The next Amendment is No. 13, in page 2, line 41, at the end to insert:
Provided that the Minister shall not authorise or give his consent to the carrying on of any activities of a substantial nature which are not carried on by a publicly-owned company immediately before the passing of this Act otherwise than by order.
With it we are taking Amendment No. 14, in line 41 at the end to insert:
Provided that any consent or general authority given by the Minister under this subsection shall be subject to the approval
within three months of both Houses of Parliament by affirmative resolution.
I beg to move Amendment No. 13, at the end to insert:
Provided that the Minister shall not authorise or give his consent to the carrying on of any activities of a substantial nature which are not carried on by a publicly-owned company immediately before the passing of this Act otherwise than by order.
These two Amendments are of great importance—
These two Amendments are of great importance for private enterprise, and also, I think, of considerable constitutional significance. The effect of this Clause is to give the Government and the Corporation unlimited power to diversify the Corporation's activities, and to engage in any business of any kind whatsoever, manufacturing, commercial, or financial, whether in the United Kingdom, or anywhere else in the world. We have argued that this power is far too wide, and one consequence, from Parliament's point of view, is that never again will there be any need for a new nationalisation Act, because if this Clause is passed unamended a Labour Government will have unlimited power to engage in any industrial enterprise whatsoever.
When we had a long discussion about this in Committee, the Government rejected our contention, hence this Amendment, which has the simple purpose of providing that where the Corporation wishes to diversify and branch out into an industrial or commercial venture which has nothing to do with iron and steel activities, that new venture shall be subject to the approval of Parliament. We do not suggest that that approval should require the tedious procedure of an Act of Parliament, but merely a single Order which would give the House of Commons the opportunity of a single debate.
We still have much work to do on the Bill, and I therefore once again plead with the Minister, if I may put it bluntly, not to waste the time of the House on the technicalities of the Amendment, because the point at issue is quite simply whether or not there should be some measure of Parliamentary control, or, at the very minimum, an opportunity of debate, if the Corporation engages in a substantially new industrial or commercial venture other than an activity concerned with iron and steel.
The Bill as drafted gives the Corporation power to carry on, without the slightest reference to Parliament, quite legitimately, hundreds of manufacturing and commercial activities which are wholly divorced from iron and steel making. To save time I shall give only a few examples of the areas of industry and commerce which this new nationalised body will be able to enter without even the knowledge of Parliament, let alone its approval.
My remarks are, of course, based on the memorandum of association referred to in, and made operative by, the Clause. There can therefore be no misunderstanding or dispute about the position.
There are two broad questions which I should like to put to the Minister. First, why should this new State agency have the power, for example, to go into the aircraft business, or into shipbulding, without further reference to Parliament? Why should it have power to run hotels, or to go into the building and civil engineering business without any reference to Parliament, or to start up in the motor car or commercial vehicle business? Why should it have power to start retail shops in competition with existing retailers, without any reference to Parliament?
If the right hon. Gentleman says in reply to those questions that the Government has no intention of doing all those things, then my answer is two-fold: first, the Government should not take these arbitrary and all-embracing powers without providing for Parliamentary control. Secondly, we on these benches no longer have the slightest confidence in assurances given by the Government. In saying this I accept that if the right hon. Gentleman gives his personal word, as long as he holds the office of Minister of Power he will keep it, but he cannot bind his successors. I could refer to innumerable statements which have been made during the past year about prices and incomes policy, and other matters, which would show why I believe that we cannot put our trust in the statements of Government Ministers, but I do not want to go into those details now.
I do not rest my case only on the lack of confidence which we have in statements by the Government. The purpose of the Amendment is to curb the extension of the State into areas of industry and commerce outside the iron and steel industry. When I referred last week to the new Parliamentary Secretary's pledges to the electors of Willesden, East, he laughed. He seemed to be saying, "Who cares about election pledges now? We have the power, and I am the Minister", but when the hon. Gentleman wrote to his electors,
We reject the selfish greedy doctrines of capitalism.
I believe that he was being sincere, and I believe that he really meant it.
The truth—and this is what is behind the Amendment—is that despite the fact that we live in a predominantly private enterprise economy, the Labour Government do not believe in private enterprise, and that is why in this Bill, which purports to cover only iron and steel, they are slipping in these powers to engage in every conceivable industrial and commercial enterprise which is in no way connected with iron and steel. Obviously the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues with their majority of 100 are bound to get this Clause. We cannot stop them. We realise that these powers are going to stay in the Bill, because this was made clear during the Committee stage, but why is the Minister so afraid of inserting some provision in the Bill —not necessarily these two Amendments —which will give Parliament the opportunity of debating all proposals by the Corporation to diversify? What is so wrong about asking that the House of Commons should have the opportunity to scrutinise proposals in entirely new industrial and commercial fields which are nothing to do with iron and steel or which are not now being carried on by the iron and steel industry? Why is the Minister so afraid of subjecting any new activities to the glare of Press publicity which follows from public debate?
He may say that the Corporation should be in no different position from that of a company operating in the private sector and should not therefore be subject to this sort of Parliamentary scrutiny, but there is all the difference in the world between a company in the private sector embarking upon an entirely new venture with a limited amount of risk capital subscribed by the shareholders and a nationalised industry spreading out into new manufacturing fields, with the bottomless purse of the Exchequer available to underwrite every faulty commercial judgment.
I have deliberately curtailed some of my observations. For all the reasons that I have given I hope that the Government will agree to some measure of Parliamentary scrutiny in relation to the cases that I have mentioned. Even if the right hon. Gentleman does not think it right that Parliament should have an opportunity to pray against these proposals I hope that he will at any rate undertake to give some thought to the introduction of a method whereby in every case, as of right, Parliament will be able to debate any substantial measure of diversification. If not, private enterprise will have every reason to fear the worst.
Having been connected in various capacities with the formation of companies I can vouch for the fact that when a company is started the lawyers always draw the memorandum of association or charter of incorporation far more widely than the enterprises behind the company really want. They put in every kind of trade—iron and steel, brickmaking, engineering and the rest—in case, one day, 25 years hence, they may want it. Now the Government are adopting, in these memoranda of 14 companies, a very wide sphere of activities for their own purposes. While private enterprise runs a company its directors must have some regard to the amount of capital raised, and they know that they will not use nine-tenths of the opportunities provided by the memorandum of association. With the State capital-raising power behind it, however, the Corporation will be allowed, by Act of Parliament, to go into about 20, or 30 trades far removed from the iron and steel industry, and which on no account should be part of the Bill.
My right hon. Friend has put the case for the Amendment with the brevity and cogency that we have come to expect from him. I only wish that we could expect to receive the answer that it deserves. To give the Minister the sort of general authority envisaged in the Clause is quite wrong. It is wholly unjustifiable to issue a general authority to a Corporation financed from public funds and which thereafter is under no degree of Parliamentary or Ministerial control.
My right hon. Friend has been very modest in his proposal. Perhaps characteristically, my Amendment is, if anything, slightly more modest. All I say is that if any consent or general authority is given by the Minister under the Clause it should be notified to Parliament and subject to Parliamentary approval by affirmative Resolution within three months. That seems a very small thing to ask.
I was exceedingly disappointed at the attitude of the Minister in Committee. I hope that we shall not have a repetition of the strategy used by the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary on that occasion, when they re-echoed the very plausible point that the Opposition would surely not be so unreasonable as to deny to a nationalised industry what they conceded to private enterprise as a matter of course. This argument has come out of the slot machine every time anyone put a penny anywhere near it. It was very boring. No amount of banging home the obvious factor to which my right hon. Friend has again made reference—namely, that it is one thing to give private industry wide powers which it may never want to use and quite another to confer those powers upon a publicly-owned industry—had any effect.
