§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Mr. BOWLES in the Chair]
Amendment proposed: In page 6, line 3, after "facilities," insert:
or the maintenance of full employment.
§ Question again proposed, "That these words be there inserted."
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Colegate
When our proceedings were interrupted I was asking the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) a question concerning his point relating to a full employment policy as operated by the central authority compared with when it was operated by the iron and steel industry. He gave as an illustration the fact that the central authority could not take an iron moulder on a Friday afternoon and put him to work on the Monday making silk stockings. If these words are inserted in the Bill, can the iron and steel industry do any better?
§ Mr. Mikardo
I think so. My point was that there are no hard and fast rules about it and we must have a combination of action by the Government, by industries and by regions. None of those three authorities can escape its responsibility, and we want to ensure, by means of the Amendment, that the steel industry makes what contribution it can. None of us is saying that employment in the steel industry should be only the responsibility of the steel companies or that they can, or should, wave any magic wands. We say that the industry ought 641 undoubtedly to have to make a contribution, and we are trying to ensure that it does so.
We are not asking that full employment should be the only criterion to be taken into account in the development of the steel industry. If we were, some of the strictures of the hon. Members for Esher and Burton would have been valid. We say that in the making of these complex decisions about expansions, developments, contractions and other movements in a great industry like steel, among the factors to be taken into account is the need to maintain full employment.
I shall be very surprised if the Government take the view that that is not valid. I hope the Government will not take the view, as the hon. Member for Hall Green did, that we do not know what full employment is. At the General Election the Conservative Party pledged itself to maintain full employment. The hon. Member subscribed to that pledge, and he must have known what it meant then. All I am asking him to do is to accept the definition of full employment in our Amendment which he accepted at the time of the General Election.
I shall be very surprised if the Government take the view that the need to maintain full employment ought not to be included as one of the criteria to be taken into account in planning the development of the steel industry. I feel sure that the Minister, to whatever extent he may or may not agree with the observations which have been made by his hon. Friends on the Amendment, at least has a more highly developed political sense than they have and will appreciate what will be the effect on workers in all industries, not merely the steel industry, if it goes out from the Government that they do not consider that full employment ought to be taken into account at all in the development of the steel industry. I should have thought that, if only on grounds of expediency, the Minister would be sorely tempted to accept the Amendment. I should prefer him to accept it on its merits but, if we cannot have that, I will take as second best his acceptance of it for reasons of expediency.
§ Mr. Fienburgh
It has often been said that we are all Keynesians now because 642 we all believe in the principle of maintaining full employment. Some of us believe in it passionately as one of the prime objectives of economic policy. Others believe in it as a useful phrase to be used in the perorations of speeches. Some believe it is necessary in the instruments and organisations of economic planning to ensure that they have the maintenance of full employment in mind and, having considered full employment, have the power to carry out what they regard as being the fitting policy. Others do not take that view; they seem to think that if we relapse into a mood of post-prandial mysticism and mutter the words "full employment," "co-operation" and "we are all good chaps together" somehow proper decisions will be taken at the right time and in the right place.
I want, first, to remove any illusions from the mind of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown). We are not trying to place upon the steel industry the entire burden of operating full employment in all industries and all ancillary industries in this country. We do not say that the steel industry alone should have that job to do. We say that steel is a key factor in the country's investment policy—which we are not discussing now—in its price policy, and, particularly, in the maintenance of employment in other industries by the effect which it can have upon the capital investment programme of the country as a whole at any particular time.
The hon. Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) rather deprecated the key position that steel has in this respect. He admitted that steel could, through its investment programme, help to maintain full employment, but he went on to point out that it was very difficult to make people invest when they did not particularly desire to invest, but that by some wonderful method of tax remissions the required investment would be forthcoming; but in saying that he gave us our entire case against private ownership and substantiated our case for public ownership.
One of our main points all along has been that the existence of the steel industry as a big investor which could inject new investment into our economy at appropriate times was, one of the major factors in maintaining full employment, as proper decisions cannot be taken under 643 private enterprise, because we cannot make a man invest his own money when he sees that the conditions are rather bleak, whereas under public ownership the required decision in the national interest can be taken.
The main point that I wish to make on the Amendments we are now discussing is related to Clause 8 of the Bill, which gives the Minister power to instruct the Board to make determinations on prices. We must remember that the price policy followed by the steel industry has a repercussive effect running through the whole field of capital investment in this country. It is rather like a stone being dropped into a pond, the ripples from which spread out until they hit the banks.
If the steel industry is operating a price policy which, in the words of the Bill, is consistent with an economic and adequate supply of iron and steel products, but which, at the same time, is inhibiting the investment of other industries, because they find that the cost of steel is making them rather cautious, then there can be a tremendously inhibiting effect upon the whole investment programme of the country. Yet, on the other hand, if the price of steel is fixed at a lower level, there can be an injection of new investment throughout all the steel-using industries, not just those which use it as a raw material, but all those industries which wish to expand and create new plant and buildings.
There is no doubt that, when any Government comes to face the problem of maintaining full employment in a period of economic disturbance, the Government will have to pay attention, amongst many other things, of course—and we are not saying that this is the only one—to the price of steel. Surely, a Government of which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is the Leader might be expected to have rather original and lively ideas on this matter, because the right hon. Gentleman at one time suggested that if, for the maintenance of full employment or for the improvement of trade generally, it was necessary to run the railway industry at a loss he would recommend that it should be done. Surely, in any parallel circumstances, if at any particular time, because of the need to inject new investment into industry, it becomes necessary even to run the steel industry at a 644 loss by the operation of what, in narrower terms, would be called an unrealistic price policy, the Government must be prepared to do so.
