Iron and Steel Bill

Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1967.

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Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

I beg to move Amendment No. 28, in page 4, line 5, after 'purposes', to insert: 'to avoid the imposing of any substantial price differentials in particular areas which could have the effect of frustrating regional development,'. I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for having selected the Amendment, because it gives me an opportunity of speaking briefly on a refinement of a point upon which I touched briefly in Committee. At that time I had the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) and the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton). I am most grateful that they are both present tonight.

Scotland's interests were mentioned in Committee at length and on many occasions. I am afraid that the impression was created that this was all rather a joke, but the particular point in the Amendment is desperately serious and vital to the interests of Scotland. If the Amendment and its spirit are not approved, there will inevitably be a higher price for steel in Scotland than in the rest of the country, and that will knock the heart out of Scottish steel and heavy industry.

I sincerely believe that if this happens it is inevitable that the development and expansion of the Scottish steeel industry will stop, because it will be impossible to justify it. Scotland cannot at present bear a great deal more. We have 88,000 unemployed, the increase is accelerating at double the rate for the rest of Great Britain, and it looks as if it will get worse. One steel works closed a couple of days ago and there are indications that more will follow.

My Amendment is not being used as an attempt to have a crack at this Government. The question of differentials in nationalised industries stemmed from the previous Government. Admittedly, it has become worse under the present Government in two of the nationalised industries but the point is that this is something for which one Government alone are not responsible. Differentials started with the last Government but have increased and got worse under this. What worries me is the reference in Clause 3 to the fact that prices with …such variations in the terms and conditions on which such products are supplied as may arise from ordinary commercial considerations or from the public interest. It is the phrase "ordinary commercial considerations" which concerns me. If regard is paid to ordinary commercial considerations—to the costs of production in the different areas—inevitably the price of steel will be substantially higher in Scotland. This is solely because of the different prices charged by the other nationalised industries.

The Scottish steel industry is no less efficient than the industry in the rest of the country. It is no less modern and in some ways it is well ahead of the rest of the country, were it not so, it could not survive. But, simply because of the differentials policy of other nationalised industries, the Scottish steel industry is not in fair competition. It starts off with a ball and chain round its feet and cannot move forward because of these differentials.

In March last year, an additional 10s. per ton was added to the price of coking coal in Scotland. The result was that for one steel works—Colvilles—an extra cost of £900,000 per year was incurred. This year, Colvilles has lost £2 million but had there been no differential in the price of coal, had Colvilles been able to get its coal at the same price as elsewhere it would have made a profit of over £1 million.

That is what the differential means to Scotland. In every other area where steel is produced in Britain, the price of coal is much lower than it is in Scotland. I will quote some figures. In Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, where we have Stewarts & Lloyds, Staveleys and Stanton Iron Works, the price is 105s. per ton; for Colvilles it is 133s. 6d. a ton—a difference of 30s. a ton which means an extra cost of almost £3 million for that one firm. For the United Steel Companies in Yorkshire, the cost is 100s. per ton. In South Wales, where we have Richard Thomas and Baldwins and Guest Keen and Nettlefolds, the price is 115s. 4d. per ton.

What amazes and alarms me is to find how little is known about this and the extent to which the Government do not even appear to take it into consideration at all. I asked a Question today—written unfortunately—about the price of coal. The only information that the Parliamentary Secretary could give me was information that I gave the Standing Committee in December. What about the price of coal in other basic constituent elements of the costs of the steel industry? Here the hon. Gentleman gave figures, but only in respect of 1965–66. They showed that the average revenue per therm for gas in Scotland was 25·92d., compared with a national average of 22·47d. per therm. The answer pointed out that since then there has been various tariff changes which must be taken into account. He did not mention that one of these was a 13 per cent. increase for Scotland whereas, in some areas, no increase has been made at all. Here is another factor in "ordinary commercial considerations" which means that the price of steel will be much higher in Scotland.

Then we come to the third and final basic cost so far as the steel companies are concerned, the rates. The Steel Review for last month deplored the fact that for the steel companies as a whole the rates in 1965 came to 12s. 6d. per ton in cost, a very substantial sum indeed, which adds to the costs of the steel industry. What it did not say was that, in Scotland, at Colvilles, our major works, in 1965 there was 27s. 9d —more than double—which had to be allowed for rates. So here we have a situation where, if we have this Clause unamended, and the Government operate ordinary commercial considerations, as they have in every nationalised industry, inevitably the cost will be much higher in Scotland. Colvilles alone, in 1965, paid over £1 million in local rates.

What would be the argument for ordinary commercial considerations? It may be suggested, as has been suggested from both sides of the House, that each area should stand on its own. But how should we define an area? Should we say that Ballachulish should pay a higher price than Auchenshuggle? We can take one large area, or a small area. It all depends what we want to take, but the Government have decided that Scotland should be taken as an area on its own. We know why the price of coal is dear in Scotland, because for social reasons certain pits are kept open. This is not largesse on the part of the English Government. It is obviously a thing we pay for ourselves. This Clause, if this change were not made, would mean inevitably that the price must be higher.

I would challenge anyone in this House to say that Scottish steel is in any way inefficient. It has spent more on capital development, in relation to the number of men employed, than, I believe, any other steel-making area in the country. Our steel industry is efficient; it is forward-looking; but, inevitably, unless something can be done to remove these differentials it will be impossible for steel to survive in Scotland, far less expand and develop, as it must.

If this Amendment is not accepted, inevitably the price must be higher, and this will have a direct effect on heavy industry, on shipbuilding and other industries on which Scotland still depends largely for its income and national livelihood. For example, if we take steel alone, there are only about 32,000 people directly employed in steel, but there are about 250,000 people who in Scotland directly or indirectly depend on steel for their livelihood. If we have a differential price for steel as we have for coal, gas, electricity, then the heart will be knocked out of Scottish industry and the future will be very grim indeed.

In this Amendment I am not asking for a subsidy at all. We want fair and free competition, and I believe we can take on any steel industry in the country in fair and free competition, but that means getting fair and equal treatment so far as the basic costs of the nationalised industries are concerned. Give us equality, not a subsidy, and we will compete, and I believe that the industry will continue to expand and develop.

That is why it is essential that the Government should accept this Amendment, or, if they cannot accept this Amendment because of inadequacy in its drafting, let them say quite simply that they accept the proposition contained in the Amendment. If they cannot put it in the Bill, let them at least say that this will be their policy. It must be their policy if the steel industry is to survive and the heavy industry of Scotland is to have any hope of a future. For that reason, let me say to the Government that this is one point which is desperately serious for Scotland, one which must be accepted, and on which, I hope, the Government will show some sympathy.

10.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Brian O'Malley Mr Brian O'Malley , Rotherham

On a number of occasions I have been critical about some aspects of the administration and financial organisation of Colvilles, but I have a great sympathy with Colvilles in what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) has said, as I indicated in Committee.

We have a situation in which Colvilles, and, I think, also Bairds and Scottish Steel Ltd., are paying substantially more for the coking coal which they buy than their counterparts, for example, which are dependent on coal supplied from the Yorkshire coalfields. It was a Government decision taken by a Conservative Government that for reasons which transcended economic reasons there should be an extension of investment in the steel industry at Ravenscraig. I believe that that was the right decision when one considers all the factors, and not merely the economic factors, which the Government of the day obviously had to consider when they were considering where the investment in new steel sheet plant should be made.

A Government having made that decision, and that Government having been supported by the Labour Party backbench Members—and, I think, by the whole of the Labour Party at the time—that this new plant should be put into Scotland, there is a strong argument that something should be done to assist the Scottish steel industry because of the tremendous differential in the price of coking coal.

The hon. Member for Cathcart recognises, I think, in his Amendment that it is perhaps inevitable that there will be price differentials between one area and another in, for example, coking coal prices. In the present organisation of the National Coal Board, we cannot expect to get the same level of prices throughout the country. Whether one should criticise that policy is another matter, which we are not discussing tonight.

Nevertheless, while I think that many of us would be prepared to accept some differentials, the magnitude of those differentials—whereby Colvilles, I understand, pay something like 30s. a ton more for coking coal than is paid by steel plants south of the Border—justifies that something has to be done about this. For that reason I sympathise with the purpose of the Amendment.