It is no satisfaction to my right hon. Friends and myself to be told by the Minister that all this is subject to constant Ministerial survey, control and the rest, because we do not have any confidence in the willingness or ability of Ministers to control these vast industries. We believe that they have set themselves a problem in the steel industry which they will find far more easy to pose than to solve.
I will quote an extract from the Committee proceedings to illustrate the sort of argument that we have had to face, in case the Minister should be tempted to repeat it. No doubt the Chair would then wish to arrest him on a charge of tedious repetition.
I agree. It would be slightly suspect. On the other hand, until we reached the Committee stage of the Bill I was an optimist, and had always thought it possible even for Socialist Ministers to see the error of their ways and to come clean and amend them—to clothe themselves properly in a white sheet of repentance and to admit that they had been wrong and would do better. Nobody would have been more generous than my right hon. Friend in such circumstances. He would not have danced in any gleeful way, celebrating victory cheaply. He would have been the first, in a statesmanlike way, to accept it. He would have had more joy over one sinner who repented than the 99 behind the Minister.
In Committee the Minister said:
I will now return to one of my significant points. That is—exactly why do private companies diversify? I cannot see the logic of the argument which accepts that it is essential, not just reasonable, for private companies to have these powers and quite outrageous if nationalised companies in the same business have them. That seems to be very extraordinary.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who has been such a tower of strength in our arguments, intervened to say, "Because of finance". The Minister found that point embarrassing and quite incapable of answer, and accordingly said,
I will come to finance in a moment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 10th November, 1966; c. 450.]
The whole question was then indecently buried. We do not wish to obstruct progress so I shall not do what I did in Committee and read out an extract from the memorandum of association of Dorman, Long and Company. Suffice it to say that it starts:
Founding, welding, brick and tile-making;
and a good deal later on ends with:
…waterworks, oil wells and pipelines, and ships and aeroplanes.
All these things are now to be within the province of the new steel industry, and are financed not by limited private capital, of the kind that Dorman Long had at its command but by the entire resources of the State. Although the Minister may find this a source of joviality I am bound to say that the prospect for this industry is one which intensifies our gloom.
I hope that it will not be necessary to divide on both of these Amendments, and that the Minister will accept one or the other. In the event of his rejecting mine and accepting my right hon. Friend's let me assure him that there will be no quarrel between us. I hope that my right hon. Friend, with his characteristic generosity, would be glad to see mine accepted.
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend who is, as always courteous. If only a little of his courtesy and generosity could rub off on the other side of the House and the Minister could grant us one of these Amendments, the House would know what is being done in its name and would know, above all, how national resources were being deployed.
In his reply to the debate in Committee on the subject of diversification the Parliamentary Secretary said:
The powers to acquire are necessarily by market operation. Any move by the Corporation would be exactly analogous to any move by any private company in this field."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 15th November, 1966; c. 508.]
Earlier the Minister also made the statement to which my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has referred, namely that the National Steel Corporation would not really be in any different position from a company operating in the private sector.
I find this statement so completely astonishing and inaccurate that I very much support this Amendment and the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil, which I agree is better than that of my right hon. Friend in the sense that it makes an affirmative Resolution necessary.
If a company in the private sector decides to diversify and buy another company what precisely happens? It goes along to its advisers, and they decide at what price this private company needs to make a bid in order to persuade the shareholders of the other company to accept. In deciding on the price that it is to pay for the other company it considers a whole host of matters. First, it considers what the income of the shareholders is in their present state, and what it will be after their company has been acquired. Secondly, it considers what sort of earnings cover there is for that income in the present state and what it will be after their company is acquired, and, thirdly, what the attributable asset position is in the present state and what it will be after the company is acquired.
It goes through all of these procedures and discusses them in order to decide whether it can afford to make a bid for the company. In doing so, the private sector company is under very severe restraints, because normally it wants to pay cash for the company it is buying. In deciding to pay cash it has obviously to borrow the money in the vast majority of cases, and in borrowing the money in the open market it has to show for that borrowing certain income and capital cover. The institutions and the people lending in the private sector go most carefully into how far that company has its borrowing covered by its existing earnings and capital.
Take the case of the public sector company. The National Coal Board for instance and its bid for Whittlesea Central Brick, a bid by a nationalised industry for a company in the private sector. Take the Transport Holding Group's bid for Tayforth, which was again a case of a nationalised company bidding for a private sector company. When the National Coal Board went to the Treasury to borrow money in order to make a bid for Whittlesea Central Brick it certainly was not under the restraint of capital and income cover which a company in the private sector would be. Indeed if the National Coal Board was under this restraint and had to maintain four times income cover and twice times capital cover for borrowing money from the Treasury it would never borrow again because the National Coal Board does not make a profit. What the Treasury does in deciding whether to grant the money is to ask itself, "Is this a case where commercial considerations deem this a suitable opportunity for a bid?" The Treasury then reaches a decision, "Yes, there are commercial considerations which make it worth while for the National Coal Board to make this offer".
The Amendment reads:
Provided that the Minister shall not authorise or give his consent to the carrying on of any activities of a substantial nature which are not carried on by a publicly-owned company immediately before the passing of this Act.
I take that to mean that if Stewarts and Lloyds, to take one example, is not now making rubber gloves, and if it wishes to do so after it becomes nationalised, then according to the Amendment the Minister is required to lay an order before Parliament. Clearly, this is diversification, after nationalisation and may involve acquisition.
Reverting to the argument, basically the Treasury makes its judgment on whether to lend money to the Coal Board on predominantly commercial criteria and not on financial and economic considerations. It decides, "Yes, it is in the interests of the National Steel Corporation or the National Coal Board to make a bid for the company. It can diversify its activities for commercial reasons." The Coal Board or the National Steel Corporation is not under the financial restraint of capital and income cover on its borrowings which would be the case with a company bidding in the private sector. That is why I consider the position of a private sector company to be utterly different to that of a public sector company and that is why I regard the Minister's statement in Committee— and no doubt he will make it again tonight—that the Treasury follows certain financial disciplines, that he also has responsibilities towards Parliament for the activities of these companies—wholly unsatisfactory.
We all know that the National Coal Board or the Transport Holding Group or the Electricity Boards are not under the same financial disciplines as are provided in the market. Perhaps I should, however, declare something of an interest in that the firm I worked for has advised nationalised industries on making bids in the private sector. I have seen this operate in practice.
We believe that this Amendment is vitally important because it will require diversification, where it occurs for the National Steel Corporation, to be fully examined by this House. I prefer my hon. Friend's Amendment because it will require an affirmative Order and we will all have an opportunity of debating it. We will be able to say whether we think financial and economic considerations have been taken fully into account in the diversification and we will not leave it entirely to the Minister's discretion or to the Treasury, for the Minister will be primarily motivated by commercial criteria, as soon as the National Steel Corporation becomes publicly owned.
One of the aberrations that has survived with me long after entering this House is that I still, from time to time, think that when all of the arguments are absolutely unchallenged on one side of the case and appear to be conclusive, perhaps they will carry the day. From time to time I have put a point rather less forcibly than I might otherwise have done in the hope that this was the case and have been sadly disappointed. As I believe that I was the last Member on this side of the House to rise, I would at once bring my remarks to a close were I to receive a nod from the Parliamentary Secretary.
