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 Sir Spencer Summers Sir Spencer Summers , Aylesbury 12:00 am, 12th November 1951

There were plants which were compulsorily acquired by the Corporation which have saved the shareholders of those companies from an inevitable loss of part of their capital. It would be quite wrong for those plants to be sold back at the take-over price when it is known perfectly well that there is no long-term future for those plants. So that is another consideration that will have to be taken into account.

I hope that those who are willing to come back into the industry will have to pay for the shares that they will thus acquire a price which will enable the Corporation to write off the losses which no one else—[Interruption]—oh, yes, they will have to incur losses in winding up certain of the plants which are known to have no future and which should have already been closed. I hope, therefore, that the opportunity will be taken of pressing on with that policy before the re-sale is ultimately concluded.

There is a further point which I hope the Government will bear in mind. The industry will require substantial sums of additional capital, and it would be quite wrong to press on with the re-sale of the industry back to private enterprise so fast and under such pressure as would decrease the resources of fresh capital which the industry will require. In so far as it is a spontaneous movement on the part of the public, well and good, but I should regret it if there were organised movement on the part of the institutions which would have the effect of depleting the sources from which further capital will ultimately be needed by the industry.

So I hope that the Government will keep quite separate and distinct the policy of running the industry and the consequences of the decision to sell back the shares to private enterprise. If that is done, I think there will be a great opportunity for the Government to establish a lasting and proper balance between the strategic control of policy and of development, on the one hand, and the tactical operation of production and marketing by those experienced in the trade.