But, in the terms of the Bill as it is drafted, the Government will have no such chance. The Bill says,provided that the Minister shall not give any such directions "—that is, directions to the Board about price determination—unless he considers it necessary in the national interest, and consistent with promoting the efficient, economic and adequate supply of iron and steel products.The price policy then operating can be quite consistent withthe efficient, economic and adequate supply of iron and steel productsyet inconsistent with the maintenance of full employment.
So the only grounds upon which he could intervene in the price policy of the industry in order to maintain full employment would be to try to shelter under the very narrow umbrella of the words "the national interest." We suggest that we should make it much stronger by including in the considerations which he has to bear in mind that of maintaining full employment in industry as a whole.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. A. R. W. Low)
We have had a fairly full and interesting debate on this most important matter. The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White), who opened this debate in her usual charming and lucid fashion, erred slightly, I think, when she charged my right hon. Friend with not being really interested in full employment. She used some charming phrases about thistles and figs, but that was the burden of her complaint. I think it was a little unkind, for the hon. Lady will remember that, when she approached my right hon. Friend about eight months or so ago in connection with the rayon industry, she congratulated him and thanked him for the steps he took in trying to alleviate the unemployment in the rayon industry in her constitutency.
The hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) also made what I thought was quite an unfair accusation when he argued that my hon. Friends had been speaking as if they thought that full employment should not be taken into account in the development of the iron 645 and steel industry. If I can explain to the House what the first two Amendments do—I think the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) has satisfactorily explained what the last one does—we should be better able to follow the remarks which I am going to make in all modesty on this most important matter.
The first Amendment requires the Board, in deciding what development schemes should be excluded from their notice, to consider whether those development schemes would be unlikely substantially to affect the maintenance of full employment. That is a matter of importance, because it leads into the second Amendment, which empowers the Board to refuse to consent to a scheme if, in their opinion, it would seriously prejudice the maintenance of full employment, and it is on that Amendment particularly and on that interpretation of it that I will concentrate my remarks, but I shall refer to the point made by the hon. Member for Islington, North.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will allow me to intervene; I do not want him to get off on the wrong foot. The Board are bound to consent at present, unless they are satisfiedthat the proposal will seriously prejudice the efficient and economic development of production facilities….So we may have a case of a proposal which will not seriously prejudice the efficient and economic development, but will seriously prejudice the maintenance of full employment, and the Board are bound to consent.
§ Mr. Low
I quite understand the hon. and learned Gentleman's point, and I am going to deal with it in a moment, but perhaps he will allow me to develop my argument. Everybody in the Committee wants to see that suitable provision is made for full employment. Full employment is the Government's aim; let that be made quite clear. There has been much emotional talk, and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) spoke with feeling—as if many of us had some doubt about this matter. I assure him, and I think even I can do that, that we all have this matter at heart, but, after all, it is not the heart that produces Bills. It is the hand, with the aid of the head. that writes Bills and I think that, if we want to get the best out 646 of our discussion, we should try to look at this matter in a level-headed way.
It is our opinion, having considered this matter, that these Amendments will not help to the end we all have in mind, which is full employment. Moreover, we feel that these Amendments might positively hinder the achievement of that end. I will explain why, but before doing so, I should like to remark that I noticed with some interest that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering attached importance to having the overriding authority of a Minister—and I suppose he would not mind having several Ministers—responsible to the House of Commons for full employment. In the course of his speech, he included distribution of industry questions on employment grounds. As he knows, there are Ministers—overriding authorities, if he prefers to call them that—responsible for those matters.
§ Mr. Low
The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade are obvious examples which the hon. Gentleman, who apparently agrees, must have in mind.
Now what about the position of the Board? Surely the Committee will agree that the best contribution the Iron and Steel Board can make to full employment is to be successful in helping the iron and steel industry to produce efficiently enough of all its products at prices that are competitive in world markets. That is surely the best contribution the Iron and Steel Board can make.
§ Mr. Low
I am choosing my words very carefully. The other day the hon. Gentleman chided me with reading, but I want to stick closely to notes about which I have thought very carefully.
The Committee will, I am sure, agree that expensive steel produced in the wrong place by uneconomic plant will do harm to the maintenance of full employment. The Board have power to veto any such major proposal without these Amendments. There is, of course, a much better safeguard in the fact that 647 no such proposal would ever be put forward in competitive conditions, but I do not need to go into that. Moreover, the other point that might lead eventually to interfering with the maintenance of full employment, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), the unbalance of capacity in times of inflated demand, is also covered by the Bill as at present drafted.
We believe that the addition of these words in subsection (3) would have a very different effect from that about which I have been talking. The Board would be empowered to refuse their consent to an economic proposal for a new plant which did not unbalance the industry, solely because in their opinion it prejudiced the maintenance of full employment. Whatever the hon. Member for Reading, South may say about the meaning of "full employment," and whatever I may think about the meaning of "full employment" in the context of general Government policy, I am doubtful whether we all agree about the meaning of the words "the maintenance of full employment" when added to subsection (3).
I listened very carefully to the speeches of the hon. Member for Flint, East and particularly of the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling). The hon. Member for Hillsborough seemed to be arguing that the steel industry might hinder full employment by producing more steel, because he said that the insertion of these words had something to do with full employment in the engineering industry in making steam engines. These words are concerned with the powers of the Board to veto a development scheme, and I cannot see how the failure of the Board to veto a development scheme—in other words, the failure of the Board to stop somebody creating capacity to make more steel—can lead to unemployment in the engineering industry in the making of locomotives. Perhaps lie could explain that.
§ Mr. G. Darling
If I may say so, the Parliamentary Secretary is unfairly dealing with only the very narrow point. I was very careful to say that, in the context of all the proposed Amendments dealing with full employment, these are the views I wish to express. I agree that 648 if it is narrowed down to one specific part, particularly the subsection with which he is dealing, it is not as clear as I wanted to make it.