It is not only a question of coking coal. There are also electricity prices. Looking at the steel industry as a whole, I have for a long time believed that the method of assessing the plant of steel companies for rating purposes places an undue burden on those units of the steel industry. For a long time I have said that I would like to see a modification of that system while the rating system survives.

We would, however, be unwise to consider merely the specific question of Scotland when considering electricity charges, coal price differentials and the rating system, because we also have the general problem, which confronts Colvilles and all the other steel firms which will be taken into the public sector, that these firms and this public sector will be wanting to compete in European markets and in world markets.

We have a situation in which some of the European steel producers use cheap American coking coal. The German steel industry is facing a difficulty in that many of the German coal mines, which are privately owned and which are—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. This is very interesting, but I am not sure that it comes within the scope of the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Brian O'Malley Mr Brian O'Malley , Rotherham

I am trying, Mr. Speaker, to demonstrate that there is in the Amendment a problem of price differentials, as the hon. Member for Cathcart has said. I am trying to suggest how to overcome that problem and how to reduce the difficulty, for example, which Colvilles faces both in its internal trading and in the export market. I will be brief and will try to keep in order, but perhaps you will tell me, Mr. Speaker, if I go out of order.

It seems to me that perhaps the best way in which the Government can assist Colvilles, and Scotland generally, is a way which would also assist the rest of the steel industry throughout the country. I do not want to see American coking coal brought into this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—because I believe, first, that we should not spend foreign currency on it when we can produce British coal. Secondly, I think that we have a responsibility to the British coal mining industry, and I come from a mining area.

I think that in order to prevent this kind of price differential, and to help the Scottish steel industry and also the British steel industry generally, the Government would be well advised to consider the possibility—as is being done in Germany and in the E.C.S.C. countries which hon. Gentlemen opposite are so eager to join—of providing some kind of subsidy to our domestic steel industry so that there is not a differential in the export markets between our steel industry and foreign steel industries. This would help Colvilles and the Scottish steel industry. Obviously the level of subsidy will depend on the price differential if it exists as it does at the moment, and which the Scottish steel industry has to pay.

I hope that the Government will look carefully at the Amendment, because I believe that the hon. Gentleman is right. Colvilles and the steel industry generally are suffering an intolerable burden because of differential prices. Secondly, I think that by developing a policy to help Scotland the Government can develop a policy which will help the whole of the steel industry in its fight for export markets.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

It is nice to hear a Sassenach Member from the benches opposite supporting a Tory Amendment designed to bring increased prosperity to Scotland, for we sat through nearly 3,000 columns of HANSARD in Committee upstairs without hearing a Scottish voice from the Government Benches. [An HON. MEMBER: "Shocking."] It is shocking. My only desire is that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), when he leaves the precincts of the Palace of Westminster in the early hours of tomorrow morning, will record his magnificent speech this evening on a tape recorder and will send the tapes to the City of Glasgow so that they may be played in every street in the area of the Pollok by-election. If ever there was an epitome of "Scotland for ever" it was my hon. Friend's speech this evening.

This is not the first occasion on which I, a Sassenach Unionist Member, have intervened to support my hon. Friend, for he was talking good economic and financial sense this evening, as he did on so many occasions upstairs. He said at one point in his speech that Colvilles lost £2 million this year. I immediately declare my personal interest as a shareholder in Colvilles. I did not buy its shares at the high of 83s. each, I promise my hon. Friend. I bought them very satisfactorily, and I shall earn a profit on them, but I am sorry to see their decline in recent months, and the decline in Colvilles' prospects.

That is most largely due to three factors. The first is the price differential for coking coals north of the border, which greatly inflates the cost of production of Scottish steel. The second factor is the refusal of successive Governments to allow the import of American coking coal. I do not take the parochial view that every industry in Britain should use only British coal; that we should freely admit the import of oil, of manufactured goods, of food, and of a thousand different products, and yet deny entry to coal. Why? Simply to serve the interests of the coalmining lobby opposite and its innate sense of introverted loyalty to the mine-workers which is so misplaced today.

The third mistake was made by my own party, namely, to split that strip mill in two halves, one in South Wales and the other at Ravenscraig. All the big strip mills in the world built in the last few years are on a concentrated, high-production basis. This mill was split for party political reasons because the Welsh lobby of the party opposite protested loudly for a share in the new strip production. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Finch) grinning his support. He was one of the most vociferous Members who favoured taking part of the strip mill to South Wales, whereas it should have been all in one place, north of the Border at Ravenscraig.

Those are the three reasons which militate against economic competitiveness of Scottish steel today and which have caused a decline in its prospects. The right hon. Gentleman will know that in 1965 the output of the United Kingdom steel industry was about 27 million ingot tons. Of this, 2,743,000 ingot tons, or almost exactly 10 per cent., were produced north of the Border. The Benson Report confirms those figures, and tells us the companies involved. There was Bairds and Scottish, with sections and bars; Colvilles and all its works, with plate, heavy sections, bars and sheets; Lanarkshire, with heavy sections and bars, and Stewarts and Lloyds, at Clydesdale, with tubes and pipes.

At this stage it is very important for the Minister to proclaim his support for the system of non-discrimination against Scottish steel producers. We have had nationalised coal, nationalised gas and nationalised electricity—in the case of Scotland from bituminous coal and water power—and now we are to have nationalised steel; all four industries will be in public ownership north of the Border and all within the Ministerial prerogative of the right hon. Gentleman. Is he really, by default or negation, going to tell us this evening that he accepts the decline of the Scottish steel industry and, notwithstanding the prerogative being his, that he will do nothing to support the policy of non-discrimination against Scotland to which I have referred this evening?

Every Scottish Member opposite should be rising with warmth and enthusiasm to support the policies that I have put to the House this evening. They should not emulate the example of their one Scottish colleague in Committee who was quiescent and sedentary from beginning to end, throughout the 3,000 weary columns of HANSARD. I hope that we shall have lots of speeches from Scottish Members this evening. [Interruption.] Are we not going to hear from the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) this evening? No? Mark it up for the Pollok by-election. Are we not going to hear from any of the Scots coal miners—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Whether we are or not, as the hon. Member knows, he must speak to the Amendment.

10.30 p.m.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

Your patience and your toleration are greatly supported by myself, and I am deeply grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. I was merely acting as a trailer for the Pollok by-election, by trying to encourage Scottish Members to support me. As for the one English Member who supported me, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) I hope that we shall find him in our Lobby this evening. I hope that he is not the sawdust Caesar of the steel debate. [Interruption.] I will not go into Purchase Tax because there is no Purchase Tax on steel. When the hon. Gentleman does his homework he will find that I voted against my own party on Purchase Tax for five years running, which is more than he has ever done.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. There is nothing about Purchase Tax in the Bill.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

I was tempted Sir. With those few words I appeal to my hon. and right hon. Friends to support the magnificent policies enunciated by my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart unless a satisfactory reply is received.

Photo of Mr James Hamilton Mr James Hamilton , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

We have now had our Sunday Night at the London Palladium a day late. We have all listened attentively to the hon. Gentlemen the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). I would refer him to those 3,000 weary columns of HANSARD again. I was a member of the Standing Committee and I am sure he will discover that the hon. Member for Bothwell did speak during the sessions upstairs. He will also find that in the early hours of the morning the hon. Member for Bothwell was always there and the hon. Gentleman for Worcestershire, South was not.

Because I am concerned about the Scottish economy, I do not think that this is a time for levity. The hon. Gentleman has attempted to make this one of the many humourous occasions that we have when he gets to his feet. Rating has been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). It should to understood that in Scotland we have the derating Act in operation. In essence that means that all industrialists have a 50 per cent. relief. I am not putting that forward as a reason for failing to support the Amendment. I want to reinforce the point made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart, when he said that the rates paid by Colvilles, notwithstanding the derating Act, are far in excess of those paid south of the Border.

It is quite true that we in Scotland are paying far more for gas and considerably more for electricity. I wish to give an example of how the gas industry is operating in Scotland. In my constituency we have a company making gas cookers, which are purchased by various regional gas boards. In spite of this, the Scottish consumer is paying more for them because the regional gas boards in Scotland are not competing with the other regions in the country. If this is to happen in the steel industry when it is nationalised, then obviously it will have a serious affect on the economy.

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

What has this got to do with what we are supposed to be discussing?

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I will stop the hon. Member when I think that he is out of order.

