Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Speech)

Oral Answers to Questions — Board of Trade – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th March 1965.

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Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 12:00 am, 4th March 1965

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations at Gateshead on 6th February about the steel industry represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, at Gateshead on 6th February, about the effects of the steel industry on the balance of payments, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr James Tinn Mr James Tinn , Cleveland

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations at Gateshead on 6th February on the steel industry's future represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Commonwealth Secretary said that the steel industry was responsible without doubt for the balance of payments crises of 1955 and 1961? Is he aware that the steel industry has consistently earned a large profit on foreign exchange? Indeed, in 1961 it earned £76 million. [HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore withdraw both the Steel Bill and the Commonwealth Secretary?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I think that probably my right hon. Friend had in mind the balance of payments crisis of 1957, rather than 1955. This may have been an error. I think that on a number of occasions the House has been given figures of the enormous imports of sheet steel in 1957 and 1961, which played a very large part in the worsening of our balance of trade at that time.

Photo of Mr Frederic Bennett Mr Frederic Bennett , Torquay

Is the Prime Minister aware that the profit during the last four years has been £250 million, without picking out one year from another? Would the right hon. Gentleman now care to remind us of the import-export position of steel in 1951, when it was nationalised and when we had a Socialist Government and the worst balance of payments crisis in our history?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

It seems that we cannot cure hon. Members opposite from dining out on 1951. The House may recall that I gave the figures in the House in the censure debate when I pointed out that the balance of payments situation in October, 1964, was worse than that in 1951, despite the fact that in 1951 there was a 30 per cent. increase in world prices due to Korea.

Photo of Mr James Tinn Mr James Tinn , Cleveland

Wi.i my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the only constituencies in which steel is anything of an Issue—the steel-producing constituencies—were invariably held or won by Labour at the last election? Will he bear in mind also the fact that the organised workers in the industry are anxiously awaiting the renationalisation of steel?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

It is a fact that I visited a number of steel constituencies and spoke very frankly about our plans for steel in them. In those constituencies and in others which I did not visit if they were steel constituencies there was a more than average swing to the Labour Party at the last General Election.