One of these Amendments should be accepted, for two or three very simple reasons. The right hon. Gentleman produced the phrase on Wednesday of "folk fear" among the private sector of industry. Like certain phrases at the moment, although perhaps not entirely accurate, it is graphic enough it serves to focus attention upon the situation. He went on to say that we would give what reassurance he could to put the fears of nationalised industry production in the private sector at rest as far as possible. I would go a little further than that.
We are engaged in discussing codes of good conduct in various institutions in national and private bodies. We have been brought back to this problem earlier in the day. I would suggest that one code of good conduct that this House might establish for itself, which might raise its standing in the eyes of the public, is that it should not pass open-ended legislation without declaring that fact and making it quite obvious. It should be a matter of professional pride for the House of Commons that when it passes a Bill it makes quite clear exactly what it is meant to do and that the general public knows this. If it is merely an enabling Bill this should be declared and it should be debated on these grounds. There is no doubt that it would be very easy for this Bill, unless it has some modest restraint, to become purely an enabling Bill.
That is a strong reason why the Minister should accept one of these Amendments. We should be doing a proper, tidy job, such as we have declared our intention of doing. Another point is that new activities in the first phase of the Iron and Steel Corporation's life are to be avoided like the plague. Times of change and reorganisation are times of very considerable stress and are probably the most difficult period in the life of any trading or manufacturing concern. It is easy to expand on a fairly level course, it is fatally easy sometimes to contract on a fairly level course. To reshuffle the steel industry whatever its ownership may be is a very delicate operation.
I am very unhappy about the Minister giving a general authority of apparently indefinite duration which can then be produced later on, perhaps to the Minister's own discomfiture, by those responsible for the conduct of the industry. There should not be a blanket authority given but some specific terms when activities of this sort are involved. This has a bearing on many of the points affecting the private sector. We are at a time of falling industrial investment. This is a fact of our economic life, whether we like it or not, and therefore anything we can do to create and hold confidence in the private sector is worth while.
As I said at the outset, all the arguments appear to be on one side in this discussion. I hope that logic will prevail, although perhaps this will be the last time that I will take this view if I do not get an affirmative response from the Minister.
I must inform the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Hall-Davis) that I am the bearer of sad tidings, because the view of the Government towards the Amendment is the same as we have taken since the matter with which it is concerned was first raised. After all, this is a continuation of a debate which took place in Standing Committee D. Indeed, it is the same debate and hon. Gentlemen opposite have clear views on the subject. The right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) acknowledged this when he put his case clearly and briefly—briefly because this is not a subject on which it is necessary any longer to make long speeches.
The issues involved are clear and the difference between the two sides of the House is equally clear. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to be schizophrenic on this matter. Time and again they have claimed that this industry is different from other nationalised industries in that it is a manufacturing industry and that it must exist in a competitive world, both internally and externally. They have, therefore, said throughout that we must provide for the industry the maximum degree of common commercial practice consistent with the public ownership of the industry.
In large measure I accept that. However, when hon. Gentlemen opposite then think about this in different ways they proceed to treat the industry as if it were a potentially dangerous, almost hostile, creature in this commercial world, and they have worked out ways—sincerely, I have no doubt, because they have a different attitude than we have—of ensuring that it is kept under control.
I accept that any publicly-owned industry must, because public capital is involved in it and because of its size, be under a certain level of control. Nevertheless, to suggest, as the Amendment does, that this control should virtually represent a debate in Parliament whenever the industry wishes to undertake something different—something which a private company would regard as normal commercial practice—would be to lay it open to a situation in which it would be constantly looking over its shoulder, worrying about how this or that would be treated in Parliament.
The diversification projects of the National Coal Board have been mentioned. These are regularly questioned in Parliament and it is right that they should be. But to create a situation in which the Corporation must virtually seek Parliamentary approval for its diversification activities would be placing the steel industry in a position which would have bad effects on the industry as a whole. The diversified activities now being carried out by companies are many and varied and it would be wrong to limit the Corporation to those which are now being undertaken. We must think of the future. I cannot believe that, for example, Dorman Long was consciously contemplating entering the aircraft industry. Clearly one cannot foresee all the possibilities. While Dorman Long might not wish to enter the aircraft industry as a major manufacturer, it might, for good commercial and technological development reasons, wish to build an aircraft or two; and so the firm would wish to cover itself for every eventuality.
If the fear is that, because the articles of association are drawn so widely, this or any other Government—and this has nothing to do with individual Ministers—might wish to use the Measure as an enabling one in its widest sense, enabling it to nationalise the aircraft industry or whatever it might be without coming to Parliament, such a thing would mean that Parliamentary Government as we know it today would be at an end. In real political terms, neither party could do that.
That being so, we are not arguing about the Bill being used for such massive decisions of public ownership. The Government were elected following the General Election at which their policy to nationalise the steel industry figured clearly. The Labour Party stated at that time that it would take this action. But no Government would nationalise this, that or the other simply because they had a Measure and could, by reference to interests which they might want to take over, use that Measure in that way.
Nobody is suggesting that any Government would use this Measure to nationalise a whole industry. It is, however, being suggested that, because of these wide powers, they could set up a company to make, say, commercial vehicles and might even make parts of aircraft and thereby get into the aircraft industry.
I accept that. I was expressing some extreme views which are held by certain hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Gentleman makes the point that the Corporation might want power to move into a sphere of activity in which it is not operating at the moment. That may be so. That is true of any commercial undertaking. We are at present in a period of rapid economic and technological development. There are bound to be many new developments in the future, of which we can have no idea now. For example, Richard Thomas and Baldwins is now engaged in housing construction. Looking at that objectively, it might have seemed in the past that that would have been a dangerous development. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might have taken that point of view. However, that firm is engaged in housing construction simply because it is using it as a means of developing prefabricated steel houses. This development is, therefore, extremely important to the company and, like any other commercial organisation, it has moved into that sphere of activity as a method of research and development.
The Amendment would not prevent the Corporation from undertaking new activities, but it would ensure that, before such activities were embarked upon, the Minister would have to give his consent by Order. Such a thing does not apply to any other industry and hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot place an industry of this size in a situation in which every move it makes is automatically open to debate in Parliament. As I have said, the Minister is accountable to Parliament in this matter, as he is for diversified projects. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) on many occasions in Committee raised the question of diversification.
The right hon. Gentleman might care to consider this analogy. If a company in the private sector wishes to diversify, its shareholders are always entitled to comment on the diversification by requesting an extraordinary general meeting. We are here talking about a public sector company. We are merely asking that Parliament, as the guardian of the public purse, should have the same opportunity as shareholders in the private sector have.
I suggest that Parliament will have even more frequent and regular opportunities for doing that than the average shareholder in a large company. Without wishing to put ideas into the hon. Gentleman's head, if his right hon. Friends were to request a meeting of this House—perhaps by putting down a Motion of censure on the Minister—they would get a debate, particularly if a big issue were involved.
I recognise that any extension of the Corporation's activities could involve important considerations of the national interest. That is why, in Clause 2(1), the Corporation cannot go in for certain activities, apart from iron and steel, without the Minister's permission. It also recognises that Parliament should have an interest in any extension of the Corporation's interests and that ultimately any such extension should be subject to Parliamentary control. I, or the Minister of the day, is answerable to Parliament for any consent given under that provision and for the use made or not made of the general direction contained in Section 4(1) of the 1949 Act revived. This must be watched and I do not accept that the nationalised industries should have the right to diversify regardless of general and specific commercial interests. It is right that Ministers should be answerable to Parliament for the decisions of their Department.
