Industry (Government Policy)

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25th June 1974.

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Photo of Mr Peter Rost Mr Peter Rost , Derbyshire South East 12:00 am, 25th June 1974

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Industry at Mansfield on 8th June about State ownership of industry represents Government policy.

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate and Banstead

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Industry at Mansfield on 8th June on the subject of the State's rôle in industry represented Government policy.

Photo of Mr Nigel Lawson Mr Nigel Lawson , Blaby

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Secretary of State for Industry on industry and nationalisation at the Nottingham miners' gala at Mansfield on 8th June represents Government policy.

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech by the Secretary of State for Industry on public ownership on 8th June at Mansfield represents Government policy.

Photo of Mr Edwin Wainwright Mr Edwin Wainwright , Dearne Valley

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech made by the Secretary of State for Industry at the Nottingham miners' conference on the efficiency of the private sector of industry on 8th June 1974 represents Government policy.

Photo of Mr Norman St John-Stevas Mr Norman St John-Stevas , Chelmsford

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Secretary of State for Industry at Mansfield on 8th June on public ownership represents Government policy.

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

I have been asked to reply.

Yes, Sir.

Photo of Mr Peter Rost Mr Peter Rost , Derbyshire South East

Is it not alarming, at a time when the business community is already demoralised as a result of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's anti-business Budget, that the Secretary of State for Industry should contribute to the nation's crisis of confidence by threatening to demolish the rest of the free enterprise sector? Will the Prime Minister dismiss the saboteurs on his Front Bench, or will he resign to make way for a Government that will be strong enough to solve the country's problems?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

The largest factor contributing to the reduction of confidence this year was the three-day week, for which the Conservative Party was entirely responsible.

Photo of Mr Edwin Wainwright Mr Edwin Wainwright , Dearne Valley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if there is any demoralisation in the House it is among Conservative Members who are trying to find a bogey man? Does he also agree that 75 per cent. of the country's economy is run by private enterprise and that during the last two decades this country has not progressed as fast as have other Western countries because of inadequate management and investment in industry? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that in future plans we must make certain that industry is run on behalf of the people?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

I agree with my hon. Friend that the Conservative Party must have a bogey man in every election. Clearly my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) will be the bogey man in the next election. My right hon. Friend has simply reiterated the proposals which were approved overwhelmingly at last year's Labour Party conference, published in our manifesto and included in the Queen's Speech.

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate and Banstead

Will the Lord President undertake that the promised Green Paper will be published in the lifetime of this Parliament and that when it comes[Interruption]—it will specify not only those industries which are thought appropriate for take-over by the National Enterprise Board but also those companies—[Interruption]—which are thought appropriate for participation in the so-called planning agreement system?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that I could not hear a word the hon. Gentleman was saying.

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate and Banstead

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the Lord President was unable to hear what I was saying, would it be in order for me to repeat my question?

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

The hon. Gentleman may repeat his question.

Photo of Mr George Gardiner Mr George Gardiner , Reigate and Banstead

Will the Lord President undertake that his promised Green Paper will be published during the lifetime of the present Parliament and that, when it does come, it will give the details not only of those industries which are thought appropriate for take-over by the National Enterprise Board but also of all the companies which the Government envisage could properly take part in the so-called planning agreement system?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

The Government will publish their proposals in the next few weeks. They will be in the form not of a Green Paper but of a White Paper—and they will be firm. The White Paper will not contain a list of firms.

Photo of Mr Jack Ashley Mr Jack Ashley , Stoke-on-Trent South

As the Opposition are already fighting their election campaign on the stunt of State control, which will backfire in much the same way as the "Reds under the bed" stunt at the last election, will my right hon. Friend be prepared to call their bluff and recommend going to the country next month?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

I am sure my hon. Friend is absolutely right in what he said, and I shall convey the last part of his supplementary question to the Prime Minister on his return.

Photo of Mr Nigel Lawson Mr Nigel Lawson , Blaby

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the Government will provide time for the White Paper "Gosplan" to be fully debated in the House before the Summer Recess?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

No, Sir, I cannot promise that, but before any legislation comes before the House it will have an opportunity, perhaps in the autumn for two days, to discuss the proposals fully.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

In view of the fact that this is a serious issue involving almost the future of our nation, if the two barometers of confidence for industry are first investment and secondly the share price index, is it not wise to look at the rate of investment in the latter part of 1973 and the first quarter of 1974 and at the share index in November last year? Do not those figures indicate that the lack of confidence in British industry is related not to the present Government but to the policies of the Conservative Government?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

Investment in plant and machinery and in manufacturing industry fell 20 per cent. during those years, and for 1974 it is not likely to be very much better. This is an appalling state of affairs and it is the subject to which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry devoted most of his Nottingham speech. The Conservative Party will not apply itself to this problem.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley Sidcup

In the absence of the Prime Minister, an absence we all understand, perhaps the Leader of the House could help the House on one matter. Is there no way under Clause 5, subsection (1), or whatever the number is, of the Labour Party's constitution that would enable the Prime Minister to wriggle out of the commitment of the Secretary of State for Industry—in exactly the same way as yesterday in the national interest he wriggled out of commitments in respect of nuclear tests?

Photo of Mr Edward Short Mr Edward Short , Newcastle upon Tyne Central

From one of the biggest wrigglers in Britain, that is a bit thick. The Prime Minister wriggled out of nothing yesterday. He explained the position of the nuclear deterrent and NATO absolutely clearly. It was the Leader of the Opposition's memory that was defective. My right hon. Friend's proposals have been described in his speeches. We do not want to wriggle out of these things. They are an essential part of our policy and after the next election we shall implement those policies.