§ Mr. Low
I do not want to be unfair. I may err myself, and I quite see that this matter is of national importance. The general difficulties we have been in are proof of the case made by my hon. Friends—and it is my own case—that this is a matter we ought to consider more in the national context than in the context of the iron and steel industry only.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Would the hon. Gentleman consider this? Suppose Stewarts and Lloyds shut down a works outside Glasgow and moved to Corby, the Government are prevented from dealing directly with the shutting down outside Glasgow, although they know perfectly well that to allow an extension in Corby may mean unemployment in Glasgow. Surely that ought to be considered?
§ Mr. Low
I intend to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman about that. I wish he would wait. I speak quite quickly, and I am trying to get on point by point. I will deal with that, and, I hope, completely satisfy him. I was saying that I do not want to take an unfair point against the hon. Member for Hillsborough, but I still want to make that point.
There is no doubt that when dealing with full employment—or with unemployment, if hon. Members opposite would prefer it put like that—in the iron and steel industry we are bound to have in mind the effect of new developments. We have got one very much in our minds at the moment, namely, the effect of the Trostre development, about which the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) knows a great deal. Far fewer men are needed in the new plant, than in the older ones to produce a larger quantity of tinplate. Technical advances of that kind have happened in the past and will happen again. Indeed, they must recur, I think we will all agree, if the United Kingdom is to live. Surely it is not suggested that the Board should delay advances of that kind?
§ Mr. Low
I hope the hon. Gentleman will let me work out my argument.
649 If they did they would, in our opinion. be running a risk in the long-run of producing far greater and far wider unemployment through our industries, losing their competitive position in the world— not only the iron and steel industry but shipbuilding and the engineering industry, which is probably much more directly important to employment. I am glad we have got agreement on that, because it is a very relevant point.
Neither the Board nor the iron and steel industry can, by themselves, do all that can be done to alleviate or plan to avoid unemployment caused by technical advances. That is a problem for Government and for industry generally, and I am glad that that was the way in which this problem was dealt with by the late Government, since it is the way in which the problem at Trostre has been dealt with by this Government. I could read certain remarks by the former Secretary of State for Overseas Trade, the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley), on this. The point I want to make is that these matters are for the Government and for industry generally: they are not matters for the iron and steel industry or any other industry in particular.
§ Mr. John Freeman (Watford)
I think that the reason we are getting at cross purposes with the Parliamentary Secretary is that he asked us to let him take his speech point by point, but we find it difficult to know what those points are. He said that this Amendment, if accepted, would be not only otiose but possibly harmful. I do not agree with him, but he has tried to make that case. But will he explain what possible harm these words could do in any case?
§ Mr. Low
Surely the hon. Gentleman does not want to encourage the Board to veto proposals involving great technical advances merely because those proposals may temporarily, or perhaps more than temporarily, lead to a measure of unemployment. If the Amendment does not mean that the Board can do that, then I do not see what it does mean.
Might I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to address his mind to the instance which I put in my opening speech? Had the Board been looking at Trostre, or rather a forthcoming 650 Trostre, purely on the ground of the efficient production of steel, they would not have put the plant at Trostre. They would have kept the works at Margam. That is precisely the kind of situation in which we argue that even a decision within the steel industry itself about the production of steel should, nevertheless, be made with these other factors taken into account. I cannot see that anything that the Parliamentary Secretary has said really refutes my argument on that point.
§ Mr. Low
I see the hon. Lady's difficulty and that of the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. J. Freeman). It is because I am not allowed to get on and develop all my points. If only I could, I would very soon come to that point.
The Trostre case is a good example. The location of the Trostre plant was changed after discussions between the steel industry and the Government. There is no dispute about that at all. It had nothing to do with nationalisation. It was altered by agreement, without the use by the Government of any of the powers which they possessed. But in fact—and this is a point which is relevant to the interruption by the hon. Member for Watford—the Government had powers then and still have powers to approve the location of industry under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. The industrial development certificate procedure which is operated by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade takes account of these matters, and without the words of the Amendment in the Bill at all, these matters can be and, in our submission, would be looked after.
The hon. Member for Reading, South appears to be shaking his head. He may think, as a matter of opinion, that that will not happen.
§ Mr. Low
Please let me finish my sentence. It is much better, in our view, that the distribution of industry should be dealt with from a national point of view. I believe it was the hon. Member for Hillsborough who accused us of running away from the White Paper. I suggest that he is either running away from the White Paper on Employment Policy or has forgotten what is written in it. 651 The following words occur in paragraph 30 of the White Paper, relating to Government Departments, and I will explain how they are relevant to this point:No single Department could conveniently undertake the responsibility for formulating and administering the policy for the distribution of industry outlined in the foregoing paragraphs. This is essentially a policy of the Government as a whole, and its application in practice will involve action by a number of different Departments, each of which will adapt its administration to conform with the general policy.Later on it is stated that there should be a single channel through which Government policy on distribution of industry can be expressed. If that is true of any single Government Department, how much more true it must be of any single industry or any single board.
§ Mr. G. Darling
That would have been germane if I had been talking about the location of steel plants, but I was not. I was talking about something entirely different.
§ Mr. Low
I am sorry. I did not want to annoy the hon. Member, but he gave me an opening and he accused us of forgetting the White Paper. I am glad now that he should have been reminded of one important principle stated in the White Paper, which I think is extremely relevant to what we are discussing at the moment.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Before I was interrupted, I wanted to take further the point about the definition of full employment. The hon. Member for Reading, South gave us a definition, which I think is in conflict with that given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell). However, I do not think that this is the only occasion on which the hon. Member has been in conflict with his right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Low
I gather that it will not be the last. The point is whether the Board are likely to be able to make decisions 652 about important matters relating to the maintenance of full employment generally. I think that it was said by the hon. Member for Reading, South—and I agree with him on this—that when we talk about the maintenance of full employment we are referring not to a particular industry nor to a sector of an industry but to industry generally. And surely my hon. Friends are right when they say that this is a matter which comes within Government responsibility. Two weeks ago we debated and rejected an Amendment to give the Board a general public or national interest and responsibility in matters which are within the duties of the Government and about which the Government and not the Board have full knowledge. The maintenance of full employment is one aspect of the Government's general economic responsibility.