Photo of Mr James Hamilton Mr James Hamilton , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

In Scotland we have one of the most modern steel mills in Europe. During the Christmas Recess I visited Ravenscraig. I also visited Stewarts and Lloyds. I met the directors, who told me that coking coal was costing them about 30s. per ton more. This differential was introduced by the former Conservative Government, although it is fair to point out that the present Government have increased the cost per ton by a further 10s. Because of this differential, I trust that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power will bear in mind everything that has been said on this subject, remembering that Scotland is a development area and has high unemployment figures. I agree with the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South that we must do everything in our power to prevent the unemployment rate from increasing.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support for my theme. May I, therefore, expect him to walk through my Lobby, holding my hand—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—so demonstrating Socialist support for good Unionist policy in this matter?

Photo of Mr James Hamilton Mr James Hamilton , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

I do not think there is any chance of the hon. Gentleman and I going into the same Lobby at any time. I only hope that he will come to Pollok, so making the probable election of the Labour candidate a certainty.

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

I have already identified myself with the Unionist candidate by putting 100 gns. on him to win; and I will win my bet.

Photo of Mr James Hamilton Mr James Hamilton , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

One hundred guineas to the hon. Gentleman is like £1 million to many of my hon. Friends who, like me, come from a working-class constituency and represent working-class people.

Photo of Mr James Hamilton Mr James Hamilton , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

Whatever views the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South may hold, his hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart treated the Amendment seriously, appreciated the need to do something for Scotland's economy and did not expect that his proposal would be treated with frivolity. I urge the Minister not, under any circumstances, to allow the Bill to go the same way in Scotland as gas, electricity and coal. While I would not under any circumstances vote against my Government—

Photo of Mr James Hamilton Mr James Hamilton , Fermanagh and South Tyrone

—I urge the Minister to make voting for the Government easier by giving a categorical assurance that he will take note of what has been said about this matter and that he will do all he can in the interests of the economy of Scotland.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

It is a measure of the good sense of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) that his Amendment has been supported not only on both sides of the House but on both sides of the Border. The speech of the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton), with his great experience of industry in the West of Scotland, has demonstrated how real this problem is.

We must be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart not only for the powerful way in which he moved the Amendment, but the way in which he commended it to the House. He spoke of the differential, not only as something carried on by the present Government, but as something introduced by the previous Government. He was entirely fair in his whole approach. He said that the extent of the differential in Scotland was not known or properly realised. This is true of the whole of Scotland in relation to England, but it also happens within Scotland. In the parts of Scotland which I represent there is a further differential to contend with on coal prices. This differential within Scotland itself is discriminating against areas which are in need of greater development.

It gives me particular pleasure to see in his place the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), because I know that he will support me in what I shall say.

Photo of Mr Hector Hughes Mr Hector Hughes , Aberdeen North

The hon. Member is suffering from a delusion. His argument has not persuaded me at all.

Photo of Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith Mr Alick Buchanan-Smith , North Angus and Mearns

If the hon. and learned Member is not to support me I shall be extremely disappointed, because he is one of the first in this House to support the interests of the people and industries of Aberdeen and the surrounding countryside and it is in their interests that I intend to speak. In the north-east of Scotland and the Highlands we have this differential in relation to the nationalised industries which we do not wish to see repeated when the steel industry is nationalised.

In the north-east of Scotland, Aberdeen and the surrounding countryside we have a good share of engineering industry. We have a number of very enterprising firms which are getting orders not only from Scotland and the rest of Britain but for exports. If they are to suffer increased differentials on their raw materials coming from the South and at the same time have to contend with higher costs of transport when sending finished goods overseas and to the South, they will have greater discrimination made against them. Those firms in the north-east of Scotland and other parts away from the central belt show great enterprise in overcoming transport difficulties. Let us hope that in the steel industry we shall not have further differentials imposed which will make life more difficult for them than it is at present.

One of the disappointing things about this debate, as in the debate on Thursday when we discussed another Scottish Amendment, is that there is no Scottish Minister on the Government Front Bench to hear the arguments which are of particular relation to Scotland. I should have thought that a Scottish Minister would have made it his business to be on the Bench to hear those arguments. My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart mentioned the high rate of unemployment in Scotland and the rate at which it is increasing. This and the lack of concern by Ministers makes us realise why we have this situation in Scotland today.

I was disappointed to hear the hon. Member for Bothwell say that while he supported the Amendment he could not see his way to go into the Lobby with us tonight. What he said is exactly on the lines of what is said by Ministers when they are speaking in Scotland and in this House—when they do speak here, which is not very often. There is a great deal of heat but no power. It is power that we need to run the economy of Scotland, and that we are not getting from the present Government.

10.45 p.m.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

The cause of regional development has been warmly pursued by this Government, carrying much further the measures which the Tory Government belatedly started to revive after neglecting the question for so long. It was 10 years before they even started to move on this front. The question of the means of support for regional development has occupied both major parties.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) dwelt on the higher cost of coal, coking coal, gas and rates to the Scottish steel industry. He said that he did not want a subsidy; he just wanted other parts of the country to bear some of the higher costs of production in Scotland. I do not see what purpose is served by mincing words. Both sides fully accept that it is necessary and right to support regional development and that this costs money. If we consider just industrial costs, without taking into account social costs, this means a subsidy.

The question is: should this subsidy be paid in the form of capital contributions—in investment grants? Should it be provided through direct services in industrial training? Should it be provided by priming the pump with advance factories? Should it be provided by diverting specific enterprises to development areas—as, for example, the motor industry and, indeed, Colvilles itself was diverted to Scotland? Or should it be provided by expecting the public sector of industry to distort its price structure so that the costs of production are not reflected in the price charged in those areas?

This question has been considered deeply by Governments from both parties. In regard to the method of support, they have agreed that it is not right to distort the price structure and to expect, for example, steel producers on Tees-side, or in Rotherham, or in South Wales, to contribute specifically to the support of steel producers in Scotland—or, correspondingly, steel consumers.

Photo of Sir Frederick Burden Sir Frederick Burden , Gillingham

There are systems by which there could be rationalisation of prices. The petrol companies have arranged a system whereby the prices are general practically over the whole country. There is no mystique about doing this.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

The hon. Gentleman is misinformed about the costs of refining and distributing petrol in different parts of the country. He will find that where an oil company is a sole distributor the relationship between cost and price of petrol reflects the same consideration as in the steel industry. A study of the long papers the oil companies have written on their own cost systems in different parts of the country should convince the hon. Gentleman of this.

We have heard a number of speeches from hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies. This perhaps reflects the fact that there is a Scottish by-election pending.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Would the hon. Gentleman at least concede that I raised this point at least three times before the by-election became pending?

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

The hon. Gentleman is not the only Member—

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

There are also other regional development plans. We heard nothing of the problems of Wales or of the North-East.

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

The hon. Gentleman is known as a passionate advocate for Scotland. I am not sure that he is always an effective one.

Hon. Members:

Withdraw.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

Because he does not discriminate as to where he can achieve results. This is a question he should consider seriously. Per £1 of support, how many jobs can he best create in Scotland? Is it by an artificial method of support of steel prices, supported by higher steel prices or costs in other parts of the country or is it by investment grants or by advance factories or by training facilities?

If the claim is made without any priorities for different methods of regional support, then the cause is less effectively presented than it might be. We have certainly a need to maintain the pressure towards regional development in Scotland as in Wales, the North-East and other development areas, not just for a year or two but for a very long time, while the substructure of the industry and the balance of industry are brought firmly into the twentieth century.

The hon. Member has on other occasions, as have hon. Members on this side of the House with equal eloquence and perhaps with as great effectiveness, advocated the development of more modern industries in Scotland which are more likely to expand in the future than perhaps some of the older industries. The Government have taken substantial steps to support the shipbuilding industry, but they have also supported the electronics industry. If the hon. Gentleman examines some of the developments, starting off round Edinburgh, today in the electronics industry, I think he will find here a return from money which is greater than the kind of money which he wants to spend in supporting steel prices.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the only thing that has happened in electronics in the last few weeks has been the cancellation of two major projects? Is he also aware that the major thing that has happened in shipbuilding in the last year has been the cancellation of the shipbuilding credit scheme? Is he suggesting that Scottish steel is expendable and that we should get some new factories instead? This is an outrageous argument.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

I am suggesting that the development now taking place—for instance, the creation of the first regional computing centre in Edinburgh and the support of this by new public funds—is only one aspect of the highly discriminattory and selective approach that is necessary to get the greatest result possible for the economy from the necessarily limited amount of resources that can be made available in any one place.

