HC Deb 09 March 1950 vol 472 cc474-599

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Address, at the end, to add: but humbly regret that the Gracious Speech contains no reference to the future of the Iron and Steel Industry and that in a time of rising world competition this vital industry will be kept in a state of anxiety and suspense. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, during his speech last Tuesday, made the object of this Amendment quite clear, but I think it necessary that I should restate it so that there shall be no doubt. We have put it down in order to secure from the Government a promise that they will not make the vesting date under the Iron and Steel Act earlier than nine months after the next General Election, or some equivalent undertaking. For better or for worse, the Amendment does not raise any question of repealing or tearing up the Act. It is put down so that we may seek assurances that the operation of the Act will be subject to delay.

The Amendment is drawn in terms which, I think, would enable me to range widely over the whole topic. Let me hasten to assure the House, however, and more especially those Members who were in the last Parliament, that I have no intention this afternoon of deploying a general argument on the subject of the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry. Though it is quite true that on some particular matters we had not full enough discussions because of lack of time, the general case has by now been so often ventilated, and, in my opinion, the poverty of the argument in favour of the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry so frequently exposed in all its nakedness, that any attempt on my part to re-open the broad question would be outside the purpose of the remarks which I wish to address to the House.

There is one thing to which I wish to refer before I come to my argument. I noticed that the "Daily Herald" of last Tuesday had a headline right across the front page: Tories Start Steel Rumpus. Now, as so often happens in the case of quotations from the "Daily Herald," the facts are entirely different. On Monday my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) asked the Government their intention over the Iron and Steel Act. He did it in the most conciliatory speech, and this Amendment has been put down owing to the curt and unsympathetic answer which his inquiries elicited from the Prime Minister. On that particular aspect I shall have more to say later. If there is to be a rumpus—and personally I rather enjoy rumpi—it has been started by others. On this occasion I have no desire whatever to barge into this controversy like a Bevan in a china shop.

We all know that the positions taken up by the Government and by ourselves on the merits of this case are entirely contrary; we are fairly and squarely opposed. We on this side remain committed to repealing the Iron and Steel Act. Our opinion also stands quite unshaken—and I think unshakeable, whether the Government agree with it or not—that the country has recently given a clear answer that it does not wish at this moment to proceed any further with the nationalisation of any industry.

Indeed, the Government appear to acknowledge this clear decision with regard to all schemes of nationalisation except the one of iron and steel, which we are debating this afternoon, because in the Gracious Speech no mention is made of cement, sugar, insurance or chemicals. They accept this clear decision with regard to all their schemes of nationalisation except the most important of all, this one of iron and steel. Of course, over iron and steel I quite easily see their difficulty. Just as we are committed to repealing the Act, so are they committed, if they are given the life to do it, to seeing that that Act is put into force. Let me add this, however.

Suppose that we had not put down this Amendment, which, I repeat, is designed to elicit a sympathetic reply from the Government regarding the vesting date. Every day that Parliament lasted, and every day that the Government remained in power, would have brought nearer the inevitable clash, the inevitable "steel rumpus." We should have been bound to claim, as 1st January, 1951, approached, that no Government depending upon so exiguous a majority had any right to put into force an Act so far reaching that it would once and for all put an end to private enterprise. I think everyone will agree that I am not overstating the case in saying that.

But do not let the Government underrate the forces which would come to our aid, and which, I may say, have come to our aid over this very matter. We are very glad, if the Press reports are correct, to know that the Liberal Party are in sympathy with the objects of this Amendment. [Laughter.] I see no particular reason to think that to be funny. When we know we are supported by the independent judgment of an independent party, it reinforces our view that what we are asking for is entirely sensible and reasonable. The position they foresaw during the election has, on this occasion, almost exactly come about. On the eve of the poll, they issued this statement: If the Socialists emerge from the poll so that they are unable to form a Government without Liberal support, it should be borne in mind that the Liberals have already pledged themselves that there should be a halt to nationalisation for at least the next five years, and that it would therefore be necessary for the Socialists to undertake to suspend indefinitely the Iron and Steel Act when they ask for Liberal support. We are not asking, at the moment, for an indefinite suspension. We are asking only that the vesting date should be deferred until nine months after the next General Election.

We feel, and feel most strongly, that the House of Lords have fulfilled an invaluable function in obliging the Government to seek an electoral mandate before this Act came into force. It would be against the very spirit of the Constitution if delay, having been secured by the operation of constitutional machinery, and the people having been asked to pronounce upon this very subject of nationalisation—and the people, to put it no higher than this, having given a very uncertain answer—this Measure were persisted in as if there had been no appeal to the electorate. If our Amendment is accepted no clash upon principles will have taken place and the Government will, I think, have acted with constitutional propriety.

Let me turn now to the statements made in the House this week and how they affect the problem. I referred to the Prime Minister's statement upon iron and steel as curt and unsympathetic. I do not disguise from the House my belief that there are many statements he could have made which would have prevented this Debate taking place. But he did not choose that course. He used these words: That Act is on the Statute Book. The Corporation cannot be appointed until 1st October, 1950. The earliest date for vesting is 1st January, 1951. There is nothing to be done in the matter immediately, but that Statute is on the Statute Book and our purpose is to give effect to Acts passed by Parliament." —(OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 66.] There is the small point that the Act differs slightly from the Prime Minister's words. He said that the Minister cannot appoint the members until 1st October. In one sense, of course, that is correct, but the Act actually says "before," and I think the word "until" is less permissive and more mandatory than before. However, as I say, that is a small point.

So much for the first appointed day under the Act. Much more important than this date is the vesting date, which is the date upon which the securities of the privately-owned steel companies, covered by the Third Schedule of the Act, pass into the ownership of the Corporation. Again, the layman might think that the Government had the definite intention of taking possession of the various properties as going concerns on 1st January, 1951, but that too remains at least uncertain, since the Act allows the Minister great latitude and permits him to delay the vesting date for no less than 12 months. I think that I had better quote the Statute. With regard to the appointment of the Corporation, it says The Minister shall not appoint any member of the Corporation before the first day of October, nineteen hundred and fifty. The part relating to the vesting date states: Subject to the provisions of this Part of the Act, all securities of the companies specified in the Third Schedule of this Act shall on the first day of January, nineteen hundred and fifty-one, or such date later "— These are the words I am referring to— but no more than twelve months later, than the date aforesaid, as the Minister may by order substitute for the date aforesaid, vest in the Corporation by virtue of this Act, free of all trust and encumberances. Therefore, when the Prime Minister stated that it was the intention and purpose of the Government to see that the Act which is upon the Statute Book was carried out, he was talking about something indefinite and imprecise in point of time. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the difference in point of time between the earliest date that the Act could become operative and the latest date is no less than 12 months, and that if the full delays allowed for in the Act were taken advantage of by the Government, then the present Act would not become operative and the securities would not change ownership until 1st January, 1952.

If we on this side of the House knew that the full latitude was to be used and the appropriate delays were to be taken advantage of by the Government, then this Debate would have been unnecessary, or at least premature. The object of our Amendment is to try to clarify the Government's intentions. We did not and do not expect them to concede their advocacy of the nationalisation of iron and steel, however absurd we may think the arguments to be. They are too far cornmitted to their point of view.

However, we seek to do three things. First of all to give the House as much elbow room over its immediate legislative programme in the voting of supplies and the carrying on of the King's business as we reasonably can. Secondly, we seek to give the steel industry, during this vital period of its development and expanding production, as long a run, if I may use the phrase, as possible without the interruption and dislocation which all parties will agree must attend the act or process of nationalisation. Thirdly, we wish to allow the best appointments to be made to the Corporation, if, in fact it ever comes into being. Let me address myself to these three points.

If we concede that it is asking too much of the Government to abandon nationalisation altogether, they must, in fairness, concede to us that it is equally impossible for us to concede our apposition to a Measure which we consider to be diametrically opposed to the national interest, a Measure which we consider very ill-timed at a moment of grave economic crisis, which is going, at best, to interrupt and dislocate the progress of a key industry and, at worst, to impose that industrial and administrative arthritis that always attends the setting up of one of these public monopolies. This monopoly would probably cover a far wider field than any other nationalisation Measure which has so far been put upon the Statute Book or is in prospect.

If, therefore, we concede that the Government cannot be expected to abandon the principle of nationalisation, we shall surely not be expected to abandon our principle. This is something of a test case. Situations of this kind are likely to be frequent during the life of this Parliament whether it is short or long, and it is not a bad thing that this particular case should be the first we have to consider in present circumstances, because in the Iron and Steel Act we have by chance a Measure which appears to me to be so framed as to lend itself readily to that accommodation between the parties which might be appropriate in the present state of our public affairs.

I repeat, we seek some assurance from the Government that the vesting date will not be put earlier than nine months after the next General Election. I do not think it is an unfair question to ask, why these two Sections, which I have read out, are so permissive in character and have so little mandatory force, if it were not to meet some such situation as that which now confronts us. Why are not the appointed days all laid down specifically, and why are these two Sections so permissive in character? It almost seems as if those who drafted the Section had expected and anticipated just such a situation as appears in the House today.

We cannot tell whether the course of public business and the attitude of the Government, or the events over which they have no control, or which they may be unable to foresee, particularly in the foreign field, will lead to a longer or shorter tenure of power by this Government. We do not know whether they are going to last till 1st October, 1950, or 1st January, 1951, or for that matter beyond March, 1950. What more natural than to use the delaying powers which already exist under the Act until a time when we can see more clearly? One thing is certain: If the life of this Parliament is short and a General Election takes place before the autumn, His Majesty's Government will have given nothing away at all by acceding to our request to delay the vesting date until nine months beyond the next General Election.

Of course, if the Government wish to continue in power and are able to last longer or are allowed to or the public interest appears to all sides of the House to require them to continue admittedly they would be causing a delay in the operation of this Bill. But surely that is exactly the kind of balance which we all desire. It is at least clear that this Government's tenure of office depends upon keeping away from controversial legislation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I will tell hon. Members in one minute —because they have not got a sufficient majority to engage in controversial legislation. If hon. Members opposite who interrupt me want any proof of that, I would strongly recommend them to read the Gracious Speech, which says exactly what I have been saying, if not in so many words at least in so many omissions. It is perfectly clear that that Speech has cut down legislation almost beyond the point of being non-controversial to the point of being pedestrian.

All our Amendment seeks to do is to defer this Measure that is on the Statute Book until a newly-elected Government is entrusted either with the task of repealing the Measure, tearing it up, or putting it into full vigour and operation. That disposes of my argument on the first reason why we are moving this Amendment.

I want to turn to the second point, namely, the reasons why this deferment is necessary for the iron and steel industry itself. I must go back to some past history. I know from many sources that the leaders of the steel industry determined at the time when the Bill was in the course of passage through this House that they would regard first of all 1st May, the original vesting date, and subsequently 1st January, 1951, as so remote that they could be ignored, and they have so far pressed on without interruption with their plans and with all measures designed to secure a higher production. It was indeed fortunate for the country that they did so. Everyone in this House knows the record outputs that have been progressively obtained.

The industry itself in February, 1950, produced steel at the annual rate of 16,890,000 tons per annum. That is the February figure multiplied by the necessary number of weeks and fractions to represent an annual output. If we take the January and February production figure as being more reliable because it is a slightly longer period, the equivalent annual rate would work out at 16,375,000 tons compared with 15,589,000 tons in 1949 and 14,819,000 tons in 1948. Comparisons with 1947 are vitiated by the fuel crisis of that year, but it is worthy of remark that during the three years 1947, 1948 and 1949 the Government set the steel industry a target between a minimum of 41,750,000 tons and 42,500,000 tons. The industry had actually produced 43,150,000 tons in spite of the fuel crisis in that period. In other words, they have exceeded the targets set to them during those three years by no less than 650,000 tons.

These figures are a great tribute to the workers in the industry. They have set a splendid example to the whole nation. If I may add a personal remark, I would say that they have gone some way towards fulfilling what I consider an industrial ideal, which is a high wage, high production country, and not a frozen wage, low production country. These figures are also a tribute to the skill of the management and of the directors who have formulated the policy, progressed it and placed it through all the difficulties which exist during a period of reconstruction and expanding production. I hand freely to hon. Members opposite, if they wish to make use of it, the argument that the record output has been achieved by the industry under threat of nationalisation. But that threat up to now has been very vague and a great many have entertained the hope that nationalisation would never take place.

That is now past. The imminence of the threat grows nearer. The menace once vague has become clear and insistent. In fact, the menace is contained in a statute. As the beginning of October approaches and then the beginning of January. it will be increasingly difficult for the industry to carry on upon the notional assumption that nothing is going to happen on 1st January. In some cases interruption, and in other cases paralysis, will supervene.

I would remind hon. Members, who apparently have forgotten it, that most severe penalties are laid upon directors for having taken action which subsequently turns out to have been to the financial disadvantage of companies which they now direct. I wish to be quite fair. I say straight away that they can avoid those possible penalties by obtaining the approval of the Minister of Supply to all that they propose to do in major fields of policy. I am not making any attack upon the Minister of Supply, but all those who have dealt with Government Departments will be aware that here is another reason why it will be quite impossible to get that lively and vigorous action which is necessary, or to carry on further development and attain still higher production.

I have dealt with the advantages which, I suggest, such a delay will give to the House of Commons and to the Government, as my first point, and with the advantages to the iron and steel industry, as the second point. I now want to turn to the advantages which would be gained in setting up the Corporation itself. Here I need not use any argument of my own. I can make my case entirely upon Ministers' statements. I need only go to the shop and find a suit which readily fits, in other words an argument which fits the situation perfectly. The argument is contained in a statement by the Minister of Supply, who, we are glad to see, has not only survived the Election but also the purge. During the course of the General Election I was able to deny indignantly the rumour which was current that the right hon. Gentleman was destined for the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman has survived the Election, the purge and the War Office, and therefore his words have all the more weight. This is what he said on 16th November, 1949: There is one further matter I should like to add. 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 "— I thank him for that word "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." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 2046.] I must say quite frankly that the greater part of that statement by the right hon. Gentleman reads like a speech made by a man upon whom the true mantle of prophecy has descended. He referred to the unwisdom of appointing men in an atmosphere of political uncertainty. May I ask whether we have not an atmosphere of political uncertainty at this moment? The right hon. Gentleman said, in the rounded phrases of the Civil Service, that men who might be well suited for this responsible task might understandably be reluctant to commit themselves as long as they thought there was a possibility, however remote, that the Corporation might not be established. Surely today there is a possibility, and not at all a remote one, that the Corporation may never be established. At any rate, the possibility is becoming far less remote than when the right hon. Gentleman employed these very cogent words—a very Solomon come to judgment. This is the true mantle of the prophet.

It is only when we read the last sentence that we realise why prophets are so often without honour in their own country. The Minister has presupposed —one can only dimly speculate whether it could have been upon the advice of Mr. Morgan Phillips—that a calmer atmosphere would follow the election of this new Parliament. In his statement of 16th November last year, the right hon. Gentleman has supplied me out of his own mouth with a very forcible argument, on which I could not improve, which adds point to and reinforces the object of our Amendment. His argument underlines the necessity for having an operative date out- side the area of political tension. I suppose we should all agree, if we are sincere, that that period can only take place after the next General Election.

I conclude by suggesting, in no contentious spirit, that it would be folly for the Government to tell the House of Commons in the present circumstances, that the nationalisation of steel is to take place at the earliest date possible under the Act. It might not appear so to hon. Members opposite, but such a statement or such an action would be the first step to the Government's committing political hari-kari on the steps of St. Stephen's. On this side of the House we are not necessarily asking that the vesting should take place at the latest date possible under the Act. In all probability we are asking for less than the full period of latitude already allowed and less than the full amount of elbow room under the Act.

We have heard very often in the course of this Debate phrases like "The King's Government must be carried on." Some of us may remember that Tom Paine said that Government in its best state is a necessary evil, and in its worst state is an intolerable one. Be that as it may, the Government cannot be carried on in the present Parliamentary circumstances without considerable tenderness being shown to opposing points of view and without a good deal of give and take. If I judged the temper of the Prime Minister's statement on Monday aright, it was that, at least for some time, the Government intend to continue in power, if it is allowed to do so. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said on the first day of this Debate: There would be no excuse for indulging in factious or fractious opposition and we have no intention of doing anything of the kind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 50.] If we cannot expect the Government to abandon its principles we can at least ask them to delay their application. Indeed, if they were not willing to do so on this occasion, when all the legislative powers are there and no new legislation or retraction is necessary, I suggest that it would cast grave doubts upon their good faith. The Gracious Speech would then have a very different emphasis from the one which appears on the surface. I can hardly believe that what that Speech really intended to tell us was this: "We will defer until after the next General Election Measures for nationalising cement, sugar, and chemicals, and the mutualisation of insurance, provided always that we can hold power for long enough to secure by far the most contentious of all Measures, since it is by far the most comprehensive, namely the nationalisation of iron and steel."

I believed the Government, when they said that they wished to carry on during this grave situation in world affairs on a modest foundation. I believed them when they said that they would not try to divide the two parties, unless it was upon vital matters where the honesty and integrity of our political convictions, whether they be Conservative or Socialist, were at stake. I shall begin to disbelieve those protestations if, with all the necessary machinery in their hands, the Government insist upon trying to put this Iron and Steel Act into operation before another General Election. Here, in fact, appears a clear test case of the Government's intentions, the touchstone of the Government's sincerity. So far from losing face in giving the assurances for which we ask, they will give evidence that they have grasped the realities of today and have begun, perhaps for the first time, to live up to the level of events.

4.20 p.m.

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

I do not know how many times it is that I have followed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) in Debates on the Iron and Steel Bill. On all occasions I have appreciated that the right hon. Gentleman has pursued his argument with logic and has made a case which, although we have not always accepted, has been a reasonable one. However, having listened to him carefully today I suggest that the arguments he has advanced have little to do with the wording of the Amendment which the House is now considering.

For example, the Amendment lays emphasis on the question of rising world competition which was not mentioned at all by the right hon. Gentleman.

The real illogicality of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman lay, however, in this: he was telling the House that the thing to do above anything else was to take this industry out of a state of anxiety and suspense. But, in fact, if his proposal meant anything at all, it meant putting the industry into a greater state of anxiety and suspense, because the delays and the doubts which would arise in the minds of all associated with the industry if his proposal were accepted would, I submit, be at least as great if not greater than those arising under the Act with its present wording.

Why it would remove suspense or anxiety or delay to say that the Act shall not come into operation until nine months after the next election—which may be in three months, six months, one year, two years or three years—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or five."]—nobody knows. Why that should allay suspense and anxiety, I cannot understand. It seems to me, therefore, that, as far as logic is concerned, there is no substance whatever in the arguments advanced by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon.

What does seem to emerge clearly is that the right hon. Gentleman, the leader of his party, and his followers are under the misapprehension that they have won the election and that it is for the Government to accept their policies and to refrain at their request from putting into operation an Act passed by the last Parliament. We look upon this demand as a quite extraordinary one which we cannot accept. I can best reply to it briefly at the outset of my speech by saying, first, that we believe it was the Labour Party that won the election and that we propose to act on that basis; secondly, that in any case no administrative problem arises at this moment in regard to the Iron and Steel Act. Next I say that we do not in any way propose to discard our principles in respect to this Measure or any other, or to betray those who gave us their confidence by their votes, neither do we intend to abandon this Measure which we believe to be essential for the maintenance of full employment and the prosperity of our community.

I would, however, like to examine for a moment rather more closely the contention that the Labour Government, because it did not receive a majority of the votes cast, should delay indefinitely the operation of the Iron and Steel Act. The whole argument is based on a doctrine which is entirely foreign to our constitu- tional practice. Our democratic system of Government is not based on the principle of referendum or plebiscite; on the contrary, it is based on the principle that a Government, irrespective of whether it received the majority or the minority of the votes cast, should govern according to its beliefs.

There have been many Conservative administrations elected on minority votes, but when that has happened those Conservative administrations have never felt themselves prevented from introducing or operating measures, however controversial they may have been—and some of them were very controversial indeed—which they deemed to be essential in the public interest. And they were quite right, for the acceptance of the doctrine which is now being put forward would inevitably mean that this country, from time to time, and maybe for long periods, would be condemned to spineless and impotent government, debarred from doing what appeared to it to be desirable for the welfare of the country.

Because, therefore, at this election we did not receive a majority of the votes polled, affords, I suggest, no constitutional ground why we should be asked, or agree to abandon indefinitely or for some unspecified time the operation of this Measure, however much the Opposition may dislike it.

Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)

While agreeing with the constitutional doctrine of the Minister, may I ask if it is not true that the Iron and Steel Act was deliberately submitted to the electorate and that that was shown by what happened in the House of Lords?

Mr. Strauss

I am coming to that point in a moment when I will discuss the degree to which the nationalisation of the industry was submitted to the electorate and the degree to which the electorate registered a verdict upon it.

The next argument put forward by the Conservatives in their Press and by the Leader of the Opposition is that because the Liberal Party in its election manifesto declared itself to be against the public ownership of the iron and steel industry, their votes should be added to those of the Conservative Party. It would then be found that the electorate had expressed its opposition to the nationalisation of this industry. That is an argument which is fundamental to the case put forward by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon and by the Conservatives outside this House.

I shall deal in a moment with the problem of the extent to which this question was a live issue at all at the election, but the argument based on the Liberal vote was, I submit, conclusively answered by the Leader of the Liberal Party in the House the other day when he said quite rightly that there was no reason to assume that in the absence of Liberal candidates those who had voted Liberal would necessarily have voted for the Tories. Indeed, it is quite certain that all of them would not have done so, and no one can tell to which party the majority of the Liberal votes would have gone. Any argument, therefore, based on adding Liberal votes to Tory votes and getting some imaginary result is patently fallacious and typical of the Conservative habit of annexing everything within sight.

Moreover, in my view it is not unreasonable to assume that a substantial number of Liberal supporters were converted to the nationalisation of this industry by the closely reasoned arguments put forward by no less an authority in the Liberal Party than the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). I am sorry he is not here this afternoon, for in a very powerful pamphlet which was published during the war, entitled "A Radical Economic Policy for Progressive Liberalism," dealing with the need to break up monopolies, he, together with three other prominent members of the Liberal Party, said: If, indeed, the industry is strong enough, e.g., the Iron and Steel Federation, there seems little, if any, hope that an attempt to break up a monopoly would succeed, and if it succeeded would probably bring about a general crisis and bankruptcy. Transfer to public ownership in these instances is necessary to avoid such disasters to those investors who are shareholders in the more inefficient units of the industry. The State should buy them out at the current value of their investments, reorganise the industry by reducing the capitalisation, and start afresh with the monopoly good will squeezed out of the system. It is true, of course, that later the leader of the Liberal Party, on the' Second Reading of the Bill, said that he and his colleagues would not support our Bill because he thought that we should take no action until a public inquiry had been set up and looked into the question. Ever since then, he and his colleagues have taken that line. I suggest, however, with all due respect, that it would be wrong for the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself and for the leading members of the Conservative Party to underestimate the lasting effect on a large number of Liberal voters of the cogent logic and the irrefutable conclusions which the leader of the Liberal Party advanced so persuasively a few years ago.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

Tell that to Strachey, too.

Mr. Strauss

As to the extent to which the problem of public ownership of this industry—a problem where principle and complex technical considerations are very closely bound—was in fact a major issue at the election—[An HON. MEMBER: "Was it?"]—no one can tell for certain. On my personal experience I found to my regret that outside the steel areas it was not a major, certainly not the major, issue of the election— [Interruption. ] I think that that is a conclusion with which most participants in the election would agree, based not only on their personal experience and questions asked at their meetings, but on the amount of matter dealing with this industry which was contained in the radio speeches of the various party leaders. There is, however, no doubt that in the steel areas this really was a live issue, and that by and large the people in those areas voted overwhelmingly for the Government's proposals. A fact which no one in this House can possibly deny is that those two candidates, ex-Members of this House, who made their main appeal to the electorate as opponents of the nationalisation of iron and steel, were soundly beaten.

I suggest that two other specific election results are of special relevance in this connection. The first is that recorded in Sheffield.

Mr. Lyttelton


Mr. Strauss

I take Sheffield because it is not only a major steel producing city; it is also a major steel consuming city. Indeed, it might well be called the major steel city of Great Britain. What happened there? The total anti-nationalisation vote, even if we include all the Liberal voters as being against nationalisation, went up in round figures from 101,000 to 131,000, an increase of 30 per cent. The Labour vote, on the other hand, rose from 118,000 to 182,000, an increase of 54 per cent. I therefore claim that in those areas, where people are most knowledgeable about the steel industry, most directly concerned about its prosperity, and where the question of public or private ownership was a live issue at the election—

Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)


Mr. Strauss

—the electorate expressed an overwhelming endorsement of the Government's proposals.