§ Mr. Low
If the hon. Member says that, he must have forgotten those valuable years which he spent as a member of his Government. The Government, of course, have plenty of power and, so far as I am aware, the Government will not lose any of their present powers because of this Bill. The Government's economic policy attempts to create a balance of the internal economy, but full employment may be threatened by fluctuation in external demand. The effect of that can only be dealt with by the Government by international action, and international co-operation, and that is not a matter in which the Iron and Steel Board could help.
§ Mr. Mitchison
With great respect, does the hon. Gentleman remember what his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply said the other day with regard to this:…I can assure the Committee it is our firm intention that the Board shall be closely and responsibly associated with the decisions taken on the policy to be adopted by our delegation at Luxembourg."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1953; Vol. 510, c. 1283.]If that is not international, what is?
§ Mr. Low
Of course it is, and I well remember that point. If the hon. and learned Member is trying to drive a wedge between my right hon. Friend and myself, I would remind him that on my right hon. Friend's instructions I have 653 made that point before. The hon. and learned Member is either making a pure debating point, or is trying to deal with two separate issues.
Speeches made from the other side of the Committee have expressed the idea that control over a particular industry may help to solve unemployment.
§ Mr. Low
I notice that with interest. I had thought—and I have been reading quite a lot of the writings of hon. Members opposite—that that was an old-fashioned idea now, that it was now generally accepted that the way to deal with the problem is through general economic policy. In fact the hon. Member for Reading, South implied as much, although he said—
§ Mr. Mikardo
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way now, as he has not given away to me before. I know he has had great difficulties in making his speech, but he would find it easier to reply to the points we made if he did not take so much time replying to points we did not make. He has diametrically misquoted what I said on the maintenance of full employment, which should be a tripartite policy of the Government, the industry and the region.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)
The hon. Gentleman has been sticking very well to his brief irrespective of the fact that he is seeking to reply to the points raised.
§ Mr. Low
If the hon. Member had a look at the brief, he would find that it is written all over in various coloured inks.
I have said enough. I think, to show the Committee why we are asking them to resist these Amendments. I should like 654 to end on this note, and I hope we can come back to the serious vein in which this debate was begun and in which I tried to begin my speech. In our opinion the Board, with its knowledge of conditions in the industry and the wider knowledge of its members who, let us remember, are to be drawn from both sides of the industry, from the consuming industries and from outside industry, will of course draw the attention of the Government, whether in their annual report or on other occasions, to fluctuations in employment caused, or likely to be caused, by developments in the industry. I have no doubt that the Board and the industry will be every bit as anxious as is this Committee to assist as much as possible in finding alternative work for men who become redundant through technical advances and in carrying forward the policy of the Government on full employment.
If the Board will do that, and more particularly if the supervision of the Board results in the industry keeping costs down and production up in a competitive world, it will have made a real contribution to full employment. On the other points which have been made in this debate, which has covered the ground very fully, I can assure hon. Members that the Government have the powers and the intention, as have all hon. Members in the Committee, to see that there is full employment. For these reasons, I hope the Committee will reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss
This debate has been one of the most important—possibly the most important—we have had since we entered the Committee stage. It has touched on fundamentals and we have discussed a problem which may intimately affect the livelihood of a large section of the population. We wanted to explore the attitude of the Government on the proposal we put forward and we now know their answer.
The case has been so well put from my side of the Committee in a number of admirable, and I thought unanswerable and conclusive, speeches that I do not propose to prolong the time the Committee spend on this matter by going over the points again. I would point out, however, that the Parliamentary Secretary, in attempting to answer my hon. Friends, devoted most of his time to answering a case which had never been put at all. I 655 sympathise with him in his difficulty. He had such a formidable case put against him by my hon. Friends that he had no alternative but to sit down and say nothing or to answer a case which was not put. I sympathise with him in all the trouble he had with the different pens and pencils with which he went over his notes again in order to find something coherent and effective in answer to the case put to the Committee.
I wish to summarise the situation as we see it. We say that this Board is one which, in the view of the Government at least, is to carry out important functions. Two of its important functions will be the determination of maximum prices in the industry and deciding when and where developments are to take place. We say that both these functions may affect employment on occasions and may cause unemployment if wrong decisions are made.
I do not think anyone denies that the level of prices fixed for iron and steel products may affect employment in this country. It may affect our exports and affect employment generally. Do hon. Members opposite really say that the price of basic commodities such as iron and steel shall have no effect on employment in this country? Surely no one on the benches opposite would argue that; surely we agree that it is possible to lose export markets because the basic price of iron and steel is fixed so high that our competitors get into the market in our place. Surely that may well affect employment in various industries. Iron and steel is a basic industry on which so much depends.
I should think no one would deny that the decision whether to permit certain developments in the industry—I am not talking now of location, that is another point—where they are to be permitted, and when they are to be permitted, is a question which, again, may have an effect on employment. It may have an effect on employment locally and it may have an effect on employment nationally. If, for example, it is decided that too much, or too little, development is to be permitted, or the industry is unbalanced, or is balanced, all these things will affect employment nationally. Quite obviously local employment must be affected also by the decisions of the Board.
656 No one suggested that this employment question should be decisive and that the Board should exclude everything else from their minds. We have never said that, but the answer of the Parliamentary Secretary and other hon. Members was that we were proposing that some development scheme, which on merit is first class and desirable, should be vetoed because it may cause temporary unemployment somewhere. We have never suggested anything of the sort.
