HC Deb 16 November 1949 vol 469 cc2039-87

Lords Reason for insisting on certain of their Amendments to which the Commons have disagreed, considered.

The Lords insisted on their Amendments in

Page 10, line 21, leave out "May" and insert "July";

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Page 10, line 23, leave out "passing" and insert "coming into force";

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Page 62, line 10, at end insert: () This Act shall come into force on the first day of October, nineteen hundred and fifty.

for the following Reason: Because they consider that the Bill should not come into operation until the electors have had an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it.

4.5 p.m.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. G. R. Strauss)

I beg to move, "That this House doth insist on its disagreement with the Lords in the said Amendments."

As the House is aware, there are on the Order Paper certain Amendments which the Government propose to move in lieu. I think it would be for the general convenience if, in dealing with this Motion, I explained the reasons and the effects of the Amendments which the Government propose to move, as they are linked with this Motion and form one pattern which must be considered as a whole.

To enable the House to appreciate the purport of the proposals which the Government are now putting forward it is necessary to look at the position when the Bill was first brought before the House more than a year ago. It was then reasonable and proper to assume that the passage of this Bill through the two Houses of Parliament would be similar to the passage of the previous nationalisation Measures set out in "Let Us Face the Future" at the 1945 election.

We assumed, therefore, that the Bill would emerge from the Commons some time in the early summer of this year and from the House of Lords at the end of July; and that it would then, modified and amended as a result of the scrutiny of both Houses, obtain the Royal Assent before the Summer Recess. In conformity with this time-table the Bill proposed that the general date of transfer—that is, the day on which the securities of the companies to be taken over would vest in the newly established corporation—should be 1st May, 1950, or such later date, within 18 months of the Royal Assent, as the Minister might decide.

The House knows what actually happened. When the Bill went to the Lords a series of Amendments was moved by the Opposition, most of which were rejected by this House when they came here for consideration. On the return of the Bill to the Lords, the Opposition accepted our rejections, save for two groups of Amendments. One of these made the whole Bill inoperative until 1st October, 1950, and the other made the date of transfer not before 1st July, 1951. Opposition spokesmen made it quite clear that they are determined to stand by the principle embodied in these Amendments, and the formal reason given by the Lords for their action is: Because they consider that the Bill should not come into operation until the electors have had an opportunity of expressing their opinion upon it.

Captain Crookshank (Gainsborough)

What was the date of that?

Mr. Strauss

I have not the actual date. I imagine it was before the House of Lords in July of this year.

I do not intend on this occasion to repeat at any length the arguments used by myself and my colleagues on a previous occasion denouncing the action taken by their Lordships' House. I will only say that in our opinion it is contrary to all principles of democratic government—

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

To allow other people to say what they think?

Mr. Strauss

It is contrary to all principles of democratic government that an hereditary and unrepresentative House of Lords should use its powers to prevent a Measure already approved by the electorate and passed by the Commons, and which the Government of the day considers essential for the fulfilment of its policy of full employment and industrial prosperity, being carried into effect until the electorate have pronounced upon it a second time. This attitude is, in our opinion, all the more indefensible in that every by-election result, without exception, shows that those who elected the Government, that is the majority of our people, continue to endorse its economic and social record. As the House is aware, the Government have taken the necessary steps to lessen the opportunities of the House of Lords repeating this conduct in any future Parliament.

But, however much we believe that the present behaviour of the House of Lords violates the democratic principles of our country, however much we may deplore their action, we now are forced to face realistically the effects of that action. The main effect is that, whatever happens, 1st May, 1950, can no longer be the date of transfer, for if this Bill becomes law early next year under the new Parliament Act, we would have to rush the preliminary steps required to make 1st May the take-over date, so as seriously to jeopardise the successful launching of our scheme of public ownership. That we will not do, as we are determined to make a success of this operation. The Government, therefore, consider that it would be misleading to retain 1st May in the Bill, and we therefore propose to delete it.

We cannot, however, advise this House to accept either of the groups of Amendments on which the Lords are standing. Our Amendments on the Order Paper are alternatives, which, while going a long way to meet the Lords objective of delay, do preserve certain features of the Bill to which we attach importance. Foremost among these is that the Bill would immediately become an Act, and the various provisions dealing with the disposal of iron and steel works and the dissipation of assets prior to the date of transfer would become law forthwith. These provisions, although difficult and complicated, have been well understood by the steel companies concerned, and we want to avoid the uncertainty and confusion which might ensue if these provisions did not become operative for another 10 or 11 months.

In this connection, I should like to repeat what I said on an earlier occasion, namely, that I am prepared to consider giving formal approvals to the companies for transactions which might otherwise render the directors liable to the retrospective provisions in Part II of the Bill. Within the last 12 months the companies concerned have, as I expected, acted with a real sense of responsibility in putting their submissions to me, and I shall in future, as in the past, deal with these expeditiously.

Now I come to the Lords Amendment which makes the general date of transfer 1st July, 1951. We are not prepared to accept this, as we consider a delay of this length is wholly undesirable and, indeed, pointless. Our alternative proposal is 1st January, 1951, or such date within the following 12 months as the Minister may determine.

The other Amendment carried by the Lords, that the Bill shall not operate before 1st October, 1950, not only goes beyond what is necessary to meet the House of Lords' purpose, but is technically defective. The Bill had been drawn on the basis that it would come into operation on the day of the Royal Assent, and to introduce now another operating date would make nonsense of the Bill, unless a considerable number of consequential Amendments were added, and even then the Bill would be untidy and confusing.

4.15 p.m.

The main point, however, is that under the Lords Amendment 1st October, 1950, would be the first permissive operative date for all the provisions of the Bill. According to the alternative Amendment which the Government propose, 1st October, 1950, would be the first permitted date only of the formal establishment of the Corporation, while the other provisions would come into effect the moment the Royal Assent is obtained. In point of fact, the time required for taking the necessary preliminary steps for setting up the Corporation would, in any event, make this difficult much before that date.

There is one further matter. We are bound to have an Election by the middle of next year, and in an atmosphere of political tension and uncertainty it would plainly be unwise to proceed now with the selection of individuals to serve on the Corporation. Men who may well be best suited for this responsible task might understandably be reluctant to commit themselves to accepting such a position, and throw up their present jobs, as long as they think there is a possibility, however remote, that the Corporation may not, after all, be established.

The Government have therefore decided not to make any approaches, formal or informal, inviting individuals to become members of the Corporation, until we have emerged into the calmer atmosphere that will follow the election of the new Parliament. I think that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that the success of the nationalised industry will depend to a considerable extent on the calibre of the men serving on the Corporation, and that it would be folly to rush our selection of these people unnecessarily.

To sum up, the Government's attitude to the Lords Amendments is this: We are asking this House to accept the realities of a situation, created by the Lords, and which we are powerless to alter. The House of Lords is insisting that the date on which this Bill is to operate shall be postponed. We, on our side, are more convinced than ever of the need of this great reform in overcoming the economic difficulties which are bound to face our country during the coming years, and we are determined that this Measure shall come into operation as soon as possible.

We have this choice open to us. We can force this Bill through by the use of the Parliament Act. Or we can make Amendments ourselves, such as we are doing today, bringing the date of operation far nearer than is proposed in their Lordships' Amendments. Whichever course we take, the date of transfer of the steel companies' securities to public ownership will, in fact, be about the same. There are, however, advantages, as I have stated, in giving the Bill the full force of law quickly, as then some of its important provisions will come into immediate operation.

It is now for their Lordships to decide what they will do. If they reject our Amendments, then the powers of the new Parliament Act will have to be invoked. If they accept our proposals, this Bill, undamaged in its structure and effectiveness, will be on the Statute Book immediately, with many of its essential provisions in force, and the whole ready to be implemented in full when a Labour majority is re-elected next year. For these reasons, I commend the Government's proposals to this House.

Mr. Churchill (Woodford)

I am sure that no Member of the House, wherever he may sit or whatever views he may hold about the merits of the particular topic now before us, will have envied the right hon. Gentleman in the task which it has fallen to his lot to fulfil. About a fortnight ago we were informed that the Government wished to end the deadlock between the two Houses on the Iron and Steel Bill by accepting in principle the House of Lords Amendment delaying its operation until after the people have been consulted. There was no question of a bargain or a compromise. The Government asked a question and the Leader of the House of Lords, after consulting with some of his friends in both Houses, gave the answer. The answer was to the effect that if the Amendment the Lords were insisting upon were accepted in principle and substance he, Lord Salisbury, would advise the House of Lords to accept it, even though the form was slightly altered.

We have given most careful consideration to the differences in form between the Lords Amendment and that which is now proposed to us this afternoon by the Socialist Government, and we are satisfied that for all practical purposes they mean the same thing. It would hardly have been in accordance with the manner in which the House of Lords discharges its constitutional duties under the Parliament Act settlement of 35 years ago for the Conservative Leader in the House of Lords to advise them to take advantage of minor differences in form in order to reject what is the undoubted acceptance by the Commons of their contention.

It is not for us here this afternoon to forecast what the action of the Lords will be, but in this House we shall not oppose this series of alterations. We shall not oppose them, and I should think it very likely that a similar course will be adopted in another place.

