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 Aubrey Jones Mr Aubrey Jones , Birmingham, Hall Green 12:00 am, 12th November 1951

As I understand them, they are interim proposals pending the elaboration of the wider scheme.

May I now revert to the question of steel, and in so doing make the customary declaration of interest. I wish to take up two sentences in the speech of the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss). One was where he said that the industry is working well under the new regime, and the second was when he challenged this side of the House to mention a change which has been for the worse. I accept that challenge. I will indicate two or three changes which I believe to have been for the worse. There is not an hon. Member opposite who has not invested this whole question of the nationalisation of steel with an enormous significance. It represented, to use the Marxist mythology, capture of the citadel of economic power.

One does not carry out an intention like that, revolutionary in its purpose, without at the same time incurring a penalty. Those entrusted with the execution of the revolution or change are, in order to vindicate themselves and their cause, driven all the time to make changes in outward form, outward appearance, regardless of what happens to the inner substance. That is the gravamen of the charge to be made against the Corporation since its inception.

What are the questions with which the Corporation has been concerned? Take first the question of directors. Certain directors have been dismissed. The principle applied in the case of their dismissals was not the merits or demerits of the individual person; it was that those directors were representative of interests with which the companies were formerly linked and from which they are now severed. The nationalised Corporation had to be insulated against the "miasma" of former private enterprise. These directors went, the good and the bad, including such a person as Sir Arthur Matthews. A change was effected in outward form, but at the expense of inner efficiency.