The Government believe that the balance that will be created by the Bill is about right. It is framed in a way to reconcile the reasonable commercial freedom of the Corporation with the assertion of Parliamentary control. Parliament will be fully informed about the Corporation's activities and will be able to intervene when it considers that any extensions raise important issues.
I draw the attention of the House to New Causes 2 and 3, which contain specific powers to require the Corporation to publish full information both about its iron and steel and its diversified activities. In these circumstances, it would be a mistake, unfair and against the interests and commercial success of the Corporation to impose on it the sort of restrictions which hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to impose—restrictions which I believe are unnecessary and which would have damaging effects on the Corporation.
When the right hon. Gentleman intervened in the middle of one of my hon. Friend's speeches his intervention was very revealing indeed because he said, in effect, that when the same question is raised on Report as was previously raised in Committee, then all we can expect from him is the same answer. He seemed to think that this was the normal thing to happen. Of course the whole purpose of raising again briefly on Report matters which have been considered in Committee is because the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have had an opportunity in the meantime of considering whether or not they should change their minds. On one or two occasions they have repented.
I will not dwell on the Amendment because it is clear that the right hon. Gentleman does not propose to give way. He said that all he wants to do is to give to this public enterprise the same rights and opportunities as are given to private enterprises and that diversification in private enterprise is "normal commercial practice". But here we are not considering diversification within the steel industry. The Amendment is concerned solely with diversification right outside that industry and it is nonsense to say that this is normal practice in private enterprise. A considerable amount of diversification goes on, but when it takes place right outside the normal activities of a company, then it is a major consideration
The right hon. Gentleman said that we took the view that this nationalised industry was potentially dangerous. That is not so. It is the decisions of Socialist Ministers which we consider to be potentially dangerous. We know, from what the right hon. Gentleman said absolutely frankly to one of his hon. Friends in that momentous letter to which reference was made many times in Committee, that he will be minded, whenever he is requested by the Corporation, to give his consent to diversification.
The remarks of the right hon. Gentleman concerning the similarity between this Corporation and private enterprise were staggering. How could he say that, after listening to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott)? There is all the difference in the world between a company in the private sector diversifying outside its normal activities, having to consider raising risk capital and its duty to its shareholders, and a nationalised industry spreading into new manufacturing fields with the Exchequer behind it. It is the most abject nonsense of the right hon. Gentleman to pretend that they are on a par.
We all know the effect of this Clause. Its purpose is to give the National Steel Corporation unlimited power—I mean unlimited; there is no qualification—to diversify its activities into any business of any kind whatever. We believe there should be some measure of Parliamentary control. It is intolerable that the right hon. Gentleman will not go even thus far to meet us, if not to provide some measure of Parliamentary control at any rate some measure of Parliamentary scrutiny. If he is not prepared to do so, we are left with no alternative but to divide the House.
|Division No. 241.]||AYES||[8.21 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Bell, Ronald||Bossom, Sir Clive|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John|
|Astor, John||Berry, Hn. Anthony||Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Bessell, Peter||Braine, Bernard|
|Awdry, Daniel||Biffen, John||Brinton, Sir Tatton|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Biggs-Davison, John||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Bruce-Gardyne, J.|
|Batsford, Brian||Blaker, Peter||Bryan, Paul|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Body, Richard||Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hill, J. E. B.||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Burden, F. A.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Holland, Philip||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hooson, Emlyn||Percival, Ian|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hordern, Peter||Peyton, John|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hornby, Richard||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Clark, Henry||Howell, David (Guildford)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Clegg, Walter||Hunt, John||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Iremonger, T. L.||Pym, Francis|
|Cordle, John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Costain, A. P.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Crawley, Aldan||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Crouch, David||Jopling, Michael||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kimball, Marcus||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Dance, James||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kitson, Timothy||Royle, Anthony|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Scott, Nicholas|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lambton, Viscount||Sharples, Richard|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Doughty, Charles||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Drayson, G. B.||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Smith, John|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stainton, Keith|
|Eden, Sir John||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Elliott, R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Longden, Gilbert||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Farr, John||Loveys, W. H.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lubbock, Eric||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Forrest, George||MacArthur, Ian||Teeling, Sir William|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Temple, John M.|
|Foster, Sir John||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Maddan, Martin||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Maginnis, John E.||Tilney, John|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Marten, Neil||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maude, Angus||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Mawby, Ray||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Gower, Raymond||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wall, Patrick|
|Grant, Anthony||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Watters, Dennis|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Miscampbell, Norman||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Grieve, Percy||Monro, Hector||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Gurden, Harold||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Murton, Oscar||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Neave, Airey||Worsley, Marcus|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Wylie, N. R.|
|Hastings, Stephen||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Younger, Hn. George|
|Hawkins, Paul||Nott, John|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Onslow, Cranley||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Mr. Jasper More and Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
|Heseltine, Michael||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Abse, Leo||Bishop, E. S.||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Albu, Austen||Blackburn, F.||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Boardman, H.||Coe, Denis|
|Alldritt, Walter||Booth, Albert||Coleman, Donald|
|Allen, Scholefield||Boston, Terence||Concannon, J. D.|
|Anderson, Donald||Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Conlan, Bernard|
|Archer, Peter||Boyden, James||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Bradley, Tom||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Cronin, John|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Brooks, Edwin||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Barnett, Joel||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Beaney, Alan||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Cullen, Mrs. Alice|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)|
|Bence, Cyril||Buchan, Norman||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Carmichael, Neil||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Dell, Edmund||Lawson, George||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Dewar, Donald||Leadbitter, Ted||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Dickens, James||Lestor, Miss Joan||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Dobson, Ray||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Randall, Harry|
|Doig, Peter||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Rankin, John|
|Driberg, Tom||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lomas, Kenneth||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Loughlin, Charles||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Luard, Evan||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Lyon, Alexander W (York)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'C as)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||McBride, Neil||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Ellis, John||McCann, John||Roebuck, Roy|
|English, Michael||MacColl, James||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Ennals, David||MacDermot, Niall||Rose, Paul|
|Ensor, David||Macdonald, A. H.||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Fernyhough, E.||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)|
|Finch, Harold||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Ryan, John|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mackie, John||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackintosh, John P.||Sheldon, Robert|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Maclennan, Robert||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N' c'stle-u-Tyne)|
|Ford, Ben||McNamara, J. Kevin||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Fowler, Gerry||MacPherson, Malcolm||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Gardner, Tony||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Slater, Joseph|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Small, William|
|Ginsburg, David||Manuel, Archie||Snow, Julian|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mapp, Charles||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Marquand, David||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Gregory, Arnold||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Stonehouse, John|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mason, Roy||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mayhew, Christopher||Swingler, Stephen|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Mellish, Robert||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mendelson, J. J.||Taverne, Dick|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mikardo, Ian||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Harper, Joseph||Millan, Bruce||Thornton, Ernest|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Tinn, James|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Tomney, Frank|
|Haseldine, Norman||Moonman, Eric||Urwin, T. W.|
|Hazell, Bert||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Henig, Stanley||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Moyle, Roland||Wallace, George|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Murray, Albert||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Hooley, Frank||Newens, Stan||Weitzman, David|
|Horner, John||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Norwood, Christopher||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Oakes, Gordon||Whitaker, Ben|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Ogden, Eric||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Howie, W.||O'Malley, Brian||Whitlock, William|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Oram, Albert E.||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Orbach, Maurice||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Orme, Stanley||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Hunter, Adam||Oswald, Thomas||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Hynd, John||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Paget, R. T.||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Palmer, Arthur||Winnick, David|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Park, Trevor||Woof, Robert|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Yates, Victor|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Judd, Frank||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Kelley, Richard||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Pentland, Norman||Mr. Charles Grey and|
|Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Mr. Ioan L. Evans.|
I beg to move Amendment No. 15, in page 2, line 45, to leave out from 'and' to the end of line 13 on page 3 and to insert:
'with the consent of, or in accordance with the terms of any general authority given by, the Minister, to acquire by agreement, and to hold, interests in other companies;
(b) with the consent of, or in accordance with the terms of any general authority given by, the Minister, to form, or take part in forming, companies; and'.