Of course, if the House of Lords accept this Amendment, and we here do not vote against it, it in no way alters our opposition to the nationalisation of steel. On the contrary, we are very glad that the issue should be presented in so clear-cut a form to the electors. We are content with that; it is almost a referendum on the issue. Should we be returned to power—[AN HON. MEMBER: "Wishful thinking."] Well, one has to take all things into consideration. Not to do so would be to throw doubts upon the freedom of elections and the intelligence of the electors. Should we be returned to power one of our first steps will be to expunge from the Statute Book this wanton, wasteful and partisan Measure, in which many of those associated with it do not, in their hearts, believe, and which strikes this country a bitter blow at a bad time.

It will be one of our first steps to remove it from the Statute Book, and to allow the steel industry to continue its splendid career—to which tribute has even been paid this afternoon—of ever-improving production and efficiency, with unbroken good will between employers and employed, a record almost in this country and almost in the steel industries of the world—without being dragged into party politics by the fanatics of obsolete and discredited Socialistic doctrines. We are very glad that this should be so.

The actual matter before us does not seem to me to be of major importance either way. I rather agree with some sentences which fell from the right hon. Gentleman. Some say that if the Government had not bowed, as they have done, to the wishes of the Lords they would not be able to have an election as early as January or February and yet pass the Steel Bill, even under their new Parliament Act. What they are now gaining, it is said, is an opportunity of an early election without what is called losing the Steel Bill. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman's speech has fully admitted, under the Parliament Act—and I am speaking of the great Parliament Act—

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)


Mr. Churchill

If the right hon. Gentleman was ever responsible for social legislation which, 35 years later, he could speak of with as calm a conscience as I can about a Parliament Act which has become the foundation of our political system, although much fought at the time—if he has anything like that to show in his records, he will have more to be proud of than anything else that can be found in his past career.

4.30 p.m.

What the Government are gaining by this, it is said, is that they can have an Election without losing the Steel Bill. But, as I was saying, under the Parliament Act if they had an early Election, and won that Election, the Bill would still pass into law with a very few weeks' delay. There would be nothing to affect the general march of events. If this same Bill is renewed after the Election, it can resume its progress under the original Parliament Act, a priori under this one, from the point which it had reached in the previous Parliament. All that the Government would have lost would be the pleasure of saying, "We have fulfilled our programme. We have given you the full dose. Would you like another dose?" That is really not controversial. It is in their power to say that anyhow.

It cannot, therefore, be argued that the acceptance of this Amendment has affected in any way the date of the General Election. It is not within our power to do so, and where there is no power there can be no responsibility. However, the question of the date of the General Election, especially if the Steel Bill is out of the way, is undoubtedly in all our minds this afternoon, and it seems to me the only explanation for the tactics which the Socialist Government have pursued. To us on this side of the House as a party the date is a matter of indifference. In fact, however, party strife will rage in this land in its most active form until the votes are counted.

I am glad to see the Prime Minister in his place. [Interruption.] It is a genuine pleasure, and I am not making any comparison. I hope he has fully recovered from his entertainment at the Mansion House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] It is not in Order to say "shame," because it is not a Parliamentary remark, but I do not mind because the shame applies to a colleague of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who is not here this afternoon sitting on the Front Bench. I hope it is not controversial for me to say that I am very glad to see the Prime Minister in his place. I am always glad to see him in his place.

In my view it is his duty in all the present circumstances to curtail and limit the uncertainty of when the General Election will come as much as possible. It may flatter his vanity and that of his colleagues to walk around with an air of superior knowledge on a matter which affects so very many people, but against this somewhat feeble satisfaction must be set the inconvenience to the public and the hindrance to our wealth-producing energies involved in a prolonged period of purposeless uncertainty. I suppose that the plans of scores of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people in their daily lives are affected by not knowing when this inevitably approaching event will ocur.

Mr. Warbey (Luton)

On a point of Order. May I ask what is the relevance of this discussion on the date of the election to the subject matter before us this afternoon?

Mr. Speaker

The reason the Lords gave for insisting on their Amendment was that the electors should have an opportunity of expressing their views on the matter. Therefore, it seems to me that the question of when the electors will express their opinion is in Order.

Mr. Warbey

But is it in Order to discuss when the General Election should be held?

Mr. Speaker

I should have thought that the whole range of that was in Order on this Debate.

Mr. Churchill

As I was saying, I believe that very great damage and injury will be done by keeping this uncertainty going unnecessarily. If there is any serious public or even party reason for keeping everyone on tenterhooks and tiptoe it ought to be stated, but there is none apparently, and with some experience of these matters it seems to me a very wrong thing to hamper and injure the national life in this way. If there were a party advantage that would be sensible, but I cannot see that what has been done is an advantage; it is a great national detriment. Therefore it seems to me, as I said a month ago, that the Government would be consulting the national interest, and possibly even their own, by taking the nation into their confidence at the earliest moment. Everyone knows this Parliament is dead, and that on the subject of this Steel Bill a new Parliament would have a much better chance of getting us out of our dangers and difficulties.

All these manœuvres, which I understand is the term used about this Measure, are an example of the low-grade tactical motives which are the key to Government policy. The Measure mutilating—I should perhaps not use the word "mutilating"—altering the Parliament Act was forced through the day before yesterday by the Government majority. I am not reflecting on the Measure. I am only speaking about the circumstances in which it was passed before it was known to the House that the Government admit, as they have admitted today, that the view of the House of Lords is right—namely, that the Steel Bill should not become law until it has been submitted to the judgment of the electors.

Why then, we might well ask, should the House of Lords be punished and maltreated for being right? Why then, we might have asked, should they be stripped of part of their functions for having used them so wisely and so well. How can the Government have the face to recognise the justice of the Lords' demand that the people should be consulted on the nationalisation of steel—a monstrous tyranny that such a demand should be made, that the people should be consulted on the subject—when at the same time almost on the very day they strike a crippling blow at the powers of the Lords under the Parliament Act, which gives them full power to pass this Bill at approximately the same date?

Why should it be necessary to pass into law the Bill for amending the Parliament Act, which contains a special retro-active Clause for the express purpose of carrying the nationalisation of steel into law before the electors can pronounce upon it, when, after all, it is admitted that they ought to have such an opportunity? I do not often quote to the House the leading article of "The Times" but I noticed this morning this sentence: Judged merely as an episode in Parliamentary tactics, this cynical and over-ingenious business has been badly botched. However, out of evil often comes good. I am glad that the House of Lords should once again have vindicated their wisdom and sagacity. Just as on the question of the abolition of capital punishment they prevented an act of folly and voiced the opinion of the vast majority of the nation, so now they render a service in making sure that the people are effectively consulted on the proposals to nationalise steel before those proposals can come into operation. That is the position which they have taken up and which we on this side take up, and to which the Socialist Government have thought it right to bow and to submit. No reasons have been given to us which explain the Government's action other than those of party convenience. I say—and I leave the matter here—that we take our stand on the position that it is not the function of the House of Lords to govern the people but to make sure that the people have the right to govern themselves.

Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)

Whatever we may think of the Minister's reasons for the decision that he has reached on the dates, there is at least one further question that we are entitled to ask him before we agree to the dates that the Government are proposing. There is one further step that the Government should take in common honesty. [Interruption.] I must ask whether the Minister will be good enough to listen to my speech. I am about to put certain suggestions to him. I know that he is always courteous about these matters and I know that he will not mind my asking him to listen to this part of my speech. I was saying that before we agreed to the dates proposed by the Government, there are further steps which we think it reasonable to ask him to take before this issue goes to the country. We may have our own views on the reasons which the Minister has for putting forward these alterations, but we are glad that the country will have a chance of expressing an opinion upon them.

In his statement the Minister referred to the country having already given a mandate. I want to return to that point. Surely the only proper thing for the Government to do now, in putting the Bill before the country again, is to admit that the charges made in 1945 were not correct. The only honest thing that the Government can possibly do is to put their proposals before the country on these grounds: "We, the Labour Party, are a Socialist Party. Therefore we are going to nationalise the steel industry."

Let them say it frankly like that, and admit that their proposals have nothing to do with the efficiency or the conduct of the industry. Let them, in fact, withdraw completely the charges made in "Let us Face the Future" after practically a year's Debate has shown how completely unfounded those charges were and how completely refuted they have been at every stage of our Debates, especially during the Committee stage and the Third Reading.

Then the country will at least be able to make a real, clear-cut decision on the matter and—[Interruption.] Will the Minister's back benchers kindly support my plea that it should be made dead clear in the Labour Party's programme that this Bill is brought forward only because hon. Members want to nationalise and that it has nothing to do with the efficiency of the industry or with the other charges that were made? If they will do that, at least something really honest will have been put to the country.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Daines

Who is the hon. Member to complain about political labels when he and his hon. Friends, while calling themselves Liberals, are in fact more Conservative than the Conservatives?

Mr. Maclay

I think Mr. Speaker would show a certain reluctance to my following up that remark. Upon a matter which is of such profound importance to the Liberalism of this country. I am only too delighted to be working as closely as possible with the Conservative Party in every possible way.

Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)

I can assure the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) that there will be no attempt on the part of the Labour Party to burke the issue at the next General Election. We wish to nationalise steel on grounds that are political, social and economic. We shall certainly not dodge the political aspect of the matter. The Labour Party have always said that they believe that basic industries such as the iron and steel industry, upon which so many other industries depend, should belong to the people and should be operated on behalf of the people. There will be no running away from that position, either in Wednesbury or anywhere else.