There is one other electoral result I should like to mention in this connection, that of Jarrow. I mention Jarrow because the people of that town have suffered, perhaps more than those of any other town in Great Britain, from the irresponsible private ownership of the iron and steel industry. There, the Conservative vote rose, in round figures again, from 14,200 in 1945 to 19,800 in 1950—that includes the Liberal vote—an increase of 39 per cent.; but the Labour vote rose from 20,700 to 33,800, an increase of 66 per cent. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is no argument at all."] It is partly in order to prevent in the years ahead in other parts of Great Britain a repetition of the tragedy of that murdered town that the Labour Government passed this Measure in the last Parliament and, as far as lies in our power, we shall not be diverted from our purpose.

Now I come to the argument mentioned specifically in the Amendment, with which the right hon. Member for Aldershot did deal at some length, that this industry is being kept in anxiety and suspense. Who is keeping it in anxiety and suspense? We certainly are not. Over and over again I have expressed our desire to see the Act implemented as quickly as possible after it had received the Royal Assent. If any damage is being done to the industry by the present long period of interregnum, the responsibility rests squarely on the shoulders of the Conservative Party in the two Houses of Parliament.

I would remind hon. Members that the House of Lords twice insisted that 1st July, 1951, should be the earliest vesting date, and that it was only at the end that they gave way to the extent of accepting 1st January, 1951. Plainly, their Lordships were in favour of as long a delay and period of suspense as possible; and that view was supported by the Conservatives in this House. But if the Conservative Party believe that the steel-masters are really so deeply disturbed by the prospect of further delay, the remedy lies in their own hands.

Parliament has passed the Iron and Steel Act, and the Government who are now in office are anxious to see it implemented. If the Opposition, therefore, want to avoid further delay, we are ready to implement the Act immediately, and a short agreed Measure could be presented to Parliament to that effect. That is a simple and practical solution which, I hope, will be given full consideration. After all, if anyone is to give way on this matter, surely it should be the Opposition and the private interests concerned rather than the elected Government of the country.

The most extraordinary feature of this Amendment seems to be the suggestion which it contains that implementation should not take place until nine months after the next election, however long that delay may be. It seemed to us wholly indefensible, and I said so on behalf of the Government at the time, that the House of Lords should use its powers to prevent the Government carrying out a Measure which they believe to be essential for the welfare of the country until the electorate have pronounced upon it twice.

Now it is proposed that we should wait, and the industry should be held in suspense, until a third election has been fought in which this proposal would be one of the issues in dispute. I suppose that if that third election resulted in a narrow Labour majority we should be asked to wait for the result of a fourth election. And this proposal, be it noted, comes from a party whose main argument is that we should shorten the period of delay and suspense.

I should like the House to consider this. Is it really a fact, as suggested by the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, that uncertainty about the implementation of the Steel Bill is having an adverse effect of any significance on the industry? I must say that the Opposition is and has been for some time speaking with two voices, both in conflict with each other. For some years now the Conservatives and their friends in the industry have been telling us and the country that the very introduction of an Act of nationalisation would be likely to have the most disastrous effect on the industry and on its output. Indeed, this was implied and expressly stated by Sir Andrew Duncan in May, 1946, when the matter was discussed.

Since that date, Conservative after Conservative has repeated that argument, but, at the same time, and without any apparent realisation of the illogicality of the argument, they say, "Look how well the industry is doing and how it is increasing its output." They are trying to use that as an argument against nationalisation. Obviously, one of those arguments must be false, unless it is seriously suggested—and I doubt whether it could be by anyone with knowledge of the industry—that the output would have been higher still but for the Iron and Steel Act. There is good ground for the belief that the steel workers' confidence in the Government—confidence that the Government would carry out its promise to nationalise the industry—has influenced them materially in their decision to operate the continuous working week, and that the very long and arduous hours they have worked for the last two or three years have been one of the important causes of the increased output.

My submission is that the prospect of transferring this industry from private to public ownership has so far in no way at all restricted its output or activities. On the contrary, it has coincided with a remarkable expansion of its activities. Indeed, my view is quite definitely that the anticipation of nationalisation has acted as a stimulus alike to owners, technicians and operatives. Nothing fresh has happened to support the implied argument that the productive forces of the industry are likely to be impaired by nationalisation.

Having personally acquired in the last few years a considerable knowledge of all sections of the industry, I am ready to refute on their behalf any suggestion that they would deliberately withhold from their industry, or the nation, their best efforts. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that if the Government were to give way to the Opposition and throw overboard, wholly or partially, their nationalisation proposals, the effect on the morale of the steel workers would be considerable and might well be reflected in the output figures.

In conclusion, I feel I must say a few words on the reasons why we, the Labour Party and the Labour Government, feel compelled to stand by our principles in regard to this Measure and are not prepared to abandon our belief that the transfer of this industry to public ownership is essential for the welfare of the country. The right hon. Member for Aldershot said that he did not want to enter into that controversy at all, but he managed to bespatter his speech with a large number of abusive epithets about our proposals and poured scorn on them. He was fully entitled to do so and I take no exception whatever. I hope, therefore, it will not be taken amiss if, in a few sentences, I state the reasons why we are determined to proceed with this Measure and why we believe it is essential in the interests of all sections of the community.

In contrast to the party opposite, we believe that to achieve economic independence and maintain full employment it is essential that the limited resources of our country should be planned, wisely planned and purposefully planned. Left to the free play of private enterprise, it is inevitable that a large part of our resources would be wasted on inessential purposes, to the benefit possibly of a small section of the community, but rendering impossible the achievement of the great national tasks that confront us. We are carrying out our planning policy over the whole range of British industry, and its success can be seen by our ever-increasing production and exports.

When we come, however, to our basic industries, such as coal, transport, iron and steel, on which the whole wellbeing of other industries, and therefore the welfare of the nation as a whole, depends, the indirect planning by controls is insufficient. For under a system of controls, however good it may be, the State cannot make the private owners of an industry re-organise, step up re-equipment in time of depression, increase the productive capacity of the industry, or, indeed, do anything which requires action which the owners are unwilling to take, or the expenditure of money which the owners are unwilling to provide.

Since the war, while the iron and steel industry has been re-equipping itself and demands for its products have been insatiable, no serious conflict between the industry and public interest has arisen. But such conflicts are bound to arise in the future, as they often did in the past, for the iron and steel industry of the country is a great private monopoly operated mainly for the purpose of making profits for its shareholders. Their interests and the public interest are not always identical, and as long as the ownership remains in private hands the effective authority over the industry also remains in private hands, rendering the orderly national planning of our resources impossible. The State is also deprived of an essential weapon in carrying out the task of maintaining full employment over long periods. We therefore say today, as we have said in the past that the impulse behind this basic industry must be fully, consistently and on all occasions that of service to the people of the country as a whole.

Why do the Opposition raise this issue today? We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman that they do not expect us to abandon our principles and convictions about this matter. It surely cannot be because they want us to postpone the setting up of the Corporation or the vesting of the securities, because those things cannot take place until 1st October and 1st January at the earliest and, according to the Bill, need not take place until a long time afterwards. So these matters seem to me to be quite irrelevant to the issues which have been brought up today.

It seems to me, therefore, after giving this matter consideration, that the real purpose behind the moving of this Amendment today is two-fold. First, it is to ensnare the Liberal Members into taking action during the first few days of the new Parliament's activities which, if successful, might bring down the Administration and prevent the King's Government from being carried on even before Parliament has dealt with the essential financial business which will shortly have to come before it. The Liberal Party would then be blamed in the country for their irresponsible behaviour and for using the position they occupy in this House to bring our Parliamentary institution into chaos. It remains to be seen whether they will fall for this manœuvre when the time comes tonight, and whether they will agree to play the Tory game.

The other purpose, which is equally political, appears to me to be nothing more than a desire on the part of the Conservative leaders to force a political demonstration in the House at the earliest possible moment in order to console their supporters in their disappointment at losing the election. For these reasons, the Amendment which is before us today merits the defeat which I hope the House will give it.

4.52 p.m.

Mr. Bowen (Cardigan)

My colleagues on this bench and I have examined this Amendment with the object of considering the purpose to which it is directed and whether this is the proper time to raise the issues which are raised in it, and in particular, if it is desired to force the Amendment to a Division, what attitude to adopt. I wish for a few minutes to examine these aspects of the problem and also to say something about the observations made both by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) and by the Minister of Supply.

No one in this House would suggest that the real object of those who have moved this Amendment is an anxiety to clarify the attitude of the parties or the Members in this House towards the Nationalisation of iron and steel. There is no doubt about the position of the various parties. Both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, throughout all stages of the passage of the Iron and Steel Act, were stoutly opposed to it on principle. On the other hand, the Socialist Party at no stage showed other than complete enthusiasm, at least outwardly. It would therefore be idle to suggest that that consideration had anything to do with the placing of this Amendment on the Order Paper.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

The hon. Member says that the Liberal Party at all stages voted against the Act on principle. Is that quite correct? I thought that their line in the last Parliament was not that they were against it on principle, but that there should first be an inquiry and that if that inquiry supported it, they would support it. That is not being against the Act on principle.

Mr. Bowen

I do not think the hon. Member's statement correctly represents the attitude of the Liberal Party. The party was stoutly opposed at all stages to the Government's proposals for the iron and steel industry. They certainly did not regard the present position of the industry as entirely satisfactory, and they desired to have an inquiry into what were the appropriate steps to take to bring about any changes that were desirable in connection with the industry.

It is idle for the Minister of Supply to suggest that the verdict of the country on iron and steel, so far as the electors have given a verdict at all, was in favour of the implementation of the Act. The Minister referred to the position of the Liberals in this matter, and it is quite clear that arithmetically it cannot be claimed that the majority of the electors in the country indicated that they were not in favour of the nationalisation of iron and steel unless the Liberal votes are counted on the side against nationalisation. It is quite clear that the Minister's assertion that the nationalisation of iron and steel was not a substantial issue in the election is quite wrong. I believe that many Socialists were particularly anxious that it should not be a prominent issue. That is why on no occasion was any mention made of the Iron and Steel Act in Government broadcasts.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

I cannot allow that statement to pass unchallenged. It is not true. Mention was made of the iron and steel industry by at least one, and, I think, several, Government spokesmen.

Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us the quotation? We have searched for it in vain.

Mr. Strauss

The Lord President of the Council said it.

Mr. Eden

Steel? He mentioned iron and steel?

Mr. Bowen

I speak subject to correction, but I did not make that statement without having first made the most careful inquiry. Whether or not I am strictly accurate in saying that it was not mentioned through the broadcasts, I give it as my view that the Socialist Party as a whole displayed considerable anxiety to soft-pedal in regard to iron and steel. It is also quite clear that the Liberal candidates in the election all indicated quite clearly, in accordance with declared Liberal policy, that they were opposed to the nationalisation of iron and steel.

Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)

Is it a fact or not that the decision to oppose the nationalisation of the steel industry was taken by the Liberal Party in the last Parliament on the casting vote of its chairman?

Mr. Bowen

That is quite incorrect. Reference to the unity or lack of unity of the Liberal Party on the issues raised by the Iron and Steel Act is a favourite gibe against the party. When the Act was going through all the processes of this House, the Liberal Party were on all occasions completely united. I will only say that it is surely a reasonable inference that the votes cast for the Liberal candidates in the recent General Election were cast by people who were certainly not endorsing the Labour programme in respect of iron and steel.

Mr. Popplewell (Vice-Chamberlain of the Household)

What did it cost Lloyds?

Mr. Bowen

I am quite willing to deal with that question, but I do not think I should be in order in doing so.

I feel certain that when Members on all sides of the House reflect on the results of this election, they cannot for a moment suggest that those results indicate an endorsement of the Government's present intention to implement the Iron and Steel Act. In one way, at least, the Government have respected the judgment of the electorate and that is by their omission from the Gracious Speech of any references to further measures of nationalisation, and I would have welcomed a positive recognition of the judgment of the nation in relation to iron and steel.

If the object of this Amendment were to attempt to get the Government to declare their intention of abandoning the Iron and Steel Act, or of postponing indefinitely its implementation, then I could support it in an unqualified manner, but I believe we ought to examine more critically whether that is the real object of placing this Amendment on the Order Paper, and, if it is not, whether this Amendment should have been put down at this stage. The right hon. Member for Aldershot stated, as I understood it, that the real object of the Amendment is to obtain an indication from the Government that they are prepared to delay the implementation of the Act. Much as I would like to see a delay in the implementation of the Act itself, and indeed an abandonment of the Act, by process of legislation, I suggest that this Amendment surely is not the best way to attempt to achieve such a result. I do not know, but it may be that an attempt of this kind is futile in itself, in which case clearly the object in moving this Amendment is not the ostensible one.

One result of it is that it has placed the Government in the position of having to declare quite categorically that they do not intend to interfere with the ordinary processes in relation to that Act, and I consider that is unfortunate at this present juncture. We have heard today an announcement that the Government have thought better of something which they had pursued with considerable vigour for some time; and it may well be that on further reflection they might have been more conciliatory in relation to the proposal in this Amendment. I feel it difficult to reconcile the placing of this Amendment on the Order Paper at this stage with the speech of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden).

In my view, if the real object of the Amendment is to obtain an undertaking from the Government in an attempt to clarify the position, then there would be a great deal to be said for it. But if this is the real object, it would have been far better, to use a phrase of either the right hon. Gentleman or the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), that the business of the Government should go on and that the immediate business of Supply should be dealt with and disposed of, before this was raised. And I believe that the immediate and essential functions of the Government would go on far more smoothly in the next three or four months if this particular issue were left until then.

The right hon. Gentleman used the word "rumpus." If the object of introducing this Amendment is to create a rumpus, then indeed that object will have been achieved. If the object of introducing this Amendment is to embarrass the Government in carrying out their normal functions, or if it is a party manœuvre in relation to the forthcoming election, then I can understand it; but I certainly do not approve of those manœuvres at this stage of our Parliamentary history.

Mr. Manuel (Ayrshire, Central)

Then why support it?

Mr. Bowen

The question of what is to be done in relation to the Iron and Steel Act obviously will have to arise within a reasonable period of time. The sole question with regard to that is whether this Government—which, after all, is the elected Government, although with a small majority—is to be allowed to carry on the normal functions of Government in a reasonably satisfactory situation during the next few months. If the object of this Amendment is to create a situation in order to get an election with the least possible delay by embarrassing the Government in carrying out their normal functions, then certainly one can understand it; although speaking for myself I would not approve of it.

Despite the views which I and my colleagues hold in relation to the Iron and Steel Act, I think it would have been more in accordance with the excellent sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington if this Amendment had not been placed on the Order Paper at this stage of our deliberations. The question, of course, arises—indeed the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has managed to anticipate it—of what should be our attitude in that situation. One thing is quite clear. No one who holds the views which the Liberals have held in relation to the Iron and Steel Act can possibly vote in favour of this Amendment—[Laughter.] I beg your pardon, with your indulgence, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will make the position quite clear; which is more than the Government are choosing to do in relation to the Iron and Steel Act—far more.

There can be no question, in view of the attitude which the Liberals have adopted in relation to the Iron and Steel Act, of their supporting the Government in regard to this Amendment. The difficulty which arises, and it is a substantial difficulty in which the Liberals find them selves—[Interruption.] Liberals voting in this House are placed in more substantial difficulties than the Socialists or the Conservatives, who have only to obey instructions—[Interruption.] I am sorry if I am keeping the House in suspense. The substantial dilemma which the Liberals are in—[Laughter]—let me remind the House that it is a dilemma which has some relevance to the House and to the country, and it may be of further relevance in the future. Therefore, I do not see any cause for mirth in relation to that, unless it has anything to do with the way in which I am attempting to present my case, and if so, I make no complaint.

It is a real dilemma. The difficulty which I and my colleagues feel is that we, in common with the Conservatives, regard the proposal to nationalise iron and steel as a vital one—as the Socialists do for different reasons. It is vital because it will have very grave consequences upon the national economy and the welfare of the country as a whole. In those circumstances, much as we regret that this question should be raised on this occasion, we feel that, in view of the strong and consistent attitude we have adopted throughout on this matter, it is necessary for us to support this Amendment.

I should like to say that we thought fit, because of our attitude towards the timing of this Amendment, to give due notice to the Government Whips of our view. We consider that whatever differences of policy and principle there may be between us, it is in the national interest today, in view of our domestic economy and the likely reactions in the international sphere, that the Government should not be brought to an end by a sudden, snap vote. [Interruption.] I gather from the reaction to my observations that the supporters of the Government wish to see a position in which the Government during the next two or three months, in a vital period for the country as a whole, is to be menaced throughout by the prospect of a defeat and an appeal to the country.

Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)

I am sure that the hon. Member has won the affections of the whole House by the way in which he has stated his case. Could he say whether, in fact, the Liberal Party took precautions to make sure that they should not be on the winning side when the vote takes place tonight? is that the reason why the approach was made to the Government Whips on the subject?

Mr. Bowen

I suggest that it was the right and honourable thing to do. We gave as much notice as possible to the Government Whips of the attitude which we intend to adopt. In our present state, with the Government just starting to deal with the vital business of Supply, my colleagues and I took the view that this was not the time when the Government should be embarrassed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or defeated."] I should welcome the defeat of the Government as soon as the vital business of Supply is completed. Now that my views have been canvassed, I am quite willing to give them. I do not regard the defeat of the Government today as something which is desirable. That is something which the Government themselves do not want. At the same time, it is important that the Liberal Party should indicate clearly their attitude towards iron and steel as a whole, so that there may be no confusion about it.

Mr. Logan (Liverpool, Scotland)

If their votes tonight could defeat the Labour Party on this Amendment, would the hon. Gentleman and his party be prepared to defeat the Government and take the consequences?

Mr. Bowen

One thing is clear. If the Government were defeated, the responsibility would certainly not be that of the Liberal Party. I will explain why. The Government can themselves defeat this Amendment very easily without a Division by declaring their intention to postpone nationalisation indefinitely. The responsibility for putting down this Amendment is not that of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party do not shirk facing up to the issue, and despite their disapproval of the time selected by the Conservatives for raising this issue, find themselves bound to assert quite categorically their continued opposition to the nationalisation of iron and steel.

5.16 p.m.

Mrs. White (Flint, East)

I rise with the diffidence expected of a Member speaking in this House for the first time. I do so most gladly this afternoon because steel is the principal industry in the constituency which I have the honour to represent. If I should appear perhaps to stray a little into controversy I can only say, in extenuation, that anything that I might say in favour of the implementation of the Iron and Steel Act would be regarded by the Opposition as controversial. We on this side of the House regard the matter as having been settled long since. In fact, we can see no occasion for this Debate today except, possibly, that it gives a new Member like myself an opportunity which otherwise I might not have had to speak on this subject; but I can hardly suppose that that reason was in the minds of the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who put the Amendment on the Order Paper.

I represent one of those steel constituencies which, I think, almost without exception returned Members to this side of the House, and mostly with substantial majorities. The notable victory, of course, was at East Middlesbrough, the seat formerly held by Mr. Alfred Edwards. There is no doubt that workers in the industry who, after all, should know something about it, have been much more favourably impressed by the arguments of the Labour Party in favour of nationalisation than by the arguments of the Conservatives or Liberals against nationalisation. In my own division it is possible that the steel workers were also moved by the recollection of the fact that in 1938 in this area, after six years of Tory recovery, one man in three was without a job.

More than one hon. Member opposite has suggested that Labour candidates at the General Election did not make a major issue of steel nationalisation. Why should we? As far as we were concerned, the matter was already settled. In fact, I made a number of references to steel during the election, but the real argument on the question had already taken place in public meetings and in conferences with trade union leaders in the industry. In a large public debate between the local steel owner, who is personally very well liked, and the trade union leaders in our district, we discussed all this at the time the Bill was before the House. The workers had every opportunity of considering their attitude, and they showed it very definitely at the poll.

I suggest that there has been a certain measure of shadow-boxing on the part of the Conservative Party on this question. It is not the steel industry as an industrial organisation with which they are primarily concerned, although they would wish the public to believe that. I do not believe that they are really afraid that there will be any less steel produced under nationalisation, or that it will be produced any less efficiently when the moment comes for financial control to pass from private into public hands. What they are really afraid of, no doubt, is the adjustment in the balance of economic and, consequently, of political power in this country should this bastion of private ownership fall. That is the true burden of their complaint.

Had the Conservative Party been in earnest on the industrial argument, why did they not try to argue it more effectively in the steel constituencies, where people knew something of the subject? In my own division, the principal speaker sent against me was the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) who, no doubt, is working up his brief on trade unionism by reading reports of the Trades Union Congress, because I have never seen him in person at any trade union conference. He did not discuss steel at all. Had the Tory Party really burned with the conviction that to nationalise steel would be an industrial disaster, why did not those hon. Members opposite who have close personal knowledge of the steel industry crusade in the steel constituencies?

For example, we have the hon. Member who formerly sat for Northampton and who is most intimately concerned with the steel undertaking in my division. Did he carry the torch of steel into a steel constituency? The hon. Gentleman, who fought, no doubt, a very gallant fight in the heart of rural Buckinghamshire, now sits as the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers). There is another hon. Gentleman present this afternoon who has, I believe, spent a great deal of his working life in steel. Did he seek a steel constituency, or even an industrial constituency? Far from it. He no doubt discussed steel during the election, but he addressed his remarks to the upper and middle strata of suburbia, and sits as the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. W. Robson-Brown) where, I should imagine, probably not one elector in a thousand would know a bloom from a billet or an ingot from a slab. My point is that clearly, from the way in which the Conservative Party ran their electoral campaign, they are not fundamentally concerned with steel nationalisation as an industrial issue. It is a question for them, primarily, of power politics.

It would not be proper on this occasion to debate the Iron and Steel Bill all over again, and, therefore, it would not be proper for me to discuss the disadvantages of the quasi-monopolistic private ownership of this industry or the ineffectiveness of the proposals of both the Liberal and the Conservative parties for a national board which, in practice, as anyone who has any concern whatever with the steel industry knows, could do no more when it came to any major issue, than ask politely, "What does Steel House think about it?"

I wish to say a word or two on the arguments for and against delay in implementing nationalisation. As the Minister has already emphasised, since nationalisation became a live issue there has been no ill-effect upon the production of steel in this country. In fact, we might almost say that we have now found the perfect combination of incentives—fear on the part of the management and hope on the part of the workers. But both those incentives might be weakened by a prolonged lapse of time, so that that is no argument for delay. It is perfectly true, as the Minister has emphasised, that capital development in this industry has in no way suffered by discussions on nationalisation.

In my own division, vast developments are now taking place, including the reclamation of a very large acreage of land from the River Dee on which to build new coke ovens, blast furnaces and Melting shops. There has been no hold-up in the construction of capital developments in this industry. But there are two reasons why the nationalisation proposal should not be unduly delayed. One is, of course, that we believe that public control of steel—for which financial ownership is essential if it is to be effective—is required as one of the instruments of planning full employment if and when conditions arise in which the Keynesian machinery has to be put in motion for combating unemployment. That time may be, and we hope is, distant, but one can never be sure in an unsettled world, and it would be unfortunate if we should find ourselves unprepared, in some interim period of nationalisation, if that time should come upon us. Therefore, we should take care that we carry out as soon as possible the necessary steps to accomplish what we set out to do, and to meet any possible challenge that may come about.

In this, as in other matters, the party opposite profess to will the end of full employment without being prepared to achieve the necessary means. The second reason for hastening the matter is the need to co-ordinate the international production of steel. If there is any anxiety at all in the steel industry at present, I should say that it does not arise out of fears of any possible nationalisation, but out of the conceivable circumstances, in future years, of over-production. In January we had the report of the Steel Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, which suggested that by 1953 there might be a surplus production of steel in Europe of some eight million tons. In a world with a vast unsatisfied need for steel that so-called surplus should be purely notional. That is why it is so important for the steel industry to have in power a Government which believes in making steel and other goods primarily to satisfy real needs and not just for the sake of commercial advantage.

We do not wish to find ourselves in the position of free-economy Germany. A recent report in the "Manchester Guardian," which I will now quote, says: Though there is a vast amount of reconstruction to be done at home, some steel plants have had to reduce production since last summer because capital is not available to buy the steel that is needed. The German railways, for instance, simply have not the money to buy all the steel they want. This is because their Government do not believe in marrying steel output with railway requirements.