Amendment No. 132, in page 3, line 6, at end insert:
Provided that in any case to which sections 6 and 7 of the Monopolies and Mergers Act 1965 apply, the Minister shall not give any consent under this subsection and the Corporation shall not act in pursuance of any general authority given by the Minister until the Board of Trade has referred the matter to the Monopolies Commission and the Minister has considered the report of the Monopolies Commission thereon.;
and the two Amendments to the Minister's proposed Amendment.
This is an Amendment brought before the House in response to a debate in Committee and is intended to satisfy, as I am sure it will, the wishes of hon. Members opposite. In Committee I gave an undertaking
to table on Report Amendments…which will have the effect
that the Corporation will require my consent or general authority before acquiring interests in or forming, or taking part in the formation of, companies in the Iron and Steel field".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 6th December, 1966; c. 2014.]
As now drafted, the Bill requires the Corporation to have the Minister's consent before acquiring interests in, on forming companies, outside the iron and steel field. The effect of the Amendment is simply to make that consent necessary in respect of companies within the iron and steel field. I feel sure that hon. Members opposite will agree that the Amendment, while it may well not meet all their desires, at least is moving in the direction in which they would have us move.
In due course, unless the Minister makes a very different kind of speech in response, I shall formally move the first Amendment to the Minister's Amendment. I understand that we are discussing the Amendments to the Minister's Amendment together with the substantive Amendment. This is perhaps the best way to proceed.
Point of order. Perhaps I ought to know this, but is it the usual practice to accept Amendments for debate but not to have them voted upon? I thought that the whole purpose of Report stage was to debate and then to give effect to the debate by hon. Members voting if they were inclined to. Is it possible for the Chair to take away chat right?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I make this request to you? From my own experience and recollection when we have been considering Finance Bills on Report as well as in Committee, from time to time if the Opposition felt strongly about a particular Amendment which was selected for debate and not for Division, if a Division was requested Mr. Speaker has allowed the Division to take place. I wonder whether I might make this request? It is most unlikely that I shall make it again during the proceedings on this Bill. It would be a help to me to know whether, in those circumstances, you would allow a Division on this Amendment. This would resolve a difficulty and I could put the case for the Opposition quite briefly.
The formal position is that representations should have been made to Mr. Speaker at an earlier stage. These Amendments have been on the Order Paper for quite a while, and I think it would be most unwise of me to accept responsibility at this late stage, when the opportunity has been available for the right hon. Gentleman to make representations, to vary the procedure which Mr. Speaker has laid down.
As I say, I can deal briefly with the substance of the Amendments to the Minister's Amendment. The Minister's Amendment represents a concession to the case which we made out in Committee, and for that we are grateful. But I hope that, on reflection, the Minister will see fit to go that hit further. In these days we have not all that much faith in Ministers, but it is, at any rate, some safeguard that diversification cannot take place without the specific consent of the Minister. This is all that we are asking in our two Amendments.
In the Minister's Amendment No. 15 he is empowered to give a general authority to the National Steel Corporation to diversify. We believe that this is not good enough because, as appeared in our discussion on the previous Amendment, the powers of diversification are unlimited for all practical purposes, and we cannot believe that it is right that Parliament should give to the National Steel Corpora- tion, through the general authority of the Minister of Power, the right to engage in unlimited diversified activities.
For these reasons we believe that it is wholly reasonable to ask the right hon. Gentleman to amend his Amendment so as to provide that in every case where diversification under the provisions of Clause 2(2) takes place, there shall be specific consent given by the right hon Gentleman.
If the right hon. Gentleman will tell me that between now and the time when this Bill is considered in another place he will give genuine consideration to this point, I shall not press it. But since, for reasons that I well understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have not felt able to accede to my request enabling us to vote on the Amendment —this I quite understand—if the right hon. Gentleman is not going to be forthcoming at all about our Amendments but intends to stand pat on Amendment No. 15 standing in his name, I feel hound to say that having made our position quite clear, we should wish to vote against Amendment No. 15 as being the only possible way in the circumstances that we could express our regret at the fact that he has not been able to accede to our reasonable request.
It is now twenty minutes to nine, and this is the first time that I have intervened in the debate today. If hon. Members opposite are so enthusiastic when I rise, I assure them that this will not be the last time, and I thank them very much for their encouragement.
I rise to speak on this Amendment because, although the Minister has gone some little way, but not nearly enough, to satisfy the Opposition, I want to try to bring him back to the straight and narrow path of pure Socialism. [Laughter.] I am being very serious, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will take note of what I am about to say. One must approach a nationalised industry and a free enterprise industry in a totally different manner. I admit quite honestly that if I were controlling a large corporation, and the particular field in which I was controlling that corporation began to diminish, I should feel, in my shareholders' interest, that it was my right and proper duty to diversify, because I believe in the profit motive and my aim would be to make a profit for the concern of which I was the responsible director.
There is a totally different philosophy, if I have understood the "Old Testament" which governs most of the activities of the party opposite, when it comes to nationalisation, because when somebody, the hon. Member for Ormskirk, or Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), or somebody else is put in charge of a nationalised industry, he is given a very different prescript of what his obligation is to the nation.
His first responsibility is not to make a profit. As I understand Socialist thinking, his first responsibility is to run the affairs of that particular industry or that activity in the best interests of the people as a whole who make up the community. That is Socialist doctrine—and if any hon. Member on the other side of the House wishes the opportunity to say that it is not, then I will be only too willing to give way. I would have thought that that was pure Socialist doctrine, that one runs the show in the interests of the people, and therefore to the best advantage of the nation as a whole.
If that is true, then the whole basis of diversification must fall to the ground. If I can cite a case that we had in the House the other day—whilst Mr. Deputy Speaker is talking to somebody else I will get this in because it may be out of order—we had a Bill to give the Coal Board power to diversify into gas in the North Sea.
Let us follow this argument, as it is germane to my argument about the steel industry. Lord Robens is responsible for running coal at the present moment. He is expected to devote all his energies, all his research and all his mind to making that particular facet of our national life the most productive, the most efficient that he can make it in the national interest. Suppose, by some waving of a wand, that he puts down a couple of bore holes into the North Sea, produces 5,000 million cubic feet of gas per annum, and makes £20 million a year for the Coal Board. Do hon. Members think that the House would treat the activities of the Coal Board with the same critical analysis as it does now? Do they think that Lord Robens would be so concerned as to whether every ounce of advantage for the nation was got out of coal if, in fact, he was making this large profit on the side?