Mr. Maclay

If the hon. Member agrees with me on that point, will he bring it home to his Front Bench that they should withdraw publicly and completely the charges made in "Let us Face the Future"?

Hon. Members


Mr. S. N. Evans

The hon. Member is talking rubbish. I dare say that it would be out of Order for me to go into all the arguments that were adduced in support of the Bill upon Second Reading and subsequently. Those points have been discussed in the country during the last two or three years and the country will know precisely where the Government and the Labour Party stand in the matter. They will need no further instruction. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said that it was not for him to anticipate what action the other House would take, but that seemed to me to show some misunderstanding, having regard to recent developments. It seemed to me that he had his card marked. The nationalisation of steel is dictated on commonsense grounds. I do not think it has anything to do with the Election. I do not think that the Labour Party and the Labour Government mind when the Election is. I believe that the date will be selected in the best interests of the country, which will be the only consideration. In Wednesbury, at any rate, we are quite ready at any time. We only await the word "Go." [Laughter.] I have a lively sense of humour. May I share the joke?

The compromise between the two Houses will be, if accepted, in the best traditions of English Parliamentary democracy. I welcome the step that the Government have taken. It was always clear to me that until we had a General Election on this issue we should not get the type of person to stand for these boards that we would like to get. A man would not be likely to jeopardise his future economic prospects by offering to drive a car which might never start. The electors are the final arbiters in this matter.

Sometimes the charge is made that there is something improper in the Labour Government having left this big matter of steel nationalisation to the end of its Parliamentary programme. I should have thought that was something which reacted to their credit, because this is the major Measure of nationalisation to come before this Parliament. The electors are being given a fresh look at it, and if they like to change their minds, they are at liberty to do so. That is a highly democratic attitude for the Government to take.

I do not think there is very much more that can be said about the Bill. I welcome the compromise. It is as I say in the best tradition of British Parliamentary democracy, and we await with the utmost confidence the outcome of the General Election about which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford has had so much to say.

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Ecclesall)

The Minister has today been faced with a change of plans and he has been trying to excuse Socialist planning by referring to his ideas of a year ago. He began by saying that a year ago he could not have forecast the position in which we now find ourselves because he did not know what the other place would do. The Minister made a very different statement on 25th July last when he was able to see what the other place was doing. It is because of that statement that I find difficulty in following his argument this afternoon about what happened a year ago. On 25th July he said that the proposal then was An irresponsible action, and likely to bring about most severe damage to the iron and steel industry itself."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1949; Vol. 467, c. 2158.] I want to ask the Minister this question. If the bringing back of the date by six months is now accepted by him; how can it have been that "most severe damage" would have been done to the iron and steel industry if the operation were brought in six months later?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I was referring to damage caused by the delay forced upon us by the House of Lords. That damage is to some extent lessened, but it is still there, by having a delay six months shorter. We have no power whatsoever to fight the decision of the Lords in bringing about some delay.

Mr. Roberts

I hope that whoever replies to the Debate will elaborate that. I cannot see how most severe damage could be done in July and not be done in January. In fact, I do not believe the Minister's first statement, and I do not believe that he really expects us to take this argument seriously.

My second point is that on this side of the House, and in Sheffield, we feel some relief. We feel that we have been let off a certain amount of what might have been party spite in bringing this change into operation possibly two or three weeks before a General Election. I can tell the Minister that there was a great deal of perturbation in the Midlands that this change might have been made two or three weeks before the General Election was held and that the whole industry would have been upset.

My third point is that there is still a cloud over the industry. It has been discussed this afternoon. It is the cloud of the General Election. I do not believe it is good for any industry, whatever it may be, to have its structure made the result of a political battle. At the moment the industry is creating great records and is doing extremely well. Now we are to be faced with this issue at the General Election. All right, Let us face it, debate it and decide upon it. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who often, in my view, speaks more sense than the Minister, said, in July last: Whenever that election comes we, as good Socialists, as good democrats, will gladly abide by the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1949; Vol. 467, c. 2207–8.] The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) also said that the electors are the final arbiters. I want to put this question to hon. Gentlemen opposite. When at the next General Election the vote goes against them and this Bill is expunged, will they do what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has said and gladly accept that as the result of the ballot box, or are we to be faced again in the years which come after with a political battle over the body of this industry? I ask whoever replies to the Debate to say whether he accepts what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has said and what the hon. Member for Wednesbury has said.

Mr. S. N. Evans

I gladly give that undertaking. We shall accept the verdict of the electors. If we lose, we should not accept it gladly, but we should accept it. Will the hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the steelmasters, give the same undertaking that he asked from us?

Mr. Roberts

The hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—I am sure I am allowed to answer in my own way. I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the document, "The Right Road for Britain," an extremely good document of which hon. Members opposite seem to be afraid. I am going to read it. What is our attitude to this problem? We say this with regard to nationalisation: We refuse at this time of economic danger to aggravate industrial discord. We must ensure that those in control of vital industries are not persistently distracted from their task of management by watching the political weal her. That is the answer to the question. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If we are returned at the General Election, the issue having been whether or not the iron and steel industry shall be nationalised, and the country having decided that it shall not be nationalised then we shall expunge it from the record. With regard to other nationalised industries, such as coal, gas and electricity—

Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)

What would happen if the verdict went the other way?

Mr. Roberts

With regard to the other industries, we have said that at this time we are not prepared—

Mr. Follick (Loughborough)

We are talking about steel.

Mr. Roberts

—to aggravate industrial discord.

Mr. Carmichael (Glasgow, Bridgetown)

May I—?

Mr. Roberts

No, this point must be clear to hon. Members opposite. We say that if the General Election goes against the present Government, the decision will be not to nationalise. That will be the decision of the electors it will be the result of the ballot box. All right. We shall obviously abide by that. What I am asking hon. Members opposite is whether if that takes place they also will abide by the result, or are we to see this great industry, which is doing a wonderful job in the interests of the nation, an industry in which we already have machinery for arbitration in regard to management and labour and in which we already have Government control over price and location, completely upset by political discord? I ask that question of whoever is to reply. It is of vital importance to the future of the country. Will hon. Members opposite abide by the General Election result or will they not?

Mr. Norman Smith (Nottingham, South)

The hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) made a most extraordinary statement to the effect that a great industry like this ought, not to go through the experience of having its structure made the verdict of a General Election.

Mr. P. Roberts


Mr. Smith

It will be on record in HANSARD tomorrow, and the House and the public will be able to judge. That was a most amazing claim.

Mr. Roberts

I did not say that. The hon. Member must not make a speech on something which is not correct. The whole issue of the Debate is that it must go to the General Election. What I ask is that, once it has been to the General Election, both parties must decide to abide by the result.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Smith

What right has the hon. Member to assume that we on this side of the House do not abide by the results of the General Election? In between the wars we accepted the results of one fraudulent General Election after another—Post Office savings, the Zinoviev letter, "Hang the Kaiser," and goodness knows what else.

On the question of the iron and steel industry, we ask for nothing better than to comply with what is the evident wish of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to fight the election on this issue. It is a most extraordinary coincidence, a most amazing piece of propinquity, that the hon. Member sitting next to me on this bench is my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough). He will have no difficulty in making this an issue in his constituency, and all of us will make quite certain that the electors in our constituencies know all about what happened about Jarrow between the two wars, when the steel masters dictated what should happen to the industry—a circumstance, incidentally, which might have brought Great Britain to defeat in the war following, when we were short of steel.

Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)

Would the hon. Gentleman also tell the electorate that the plan of development in the steel industry was agreed by the Government?

Mr. Smith

The Tory Government of that day?

Mr. Lyttelton

This Government.

Mr. Smith

I am speaking of what happened in Jarrow in 1936, and no one knows it better than the right hon. Gentleman. He knows all about what happened to the steel industry—

Mr. Lyttelton

Answer my question.

Mr. Smith

He knows the use the steel industry made of tariff protection in the thirties. He knows how the steel masters prohibited—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

We are not discussing the merits or demerits of the Iron and Steel Bill or the steel industry on this Motion.

Mr. Smith

Very well, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I can assure the House that the Labour candidates in the coming election will be ready to discuss the merits of the steel industry and of the steel masters. Of course the question raised by the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) was purely hypothetical. There is not any doubt about it. My hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) said they are ready in his constituency. So are we ready in mine. We do not care if it comes next week. We are ready for it, and steel will be one of the main issues.

Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

I intervene only to put one or two points to the Minister arising out of his own speech. I was interested to notice his reference to the speed with which he approved items of expenditure submitted to him by boards of steel companies in order to safeguard them from possible consequences of the distribution of assets Clauses in the Bill. It was clearly brought out during the Committee stage of the Bill that the approval of the Minister was not any definite protection for the boards of directors concerned and that proceedings could still be taken by the Minister even though he had previously given his approval.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

The hon. Member is mistaken. Prior approval given by me before the Bill comes into operation is complete protection for the company against any retrospective action which might fall upon the company.

Mr. Erroll

For the company?

Mr. Strauss

Yes, and for the directors.

Mr. Erroll

It is satisfactory to obtain that assurance. Then the Minister said that no approaches had been made to individuals to join the Steel Corporation, whereas I distinctly remember during the Committee stage of the Bill that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary referred to unofficial approaches which had been made and which had yielded satisfactory results. He stated that a number of individuals were willing to join and that we were mistaken in thinking that there would be considerable difficulty in finding them.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. Jack Jones)

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary never at any time said that approaches had been made to any individual connected with the iron and steel industry. I happen to have a retentive memory, which is useful in this House. What I said was that I knew for a fact that when approaches were made there were people at high levels who were good patriots and who would be glad to serve this Bill and this country.