The hon. Gentleman, in his pursuit of development in Scotland, has the wholehearted support not only of all Scottish Members of Parliament but of the Government. He also in the cause of general regional development, as I say, has the support of the Welsh Members and the North-East Members, but this Amendment is not the way to do it. We have later in this Bill a Clause which sets out the financial objectives of the nationalised industries. No doubt we shall have a debate on this, as we had in Committee. Hon. Members opposite were insistent that the steel industry should be run on commercial lines with prices properly reflecting costs and responding to the demands of the market. If this is the way we are to run the steel industry, if through other methods we develop means of supporting regional economies, we will only confuse our aims. We will only work against the best interests of regional development if we pursue the kind of patchwork approach which is proposed in this Amendment.

I therefore urge my hon. Friends, while I am sure they will accept that the Government are wholehearted in their support of regional development, in turn to accept that this Amendment would divert important resources away from those areas in which they can most effectively be used.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

The Parliamentary Secretary, in the course of what I can only call a very inadequate reply indeed, seemed to cast aspersions on the motives of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) which I can only describe as unworthy. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology sat through nearly three thousand columns of HANSARD in Standing Committee D and he will have heard my hon. Friend time and time again move Amendments and speak to Amendments designed to help the Scottish steel industry, as he rightly pointed out in the course of the intervention, long before there was any by-election in Pollok. For the Parliamentary Secretary to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that this Amendment, which was debated with force and supported on both sides of the House, has been inspired by that event is unworthy.

Photo of Dr Jeremy Bray Dr Jeremy Bray , Middlesbrough West

The first hon. Member to mention the Pollok by-election in the debate was the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), who gave an admirable Scottish speech but forget the Macnamara's Band part.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

The Parliamentary Secretary specifically accused my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart of having this by-election in his mind, and that is quite wrong. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South mentioned the by-election, but by that time the debate was open. My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart has been tireless in promoting the interests of the Scottish steel industry, and in particular, as the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley) will concede, has dealt with force and eloquence over and over again with the question of differential pricing by the nationalised industries in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Brian O'Malley Mr Brian O'Malley , Rotherham

The hon. Gentleman is quite right in bringing to the attention of the House the fact that the hon. Member for Cathcart raised serious issues about Scotland. He has not pointed out that when frivolity crept into the Committee proceedings, it was frivolity

from that side of the Committee and not from this side, when the ex-Parliamentary Secretary spoke of a caravan for the headquarters of the National Steel Corporation when the hon. Member for Cathcart was arguing for the region.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

I would remind the hon. Member for Rotherham that my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart moved one of the new Clauses accepted by the Government on this issue. I believe that my hon. Friends who have spoken in support of this Amendment, and who were supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House, have put the arguments to the Government fairly, openly and squarely and they have not been answered. The reply given by the Parliamentary Secretary was ineluctably inadequate.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 205, Noes 247.

Division No. 244.]AYES[10.58 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Crowder, F. P.Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Cunningham, Sir KnoxHeath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Astor, JohnCurrie, G. B. H.Heseltine, Michael
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Dalkeith, Earl ofHiggins, Terence L.
Awdry, DanielDance, JamesHill, J. E. B.
Baker, W. H. K.d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHirst, Geoffrey
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyDean, Paul (Somerset, N.)Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Batsford, BrianDeedes Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonDigby, Simon WingfieldHolland, Philip
Bell, RonaldDoughty, CharlesHooson, Emlyn
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)Drayson, G. B.Hordern, Peter
Berry, Hn. Anthonydu Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardHornby, Richard
Biffen, JohnEden, Sir JohnHowell, David (Guildford)
Biggs-Davison, JohnElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Hunt, John
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelElliott, R. W. (N'c"t1e-upon-Tyne, N.)Hutchison, Michael Clark
Black, Sir CyrilEyre, ReginaldIremonger, T. L.
Blaker, PeterFarr, JohnIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Body, RichardFisher, NigelJenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Bossom, Sir CliveFletcher-Cooke, CharlesJohnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnForrest, GeorgeJones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardFortescue, TimJopling, Michael
Braine, BernardFoster, Sir JohnJoseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Brinton, Sir TattonGalbraith, Hn. T. G.Kerby, Capt. Henry
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Giles, Rear-Adm. MorganKimball, Marcus
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Bryan, PaulGilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Kitson, Timothy
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)Glover, Sir DouglasKnight, Mrs. Jill
Bullus, Sir EricGlyn, Sir RichardLambton, Viscount
Burden, F. A.Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Campbell, GordonGoodhart, PhilipLangford-Holt, Sir John
Carlisle, MarkGower, RaymondLegge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertGrant, AnthonyLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Cary, Sir RobertGrant-Ferris, R.Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Channon, H. P. G.Gresham Cooke, R.Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Chichester-Clark, R.Grieve, PercyLongden, Gilbert
Clark, HenryGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Loveys, W. H.
Clegg, WalterGurden, HaroldLubbock, Eric
Cooke, RobertHall, John (Wycombe)MacArthur, Ian
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillHall-Davis, A. G. F.Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Cordle, JohnHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Maddan, Martin
Costain, A. P.Harris, Reader (Heston)Maginnis, John E.
Crawley, AidanHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Marten, Neil
Crouch, DavidHastings, StephenMaude, Angus
Hawkins, Paul
Mawby, RayPeyton, JohnTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Pink, R. BonnerTeeling, Sir William
Mills, Peter (Torrington)Powell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochTemple, John M.
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Price, David (Eastleigh)Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Miscampbell, NormanPrior, J. M. L.Thorpe, Jeremy
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Quennell, Miss J. M.Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Monro, HectorRamsden, Rt. Hn. Jamesvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Rees-Davies, W. R.Vickers, Dame Joan
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesRenton, Rt. Hn. Sir DavidWalker, Peter (Worcester)
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughRidley, Hn. NicholasWalker-Smith Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Murton, OscarRidsdale, JulianWall, Patrick
Nabarro, Sir GeraldRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Walters, Dennis
Neave, AireyRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Weatherill, Bernard
Nicholls, Sir HarmarRoyle, AnthonyWells, John (Maidstone)
Noble, Rt. Hn. MichaelRussell, Sir RonaldWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Nott, JohnScott, NicholasWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Onslow, CranleySharples, RichardWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Orr-Ewing, Sir IanSinclair, Sir GeorgeWoodnutt, Mark
Osborn, John (Hallam)Smith, JohnWorsley, Marcus
Page, Graham (Crosby)Steel, David (Roxburgh)Wylie, N. R.
Page, John (Harrow, W.)Stodart, AnthonyYounger, Hn. George
Pardoe, JohnSummers, Sir Spencer
Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Percival, IanTaylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)Mr Francis Pym and Mr Jasper More.
NOES
Abse, LeoDickens, JamesJones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Albu, AustenDobson, RayJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Alldritt, WalterDoig, PeterJudd, Frank
Allen, ScholefieldDriberg, TomKelley, Richard
Anderson, DonaldDunn, James A.Kenyon, Clifford
Archer, PeterDunnett, JackKerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)
Armstrong, ErnestDunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Lawson, George
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Leadbitter, Ted
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Edwards, William (Merioneth)Lee, John (Reading)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Ellis, JohnLestor, Miss Joan
Barnes, MichaelEnglish, MichaelLever, Harold (Cheetham)
Barnett, JoelEnnals, DavidLever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Beaney, AlanEnsor, DavidLewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Bence, CyrilEvans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Lomas, Kenneth
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodFernyhough, E.Loughlin, Charles
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)Finch, HaroldLuard, Evan
Bidwell, SydneyFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Bishop, E. S.Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Blackburn, F.Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)McBride, Neil
Boardman, H.Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)McCann, John
Booth, AlbertFord, BenMacColl, James
Boston, TerenceFowler, GerryMacDermot, Niall
Boyden, JamesFraser, John (Norwood)Macdonald, A. H.
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Freeson, ReginaldMcKay, Mrs. Margaret
Bradley, TomGardner, TonyMackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Bray, Dr. JeremyGarrett, W. E.Mackie, John
Brooks, EdwinGinsburg, DavidMackintosh, John P.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Gourlay, HarryMaclennan, Robert
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Gregory, ArnoldMcNamara, J. Kevin
Buchan, NormanGriffiths, David (Rother Valley)MacPherson, Malcolm
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Griffiths, Will (Exchange)Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)Mahon, Simon (Bootle)
Carmichael, NeilHamilton, James (Bothwell)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Carter-Jones, LewisHarper, JosephMallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)Manuel, Archie
Coe, DennisHart, Mrs. JudithMapp, Charles
Coleman, DonaldHaseldine, NormanMarquand, David
Concannon, J. D.Hattersley, RoyMarsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Conlan, BernardHazell, BertMason, Roy
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Henig, StanleyMayhew, Christopher
Crawshaw, RichardHerbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretMellish, Robert
Cronin, JohnHobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)Mendelson, J. J.
Crosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyHooley, FrankMikardo, Ian
Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardHorner, JohnMillan, Bruce
Cullen, Mrs. AliceHoughton, Rt. Hn. DouglasMilne, Edward (Blyth)
Dalyell, TamHowell, Denis (Small Heath)Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)Howie, W.Moonman, Eric
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Hughes, Roy (Newport)Morris, John (Aberavon)
Davies, Harold (Leek)Hynd, JohnMoyle, Roland
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)Murray, Albert
Delargy, HughJackson, Peter M. (High Peak)Newens, Stan
Dell, EdmundJenkins, Hugh (Putney)Noef-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Dewar, DonaldJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Norwood, Christopher
Diamond, Rt. Hn. JohnJones, Dan (Burnley)Oakes, Gordon
Ogden, EricRobinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)Urwin, T. W.
O'Malley, BrianRobinson W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)Varley, Eric G.
Oram, Albert E.Rodgers, William (Stockton)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Orbach, MauriceRoebuck, RoyWallace, George
Orme, StanleyRogers, George (Kensington, N.)Watkins, David (Consett)
Oswald, ThomasRose, PaulWeitzman, David
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Ross, Rt. Hn. WilliamWellbeloved, James
Owen, Will (Morpeth)Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)Wells William (Walsall N.)
Paget, R. T.Ryan, JohnWhitaker, Ben
Palmer, ArthurShaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)White, Mrs. Eirene
Pannell, Rt. Hn. CharlesSheldon, RobertWhitlock, William
Park, TrevorShore, Peter (Stepney)Wigg, Rt. Hn. George
Parker, John (Dagenham)Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Pavitt, LaurenceSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Peart, Rt. Hn. FredSilverman, Julius (Aston)Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Pentland, NormanSilverman, Sydney (Nelson)Williams Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Slater, JosephWillis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)Small, WilliamWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Price, William (Rugby)Spriggs, LeslieWinnick, David
Randall, HarrySteele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Rankin, JohnStonehouse, JohnWoof, Robert
Redhead, EdwardStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.Yates, Victor
Reynolds, G. W.Swingler, Stephen
Roberts, Albert (Normanton)Taverne, DickTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)Mr Charles R. Morris and Mr Charles Grey.
Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)Thornton, Ernest
Robertson, John (Paisley)Tinn, James

