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 Minister of Supply has not answered the pertinent question I put to him, which is, is the Trades Union Congress expected, before they come to discuss this matter with him, to declare that they are in favour of the denationalising of steel? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They are not? I say without any hesitation that a proposal of this kind at this moment will create in the minds of all those engaged in the industry anxiety and uncertainty.

The Government have failed to make out a case on the grounds of the national effort. We are told first of all by the Prime Minister that we cannot get the Bill before 6th February; now it is said before 29th January. How long will this Bill take to go through the House? Let me be perfectly clear. We shall fight it word by word, Clause by Clause, at every stage through this House. It is clear therefore that this Bill cannot become an Act of Parliament for 12 months, or 18 months, or two years. That is longer than the present Government will be in office.

I have had a lifetime of experience with the men in both these industries in my own town in South Wales. Let me put what I see to be the major problem in these industries. It is what we have fought for ever since 1945. We have begun a new chapter in both these industries. We have endeavoured to begin a new chapter, to remove all fears, and all the uncertainty and all the memories of unemployment—all the memories of those days.

Let me say this to the Government, to the House and to the country too. I will tell the Government what their proposals have already done. They have revived the old memories. They are rekindling the old fears at a time when all these men—and they are fine men—are being asked to produce more coal and more steel. During all this period we shall have stand-stills, unscrambling, controversies and bitterness back in these industries.

I want to reaffirm what my right hon. Friend said earlier. The Government may carry this Bill. But they will not be there for long. Indeed, they are already on the way out, and when we get back, as we shall, we shall once more do what we did in 1945. The fact is that the reason why they want to de-nationalise steel is for power. That is why they want it, and the country will know what to do with a Government that places privilege and power and profit before the national interest. [Interruption.] We shall take this Amendment to a Division. I say that the Government have failed to show that either of these measures is in the interests of the nation. They were not intended to be. [Interruption.]