Mr. Erroll

It is satisfactory to note that no approaches have been made. That clears up another doubt which we had entertained. The Minister also referred to the Bill as safeguarding employment in the iron and steel industry, but of course there is no guarantee that employment will be secure just because an industry is nationalised, and it is most important that we should all realise that it is an empty pledge which cannot be honoured.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

indicated dissent.

Mr. Erroll

In his opening remarks the Minister undoubtedly did—

Mr. Strauss

Nothing of the sort.

Mr. Erroll

Finally, the Minister was extremely confident about the outcome of the next Election, and I would like to remind him that pride comes before a fall.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

I am opposed to this Motion and my colleague and I will divide the House on it. It is about time there was some plain speaking on this question because the Steel Bill is now finished. The hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) said that this compromise was in the best traditions of British democracy. How did it take him so long to find that out? How is it that month after month those who were sponsoring the Steel Bill maintained that it had already received a mandate from the electorate and that nothing would change their attitude on it? How did it come about that this change now represents the best traditions of British democracy?

Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)

Would the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Gallacher

I have hardly started—

Mr. Porter

Is it not the Marxist philosophy to determine action according to the circumstances existing at the moment?

Mr. Gallacher

It is quite correct that we must consider the circumstances.

Mr. Piratin (Mile End)

And the hon. Member had better listen.

Mr. Gallacher

That is the trouble, that decisions are made and reported to hon. Members on this side of the House, and there is never any question of considering them—they are just accepted. It is about time that hon. Members on this side of the House, who claim to be Socialists and leaders of the working class, gave some consideration to the circumstances. Did the Government consult the convenience of the steel workers? Were the steel workers brought into this compromise with the House of Lords? Ask the steel workers what they think about it. We know that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is a member of the Government now and, as a member of the Government, he has great responsibility for increasing hours of labour and increasing production. That is entirely different from consulting the steel workers in the industry.

Mr. J. Jones

I can give the hon. Member and this House the assurance that the Amendments put forward by the Government will give the steel workers all the satisfaction they require.

Mr. Gallacher

The steel workers have never been given any information of any sort.

Mr. Jones

That is what you think.

Mr. Gallacher

They will be, after it is a fait accompli. Is that in the best traditions of British democracy? What is really going on? What is happening in Debate after Debate in this House? We find more and more agreement between the two sides on important issues or, if there is disagreement, it is on a minor matter. If it is in Order, let me illustrate my meaning by quoting what happened on devaluation. The Government had down a Motion: That this House approves the action taken … at Washington. … "blah, blah, blab," and that there was confidence in the Government. The Opposition Motion said that the House, while approving the decisions taken at Washington, "blah, blah, blah," had no confidence in the Government. On the principle, they are agreed; on the "blab blah," they disagree. It was the same with the economy cuts. One lot went into this Lobby, and the other lot went into the other Lobby, but they were all agreed on the cuts. In the present case, both sides are agreed on the Lords Amendment—such beautiful amity.

Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)

But disagreeing on the result.

Mr. Gallacher

Such an example of brotherhood should make us all very humble unless, of course, we happen to be Socialists and realise what is going on.

Mr. Osborne (Louth)

The hon. Member is not a Socialist.

Mr. P. Roberts

He is a totalitarian.

Mr. Piratin

Hon. Members opposite would not understand.

Mr. Gallacher

The only economic basis on which Communist society can be built is the economic basis known as Socialism. If hon. Members are too stupid not to know that, it is unfortunate, but I am not allowed by Mr. Deputy-Speaker to give them the necessary education. They should try to grasp that one essential thought and realise that every Communist must be a Socialist and every Socialist must be a Communist.

Let us come back to the question of the Lords Amendment. I have said that the Steel Bill has gone. The circumstances associated with this decision ought to be clear to everyone. The other night on the radio a gentleman named—

Mr. Fairhurst (Oldham)


Mr. Gallacher

—a gentleman named Bertrand Russell said he would rather have war than have Russian commissars coming here.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

The hon. Member is going far beyond the terms of the Motion which is at present before the House.

Mr. Gallacher

But the Russian commissars would have difficulty in getting in here because of the American commissars already in this country and interested in steel.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That question cannot possibly arise on a Motion disagreeing with their Lordships' Amendment.

Mr. Gallacher

I think it can, because the Lords' Amendments—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am the judge.

Mr. Gallacher

I will accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The important thing is that we must view the Amendment from the point of view of the circumstances that have arisen and which have determined the Government to make this change. What are those circumstances? Not the elections, as has been said by so many hon. Members, but the fact that a decision was taken at Washington that American capital has to be encouraged to find investment in this country and that American capital is particularly interested in steel. Anyone who watches events in Germany and France will see the amount of American capital which is being invested there; how the steel output of those two countries is being integrated, and how the Americans are determined to integrate the steel of this country with that of Germany and France. Those are the circumstances which have determined the Government to make this change. Mr. Hoffman was not "kidding" when he said that the economy of this country must be integrated with the economy of the rest of Western Europe.

5.15 p.m.

Is not steel one of the most important factors in our economy? Is not the biggest drive imaginable now taking place to develop and extend the steel plants of Germany and to integrate them with those of France through American capital; and is not American capital coming into this country? Are the Members of this House going to play with this question until they find the country completely under the financial domination of a foreign Power? That is what is going on. It is no use hon. Members trying to dodge it, because so many to whom I have spoken in the Lobbies have expressed to me their feelings of disturbance at what is happening. It is about time they were thinking of their constituents and of the people of this country, and getting up and speaking openly about what is going on.

I remember, in the early days of this Parliament, hon. Members standing up here and boldly singing "The Red Flag." Why should they today be coming with the white flag before the House of Lords and before the other side? I ask hon. Members—

Colonel Stoddart-Scott (Pudsey and Otley)

Give it to them Willie.

Mr. Tiffany (Peterborough)

Is this the united front?

Mr. Piratin

No, the united front is there, below the Gangway.

Mr. Gallacher

I am prepared, with the sanction of Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to give a rendering of "The Red Flag" but I am afraid that, with the spirit which now exists on this side of the House, it would be a solo or, at best, a duet, which is very unfortunate.

The important and very serious thing to be understood about this question is that the Government's changed decision has been dictated not by common sense, as the hon. Member for Wednesbury said but by America—[Interruption.] Yes.

Mr. Shackleton (Preston)

That is not true.

Mr. Gallcher

Does the Minister deny that Mr. Hoffman has declared that our economy must be integrated with that of the rest of Western Europe? The Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, said, "No," but the Chancellor said "No" to devaluation, and then said "Yes" when the pressure became strong enough. The pressure is on now in connection with steel, and America—I challenge the Minister to answer this—with their control of German and French steel, can put British steel out of business if British steel does not integrate. Will the Minister deny that?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I will certainly deny it.

Mr. Gallacher

It would be permissible for me to produce, as can easily be produced, the capacity of German steel integrated, as it is going to be integrated, with French steel, and to show as a result of that integration, the amount of steel that can be produced after the new developments which have taken place, and the utter impossibility of carrying on to full capacity in this country except under the domination of America and with an industry integrated with that of Germany and France.

I want it to be clearly understood that some of us, at any rate, understand what is behind the Amendment. This is not a simple thing. It means the death of the Steel Bill. I do not care how many elections may take place; this means the death of the Bill. If any Members on this side still retain any belief in Socialism, still desire to represent the best interests of the working class, and are against the Tories of this country and of America, they will support us in our opposition to the Amendment.

In the book I wrote, "The Rolling of the Thunder," I said at the conclusion, that following the Election, the Labour Government would have to make an agreement with the Communists or capitulate to the Tories. The capitulation is here. They have capitulated to the Tories in this country and to the Tories in America, and this Amendment is the final demonstration of the depth to which they have fallen. I ask any hon. Member on this side of the House who still desires to speak for the working class against the Tories here and against the Tories in America, or who desire an advance towards Socialism, to assist us in opposition to this Amendment.

Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)

One must always have some sympathy with a man who sighs for the better days that have gone. I feel that sympathy for the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) in his desire that "The Red Flag" should be sung. Those things were very appropriate to the mass hysteria of 1945, but are quite inappropriate to the disillusion of 1949. The utterances of the hon. Member cannot always be very pleasing to hon. Members opposite and one is always reminded of that rather unkind remark of Mr. Bernard Shaw, when he was asked to define a Communist, "A Communist is a Socialist who is in earnest."

I will say something which is beyond controversy. There were two ways of working at the steel problem. One was to say that, as it was mentioned in "Let us Face the Future," it was definitely a part of the Government's programme for a popular mandate for it was given in 1945, and that it was wrong, therefore, and improper for another place to attempt to challenge that verdict or to force the matter again before the electorate. The other possible viewpoint, which found favour with the other place, was that it is true that in general terms steel was mentioned in 1945, but that not every jot or tittle could be taken to be within the mandate of the electorate and that, therefore, this matter should go before the public again at an election.