The same thing applies to the steel industry. The Corporation is being given the responsibility of running the steel industry—I emphasise it again—in the best interests of the nation. Suppose the Corporation diversified. Suppose, as a result of that diversification, it became a great competitor of I.C.I., as it could do quite easily under the Bill? In those conditions, the Corporation might show a different picture. It might produce a substantial profit for the nation. Its interest charges, its depreciation, its capital on-cost and everything else might be amply covered. But, in fact, the profit might be coming from its diversified activities and the steel industry itself could be making a loss. Is this what the nation wants? Is it what pure Socialism wants?
It is legitimate for a free enterprise industry to go in for diversification, but it is contrary to the basic thinking on nationalisation of the party opposite. Hon. and right hon. Members are now saying that they want the Corporation to have the right to diversify. This is an admission that they do not think that the Corporation will do awfully well just running steel. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] All right. Then why do they want diversification?
If the hon. Gentleman could stop being doctrinaire for a moment, would he not agree—he has mentioned I.C.I.—that there might be public benefit in someone going into competition with some parts of I.C.I.'s activities? Would it not be as well for a nationalised industry to do this?
To deal with steel. Basically, we are not asking that Corporation to do anything other than make the best success it can of the steel industry in the interest of the nation.
Human nature being what it is, if I could make myself believe in Socialism—I should find it very difficult—and if I were in charge of the Corporation, it would narrow my attention and concentrate my endeavour and drive far more if I knew that I had to report to the nation on the success of my efforts and those efforts were directed to the subject now under debate, the steel industry. It would diversify and take away the object of the exercise if I knew that by this or that diversification I could make a profit which would cloak the overall result of the efficiency of the steel industry.
It goes deeper than that. If it is possible for the Corporation to make a profit from diversification and it regards those activities as most important, will not the Corporation be likely to spend a lot of its funds on research into the diversified activities and less on research into the basic steel industry.
It is almost certain that the industry will now be nationalised, and I am trying to make it efficient. I hope hon. Members have sufficient knowledge of my sincerity to understand that I mean that. I cannot see how one injects the biggest drive into the Corporation in order to make its activities efficient if it is allowed to keep taking its eye off the ball and be carried away by more attractive easy profit which is not basically in the interest of the nation.
Fundamental rethinking on the subject of nationalisation must be done by the party opposite. It is very easy to say that nationalised industries have been harried in the past and it would have been attractive if they had been able to take up an outside activity and make a profit. But basically that is not their thinking. Their basic thinking is that if coal, electricity, gas, steel—and water, perhaps—are in the undivided control of a national corporation, run in the interests of the people, that is the best way to run it.
It does not make that Corporation's task any easier if it diversifies into all sorts of other activities which will cloud the issue and perhaps remove the wrath of Parliament. Perhaps that is the reason behind this. I hope not, because we want to make the steel industry more and more efficient. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman that the right way to do so is for the Corporation to deal with steel and steel alone on behalf of the British people, and not be carried away by the other attractive possibilities of diversification, which I believe are contrary to the basic thinking of the party opposite.
Does the Minister not see that unless he gives an indication that he will look with sympathy on the Amendment to his Amendment he risks bringing the Parliamentary system into disrepute? In the debate on the last Amendment the main burden of his argument was that we could not have Parliament interferring with day-to-day matters of running this great industry but, that we could rest assured that he, or whoever was Minister at the time, would have given consent, and that there would have been an examination at Ministerial level before there was what might be unfair competition in diversification.
That was the whole burden of his argument: he or his successors would look into the merits of diversification before it was accepted. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), who keeps good records of what is going on, has marked very clearly what the right hon. Gentleman said in Committee in trying to allay concern on this matter. He said that before he allowed any diversification it would have to have his consent or general authority.
He is now relying completely upon the general authority, which to some extent risks bringing the Parliamentary system into disrepute. He gave the impression in Committee that diversification would go through the sieve of the Minister's person approval. Only a minute or two ago, he got through the last debate by arguing that he would give personal approval before it was allowed to happen. Now he puts down an Amendment in such general terms that "general authority" is not a true description. If the powers will be so wide as these words will leave them, even the Ministerial safeguard is hardly there.
To have got through the Committee stage and the last Amendment giving the general impression that he would do something which he now refuses to do, carries with it the grave risk of bringing the whole system upon which all our legislation is based into some disrepute. I therefore hope that even now he will give careful thought to giving an indication that he is prepared to accept my right hon. Friend's Amendment.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) saw certain perils in the risk of diversification for the sake of imaginary profits. I share his distaste for this excessively wide diversification, but I fear that on occasion there migh well be a board seeking to diversify for Socialist doctrinaire reasons, and far from diversifying for profit motives it might well diversify for loss motives. It is an extraordinary concept that we keep hearing from the party opposite about industries which reputedly fail the nation and which should therefore be swallowed up by parts of industry which come within the shadow of this umbrella of diversification.
I see this thing as being far more dangerous the other way than my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk saw it.
I was not suggesting that the Corporation would make a greater profit by diversification. I said that it was contrary to the whole of Socialist thinking, which is a totally different argument.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. What he says is true. But the fact remains that we might in future have Socialist Ministers seeking greater steps of nationalisation and going far beyond even the intended dreams of the present Minister and the present Prime Minister. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will apply himself to the request by my right hon. Friend to look at our Amendment.
Mention has also been made of Ministerial scrutiny before any diversification. We all know from our correspondence with Departments how slow and frequently incompetent Ministerial scrutinies can be. I am not suggesting that the right hon Gentleman is not an extremely hard-working person, but the fact remains that he has been working very hard on many matters in the last few months which would have prevented him from scrutinising other matters which may either have had to lie upon his desk or have been dealt with by some Parliamentary Secretary—come and go as they do—or by a permanent official, perhaps with that official saying, "I do not really deal with the day-to-day affairs of the Corporation; I expect that it is all right."
The talk about Ministerial scrutiny is a poor substitute for Parliamentary scrutiny. Parliamentary scrutiny, however tedious it may be to Ministers and officials, is seen by the whole country to take place, whereas Ministerial scrutiny does or does not take place behind closed doors. For this reason, I am much opposed to the substitution of any sort of Ministerial scrutiny for Parliamentary scrutiny.
I am sorry that I have been prompted to say something about this, but I see this proposal as a dangerous extension of Socialism. When in the past an industry has been nationalised, it has been made perfectly clear what was being done. There has been no doubt about it. But now this Amendment will give the National Steel Corporation the opportunity to move in and start nationalisation under cover of a great number of other industries, for we must accept that steel is the prime product used by an enormous number of our industries—for example, the motor car industry.
It is obvious that if the Corporation starts to diversify in the terms in which it is laid down by the Minister in this Amendment, the Minister can prompt it to buy interests in the motor industry and in many of the other industries in which steel is the prime product. Not only will this start to give an opportunity for thinking of further industries to nationalise. It could also have a tremendous effect upon our export trade over a wide range of merchandise and products. It shows also great lack of faith in the steel industry and the Corporation that the Government should say "We want power to diversify." If steel is so important to us, as it is, as a prime product, then surely the heads of the new steel industry will have enough to do to look after that industry, making that prime product, which is of so much importance in the making of other manufactures, to ensure that it is run efficiently and well, and selling at the right price, to enable it to compete in world markets.
Does the hon. Gentleman not think he is perhaps getting slightly off the point? These Amendments have nothing to do with whether the industry diversifies or whether it does not. It is merely an argument about what form of consent I should give. The argument about diversification we have had already.
With great respect to the Minister if he is going to give consent to diversification, then this is about diversification, fundamentally. It must be. I should not have thought that people would be as naïve as to fall for that argument by the right hon. Gentleman. This, basically, is what this discussion is really about—diversification. It must be The Minister is the one who will determine to what extent it should be carried out.