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , South Angus

I beg to move Amendment No. 30, in page 4, line 14, at the end to insert: (c) to act, in its purchases or sales involving either imports or exports, in a manner consistent with the general principles of non-discriminatory treatment prescribed in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade for governmental measures affecting imports or exports by private traders and in particular that it and the publicly-owned companies shall make any such purchases or sales solely in accordance with commercial considerations, including price, quality, availability, marketability, transportation, and other conditions of purchase or sale. I was sorely tempted to seek to intervene in the debate on the previous Amendment. But I was so impressed by the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) put it and argued his case that I felt that I would reserve my fire for this Amendment, the object of which is to ensure that the Government accept, on behalf of the Corporation, the clear obligation laid upon them by Article XVII of the G.A.T.T.

I shall read two brief extracts from Article XVII to explain the point. It is laid down in paragraph 1(a) of that Article that: Each contracting party undertakes that if it establishes or maintains a state enterprise, wherever located,…such enterprise shall, in its purchases or sales involving either imports or exports, act in a manner consistent with the general principles of non-discrinimatory treatment prescribed in this Agreement for governmental measures affecting imports or exports by private traders. Paragraph 1(b) explains that that means that such enterprises—that is, state enter-prises— …shall,…make any such purchases or sales solely in accordance with commercial considerations, including price, quality, availability, marketability, transportation and other conditions of purchase or sale,… This is very much the wording of the Amendment.

It may well seem essential that, when we are discussing this Clause, an obligation should be placed upon the Government to observe this Article of the G.A.T.T. In the Clause, there is a general ban on discriminatory activities by the Corporation in its handling of iron and steel products but the Amendment goes a great deal wider and covers, in relation to imports and exports, all the products which were enumerated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) in Standing Committee on 10th November. I shall not read them out because I think that the Minister is well aware of the very wide range of products to which this refers.

The Government must surely accept the Amendment, for they cannot afford at this moment to give the impression that they regard any of their international obligations lightly. Since the Government came to power, the phrase "Britannia waives the rules" has become a cliché of international diplomacy—and a pretty deplorable cliché. It has become all too widely accepted that the Government will dishonour their obligations one by one.

The export rebate scheme has always been very doubtful in relation to the G.A.T.T. The fact that the Government accepted that the scheme should be abandoned on exports to the E.F.T.A. countries seemed almost an acknowledgment that it was, in fact, in breach of the G.A.T.T. There is no question that the imports surcharge was in flagrant and open breach of the G.A.T.T.—regrettably for no less than two years.

It is our experience that the Government take their obligations under the G.A.T.T. remarkably lightly. In Strasbourg today, the Prime Minister is reported to have said that Those rules to which we set our name seal —these rules we will observe. This is a statement which, I imagine, must have made the halls of the Council of Europe ring with hollow laughter from the experience that other Governments have had in dealing with the Government and the way they observe their international obligations.

I do not want to go into this Amendment at length, because it is clear that if the Government accept their obligations under the G.A.T.T., they will feel bound to accept it, and I trust that that is what we shall hear from the Parliamentary Secretary now. At a time when we are seeking to join the Common Market, and after the rather distressing reply we had from the Minister last Thursday, when we urged him to impose on the Corporation tax the obligation to consult under our agreement with the European Coal and Steel Community, it is doubly important that the Government should recognise all those international obligations incumbent upon them to observe. In a matter of this kind, first and foremost it is an obligation towards the G.A.T.T. On that basis, I trust that we shall have an unequivocal acceptance of the Amendment.

11.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Willesden East

May I first say that for a party which has presumed on so many occasions in the past for so many years to describe itself, and to seek to get public approval, as a patriotic party, the party opposite—or some of its members —seem to favour far too often these cheap sneers and gibes of the kind we have just heard from the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce Gardyne).

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Willesden East

No, I am not giving way for the moment. It seems to me that hon. Members on the other side, or some of them, are content to make this kind of sneer and attack this side of the House but do not like it when just occasionally—not very frequently—we answer them. I am going to deal with this point for a moment, and I do not have to be patronisingly spoken to by the hon. Member on the other side.

I want to make this point quite clear. We quite rightly resent and reject the kind of sneers we had coming from the hon. Member for South Angus when he referred to our treating international obligations lightly, and when he said that the international slogan had now become "Britannia waives the rules", and the like kind of comment. When this kind of statement is made it is the perfect right of hon. Members on this side to stand up and reject it, and that is what I am seeking to do.

I now wish to deal with the actual content of the Amendment, and perhaps surprisingly, in view of my strictures just now, to say that we do in fact sympathise very much with the purpose of the Amendment. But that is not to say that it is necessary to have it written into the Bill.

The Government, on behalf of the country, are parties to G.A.T.T., and it goes without saying that they will continue to meet their obligations under that Agreement, including their obligations under Article 17 upon which it appears to us that this Amendment is based, or very largely worded. And it will be our intention, as it has been in the past, to see that the nationalised industries comply with the terms of the Agreement as well. It will be so with the nationalised steel industry as it has been with the other nationalised industries which are required to act in conformity with Article 17.

So far as I am aware, there have been no complaints at all about the conduct of the nationalised industries in regard to G.A.T.T. in the past, and it seems therefore that there are no grounds for assuming that it is necessary to write specifically into this Bill a requirement which the Government accepts on behalf of the country.

