Orders of the Day — Iron and Steel Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th July 1966.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Anthony Barber Mr Anthony Barber , Altrincham and Sale 12:00 am, 25th July 1966

Is that what the hon. Member for Bosworth thinks of his own Government, that just because a proposal comes too late we are having a Bill of this kind? It is absolute nonsense.

I am not suggesting for a moment that the industry might not have come forward earlier with something more specific. But, after all, to take a wrong decision merely because it is late is surely not the way that Government should behave. The whole country knows that in the present economic crisis the Government have acted too late, but we hope that they will do the right thing, and that is what we would like them to do with the steel industry.

Even though it may have been late, the fact is that a proposal was made for the Government to secure up to 50 per cent. of the equity holding in new rationalised groups of companies. It is known, for reasons on which people may differ, that it was turned down flat by the Prime Minister. There was to be no compromise of the full-blooded Socialist solution.

The Times, in what the Prime Minister no doubt regarded as just another wet editorial, commented: It is difficult to imagine a decision less gracious towards the countries whose central banks have just agreed to provide a new help for the £. This was the decision to go ahead with nationalisation. It then said: To reject the Federation's scheme smacks uncomfortably of deliberate, dogmatic obscurantism. If the Government want their economic policy to be taken seriously, they must do better than this. Finally The Times said: The announcement that this measure is now to be brought forward, coming on top of the continuation of the seamen's strike, is likely to do damage to the £.The Times was cruelly accurate. The sequence of events was inexorable—first, the right hon. Gentleman's decision to go ahead with outright nationalisation, secondly, the contribution which that made to the weakness of sterling, and, thirdly, these measures designed to create half a million unemployed.

I turn next to the hotchpotch of reasons which are advanced by Labour spokesmen in favour of the nationalisation of steel. The first reason was well put by the First Secretary in the debate last year. He rested his case almost entirely on the size of the industry, and it is worth quoting that he said: It is of such a size that its impact on the economy, its impact on our social structure, is bound to be tremendous. It will dispose of power which in my view cannot be left to individuals."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 6th May, 1966; Vol. 711, c. 1690.] If that is the reason, what about the chemical industry, the motor industry and the ship building? Why bother to rationalise the shipbuilding industry in accordance with the Geddes proposals, why not nationalise it? If nationalisation is the only solution, how comes it that our overseas competitors, so assiduously praised by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, are not extending nationalisation?