We ask that this Board, which has to make important decisions which may affect employment in many parts of the country, should be permitted to take into account that factor before coming to a decision. They should have in their minds the effect which such decisions would have on employment. The Government's answer is that they should not have that consideration in mind at all. We look on that as a monstrous decision on the part of the Government. We say that this should not be the over-riding consideration but one which it would be right for them to have in mind. But the Parliamentary Secretary says that they are not to have it in mind—
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am talking on the Amendment, and I thought the Parliamentary Secretary was. The Amendment seeks to ensure that the Board should have the maintenance of full employment in mind when deciding questions of prices and development. That is what is referred to in this Amendment. The Government say, "We reject the Amendment. The Board shall not have in mind full employment." We think it is a monstrous and a highly regrettable decision.
§ Mr. Low
Owing to the many interruptions, I did not deal very fully with the question of prices; but the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) pointed out that the words "national interest" already appear in the Clause dealing with the Minister's power over prices. Surely the right hon. Gentleman 657 is not going to argue that the national interest does not include the maintenance of full employment? That would be going much too far.
§ Mr. Strauss
The provision in the Bill in relation to prices is ridiculous. Both the Board and the Minister have powers in this connection. The Board have powers to fix prices, and by this Amendment we seek to ensure that when the Board are fixing prices they shall have in mind the question of full employment. The Government say, "No; when the Board fix prices they must not have full employment in mind." We are not surprised by the decision of the Government, but we regret it.
If this Board is set up, we want it to be a proper Board. We want the Board to have in mind not only the welfare of the steel industry and those who work in it, but the consequences, on a wider scale. of any decision they may make. The Government go on saying that the powers of the Board should be restricted to the narrow interests of the steel industry, and not to the public or national interests. When we say that the Government should direct the Board in this matter, we are told that the Government shall have no powers of supervision over the Board.
§ Mr. Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
The right hon. Gentleman is completely ignoring the fact that in many directions the Government have power, through other agencies, to achieve the required results.
§ Mr. Strauss
I agree that the Parliamentary Secretary made a good point when he said that the establishment of a big development scheme in some new area would come under Government regulation, because that is already provided for under the Distribution of Industry Act. That is perfectly true and it is an effective point; but that deals only with a very small part of this Amendment. All developments do not take place in new localities. They may take the form of the rebuilding or extension of existing works. In that case the power of the Government would not come into operation. It is only when some new development is proposed in a new location that the Government's powers become operative. It may be that there will be a big development scheme where the Government's powers do not become 658 operative. That is why we feel very keenly about this Amendment.
In the interests of those who work in the steel industry, and for the prosperity of the country generally, we say that this factor should be permitted to be in the minds of the Board when they make decisions on these important matters. The Government think otherwise. I am sure that workers both in the steel industry and outside will note and will very much resent the decisions which have been taken and announced to the Committee tonight. We shall divide the Committee on this Amendment, and I hope that some hon. Members opposite will support us on this occasion.
§ The Minister of Supply (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I cannot allow the debate on this Amendment to end in this way. There are two aspects of the organisation, control and supervision of the steel industry which might affect employment. One is the fixing of prices and the other is development.
On the question of prices, as my hon. Friend has made quite clear—and as all hon. Members who are familiar with the Bill well know—the Government have power, under Clause 8, to over-ride the Board in the national interest and to fix such prices as they think right. I do not imagine that will happen often, but nobody can say that the Government— which, in our opinion, is the proper body to consider what is or is not in the national interest—has no power to intervene.
Nobody is going to suggest that consideration of full employment should not be taken into account in any decisions which the Government may take in interpretating the words "national interest." We do not think it is a good thing to try to define all the different aspects of the national interest; we would have a new Schedule to the Bill, setting out all the circumstances which might in certain eventualities, lead the Government to intervene in the national interest.
§ Mr. Strauss
What the right hon. Gentleman says is quite correct. I was dealing with the Board's powers in Clause 7. But even in Clause 8 the right hon. Gentleman can intervene only where the national interest is concerned. My case is that a very serious fall in employment may occur nationally or 659 locally. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well—as I do from my experience at the Ministry—that, although the Minister is empowered to intervene in a general or national matter, he is precluded from intervening in some local or special matter. Therefore, he would be quite unable, even if he wanted to do so, to intervene in the case of local unemployment caused by any price fixing by the Board.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman is stretching his point unreasonably. We consider that the avoidance of unemployment, whether locally or on a wider scale, is of national interest. I should not have thought hon. Members opposite differed from us on that.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am advised that the word "national" is as I defined it, and the right hon. Gentleman will be powerless in the circumstances I have described. Will he at least undertake to look into the matter before we reach Clause 8 to see whether some drastic Amendment is not required with regard to the word "national"?
§ Mr. Sandys
I should not think that the word "national" needs to be defined. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that it is not the business of the Government to intervene or to take any hand in a local unemployment problem. We do not need to go beyond the steel industry, or to go further back than a few weeks, to see that the Government have intervened and are now doing what they can to deal with the problem of local unemployment consequential on the construction of the new tinplate works at Trostre, in South Wales. In the debate on Welsh affairs a few days ago, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced measures which the Government were taking in this connection, and said that consultations were proceeding with local interests in order to deal with the kind of problem to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred.
I now come to the question of development. We do not complain that hon. Members opposite have used this comparatively confined Amendment to stage a general debate on full employment. I rather expected it. However, we felt that the right thing for us was to deal with the Amendments on the Paper, as is the normal procedure during the Committee 660 stage of a Bill. We do not complain that the debate has ranged over the whole field of full employment. Experience between the wars and many other things were discussed in one way or another during the speeches that have been made.