Those were the possible viewpoints. Judging by the bellicose utterances we have heard this afternoon from the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) and the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. N. Smith), their towns are planning to have a conflict on the point and must be delighted at the conflict over another place. But that is not the view of the responsible Minister. The responsible Minister made a powerful speech this afternoon pointing out the outrageous impropriety of the action of another place. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, one would think so. I would agree with the hon. Member that it was a very fine performance. But the difficulty is that, having proved his case, he says, "Very well now, they are such naughty people we will give way to them"; because that is what it means. It means that the noble Lords are to have their way. As I happen to agree with them on the point and to think they are right and the Minister is wrong, I am not complaining, but I am pointing out that the Government have placed themselves in a position of intolerable humiliation.

Only a day or two ago the Chancellor—not of the Exchequer but of the Duchy of Lancaster—was apparently living in the past, some 40 years back, and quoting from speeches made at that time which, he said, were still appropriate. He spoke in terms of great contempt of the intellect, personnel and pretensions of another place, but only two days afterwards we are told that these pretensions are to be given in to. Why? Because, apparently, on a little technical point, when the Bill was drafted no one ever thought that the noble Lords might be difficult about it and, on the assumption that everything would be all right, the 1st April, 1950, was put in as the date.

I must remind hon. Members that some of us have memories, perhaps not quite of the kind possessed by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, but reasonably good. We have not forgotten the Debate in May, or June, 1946, on this matter. Nor have we forgotten the arrogant and bullying attitude then taken up, not by the Minister, but by the Leader of the House, with the intimation that Conservatives did not know what was coming to them and that if they dared to obstruct and thwart the coming Bill, dreadful things would happen. The veiled threat to the other place was there all right, but now we are told that it was brought in on the amiable assumption that noble Lords would be docile. It was quite apparent a few months ago that they would not be docile. Why was the situation not recognised then and why is the matter altered at the eleventh hour? Was it through blundering? There was a good deal of that, but, generally speaking, I think it was because of gambling on the situation and of inability to plan either way, for which this Ministry of planners is so conspicuous.

We have to remember that for the last three months the Government have been preoccupied not only with the important task of saving the country, but also with the far more important task of winning, if they can, the forthcoming election. Everything has to be viewed in the light of that. The objection to pressing on with the powers they have got would have been that it would put the General Election on a date which might be inconvenient to the Government. Rather than face that, they have taken their medicine and given way to the House of Lords. Certainly when I came into the House four years ago, I felt pretty certain that it would not run according to plan. But that a Government, after four years of high pretensions and boasting of unbroken electoral successes, should then climb down and give way to the House of Lords, is something I did not expect to see.

Mr. Pannell (Leeds, West)

I am glad of the opportunity of taking part in this Debate, if only to answer the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) because he was reminded quite early in his speech of the Marxian doctrine which says that one's actions should be determined by the circumstances of the moment, and of all people he should know that best—

Mr. Gallacher


Mr. Pannell

Of all the parties which have been guided by expediency in all they have done, surely the Communist Party is the exemplar above everything else. That expediency led the hon. Member to canvass for Tories in a Glasgow by-election on one occasion. It made him support a Tory Minister of War, and he spoke for them in a Cardiff by-election. If the charge is to be made here that we are the natural allies of the party opposite, I would say that those are depths to which we have not sunk.

Mr. Gallacher

Will the hon. Member excuse me now?

Mr. Follick

Allegations have been made.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

If the hon. Member will excuse me—

Mr. Pannell

I am not unused to political controversy even if I am not so used to this House. I am not unused to the devious devices of Communists to put one off one's main theme. I will give way in my own time and not at the demand of the hon. Member.

If we are to consider the general question of expediency, we accept the Marxian dogma that generally speaking the circumstances of the time should determine us in all our actions; or to put it in another way, as Shaw put it, man's happiness is determined by what the immediate future holds for him. We are perfectly happy because we shall go into the next Election with no doubt that we shall win it. I speak with a closer and more recent experience of the working class than the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher).

We shall, I repeat, go into the coming Election without much doubt about the result if we are to take the examples of the by-elections. I addressed 200 meetings in West Leeds quite recently and there was not one at which I did not mention iron and steel—I have a lifelong experience of the industry—and there is no doubt that the overwhelming mass of the electorate are behind us. It is no use the Opposition suggesting that we have a mandate which is expiring. Our mandate is a continuing confidence mandate from the people, and if any further proof of that is required, in view of the fact that the Opposition have imported national considerations into by-elections, what about the result of North Kensington? We have the right to say that the people who supported us in 1945 are the people who support us today, and there is no question in my mind—

Mr. Follick

On a point of Order. Is it not generally the courtesy of this House that when an allegation has been made an opportunity is given to the hon. Member against whom it has been made to reply?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)

The hon. Member has been in the House long enough to know that that is not a point of Order.

Mr. Pannell

I will complete my sentence and then give way. There is no doubt in my mind that evidence will again be forthcoming in the South Bradford by-election.

Mr. Gallacher

I wish to revert to the allegation about the Gorbals by-election. During the war a Tory was standing there as a Coalition candidate supported by the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. Pannell) and by the Labour Party, of which he is a member. That Coalition candidate was in favour of maintaining co-operation with the Soviet Union in the war against Hitler. There was an I.L.P. candidate opposed to co-operation with the Soviet Union. I went to the Gorbals and made a speech—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is going very wide. This is a narrow subject.

Mr. Piratin

On a point of Order. It may be within your recollection, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the hon. Member for West Leeds (Mr. Pannell) made an allegation of this kind against my hon. Friend—

Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)

And he was correct.

Mr. Piratin

Behave yourself.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I could not hear what the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) said when he was addressing the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). I was not in the Chair when the earlier incident took place, but it seems to me from all that I have heard that the hon. Member is going much too wide.

Mr. Gallacher

On a point of Order. The hon. Member for West Leeds made an allegation that I went to the Gorbals to support a Tory. I went to the Gorbals to support the Coalition policy, and the Labour Party and the hon. Member for West Leeds were supporting that policy and were supporting the candidate who happened to be representing it.

Mr. Pannell

All that the hon. Member has said has confirmed the original statement I made, that there are circumstances in which even he will support Tories. That was the statement, that there were circumstances in which he would change his mind overnight—in which he was suggesting to a peace convention the next day that the Fascist beast should not ride roughshod over Europe. This is the party of miserable expediency—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I was not present when this earlier interchange took place, but I think that the House has now had enough of it.

Mr. Pannell

Which at least brings me to the conclusion that there are now considerations which force this side of the House to accept the Lords' Amendments. These considerations are constitutionally insuperable—[Laughter]—they are for the moment. We have passed a Parliament Bill which will render these circumstances unlikely ever to occur again.

I do not think that we on this side of the House need apologise because on the eve of a General Election we are again prepared to submit the issue to the verdict of the country in the way we did in 1945. I say that on this matter which is before us today our record on this side of the House is cleaner in our bowing to the inevitable and in facing the people who have given us their continuing vote of confidence than is the record of hon. Members opposite, who have relied on a non-elective assembly to do for them against the will of the people what they could not do for themselves at the hustings. That is the point.

In any event, if we agree to the broad democratic basis that we accept the will of the people, there is no doubt that if hon. Gentlemen opposite were successful at the coming Election they would undoubtedly introduce legislation to interpret the will of the people as they saw it. But we know full well that if the power of the House of Lords had been left undisturbed, the will of the people would not have worried hon. Members opposite in the least. As was pointed out by the Lord President of the Council in a previous Debate, with the House of Lords' powers as they were we could only rely upon three Parliamentary years in which to interpret the will of the people. The fundamental clash between ourselves and the party opposite is this: parties rise and fall, as did the great Liberal Party—see to what it has been reduced—but reaction will always appear in every society as a solid mass, and the rallying point of reaction will always rest with the Conservative Party.

The hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) made a considerable point about what the Socialists would do after the next Election. That seems rather curious coming from a Sheffield Member bearing in mind that the verdict in Sheffield was so emphatic that only the hon. Member and one other represent the party opposite in the great steel city. If ever a Member came from a place which had given its answer to nationalisation, it is the hon. Member. I addressed a week-end school—

Mr. P. Roberts

Is not the hon. Member aware that in Sheffield at present the large majority of the people are against steel nationalisation?

Mr. Pannell

The Amalgamated Engineering Union, of which I have the honour to be a member, asked me to take a week-end school recently for engineers in Sheffield—[Interruption.] Yes, the men on the job. I know it is difficult for some hon. Members to appreciate that some people are on the job, but it was a delegate conference of all the engineering branches held at a week-end school. I listened to a lecture on steel at that time. They had got beyond the stage of wishing, they were discussing the mechanics of the job—consultation under the Minister of Supply; what part trade unions would play. They had, I say, got beyond the stage of wishing. In their hearts it is already there, make no mistake about it.

What is the use of trying to beg the question in this rather curious way? We have the position here today that we must defer for a short time this thing being put upon the Statute Book. We face the future with some confidence. With what confidence can hon. Members opposite face the future? I do not know at all. Their programme has been repudiated by their leader and their leader has repudiated their party from time to time, and half of the party have repudiated the leader himself—[HON. MEMBERS: "Three-quarters."] Three-quarters; I stand corrected. We shall accept the verdict of the electors at the next Election whichever way it goes. There is no doubt about that. For the first time in history hon. Members opposite will have to accept the verdict of the electors, because they have no longer got the House of Lords to buttress them up.

Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Mr. Pannell

They can no longer rely upon the vested interests, the dark forces which have always buttressed them in the past. In fact, they may as well let it go out to the world that there is no longer any use in contributing to the party war chest in the way they have done in the past, because those votes are of no use to hon. Gentlemen opposite any longer.

Mr. Fairhurst (Oldham)

The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has once again made a contribution to the demise of the Tory Party by allying himself to a decadent House of Lords and by proclaiming once more his allegiance to and support of the steel barons. That is what he has done, and if this Bill is to be put on the Statute Book I cannot see how the case of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) can hold water. He said that the Bill was dead. I rose to question him on the point, but he refused to give way.

There can be a case for altering the vesting date. Having in mind what developed recently, common sense tells us that there is a good case for altering the vesting date. When we were discussing the question of iron and steel in Committee it was argued that there would be great difficulty in bringing the vesting date forward to 1st May, 1950. I remember it very well, and that is proving to be the case. Bearing in mind what has been said, that a General Election will be held in the not distant future, I suggest that we can easily assume the reluctance of people to serve on a steel board when they have in mind a possible reversal of public opinion. I do not think that will happen, but it could happen, and one can readily understand that people will be reluctant to take the responsibility of managing a nationalised industry in those circumstances.

5.45 p.m.

There is another point. I am quite sure that steps will be taken by the steel barons of today to sabotage the Bill, if they can do it. The question of when the Steel Bill becomes operative does not really matter much now, because the electors will decide. The right hon. Member for Woodford said, "If we get back we will, wipe it out." We know where hon. Gentlemen opposite stand in the matter. We know where the organised workers stand in the matter, and I am certain that the matter will be one of the major issues at the forthcoming General Election. We shall not burke it. We shall put the same case forward next time as we did on the last occasion. We shall tell them again about what happened in Jarrow, and in Wales and in certain parts of Lancashire.

Mr. P. Roberts

The hon. Member will not fool them twice.

Mr. Fairhurst

I know of areas made derelict by the ramifications of the steel barons in years gone by, and the people were unemployed for years following that. It was a shocking tragedy for the people there. Even if the electors in the future say they have no confidence in the Labour Government and if the Tories wipe out this Bill we shall not be satisfied. I, for one, will never be satisfied until the steel industry has become a national industry. Such an event, as I have suggested, would be a set-back, but only a setback, because if we are to live and build up our economy in this country we must control all the basic and key industries.

Hon. Members opposite have no case. They ruined the mining industry. They do not now say, "If we get back we will de-nationalise the mining industry." Of course, they do not. They know they will not do it. Under nationalisation the mining industry is becoming what it should have been long ago—an efficient instrument in our economic life.

Mr. Osborne

Does the hon. Member realise that the mining industry is the one industry which even under the Government's programme has failed to reach its target?

Mr. Fairhurst

With your permission, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will slightly diverge from the point. I wish to remind hon. Members that the results of the 1946–47 effort, and that which will be shown at the end of this year, will reveal an advance of probably 20 million tons. Does that suggest that the coal industry is falling down? Is it not the case that the mines today are subject to reorganisation, which was bound to impede coal production for the time being? Is it not the case that that will reflect itself in a higher total later on? Having in mind that the total number employed in the industry is falling—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member is going very much too wide.

Mr. Fairhurst

The Debate has had a fairly wide range, and it has been mentioned before. The same analogy can be applied to steel. It is essential for the future economic life of the country that never again shall the steel barons who controlled the industry in the past be allowed to play ducks and drakes with it. I remember many stories we heard about the industry. I well remember that it almost became a subsidised industry as a result of the efforts made to put it on its feet. The industry was given advantages against foreign competitors which the Opposition now claim that private enterprise does not require.

Only recently a delegation has been investigating conditions abroad. They have come back with a glowing report. I have read a portion of it and I have assimilated the fact that our industry today is far from what it ought to be. The owners never put into the coal industry the money which should have been put into it, and I do not think they will put into steel the money required to make it a modern efficient instrument in the life of our country.

Mr. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

We are discussing these matters today because the Labour Party do not happen to have the good luck which the Tories have had. When they have been in power they have been able to rely on the other place to pass their Measures without difficulty, no matter how irresponsible or out of keeping with public opinion they may have been. We have found that we have had to change our plans slightly because the other place is preponderantly Tory, is unrepresentative of the people and, in essence, is deciding what legislation the Labour Government should be allowed to pass and what it should not be allowed to pass. The attitude of the other place to the Iron and Steel Bill not merely justifies our introducing the Parliament Bill, but it justifies us, if we are returned, as we shall be in 1950, taking even further steps to curb the powers which they have used against this Government and the people in general.

It is shocking that an unelected, unrepresentative autocracy of that kind should be able to impede the work of a Government which was given a mandate by the people. Hon. Members should make no mistake about that. One hon. Member said that what the House of Lords was doing was to make the Labour Government go to the people for a second time before their legislation was carried into effect. What right has that unrepresentative, undemocratic hereditary body to make the Labour Government go to the people a second time for a mandate on an issue upon which we have already been given instructions by the people? Did anyone ever know in a democratic community any organisation having a power such as that?

Another hon. Member said that he hoped that if we were not returned—of course we shall be—we would not make a political cockpit of the steel industry. I should like to ask the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) whether, if the Tories are again defeated, as they will be in 1950, they will assure us that they will not try to make difficulties in the nationalised industry. [Interruption.] I have read "The Right Road for Britain." That has got as much chance, if they get into power, as pigs have of flying.

I should like to know whether the Opposition are prepared to give a guarantee that if they are again decisively defeated in 1950, as they were in 1945, they will not stir up against the nationalisation projects of the Government any bitterness, strife or animosity I should like to know that because the hon. Member for Ecclesall asked for an assurance from us that, in the unfortunate event, from the point of view of the country, of our not being successful, we would not make steel a political cockpit. I think it was the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) who wanted to know whether the Minister would give a guarantee that there would be completely full employment in the steel industry when it was nationalised. We can say that it will certainly give to the man engaged in the industry a far greater security than was given to the people in my Division who were in the industry.

As everyone knows, it was a mere handful of men who took bread out of the mouths of men, women and children. It was a mere handful of men who sat down and denied them the right to work and who said, in one case, that a certain industry should not function again for many years. That is the vital difference between hon. Members on this side of the House and hon. Members opposite with regard to these great industries, and in particular steel. We say unhesitatingly that it is wrong that a handful of men should have such great economic power that, as and when it suits their purpose and their profits, they can close down an industry, a shipyard or a steel works without having any regard to the social consequences of their action. We say that, in the great basic industries, never again must men have that power. That is why I am wholeheartedly in support of what the Government have done. That is why we have taken this step. We believe that it is not merely a question of economics: it is a question of ethics.

Mr. Osborne

The Coal Board are doing the same today.

Mr. Fernyhough

I could delay the House by replying to the hon. Gentleman. The last time I spoke, the hon. Member and I carried on a conversation. I have always been very kind in giving way, but I do not think it would be helpful on this occasion. I say frankly that I am sorry that we have had to compromise. It is due to the fact that the other place do not support us but do support the Tories. Let them understand that this Government will be returned. I am satisfied, that just as the by-elections since this Measure was introduced have revealed that the people are wholeheartedly with us on a Measure of this kind, by and large the people will be with us on the whole of the legislation that we introduce. In the event of the House of Lords at any time in the future trying to be in the least difficult or obstructive, it will be for us—or at least it will be for me, because this is my view—instead of trying to mend it, to take steps to end it.

Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-in-Tees)

I am very sorry that we are here today discussing these proposals, because there is no doubt that they represent a defeat for the Government and for the Labour Party. We ought to be quite sure, in considering that defeat, to place the responsibility where it really rests, and that is on the Opposition and on the House of Lords. They had it in their power if they had wished to play the game properly—and they have spoken a lot lately about the rules of the game—to have seen that this Bill became law in the summer of this year. If it had become law in the summer, as the Minister had a right to expect, then we would not have been facing these difficulties and proposals today.

6.0 p.m.

I wish to make it clear that, in accepting these proposals, there is no question of giving way to the other place. There is no question of running away from the issue which faces us and, more important, there is no question—there never has been—of this Bill being abandoned in spite of any opposition from whatever source it may come. It has been put about during the life of this Parliament that we have never been in earnest about the nationalisation of iron and steel. I think that any hon. Member on this side of the House will refute that suggestion. The issue is now perfectly clear. If we are returned, as we shall be, this will become an operative fact; this Bill will be on the Statute Book and we shall make it work. If the party opposite are returned, then the position quite clearly is that they will repeal the Act.

Nothing could be clearer than that as an issue for the General Election. It does not depend on the proposals put forward today; it has always been so. If we had stuck to the original date of 1st May, steel nationalisation would still have been an issue at the Election, and the same arguments would still have applied, because we would not have had time to put it into proper working order, even assuming that the Election were as late as it was possible for it to be.

