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 John Jones Mr John Jones , Rotherham 12:00 am, 12th November 1951

Yes, I shall be pleased to quote the words. The hon. Member said: Let me answer hon. Members opposite. We have had very good relations in the steel industry, which has done extremely well. We do not want politicians suggesting, for some reason or another, that the industry should be nationalised. We do not want to see trouble made by political trouble-makers. We want to see the industry get on to its feet again and work in harmony between management and labour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 140.] In another part of his speech the hon. Member alleged that by political interference certain people had harmed the industry.

Today, we have heard the speech of the new Minister of Supply, in which he talked about a spanner having been thrown into the works. Practical people know that when a spanner is thrown into anything the job stops until the spanner is taken out. He stated that the new Government would take out the spanner. Will he say where the spanner thrown because of nationalisation has prevented a single ton of steel being produced anywhere in this country? Such a statement is a slander on the finest industrial section of our people, the steel workers of Britain.

During and since the last war they have worked 168 hours out of 168 hours. Not one unit of production, given the raw materials, has ceased to function for an hour. The sort of talk we have heard is the wrong foot to start off on; if it is an indication of the new Minister's outlook, then the good will of the industry which he should have, and should be entitled to have, will not be forthcoming.

Hon. Members opposite talk about returning the industry to private enterprise. But the industry cannot return to something which it never has been. The steel industry has never been free, unfettered private enterprise. Will any right hon. or hon. Member opposite tell me whether it has been possible in the last 25 years to ask for a specification of steel and for a price for a certain steel in competition with other works in the country?

Hon. Members opposite talk also about the elimination of bulk buying. Will any right hon. Member of the Government Front Bench say whether one pennyworth of ore or scrap—and that is a very small amount at present prices—has been bought except under the system of bulk buying in the last 25 years? All this talk about private enterprise is sheer, unadulterated hypocrisy. There never was any such thing.

When we decided to nationalise the industry it was a tight monopoly, accountable to nobody except itself. That is what the row is all about. I wish to pay tribute not only to the workers of the industry, but also to the managements and directors of the industry for what they have done since it was nationalised. There was some little fear on the part of the Opposition, when we were the Government, about the evil effect of nationalisation. They prophesied chaos, the destruction of the industry, and that production would fall. Again, sheer, unadulterated nonsense.

Ever since we came to power in 1945—the figures are conclusive and are there for all to read—right up to last Saturday, production has continued to increase, not just because of the effort of the men concerned, although they have made a magnificent effort, but because of the responsibility shown by all concerned regarding the national need.