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

I am grateful to the hon. Member for making that point, but what he forgets—the Opposition must remind him of it—is that we have been told absolutely nothing of what is to be put in the place of the present Iron and Steel Corporation. If there is a body of the kind which the hon. Member for Esher envisaged in his speech, that will make it a different matter, but the speech of the Minister of Supply gave us no indication. If the Minister of Supply can tell the House categorically that he will not put forward a scheme for the steel industry which does not have the backing of the trade unions concerned and the T.U.C., the Opposition will feel very much happier in their minds about the future of the industry when the Act comes into force.

The only point at issue in the debate is what will happen to the profits. The workers in the steel industry—hon. Members should make no mistake about this— are very much interested in what happens to profits, and to put back the old structure on the steel industry today will, to say the least of it, create very difficult and tense industrial relations.

A point of significance which has not been raised in the discussion is that the coal industry and the steel industry, often physically, and certainly in their community of interests, are very closely related. The only chance we have of overcoming our coal problems is through the efforts of the mineworkers. The mineworkers have very great apprehensions about the future of the National Coal Board and the structure of their nationalised industry, and they will be watching with very great care how the steel workers and the steel industry are treated by the Conservative Government. If right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench want to get more coal and satisfy the mineworkers, they can do it extremely well by denying any intentions of reversing the Iron and Steel Act.

My last point concerns the financial arrangements for the unscrambling of nationalisation. We do not know how it would be done. I agree that it is a little early yet to expect full details, but it has already been canvassed in the financial Press that the underwriting involved will be a gift to the City of about £10 million. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite who are sincere in their statements about the need to economise national funds to measure up the puny reductions in Ministers' salaries and use of cars against the gift, however they do the unscrambling, that this will ensure to the City.

The only justification I can see for that is that it may be the price that we have to pay—in which case if we are told that we shall treat it with more sympathy—for having the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) at the Exchequer instead of the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). If the price is that the City shall have the enormous underwriting profits resulting from the issue of shares, we ought to be told that that is what it is; but if the new Government really want to give a signal to the nation, as they so often say, and if they want to set fire to a beacon to show that they are really concerned about serving the nation, they can do it in no better way than by making a clear statement that they do not intend to proceed with the denationalisation of the steel and road transport industries.