But in future we may need European co-ordination on both the production and the use of steel if we are to avoid the cut-throat competition which led to tariffs and restrictive cartels in the years between the wars. If that is so, Government action would be required, and to my mind that action could be fully effective only if the Government could speak for an industry over which they had genuine control. The fact that other countries do not follow our lead in this matter is regrettable, but it should not hold us back, and for these reasons, which are both important and urgent, I hope the House will refuse to support the Amendment on the Order Paper.

5.28 p.m.

Lord Dunglass (Lanark)

It gives me the greatest pleasure to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) on what I think all who heard it will recognise as a very good maiden speech, delivered with great competence and great good humour. It gives me all the more pleasure to be able to follow the hon. Lady because, if I am not wrong, she is the daughter of an old friend of many of us on this side of the House, and her father may even at times have inspired the background to some Conservative speeches. No doubt the hon. Lady is quite capable of making speeches on her own, as we have heard today.

Mrs. White

May I say, in reference to my father, that he acted for all parties as a civil servant, without prejudice.

Lord Dunglass

Absolutely, of course. He was much respected by all political parties and all Members who knew him.

I doubt if I ever heard in this House a more exciting speech than was made by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen). In my recollection, there has been nothing so exciting as to which way the balance would fall, since the Friday afternoon broadcast of the B.B.C. on the General Election. If it is not making an improper suggestion, I am not sure that at one time the hon. Member did not approach political bigamy. I am not quite sure that I yet understand whether he has made us a firm offer of marriage.

Mr. Bowen

Might it not be regarded as living in sin?

Lord Dunglass

The Liberal Party have done many things in their day, but I hope they have not yet fallen as low as that. If this offer of marriage to the Conservative Party is firm, then, on behalf of my party, I accept it, at least until political death do us part. Last night when I read in my paper that there was a split in the Liberal Party it made me wonder. It seemed to be getting easier to split the atom. I got out from my bookshelf, in order to revive my memory. "The Ten Little Nigger Boys." Later, on the newspaper's advice, I put it back on the shelf with a marker in case I should want it on a future occasion

The hon. Member for Flint, East has repeated the argument, used by the Minister of Supply, that in the last General Election the districts which contained the steel industry and the industrial districts voted for the nationalisation of steel, The hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister), if he were in his place, would hardly endorse that. It is a constituency full of steel workers, and the hon. Gentleman was pressed, as no Socialist was ever pressed before. I represent a constituency which is full of miners, railwaymen and a good many steel workers who work in Lanarkshire. These wage earners in industrial areas are begining to change their minds. I do not accept as a conclusive reason for the nationalisation of steel at this stage the argument that the people in the steel industry voted for it, because I think they are in the process of changing their minds.

I listened to the Minister with particular attention to find out other reasons for going ahead with the nationalisation of steel at this time. I could not help thinking that the reasons he gave were given in order to conceal the real ones. And as so often happens, the Minister of Health has given the true reason which the party did their best to conceal. He came to Glasgow last winter, and he said, "One reason the Government wanted the iron and steel industry transferred from private to public ownership was power." The right hon. Gentleman added, "Steel is power." Power over what and power over whom? Hon. Gentlemen opposite never seem to realise that although the acquisition of these great industries gives them physical power over the assets—the coal, the railways, the steel plants and the rest—they also acquire great power over great blocks of wage earners.

There is no evidence to show that the Government is a good enough employer to warrant putting some 250,000 new wage earners under another State board and under direct Government employment at the present time. My contention in saying that the people in these industrial areas are changing their minds is this—

Mr. Porter (Leeds, Central)

The miners?

Lord Dunglass

Yes, Sir, the miners. I could not have come back to this House without the support of the miners. They are beginning to doubt the virtue, which I agree they once saw, in these monstrous State monopolies. They are beginning to feel that the employee is being put at an increasing disadvantage. In these great monopolies it is not possible for an individual wage-earner to change his employment and remain in his trade. There is only one employer and if the employee is not satisfied he must either lump it or get out of the trade.

I am going to give hon. Members practical examples from the railways. I am anxious, and so are wage-earners in my constituency, that this kind of thing should not be extended to wage-earners in the steel trade. A young man in a village in my constituency went through his training in the railways and equipped himself very well for the job. He was conscripted and was promised a job on the British Railways when he came back. But when he returned they said they could not fit him in. That does not mean he could not return to the station he was in before nationalisation. It means that wherever the writ of the British Railways runs that man is barred from employment.

Mr. Porter

Did not the man the noble Lord referred to, like everybody else, have a statutory right to his job?

Lord Dunglass

That makes it worse, if he had a statutory right to his job. The British Railways have refused him his job. I know it is not reasonable and right to argue from a particular case to the general, and then to condemn the whole from it. But here is another case in the British Railways. A young railwayman died and they sent notice to his widow that she must quit her house in seven days. They were asked to give a little latitude, but they wanted the house. This was the answer that they gave—" We cannot break our rules in order to deal with individual cases." There is the rigid working of a State monopoly.

I say with absolute assurance that the wage-earners in these industries are beginning to doubt the wisdom of nationalisation and the constitution of these great State monopolies. At the present time the Socialist Party should not go ahead with these plans because they have insufficient evidence to show that the Government is a good employer.

Mr. Porter

We had two million more votes.

Lord Dunglass

Hon. Members opposite have never thought out the full implications of extending the policy of nationalisation as far as the relationship between the wage earners, the trades unions and the Government is concerned. I do not think there is any evidence at this moment to show that the trade union system as it has grown up in this country can live in a socialised state. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the noble Lord worrying about?"] I am worrying about it because the wage earners in my constituency are beginning to worry about it, particularly the railwaymen. The hon. Member knows perfectly well the theory of the trade unions. It is to protect the worker against his boss, and everybody admits that it has been very necessary in the past.

However, it will not have escaped the notice of hon. Members opposite, any more than it has escaped the notice of the miners, railwaymen and steel workers who may come under a new nationalisation scheme, that when the wage freeze was imposed it was imposed by the Government and the trade union leaders in alliance. The action that the Socialist Government are taking is prejudicing the chances of the wage earner to be represented properly by his trade union leader, and is putting the Government right out of the position which they used to hold and which was so useful—that of refereeing in an industrial dispute.

The Government of the day can no longer be a referee, and in fact the Government is an interested party. It is an interested party in this way. I think everybody will agree—I doubt if hon. Members opposite would dispute this contention—that overhead charges and costs in a nationalised industry are heavy and tend to rise. In the steel industry there is no doubt that the over head charges will rise. If that is so—and I doubt whether anybody would dispute it—where are the Government going to make their economies, and keep down the costs of steel, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer quite rightly says is essential for our export trade? There is only one way in which the Socialist Government under a nationalised steel industry can keep down the costs, and that is, as an employer, taking a definite lead in keeping down costs and wages. They have no other chance of doing it under nationalisation. I do not want to see a wage freeze as part of our national economy—

Mr. S. Silverman

On a point of Order. I do not know how wide this Debate may be, but is it in order to refer to a wage freeze in a discussion on an Amendment to the Address?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

I thought the noble Lord was explaining why it would be detrimental to the workers in the steel industry.

Lord Dunglass

That is exactly the point I was trying to make. The Government have immense power. They are imposing a wage freeze on the mines and the railways, and if they have their way, they intend to impose it on the steel industry. Therefore, so far from the Government being a referee, as they used to be, and able to represent the point of view of the wage earners and to be impartial in an industrial dispute, the Government have a vested interest in keeping down costs and therefore in keeping down wages.

There is one other point I wish to make, and here let me say how glad I am to see that the Minister of Supply has returned to the Chamber. He used several arguments, to which he was perfectly entitled, but there was an argument he used which I hope I shall never hear again from a Minister or from any Member of a constitutional Parliamentary party. He said, if I did not misunderstand him, that if the workers in the steel industry were to give of their best it was necessary that they should have the Government that they liked and, what is more, the Government which would give them nationalisation.

Mr. G. R. Strauss

If the noble Lord is appealing to me, I must tell him that that is a distortion of what I said. Perhaps he will refer to my words in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow.

Lord Dunglass

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us what he did say?

Mr. G. R. Strauss

It will be within the memory of the House. I certainly did not use the words which the noble Lord has attributed to me.

Lord Dunglass

I shall, of course, look up the right hon. Gentleman's words, but he did say that the morale of the workers in the steel industry would fall if nationalisation was not given to them. If those words mean anything, they mean that the working people of this country are entitled to work less if they dislike one Government, or more if they like a Government. That argument has not only been used by the right hon. Gentleman today. It has been used outside, in the country.

Mr. S. Silverman

Surely a large part of the noble Lord's own speech was directed to showing that the House ought to accept this Amendment, because if it did not, it would have a bad effect on the morale of the workers in the steel industry.

Lord Dunglass

Not at all. I thought the hon. Member wished to raise a point of order. That was not a point of order. It was an interruption designed to allow the hon. Gentleman to make an intervention which is quite pointless, and it is not what I said. I said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is always urging the steel producers to lower the price of steel and that it could not be done under nationalisation. I return to what I was saying, because it is very important that this type of argument should not get abroad. It is not possible to run a democracy if there is to be a change of attitude on the part of the working and wage earning population with a change of Government, and I think more highly of the working people of this country than to believe that they would accept that kind of doctrine.

The more I listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) the more reasonable our Amendment seemed. There is no evidence to show that the Government is a good enough employer to transfer this new great block of wage-earners under their care. The extension of nationalisation at this period of the steel industry will do great damage to our export trade. Further, the extension of nationalisation to the steel industry, so far as trade union representation of the wage earners is concerned, will do great damage to that negotiating machinery in an industry where labour relations have never been better.

5.49 p.m.

Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)

I am glad to have an opportunity of taking part in this Debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."]—and I should like to acknowledge the plaudits of hon. Members opposite. As usual, I am going to say exactly what I think, regardless of what opinions may hereafter be formulated on either side of the House. I wish to say here and now that this is a day upon which I personally rejoice. Speaking for and on behalf of the great and noble band of steel workers whom I have the honour to represent in this House, I can also say that they too will rejoice today. These men of mine—and I call them my men—have kept faith with this country, and the country and its Government, thank Heaven, will keep faith with the men. It is of paramount importance that we should do so.

The noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) spoke about men not being allowed to move from one industry or one company to another inside nationalisation. I remember the days of the black list in my industry, when my father, with my mother, who was then expecting my eldest sister, tramped from South Wales to Newton in Scotland, but he found that the news had gone ahead and he was denied the right of employment because he had had the effrontery and audacity to join the newly-formed trade union of which I am a proud member.

This talk of wage freezing is just simple and utter nonsense. His Majesty's Government have not frozen wages. What His Majesty's Government have said to the Trades Union Congress, in the interests of the national economy, is this: in the interests of the country we would ask you not to put forward claims for increases in wages except those for and on behalf of those who are earning the minimum standard of wages and, as a result, the minimum standard of life, or unless increases can be accompanied by increased output. That is exactly what His Majesty's Government have said to the T.U.C. who, in turn, have intimated to their membership that in this stage of our economy such a request is vitally necessary and should be met.

I should have welcomed an opportunity to say something about matters omitted from the Gracious Speech, but what I want to deal with, of course, is this industry as I see it today. I have been around this country quite a bit and have possibly earned the reputation, as a onetime junior Minister, of talking to more men in mass, real industrialists and real workmen, than any other hon. Member. I have travelled this country from one end to the other, and I say it is utter and complete nonsense for hon. Members opposite to suggest that this question of nationalisation has not been brought vividly before the public, particularly in the steel areas. I could give a list of all the industrial areas where I have spoken personally to huge meetings on this subject, but it would bore the House and would occupy time which I do not intend to waste. Hon. Members know that I have travelled from one constituency to another and have put forward the point of view of the steelworker.

I rejoiced when the election results came out, for I had heard so much talk during the Committee stage of the Steel Act to the effect that the steelworkers did not want the Act, and I had given the matter very serious personal attention. At the time of the Committee stage I represented a textile constituency, a very comfortable seat with a majority of over 13,000, which could have been increased. To test the opinion of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and particularly that of the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), and in order to see whether there was any validity in their opinion at all, I decided that I would go where steelworkers were predominant.

I found myself in a position in which I met 86 delegates at an election conference, and they represented 8,600 people in that constituency who were working in the steel industry—one delegate per 100 persons. I was rather afraid that perhaps, after all, the right hon. Member for Aldershot and his supporters might be correct and that these delegates would accept me with the idea, later on, of proving to me at the poll how much they opposed the Steel Act. What was the result? The result was this: despite the intervention of a Liberal, who took 3,000-odd votes, I was able in that constituency, which had a reduced electoral roll by 10,000 to poll a higher percentage for Labour than was polled in 1945—and I fought the election specifically on major issues such as food, housing and steel.

When the results were announced it was proved beyond a shadow of doubt that our men, almost to a man, supported the Act. There is always the odd fellow looking for promotion the easy way, the way in which promotion has been given in the past in the steel industry, who would support the Tories and vote Tory and who would take good care that the boss knew that that was his intention. But, by and large, if hon. Members search the records they will find that the steel men of this country, almost to a man, supported the Steel Act not only outwardly by output in the shops but also by input of their votes in the ballot boxes.

I hope that we shall never again hear in this House the exaggerated statement that 'the steelworkers are opposed to the Steel Act. We proposed public ownership and control, as is well-known,.n 1932, and tonight, in this House, we shall see the result of the continued support given by my men throughout these years, some of them very lean years. Tonight this Government, the first Government who ever did keep their promises, will once again keep their promise and will keep faith with these men who have made such a magnificent contribution.

There are hoardings on the subject all over the country. Wherever we go we see hoardings which tell the world at large the figures about steel production. One would imagine that steel production was taking place in Tory backyards. Steel production, in fact, is taking place inside the steelworks, and is brought about by the efforts of the steelworkers, men who have made a contribution second to none in the history of the world, men who at the beginning of the war voluntarily froze their wages at 67½ per cent. on basic rates. If the 1905 agreement, which places steelworkers' wages on the basis of the selling price of steel, had been in operation these men at this moment would be receiving 1581 per cent. on basis. These men, particularly the highest wage earners, are leaving the steel works with 91 per cent. less in their pay packets than would otherwise be the case, except, of course, for the small cost-of-living bonus.

What else have the steelworkers done? Under the promise of nationalisation— make no mistake about that—they are working a continuous working week, 'have continued to work 48 hours a week inside the continuous working week, and have recently suspended a claim for a 42-hour-week when other industries are quarrelling as to whether they should work 37½ hours or 40 hours. If it is thought that they are working these hours and giving all they are giving because they love Toryism, capitalism and dividend-making, then the Tories opposite want to think again. In addition to all this these men have made a magnificent contribution in actual production.

I could speak for a week about some of the evils of the industry. I hear a lot of talk about the magnificent labour relationships. Is it the party opposite which has built up that relationship or is it the trade union movement, in conjunction with decent-minded local managements inside the industry? It has been built up over hard years by grand men like Sir Arthur Pugh, John Hodge, John Brown and my own trade union leader at the moment—men who have always put industrial efficiency and good relationship foremost. For hon. Members opposite to tell the country that there is no reason why there should be disputes is fallacious and wrong.

Our men will rejoice at what will happen here tonight. I can tell the House, on behalf of these men, that they will continue their present magificent efforts. It is not easy, for they have their problems, such as the food problem and all the things occurring inside the country —housing and all the rest. During my campaign I saw a bill which had been put out by the Tories. It said "Steel is in your Hands." That is what my constituents were told. I searched the electoral roll to find out in whose hands the steel industry was and I looked up the local companies inside my constituency—United Steel, for instance. What did I find? I found that less than 20 men —19—were controlling 192 directorships, all of which were allied to this great industry. Yet this is what the handbill said: Steel is in your hands. The fate of Britain's great iron and steel industry is in your hands. The Socialist Party has already passed an Act to nationalise iron and steel. If they win this General Election they will put it into force. That was accepted by the Tory Party. The handbill went on: If the Conservatives win they are pledged to cancel the Act. I submit to the House that, regardless of numerical strength, had they been returned here with a majority of only one, two or three, we should have seen the spectacle in this House at this moment of the repeal of the Steel Act. There is a saying in Lancashire, "What's good to give, is not bad to take." I want to submit to the House that if the Tory Party, regardless of their numerical strength, had been the Government they would have carried out their pledge to the supporters to repeal the Act. I am proud to be able to stand here and see that the pledge to implement the Act will be carried out.

I know the innuendo behind the speech of the right hon. Member for Aldershot. It was that the people now in control might not feel themselves disposed to render service to the country through the steel industry. That is a slander of the men at present in control. I know those men personally, and I know they are patriots. They would have been prepared to carry out the intention of the Act, as they have indicated to me in many personal, off the record conversations. There are just one or two who would be foolish enough to expose themselves to the criticism of being saboteurs, and who might not give patriotic service. These men and management have kept faith with this country.

When the history of these times is written these men will be shown to be men who, regardless of political differences, have done in the interests of the nation the finest possible job it was possible for them to do. I stand here and say for and on behalf of those men that, when this industry is put into public ownership and control, we can demand of those to whom we shall have given so much the same patriotic fervour, zeal and enthusiasm in doing their jobs, not for the shareholders whom they now serve, but for the nation.

This election has not helped to solve Britain's problems. Far from it. This election has intensified Britain's problems. So I hope other industries will follow the example of mine, and so will not seek restriction of hours of work, but rather put forward policies for increased hours of work. I make no apology to anybody in this House for having gone round the country as I have done, advocating increased output and hours of work, I know of no other method that will solve the country's difficulties.

I know Members opposite still say nationalisation has failed—that the nationalisation of coal has failed. Not on your life. On one fact alone I am satisfied with coal nationalisation. Last year in this country we brought out fewer dead miners from the pits than ever in history, and that is good enough for me, and good enough for the men in my industry. We brought out fewer dead and crippled miners from the mines than ever before in history. That should be good enough for Christian-minded Tories opposite.

This industry will take time to make progress under public ownership. The things that the men want put right will not be put right over night. Our men have been told these things. I myself have told them many times. There is a lot to be done, and they will not see all the things they want done in the way of education schemes, an overall pension scheme, overall research, and the compensation question, accomplished all at once. There will be problems to be solved. With the implementation of the Act and with concentration in the industry there may be men declared redundant, for whom provision will have to he made, and there will be great socialogical consequences. They will have to he dealt with. It will take time to implement the Act and to make progress.

The men I have the privilege to represent here I look upon as being great patriots, fine men; and they deserve nothing but the best possible terms this House and country can give them in the implementation of the Act, which I know can be brought about, with effective control of our economy. I look forward to the implementation of the Act not only in the interests of the steel workers. I do not ask for the implementation of the Act for the benefit of the steel workers only, but for the benefit of the country, to help in the regulation of our economy. I repeat—for it cannot be repeated too often—the pledge that this Act will receive 100 per cent. support from the men, and that the Minister, whom I had the privilege to serve, will be supported in his task.

6.5 p.m.

Mr. John Foster (Northwich)

Before examining a few of the arguments of the Minister of Supply I should like to allude to the speech of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones). He practised what is a lawyer's trick. He alluded to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) and said that he knew what the innuendo behind it was. He said that innuendo was a gross slander. But my right hon. Friend did not say it. The hon. Member opposite tried to put into the mouth of my right hon. Friend something he did not say, and then sought to knock it down. I think both sides of the House could probably see through what is a trick in which cheap lawyers sometimes indulge. I think both sides of the House recognised that. The hon. Member himself admitted that my right hon. Friend did not say it himself, but he said that he knew what was behind what my right hon. Friend said, and that what was behind it was defamatory.

I want to deal with the arguments of the Minister of Supply. He produced some weird and fanciful arguments to prove that the Socialist Party had won the election on the issue of nationalisation. Let us get back to simple figures. The two parties who opposed the nationalisation of iron and steel, who said that, were they returned to power, they would repeal the Act, had about 1,700,000 votes more than the party who said they were going to carry out nationalisation of iron and steel.

That is the way to look at the results of the election. That is the way to look at it—in those simple figures. The right hon. Gentleman tried to get round that by saying that there were large numbers of Liberals who had doubtless been influenced by the argument the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) used some time ago, and, therefore, that there was hidden a large number of Liberals in favour of nationalisation of iron and steel. He also tried to get round those simple figures by saying that the overwhelming reason for carrying out nationalisation was that the workers in the steel constituencies had endorsed it. I think my noble Friend the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) gave the answer to that.

But I think that what the House should consider is this. On the side of those who voted for the Conservative and Liberal Parties there would have been none in favour of the nationalisation of iron and steel, but on the side of the so called Labour Party there was a host of voters who are not in favour of Socialism or nationalisation.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Tell us of one.

Mr. Foster

I think we can see that that is so. Why did the Lord President of the Council, and why did the speakers on behalf of the Government, from "Chuck it" Priestley onwards, damp down the Socialism of the Labour Party and build up other aspects of the policy of the Labour Government? The reason was, of course, that they knew that many of their supporters and sympathisers are not in favour of nationalisation or of Socialism. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) shakes his head. I know he is in favour of Socialism and nationalisation, and I agree that he belongs to the wing of his party which is in favour of it. However, these facts are even more significant than the fact that 1,700,000 voted against Socialism and nationalisation.

Mr. Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)

I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not wish to confuse the House. It would be a help to many of us if he would tell us what he means by the word "Socialism."

Mr. Foster

The principle of the nationalisation of all the means of production, distribution and exchange. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] There are many writings on that score. However, I think I have now stated the reason why the Minister of Agriculture went on the wireless and pretended that the Socialist Party was not in favour of the nationalisation of land. That is why the Socialist candidate in my Division pretended that the Socialist Party was not threatening the chemical industry with nationalisation. If the argument of the Minister of Supply holds good, I hope that he will tell his colleagues in the Government why 1,700,000 people voted against nationalisation and socialisation of the iron and steel industry.

It does not end there. The Labour Party are divided on the question of whether to go on with socialisation to the end or whether they should stop halfway. Within that area, I say with confidence that there are many people who supported the Socialist Government at the last election who are against socialisation and nationalisation as put forward by the Socialist Party. For this Amendment, all that we are saying is that the verdict of the country having gone in this way, the Government should at least put the issue once more to the decision of the country.

Mr. Pannell (Leeds, West)

If the hon. Gentleman's argument holds good, will he tell us why the Conservative Party, returned on an even smaller minority of votes, brought in the venomous Trade Disputes Act in 1926?

Mr. Foster

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's facts; but I do not want to be led into this. I should have thought that there was an enormous majority in favour of the course which was pursued.

Let me examine for a moment the different arguments put forward by two sides on the other side of the House. One side opposite said that this was not an issue, and the other side said it was. It is quite clear that when the postponement was debated in November, the few Members from the other side who spoke on that, were agreed that the nationalisation of steel would be an issue at the next election. While the Minister of Supply was talking, I looked up one quotation from the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell). He said: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 2072.]

Mr. Pannell

As the hon. Member for Leeds, West, who has been quoted, may I say that I put the nationalisation of steel in the forefront of my programme to an electorate reduced by 13,000, and I increased my vote, which does not seem to suggest that we deceived the electorate?

Mr. Foster

The point I was making is that what the Noble Lord in another place wished to happen was, namely, that the Act should not come into operation until the electors had had an opportunity of expressing their opinion on it. I consider that the votes of the millions of people who voted in this country is the decisive test. It is no good the Minister of Supply taking this or that argument to whittle away that fact. He cannot get away from it, that 1,700,000 people more voted against the nationalisation of steel than voted in favour of it.

The publicity that was given to the Noble Lord's Amendment went all over the country. Every one in this country knew the reason why the Government had given in. Other Members on the opposite side said that steel at the next election would be an issue. I should like to deal with the subsidiary reason given in that Debate, given by the Minister of Supply and quoted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), namely, that while there was doubt whether nationalisation would or would not take place, and while the General Election was pending, it was not opportune to ask the leaders of the industry to serve on the Steel Corporation. That argument was repeated by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans). He said that it was always clear to him that until we had a General Election on this issue, we should not get the type of person to stand for these boards we should like to get. We have had a General Election on this issue—

Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

We won.

Mr. Foster

Everyone knows that the right kind of win is where a party gets a working majority.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Would the hon. Gentleman explain this. I think that his argument runs as follows: This Government had been elected, as it were, on the minority vote of the whole of the country, and, therefore, has no right to carry out this particular Act. Would he then give me his view on this point? It used to be argued in the last Parliament that we were then elected also by a minority of the whole of the country. Does he also assume that we never had any right to bring forward any nationalisation proposal, particularly of iron and steel, in the last Parliament?