I really hope that we are not going to be brushed aside like this. I know the Minister is very reasonable about many things, but he is also very astute, and a lot of his hon. Friends would be very happy indeed to see this opportunity used to start to test out new areas for possible nationalisation. I do not think that the Steel Bill is in its concept, or in its operation, should be used for anything of the sort. If the Government are going ahead with their Socialism, if they are going to nationalise more industries, then they should have come to this House and nationalise each particular industry, and not have a back-door means of buying their way into other industries dependent upon the steel industry for the tools of their trade.
Why is it that the Minister and the party opposite are saying it is the steel industry they are now going to nationalise in order to make it more efficient, and yet at the same time feel it will be useful for the steel industry to buy its way—to diversify, but to buy its way—into other industries in order to get control of other industries for which the steel industry produces the prime product? This is, I believe, a dangerous philosophy, and a philosophy which can do our exports very much harm. Let the Corporation get on with the job of running the steel industry, and let the other industries run their businesses.
Very briefly, since the Minister himself touched, in a brief intervention, on a point which is, I think, very germane to the argument, namely, the precise degree of control of some of these investment projects and diversified undertakings the Minister should have, I should like to put to him a short and simple point, which has arisen in the past on the performance of the National Coal Board, and which may, conceivably, arise in future in respect of the National Steel Corporation.
When we get a great nationalised industry like coal finding it particular product has been challenged by a new form of energy, for example, oil, then, in the words of the Chairman of the National Coal Board, it has to "protect the investment". I have no doubt that the Minister has noticed that there is a certain amount of wild casting around by some of these public authorities for some new sector into which they can go legitimately to "protect the investment" if they can. He must have had a few nightmares about, for example, the investment Lord Robens made in the Draysley Company of Slough, about which the Minister answered a Question by me the other day—and about home fires, too.
The Minister could save himself a good many headaches over the possibility that in future the Corporation, having to "protect its investment", to use the jargon of the Coal Board, let us say, in 10 or 15 years, because of some development in plastics, something like that, might seek to invest in some rather rarified projects, if he ensured that at least it should have to get his specific authority, and not merely some general authority. We on this side believe that there is a great deal of public money in which might be called the dying nationalised industries, which are dying in the face of modern developments in their own field. The Minister would have been spared a good many headaches if his Department had had a chance to examine some of these diversified investments which the Corporations have made.
Let the Minister give himself the power of our Amendment to the Amendment to scrutinise the projects first and not make it necessary for the Coal Board and others to come to the House for more money because they have lost money on what they have done already.
This has been a surprising reaction to what I thought was an act of unparalleled generosity in producing the Amendment, which, I think hon. Members opposite will agree, goes some way to meet the point which they have made. Clearly, the trouble with putting down Government Amendments is that hon. Members are encouraged to seek to amend them ad infinitum.
The hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) made an interesting point when he said, as did his hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden), that where a nationalised industry is diversifying and purchasing assets, clearly a Minister must ensure that this is done broadly in line with Government policy. It is conceivable, although it has never happened, that the chairman of the board of a nationalised industry could, in realms of wild fantasy and theory, begin to diversify all over the place and proceed to build an empire which was highly undesirable from the point of view of everybody except the board. That is obviously a possibility. The point is that the Minister already has power to require a situation wherein he gives his specific consent.
The Opposition Amendment would make it impossible to act under a general authority in all cases but would require the Minister to give—and thereby the Corporation to require—specific consent in every case.
I do not think that there is any difference of opinion on either side about the need to ensure that if an industry of the size of the Corporation suddenly begins to get involved in large projects, this is clearly a matter in which the Minister of the day, and through him Parliament, must have, and rightly has, an interest.
On the other hand, one must bear in mind that the Steel Corporation would be a very large company, and precisely because of that many of its acquisitions would be of no significance. The Corporation would be involved in such a wide range of activities that it would be faced with two sets of decisions: one would be acquisitions of interests of sig- nificance, and the other, of which hon. Members opposite who are engaged in commerce and business will be aware, would be the day-to-day acquisitions in which a large company from time to time finds itself engaged. I am in no doubt whatever, and I would certainly give a firm undertaking, that the Corporation would be required to seek Ministerial consent for each acquisition of interests in a company except in cases where such an acquisition would be of little significance.
On the other hand, it might prove desirable for the Corporation to form new companies which would merely take over assets already owned by the Corporation or the publicly-owned companies. In this case—and in a myriad of other acquisitions which hon. Members from their experience, can probably think of much more rapidly than I—in which a large company of that size would be involved, certainly the Bill gives the Minister power to require either that specific consent or his general authority be sought. It would certainly be the intention of the Government—I think, of any Minister in his own self-interest, to put it no higher—to require the Corporation to seek the Minister's specific consent in cases of significance. The disagreement is not one of principle; it is merely that it is felt that if the Minister were deprived of the opportunity of giving a general authority it might involve a lot of unnecessary bureaucracy.
I am concerned about the right hon. Gentleman's comment that the Corporation would be allowed to carry on only those deals and acquisitions which were of little significance. What might appear to the Minister to be of little significance, and which he would pass, might, if it were known to Parliament, and Parliament had the opportunity of dealing with it, be found to be of considerable significance. This is all so vague that it worries me, because what Ministers might consider to be of little significance could be considered by Parliament to be of great significance, but Parliament will never have the opportunity of prognosticating on it.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, and it is a real one, but the House has to accept that the Corporation cannot be run from Westminster, any more than it can from Whitehall. It will become another Government Department if it is not given some authority, subject of course to the consent of the Minister. I agree with the hon. Member for Gillingham. It is difficult to define the dividing line. This is one of the problems.
I think it would be accepted that there are differences of scale and magnitude. It may be that no one would agree on the definition of "magnitude", but a division has to be made at some stage. I appreciate and sympathise with the point made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I accept that this is not a statutory matter, and I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to accept that it is the intention—I think that it would be the intention of any Minister to require specific consent to be sought in respect of any major move. There must, however, be a recognition that in an organisation as big and as diffuse as the Corporation, leaving aside its diversified activities—
We have all got our minds poisoned in this context by what took place before, admittedly under a Conservative Government. Only 10 per cent. of the steel industry was left nationalised, namely, Richard Thomas and Baldwins, but it gobbled up the Whitehead Iron and Steel Company, and a large sum of money was involved, without any kind of Parliamentary consent. This was done in spite of widespread protests by my hon. Friends and myself when we were on the benches opposite. It is that kind of practice which we are anxious to avoid.
I accept that, without mentioning the specific instance. I think that where there are significant matters of that kind, clearly there should be specific Ministerial consent. I do not think there is any dispute about this. I had thought that this was a fairly non-controversial speech.
There is, however, a range in which it would be reasonable and legitimate to require a general authority, and all I am asking—and I end on this because I think that the difference is pretty clear—is that the Government should be permitted to retain both general and specific authority,
in the knowledge that over the last few years—I am not making a party point—the House has taken into account the sort of thing mentioned by the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). I am not sure that that sort of thing would be likely to happen again, under either Government. I would not have thought so. The argument is not one of principle, but merely that this would be an unreasonable restriction.
With the leave of the House, I should like to say a few words in reply to the Minister. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we cannot agree on this, and therefore the matter must be taken to a Division.