I come now to the question of what would be the effect of adding these words to the Clause which deals solely with the Board's power to veto schemes and to prevent expansion. Therefore, it does not seem to me that hon. Members opposite are making a very strong point when they say that it would be highly dangerous if the Board did not take fully into account the problem of unemployment and, as a result, failed to veto some expansion scheme. That is all that could result from not putting these words into the Bill.
§ Mr. J. Freeman
May I put this to the Minister, because I think he is wrong? The Clause allows the Board to do two things: first, to call for particulars in writing of expansions and, as the Minister conceded to us last night, of contractions of capacity. Second, it allows the Board to veto expansions. Subsection (2), as I read it, exempts from the obligation to furnish particulars anybody who has a scheme whichwould be unlikely substantially to affect the efficient and economic development of production facilities,even if it affected full employment. That is the effect of the Minister's refusing the Amendment to subsection (2).
§ Mr. Sandys
I think that the hon. Member has misread it. Another Clause is designed to provide general information for the Board. Clause 4 enables the Board to discuss the planning of the development in the industry. The present Clause is concerned purely and simply with the prevention of undesirable developments. Therefore, unless the hon. Member wishes to twist the whole purpose of one of the subsections, the only object of arranging for the submission of schemes to the Board, is for them to be able to decide whether to exercise their power of veto. It is not the purpose of this Clause to provide the Board with general information which they may require for this or for any other purpose.
§ Mr. Freeman
May I put this to the Minister? It is a serious point. I moved 661 an Amendment last night to make an insertion which would make the Clause apply to contraction of capacity as well as to expansion. After the debate, the Minister said that he was prepared to accept from us that, so far as concerned the power of calling for particulars in writing of such proposals, it would apply to contraction of capacity as well as to expansion. The right hon. Gentleman made us that concession last night. At present, a firm which submits a scheme, which may be justified economically but which would impair full employment, is not obliged to submit particulars in writing to the Board. If the Minister does not mean what he said last night, let him say so now.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
What I said was that I recognised it was desirable, although I thought it was probably unnecessary, to include an Amendment of this kind, and that if hon. Members wished it to be put in black and white in the Bill, I was prepared to see whether we could insert a provision to ensure that firms would notify the Board if they were contemplating closing their works. I did not specify, and I do not think that any great importance should be attached to my not doing so, that the right place was necessarily in this Clause. The important thing, as I understood the debate last night, was that there should be some provision that the Board should be warned well in advance that a firm was contemplating closing down.
I question whether this Clause is the best place to put it, because its only purpose is to enable the Board to veto expansion or development schemes. I explained last night that we did not feel able to accept the proposal that the Board should have the power to veto a closure and that it would, therefore, be more appropriate to include the provision for notification in some other part of the Bill. I do not think that there is any difference between us on that.
§ Mr. Freeman
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, and, of course, we accept it from him if he says that it is better to put it elsewhere. But will he give us an undertaking that if he does so, no firm will be able to be exempted from the duty of giving notice 662 if it is impairing full employment by its action, whatever may be the economic merits of the action?
§ Mr. Freeman
If the Minister gives that undertaking, we shall be happy. Wherever he makes an addition to the Bill to give us the concession which he made last night, will he undertake that the firm concerned shall not be exempted from giving notice in writing to the Board where its action is likely to impair full employment, even if it is able to justify its action on economic and productive grounds?
§ Mr. Sandys
I should not like to try to define exactly how it should be phrased. I am sure that there is no difference between us. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, yes, there is."] I am out of order in discussing an Amendment which was debated last night, but if the Chair will allow me I would explain that the main purpose of notification is that the Board may be aware of two things. One is that there will be a reduction in the output of the industry, and the other is that there may be unemployment as a result. Those are the two things, and it is my intention to see that this provision, wherever it is put in the Bill, should take account of them.
I was dealing with the desirability or not of including in this Clause a reference to full employment. I did not quite understand the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss). At one moment he said that he was not concerned with the problem of the location of industry, and yet he said that what mattered was that the employment position should be taken into account in deciding when and where a new development was to be undertaken. Of course, "where" means location, and that seemed to me to be an important point. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman had in mind.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss
I am sorry, it was my fault. I agreed that the location of industry and the setting up of a new plant in green fields or somewhere else would be a matter over which the Government have authority. Nevertheless, there might be some new development taking place where the Government had no authority—no new location was 663 involved—but there might be a considerable local effect on employment. That is the sort of thing which the Board should take into account.
§ Mr. Sandys
What has the right hon. Gentleman in mind? [HON. MEMBERS: "Expansion of steel works."] Yes, but an expansion of works generally leads to increased employment—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—unless it involves a great modernisation, such as Trostre.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am only trying to make more clear the sort of thing I have in mind. There may be applications before the Board from two or three concerns for development of the same sort—expansion of works. The Board has to consider which of these it should veto and which permit. That is the sort of work it will do, I imagine. There may be no question of moving any works anywhere. The Board, in deciding which of these developments should be permitted and which should not, ought to have in mind the result on employment in the locality.
§ Mr. Sandys
I have no doubt the Board will, in general, have these matters in mind. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] As I have already said, the worst that could happen as a result of not inserting these words—and there are, in my opinion, objections to putting them in which have been made very plain by my hon. Friend—is that the Board would not veto some development scheme. It is very hard to see how extensive local unemployment could be caused by a new works which was, perhaps, not necessary being built in a particular area. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about others?"] I was answering the point made by the right hon. Gentleman in regard to one particular area.
The point I now want to make is that, by putting these words into Clause 5, we add nothing whatsoever to the powers which the Government already possess in regard to the location of industry. But I do hope that hon. Members opposite will not use this discussion on this very narrow Amendment to try to make out that because we consider it undesirable in this particular context to introduce the phrase "full employment," we want mass unemployment in this country. That is not the case.
