, at the same time, as saying that we have a situation of national emergency, announcing the closing down of Parliament. We do sympathise with hon. Gentlemen opposite in their desire to fulfil these remaining parts of their programme, but I appeal to the Government and to hon. Gentlemen opposite to drop voluntarily all talk of steel de-nationalisation and road haulage de-nationalisation, so that we can really believe that at last they are facing the realities of our economic situation.

I have the honour to sit for a constituency in the great steel city of Sheffield which is more linked up with the future of this industry than any other city. It has played a greater part than any other city in our reconstruction, and will now have to play its part in re-armament, if the programme is to be fulfilled. I should like to query the remarks made earlier in this debate by the hon. Member for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts). He said that steel was not an election issue in Sheffield. I say categorically that we have no need to make steel an election issue in Sheffield. It is a bread-and-butter issue. It is part of the daily lives, directly or indirectly, of my constituents. Since the Labour Government nationalised steel, anyone who voted Labour endorsed the nationalisation of steel. There was no need for us to make a song and dance about it. Indeed, the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings), on a previous occasion complimented us on the way we had done our job in Sheffield in putting the case for nationalisation.