There is general sympathy, obviously, with the purpose of the Amendment. If there was not we should not continue as members of the G.A.T.T. and in full support of it. It would, however, be inappropriate to put such a provision into the Bill because there is no corresponding provision in any other legislation affecting the nationalised industries, and to put it into the Bill might cause doubt about how these other industries—apart—from steel—comply with G.A.T.T. Secondly, such a provision would or could imply that our other international obligations, such as under E.F.T.A. for example, which were not written into the Bill, are of less importance than the ones specifically referred to in the Amendment.

We have no objection to the purpose of the Amendment, but we see no point in having it written into the Bill and no need to do so.

Photo of Mr Anthony Barber Mr Anthony Barber , Altrincham and Sale

I am astonished at the behaviour of the hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is —[HON. MEMBERS: "Shocking."]—it is the custom—Does the hon. Gentleman want to interrupt when I am on my feet? I will willingly give way if he wishes to make a point.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Willesden East

Yes. May I say again to the right hon. Gentleman that if hon. Members on his side of the House, including himself, presume to interrupt and to be offensive in their language they should not attack hon. Members on this side if occasionally we react: they must expect us to do so.

Photo of Mr Anthony Barber Mr Anthony Barber , Altrincham and Sale

I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman had been long enough in this House to have learned that it is the custom to give way when an hon. or right hon. Member on one

of the Front Benches seeks to intervene, unless there has been a considerable number of interventions. He will learn in time how to behave in this House [HON. MEMBERS: "Perhaps."]—or else he will find, if he continues in this manner, the sole consequence of which is to keep his hon. Friends behind him up later in the night, that he will jolly soon be moved from the Labour Government.

How did he have the audacity to attack in the terms that he did the complaints concerning the G.A.T.T.? Has he never heard of the surcharge referred to by my hon. Friend? Does he not know that the Government of which he is now a loyal member deliberately set out to breach the G.A.T.T.? He did not answer my hon. Friend's question about that. Perhaps he does not know anything about it. Or perhaps, now he is on the Front Bench, he is going to toe the party line the whole time, so long as he remains Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power. This is not the way to behave. My hon. Friend made a perfectly reasonable and respectable case for this Amendment. It may be arguable whether it is appropriate to insert these words into this Bill, but certainly we got from the hon. Gentleman no argument on the merits. His was a really appalling and, if I may say so, wholly ineffective reply.

As the result of the way he behaved he has now added to the time his hon. Friends will remain here this evening another quarter of an hour. As a direct result of the attitude adopted by him, Members of the Labour Party, in the Tea Room or elsewhere in this building, will still be here a little bit longer, because I advise my hon. Friends to vote for the Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 206, Noes 248.

Division No. 245.]AYES[11.22 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Biggs-Davison, JohnBuchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelBullus, Sir Eric
Astor, JohnBlack, Sir CyrilBurden, F. A.
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Blaker, PeterCampbell, Gordon
Awdry, DanielBody, RichardCarlisle, Mark
Baker, W. H. K.Bossom, Sir CliveCarr, Rt. Hn. Robert
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyBoyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnCary, Sir Robert
Batsford, BrianBoyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardChannon, H. P. G.
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonBraine, BernardChichester-Clark, R.
Bell, RonaldBrinton, Sir TattonClark, Henry
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. & Fhm)Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Clegg, Walter
Berry, Hn. AnthonyBruce-Gardyne, J.Cooke, Robert
Biffen, JohnBryan, PaulCordle, John
Costain, A. P.Hunt, JohnPeyton, John
Crawley, AidanHutchison, Michael ClarkPink, R. Bonner
Crouch, DavidIremonger, T. L.Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Crowder, F. P.Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Price, David (Eastleigh)
Currie, G. B. H.Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Prior, J. M. L.
Dalkeith, Earl OfJohnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Pym, Francis
Dance, JamesJones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Quennell, Miss J. M.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryJopling, MichaelRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Kerby, Capt. HenryRees-Davies, W. R.
Digby, Simon WingfieldKimball, MarcusRenton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Doughty, CharlesKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Drayson, G. B.Kitson, TimothyRidsdale, Julian
du Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardKnight, Mrs. JillRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Eden, Sir JohnLambton, ViscountRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Lancaster, Col. C. G.Royle, Anthony
Elliott, R. W.(N 'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)Langford-Holt, Sir JohnRussell, Sir Ronald
Eyre, ReginaldLegge-Bourke, Sir HarryScott, Nicholas
Farr, JohnLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Sharples, Richard
Fisher, NigelLloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesLongden, GilbertSinclair, Sir George
Fortescue, TimLoveys, W. H.Smith, John
Foster, Sir JohnLubbock, EricStainton, Keith
Galbraith, Hn. T. G.MacArthur, IanSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Giles, Rear-Adm. MorganMaclean, Sir FitzroyStodart, Anthony
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Summers, Sir Spencer
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Maddan, MartinTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Glover, Sir DouglasMaginnis, John E.Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Glyn, Sir RichardMarples, Rt. Hn. ErnestTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.Marten, NeilTeeling, Sir William
Goodhart, PhilipMaude, AngusTemple, John M.
Gower, RaymondMawby, RayThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Grant-Ferris, R.Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Thorpe, Jeremy
Gresham Cooke, R.Mills, Peter (Torrington)Tilney, John
Grieve, PercyMills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Miscampbell, Normanvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Gurden, HaroldMonro, HectorVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Hall, John (Wycombe)More, JasperVickers, Dame Joan
Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Harris, Reader (Heston)Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesWall, Patrick
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughWalters, Dennis
Hastings, StephenMurton, OscarWeatherill, Bernard
Hawkins, PaulNabarro, Sir GeraldWells, John (Maidstone)
Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelNeave, AireyWhitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Heath, Rt. Hn. EdwardNicholls, Sir HarmarWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Heseltine, MichaelNoble, Rt. Hn. MichaelWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Higgins, Terence L.Nott, JohnWood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Hill, J. E. B.Onslow, CranleyWoodnutt, Mark
Hirst, GeoffreyOrr, Capt. L. P. S.Worsley, Marcus
Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir JohnOrr-Ewing, Sir IanWylie, N. R.
Hogg, Rt. Hn. QuintinOsborn, John (Hallam)Younger, Hn. George
Holland, PhilipPage, Graham (Crosby)
Hooson, EmlynPage, John (Harrow, W.)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hordern, PeterPardoe, JohnMr Anthony Grant and Mr David Mitchell.
Hornby, RichardPearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Howell, David (Guildford)Percival, Ian
NOES
Abse, LeoBray, Dr. JeremyDavies, Harold (Leek)
Albu, AustenBrooks, EdwinDavies, Ifor (Gower)
Alldritt, WalterBroughton, Dr. A. D. D.Delargy, Hugh
Allen, ScholefieldBrown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Dell, Edmund
Anderson, DonaldBrown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Dewar, Donald
Archer, PeterBuchan, NormanDiamond, Rt. Hn. John
Armstrong, ErnestBuchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Dickens, James
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Dobson, Ray
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Carmichael, NeilDoig, Peter
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Carter-Jones, LewisDriberg, Tom
Barnes, MichaelCastle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraDunn, James A.
Barnett, JoelCoe, DenisDunnett, Jack
Beaney, AlanColeman, DonaldDunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)
Bence, CyrilConcarron, J. D.Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodConlan, BernardEadie, Alex
Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Edwards, William (Merioneth)
Bidwell, SydneyCrawshaw, RichardEllis, John
Bishop, E. S.Cronin, JohnEnglish, Michael
Blackburn, F.Crosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyEnnals, David
Boardman, H.Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardEnsor, David
Booth, AlbertCullen, Mrs. AliceEvans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)
Boston, TerenceDalyell, TamFernyhough, E.
Boyden, JamesDavidson, Arthur (Accrington)Finch, Harold
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Bradley, TomDavies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Reynolds, G. W.
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)McCann, JohnRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Ford, BenMacColl, JamesRoberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Fowler, GerryMacDermot, NiallRoberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)
Fraser, John (Norwood)Macdonald, A. H.Robertson, John (Paisley)
Freeson, ReginaldMcKay, Mrs. MargaretRobinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)
Gardner, TonyMackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Garrett, W. E.Mackie, JohnRodgers, William (Stockton)
Gimburg, DuvidMackintosh, John P.Roebuck, Roy
Gourlay, HarryMaclennan, RobertRogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Rose, Paul
Gregory, ArnoldMcNamara, J. KevinRoss, Rt. Hn. William
Grey, Charles (Durham)MacPherson, MalcolmRowland, Christopher (Meriden)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)Ryan, John
Griffiths, Will (Exchange)Mahon, Simon (Bootle)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Sheldon, Robert
Harper, JosephMallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield, E.)Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Manuel, ArchieShort, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Hart, Mrs. JudithMapp, CharlesShort, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Haseldine, NormanMarquand, DavidSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Hattersley, RoyMarsh, Rt. Hn. RichardSilverman, Julius (Aston)
Hazell, BertMason, RoySilverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Healey Rt. Hn. DenisMayhew, ChristopherSlater, Joseph
Henig, StanleyMellish, RobertSmall, William
Herbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretMendelson, J. J.Spriggs, Leslie
Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)Mikardo, IanSteele, Thomas (Dumbartonshire, W.)
Hooley, FrankMillan, BruceStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Horner, JohnMilne, Edward (Blyth)Swingler, Stephen
Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasMitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)Taverne, Dick
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Moonman, EricThomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Howie, W.Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Thornton, Ernest
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Morris, John (Aberavon)Tinn, James
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Moyle, RolandUrwin, T. W.
Hunter, AdamMurray, AlbertVarley, Eric G.
Hynd, JohnNewens, StanWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)Wallace, George
Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)Norwood, ChristopherWatkins, David (Consett)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Oakes, GordonWeitzman, David
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Ogden, EricWellbeloved, James
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)O'Malley, BrianWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Oram, Albert E.Whitaker, Ben
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Orbach, MauriceWhite, Mrs. Eirene
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Orme, StanleyWhitlock, William
Judd, FrankOswald, ThomasWigg, Rt. Hn. George
Kelley, RichardOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Kenyon, CliffordOwen, Will (Morpeth)Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)Paget, R. T.Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Lawson, GeorgePalmer, ArthurWilliams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Leadbitter, TedPark, TrevorWilliams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Ledger, RonParker, John (Dagenham)Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Lee, John (Reading)Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Lestor, Miss JoanPeart, Rt. Hn. FredWinnick, David
Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Pentland, NormanWoodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Woof, Robert
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)Yates, Victor
Lomas, KennethPrice, William (Rugby)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Loughlin, CharlesRandall, HarryMr Charles R. Morris and Mr Neil McBride
Luard, EvanRankin, John
Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Redhead, Edward