Our objection—and this is the reason upon which I stand—to including these 664 words is not that we are against full employment—I do not think we need argue that—our objection is, that by inserting these words we are saying to the Board, "These are the factors and considerations which should decide you to veto a particular scheme." [Interruption.] Certainly. In subsection (3) we set out the circumstances—
§ Mr. Sandys
—in which the Board may veto a scheme. What subsection (3) says in effect is that the Board should not veto a scheme:unless…the proposal will seriously prejudice the efficient and economic development of production facilities.If the Board ignores that, it will obviously not be doing its job. By putting these words in, we are in fact giving a directive to the Board, saying that, unless there are exceptional circumstances, we expect it to use its power of veto to prevent schemes which would seriously prejudice the efficient and economic development of production facilities. By adding "or the maintenance of full employment" we are saying to the Board that, if the erection of some new plant would prejudice full employment in that area, it should veto that scheme unless there are exceptional circumstances.
We have all been talking about Trostre today. This is the supreme example of the case. Suppose that scheme had come before the Board and the Clause had been amended as hon. Gentlemen opposite are saying it should be. The Board, in considering the scheme, would have seen that one of the reasons Parliament had said it should consider as valid for vetoing a scheme should be whether it would prejudice full employment. If there is a supreme example of a scheme which is resulting in a reduction—a wholesale reduction—of employment in the steel industry in a particular area, and in an area where employment in other, alternative trades is exceedingly difficult, it is the Trostre tinplate scheme.
Yet everybody, in every part of the Committee, who has taken part in this debate and mentioned Trostre—and it has been mentioned by very many hon. Members—has said that, despite the employment difficulty, it was right and proper. wise and far-sighted for the late Government—and we pay our tribute to them for it—to approve this scheme, although 665 it has involved and is going to involve yet more unemployment in that area, because in the long run it is necessary and desirable for the health and prosperity of the British steel industry.
The example the right hon. Gentleman should really take is Margam, including the cold production plant. The point about Trostre is this. There is bound to be some unemployment if we have a modern plant, but the whole argument we are putting forward is that the Board should exercise the kind of judgment which was exercised when it was said, "We will not have an entirely integrated plant at Margam, which would be the technically correct thing, but we will put part of it at Trostre, for there will be less unemployment if we put part of it at Trostre."
§ Mr. Sandys
We are talking now about the location of industry—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—which, as my hon. Friend has explained very well, has to take account of employment considerations. The change of site was agreed to by voluntary agreement between the Government and the industry. But the Government have, of course, powers over the location of industry.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not want to prolong the debate. I hope I have made it clear that our attitude towards this extremely narrow Amendment has nothing to do with our policy towards full employment. We on this side of the Committee and the party opposite, when we all sat in the same Government at the end of the war, drew up a White Paper on Full Employment, and our attitude towards it remains the same.
All we are saying is that we consider that the addition of these words in this veto Clause will not contribute towards full employment and might seriously prejudice the Board's decisions on development in the iron and steel industry. Full employment—which we wish to see maintained as much as anybody in the party opposite—is a national responsibility, and not that either of a locality or an industry. If action needs to be taken in regard to full employment, the appropriate place to take it is not in a veto Clause in the Iron and Steel Bill.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 221; Noes, 243.669
|Division No. 89.]||AYES||[7.0 p.m|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Corbel, Mrs. Freda||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)|
|Adams, Richard||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Albu, A. H.||Crosland, C. A. R.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Crossman, R. H. S||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hale, Leslie|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Daines, P.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hall, John T, (Gateshead, W.)|
|Baird, J.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hamilton, W. W|
|Balfour, A.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hannan, W.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hargreaves, A.|
|Bartley, P.||Deer, G.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Bence, C. R.||Delargy, H. J.||Hastings, S.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Dodds, N. N.||Hayman, F. H.|
|Benson, G.||Donnelly, D. L.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)|
|Beswick, F.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W Bromwich)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Hewitson, Capt M|
|Blackburn, F.||Edelman, M.||Hobson, C. R.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Holman, P.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Evans, Edwards (Lowestoft)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Ewart, R.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Fienburgh, W.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Finch, H. J.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Follick, M.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Foot, M. M.||Janner, B.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Forman, J. C.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.|
|Carmichael, J.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Jegar, George (Goole)|
|Champion, A. J.||Freeman, John (Watford)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Gibson, C. W.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Clunie, J.||Glanville, James||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Coldrick, W.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Collick, P. H.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Keenan, W.||Orbach, M.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Kenyon, C.||Oswald, T.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Padley, W. E.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Paget, R. T.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Kinley, J.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Pannell, Charles||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Pargiter, G. A.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Lewis, Arthur||Paton, J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pearson, A.||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Popplewell, E.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|McGovern, J.||Porter, G.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|McInnes, J.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Tomney, F.|
|McLeavy, F.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Pryde, D. J.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|McNeill, Rt. Hon. H.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Reeves, J.||Weitzman, D.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Reid, William (Camlachie)||West, D. G.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Rhodes, H.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Manuel, A. C.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Ross, William||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Messer, F.||Short, E. W.||Wigg, George|
|Mikardo, Ian||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Moody, A. S.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Morley, R.||Slater, J.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyten)|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mort, D. L.||Snow, J. W.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Moyle, A.||Sorensen, R. W.||Yates, V. F.|
|Mulley, F. W||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Murray, J. D.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Nally, W.||Steele, T.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Mr. J. Johnson and Mr. Wilkins.|
|Oliver, G. H.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Carson, Hon. E.||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Cary, Sir Robert||Gower, H. R.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Gridley, Sir Arnold|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Cole, Norman||Grimond, J.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Colegate, W. A||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Cooper, Sqn, Ldr. Albert||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Cranborne, Viscount||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Crouch, R. F.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Barber, Anthony||Cuthbert, W. N.||Hay, John|