The Opposition have not read this Bill properly; otherwise they would not accuse us of giving way to the House of Lords and compromising on this issue, because there always was that possibility of deferment of vesting date. [Interruption.] Why? Because of the constitutional set-up of Parliament today, and we have now taken steps to deal with that. The point is that the Minister, as he has always made clear in Committee, on Report and on Third Reading, has a discretionary power to delay the vesting date if circumstances warrant it. He had a period of 18 months from the passing of the Act to the date of its being brought into operation. In actual fact the proposal we have before us today makes no difference to what would have taken place, because the Lords by their action in, preventing this Bill from reaching the Statute Book last July, made it impossible for the Minister to implement this Bill before the General Election, and he always had the power to delay its implementation for a period up to 18 months. If we take the date of 1st January, 1951, as the date when the Bill will now come into effect, the position is made quite clear, but without his present proposals the Minister would have had to have some date about this time in order to give the Corporation proper time to arrange its affairs and in order that the Corporation could start off on a firm foundation.

The hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. P. Roberts) did not give way when he was challenged earlier and we asked him whether he would give an undertaking that his party and the interests he represents would accept the decision of the electorate a second time. They have not accepted it the first time. They called up all the power they could in order to oppose us. That is a situation which only applies when a Labour Government is in power.

Can we have a firm assurance from the hon. Gentleman and his party that they will not resort to some trick like that in future, when we are returned, but that for a second time they will accept the will of the people? [An HON. MEMBER: "They will have to do so."] We do not know; they may be able to arrange all kinds of things. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman may laugh, but when he was challenged to give that assurance, he refused. At any rate, the doubt is not removed from our minds. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman who will speak later for the Opposition will give us an assurance that will satisfy us, but unless the party opposite does give that assurance, the matter will be in doubt. The power of this industry in a capitalist society is so great that we do not know to what lengths they will go in order to retain it.

There is only one other point. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) made the statement that he could bear no responsibility for the Election because he had no power of choosing the date, and he spoke about no responsibility without power. If we really want a very good reason why we are proceeding with this Bill, we can say that it is because we believe that there should be no power without responsibility.

Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)

I will pick up a little later one or two of the points that have been made by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd), but I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes.

It falls to me to make a few valedictory remarks about this Bill. We shall not divide the House upon the Motion before us, because, in spite of all the Minister's sophistries—and he tried for some time to make out that there was some difference between the Government's Motion and the Lords Amendments and failed to do so—we feel that the Government's Motion, in effect, meets all the major points which the Lords had in mind when they made their Amendments, and the differences are merely the ordinary face-saving which we expect from the Government and for which I do not blame them.

Several times during the passage of this Bill through the House, I have pointed out that 1st May was the most inconvenient date which the Government could possibly have selected. The Government would have lost nothing if they had deferred the vesting date, while in addition, it would actually have given them a little time to work out how the Bill was to operate. The appearance of this Bill on Wednesday is another instance of the almost uncanny mis-timing which we associate with the Government. It was only on Monday that the Parliament Bill, with retroactive provisions affecting this particular Bill which could only have been put in the Parliament Bill for that purpose, reached its concluding stages here, and on Wednesday we find that the Government, in effect, although perhaps not word for word, agreeing with the Lords in this matter.

I am reminded of the story of the chairman of an insurance company who had an insurer in front of him who was rather suspect. The chairman said to him, "Mr. X, you bought that warehouse on Monday?" and the man said "That's right." Then the chairman said: "On Tuesday you stocked it with commodities?" and again the man replied "That's right." The chairman next asked him "On Wednesday, you insured it with this office?" and the man again replied" That is right, Mr. Chairman." Then the chairman asked "On Friday, it was burnt down, was it not? May I ask why this unreasonable delay?" That is exactly the sort of thing which the Government do. On Monday, they produce the Parliament Bill, with its retroactive provisions, and on Wednesday they proceed to accept the point of view of the Lords. Why this unreasonable delay?

I have no doubt that the Government will claim—I am sorry that the Lord President, who is to reply, has deprived himself of the benefit of hearing what I am going to say—that, as a result of this retreat or defeat of the Government, the Bill will at any rate get on to the Statute Book, but it will get there in name only. The Lord President will, on this occasion, be rather a reluctant bridegroom who will have the satisfaction of leading the bride to the altar—[Interruption.] I was saying that the Lord President, whom I am glad to see is now returning to his place, is rather a reluctant bridegroom on this occasion; he will at any rate, get the bride as far as the altar, but he will get no other satisfaction, because by the time he has got into the vestry, he will find that the bride is no longer there. I think he will get little satisfaction, and we on our side shall at least know that this unholy alliance is never going to be consummated.

There have been widespread suggestions that the object of the Government in retreating and accepting the Lords Amendments was to clear doubts over the General Election, and I must say that there seems to me to be some force in that argument. It would be quite understandable that the Government should wish to go to the country before the full significance of their four and a half years of mismanagement and misrule have be come evident. I can well imagine their fears, but they are trying to do what the Americans call "getting out from under before it is too late" Hon. Members who accept that sort of argument must think and recognise where it leads them.

During the passage of the Bill there have been two very inconvenient matters which the Government have had to face. One of them was raised by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees. Other hon. Members have said that the object of this Bill was to prevent the development of the steel industry being in the sole hands of private enterprise. Hon. Members should know that the development plan of the steel industry has already been accepted by the Government, and that this party is committed to having the price structure of the industry under public control.

The other difficulty is that all through the passage of this Bill the output has—very inconveniently for hon. Members opposite—continued to rise, and it was very difficult to explain this away. The Parliamentary Secretary, of course, had no difficulty. He said that the rising output was due to the rising hopes of the workers in the industry that nationalisation was really going to come. I feel that the Lord President will have some difficulty also, and I would like to try and help him over the stile. As long as the prospect of nationalisation is always deferred, output will probably continue to go up. What the Government fear is that nationalisation will become a fact, when output will certainly go down, as it has in every other nationalised industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Which industry?"] Coal. The output of coal is below what it was in 1938.

Mr. Chetwynd

The coal output has not dropped since nationalisation.

Mr. Lyttelton

I agree, but it is below what it was before the war under private enterprise, both in output per man year and in total quantity.

When the Minister of Supply—I think it was—used words to the effect that extensive powers would be in his hands when this Bill became an Act—as it will quite soon—I think he was exaggerating. The only two matters which are in his power after the assurances he has given to the House are, first of all, to freeze some dividends of the steel companies under Clause 20. We do not regard that power as of very great importance because the steel companies have carried out the exhortations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer not to increase their dividends. The second thing is that there is to be no hiving off or dissipation of assets without the Minister's approval. We have all along regarded this as a piece of machinery which was quite unexceptional because, until the matter of whether the steel companies are to be nationalised or not is finally decided, it would obviously be inappropriate and wrong for companies to dissipate their assets and thereby leave a great deal of tidying up to be done if, eventually, they were taken over. Therefore, I do not think there is anything at all in the powers which the Minister has under those Clauses; they are merely machinery Clauses.

The House will be glad to hear that I have no intention of recapitulating the main argument why we are unalterably opposed to the nationalisation of iron and steel. There is only one argument of which I must remind the House. It is that this Bill has nothing to do with the production, the management, the centralised sales or the development programme of the steel industry. It merely seeks to vest the securities of a number of companies in the Corporation, and during the whole course of the Bill no proposals about how improvement in the production of steel is going to be made have ever been advanced by the Government. All they have done is to say, in effect, that nothing is to be altered, and that they will leave management exactly where it is.

The main difference between the two sides of the House is that we believe that, while the industry should be under the control of the Government as regards prices and development programme, on no account should the Government enter into ownership of the industry or the responsibility which that will carry. The Lord President can, of course, wave his marriage lines at the party meeting, but the country will seize the opportunity of repudiating the Bill—an opportunity given it by the wise statesmanship, moderation, and constitutional correctitude of the noble Lord who leads the Opposition in another place, of expressing its view at a time when these questions are so wide and so arresting, since they will affect the recovery of our country.

6.15 p.m.

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

We have had quite a pleasant and quiet afternoon on what may be—I do not know—the last stage of the effective consideration by this House of the Iron and Steel Bill. Even now, we are for the greater part discussing the question of the timing of the operation and commencement rather than the substance of the Bill

The right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) made some somewhat indelicate remarks about leading the bride to the altar, and speculated as to what was going to happen thereafter, about which I dare to say nothing. However, we all took it in good part and enjoyed the witty observations which the right hon. Gentleman made. [Interruption.] I am not going any further into that; there is a high proportion of very respectable Members in this House, and I am not going to offend anybody.

I do not want to get on to the substance of the Bill—indeed, Mr. Speaker, I might be in trouble with you if I did—but the right hon. Gentleman said that output would fall when the steel industry was nationalised, as it had fallen in other publicly-owned industries. He was asked which industry, and he said in the coal industry; but he had to go back a good number of years. The fact is that the output of coal has increased since the industry came under public ownership as compared with the pre-public ownership period. On the other hand, it was said by many lion. Members opposite, including those who can speak with authority for the iron and steel industry, that if the Bill was proceeded with there would be a real danger of the steel output going down. We all know that while this Bill has been going through, the output of steel—owing to co-operation on both sides of the industry—has actually gone up, which only goes to show that miserable predictions do not always come true.

The Opposition tried to depress hon. Members on this side of the House with predictions about a sad fate at the next Election. It is very unwise for them to do that; they may have an awful bump and surprise when it comes, because, after all, they—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about recovery corner?"] We are still going round it. After all, hon. Members opposite were quite confident that they would win the last Election. Following the precedent of Mr. Lloyd George after the 1918 Election, they were quite confident about it, and, poor little things, they were out on the mat when the Election finished. I do not want to rub that in but the same thing is likely to happen to them again. The truth is that they have got the Election on the brain.

Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)

How do we know that they have got one?

Mr. Morrison

For myself, I have too many other things to do, much too much public work to be concerned with, including public speaking—which is part of one's work—and much too much useful work to do for the nation to worry about the next Election.

It is now calmly asserted that these alternative Amendments, which the Government submit to the House should go to another place, have something to do with the date of the next Election. I cannot see it. I cannot see any relevance to the date of the next Election because, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply said in opening, we are up against the calendar. It is nothing to do with the Election; it is the calendar we are up against. The fact is that, owing to the delay in the coming into law of the Bill, my right hon. Friend says quite simply—and it is true—that on the calendar and on the pure time factor we cannot bring the Bill to where we wanted it to be by 1st May, and therefore my right hon. Friend is forced, by the intolerable interference of their Lordships with the decision of the people at the last Election, purely because of the calendar, to alter the date in the Bill. That is all there is to it.

I do not mind the Opposition amusing themselves and speculating about the date of the next Election. They, with the aid of their capitalist supporters, have spent a lot of money on the next Election already, on the assumption that it was going to happen this autumn. Now they have got to collect some more money, as it is to happen at some other time. This is a free country and anybody can speculate about the next Election. Therefore, I have no objection and I am not worrying about it. It will come when it comes. Meanwhile, let us get on with the work of the country. That is our duty to the country.

This Motion has nothing whatever to do with the date of the next Election. Whether or not there is an Election, it is clear that the date which my right hon. Friend put in the Bill cannot be maintained owing to the obstruction and the interference of another place. That is all there is to it. Therefore, my right hon. Friend is forced by sheer force majeure to alter the date in the Bill. Then the Opposition say. "Aha! The motive here is related to the date of the next Election." Half Fleet Street gets busy.

Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)

Not the "Daily Herald." That does not report at all.

Mr. Morrison

The "Daily Herald" is much too discreet to go barging into these things.

Mr. Stanley

No news value.

Mr. Morrison

The "Daily Herald" is a very reliable newspaper. It is possible to fill the columns of the Press with speculations which have no foundation, or with fact. The "Daily Herald" prefers to fill them with fact and not speculation.

Mr. Stanley

Not these particular facts. The "Daily Herald" this morning did not even record the fact that these Amendments were on the Paper.

Mr. Morrison

I should imagine that that was because it was already news. There was certainly a story in the "Daily Herald" about today's discussion. I thought it was a very good one, too, and up to its customary standard of accuracy, which is very high.

Not content with speculating and alleging that these Amendment have something to do with the date of the next Election, some of the newspapers, bless their hearts—I am not quarrelling about it; the House knows that I have a great affection for them—have actually published the date of the next Election, following the example of the Chairman of the Conservative Party organisation some time ago, who as usual was wrong. It has also been alleged that the only reason for introducing the Parliament Bill, which was decided on Monday night, was to settle the Iron and Steel Bill. I have persistently denied that, and I still deny it. [An HON. MEMBER: "That proves it must be so."] That is naughty. If that remark were put in more direct terms, it would be out of Order.

I do not know what their Lordships are going to do with these Amendments at all, but suppose they pass them and agree to them. Then the Bill will be on the Statute Book this Session, and the Parliament Bill will have nothing to do with the passing of this Bill whatever. That will prove conclusively that the Parliament Bill was not brought in purely for the Iron and Steel Bill. The Parliament Bill was solely a Measure of general legislative insurance. That was all. If it has not to be operated in this Parliament, that is fine; as long as the Government and the Labour Party get their own way, we are satisfied. We would get no special kick out of the Iron and Steel Bill being passed under the Parliament Bill. If we can reach agreement otherwise, that is all right. It may be that this Bill will be on the Statute Book by the end of the Session without recourse to the Parliament Bill at all.

What is certain is that the Parliament Bill will be on the Statute Book by the end of the Session. Therefore, I think these allegations that the Parliament Bill was brought in solely to deal with the Iron and Steel Bill are wrong. It was perfectly clear then, and it is more than ever clear now as it has worked out, that the two Bills are taking their separate courses and will probably arrive at their destinations without the one having the slightest relationship to the other so far as constitutional procedure is concerned.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has very courteously informed me that owing to a longstanding engagement he could not wait to hear the end of the Debate. Of course, I accept that; indeed, I was very grateful to see him at the beginning of the Debate. He said he did not mind at all what I said about him while he was away. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was glad that the electors had got a clear chance to pronounce on the merits of the Iron and Steel Bill. The electors had a clear chance to pronounce upon the merits of these proposals at the 1945 election. If ever there was an absolutely clear Election manifesto, it was that section of our manifesto dealing with the socialisation of industry, in which we clearly stated the industries which we proposed to transfer to public ownership. The entire list—it was not a very long list; after all, we have only been here five years—was treated in exactly the same way. The language was substantially the same, and there was nothing special about iron and steel.

If their Lordships passed the Transport, Electricity, Gas, Bank of England and Coal Acts, and the Cable and Wireless Act, which enjoyed the support of the Opposition—and remember that they passed them, as stated by the Leader of the Opposition in another place, because there was a mandate for them from the people, which I have quoted in this House but with which I will not weary the House again—then I say that they had no more justification to interfere with the Iron and Steel Bill than they had to interfere with the Coal Act, which is one of our socialisation Measures. Nobody has yet argued on constitutional grounds that their Lordships had a greater right to interfere with the Iron and Steel Bill than they had to interfere with the nationalisation of coal.

I will tell the House why we had this trouble about the Iron and Steel Bill. It is because it was the last socialisation Measure, in time, to come before the House of Commons. It was, therefore, because they had the greatest chance of wrecking a socialisation Measure. That is the only reason. I say that the electors pronounced upon this Measure at the last Election, and, with great respect, their Lordships' House have no right to require that the electors shall pronounce upon it a second time before the will of the representatives of the people is operative.

6.30 p.m.

The Leader of the Opposition said that, therefore, we shall have something like a referendum at the next Election. His enthusiasm for referenda is extraordinary. He almost wanted one at the last Election, about something connected with the procedure of the Election or, rather, some idea that the electors should say "yes" or "no" as to whether the war Coalition Government should go on—a typical Hitler expedient. Now he wants this Iron and Steel Bill to be submitted to a referendum. For myself, and I think I speak for the Labour Party, we do not believe in the doctrine of the referendum in this way. We believe in representative Government. We are better constitutionalists than the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He referred to the "great" Parliament Act. I said, "Which?"; and he said, "The 1911 Act." Well, Sir, that is all very well, but there was not a single Tory cheer behind him. I understand there were violent scenes in this House in 1910 and 1911 when that Act was going through, and even now there is no great enthusiasm for the Act of 1911.

The right hon. Gentleman says it is a good thing that, on this Iron and Steel Bill, another bottle of medicine should be tried. I suppose that is another way of trying to argue about the doctors' mandate. He says they are not in power; we on this side of the House have to do these things and we must take the consequences. That is perfectly true. He said that, not being in power, they have no responsibility.

Mr. Stanley

He did not say that.

Mr. Morrison

I thought he said more than that. I want to point out that, in any case, it bears out the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition and the Conservatives. It shows that they have no sense of responsibility either as an Opposition or a party which seeks to be in power.

I wish to thank various hon. Members from my side of the House for the support they have given to the Government in this matter. They have made excellent speeches. I also thank hon. Members opposite for the contributions which they have made to the Debate. I thought it would be rather more exciting and would last longer, but often the House surprises one, one way or the other; sometimes, when one expects it to go on, it does not, and sometimes when one does not, it does. That shows what a human institution Parliament is.

I want to say only these few words in conclusion. I join with my right hon. Friend, the Minister of Supply in protesting against the necessity for moving these Government Amendments to their Lordships' Amendments. It ought not to be necessary. We had every reason to assume, in the light of the other socialisation Bills, that this Bill would have been on the Statute Book in July of this year, and it ought to have been on the Statute Book by July of this year. But it was not: there has been delay and we have had a Recess since.

On the question of dates, we must make these changes. We think it is a sensible thing to do, although we regret that we have to do it; and we do it, making our protests against its necessity. I commend the Amendments to the House and I trust that they will be acceptable to another place, as they certainly ought to be. If they are not so acceptable, well, the Parliament Bill will soon be on the Statute Book and it can make its contribution to the placing of the Iron and Steel Bill on the Statute Book. We think we are right; we believe their Lordships have been wrong; we believe that the Opposition are wrong; and I commend the Amendments to the House and trust that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, who has worked so hard on this Bill, will shortly have the satisfaction of knowing that this great Measure is at last upon the Statute Book of Parliament.

Resolved: "That this House doth insist on its disagreement with the Lords in the said Amendments."

Amendments made to the Bill in lieu of the Lords Amendments disagreed to:

In page 2, line 8, at end, insert: (3) The Minister shall not appoint any member of the Corporation before the first day of October, nineteen hundred and fifty.

In page 10, line 21, leave out from "of," to "as," in line 24, and insert: January, nineteen hundred and fifty-one, or such date later, but not more than twelve months later, than the date aforesaid.

In page 11, line 11, leave out "May, nineteen hundred and fifty," and insert: January, nineteen hundred and fifty-one.

In page 69, line 10, leave out from "appointed," to end of line 14, and insert: not later than two months before the date of transfer."—[Mr. G. R. Strauss.]