11.30 p.m.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I understand that Amendment No. 31 is not being moved. The next Amendment, therefore, is No. 32.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

I beg to move, Amendment No. 32, in page 4, line 32, at the end to insert: (2) If any person mentioned in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section is dissatisfied with the manner in which the Corporation are carrying out their duty under paragraph (b) of the said subsection (1) he may by notice in writing complain to the Minister specifying the reasons why he is dissatisfied. If it appears to the Minister that such person has reasonable grounds for such complaint, the Minister shall, within twenty-one days of the receipt of such notice (and after consulting with any organisation appearing to him to be representative of the interests of the person so complaining), give to that person an opportunity of appearing, either personally or by his representative, before a person appointed by the Minister, and if he avails himself of that opportunity, the Minister shall consider the report of the person so appointed and shall furnish the person so complaining with a copy of such report, before adjudicating upon the said notice. If the Minister is satisfied that the Corporation have failed to carry out their said duty he may, by notice to the Corporation, make such order as he shall think just and the Corporation shall give effect to such order. There are a number of points in the Bill where the Minister has reserved to himself powers to judge the enforcement of any provisions which may be dealt with, and he has so far resolutely refused to as it were delegate any of those powers to any impartial body, or even to grant a right of appeal. We have had a series of Amendments, both in Committee and on Report, seeking to set up an arbitration tribunal to deal with disputes which might arise between the Corporation and the private sector of the industry, or between the private sector and the Minister, and so far the right hon. Gentleman has gone no way to meet that case.

However, on one matter the Minister has written into the Bill a procedure for dealing with one aspect where the private sector might well come into conflict with him. Under Clause 13, which deals with the Minister's power to supervise and control the investment plans of the private sector, the right hon. Gentleman has instituted a procedure whereby a private company seeking to make an investment may ask to have its case heard by a person appointed by the Minister, and the Minister will consider that person's report, and indeed under an Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman has tabled he undertakes to make a copy of the report available to the private firm which has complained.

This Clause imposes on the Corporation a duty which may be every bit as important to the survival of the private sector as is the power contained in Clause 13 to deal with investments. The duty imposed on the Corporation under this Clause—and we have considered it—is not to show undue preference or to exercise unfair discrimination. Subsection (3) provides that this duty shall in no way be enforceable at law.

It is therefore left purely to the Corporation—presumably subject to the Minister's general oversight—to observe this duty and avoid discrimination against any of its customers, including the private sector. The private sector regards this as a very unsatisfactory setup. It feels that it will be at the mercy of the Corporation, which will have 90 per cent. of the capacity for making steel, and will have no effective way of ensuring that the Corporation fulfils the duty placed upon it by subsection (1,b).

The Amendment seeks to import into the Clause the same procedure that the Minister has seen fit to import into Clause 13. It does no more and no less. The Minister ought to consider the Amendment with some sympathy. There must be some form of procedure whereby firms which consider they are being discriminated against can bring their complaints to the notice of the Minister, who can then investigate them and, if he finds them proven, can give a direction to the Corporation to desist.

A substantial part of the private sector consists of rerollers—firms which do not themselves manufacture steel but buy steel in a semi-finished form, as billets or something of that sort, and then re-roll it to make rod, or tube, or whatever it might be, then competing with the public sector—which not only makes the billets but undertakes the rerolling functions. The fear of private companies and rerollers is that they will not be able to buy their raw materials—and for them the semi-finished products are their raw materials—on the same terms that the integrated steel firms will be able to supply down the line to their subsidiaries engaged in the same trade.

The Minister has said that it is his desire that there shall be a healthy, prosperous and viable private sector, and has gone some way—especially with regard to statistics—to give an earnest of that intention. Here is another opportunity for him. If he wishes to satisfy the rerollers that he intends that the duty to avoid undue discrimination and undue preference by the Corporation is a duty to which that Corporation will be held, it is incumbent upon him to import into the Bill a procedure whereby private companies who feel that they are being discriminated against may bring the fact to his attention and have their complaints dealt with.

I do not see why the Minister should be reluctant to accept the Amendment. The drafting may not be adequate, in which case he will no doubt give an undertaking to introduce an Amendment having a similar effect in another place. But he must be left in no doubt that this is an Amendment which the private sector regards as important. In Committee we tried to do this by setting up an arbitration tribunal, but the Minister made it clear that he was not prepared to surrender his right to be the arbiter in this matter. We, as a party, although we disliked it, accepted it. The Amendment in no way interferes with the Minister's ultimate right to be the arbiter; it establishes a procedure of a semi-formal nature whereby the private sector has some right it of access to the Minister and some opportunity to spell out its complaints and make sure the Minister is aware of its case.

This is a very reasonable Amendment, and is one to which the private sector is fully entitled, if the Minister is genuine—as I am certain he is—in his desire to ensure that the private sector prospers and has an independent existence.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

The argument put forward by my hon. Friend is irrefutable and the Government, by the very fact that they are leaving 10 per cent. of the industry in private hands, presumably expect that 10 per cent. to have a future. At the same time one cannot leave out the human emotions of that 10 per cent. which is very worried as to what its future will be, dealing alongside a great giant, controlling 90 per cent. of the industry. In common courtesy the very least that they can expect is that the Government should give them the right, if they feel that they are being discriminated against, to say so to the Government through procedures written into the Bill.

My hon. Friend talked about rerolling. Suppose that there is a boom in re-rolling and suppose that the Corporation has under-estimated demand. It would be quite possible for the nationalised part of the industry to deprive the 10 per cent. of any material for rerolling. Under these conditions the right hon. Gentleman ought to agree that there should be some procedure whereby the 10 per cent. can go to him and show that this discrimination exists.