Mr. Foster

I am dealing with another point. I think it shows the weakness of my good nature in giving way when another point is raised. I was dealing with the point which the hon. Gentleman made that the Labour Party had won the election. In one sense I dare say they have—they have got a small majority. The point is this: It is not a win in the sense that the Government of this country can be carried on as if it had a working majority. If we add the fact that it had a minority of votes, it then shows, obviously, that owing to the way the electoral system works, the Government with a minority of votes has got a small non-working majority.

The Prime Minister laid down the challenge when he said that he must carry out the Iron and Steel Act. Thai is the reason, I say in answer to the Minister of Supply, why we have put forward this Amendment. It is put forward in order to show that we stand by our principles—

Mr. Shurmer

And stand by the bosses.

Mr. Foster

These interruptions that come in bring me to another point made by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Shurmer

If the hon. Gentleman makes any more points he will be stuck,

Mr. Foster

The hon. Gentleman is now making his interruptions seated. If he wants to interrupt, perhaps he will get up and do it in the proper way.

The argument has been put forward that the Socialist Party have again a mandate to nationalise iron and steel. As I said, the Prime Minister put down the challenge and the challenge has to be accepted in this restricted sense. We say that the same uncertainty exists now as existed in November, when the Minister of Supply agreed to the Amendment from another place. If there was any reason then for postponing the vesting date and for postponing the operation of the Iron and Steel Act, we say that the reasons are almost stronger today. We are not here, as the hon. Gentleman who interrupted tried to show, to support the bosses.

We believe that the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry will work against full-employment. We believe that by a further measure of nationalisation of a great productive industry like the iron and steel industry, that will be one way in which to make those measures to which the hon. Lady the Member for East Flint (Mrs. White) referred, inapplicable. We believe that nationalisation of the iron and steel industry "in a time of rising world competition"—that is the reason we put the words in the Amendment, because it cannot be denied that there is an increase in world competition—will inevitably tend to raise costs and affect the quality of the product and the efficiency of the industry.

6.20 p.m.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

In the course of this Debate we have heard some strange arguments as to why this Opposition Amendment should be supported. One of the strangest was put forward by the noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass), who said that after hearing the Debate he was more convinced than ever that the Amendment ought to be supported because it made for more freedom for the trade unions. The Amendment does nothing of the kind. The arguments he put forward about the trade union position were the most remarkable I have yet heard in this connection. On his argument, the Amendment has been put forward because some boy who came back from the Army to join the railway service was told, presumably by Sir Cyril Hurcomb himself, that he would find a job nowhere in the railway service in this country—a situation of which I have never heard.

Lord Dunglass

The experience of this boy was that he was barred from employment on British Railways; he cannot get in, and as a result he has forfeited his training, skill and prospects. That is in a great national monopoly, which we were told would remove those sort of things.

Mr. Hynd

That is exactly what I was saying the noble Lord said-that this boy came back, tried to get a job on British Railways, and is now barred from any job in any part of the British railway system. I should say that is untrue, but if the noble Lord really believes such a situation exists, he ought to bring it either to the notice of the trade union concerned, because the boy was presumably a member of a trade union, or else to the notice of the Minister, because that boy should be covered by the provisions concerning those who come out of the Army.

The other argument was that we should abandon nationalisation of the iron and steel industry because of the railway service tied houses system. The tied houses on the railways are a survival of private enterprise. If that argument means that we should go back to private enterprise on the railways as well, then we would not be abolishing the tied house but returning to the system which created it. There is, therefore, no validity in any of these arguments.

I want now to come a little nearer to the subject of our discussion, and to deal with the argument put forward by certain hon. and right hon. Members, first on whether or not this Government has a mandate to carry on with this Measure, and secondly, on whether or not the Members representing steel-producing constituencies have the support of the steelworkers in supporting the Measure. In the first place, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Pannell) suggested in an intervention, it is quite true that in the past many Governments, Conservative and others, have carried out major measures while being in a minority in the country. The Trades Disputes Act is only one example. I challenge any hon. Member opposite to tell us of three Conservative Governments with majorities in the last 50 years, or any Conservative Government without a majority in the country, which refused to carry out any controversial measure.

The simple fact is that, although this question was an issue at the election, it was not made an issue by us. My hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) pointed out that we had disposed of the issue long ago, but it certainly was made an issue by the party opposite, and I should like to remind the House of the terms in which it was made an issue. I have here a leaflet issued by the Conservative Party in my division of Attercliffe —which I ask the House to believe is one of the steel constituencies of Sheffield, and not, like the Hallam Division, far removed from steel. This leaflet said—and this is making an issue of steel, if you like—the question before the electors was Whether Sheffield is to be deprived of its steel industry. We heard something from the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) the other day about misrepresentation during the election. Listen to this: A Socialist victory at the Polls means nothing less than whether Sheffield shall lose its steel industry. This vital fact must be clearly understood. A Bill to nationalise the steel industry has been passed by Parliament, but it cannot become operative until after the General Election. If the Socialists win they will take over immediately. If they lose, the Bill will be scrapped. That clear? Right! Well, that is clear and specific. If the Conservatives had had a majority in this House they would have accepted that as a clear mandate from the country to scrap this Measure. We equally claim that as we have a majority in the House, and have been asked by His Majesty to form the Government of the country, we have the same right to carry on with the Measure.

Listen to a little more of this pamphlet —which, by the way, is called "Torch of Freedom," printed in black on yellow. It says: The planning maniacs who find in Socialism a clear field for their experiments are constantly creating new places called Development Areas '. We are creating them! Apparently the Conservative Central Office was not aware that these areas existed before 1945, when they presented an entirely different picture. They were created distressed areas by the Governments before the war but are now development areas under a Labour Government. Listen to what they say: To these 'Development Areas' they"— that is, the Socialist Party— move such industries as they think ought to be there. They would have great difficulty in uprooting privately-owned industries, but with State-owned industries they will be free to do what they like. If Steel is one of them, we shall be helpless to resist. This is the kind of "honest" propaganda indulged in by the Tory Central Office during the election. According to them what we are proposing to do in the Iron and Steel Act is to uproot Brown Bayley's Firth Browns, Vickers, and all the other great steel enterprises in Sheffield, and transfer them to the coast of Durham, or somewhere. This is the kind of thing that was put before the electors in the steel divisions of Sheffield, and the electors in those steel divisions of Sheffield have given their very definite reply.

Representations have been made in this House by the hon. Member for the Hallam Division of Sheffield (Mr. Jennings), who only the other day spoke in these terms: I represent the steel city of Sheffield "— The hon. Member for Hallam 'says he represents the steel city of Sheffield. The hon. Member for Hallam has as much right, because he comes within the boundaries of Sheffield, to claim that he represents the steel workers as any Member from a rural area has to claim that he represents the steel workers because this is a steel producing country. The fact is that the three steel areas in that part of the country, where the steel men live and work, are Rotherham, Attercliffe and Brightside. Those are the three steel divisions; and what was the result in those three divisions? The total vote for the Iron and Steel Act—and the hon. Member for Northwich (Mr. Foster) agrees that the election was a test of support for this Measure—was 122,000 and the total vote against 49,000.

In the last Parliament we heard a lot from the hon. Member, then for Ecclesall, now for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts), who used to tell us that he had been round speaking to the steel workers, and had found that they were against the nationalisation of the steel industry.

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

They still are.

Mr. Hynd

Later he rather modified that—he seems to have forgotten it now —to say that he found afterwards it was only the politically-minded steel workers who were in support of the Measure. We do not object to that, because we hope that the people concerned in this election —and particularly in these vital divisions—were politically-minded people. If all the hon. Member could find in Sheffield to support him were people who were not politically-minded, he is welcome to their votes.

Now what is the result of the election, both over the whole country and in the steel areas? The other day the right hon. Member for Woodford made one very important statement in his opening speech on the Gracious Speech, when he said that one thing this Parliament was charged to do was to ensure that we did not frustrate the will of the country as expressed through the majority. That is what we are proposing to do in opposing this Opposition Amendment.

The hon. Member for Hallam posed one question with which I would like to deal. He asked: How can a Government Department produce steel, in the conditions I have described, on better terms than private enterprise? "—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 7th March. 1950; Vol. 472, c. 263–5.] The answer to that question is clearly given by the results of coal nationalisation. In so far as the record of the steel industry is concerned, it has certainly been shown throughout its history that private enterprise alone cannot be relied upon either to produce the steel in sufficient quantities, or with sufficient consistency, or to maintain employment with the maintenance of skill and all the rest that is involved. We have been reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East, that in the area she represents the steel masters, under private enterprise in the old days, created large masses of unemployment.

The two Members opposite who sit in this House with the other seven Members from Sheffield know very well that Sheffield is one of those cities in which mass unemployment has been a scourge for many years, largely because of the fluctuations in the production of steel. One of the main reasons I welcome the decision of the Government to go on with this Measure is because it is only by the determination to go on, that we can assure for all these great cities which depend upon this vital industry, the maintenance of full employment and the maintenance of full employment for all those many industries which depend on the production of steel.

Much has been said in the House about power, which is eminently true. We have been charged by Members opposite with having stated, presumably through the mouth of the Minister of Health, but not only through his mouth, that we are concerned with the power that the steel industry represents. No one on these benches will deny that, because it is quite true. We were specifically charged of that, as though it were some sort of crime, by the right hon. Gentleman during the election. It is true, as he said during the election, that if the Socialist Government were to nationalise the steel industry, they would be putting into the hands of the State a tremendous accumulation of political and economic power. We accept that. It is precisely because of that fact that we are determined that this industry shall be brought into the hands of the nation. If, as the right hon. Gentleman said, the steel industry represents a tremendous accumulation of political and economic power, and represents power over many other key industries, can any Member honestly say that such tremendous power should be in the hands of private persons, concerned only with the profits they can get, rather than in the hands of the people through their elected Government. That is the case in a nutshell for the nationalisation of steel.

We have also heard a lot about State monopolies. I have been given to understand, within the last two or three years, that the whole House was against private monopoly. The House must recognise that tremendous industries like the railways and the coalmines can be run only as single, unified concerns. If we are against private monopoly, the only alternative is a State monopoly. Have not many of the greatest things in the history of this country been State monopolies, such as the Armed Forces? Is it not the case that the steel industry has been a private monopoly for far too long, and is it not the case that these private monopolies are a danger both economically and politically to the country?

We have heard a lot about the White Paper on Employment. The Conservative Party claim credit for this policy, and I am prepared to concede them that credit up to a point. I will read a short extract from the White Paper, which presumably shows what was the policy of the Conservative Party: There has been in recent years a growing tendency towards combines and agreements, both national and international, by which manufacturers have sought to control prices and output, to divide markets and to fix conditions of sale. Such agreements or combines do not necessarily operate against the public interest; but the power to do so is there. It goes on to explain why these great powers should be operated, not in the interests of private concerns but in the interests of the country as a whole.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

But not by nationalisation.

Mr. Hynd

The trouble with Coalition Governments is that they can always agree what is wrong but not how to put it right, because there are two parties with opposite points of view. The simple fact is that they admit that the power to carry out these nefarious practices exists under private monopolies.

The case for some kind of control is made out in the White Paper by the Conservative Party. The question is what kind of control it should be. I do not want to go into the merits of the Iron and Steel Act, but the simple fact is that the Conservative Party gave away their whole case when they admitted, as they have admitted over and over again in the Debates on this Measure, that it is not possible to allow private interests to run these concerns, with all the implications of political and economic power, without a considerable measure of State control.

Therefore, we come to the fallacy of the argument of the Conservative Party. They admit that the industry cannot be run efficiently in the interests of the country under private enterprise, unless there is a considerable measure of State control. In spite of that fact, they insist that it should remain in private hands. What is the reason for this? I think that the answer is quite clear. The answer is that the Conservative Party are the people who do not believe in letting the people of the country, through their Government, run anything that can show a profit. They were prepared to accept nationalisation of the coalmines and of the railways, and of most of civil aviation. They are prepared to accept nationalisation in the case of anything that cannot be run at a profit, or out of which private enterprise has already squeezed all the profits it is possible to make. But, in regard to civil aviation, they would hand back to private enterprise those parts which are capable of being run at a profit.

In the case of transport, they would retain in the hands of the State all the railways which cannot, under modern conditions, with their over-inflated capital due to past policy, compete with road transport on level terms, and insist that the taxpayers bear the losses. They would hand over to private enterprise the profit-making sections. The Conservative Party have talked a tremendous lot about the losses the taxpayers have to bear on nationalised concerns, when they know perfectly well that the taxpayers do not pay a penny of the alleged losses, because under private enterprise the coalmines and the railways always had to ask the people to bear the losses in the form of subsidies.

There can be no greater indictment of the Conservative Party than that particular admission, except one, which is this. It is the Conservatives who, from the benches opposite, have tried to tell us that they have all the industrial knowledge and experience. They claim to be the experts, the people who know how to run industry effectively, efficiently and at a handsome profit. They say that on these benches we have not got that kind of man. If that be so, how can they have the audacity to come to this House, or to go to the country during an Election, and say, "We will run your railways or coalmines or civil aviation or iron and steel efficiently, at a low price, and at a profit, providing you let us take the profits; but if you ask us to do it as your statesmen on behalf of the nation, without private profit, then it will be a failure? Prices will rise, there will be inefficiency and the whole thing will break down."

That is the argument that has always been put forward. If the industry is run for private profit, it will be a success, but if it is run by a Government, even a Conservative Government, there will be low wages, low efficiency and low profits, even though it is being run by the same workers, in the same factories, with the same machinery, and everything else. If the people of this country were prepared to listen to arguments of that kind, that the same men, if allowed to take the profits, can make a success of the job, but that if they have to do it in the interests of the nation for a salary, as Ministers of the Crown, then it is going to be a. failure, and are prepared to put such persons in charge of their affairs, then they ought to have their heads tested.

A great admission that has been made during the election and in this Debate is that this industry represents a tremendous concentration of political and economic power as well as tremendous influence over many other industries in this country. If there were no other consideration than that, I should have thought it would be a sufficient argument why this industry should not be left in private hands, but should be taken over by the Government of the country. It is because of the recognition of that fact by the steel workers in Sheffield, Rotherham, Middlesbrough and elsewhere, and of the trade unions all over the country, that candidates supporting steel nationalisation have been returned.

It is no good hon. Members opposite telling us what the trade unions say, or that they are against steel nationalisation because they know that under nationalisation their life will not be worth living, and that it was in the heyday of private capitalism that trade unionism flourished. Hon. Members opposite should know that in this House they are talking to people who know something about the question. The simple fact remains that they can go to the records of any trade union in this country, and on those records find an overwhelming, if not a unanimous, resolution in favour of the socialisation of the steel industry, the railways and all the other key industries of this country. Therefore, any other arguments to the contrary are not acceptable to us on this side of the House.

Speaking on behalf of the overwhelming mass of the people of the Attercliffe division of Sheffield and other east end divisions of that city where the steel workers live, and with a majority of 18,500 behind me in this House, I welcome the announcement that it is proposed to go on with the Measure to nationalise the steel industry, and to bring to an end a period of uncertainty in the industry. I agree with the Opposition that, in spite of this uncertainty, the steel industry is going on from new record to new record year after year; but the uncertainty should be ended. I hope the Government will go forward as soon as opportunity permits to bring this vital, important and powerful industry under the control of the nation on behalf of the people of the country.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)

I am glad to have this opportunity to reply to some of the statements of the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), and I would first take him up on the statement he made with regard to the "Torch of Freedom." I would ask him if it is not a fact that the Iron and Steel Act gives power to move and re-direct the location of industry. That is so.

Mr. J. L. Hynd

Oh, no. The point that is made in this pamphlet is that the existing steel concerns of Sheffield will be transferred out of Sheffield. That is not proposed in the Iron and Steel Act.

Mr. Roberts

I was asking the hon. Member whether it is not a fact that in the Act there are powers to transfer steel works and their locations. Secondly, Sheffield depends very much upon scrap-iron for the making of steel, and thirdly, there is already a report in existence which says that some of the steel furnaces may have to go nearer to the iron ore, where they get their raw materials. Bearing all these things in mind, as well as the stupid things which this Government are prepared to do, such as the groundnuts scheme, I think the "Torch for Freedom" was quite entitled to bring to the notice of the electors of the Attercliffe division that some things even as stupid as those might be done by a Socialist Government.

I listened very carefully to the Minister's statement this afternoon, but as I understand it, he has not yet closed the door to the proposal of some postponement of the implementation of the Steel Act. I should like him to clear that point up before we are asked to divide tonight. As he has not been quite clear on the question of bringing into operation the Iron and Steel Act at the earliest opportunity, I think he could make it quite clear what his position is upon that. We all listened to the Prime Minister making his definite statement on the subject, and I must say I heard the muffled tone of the Minister of Health coming through the gag imposed upon him during the General Election. It was very bad advice which the Prime Minister followed.

What are the facts? The Minister this afternoon did two somersaults in his arguments. We have listened to him for the last 4½ years, as well as to other hon. Members on the other side of the House, talking about the doctrine of the mandate, the will of the people and the necessity for them to do certain things because of the will of the people. Personally, I do not accept that as a doctrine, but it is accepted by hon. Members opposite. I find it extremely difficult to follow their arguments, when quite clearly the will of the people by over 15 million votes to 13 million votes is expressed in opposition to the nationalisation of the steel industry. The Government are entitled in their constitutional rights to implement the Act, but in doing so they are going against the mandatory doctrine, which they have produced as an argument during the last 4½ years.

The second point I want to make is upon an issue raised by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) and the hon. Member for Attercliffe with regard to the intention of those engaged in the industry and how they voted at the last election. I should like to put my opinion quite clearly before the House, because, as the hon. Member for Attercliffe quite rightly said, "in Sheffield it was not made an issue by us "—that is by the Socialists. On the great occasion when the Socialists met at the City Hall and when the Prime Minister and the seven Labour candidates appeared before the electors of Sheffield, not one of the seven candidates in their speeches said one word about steel nationalisation.

Therefore, the House must accept what the hon. Member for Attercliffe said when he remarked that "it was not made an issue by us." It was played down, I suggest, because it was known to those gentlemen that it was an unpopular issue. [Laughter.] When hon. Gentlemen opposite read out their vast majorities I put it to them that those majorities reflect, in my opinion, much more the misrepresentations which were put about by Labour candidates with regard to unemployment, which was the main issue raised, and that the question of steel was side-tracked, particularly by hon. Members in the industrial constituencies of the areas concerned. Those are the facts.

The House should clearly understand that it is not properly putting the facts before the House for hon. Members to come and say that they are speaking wholeheartedly for various sections of people in the industry. I do not believe it. I still cannot believe it. I believe that if there were a referendum—although I do not support the proposal of a referendum on a single item—we should almost certainly find a large number of people on all sides of the steel industry who would prefer that industry left as it is.

I would take up one further point made by the hon. Member for Rotherham. I am sorry not to see him in his usual place upon the Front Bench. He brought a great deal of sincerity into the work which he did, and, on occasion, I think he kept the Minister himself on the straight line. I think it very likely that the Minister will miss his advice. I would point out to the hon. Member that in July, when we were discussing this point about the mandate and the will of the people, he said that the new Parliament, whatever its complexity, ought to abide by the will of the people. He said, speaking from the Front Bench: Whenever that election comes we, as good Socialists and good democrats, shall gladly abide by the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1949; Vol. 467, c. 2207.] I wish to put this question to him: if he looks at the will of the people and listened to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) I think he will find it difficult to say that the will of the people as expressed by the ballot box wishes to continue with steel nationalisation. I must say that I find it difficult. I believe that the Government are entitled to press on with their legislation, but it will be against the majority will of the people, and they will be doing something which they must know is not the wish of the majority of the people of this country.

Mr. Jack Jones

Will the hon. Member intimate whether, if there had been a Tory majority of Members based upon a minority of the electorate, they would not have proceeded with the repeal of the Steel Act?

Mr. Roberts

A minority Government obviously have the right to do what they like. I say that, but the hon. Gentleman specifically said that he would abide by the will of the people. He is therefore in a different position from one who says that a Government can institute what legislation they like. We have heard this afternoon what the majority will of the people is. The hon. Member must search his conscience very carefully before he goes into the Division Lobby tonight.

I wish to turn to one other point with regard to the steel industry. I was listening to a very eloquent maiden speech yesterday from the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton), in which, if I understood her rightly, she was extolling the 25 per cent. recovery that has happened in the country since 1939–40. She said that in some respects that was due to Socialist administration and management. I would point out how far the steel industry, which is being attacked by hon. Gentlemen opposite, has played its part, under the present system of control by private enterprise, in promoting that recovery.

What are the figures? Comparing 1938 with 1949, steel has gone up by 35 per cent. in production. The motor car industry, by the work of all engaged in it, has gone up by 60 per cent. and shipbuilding by 50 per cent. Those are the figures which show increases, in our recovery. Coal, unfortunately, despite all the good work which has been done in the mines, has gone down 12 per cent., while housing has gone down similarly. The great recovery, in which we are all pleased and proud to be helping, has come from this great steel industry directly and indirectly in these recent years.

Therefore, for hon. Members to come at this time and to try, as I think it must be, to disorganise the organisation of that industry, is most unwarranted. The recovery has been despite Socialism, but not because of it. [Laughter.] Certainly, because the equivalent figures abroad are higher than our own. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] With all respect, let me point out that if one compares 1947 and 1949 we shall see that the recovery figures of this country are equal to about 11 per cent., while in Denmark they are as high as 35 per cent. and in America they are nearly 100 per cent. Those are figures from the United Nations' Bulletin. There is a great amount of energy which could be released if we could only get rid of Socialist administrators. I ask the Minister to say, even at this late stage, that he has not closed the door. It is most dangerous to leave the industry in a state of indecision.

I come to the point which was made in a speech earlier this afternoon by the Minister. Here was his second somersault. As far as I remember, under coal nationalisation the members of the Board, although they could not legally be appointed before the date given, were unofficially intimated some time before. In fact, it was generally agreed that sufficient time was not given to the nationalised industries to draw up their plans, even though it was more than nine months. I therefore put it to the Minister that if he is to go on with his plans as at present arranged he will have to start looking around for members of the Corporation within the next two months. We have the Minister's own words on this matter. He has said, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot pointed out, that in an atmosphere of political tension and uncertainty it would be plainly unwise to proceed with the selection of individuals to serve on the Corporation.

I wonder whether the Minister of Supply could ask the Prime Minister when he replies to say definitely whether he considers that if Members of the Board are to be sought after within the next two months that will lead to the best form of organisation. That is a very important point. The Minister himself has said that he wants men of the highest calibre, but I am afraid that if he proceeds with his proposals at the present time he will get second-rate or third-rate men on the Corporation. I believe that men who really know the business, will not be prepared, in a state of political uncertainty, to commit themselves one way or the other.

The arguments which the Minister used in the last Parliament apply exactly. Therefore I ask the Prime Minister not to close the door entirely upon this question of postponement. He will do a great disservice if he does so. I am not at all convinced, having heard hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the general majority of the people wish to see the door closed. The very reasonable speech which was made from our own Front Bench in no way tried to cause difficulty. I would ask that this request for assurances should be given the greatest consideration. If the Prime Minister will do that this evening, we shall at least feel that we have gone a long way towards solving the present deadlock. If he throws down the gauntlet he will be doing his party and the country a disservice.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)

Speaking at this stage in a Debate of which the standard has been so high, a Member cannot but feel a sense of his own inadequacy to maintain that standard. It is no part of my business, however, to follow in detail the excellent speeches made by previous speakers, although I will refer to the speech made at the beginning of this Debate by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). I think I may say without presumption that everybody in this House always enjoys his speeches with their wealth of historical and biblical allusion; but on this occasion there was such an absence of sound reasoning in his speech that I was not in the least surprised when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply was able to demolish it in what I thought was the most brilliant one I had heard him make.

The reasoning behind the speech of the Minister was absolutely unanswerable, and the fact that for a large part of this Debate the Liberal bench has been empty has prompted me to think that perhaps the reasoning of that speech had sent the Liberal Members off to have another party meeting.

Mr. Edgar Granville (Eye)

That is right.

Mr. Mallalieu

Then perhaps the issue which was apparently decided by them in the earlier stages to vote against the Government is really still open.