I was astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman refer to day-to-day acquisitions by a large company. I know of no large company in Great Britain which is engaged in day-to-day acquisitions. There are, of course, companies which have acquired many other subsidiaries, but these are matters which are looked at with the greatest possible care.
What I find so unconvincing about the right hon. Gentleman's argument is the fact that here we are concerned with acquisitions of other companies, many of which have nothing whatever to do with iron and steel. If the right hon. Gentleman had said, "In connection with acquisitions within the steel industry there will be general authority in many cases, but I give the assurance that wherever there is an acquisition of a company which has nothing whatever to do with iron and steel I will in every case require a specific consent from myself", I would not have pressed the matter to a Division.
We have had a debate which has gone on for longer than I had expected after the brief speech in which I referred to my Amendment to the Government Amendment, but as we cannot vote on my Amendment, for reasons which I understand, we shall have to show our displeasure by voting against the Government Amendment.
|Division No. 242.]||AYES||[9.16 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Barber, Rt. Hn, Anthony|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Awdry, Daniel||Batsford, Brian|
|Astor, John||Baker, W. H. K.||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton|
|Bell, Ronald||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Gurden, Harold||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nott, John|
|Biffen, John||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Onslow, Cranley|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Blaker, Peter||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Body, Richard||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hawkins, Paul||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Braine, Bernard||Heseltine, Michael||Percival, Ian|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Higgins, Terence L.||Peyton, John|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hill, J. E. B.||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Bryan, Paul||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Holland, Philip||Pym, Francis|
|Burden, F. A.||Hooson, Emlyn||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hordern, Peter||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hornby, Richard||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Howell, David (Guildford)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hunt, John||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Iremonger, T. L.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Clark, Henry||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Clegg, Walter||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Cooke, Robert||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Royle, Anthony|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Cordle, John||Jopling, Michael||Sharples, Richard|
|Costain, A. P.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Crawley, Aidan||Kimball, Marcus||Smith, John|
|Crouch, David||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Stainton, Keith|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kitson, Timothy||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Stodart, Anthony|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lambton, Viscount||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Dance, James||Langford-Hott, Sir John||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Taylor, Frank (Mose Side)|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Temple, John M.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Doughty, Charles||Longden, Gilbert||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Drayson G. B.||Loveys, w. H.||Tilney, John|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Lubbock, Eric||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. M.|
|Eden, Sir John||McAdden, Sir Stephen||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||MacArthur, Ian||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Farr, John||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maddan, Martin||Wall, Patrick|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Maginnis, John E.||Walters, Dennis|
|Forrest, George||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Fortescue, Tim||Marten, Neil||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Foster, Sir John||Maude, Angus||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Giles Rear-Adm. Morgan||Mawby, Ray||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Miscampbell, Norman||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Monro, Hector||Worsley, Marcus|
|Goodhart, Philip||More, Jasper||Wylie, N. R.|
|Gower, Raymond||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Grant, Anthony||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Mr. R. W. Elliott and Mr. David Mitchell.|
|Grieve, Percy||Murton, Oscar|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Abse, Leo||Beaney, Alan||Bradley, Tom|
|Albu, Austen||Bence, Cyril||Bray, Dr. Jeremy|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Brooks, Edwin|
|Alldritt, Walter||Bidwell, Sydney||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Allen, Scholefield||Blackburn, F.||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)|
|Anderson, Donald||Boardman, H.||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)|
|Archer, Peter||Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Buchan, Norman|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Booth, Albert||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Boston, Terence||Butter, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Atkinson Norman (Tottenham)||Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Boyden, James||Carmichael, Neil|
|Barnett Joel||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Carter-Jones, Lewis|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Jackson, Colin (Bh'se & Spenb'gh)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Coe, Denis||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Coleman, Donald||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pentland, Norman|
|Concannon, J. D.||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Parry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Parry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Craddock George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Judd, Frank||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Cronin, John||Kelley, Richard||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Kenyon, Clifford||Randall, Harry|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Rankin, John|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Lawson, George||Redhead, Edward|
|Dalyell, Tam||Leadbitter, Ted||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kennneth (St. P'c'as)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lomas, Kenneth||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Dell, Edmund||Loughlin, Charles||Roebuck, Roy|
|Dewar, Donald||Luard, Evan||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Rose, Paul|
|Dickens, James||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Dobson, Ray||McBride, Neil||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)|
|Doig, Peter||McCann, John||Ryan, John|
|Driberg, Tom||MacColl, James||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Dunn, James A.||MacDermot, Niall||Sheldon, Robert|
|Dunnett, Jack||Macdonald, A. H.||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'ctle-u-Tyne)|
|Eadie, Alex||Mackie, John||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Mackintosh, John P.||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Ellis, John||Maclennan, Robert||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|English, Michael||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Ennals, David||McNamara, J. Kevin||Slater, Joseph|
|Ensor, David||MacPherson, Malcolm||Small, William|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Snow, Julian|
|Finch, Harold||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Stonehouse, John|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Manuel, Archie||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mapp, Charles||Swingler, Stephen|
|Ford, Ben||Marquand, David||Symonds, J. B.|
|Fowler, Gerry||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Taverne, Dick|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mason, Roy||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mayhew, Christopher||Thornton, Ernest|
|Gardner, Tony||Mellish, Robert||Tinn, James|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mendelson, J. J.||Tomney, Frank|
|Ginsburg, David||Mikardo, Ian||Urwin, T. W.|
|Gourlay, Harry||Millan, Bruce||Varley, Eric G.|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Wallace, George|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Moonman, Eric||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Weitzman, David|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Moyle, Roland||Whitaker, Ben|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Murray, Albert||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Harper, Joseph||Newens, Stan||Whitlock, William|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Norwood, Christopher||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Haseldine, Norman||Oakes, Gordon||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Hazell, Bert||Ogden, Eric||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Henig, Stanley||O'Malley, Brian||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Oram, Albert E.||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Orbach, Maurice||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Hooley, Frank||Orme, Stanley||Winnick, David|
|Horner, John||Oswald, Thomas||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Woof, Robert|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Yates, Victor|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Paget, R. T.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Howie, W.||Palmer, Arthur|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Park, Trevor||Mr. Edward Bishop|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||and Mr. Ioan L. Evans.|
|Hunter, Adam||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Hynd, John||Pavitt, Laurence|
I beg to move Amendment No. 19, in page 3, line 16, leave out from 'for' to 'any' in line 18 and insert:
'any group of companies (whether consisting of all or any of the publicly-owned companies, other companies or both)'.
As now drafted, the Bill empowers the Corporation to provide common services "for the publicly-owned companies or for any group of such companies or of such companies and other companies". This is a mixture of authority to deal with the nationalised sector and provide a service also for the mixture of the nationalised sector and the private companies. In Committee I understand there was some discussion to the effect that the services should be provided by the Corporation for the private companies alone, without necessarily imposing the condition that there should be a mixed group of nationalised and private companies.
An undertaking was given by the Minister that this would be considered. It has been thought about and although it will be difficult to see circumstances in which it will be necessary to provide services for a group of privately-owned companies alone, since the requirement would be to provide an enabling power, there is no objection to it. This Amendment has been tabled to meet the point raised in Committee by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. J. H. Osborn) and others.
We are grateful to the hon. Gentleman for having put this into the Bill. As the Parliamentary Secretary has said, he cannot see any occasion when it might be necessary to use this power for the benefit of the private sector alone. Nevertheless, I am sure that the Government are wise to have accepted this because an occasion might arise when such a power is needed and it would be very unfortunate if it were not there.