HC Deb 19 May 1952 vol 501 cc30-1
45. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Prime Minister if he will direct all Members of Her Majesty's Government to refrain from making statements depreciating the value of publicly-owned assets prior to the introduction of legislation for their disposal, to the consequent advantage of potential purchasers.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Winston Churchill)

Her Majesty's present Ministers should not be deterred from calling attention to economic facts, however unpalatable. Such conduct is very different from deliberate attempts to depreciate the value of publicly-owned assets before sale by threats of confiscation should they be renationalised by some later Parliament. I hope I may assume that the hon. Member put the Question on the Paper as an indirect means of conveying his advice to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison).

Mr. Davies

Sometimes the Prime Minister's assumptions are not correct. Would he not agree that it is the duty of Her Majesty's Ministers to assist the State to obtain the best possible price for public assets when they are put up for sale, and that speeches such as that made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport on 13th March to the Road Haulage Association aim at reducing the value of those assets when they will be sold? Is he further aware that the Parliamentary Secretary said that it did not seem to him that there would be much paid for the road haulage undertakings because, in the short time of nationalisation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—the goodwill had been dissipated to the four winds?

The Prime Minister

My answer covered all those aspects of the matter. I will leave the hon. Gentleman to deal with his right hon. Friend.

Mr. Davies

That is another assumption on the part of the Prime Minister which is wrong. Will he be good enough to answer my question, and give instructions that as long as there are nationalised assets which are the property of the State he will not permit his Ministers to make speeches which would cause the value of the assets to decline and public money to be wasted?

Mr. H. Morrison

Would the Prime Minister not agree that when the Parliamentary Secretary is addressing the Road Haulage Association we should make allowances for the fact that he is addressing his master's voice?