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 Hon. John Maclay Hon. John Maclay , Renfrewshire West 12:00 am, 12th November 1951

I am conscious that my first appearance at this Box is under rather exceptional conditions. I know that it is the normal practice for a maiden speech at this Box to be given a very fair hearing, and normally I would have made my remarks accordingly, but this evening things have been said that have got to be answered. I shall say what I have to say and will not expect quarter from anybody. I know that the House will give me a hearing, but if I am provocative I expect to be answered.

The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), sat down with what I considered was a most astonishing remark from a right hon. Gentleman whom I have come to respect. He cast grave aspersions on the integrity of the party to which I belong. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which party is that? "] think hon. Members should listen to me. If any individual or party deserves that kind of charge, it is the party opposite. The statement has been made in this debate that the party opposite, if returned to power later, will undo what we may do. Right through the whole question of nationalisation, we have never seen one sign from right hon. Gentlemen opposite of concern for the national interest.

Let me ask them this question. When they come back to power, if they ever do, and they find that the steel industry is producing with the same magnificent efficiency as it was when they took it over, are they still going to re-nationalise it? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] Well, why? Let us have no more nonsense about this business of the national interest from right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Let us look at some of the arguments put forward. I watched with great interest for some of the staggering things that were always about to be said in the winding-up speech from the right hon. Gentleman opposite about road haulage, but I could not find anything to put in my notes. There was just the question how far our actions would improve efficiency. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is your action? "] My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary made the situation very clear, and I am not going to say any more about it, because he covered the ground admirably.

Let me say what is the first thing which is absolutely essential in order to improve efficiency in the road transport industry. but before I do that I should like to make this clear. In what I have to say, I cast no reflections on the efforts which the Transport Commission and the Road Haulage Executive have made in an attempt to operate what I and my hon. Friends have always believed to be an unworkable Act. I think the Transport Commission and the Road Haulage Executive have done their utmost, but. as we have made clear from the very beginning of the discussions on the nationalisation of transport, we have never believed that the Act could work. We have never believed that the Transport Commission could do the job it was asked to do, and it has not done it.

Let us think again about what were the objects of the Act. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary mentioned them when he spoke earlier today, but they are worth rubbing home. The object of the Act was to provide, or secure or promote the provision of, an efficient, adequate, economical and properly integrated system of … transport. Let us take those objects one by one. Can any right hon. or hon. Member in this House say that we have today an efficient system of transport? Can anybody say that we have an adequate one? Can anybody say that we have an economical one? Can anybody say that we are even in sight of the beginning of that magic word "integration."