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 James Griffiths Mr James Griffiths , Llanelli 12:00 am, 12th November 1951

The nationalisation of steel was in our programme in 1945. We had a decisive decision in its favour from the electorate. We proceeded to implement that programme, as we did all the other programmes we put before the electorate in 1945. I now ask right hon. Gentlemen opposite to say whether they rely on the dictum of the Attorney-General in the present Government, whether they regard the result of the last election of 25th October as giving a decisive mandate for repealing the Iron and Steel Act.

I therefore say that the Government have failed to answer our charge that neither of these proposals will in the slightest assist the national effort, that on the contrary they will throw these vital industries into anxiety and uncertainty. Let us examine what the Government propose. The first thing is to be a standstill, but the Iron and Steel Corporation will be told that it cannot do anything without the prior consent of the Minister and the Government.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall indicated that in addition to the improvements which the Corporation had already carried out in the steel industry, other plans were not only contemplated but were ready, and these could also be introduced very quickly. We have had no reply as to whether those plans were to be pursued. They are all plans designed to improve the efficiency of the industry and to secure the steel we require. Are all those plans to be continued, or are we to have a period during which there is to be a standstill, uncertainty, anxiety, at a time when every ton of steel and the efficiency of our transport is more essential than at any time in our history?

The Minister of Supply said that he proposed to call into consultation a number of organisations, including the. Trades Union Congress. May I ask this question? Perhaps the Minister who is to reply can answer it. Is the Trades Union Congress, before it enters this conference, to be asked to agree that steel should be de-nationalised? I am not a member of the General Council. I am a member of a trade union, one of the biggest trade unions affiliated to the T.U.C. Is the T.U.C. to be asked to come to the conference to agree with the Government proposal to de-nationalise? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why should they?"] Hon. Gentleman opposite do not know what their Government are doing or what they are proposing.

The Minister of Supply said that he was going to ask the T.U.C. to come into the consultation before the T.U.C. had indicated their view very firmly. Supposing they say as I believe they will, that, to hand back the steel industry to private owners and private profit at this moment, at a time when we are carrying out a rearmament programme, would be against the national effort, what would the Minister do then?