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

If we talk about Highland transport this evening, we shall be in trouble.

Before I sit down I must come to another part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Llanelly. He went back to the old story about the steel industry that if only we had done the things we ought to have done in the 1930's, everything would have been lovely. What makes me almost ill is to think that all through the General Election campaign that kind of remark has been made by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

I am afraid I have said this very often before—that the industry after 1932 set about a very detailed and big scheme of reconstruction. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite know very well that that scheme had to be slowed up and stopped because of the need for re-armament in the 1939 war. I have said that time after time on the Floor of this House, and it has never been contradicted. There was the Stewart and Lloyd integration and the Guest, Keen and Nettlefold's integration, producing two of the finest plants the world has ever seen. There were other integrations to go forward in the steel industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is integration?"] Integration in the steel industry means the process from the raw material to the completed product. Had not re-armament been necessary, it is well known that the industry would have gone a long way further than it did. That is the final answer to the charge the right hon. Member for Llanelly made that more could have been done.

It is quite clear that we are debating this evening something which has been fought over during the General Election campaign as far as hon. Members opposite are concerned. We are convinced that both in steel and in inland transport there is a tremendous job to be done to obtain that real efficiency which must be achieved if this nation is to get through these critical years ahead.

We must get a greater sense of urgency into the transport system—an urgency which can never come under the present arrangement of a heavy cumbersome system. It cannot avoid being cumbersome. That is the difficulty. One could argue constructively about the structure of the Road Transport Commission and the Road Haulage Executive, but as they grow bigger and bigger it is inevitable that that urgency of efficiency must go. We believe the policies we are advocating are right and we shall work for them, and our sole object will be the very best interest of the nation.