The right hon. Member for Aldershot made some disparaging remarks about the Gracious Speech from the Throne and complained that it was completely colourless and uncontroversial. It seems to me a matter for self-congratulation by hon. Members on this side of the House that their party, emerging victorious from a hard fought electoral contest, should have been able to produce a Gracious Speech from the Throne of such marked restraint and moderation. His Majesty's Government have shown by this speech that they have no wish to flaunt before hon. Members opposite controversial matters of policy for mere provocation, and I submit that it is now for hon. Members opposite to realise that we on this side of the House cannot maintain our own self-respect or the loyalty of our supporters in the country if we do not now faithfully abide by our policy and do everything in our power to implement it.

The Amendment we are discussing expresses regret that there was no mention in the Gracious Speech of the iron and steel industries. I was not in the least surprised to find no mention of them. That matter was settled in the last Parliament. It is perfectly true that hon. Gentlemen opposite, and hundreds.4 their colleagues who fell casualties by the wayside in the recent struggle, have attempted to re-open this question and to obtain a popular mandate for the repeal of the Act; but they have failed to achieve that popular mandate. Surely now we on this side of the House, and the country, are entitled to expect them democratically to accept that verdict. That is only plain sportsmanship and plain democracy. As things are, any casual visitor to the gallery today, hearing hon. Gentlemen opposite speaking, might well be pardoned for thinking that it was they who had won this election whereas we won it: and that is why we are on this side of the House and they are on the other side.

I see that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is on the bench. I hope he will allow me to refer to a statement he made which has been, quoted already from the other side of the House. We are the masters—still, and so long as we are the masters of the situation, we propose to carry out our policy. That was one of those thunderbolts of clarity which fall from the lips of my right hon. and learned Friend from time to time and which in this instance obviously went right home. It happens that iron and steel nationalisation is an integral part of our policy. It has been endorsed generally by the country. I do not want to go into details because it is so easy for us on this side to say that it has and for hon. Members opposite to say that it has not, rather like a preparatory school wrangle.

However, it is relevant to refer to the reactions of those constituencies which are intimately bound up with the steel industry. I will not go through the list of all the districts, most of which have been mentioned already today-from Middlesbrough in the North down to South Wales, from Cumberland, indeed from Scotland through Sheffield to Kettering and my own humble constituency of Brigg. These constituencies have been emphatic in their pronouncement in favour of nationalisation. I know that during the Debates on the Iron and Steel Bill, and even today, there are hon. Members opposite who declare and who apparently try to persuade themselves that the steel workers are not in favour of nationalisation.

Seeing that most of us had our own noses well down to the grindstone during the campaign, we ought perhaps confine ourselves to our own constituencies. I can only say with regard to mine that both sides in the election had iron and steel nationalisation to the front the whole time. It was the major issue in that constituency. Now, with one insignificant exception, the Conservatives in that contest did not produce on a platform any of those steel workers who are supposed to be indifferent or hostile to nationalisation to proclaim their indifference or hostility. By contrast, four or five active workers in the steel industry were on my platforms every night throughout the campaign, proclaiming their ardent support of the Labour Party in its nationalisation of steel and asserting that the overwhelming majority of their fellow workers in the steel industry were of a like mind. Never once, by speech or question, were those assertions effectively challenged.

Now the legislation is on the Statute Book and the question is whether it is to come off the Statute Book or not. After the speech of my right hon. Friend, if all goes well with the Division tonight—as I have no doubt it will—the great preparatory work will go on. The administrative framework is now being prepared in which this new law will be implemented. It is in exactly the same position as the Legal Aid Act. That Act is not yet in operation but great preparatory work is in progress and, when the sign it is given, it will go forward.

The signal will be given, we hope, in the autumn of this year and at that time this great industry will pass unobtrusively into the national safe-keeping. Thus will be quenched the ardent desire which has burned in the hearts of so many of our people for so long. It is no use asking the free men and women of this country to work for bread and butter alone. They have to be given an ideal for which to work, to which to devote themselves. It is my pride that the Labour Government and the Labour policy have provided, and will provide, this worthy incentive, not just for one section of the community, but for the whole of our people.

7.10 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)

The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) was extremely brilliant in his speech because he, the third hon. Member from a steel-making constituency who has spoken, took a quite different and rather more sinuous and intelligent line than was put forward by the hon. Gentlemen opposite who preceded him. At the end of his speech, however, the hon. Gentleman returned to the supreme folly of preaching a form of syndicalism by saying that because people in the steel industry want steel to be nationalised, therefore they must have it nationalised. At the time when the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. J. Jones)—we very much regret that he is no longer assisting the Minister; he knows so much about the steel industry—said that as an additional incentive the industry should be nationalised, one felt that democratic reasoning was staggering on what base it has left to it under Socialism.

The other points which the hon. Member for Brigg tried to induce rather gently into his speech will not stand up to the full light of day. Take just one example. He said there is no question that this matter of the nationalisation of iron and steel was not an election issue, that it had been decided already in the last Parliament. I have here a speech made by the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans), who is now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, in which he said on 16th November, 1949: 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."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 2056.] That, of course, was the attitude of the Government, and was the attitude they adopted when the Lords Amendment was accepted. The question was whether or not the country should decide in favour of steel nationalisation, and not whether individual groups of workers in the industry should opt for it. We know what Mr. Lincoln Evans, as the leader of the steel workers, has said. He is no powerful advocate of nationalisation. Their union, it is true, stands for nationalisation, but he himself has always been in favour of nationalisation by slow degrees. I am sure that if the Prime Minister were to consult Mr. Lincoln Evans about what should be done, the answer would be, "The slower you are in bringing about nationalisation, the better I, for one, will be pleased." There is no question that this evening we must face realities and not indulge, as did the Minister, in silly and rather childish boasting.

While hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have been returned to office, are the victors, they are certainly not the masters of the Parliamentary scene. No one can be complete master of the Parliamentary scene with a majority of six, and it is ridiculous for the Minister to say in his speech that We will abandon none of our principles. It is quite clear that the King's Speech has had to make a compromise with what is expedient.

Mr. George Jeger (Goole)

A compromise with time.

Mr. Fraser

Exactly—a compromise with time. All we are asking hon. Gentlemen opposite to do is to make a compromise with time, so that the King's Government will be effectively carried out, and that is precisely what hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they continue in the way they are doing, will be unable to do.

Let us consider this foolish boast about "We have not abandoned our principles." Yesterday hon. Members opposite got up one after the other, like so many innocent preachers, making denials about the nationalisation of the land. We have had stormy articles in "Tribune" saying that the thing that went wrong with the election was that there was not enough mention of nationalisation, and asking, "Who was mealymouthed at the top? The Lord President of the Council should go." Hon. Gentlemen really should read what is written in their own papers—it is all there, in "Tribune" on 5th March, with special red marking round it. It is a brilliant inquest. Perhaps "Tribune" is right. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite should have been much more Left-wing at the election. I had to go round making Socialist speeches for my opponent, otherwise people would not have known the Socialist point of view.

Look at some of the things the Minister has said. He came, obviously, quite unprepared. He had two speeches, one presumably from the Ministry and one from "Tribune." I have never seen two speeches which fitted less together or failed more to answer any of the arguments put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). Some of the Minister's arguments were quite fantastic. He jumped on to the mandate argument. That was all right in 1945, but it did not work out in 1950; therefore, it had to be a new sort of mandate, which might be called the technocratic mandate instead of the democratic mandate, because, instead of the vote of the people, it was the vote of the steel workers which mattered now; because of them, and because of Jarrow, steel must be nationalised as soon as possible. One sometimes wonders whether the Minister is capable of his high office and, when he makes a speech like this one, that because of Jarrow we must nationalise steel, whether reason is still ruling him.

Mr. Mellish (Bermondsey)

Had the hon. Member listened to what the Minister was saying, he would know that my right hon. Friend was trying to argue—and I think he established his point—that steel nationalisation was an issue in those constituencies in which there were steel industries, whereas in other parts of the country—and this is perfectly true of my constituency, for example—the nationalisation of steel as such was not a major issue. The point my right hon. Friend established was that in those places where this question was a major issue, the electors voted, in the main, in favour of it.

Mr. Fraser

That improves my argument even further, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for his intervention. It is true that the Socialists did not mention steel nationalisation except where there were steel units. [Interruption.] That is perfectly true. Therefore, one may say that when 15 million votes were polled against nationalisation, those were all informed votes, informed and believing against nationalisation, whilst the other 13 million voters did not know about steel nationalisation because they were Socialists. I thank the hon. Member very much for making our case even stronger.

Among other items in his speech, the Minister said, as he was quite right in saying, that a Government, whatever its majority, must try to govern. He went on further to say that it must not abandon its principles. That, amongst other things, destroys the whole of the moaning and weeping we have always had about being in office but not in power. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should remember that again and again they have appeared on platforms and have referred to the disasters of 1929 to 1931 by saying, "Of course, we were in office but not in power." The whole of that flimsy, rather foolish argument which they have put up on platform after platform is rejected and destroyed by the speech of the Minister today; and another of the facts about which we rejoice is that the Minister was in such a muddle when making his speech.

The new doctrine which the Government have put forward is that it is only because the steel workers want nationalisation—although, looking at the writings of Mr. Lincoln Evans in the papers, one sees that they do not want it so urgently—that it must be carried out. All that we put forward is the simplest argument of all, that the Government should make an effective compromise with time so that the Act—which we reject as foolish and ludicrous—but whether it be good or bad, is put into its best possible effect. If it is to be made law, then let it be made law and put into action when it is a good time for that to be done. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is law."] We maintain, as the Minister has maintained on a variety of occasions, that if it is put into effect now, there is no question that the board to be appointed will not be a board of the highest quality. It will he a second-rate board consisting of people who are unable or unwilling to leave the industry in the difficulties and uncertainties which prevail today. It is certain that if the Minister puts this Act of Parliament into effect on 1st October, he will not secure the top-class and best men in the country for the Steel Corporation.

The other question I raise is the wider question of whether the Government are going to pay attention to what has been the new mandate from the people. The people of this country, except in certain areas, solidly with an overall majority of several millions have voted against this Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is an Act"] —this Act. By delaying now, the Government will lose nothing of principle, but, if they remain in office they will see that this Act is put into greater effect in the nine months after the next election, if they are so fortunate as to win it.

7.21 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Edelman (Coventry, North)

The hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. H. Fraser) said in reply to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) something to this effect, "The Socialists did not mention steel, except where there were steel works "and the hon. Member for Stone added, "That is true." The fact is that it is not true at all. I am sure I speak for most hon. Members on this side of the House when I say that they made the question of nationalisation of steel one of the major issues of the election. I represent part of a city which lives on the consumption and conversion of steel. In Coventry the three condidates made the question of nationalisation of steel the major plank in their programme. We made it clear that full employment can only be maintained if there is nationalisation of the steel industry.

I welcome the invitation of hon. Members opposite to the Government to declare their intentions as far as the steel industry is concerned because I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that confidence is a condition of economic stability. In that connection, I wish to say a word about an issue of confidence which was raised last summer. It was raised by many hon. Members opposite and had a disastrous effect on economic conditions at home. I speak of devaluation. Hon. Members will recall that last summer a whispering campaign was carried on to the effect that devaluation would have to come.

Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth East and Christchurch)

By whom?

Mr. Edelman

Hon. Members on this side of the House denied the rumours then in circulation. Those rumours were strong. One of their effects was that motor cars made in Coventry were last summer accumulating on the quaysides because they could not be sold. Overseas buyers were holding off as they thought devaluation would have to come. In America last summer there were at least 1,000 Austin cars held in stock and 500 cars made by the Nuffield Organisation which could not be sold owing to the rumours then in circulation that devaluation would have to come. When at the meeting of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg the issue of general devaluation by the member countries was raised, hon. Members on this side of the House opposed the proposal put forward by certain hon. Members opposite that there should be a general revaluation of European currency. The effect of the position taken by hon. Members opposite and their demand that there should be a devaluation was to weaken the position of the pound and, therefore, the strength of British economy.

I mention that because today there is another chorus of what the Leader of the Opposition—once called—the "cacophony of those who cry stinking fish abroad about their own country." There is a grave danger that the pound may be weakened by the new rumours put into circulation that another devaluation is impending. I want to emphasise that because the motor industry, which depends on exports for its living, is threatened by these rumours of devaluation which are put about. In saying this, I want to reinforce what was said in the splendid speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) yesterday. It is of the utmost importance at the present time that the credit of this country should be maintained and not weakened by rumours of that kind which circulated last summer and are reappearing—

Mr. Bracken

Does the hon. Member really believe that mere rumours forced devaluation here? Has he no confidence in his own Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Mr. Edelman

I do not believe that it was mere rumours. I believe it was the initiative taken by certain hon. Friends of the right hon. Member at Strasbourg which had the effect of weakening the pound. I am glad to see the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) is present, as I am going to quote him. He will recall that at Strasbourg, when presenting the Report of the Economic Committee, he said in reference to the question of devaluation which was raised from—

Mr. Speaker

I do not connect this with the Amendment before the House. We are discussing steel, not devaluation, at the moment.

Mr. Edelman

I did not want to pursue the point, except by way of illustration. The point I was illustrating was that the credit of the country was liable to be weakened by lack of confidence—

Mr. Bracken

And the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Edelman

The major point as far as the steel industry is concerned is that the Government should be in a position today to make a statement which will reassure all the people in this country who believe that nationalisation of steel is essential for full employment, together with those abroad who look to Britain for an example of economic stability. I do not want to pursue the point further, if you do not wish me to do so, but I was anxious that the myth that the Labour Government was responsible for devaluation while that devaluation was opposed by hon. Members opposite should be exploded. It was hon. Members opposite at Strasbourg who were the chief proposers of the policy of devaluation. I turn from that—

Mr. Eccles

If the hon. Member would get his dates right, he would find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had returned from Switzerland and that the decision to devalue was taken on his return before anything was said at Strasbourg about devaluation at all.

Mr. Edelman

The hon. Member will recall that when at Strasbourg he was advocating devaluation the Chancellor of the Exchequer had made no announcement whatever.

Mr. Eccles

He had taken the decision.

Mr. Edelman

It was the effect of the hon. Member's statement at Strasbourg that contributed to the weakening of the pound and hon. Members on this side of the House were put in the uncomfortable position of having to be defended by representatives of other Governments in upholding the pound sterling.

I turn to the specific question of the nationalisation of steel. During our campaign in Coventry we emphasised that the steel industry had to be nationalised because only by bringing that industry into public ownership would it be possible to maintain full employment. During the past four and a half years, time after time bon. Members representing the City of Coventry have received complaints from the motor manufacturers that there was not an adequate amount of steel to cope with the requirements of the motor industry. The reason why the steel was not adequate was because the pre-war policy was to keep output low and prices high. That was a policy which while satisfying the profit making wishes of those engaged in the steel making industry did not conform to the interests of the country as a whole. In 1935, Lord Nuffield said, in words which have become notorious: The present state of affairs is disgraceful. He was referring to the steel industry. Unless they change their prices…we will buy steel outside this country. I only wish I were younger. I would have set up a steel plant in this country and put them out of business. One might have hoped that the position would have changed today. The fact is that where the steel manufacturers before the war were catering for a country which did not have full employment, six million tons of steel were adequate, in 1931, for the requirements of British industry. The steel manufacturers in Britain before the war did not lay down the necessary plant, did not provide the necessary equipment to cope with the condition of full employment generally and in particular in the motor industry which we have today.

Looking to the future we are entitled to ask ourselves whether we can expect the steel industry in private hands to change its habits and its policies and engage in a course of action which will have the effect of supplying enough steel for that industry. Today the amount of steel made available is only enough for the manufacture of half a million motor cars whereas the actual capacity of the industry is something like 800,000 vehicles. In other words there is shortfall of steel equivalent to some 300,000 cars.

At present we are importing steel from America in order to convert it into motor cars which we then send back to America in order to win dollars. That is obviously a paradoxical state of affairs which should not continue.

Mr. Bracken

We are also giving away steel to India and elsewhere.

Mr. Edelman

We are now entering a somewhat different position, a situation in which the steel manufacturers are already saying that there is likely to be a surplus of steel production over the requirements of the consuming industries. Indeed the organ of the British Iron and Steel Federation, "Steel News," stated this month: With Europe's post-war steel hunger satisfied, the time has passed for production at all costs. In the past, whenever there was a danger of what was called over-production, the way in which the steel manufacturers dealt with the situation was to cut down production, maintain high costs and create unemployment, not only in the steel industry but also in those industries which live on the use of steel.

There is another method which the steel manufacturers adopted before the war. When they saw a danger of surplus steel they would promptly get into touch with their counterparts in the rest of Europe and form a cartel for restrictive purposes, damaging not only to the workers in the industry but equally to all those who depend on obtaining steel at reasonable prices. If that was something which existed in the realm of fantasy, and which we could assume would not be upon us for another 10 or 15 years, we might allow the present situation to drift, but a report of the Economic Commission for Europe referred to earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for East Flint (Mrs. White) states that by 1953 it is estimated that there will be a surplus production of something like 8 million tons. From past experience we know that as long as the manufacture of steel is in private hands the traditional way of coping with the situation is to organise a cartel, with all the calamitous results from which this country suffered before the war.

I would only recall, so far as the motor industry is concerned, that the fact that steel was cartelised was one of the major reasons why before the war in the motor industry at Coventry there was chronic unemployment. We must ask ourselves, therefore, whether we can allow this situation to go on. Can we assume, can we even hope that the steel manufacturers, when they are facing a situation in which they can obtain an easier profit simply by the cartelisation of the steel industry, will put the public interest and the interests of other industries in the country before the narrow interests of their own profit? I submit from our experience of them in the past we cannot expect them to do so.

Not only is the cartel to which I referred something which is projected. I am informed that negotiations have begun in order to reorganise the pre-war steel cartel. I am told that French, German, Belgian and British manufacturers have had informal conversations with a view to organising a new cartel. Under those conditions I foresee great dangers. I am by no means opposed to the organisation of the European steel industry. I believe it to be essential to have some organisation which will divide production between different countries and see that what is produced is best adapted to what is required. But I am opposed to the cartelisation of the steel industry in the interests of profit irrespective of the needs of the country as a whole. For those reasons I sincerely trust that my right hon. Friend will press ahead with his intention of bringing into practical effect the Act which is already on the Statute Book.

I listened with great interest to the representative of the Liberal Party when he was making up his mind as to whether his party would vote for the Amendment or in favour of the Government tonight. One would have thought, listening to him refer to the principles of the Liberal Party, that opposition to the question of nationalisation was an essential doctrine of Liberalism. If that were true it might seem curious that the Liberals in great measure supported the nationalisation of the coal industry. Listening to the hon. Gentleman one might have thought that the Liberal Party is opposed to Government intervention in economic affairs; yet the present day Liberal Party professes to be pledged to a programme of economic planning. It is clear that to the Liberals the question of the nationalisation of steel is by no means a question of principle. It is quite clear that their vote tonight will be determined by expediency, and by that fact the Liberal Party will be condemned.

7.39 p.m.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) thinks that in private hands British production of steel will be insufficient to meet world needs, that if the industry is not nationalised and is kept in private hands the steel producers will develop agreements, cartel restrictions of one kind and another and reduce the production of steel. If the hon. Member has superior knowledge to that of the great steel producers of the world as to the world's steel needs, I hope that he will lay it before the Government and that the Government will make a statement about what they think the world consumption of steel should be. Then, if the steel producers are reasonable men, as I expect they are, they will work to that objective and not to some alternative guess of their own. The hon. Gentleman has brought forward no evidence to show that his information is any better than that of the authoritative voices upon the subject.

Mr. Edelman

The evidence which I submitted was the report of the Economic Commission for Europe on which there is representation of the steel manufacturers of this country, as well as of steel manufacturers abroad.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Certainly the steel producers under private enterprise, being reasonable men, would pay great attention to what was said by the economic advisory bureaux in Europe and would be able to reorientate their programme accordingly. It is certainly no argument to adduce for the nationalisation of steel.

I notice that hon. Gentlemen opposite were not following the lead of the Minister of Supply this afternoon. The hon. Member for Coventry, North, himself was partly quarrelling with the Minister when he said that steel was an issue in his constituency. The Minister of Supply said specifically that in his experience steel was not an issue except in steel-producing areas. Likewise the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) was quoting an alternative policy, the so-called doctrine of mandate. He said that the votes in three Sheffield constituencies were 122,000 in favour of nationalisation against 49,000. The whole case of the Minister has been that it is the Parliamentary majority which counts, and not votes. Hon. Members opposite ought to follow the advice of their leaders on the Front Bench.

I was astonished to hear the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones), lately the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply, making his speech, which was not Socialist in character but frankly syndicalist. He spoke as if he were not only representing, but acting as delegate for, those in his area who favoured nationalisation. He said it was his privilege to come here and represent their views. He did not mean "represent" in the ordinary Parliamentary sense, but to voice their views directly. He talked about "our men," as if all the men in the steel plants were subscribing Socialists and members of the Socialist Party. That is not the case at all. Even I, who have been privileged to visit the hon. Gentleman's steel areas and go round the plants —if not with him, at least with his connivance—found many persons who were not only not subscribing Socialists, but who indicated that they were going to vote for the Conservative Party.

The hon. Gentleman also said something which really cannot be allowed to pass. He produced an argument against the managements of these steel-producing concerns as if they were going to be abolished when the Act came into effect. That was said by the hon. Member who, as Parliamentary Secretary, sat with us on the Floor of the House and upstairs in Committee week after week discussing the details of the Bill. Does not he know, does not he remember, that what happens under nationalisation is that the shares are taken over and the managements remain exactly as they are now? His complaint, therefore, is directly against the Government of which he was a loyal Member for not having nationalised in the right way.

I found the speech of the Minister of Supply to be full of facile disingenuousness, and I am quite unable to follow him on the tortuous and labyrinthine paths along which he trod. He said that we on these benches were under the misapprehension that we had won the election. Then he proceeded to say, quite seriously and with dead silence all around, that it was the Labour Party who had won the General Election. There were no cheers—no cheers at all. There was so much silence that it dawned upon me that the party opposite doubt very much whether in fact they have won it. They doubt, indeed, whether they have a mandate for the nationalisation of steel. The Minister himself admits that it did not feature in the campaign except in the steel areas. What is his attitude precisely upon that? He has been at pains to point out time and time again that as Minister he represents the whole of the steel-consuming public as well as those who produce steel. Are we to understand that a mandate for nationalisation is derived from these syndicalised areas which produce steel in the interests of the people? I see the Lord President of the Council is shaking his head. He is a highly experienced Parliamentarian, and he would never agree to the doctrine that steel should be nationalised just because the management or the workers in the steel-producing areas want it.

The Minister of Supply admitted that steel was not an issue in the campaign. We doubt that. We say, on the contrary, that it was. He says that it was not. What was he doing as Minister of Supply during the election campaign? He is a very important Minister, but presumably not big enough to be asked to go about the country speaking. Unless, as Minister of Supply, he was forcing the nationalisation of steel upon public opinion, he is a most unworthy Minister. He went on to discuss the doctrine of mandate by votes. Let us look at the figures of the mandate by votes, because it is quite clearly a mandate of de-nationalisation. There were 15,090,000 Conservatives, Liberal Nationalists and Liberals who voted against steel nationalisation, and 13,342,000 Socialists and Communists who voted in favour of it. The majority against steel nationalisation was therefore 1,748,306 votes.

I remember the Lord President winding up nationalisation Debates in the last Parliament. I remember the now Minister of Town and Country Planning, in enunciating some new doctrine during the Budget Debates, repeatedly saying that not only had they a Parliamentary majority with which to do these things, but they had an overwhelming voting power in the country as the result of the 1945 election. They accepted the doctrine of mandate by votes at that time, and it is only now, because it suits them, that they have gone against it. Let us accept for a moment that the new view of the Government is right and that it is the slender Parliamentary majority of seven which counts and not the voting power in the country. Why, then, have they left out cement and sugar and made no reference to them in the Gracious Speech? If it is right to continue with the nationalisation of iron and steel, then that Parliamentary majority should also serve for these other nationalisation Measures.

Finally the Minister of Supply produced the argument that production had gone up and that this was due to a lively anticipation on the part of the iron and steel producing areas of early nationalisation. I repudiate that argument completely and utterly, and give these figures to the House. I ask the House to notice that they have steadily gone up from 1947, which was the year when the Steel Bill, I think, was first introduced in the House of Commons. The increase of steel ingots and castings in 1947 over 1946 was 29,000 tons. The increase in 1948 over 1947 was 143,000 tons. The increase in 1949 over 1948 was 675,000 tons, and that in 1950 over 1949 was 1,346,000 tons. The last figure is a representative one—the single month of February generalised for the year. The steel-producing areas have been raising their production month by month and year by year. Is not this consonant with the fact that prospective nationalisation, month by month and year by year, has been steadily put off rather than made more probable?