We hope that it will not happen and that under the new Corporation the amount of material required for re-rolling will be plentiful for both private and public sectors. In all fairness, the Minister ought to accept this Amendment because there is bound to be this suspicion that if the crunch comes, if there is an excessive demand, then the 10 per cent. of free enterprise companies will be deprived of their supplies. Unless a procedure is written into the Bill to avoid this, there will be even more suspicion on this score. I do ask the right hon. Gentleman, even now, to accept this Amendment, which has common-sense and fairness on its side.

Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam

This is an issue with which I have already been concerned. The Minister referred to the problem in Standing Committee and said that he accepted that: …the matter…arises out of a degree of real fear or real worry on the part of the private sector of the industry. He went on: I met representatives of it and discussed this problem with them some time ago. He continued by saying that the fears were heavily exaggerated in Committee: They sound far more dramatic and emotional here than when I heard them from people in the industry. Later he said: Perhaps I can make the point a little clearer. We are talking here about discretionary powers, rightly or wrongly conferred upon the Minister by Parliament. Then he went on to say that the Minister acts under an Act of Parliament: …which has conferred discretionary powers on him. One cannot make the exercise of those discretionary powers subject to an outside body unaccountable to Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. Standing Committee D, 30th November, 1966; c. 1542–6.] When we were talking about a tribunal, the Minister said that appeals of this kind should be debated in Parliament. I cited one example. A debate in Parliament about a wrong decision by a Minister is too late. The damage has been done. I quoted one example to show how, under the Bill as drafted, a debate in Parliament might take place too late to redress something that had gone wrong.

11.45 p.m.

The real question is this: what portion of the private sector will be dependent on the private sector for, say, billets, ingots and cogging in the initial stages of ingots? If there is one set of prices for the public sector and another for the private sector, and the private sector complains, there must be some means of redressing that complaint.

It seems that the Minister genuinely desires that there should be a strong private sector, although it will be only 7 per cent. of the industry. If something goes wrong it will probably occur without the knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman. If something happens which un- fairly favours the 93 per cent. against the 7 per cent. it will be drawn to his attention if there is an independent body or an inspector—the Amendment suggests an outside agency—which will look into these matters. Having rejected the tribunal idea, I trust that the Minister will now sympathetically consider the Amendment, and so meet some of the worries facing the private sector.

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

rose—[Interruption.]

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

On a point of order. Should not you reprimand the Minister for the way in which he sought to attract your attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford

Happily I did not happen to see it.

Photo of Mr Michael Shaw Mr Michael Shaw , Scarborough and Whitby

Neither did I.

Most hon. Members have so far concentrated in this discussion on the question of prices. If there is to be discrimination, it is more likely to be concerned with supplies. This industry is subject to good and bad times, from the supply point of view, and, when times are good, delivery dates immediately lengthen. Calculations must be made about delivery dates and manufacturers are, to a great extent, reliant on their suppliers for prompt delivery—and, as I know from experience, that does not always take place, particularly when times are good. If all the industries which require steel supplies are clamouring to the steel producers at the same time, there might be a temptation to favour certain companies. It is in this respect that there is likely to be a danger of discrimination.

I do not see how, in a Measure of this sort, it can be made incumbent on the Corporation or anybody else to see that supplies are provided without, at the same time, making provision for the consequences of a failure on the part of the Corporation to carry out its duty and to decide whether or not its duty has been carried out.

I therefore wholeheartedly support the Amendment, which would give the Minister power to make inquiries and get the full facts of the situation. This would be of material help in fostering good will, removing many of the suspicions that exist and making for better relations in the industry.

Photo of Sir Harmar Nicholls Sir Harmar Nicholls , Peterborough

I should have thought that in his own interests the Minister would have looked with some sympathy on this Amendment. It would protect him from the breeding of ill-will. If people who felt they were aggrieved knew that he had had some inquiry and had taken it into account, they would be more likely to find it acceptable.

This certainly works in planning. One thing which has made it possible for people who own land and houses to accept what have been very bitter decisions for them has been the knowledge that there has been a form of inquiry and their point of view has been taken into account. The final word will still be the Minister's, but the knowledge that he had an impartial inquiry to help him to make up his mind, even when the decision goes against those concerned, would make them more satisfied.

I should have thought that from the Minister's own point of view this was an Amendment which he could accept. He has done it in connection with Clause 13. I cannot see why he should not do the same in relation to Clause 3. Because this practice has operated so well in planning affairs, I beg him to take it into account now.

Photo of Mr Richard Marsh Mr Richard Marsh , Greenwich

I take the opportunity of intervening now because I should like to say a word on this Amendment which may go some way towards satisfying hon. Members opposite. I hope that we shall revert to the old Parliamentary practice of voting on Amendments on the basis of whether we think them right or wrong, and not on the basis of punishing or not someone on the other side.

The Amendment is unacceptable as it stands. It would apply to any complaint by any iron and steel consumer. This would cut right across the general principle, which has been accepted by Governments of both parties, that in general and subject to certain safeguards such as the existence of consumers' councils, nationalised industries must have freedom to manage their own commercial day-to-day affairs. I am not making a great point of it, but my objection to the Amendment is that if it were adopted it would apply to any complaint by any iron and steel consumer and would lay the Minister open to an absolute flood of complaints from anyone who chose to make them. The Minister would be obliged to investigate the complaints and would be inevitably drawn into the day-to-day management of the industry.

Leaving aside the actual drafting, it has emerged from the debate so far that the Amendment is prompted by those iron and steel companies which will remain in the private sector. Here this is a very special situation, which does not arise elsewhere in the nationalised industries, and in which the private sector iron and steel companies will not only be in competition with a dominant public sector, but in general will be dependent on the nationalised sector for supplies of raw materials and semi-finished products. I have said a number of times that I think the Minister of Power of whatever party in future will find himself as much concerned with the private sector as with the public sector because he will be the sponsoring Minister of the industry.

Despite that, there are certain advantages in the Minister being able to deal with such complaints on the basis of a formal procedure. In view of the concern expressed and the special situation which exists, I would be prepared in another place to introduce a provision on general lines, although there may be some refinement. I want to produce a situation where, when a complaint is received from an iron and steel producer other than the Corporation or a publicly-owned company that the Corporation or the publicly-owned company is engaging in unfair trading in iron and steel products, the Minister shall have power, after giving the Corporation an opportunity to comment, and if he considers that the complaint raises an issue of substance, to give both the Corporation and the person making the complaint, either personally or through their representatives, an opportunity of appearing before a person appointed by the Minister.

The Minister will then be in a position to give the Corporation directions on any matter arising out of a complaint which has been the subject of a hearing, and the Corporation shall give effect to such directions. Before the hearing, the Minister will make a copy of the complaint available to the Corporation and a copy of the Corporation's comments available to the person who made the complaint. It is then my intention to make available to the Corporation and to the person who made the complaint a copy of the report of the person conducting the hearing and a statement of the conclusions the Minister has formed on the report and any action he proposes to take.

I have for a long time recognised that the fears for the future private sector, which I still believe are completely unjustified, are very real. I do not think that a provision of this type poses any problem or imposes any added difficulty upon the Corporation. I think that a provision on these lines should meet the genuine misgivings of the private sector companies. I intend to table an Amendment on these lines in another place. In view of this assurance, I hope that the Amendment will not be pressed.

Photo of Mr Patrick Jenkin Mr Patrick Jenkin , Wanstead and Woodford

By leave of the House. We on these benches express our gratitude for the Minister's very forthcoming reply and for the very reasonable attitude he has adopted to our case, an attitude which contrasts markedly with that adopted by his Parliamentary Secretary on the previous Amendment. I believe that the Minister has gone a long way to meet the case we put to him. We accept that he believes that this must be confined to the private sector steel companies and cannot extend to all consumers. We may have something to say on that question when we deal with the Consumer Council. On the Minister's undertaking that he will introduce an Amendment in another place on the lines he outlined to the House, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Willesden East

I beg to move Amendment No. 34, in page 4, line 35, at the end to insert: () The policy of the Corporation shall be directed to securing the safety, health and welfare of persons employed by them and by the publicly-owned companies.' The self-evident effect of the Amendment is to enable the Corporation to direct its policy towards securing the safety, health and welfare of the public sector's employees. It follows very largely part of an Amendment which was moved in Committee by the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). I understand that in speaking to that Amendment the Minister said that we would look at the part imposing a duty regarding safety, health and welfare. It is for that reason that the Amendment has been tabled.

Amendment agreed to.