In 1947 the Iron and Steel Bill was introduced. The Lords began to show signs of opposing it. The Government introduced the Parliament Bill to curtail the powers of the House of Lords. The House of Lords still opposed the Iron and Steel Bill, and gradually month by month we were drawn to the position of last autumn, when the Government's intention upon iron and steel were actually arrested and put back. Now, in this final month when the figures have gone up to a record level, we are faced with the fact that nationalisation of iron and steel is an extremely improbable adventure as a result of the decisions at the election. I maintain that it is the effect upon industry in the iron and steel areas of knowing that nationalisation is more remote than ever it was before that has resulted in these improved figures.

Then the Minister of Supply accused us of staging a political demonstration. I do not think that I need go back over the Debates of Monday and Tuesday. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), in a most conciliatory speech when he introduced this theme, made no request for repeal. One might have thought in the particular circumstances of comparative success and, at any rate, stalemate in the country today, my right hon. Friend would have been justified in asking for the repeal of this Act. He did nothing of the kind. He made a conciliatory speech and he asked for a statement of the intentions of the Government. This is perhaps worth referring to, because there may be many people in the country who think that the Minister of Supply is right in saying that this is a political demonstration and that we are unwise to move this Amendment.

Let me remind the House of what happened. The Prime Minister came down and read out a considered statement. I am sure that it was considered by the Minister of Health. I bet he read it before it was produced. It is worth referring to the circumstances and the scene, because I have noticed lately that newspapers are tending more and more to describe the scene in Parliament today as the named reporters on those papers think that it should be described and not as an impartial observer or, shall we say, a radio broadcast would represent it to the people of the country. The Prime Minister's statement was quite definite. He said: The right hon. Gentleman asked me a question with regard to the position of the Iron and Steel Act. That Act is on the Statute Book. The Corporation cannot be appointed until 1st October, 1950. The earliest date for vesting is 1st January, 1951. There is nothing to be done in the matter immediately … That is a bit equivocal, I must say in passing— …but that Statute is on the Statute Book and our purpose is to give effect to Acts passed by Parliament."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 66.] That statement, accompanied as it was by wolfish cries from hon. Gentlemen opposite, we found definitely provocative and challenging. Our only course was to accept it, and to those who may be sur- prised at our action I think it is fair to point out that not to do so after the lengthy Debates which have taken place on iron and steel and our outright opposition to nationalisation in the past might have led people to believe that we had capitulated to the inevitability of the Measure.

I am very glad that the Liberal Party have decided to vote in our Lobby. Considering the important part that they are playing in our affairs tonight, I should have thought that we might have had a little more counsel from their nine Members than we have had today. Suffice it to say that we are glad that they have represented their view and that they are going to vote with us.

I should like to make one comment about the statement of the Minister of Supply last autumn which seems to me to be important. He cited two propositions on the Government's compromise with the Lords last November. This has not been referred to in the Debate so far and it might relieve the minds of some hon. Gentlemen who are wondering whether we propose to do anything about it. Speaking of the alternatives, the Minister said: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 2041.] That position is absolutely safeguarded. We are not asking for a repeal of the Act at the moment. The Government's decision on that, which was one of the things they feared and why they asked for this compromise with the Lords, is absolutely secured. No untoward moves prior to any decision to stop nationalisation can be taken by any of these companies at present, so that position is absolutely secure and we have no intention of trying to encourage companies to think that they can prepare now for any denationalisation or any stopping of nationalisation which may take place.

The other proposition the Minister of Supply put forward was the one cited by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) this afternoon. I do not want to quote it again, but those were words with reference to the appointment of members of the Corporation. Those were words exactly framed as we on these benches would like to see them framed today in an authoritative pronouncement by the Minister himself or by the Government. In conclusion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite want to speak. There is plenty of time. I am sure that we on these benches would welcome one or two more valuable contributions than have been made so far. In conclusion, there is no doubt in my mind that the result of the General Election raised expectations in the industry that it will not be nationalised. I believe that men who demurred at going on to the iron and steel boards—men who demurred all the way through the Debates in November and perhaps right up to February of this year—have now made up their minds in March after the election that in no circumstances will they go on to them.

Mr. Jack Jones

Who are they?

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

I am considering the sort of people that the Minister of Supply would be most likely to ask to serve upon the boards. I consider that these men have today made up their minds in that sense. The approaching end of Marshall Aid, Britain's imperilled commercial position, the rising cost of living, the growing numbers of the unemployed and the undoubted swing of the entire country away from collectivism at the present time all point, in my judgment, to another election in six months or one year and to the certainty of the instant repeal of the Iron and Steel Act through an assured success for us on these benches.

In these circumstances, it is criminal folly for the Government to proceed with violent measures of change in a vital and important industry. If the Government have any regard at all for statesmanship, for the high duties of office, for good and honourable government for the people of this country, they will agree with our proposal for the postponement of this Measure.

8.1 p.m.

Mr. W. T. Williams (Hammersmith, South)

I have listened with very great interest to the course of this Debate, which has certainly had some highlights. For instance, it was a particular pleasure to me to listen to the spokesman of the Liberal Party showing quite clearly how his subconscious had crept through his conscious mind. He promised us that he will vote against us, but yet he hopes that he will not win. I take comfort from the possibility that, having lost his way so much in his speech, he will lose his way into the Lobby, again directed by his subconscious mind. It surprises me somewhat that the Tory Party should take such comfort from such divided counsel.

Perhaps the greatest highlight of all for me was the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), which was so frankly syndicalist, for he advised us that we ought not to go on with nationalisation because the steel workers and owners—and, I presume, particularly the owners were encouraged by the postponement of nationalisation, and that, therefore, if we refrain from nationalisation, profits will go up still further and that will encourage them still more.

I confess immediately that I find myself in somewhat of a dilemma, because when I look at the wording of the Amendment, I find that I am very much in agreement with it. I cannot say that I "humbly regret" that the Gracious Speech contains no reference to the future of the iron and steel industry. I thought the matter was settled in the last Parliament, and it has amused me somewhat to hear many of the speakers opposite, including the noble Lord, who took such delight in saying that, in the one case, one speaker had said that nationalisation was an election issue, and that, in others, it was not. Clearly, the whole tenor of the argument that came from this side of the House was that, in places where the issues were most clearly understood, a clear mandate was given, and that, in places where the issue was not very clearly understood, other issues were more important. I think it unlikely that any Member on this side of the House left the matter untouched.

On the other hand, it is not being syndicalist, but is being reasonable—an attitude which is perhaps too much to expect from the Opposition benches—to suggest that in areas where the issue, national as well as local, was of immediate significance, the people them- selves, gave a clear decision. If I might begin to be controversial, in places where, by an unprecedented mass bribery, the people were persuaded that their interests lay in the return of a party whose record they have forgotten, the people who were returned were returned on other issues.

Mr. Shurmer


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Williams

I am anxious to speak to this Amendment and I am glad to have the support of hon. Members opposite on these grounds. Perhaps they will take it as an example. I find myself in some difficulty in regard to this Amendment because, though I did not expect any mention of it in the Gracious Speech, I must say that I too am concerned lest, in a time of rising world competition this vital industry will be kept in a state of anxiety and suspense. I am very happy to feel that, at the end of this evening, it will no longer be in that state.

However, I should like to break up this Amendment as though it were my text, because the suggestion of the Amendment quite clearly is that the iron and steel industry, with the threat of nationalisation hanging over it, will not be able adequately to make its contribution to the life and welfare of this nation and the well-being, of the world. Its implication is that if nationalisation were abandoned, then immediately the people who have been so far responsible for the iron and steel industry will buckle to and succeed in obtaining a remarkable development of iron and steel output in this country.

It has been said over and over again that private enterprise is the only way by which steel output will go up, prices come down and everything in the industrial garden become lovely. It has been said on this side of the House that that is not true. I wonder if we may have some of the facts. It is argued that the iron and steel industry, which is now in a "state of anxiety and suspense," was managed very well when it was under the control of the industry. Everywhere we see posters which say "Iron and steel has done well." It is interesting, therefore, to discover that, in 1930, before the world slump set in, before there was a Labour Government with power, the steel output of this country was less than it was in 1913; and we have to remember that between 1914 and 1918 considerable Government investments were placed in the steel industry. When the slump came, the steel barons were presented with what might almost be called a God-given opportunity with Government blessing for packing the industry into a close monopoly. Therefore, it must be borne in mind—

Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

Was not a Labour Government in power at that time?

Mr. Williams

No, it was not a Labour Government with power. It was in 1930, before the slump set in, and that is the operative point. The slump had not set in. When the slump did come, it provided the steel barons with the opportunity of packing the industry into a close monopoly, not for the benefit of the people or for the well-being of the nation, but for the protection of its own profits. By the protection of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, which was supposed to protect the public interest, steel prices were maintained in this country when they fell everywhere else in the world, and, by the same process, no foreign steel was permitted to be imported into this country except that which the Iron and Steel Federation itself wanted, so that, in the interests of profit, the well-being of the nation was held up to ransom.

Then began what was probably the most immoral of all the activities of the British steel monopoly—its association with foreign cartels. The record of the steel industry in this country from 1930 onwards is such that the names of those who permitted it should stink in the nostrils of decent men. I have spoken before about the brutal effect upon men and families of the love of money of the steel masters who have left living sores upon the face of our land. Dowlais is a good example of the permanent memorials, as they are, of the derelict towns created by the most rapacious of all the capitalists that were spawned up by the Industrial Revolution. I will leave the moral aspect of the affair there and return-to the fact that this Iron and Steel Federation which was set up at that time succeeded in putting a premium on efficiency.

The classic scandal of Sir William Firth and his treatment by the Iron and Steel Federation and the joint stock banks is too well known to need repetition. But it points one or two lessons of great significance because it is suggested by right hon. and hon. Members opposite that the suspense in which the iron and steel industry of this country is being kept results in a lessening of efficiency and a reduction of output. Yet it is notable that when Sir William Firth reintroduced his reorganisation scheme—which was effective, and had it not been introduced in spite of the activities of the Iron and Steel Federation we should quite likely have lost the war —it was turned down flat by the Iron and Steel Federation on the principle that by introducing this more efficient machinery the inefficient firms would be squeezed out and profits would fall.

Mr. Erroll

Would not the closing down of the so-called inefficient firms have caused more unemployment, and therefore more misery?

Mr. Williams

Is that an economic argument?

Mr. Erroll

It is a human argument.

Mr. Williams

I have already spoken about the human argument, and I think it ill behoves the people who now defend the Iron and Steel Federation to concern themselves with moral issues.

The other important economic argument which has been advanced by hon. Members opposite is that the nationalisation of the steel industry will result in a reduction of output. Not only did the Iron and Steel Federation by its power of monopoly turn down Sir William Firth, but when he attempted to go on with his scheme alone he was ruined. So much for the boasts that have been made in this Debate and others on the subject of private enterprise. Like so much else in Tory speeches, talk of free enterprise in this context is mainly eyewash for the half blind. In the context, free enterprise, which hon. Members opposite are supposed to love so much, has about as much chance of survival as a snowball in a bakehouse.

Indeed, one might well ask the Opposition whether it is sincere in its assertion that it wants to restore free enterprise in this industry. Let it be clearly understood that the steel barons have no such intention. They have declared their will and have stated that it is only possible to maintain steel production in this country, and to re-organise the industry efficiently, if it remains a private monopoly. Indeed, before hon. Members opposite divide this House, as they say they are going to do on this Amendment, it would be well for them to answer that question and to consider what the alternative to private monopoly must be.

It has been suggested in this Debate that whatever the cost may have been in pre-war years, or whatever the failure of the iron and steel industry, it is important to recognise the remarkable achievements of the industry in the years during and since the war. Between 1937 and 1938, when it was known that the war clouds were gathering over this country, our steel production fell from 13.4 million tons to 10.1 million tons, and it has taken Government control—and this is the important point—to create the present efficiency of the iron and steel industry by means of the Iron and Steel Board which was set up in 1946.

The plan of the Iron and Steel Federation itself will give sufficient reasons for justifying the Government in going on with this Measure. In the first place, the Federation submitted a scheme for the reorganisation of the industry and for its post-war increase of output. That scheme stands condemned by two standards; it grossly under-estimated the capacity of the industry to produce the amount of steel required, and it had no real intention of financing the industry for the good of the nation as a whole.

Mr. Lyttelton

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is making very large drafts upon his imagination. As a matter of fact, the iron and steel industry were asked to prepare a scheme of development and reorganisation by the Coalition Government, which was accepted by the Ministers now sitting on the Government Front Bench. Let us confine ourselves to some of the facts.

Mr. Williams

I shall be very happy to confine myself to the facts, and here they are. To deal with the second point first, that it had no real intention of financing the industry for the good of the nation. The Federation suggested the sum of £168 million as necessary to reconstitute the industry. It offered from between £6 million and £7 million a year for eight years, which represented a quarter of the total amount needed for that reconstruction. The rest of the money that was needed it expected to get from the Government by way of tax remission and in other ways. Because of its concern that profits should not suffer, the Federation maintained that obsolescent machinery should be replaced at an average of 30 per cent., and that prices should be maintained at a high enongh level to cover the costs of the inefficient producers. In saying that, I am not drawing upon my imagination. They are the facts.

Because of that concern with profits, the Federation suggested the production of 16 million tons of steel by 1953, that is, 1,500,000 tons more than was available in 1937 when we had something like 1,750,000 unemployed. In such conditions, full employment would clearly be impossible, and this, surely, is one of the reasons why, whatever the Coalition may have done, the Labour Government set up the Steel Board. Under Government control, the steel industry had already by February of this year—that is, three years before the industry, if left to itself, would have brought up production to 16 million tons—achieved the total of 17 million tons.

In my judgment, these things in themselves constitute a strong case for refusing to bow to this Opposition Amendment. Had I the time, I would like to draw attention to the close relationship of this industry with the armaments industry, which I, at least, regard as immoral. For I think it indecent that men should be able to make profits out of the instruments of death. Anyway, the practice which the international cartels followed of making available secret processes and patents to potential enemies right up to the moment of war brings economic and moral considerations for the nationalisation of this industry together.

In view of the record of the iron and steel industry while it was under complete private control, the fact that the whole economic structure of the world is in such great peril, the refusal of the Opposition to recognise the achievement of the Government sponsored board, is in the same category of economic sabotage as the Tories were in the dangerous period of pre-devaluation.

I believe the industry will only be of profit to the nation under national ownership. I believe that the Government have a right to maintain that the mandate given to it in 1945 remains. I hope the Government tonight will put the iron and steel industry, or its owners at least, out of their misery, that it will no longer keep them in a state of suspense and anxiety and will say categorically and finally that dates have been set when the industry will be taken over.

If what hon. and right hon. Members opposite say is true—that the people who now control the destinies of the industry will not act—I think that it is right that the Government should say, "We will take it over anyway." The Association of Scientific Workers, for instance, who are the technicians and experts in this industry, issued a pamphlet by a special committee in which they declared support for nationalisation of the industry. I hope, therefore, the Government will say categorically tonight that it is determined to carry out the mandate it has been given and which has been supported in the past election and that the Iron and Steel Federation, in this time of world rising competition shall give up the reconstruction of the industry to a Government sponsored Iron and Steel Board.

8.22 p.m.

Mr. W. Robson-Brown (Esher)

I claim the indulgence of this House for my maiden speech, and I hope the House will overlook any indiscretion I may unconsciously commit. I should like to thank the hon. Member for East Flint (Mrs. White) for her kindly reference to myself in her maiden speech and to compliment her on the use of technical terms. I imagine she learned her skill as a result of a debate on steel which I had with her not very long ago.

She is correct that I have spent the whole of my working life in the steel industry and in steel mills. We in the steel industry, management and labour alike, are proud and loyal men. There is a general love of the industry among the men who earn their livelihood in it. I am satisfied that the men in the industry have obtained outstanding results not due to any question of nationalisation, but because the industry has paid them some of the highest wages in the land, and because the industry has as good a management as any industry in the world and has a lifetime's record of mutual confidence between management and men. This record output has been achieved under competitive enterprise.

In paying my tribute to the management and men alike I should like to join the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. J. Jones) in his tribute to the trade union leaders of bygone days. In my early boyhood in the industry I had good advice from John Hodge, Sir Arthur Pugh and good John Brown, who came back from the United States and told the men the truth about the strip mills when the truth was unpalatable; and also Lincoln Evans, who is one of the outstanding trade union leaders of the country. With regard to the statement by the hon. Member for Rotherham on the freezing of wages in the industry, I think he must be misinformed. The wage structure is based on a sliding scale controlled by the cost of living.

I do not think the men themselves are so particularly interested in the nationalisation of steel. They are much more interested in the continued and full working of their plants. Who manages them is not of such great concern to them, because they have no special complaint against the management today and some of them now have some doubt, having looked at experience in other nationalised industries, whether they would be making a good bargain by the change.

There is always a great cry about profits but it is well that the facts should be revealed with regard to steel. The rate of profit available per cent. of share capital ran from 2.03 in 1927 to minus 0.38 in 1932. In 1936 it was 4.7, in 1939 5.5 and in 1948 7.9.

I have heard a great deal said about the views of men actually operating in the steel industry, but surely we are entitled to take into consideration the views of men in other industries, who are consumers of steel and have some direct interest in what happens to steel. There I would say that there is strong evidence that nationalisation of steel is not of interest to them. The change in the composition of the House is evidence enough.

I am anxious not to indulge tonight in a general discussion upon the wisdom or otherwise of nationalising the steel industry because that has been positively effectively done by other more capable men, and in particular by Sir Andrew Duncan, to whom the whole industry owes a great debt of gratitude as well as other speakers on this side of the House.

The Minister of Supply has asked for proof that the present totally unsatisfactory position can in fact embarrass the steel industry. The embarrassment is its effect upon our export trade. I feel in my own heart, as one in the industry, that in a very short time steel is going to be once again one of the most competitive commodities in the world. The effect of that will be that articles made of steel in all their multitudinous variety for export will also have to be competitive. Since 1938 there has been a startling change in production in a number of the steel producing countries of the world. For instance Canada, South Africa and Australia who, before the war, were important consumers of British steel are today very nearly self-sufficient and in two or three years may well be competitors of the mother country. That is a very vital thing. In Europe the recent reports of the O.E.E.C. survey have indicated an early possibility of over production of steel, even at this time. Although some Socialists have suggested optimistic figures for British steel, in the enthusiasm of talking of nationalisation of steel a year or two ago, and spoken of a figure as high as 26 million tons, in my humble opinion that was planning gone mad.

The steel trade knows perfectly well, from its long experience, that the time has come when the surpluses of these European countries, from which we suffered before, will once again be thrown upon the world markets, probably at uneconomic prices. That was the bitter experience we had between the wars. It has always been the policy of continental steel makers to maintain at all costs a high level of production, and to dump upon the export markets the surplus which they could not dispose of at home, simply because they could then maintain the highest level of production and achieve the lowest cost. Germany is once again rearing its head; and Japan also is revealing itself as a competitor of Great Britain. I find that galvanised sheets are being exported from Japan to Australia in quite measurable tonnages at this present time, and who can say what the future may bring?

There is something more formidable than all this which must be taken into consideration and that is the steel production of the United States of America. With all the humbleness that is in my heart, I ask the House to pay the most careful attention to the few figures which I now give, because there are tremendous potentialities behind them. In 1939 the United States production of steel, expressed in ingots, was 42 million tons. That figure has now increased to the colossal total of 80 million tons of steel a year. In other words, they have practically doubled their production since 1939, and are now producing five times the amount of steel that we are producing in Great Britain. If there is even a moderate recession in industry and trade in the United States the impact of that tonnage thrown upon the world market will be of a formidable character.

One of the most important factors now in the production of modern steel is the modern strip mill, which has so often been talked about in public and in the House. It may interest the House to know that at this time the United States has 31 strip mills, with others in the course of erection. We in Great Britain have got only three, one in the course of erection. Strip mills are also going up in Canada, South Africa and Australia. In addition to that, the Minister of Supply must be very well aware that consuming demand of Great Britain is now reaching saturation point; in Britain there are not now so many articles made from steel which are in short supply, and the industry generally is meeting the major portion of the demands made upon it.

There is a plain lesson to be learnt from all these figures, and it is this. Once again the great steel makers, men and management alike, will have to face the greatest challenge in their long experience. They are now faced with the additional handicap—I do not blame His Majesty's Government for it, but the facts are there—that since the war the British steel industry has had a definite control upon its exports of steel in the interests of the overall economy of the nation. I personally subscribe, and the nation has to subscribe to that wise provision, but it has meant that other nations have been able to take care of the markets that were ours before, and even at this stage there is a complete restriction and licensing on the export of steel from this country.

The problem of British steel, no matter in whose hands it may be, will be to regain, so far as possible, old markets and to create new ones, and I respectfully submit that the difficulties of that will be much greater under the threat of nationalisation. I will explain that if I may. We have clear evidence from all over the world that merchants in the South Americas, the Far East and everywhere, agents and the like, who have traded with particular companies and had life-long associations with them, are now hesitating about renewing their contracts and agreements. The reason is obvious. They say to themselves: "If we bind ourselves by agreement to a British steel company at this time we shall find, in a time that we cannot measure, that this industry in Great Britain will be nationalised and we will be frozen out, because the Government of the day will set up some selling organisation and we shall be out in the cold."

Quite sensibly, and as logical business men, they are seeking to find green pastures elsewhere, where there will be safety and no hazards. They are taking no chances, and I sincerely suggest that neither should we. Nothing political should stand in the way of the British steelmakers recovering the markets they have lost, because, quite frankly, the whole of British industrial recovery depends entirely upon steel. Steel production must be maintained at a high level, so that we can get the costs of production and prices down and industries which use steel can compete in the world markets. Cheap steel means success for Great Britain in the competitive position of the world today.

I wish also to give another figure. It may not be appreciated that at the present time 47 per cent. of the exports from this country are made up of steel in some kind or another. If we exported at this time as much steel as in 1929, we should be improving the balance of trade by no less than £200 million. For five long years the steel industry has had the threat of nationalisation hanging over its head. In spite of this, management and men have worked together in good heart alongside one another, united in one common purpose, the best for the steel industry, and that can be continued as their objective at this time.

I should like to deal with a number of allegations that have been made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith South (Mr. W. T. Williams), because I feel that they must be answered. I will do so as briefly as I possibly can. Reference was made to the evils and disastrous effects of the restrictions on imported steel to this country before the war. The plain truth of the matter is that as a result of those tariffs the industry was saved from ruin, and I give great credit to the Government that brought them in. He also gave a garbled account of Ebbw Vale. In my humble capacity I had something to do with the building of this great steelworks. As far as the steel industry is concerned, it is solidly behind progressive measures and mechanisation of the industry. We know perfectly well that unless the industry is competitive and has plant of the highest degree of efficiency it is impossible to survive in these modern days, and we have conceived it our duty to see that that is so.

The hon. Member also spoke of steel barons. Normally, in a maiden speech I should have made no reply, but men who have taught me my trade are being attacked, and I cannot allow this to go unanswered. The majority of the leaders of the steel industry, men whom I respect and admire, have come from the floor of the mill. They have worked their way up by their skill and ability, and the hon. Member for Rotherham knows that as well as I do.

Another controversial element that was introduced was that steel production was down in 1937 or 1938. I am not sure which figure was quoted, but the correct figure is 1938. I know that because I have reason to remember it. Trade conditions at that time were such that the demands for steel were down. These are the things that control the production of steel. They are not controlled by Acts of Parliament. It is an international problem. People buy in the cheapest markets and have no sentiment for anyone or anything. We found that in 1938, but even at that time our percentage of production was higher than that of the United States.

May I make this positive statement, on the part of my colleagues and myself? At no time in the years between the wars did we allow a single wheel or mill to stand idle which we could profitably have operated. What we did with common sense was to see that certain plants were operated fully. In the event of recession in trade we should have seen that the men are distributed in the same fair fashion. Steel is the keystone of national recovery. Disturb it, and the whole nation will suffer —steel played a noble part in the war. It will serve us well in peace if we will leave it in peace.

8.41 p.m.

Mr. George Jeger (Goole)

It falls to my lot to congratulate the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. W. Robson-Brown) on his maiden speech. I want to do so very sincerely. I am sure that however much we on this side of the House may disagree with what I may call the typical businessman's point of view, we must admire the calm, assured and sincere way, as well as the eloquent manner, in which the hon. Member presented his facts and opinions. I hope that we shall have the benefit of listening to his views on other occasions.

I have heard practically all the speeches in this Debate, and I must say that there has been one serious omission. When I saw the Amendment on the Order Paper I was very interested to see the signatories. I looked forward with pleasurable anticipation to a speech from the last named on the Paper, hoping that we should hear a speech on this matter from the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers). Unfortunately, other matters seemed to have detained him, but hon. Members on that side of the House have stepped into the breach. We have heard views put forward which can only be properly attributed to the hon. Member's tuition of hon. Members on that side of the House, but as time is getting on I do not propose to deal with them. Hon. Members reading HANSARD tomorrow will be able to appreciate the points that have been made.

The opener of the Debate, the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), said that he wanted to postpone the operation of iron and steel nationalisation. That point was made by other hon. Members. Surely it is obvious that this is merely a manoeuvre and that the intention is postponement now preparatory to slaughter and repeal later on, if the opportunity arises.

One phrase which was used by the right hon. Gentleman was that the people had been asked to pronounce on iron and steel during the election. My experience was that though to a certain extent that entered into the electoral battle, much more prominence was given to matters such as promises of bribes made by my opponent and by Conservative Party literature. I found that, far from iron and steel being a predominating issue, even in the town of Goole which uses a lot of steel for shipbuilding and from which a large number of men go to Scunthorpe daily to work, the dominating issues appeared to be, according to Conservative Party propaganda: more petrol, higher pensions, equal pay, increases for teachers, no P.A.Y.E. on overtime, paying out of post-war credits now, and lower taxes. Those were the things which occupied the attention of the Conservative Party during the campaign which has just concluded.

There has been a lot of discussion on the question of a mandate. To me, the issue is simple. It is queer that we should be accused of having no mandate now for carrying out Acts passed in the last Parliament. If that is so, why stick at iron and steel? Why should not the Opposition say that we have no mandate to continue the nationalisation of the Bank of England? It would be just as logical. Why should they not say that we have no mandate to carry on with the nationalisation of coal or of the railways? And are we to be faced during ensuing days and weeks with a demand for the denationalisation of road transport which the Conservative Party put in its Election manifesto as one of the things they would do if they got into power? Are they inclined to say now that we have no mandate for continuing the nationalisation of road transport as part of the general nationalisation of the transport system?

I shall claim that we received our mandate for all those things in 1945, and far from the statement made by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) that it was a vague threat in our 1945 manifesto, it was made perfectly clear. The public ownership of iron and steel occupied a prominent place on page 7 of our manifesto of 1945, "Let us Face the Future." Each of the items specified in that manifesto took its place in our planned and ordered system, Acts of Parliament which we had pledged ourselves to carry during that period and which we proceeded to enact, although in varying order and time, during the four and a half years we were in power.

It is merely an accident, if you like, that iron and steel nationalisation happened to be practically the last item on our list.

Brigadier Peto (Devon, North)

What about the land?

Mr. Jeger

It could easily, had we planned otherwise, have been the first, and it would have been an Act of Parliament as it is at the moment but it would have been enacted long ago, and the structure of the iron and steel industry would have been altered accordingly.

In the election which has just been concluded the Opposition asked for power to repeal this Measure among other items. Are they to contend that they received a mandate from the people to carry out their proposals? Surely they cannot say that they received a majority vote for the repeal of iron and steel nationalisation or any of the other Measures. If they cannot do that—and obviously they cannot, otherwise they would be asking now for repeal and not merely for postponement —then they cannot say that we have not received a mandate for carrying out our programme. Yet they say, in spite of the fact that we sit on this side and they sit on the other, that we have not received a mandate for continuing nationalisation. Then surely much less have they received any mandate for the repeal or even the postponement of any Act at present on the Statute Book, and the Iron and Steel Act is on the Statute Book.

There is talk in the Amendment of uncertainty. If there is any uncertainty in. tin, industry today it is being caused by the Conservative Party in its fractious opposition to the nationalisation of iron and steel and, furthermore, to the threats, overt and covert, to those people who are at present engaged in that industry should they agree to come over to a nationalised industry and run it for the benefit of the nation instead of for the private shareholders.

I am afraid that hon. Members opposite must reconcile themselves to accepting the verdict of the electorate. When this matter was raised in my constituency the question was posed as one of freedom for iron and steel, freedom from controls, freedom from Government interference, and yet that is not part of the Conservative Party programme so far as I know it. Would the Conservative spokesmen say that the idea of denationalising iron and steel would be to set it free from Government interference and open it up to competition? One hon. Member said that it is open to free competition now. Would he say that it would be freed from monopoly, that it would stand on its own merits? If they have that idea I would refer hon. Members opposite to the Second Reading Debate on the nationalisation of iron and steel in November, 1948. I should like to quote a few words from the speech of the right hon. Member for Aldershot on 15th November, 1948, in which he said: I wish to touch the policy of the Conservative Party towards the iron and steel industry…we think that a great basic industry like the steel industry…is so important that it should have Government supervision. We do not believe that it would be right, where such large and vital interests are concerned, to permit competition to play over the steel industry without any Government interference or without Government approval."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 94–5.] The Leader of the Opposition, who made one of his rare interventions in a major Debate, spoke the following day on the same issue and said: …the Conservative Party in no way abandons the necessary control of the steel industry which has been so long in operation. We certainly consider that the price controls which we ourselves introduced and endorsed, must be taken as an essential and permanent feature of our policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1948; Vol. 458, c. 220.] We find, therefore, as part of the Conservative policy accepted and admitted during the Second Reading Debate, price controls, the elimination of competition, Government supervision and, of course, the continuation of Government subsidies. During 1948–49, Government subsidies to this industry amounted to practically £22 million. If the Opposition are looking for cuts and economies—[An HON. MEMBER: "Groundnuts."]—as they are, I have not heard any of them suggest that the subsidies to the iron and steel industry should figure in the list of cuts and economies.

Mr. Summers (Aylesbury)

Would the hon. Member allow me?

Mr. Jeger

No, I am limited by time. When it comes to the question of the subsidy being paid to the iron and steel industry—that is, taxpayers' money going into the pockets of the shareholders and steel barons—

Mr. Summers

May I ask—

Mr. Jeger

I cannot give way—then we must consider not only the dividends which have been paid, but the profits which have been made by the industry.

When reporting in 1941 on the financial status of the industry, the Auditor-General said this: The industry as a whole appears to have obtained a higher rate of profit than that normally allowed under the Ministry's costed contracts. That was in the days when it was profitable, according to the last speaker, to have every mill in operation and to have as much production as possible. Of course it was profitable—at a higher rate of profit than was normally allowed under Ministry contracts. Owing to the complicated method of price fixing and assessment, however, there was very little that the Ministry could do about it, because they had to rely on the evidence and figures supplied by the Iron and Steel Federation.

We on this side had in 1945 an overwhelming mandate for the nationalisation of iron and steel, and during the subsequent five years and the one election since we have seen no reasons to retract from the views which we put forward to the electorate at that time. I hope that my hon. Friends on this side of the House will manage to get hold of the wobbly Liberals from the other side of the House and take them into the proper Lobby, and so help to save them from themselves.

8.53 p.m.

Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

It is not customary to congratulate refugee Members on their maiden speeches as Members for their new constituencies, but I should like to tender my congratulations to the hon. Member for Goole (Mr. G. Jeger) on having succeeded in compressing a great mass of inaccuracy into a very short space of time. I regret that, as I am limited in time, I can deal with only one point, which is of great importance: his references to the so-called steel subsidies.

It is most tendentious to suggest that those subsidies were payments from the taxpayer to the profits of the industry. They were certainly not for that purpose at all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] The so-called subsidies were payments in respect of high cost ores and exceptional freight charges, so designed to ensure that British steel companies received their ores at standard prices regardless of the source of supply, since during the war and immediately afterwards they were able to get only those ores which they were permitted by Government control to obtain. Those payments certainly were not a subsidy to the industry, but represented a subsidy to the steel user. In any case it is a dead issue, because those subsidies have now ceased.

I wish to revert to the opening speech of the Minister of Supply this afternoon. I have seldom known him on the subject of steel appear less convincing than he was today. I thought he realised that, behind all the fine language and the bold front he was trying to put on a difficult situation, difficulties were lying ahead for him. Now, having committed his party to premature steel nationalisation, he is faced with the real difficulty of getting the right men for the board of the Corporation. That was one of the major difficulties we discussed in the last Parliament—how to get men to accept the Minister's invitation to join an organisation which might never start at all. It was right that in the end the Government should accept the contention of another place that the operation of the Act should be postponed.

Now the situation is just the same as it was before the election. There is the same element of uncertainty, the same doubt about whether steel nationalisation will ever become a fact. In such circumstances it is plain that the Minister cannot get the men to come forward to join the board of the Corporation. It was said by the leader of the Liberal Party that the issue need not be discussed now because it was not particularly urgent and that nothing could happen until October. But we all realise that the invitations must go out to the men concerned long before October. Even now the Minister may be contemplating lists of potential members to whom invitations could be sent—and an unenviable task he will have in trying to persuade men of sufficient weight and calibre to come forward. Of course, we know there is one potential candidate.

What does the nation really require from the steel industry at present? Surely it wants cheap steel, abundant supplies of steel, technological improvements to go on unabated and a bold development plan vigorously carried out. I submit that the nation is getting all those things today. It is certainly getting cheap steel; British steel is cheaper than that produced in almost any other country in the world. It is certainly getting plenty; record production continues. The technological improvements are taking place continuously. Finally, there is a great development plan, which perhaps has been held up a little by the threat of nationalisation, but nevertheless it has gone on continuously despite all the political battles which have raged round this great industry.

The nation is getting all it requires. In our view nationalisation could do no more. We are not, however, asking for the repeal of the Act, but merely for its postponement, because we are quite convinced that this will not harm the national requirement of abundant steel, cheep steel and improvement in the industry. As we have indicated in our Amendment, there is bound to be anxiety in the industry over the political situation as it develops, but it is to the great credit of the industry that the leaders of the industry are not allowing their understandable anxiety to interfere with the first job of keeping the industry going at full pressure. The industry remains confident that ultimately the nation will reject nationalisation.

We have heard a good deal of argument about votes in the steel towns. It is perhaps appropriate to notice the very small Labour majorities in the railway towns, where they have had a dose of nationalisation. Railway nationalisation is not so popular—[An HON. MEMBER: "Crewe."]—yes, and Doncaster, which is also a railway town. The steelworkers might care to contemplate the effects of nationalisation on other industries before they cast their votes, if indeed they do so, blindly in favour of nationalisation. We ask for the postponement of the implementation of this Act, confident that it will ultimately be repealed and that in the meantime the nation will only be the gainer if the industry is left to itself.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)

This Amendment ignores the fact that the Act itself was specifically designed to prevent dismemberment of the industry. The Opposition have been speaking all along as if the nationalisation of steel will dismember the industry immediately it is taken over. That is completely untrue. The Act was designed to make this change-over as smooth as possible and any dismemberment can come only from deliberate sabotage by those in the industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If Members study the Act, they will see that that is completely true.

The statement in the Amendment about "anxiety and suspense" needs careful examination. Who are the people who are anxious about this and how they expressed their anxiety? Speaking to managements and technicians in this industry in my own constituency, I have found them all careful to avoid taking any political side in the matter, and they have impressed on me that they are concerned solely with the production of iron and steel. That is the job of management and technicians. In the main they are not concerned with the question of who owns the industry but with the job of producing iron and steel, and they have done a magnificent job in the past four and a half years.

The people who express anxiety are the steelworkers themselves, and the anxiety they have expressed is as to why this Act has not been put into operation before now. In reference of this idea of the mandate, it is clear that from Tees-side, where we produce about one-third of the whole of the steel in this country, there is not a single Tory Member in this House, and the candidate who spoke and made the repeal of the nationalisation of iron and steel a major issue of his campaign, Alfred Edwards, is no longer with us. The Minister of Pensions had a magnificent majority over him. If this is what is meant by suspense and anxiety, then if we had more industries in suspense and anxiety about the threat of nationalisation we should perhaps be in a much better position even than we are today.

When one examines the history of the proposal to nationalise iron and steel, the following are the essential dates and facts. On 27th and 28th May, 1946, there took place the Debate approving the Government's proposal to nationalise the appropriate sections of the iron and steel industry. In May, 1946, the yearly rate of steel production was 13,619,000 tons. In November, 1948, under this uncertainty, under this anxiety, when the Iron and Steel Bill was published, the annual rate of production had risen 15,750,000 tons. In November, 1949, when the Measure became law, production was running at the annual rate of 16,358,000 tons, and in February, 1950, when we had more uncertainty than ever before, the uncertainty of the General Election, a new record rate was reached of 16,898,000 tons. If that is the result of uncertainty, let us have more of it.

The other point was on the question of the anxiety which is supposed to have been paralysing the industry and frustrating all those people in it. In the recent report of the British Iron and Steel Federation on the Achievements of 1949 and the Outlook for 1950, we find: Of the major sections contained in the development plan as drafted in 1945, some 65 per cent. have received the detailed approval of the responsible public authority.…Of the schemes thus approved, about 25 per cent, are completed and are already contributing to production; 72 per cent. are in active execution; and in the case of the remaining 3 per cent. work has not yet begun on the site. Obviously under this proposal to nationalise the industry there has beep no bar whatsoever to the proper development of the industry and there is no earthly reason why in the future there should be any bar at all. The fact that production is increasing shows that the workers want nationalisation. The people who are trying to avoid it are now showing what good boys they can be, and development is going on according to plan; it is only the financiers and shareholders who need have anxiety and be in suspense. If we have our way tonight—as I hope we shall—that suspense may not last longer than a few more hours.

What we have to ask ourselves quite clearly, and what the country will ask itself, is why is this issue being raised now? The Opposition sought to put the blame for it on the Prime Minister; but my right hon. Friend made it clear that this is an Act of Parliament. We are sitting on this side of the House as the Government. All the figures about the mandate or the total votes cast will not alter the fact that we are sitting on this side of the House, and the Opposition are on the other side. There is nothing under the Act as it stands that we need do at this stage. In my view, the Opposition have a heavy responsibility on their shoulders in bringing this matter forward at this time.

It seems that they have done it for two reasons. First, to show that in this Parliament, as opposed to the last Parliament, they can be an Opposition. They could not oppose in the last Parliament, and now they are trying to prove to their newcomers that they can in this. The second reason—bearing in mind the statement of the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) that we must not underrate the forces that will come to their aid—is that they have to satisfy their financial backers who want some return for the money they poured into the election coffers of the Tory Party. [Interruption.] Well, it is obvious. It is clear that the people who wish steel to remain in private hands must have contributed very heavily to the Tory Exchequer. [Interruption.] They could at least disprove that by publishing their accounts. Many people in the country looking at this issue will condemn the Opposition for raising it at this time.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)

The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) delivered himself of a very persuasive speech on the value of a continued state of uncertainty in the steel industry. He explained to us at length how, despite the fact that the future was all unknown, the production of steel had continually risen, as we all agree very much to the credit of all engaged in the industry. If that really be his argument, if he thinks that a state of uncertainty, so called, is thoroughly good for the industry, I cannot understand his objection to our Amendment, which is a simple way to continue the delay in the application of the Act for a little while longer.

If the Member would reflect a little further he will see that his reasoning is more helpful than I had dared to hope towards the case which we have been trying to put. But just here and there, may I warn him, because it was a very able speech, there crept into his tone the kind of thing we occasionally get from the Lord President, and about which I shall have a word to say in a minute. It was a sort of warning that the Opposition do not know their job. I would advise the hon. Gentleman to be careful of that because he might find, like the Lord President of the Council a little later on tonight, that he is going to be hoist with his own petard.

It has been remarkable that those of us who were in the last Parliament have managed to carry through this discussion without any very general repetition of the speeches which were made at repeated intervals during the last few years; but it is even more encouraging to us to find what admirable and refreshing speeches have been made by newcomers to this House. If I may single out two, I should like from this side of the House to congratulate the hon. Member for East Flint (Mrs. White) upon her speech. I do so with the more pleasure as her father was to many of us on this side of the House, including myself, a close and intimate friend whom we were privileged to know. I am sure that he would take pride in her success tonight. On this side of the House I should like to say a particular word to my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. W. Robson-Brown) who I thought showed a deep knowledge and sincerity in respect of the industry about which he spoke.

As I am in a reasonable, sympathetic mood I should also like to say something in sympathy for the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen). I thought that he had a not very easy task to discharge and that he was left in a slightly lonely position to discharge it. I should like to say, as one who in my Parliamentary experience has sometimes had to try to speak against the band, that I thought he carried out a not very easy task with sincerity and a good deal of courage.

Let me come to the issues we are discussing and say, first, a word or two about the speech of the Minister of Supply. The right hon. Gentleman and many hon. Members opposite have said in the course of this Debate that we on these Opposition Benches are approaching this question as though we had won the General Election. That is not true at all. It is not true that we have won it and it is not true that we are approaching this matter in that spirit, because if we were, we should be asking for a repeal of this Act. We made that quite clear in every one of our election announcements. We are not even asking the Government to amend the Act. We realise the difficulties of their position. We realise that they have a technical Parliamentary majority. We are not asking them either to repeal or amend the Act. What we are asking them to do is to make use of certain powers which they themselves enjoy under the terms of the Act which they passed through this House. That is all. It does not seem to be a very formidable request.

When I listened to the right hon. hon. Gentleman I thought, if he will forgive me for saying so, that a great part of his argument had nothing to do with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). He trained his artillery with great ferocity on a road up which the enemy was not advancing. If I may make a suggestion to him, it is that next time he has occasion to do something of this kind he should try and make his heavy guns a little more mobile so that at any rate they can occasionally come somewhere near the target. Having first told us that we spoke as if we had won the election, he then told us that we wanted to repeal the Act, which we do not want to do. We do not even want to amend it.

Then he went on to say that we wanted to postpone the operation of this Act indefinitely. We do not even want to do that. We have never said anything of the kind. We have only asked for its postponement because we contend that the country at the last General Election certainly did not endorse or did not give a verdict in favour of this Act. If we are all to be democratic, what could be fairer than that, I would ask the Prime Minister?

I know that the Minister of Supply has been telling us today that the way for the industry to end its anxiety, if there is anxiety for its future, is for us and, presume, for the majority of the electors to take the same view as they do—to agree that, after all, nationalisation must go ahead. Of course, I agree that would be a solution: it might be fairer to call it a liquidation. It is rather like saying to a man, "I want to end all your worries; so I will cut off your head tomorrow week." We cannot expect that kind of solution to appeal to the majority of the nation who took a contrary view to that of His Majesty's Ministers about this industry.

Several speakers have maintained that this Amendment is inconsistent with the line which I took in my speech at the opening of this Parliament. I propose to show that it is not, and I want to show the House that we on these benches, and hon. Members below the Gangway, too, had no other alternative but to take the action which this Amendment embodies.

First, I would like to get the assent of the House to this, and particularly of those who were Members of the last Parliament. I do not think it could be denied, and I am sure the Prime Minister will agree, that another place, in delaying the passage of the Iron and Steel Act, had in mind to obtain the views of the electorate upon it. It may be quite true, and I am not denying this for a moment, that the Government did not share that view at the time, but they eventually agreed to compromise with another place by the fact of postponing the operation of this Act until after the General Election had taken place. It is clear from the speeches of several hon. Members on the back benches, and from some of those on the Front Benches, that they took an exactly similar view. I myself quoted the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans), and there was also the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Norman Smith) in the same Debate, who said: 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."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 2055.] We fought the election on the issue, but yet there has been a diversity of counsel in this Debate, because certain hon. Members have said that the election was fought on iron and steel in their constituencies and others have said it was not. There is a diversity there, some saying that it was and others that it was not, but yet a proportion of them are under the impression that it was an election issue

How does the Prime Minister feel that the country voted on this particular issue? We made it absolutely plain, as I am sure he will agree, that if we were returned to power we would repeal the Act. It was in my broadcast speech, it was in our manifesto and it was mentioned in speeches over and over again. The Liberal Party also made it plain that their support of any Socialist Government would depend upon the indefinite suspension of this particular Act.

So I ask the Prime Minister, in view of that fact, if it is not fair to say that any votes given for a Conservative or a Liberal candidate on this particular issue, —and I take it no further than that—may honestly be considered to be against the Iron and Steel Act? If the Liberal view is challenged—and it is not for me to speak for the Liberal Party in this House—is it not right to ask the House to read a speech given in another place by the Liberal Leader there? He made it quite plain that it was his view that—[Interruption.] Hon. Members need not worry, because I know what I am doing and I am not quoting another place. The noble Lord made it absolutely plain in his earnest appeal to the Government that he desired not the repeal of the Act but the postponement of its operation. That is what he asked.

At any rate, this plea has not been met by anything which we have had from the Government benches today. On this issue, whatever are our differences with the party below the Gangway, and however numerous they may be, the Liberal Party took the same view at the General Election. I do not think anybody in this Howe can dispute that. If that be true, we have now got to proceed to the simple calculation which Lord Samuel made, and, for this purpose, add together the Liberal and Conservative votes. Is not this all quite fair? I do not know what anybody is still complaining about.

By this arithmetical proposition, we arrive at a majority against the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry of 15 million votes to 13 million votes. It seems to me so simple that I shall be interested to hear from the Prime Minister whether he finds a flaw in that proposition. I do not think, let me add to the right hon. Gentleman, that his case or that of the Lord President, or that of any of his colleagues opposite, is strengthened by the fact that, so far as I am aware, not a single one of them in the series of broadcast speeches which were made during the General Election thought fit to tell the electors over the air that they were going on with the nationalisation of iron and steel.

I have looked up the Lord President's speech; I have it here, and I can be absolutely fair about this. Earlier today, in absolute good faith, the Minister of Supply contradicted an hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, and said that the Lord President had, in fact, referred to iron and steel in his broadcast speech. I thought he had not because I had looked it up, but I was not sure. I asked him to check it, and he and I have checked it, and, although we do not agree on anything else tonight, we do agree that he did not refer in his broadcast to iron and steel. Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister, if he really thought that he wanted a national mandate to go on with this Act, would it not have been well for him, or for one of his colleagues, to have made even a passing reference to it in one of the broadcast speeches? As a matter of fact, nothing was more apparent during the whole General Election campaign than the tentative modesty with which His Majesty's Ministers approached any suggestion of nationalising any industry at all. They absolutely loathed mentioning the word.

I listened to the Lord President's broadcast, and I thought it was technically very well done. What he did do was to use the word "socialisation," hoping that the electors would not think it was the same as nationalisation. Later on, we had the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), now Secretary of State for the Colonies, in a most eloquent broadcast using that terrible word "mutualisation," which even his gift of the Welsh language could not make sound reasonably like "national- isation," not only of iron and steel, but of other industries also. The other nationalisation proposals have, as I hope and suppose, died or are in a state of temporary suspension from life. This is the only one with which the Government, apparently, intend to proceed.

Therefore, I maintain to the House, first, that the decision of the last Parliament did, in fact, delay the operation of this Act until the country had pronounced upon it at the General Election, and, secondly, that the verdict of the polls shows a clear majority against the nationalisation of iron and steel. I have not the least doubt in my mind that if a referendum were to be held in the country today about any further nationalisation—iron and steel, or anything else—the country would vote emphatically against it. In fact, I will tell the Prime Minister what I believe the mood of the nation to be as expressed at the General Election. In some respects the electorate were not critical of the Government; indeed, in some respects they thought they had done reasonably better than they had expected, but they did not want any more nationalisation. The Government Front Bench know quite well that there is a good deal of truth in what I am saying. That is the message that I believe should be given.

Many, hon. Members of this House have made very eloquent pleas about the various steel constituencies. We have had hon. Members on both sides explaining that they represent everybody engaged in the steel industry, and so on. I cannot pretend to pronounce on these matters. It may be that a majority of the men engaged in the industry would like nationalisation, but it may be that if they had a few more talks with the railwaymen they would not be so keen about it. Again, the majority probably do want it; certainly their leaders want it, and they are loyal to their leaders, and would endorse their views.

What the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) said is not a decisive argument for nationalising the industry, and I do not suppose that the Prime Minister and the Lord President would claim that it is. What the House has to pronounce upon is what the view of the nation may be on the issue. If we are to take it constituency by constituency like that, what about the steel consumers? What happened in the constituency of Govan for instance?

Mrs. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)

What about the cotton exchange?

Mr. Eden

We still have not got the cotton exchange. I am very sorry we have not, but I do not quite see the relevance of that to the steel industry. The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) said one thing which I thought both just and fair, though I do not agree with him. What he said was that there was in this industry an accumulation of political and economic power and that it had to be nationalised. He is perfectly entitled to take that view, but the point I make is that the majority of the electors did not take that view. Therefore, I do not think the Government are entitled to go ahead with their intentions.

When the hon. Member tells us that the only alternative to private monopoly, as he calls the industry, is State monopoly, he flies in the face of the whole history of the United States. No country in the world has stronger anti-trust laws than the United States. That is in a country where both political parties are completely convinced that nationalisation would be a disaster to their whole industry. Surely that is the complete answer to hon. Members who believe that the only alternative to private monopoly is State monopoly. What was the Minister's view about this fundamental, practical difficulty? It was that we should all agree that whether an industry is to be nationalised or not we should in the interest of the country make it as efficient as we possibly can contrive.

Therefore, if we are to set up a board it must really be a competent one. The 'Minister knows, as well as I do, that in the present difficulty it is virtually impossible to secure a first-class board, for the very reason that the Minister gave us in the last Parliament. What he told us was that while the political future was uncertain, that is to say while there was some uncertainty whether the industry was to be permanently nationalised or not, it would be impossible to get the best men available. If this was true then, it is infinitely truer today. There is far more uncertainty about the political future of His Majesty's Government tonight than there was then. How does he think he is going to get this board?

In all the circumstances we did consider very carefully the course we ought to take, and we decided we ought to raise this issue now. Several speakers in the Debate, starting with the Minister of Supply and including the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) asked "Why now? Why not wait?" I will tell Members why. We considered the point. We thought "Can we wait?" Before we made up our minds about that we had to take into account both our past experience in this matter and our present responsibility. All other measures of nationalisation having been postponed by the Government, there only remains this biggest issue of all—iron and steel.

We had to recall our experience of the last Parliament. Some hon. Members may remember what occurred then. In the first Session of that new Parliament we did not raise any questions on any nationalisation Measures; we did not attempt to debate them; we held off; we thought we would like to see how matters were developed. Then one fine day—I have no complaint; it was perfectly proper —the Lord President came down and made a full statement about the Government's nationalisation plans. What did my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) do? He said: "Could we please have an opportunity to debate this statement of the Lord President's, with its large list of nationalisation plans? "Here is the answer he got: The Opposition had ample opportunity to raise this on the Address. This was only five months afterwards. The House will see the parallel, if we had waited five months this time. The Opposition had ample opportunity to raise this on the Address in reply to the King's Speech. They did not debate it. They did not even move an Amendment, and the Address in reply went through without a Division. If the Opposition did not discharge their function in the Debate on the Address it is no part of my business to help them to do so now." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1945; 701. 416, c. 37.] Is there now anyone, in any part of the House, particularly below the Gangway, who thinks we were so very unreasonable in raising the matter at this stage of this Parliamentary Session?

Of course, we ourselves—it is no secret to the House—would much prefer to repeal this Act, but we quite understand that that would be an unfair and unreasonable demand to make upon the Government when they have been returned, if not with a majority of votes on this issue, with a majority of seats in this House. But we do ask them to take account of practical realities which exist, and which they will have to face, supposing they are still there, next October. These are realities which I frankly admit any Government will have to face, they or their successors, not only next October but, I suspect, for a good many years to come—realities based on the growing world production of steel.

Now, I can conceive of just one excuse why the Government might say, "Despite these facts, despite the voting at the General Election, we must go on with nationalisation." They might say that, if they felt that the industry itself was in a serious plight, if its output was unsatisfactory and falling, or if it had been continually subject to internal disputes and differences of all kinds. We know, of course, happily that is not so.

The very reverse is true, and the industry is producing a record output. That has been said several times tonight, and I agree with the hon. Member for Rotherham that it is something of which all engaged in the industry have every reason to be proud. Most important of all, though very little mentioned today, our prices are conspicuously the lowest in the world, except in Australia where there are special reasons, which we know of, about the supply of iron ore, and so on. It is very remarkable, and not necessarily an argument against the people now looking after the industry.

Let us look at the question of prices for a moment. We have been warned by a report of the steel division of O.E.E.C., that by the end of 1953 there will be a surplus of eight million tons of steelmaking capacity in Europe. That is a pretty large surplus at a not very distant date. I do not know whether that calculation is likely to prove correct or not, but if it does, the very fact that our steel prices are now so very low in comparison with all our competitors will have an even greater bearing in 1953 than it has today.

Do hon. Members really believe—and this, I think, is where the real difference lies between us—that to transfer the industry, which is admittedly doing so remarkably well in respect of price now, from its present very successful management to that of the State will result, either during the transfer or after it, in cheapening the costs and in making the industry still more effective? If they think that, then I admit there is a complete divide between us. I cannot believe that can be the result.

There is one Member opposite who made a speech the other day at Oxford University—the Prime Minister and I both take an interest in Oxford University, although he takes more of an interest in the Labour Club than I do—the Member for Coventry East (Mr. Crossman), in which he said: Thank heaven the motor car industry is still under private enterprise. That was a surprising statement, but the sort of private enterprise he wanted did not appeal to me either. He went on to say that it was much better than one of the gigantic corporations that have been taken out of politics and over which there was no public control. What are the Government trying to do with this industry, except exactly what the hon. Member for Coventry East is complaining about? It is our absolute conviction, based on past experience, that this transference at the present time would be disastrous for the industry.

In conclusion, I say this to the Prime Minister. Here is the problem. It is not only a domestic problem, as my hon. Friend the Member for Esher said quite rightly, but an international problem. We thought, therefore, that we ought to raise it at the beginning of this Parliament, and so my plea to the Government is to ask them to face up to three facts, which are: that there was no majority in favour of this Act at the last General Election; secondly, that knowledge of that fact and uncertainty of the Government's own life today shroud the future of the industry in uncertainty; and, thirdly, that this in its turn makes it impossible for the Government to set up a really competent board this autumn. They should, therefore, and we ask them to do it, make a decision now, not to repeal the Act—we are not asking for that—not even to amend it—we are not asking for that either—but to use its permissive powers to postpone its operation until after the next General Election. This seems to me to be both an honest and sensible plea, and even at this late hour I ask the Government to accept it.

9.38 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

It is always pleasant to begin by agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). I should like to echo what he said about the two admirable maiden speeches made by the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) and the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. W. Robson-Brown). I am afraid that is about where our agreement ends.

I do not propose tonight to go into the merits of the Iron and Steel Act. That was very fully debated in the last Parliament. There have been interesting speeches today, but I thought that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, in an admirable and lucid speech, dealt with all these matters. The case put forward by the Opposition is that iron and steel is not mentioned in the Gracious Speech. There is no reason why it should be, any more than any other of the legislative Measures that were passed in the last Parliament. I gather that, Members opposite are raising this issue because it is not in the King's Speech. That is a very different matter from the complaints of the right hon. Gentlemen when there were a number of matters in the Gracious Speech which the Opposition did not refer to at all.

This Amendment has been moved because of some strange calculations about the General Election. I look at the programme of the party opposite, and I gather that there are quite a number of things that they were going to alter. They were going to repeal the provisions with regard to university seats. We have not thought it necessary to put into the Gracious Speech that no proposal such as the Opposition suggest is going to be put into operation with regard to that matter. The right hon. Gentleman also had proposals for, shall I say, messing about with the Transport Act and messing about with the coal industry. We have not put those in. The reason they are not in the Gracious Speech is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not happen to win the election. If they had, no doubt all the proposals would have been put in.

The suggestion is made that this election decided against the continuation of the Iron and Steel Act. The election was not a plebiscite. It is very rare in this country that we have an election on a single issue. There was one in 1910. The broad decision that a General Election comes to is by what party the country should be governed, and the country takes that party with its programme. There is no doubt that, whatever was decided at the General Election, one thing that the electors most emphatically did not want was the right hon. Gentleman Opposite and his party. Accordingly, his programme fell with him. It was not for want of angling for the Liberal vote,

I am not admitting for a moment the right of the Opposition to say that the votes cast for the two parties, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, were given on one specific issue. The right hon. Gentleman made a good deal of play about the amount of time that was given to speeches about nationalisation. I might also say a good deal about the amount of time given by the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends to promises to the electors—remissions of taxation, increased benefits—or even to a very large proportion of mere abuse of the Government. No one can say on what precise issues the votes were cast for the Conservative Party, and nobody certainly knows on what issues the votes were given for the Liberal Party. It is anybody's guess. So much for the specific point that there was one predominant issue.

If that is the one issue on which the Opposition want to challenge the Government, why have they put down two official Amendments to the Address? It has never been done before. Actually it is quite unprecedented. The reason is that they are put forward for party political reasons. I think the action at this time of putting down Amendments to the Address is wholly irresponsible. We had a statesmanlike speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and it was followed by an irresponsible speech from the Leader of the Opposition.

It is always difficult in dealing with the Opposition to know whether it is Jekyll or whether it is Hyde. Everybody knows that an Amendment to the Address is equivalent to a Motion of Censure. Any hon. Member who votes should do so with a full sense of respon- sibility. It is no light thing to do at any time. I have often seen Amendments put down by groups of hon. Members, small or large, to call attention to certain matters which they wish to raise, but an official Opposition Amendment means that those who sponsor it are prepared to take responsibility, and the same applies to those who support it.

We all found it a little difficult, I think, to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen) who, I gather, wanted to have the best of both worlds: he wanted to have the credit of voting against the Government without the risk. I suggest that Members of the Liberal Party must take their full responsibility, and I must presume that this is seriously meant on both sides and that the Liberal Party would hope to see the right hon. Gentleman opposite in power.

Lady Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)indicated dissent.

Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

That is what you are asking for.

The Prime Minister

It is a curious thing that the right hon. Gentleman put this to me very solemnly: that there is no wish to repeal the Iron and Steel Act, only to postpone it. There is to be, so he says, yet another election on this issue. How many elections are we to have? The right hon. Gentleman has had two elections on this. He has been beaten both times. Is every industry to be kept in a state of suspense until the right hon. Gentleman wins a General Election? What about the position of the road transport industry? Is it to wait in absolute suspense until the right hon. Gentleman has had another election? Or perhaps he will win a third, and divide up the coal industry again. Has that to wait?

This is a new doctrine, this doctrine of the Opposition. They pick out particular items from what has been done in one Parliament, and say, "Oh, but you did not have a mandate for this at the following election, and therefore we demand that you should wait and have another election." Really it looks as if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are thinking that they are already in the House of Lords. Because that is just the kind of claim that was put forward in 1910 and was resisted by the right hon. Gentleman with such vehemence and, shall we say, such vituperation.

What really is the design of this? The design, of course, is directed to the Liberal Party more than to the Government. In fact, I think it is quite obvious that the Conservative Party, and particularly the right hon. Gentleman, is much more interested in trying to destroy the Liberal Party than the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where are they now?"]—We had a very remarkable speech from the right hon. Gentleman. He has been a very ardent lover of this elderly spinster, the Liberal Party. The elder sister—the National Liberals—was married a long time ago; she is now deceased. This, now, is the younger sister, but she is getting on. I can never make out whether the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) is going to play Petruchio or Romeo. He gives her a slap in the face, then offers her a bunch of flowers. The other day, after a most vicious attack, he offered her a wonderful Committee of this House. The real purpose of this, of course, is to try to lure the Liberal Party to destruction.

The right hon. Gentleman has an inescapable belief that somehow or other, if it were not for the existence of the Liberal Party, all those who voted Liberal would vote for him. I think that is a matter which is open to doubt. After a considerable experience of the Liberal Party, I am never quite sure how they will vote or, as a matter of fact, whether they will all vote together. I am perfectly certain that, with a party that believes so strongly in freedom, it would be a great mistake to think that all, or even the majority, of them, if there were not a Liberal Party in the field, would vote Conservative.

I think that this Amendment to the Address is put forward as a party manoeuvre. I do not think it is genuine; and it is a pity. We have brought forward a King's Speech, admittedly not exciting, a King's Speech that has recognised the conditions under which this House is acting and recognises the play of forces in the country. We shall not shirk the responsibility which we have taken upon us, despite our small majority; and that is right. It is not the custom in this country to go behind representation in this House. I admit there are all kinds of accidents that can happen under our representative system.

I do not believe for a moment that had the right hon. Gentleman happened by chance to have come in with a majority in this House based on a minority in the country, it would in the least have cramped his style. If we had suggested that on this particular issue he had the Liberal Party and the Labour Party against him, he would have given us the most admirable essay on the constitutional position of this House, its tradition and the way in which representative Government must work.

I think the country will in due course judge between the sense of responsibility evinced by the Government in the Gracious Speech and the irresponsibility and the factious manoeuvring in the putting down of these Amendments, because there is not the slightest need to have put this Amendment on the Paper. The dates at which the Act comes into operation are a long way ahead. Many opportunities could have been taken, but what the right hon. Gentleman has done is to select a particular occasion which he knows is the equivalent of a Motion of Censure, and I understand he proposes to press that to a Division.

I say that in the present position that is an irresponsible act and I think that most hon. Members on the benches opposite think so too. I watched them very closely when the right hon. Gentleman made his speech and said that he was putting down these Amendments, and I have never seen less enthusiasm on those benches. Perhaps they thought there was a chilly prospect that they might have to fight again. I say that was a thoroughly irresponsible act and, in my view, in the condition of affairs of this country and of the world an action of this kind will not raise the reputation of the Opposition in the country. I am sorry for it, because I have said that in these times we should try to see that the Government of this country is carried on under these very difficult circumstances in such a way as will give confidence to the world, and I think this action will go far to destroy the confidence that people had that the Conservative Party could rise above mere party manoeuvre.

Question put, "That those words be there added."

The House divided: Ayes, 296; Noes, 310.

Division No. 1.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Aitken, W. T. Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Han. Walter
Alport, C. J. M. Carr, L. R. (Mitcham) Erroll, F. J.
Amery, J. (Preston, N.) Carson, Hon. E. Fisher, N. T. L.
Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Channon, H. Fletcher, W. (Bury)
Arbuthnot, J. S. Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Fort, R.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead) Foster, J. G.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.) Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone)
Astor, Hon. M. Colegate, A. Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)
Baker, P. Conant, Maj. R. J. E. Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M
Baldock, J. M. Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.) Gage, C. H.
Baldwin, A. E. Cooper-Key, E. M. Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)
Banks, Col. C. Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)
Baxter, A. B. Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Gammans, L. D.
Beamish, Maj. T. V. H Cranborne, Viscount Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)
Bell, R. M. (S. Buckinghamshire) Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Gates, Maj. E. E.
Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston) Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R. George, Lady M. Lloyd
Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Glyn, Sir R.
Bennett, W. G. (Woodside) Crouch, R. F. Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.
Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth) Crowder, F. P. (Northwood) Granville, E. (Eye)
Birch, Nigel Crowder, Capt. John F. E. (Finchley) Gridley, Sir A.
Bishop, F. P. Cundiff, F. W. Grimond, J.
Black, C. W. Cuthbert, W. N. Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells) Darling, Sir W. Y. (Edinburgh, S.) Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)
Boothby, R. Davidson, Viscountess Harden, J. R. E.
Bossom, A. C. Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)
Bowen, R. Davies, Nigel (Epping) Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)
Bower, N. de Chair, S. Harris, R. R. (Heston)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. De la Bère, R. Harvey, Air-Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Deedes, W. F. Harvey, I. (Harrow, E.)
Braine, B. Digby, S. Wingfield Hay, John
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Head, Brig. A. H.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.
Brooke, H. (Hampstead) Drayson, G. B. Heald, L. F.
Brown, W. Robson (Esher) Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Heath, E. R.
Browne, J. N. (Govan) Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Bullock, Capt. M. Dunglass, Lord Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.
Bullus, E. E. Duthie, W. S. Higgs, J. M. C.
Burden, F. A. Eccles, D. M. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Butcher, H. W. Eden, Rt. Hon. A. Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)
Hirst, G. A. N. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.
Hogg, Hon. Q. Marlowe, A. A. H. Smithers, P. H. B. (Winchester)
Hollis, M. C. Marples, A. E. Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington)
Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Smyth, Brig. J. G. {Norwood)
Hope, Lord J. Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Snadden, W. McN.
Hopkinson, H. Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S.) Soames, Capt. C.
Hornsby-Smith, Miss P. Maude, J. C. (Exeter) Spearman, A. C. M.
Howard, G. R. (St. Ives) Maudling, R. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Howard, S. G. (Cambridgeshire) Medlicott, Brigadier F. Spans, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Hudson, Sir A. U. M. (Lewisham, N.) Mellor, Sir J. Stanley, Capt. Hon. R. (N. Fylde)
Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Molson, A. H. E. Stevens, G. P.
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T. Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J. Morris, R. Hopkin (Carmarthen) Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Hurd, A. R. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Hutchinson, G. (Ilford, N.) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Storey, S.
Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Hyde, H. M. Nabarro, G. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Hylton-Foster, H. B. Nicholls, H. Studholme, H. G.
Jeffreys, General Sir G. Nicholson, G. Summers, G. S.
Jennings, R. Nield, B. (Chester) Sutcliffe, H.
Johnson, H. S. (Kemptown) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Nugent, G. R. H. Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Nutting, Anthony Teeling, William
Kaberry, D. Oakshott, H. D. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Keeling, E. H. Odey, G. W. Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)
Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Lambert, Hon. G. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F
Langford-Holt, J. Orr-Ewing, Charles I. (Hendon, N.) Tilney, J. D.
Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Touche, G. C.
Leather, E. H. C. Osborne, C. Turton, R. H.
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Peaks, Rt. Hon. O. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Perkins, W. R. D. Vane, W. M. F.
Lindsay, M. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K
Linstead, H. N. Pickthorn, K. Vosper, D. F.
Llewellyn, D. Pitman, I. J. Wade, D. M.
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton) Powell, J. E. Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)
Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Prescott, Stanley Wakefield, Sir W. W. (St. Marylebone)
Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Walker-Smith, D. C.
Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. Ward, Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Longden, G. J. M. (Herts. S.W.) Profumo, J. D. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Low, A. R. W. Raikes, H. V. Waterhouse, Capt. C.
Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.) Rayner, Brig. R. Watkinson, H.
Lucas, P. B. (Brantford) Redmayne, M. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Remnant, Hon. P. Webbe, Sir H. (London)
Lyttelton, RI. Hon. O. Renton, D. L. M. Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)
McAdden, S. J. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth) White, J. Baker (Canterbury)
McCallum, Maj. D. Roberts, H. (Handsworth) Williams, C. (Torquay)
McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S. Roberts, P. G. (Heeley) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Macdonald, A. J. F. (Roxburgh) Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness) Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E.)
Macdonald, Sir P (I. of Wight) Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.) Wills, G.
Mackeson, Brig. H. R. Rodgers, J. (Sevenoaks) Wilson, G. (Truro)
McKibbin, A. Roper, Sir H. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Ropner, Col. L. Wood, Hon. R.
Maclay, Hon. J. S. Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry) York, C.
Maclean, F. H. R. Russell, R. S. Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
MacLeod, I. (Enfield, W.) Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
MacLeod, J. (Ross and Cromarty) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Savory, Prof. D. L. Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and Mr. Drewe.
Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Scott, R. D.
Acland, Sir Richard Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Woolwich E.) Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)
Adams, Richard Bing, G. H. C. Callaghan, James
Albu, A. H. Blackburn, A. R. Carmichael, James
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Blenkinsop, A. Castle, Mrs. B. A.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Blyton, W. R. Champion, A. J.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Boardman, H. Chetwynd, G. R.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Booth, A. Clunie, J.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Bottomley, A. G. Cobb, F. A.
Awbery, S. S. Bowden, H. W. Cocks, F. S.
Ayles, W. H. Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Coldrick, W
Bacon, Miss A. Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Collick, P.
Baird, J. Brockway, A. Fenner Collindridge, F.
Balfour, A. Brook, D. (Halifax) Cook, T. F.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Brooks, T. J. (Normanton) Cooper, G. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Bartley, T. Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Cooper, J. (Deptford)
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Brown, George (Belper) Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham)
Benson, G. Brown, T. J. (Ince) Cove, W. G.
Beswick, F.. Burke, W. A. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Burton, Miss E. Crawley, A.
Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G A. Porter, G.
Crosland, C. A. R. Janner, B. Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Grossman, R. H. S. Jay, D. P. T. Proctor, W. T.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Jeger, G. (Goole) Pryde, D. J.
Dagger, G. Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St Pancras, S.) Pursey, Comdr. H
Daines, P. Jenkins, R. H. Rankin, J.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Johnson, J. (Rugby) Rees, Mrs. D
Darling, C. (Hillsboro') Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Reeves, J.
Davies, Edward (Stoke, N.) Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool) Reid, T. (Swindon)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Reid, W. (Camlachie)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jones, J. H. (Rotherham) Rhodes, H.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Jones, W. E. (Conway) Richards, R.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Keenan, W. Robens, A.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Kenyon, C. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Deer, G. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Delargy, H. J King, H. M. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Diamond, J. Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Dodds, N. N Kinley, J. Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Donnelly, D. Lang, Rev. G. Royle, C.
Donovan, T. N. Lee, F. (Newton) Shackleton, E. A. A
Driberg, T. E. N. Lee, Miss J. (Cannock) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. J. (W. Bromwich) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Dye, S. Lever, N. H. (Cheatham) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.) Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Edelman, M. Lewis, J. (Bolton, W.) Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly) Lindgren, G. S. Simmons, C. J.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Lipton,.Lt.-Col. M. Slater, J.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Logan, D. G. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Longden, F. (Small Heath) Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) McAllister, G Snow, J. W.
Ewart, R. MacColl, J. E. Sorensen, R. W
Fernyhough, E. McGhee, H. G. Sparks, J. A.
Field, Capt. W. J McGovern, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Finch, H. J. McInnes, J. Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R
Fletcher, E. G. M (Islington, E.) Mack, J. D. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Follick, M. McKay, J. (Wallsend) Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R (Vauxhall)
Foot, M. M. Mackay, R. W. G. (Reading, N) Stress, Dr. B.
Forman, J. C. McKinlay, A. S. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) MaLeavy, F. Sylvester, G. O.
Freeman, J. (Watford) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Freeman, Peter (Newport) McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Thomas, I O. (Wrekin)
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Mainwaring, W. H. Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)
Gibson, C. W. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thomas, T. George (Cardiff)
Gilzean, A. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Mann, Mrs. J. Thurtle, Ernest
Gooch, E. G. Manuel, A. C. Timmons, J
Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Rossendale) Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Tomney, F.
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield) Mellish, R J. Turner-Samuels, PA
Grenfell, D. R. Messer, F. Usborne, Henry
Grey, C. F. Middleton, Mrs. L. Vernon, Maj. W. F
Griffiths, D. (Bother Valley) Mikardo, Ian Viant, S. P.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Mitchison, G. R. Wallace, H. W.
Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange) Moeran, E. W. Watkins, T. E.
Gunter, R. J. Monslow, W. Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Hake, John E. (Wycombe) Moody, A. S. Weitzman, D.
Hale, J. (Rochdale) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Morley, R. Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.) Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (S'ffield, Neepsend) West, D. G.
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Ed'nb'gh. E.)
Hamilton, W. W. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)
Hannan, W. Mort, D. L. White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Hardman, D. R. Moyle, A. Wigg, George
Hardy, E. A. Mulley, F. W. Wilcock, Group-Capt. C A. B
Hargreaves, A. Murray, J. D. Wilkes, L.
Harrison, J. Nally, W. Wilkins, W. A.
Hastings, Dr. Somerville Neal, H. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Hayman, F. H. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Tipton) O'Brien, T. Williams, D. J. (Heath)
Herbison, Miss M. Oldfield, W. H Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Hewitson, Capt. M. Oliver, G. H. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Hobson, C. R. Orbach, M Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Holman, P. Padley, W. E. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)
Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Paget, R. T. Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham. C.)
Houghton, Douglas Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly) Winterbottom. R. E. (Brightside)
Hoy, J. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Wise, Major F. J
Hubbard, T. Pannell, T. C. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.) Pargiter, G. A Woods, Rev. G. S.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Parker, J Wyatt, W. L.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Paton, J. Yates, V. F.
Hughes, R. M. (Islington, N.) Pearson, A Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Peart, T. F
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Poole, Cecil TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Popplewell, E. Mr. W. Whiteley and
Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Mr. R. J. Taylor.

Main Question again proposed.

It being after Ten o'Clock the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.