|Barlow, Sir John||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Heald, Sir Lionel|
|Baxter, A. B.||Davidson, Viscountess||Heath, Edward|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Deedes, W. F.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Holland-Martin, C. J|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Holt, A. F.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Drayson, G. B.||Hope, Lord John|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Drewe, C.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Birch, Nigel||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Bishop, F. P.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Black, C. W.||Duthie, W. S.||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E||Hurd, A. R.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Erroll, F. J.||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Fell, A.||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Finlay, Graeme||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Braine, B. R.||Fisher, Nigel||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Fort, R.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Foster, John||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Kaberry, D.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Keeling, Sir Edward|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Godber, J. B.||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Carr, Robert||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Nugent, G. R. H||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Odey, G. W.||Speir, R. M|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Linstead, H. N.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Storey, S.|
|Longden, Gilbert||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Low, A. R. W.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Summers, G. S.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth. S.)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Teeling, W.|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Payton, J. W. W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|McAdden, S. J.||Powell, J. Enoch||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Tilney, John|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Profumo, J. D.||Turton, R. H.|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Raikes, Sir Victor||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Rayner, Brig. R.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Renton, D. L. M.||Wade, D. W.|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Robertson, Sir David||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Markham, Major S. F.||Robson Brown, W.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Waterhouse, Cap. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Marples, A. E.||Roper, Sir Harold||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Russell, R. S.||Wellwood, W|
|Mellor, Sir John||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)||Williams, F. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Scott, R. Donald||Wills, G.|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Nicholis, Harmar||Shepherd, William||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Major Conant and Mr. Redmayne.|
§ Mr. Jack Jones
I beg to move, in page 6, line 3, at the end, to insert:Provided that in considering as aforesaid whether the effect of a proposal is likely to be substantial the Board shall have regard not only to the proposal itself but to its effect in conjunction with any other similar or other relevant proposals which may have been made or which in the opinion of the Board are likely to be made.We have had this afternoon a prolonged, very healthy and, towards the end, a rather hectic debate, and, if I may be allowed to digress for a second, it runs through my mind that never has one Member of this House stood so long, said so little and suffered so much because of lack of a plan to get full employment in the industry. But that is beside the point.
This Amendment seeks to add what we consider to be a useful contribution to the Clause. We consider that the Board should have the power, and we hope by the addition of this Amendment to make certain that it takes into account the many circumstances which we consider to be relevant, in addition to that of full employment.
We have in mind that the Board will be receiving applications from varying per- 670 sons and varying organisations once the new set-up gets into its stride, and we are not unmindful of the fact that the persons most likely to make application will be those persons who will seek to add to their existing facilities. We want to be very careful to see that, as a result of such applications being granted, the circumstances which will arise will not have a serious effect on other companies.
I make no bones about it when I say that we realise, as I think the Committee realises, that there will be for some considerable time two sections in this industry, one which will be reasonably easy to sell—lucrative, productive, modern, efficient plants—and one which will not be so easy to dispose of, if ever disposed of under private enterprise.
We are anxious to see that, arising from the extension or expansion of any one organisation, all the factors and effects upon the less fortunate parts of the industry will be taken into consideration, including, for instance, on the technical side, considerations arising out of the allocation of raw materials. It would be useless and hopeless to give an existing privately-owned concern the right to extend or expand without, at the same time, guaranteeing that it will have 671 the raw materials with which to work to the fullest capacity.
We are anxious to see that in such circumstances the raw materials so diverted will not be of such a magnitude as to affect the less fortunate companies still under the ownership of the Agency. I can see, even if the whole Committee cannot, because I am a very suspicious sort of fellow in these matters, that in two or three years' time, if we are spared to live so long, the argument arising, "Look how well the private section has done and look how badly the half-starved publicly-owned section has done." We are anxious to see that everyone gets a fair allocation and a fair opportunity.
I do not want to dwell too long on the technical aspects, although they are important. There are people in this Committee who seem to have as their aim the development of existing plant, and the idea that the way to increase efficiency is to increase the existing efficient plant. There is a point beyond which we can go no further in that regard. I am one of those who believe that even in the steel industry one particular plant under one direction can become too large for the national interest. There are other matters to be considered in that connection.
There is, of course, the question of finance. I am not well-versed in financial matters. It took me all my time, with the help of my good wife, to make one week's pay packet serve one week's needs, and we had to be magicians to do that. I have never entered into the realms of high finance. There will, however, be questions of national expenditure, the borrowing of capital, and the things that affect substantial increases in capacity. I do not, however, want to go too far into the sociological side of this matter. That point was pretty well covered during the debate on the last Amendment.
There are other matters the Committee should consider which have not been mentioned up to now. I have taken part in every steel debate since we first talked about nationalisation and de-nationalisation—and there are several matters to which we think the Board ought to pay some regard. There is, for instance, the question of the strategic location of the 672 industry. I do not want to be accused of being unduly pessimistic or of being an alarmist, but I think that the Board, in dealing with these potential applications which I have in mind, and to which I will refer later, should pay considerable regard to the question of the strategic location of industry.
I have not in mind the demands for expansion and extension which will come from the people who are unduly interested in the present type of production. I believe that the present type of production and the present plant for the expansion of the present type of production is well covered, but there are the new forms of steel—nimonics, new alloys, the steel required for the equipment of jet, radar and so on. There is also the question of the amount of steel which will be needed for use in the atomic age. All these things will be of vital importance, and the allocation of new plant to produce these newer forms of steel should be taken into account by the Board.
I can see that the Board may have half a dozen applications before them of the same nature at the same time. They will have the problem of deciding which application shall be granted and which vetoed. We are very anxious that the Board should by the introduction of this Amendment have these matters kept in their minds. We do not pay the same fundamental regard to this Amendment as to the last one, but we want this Amendment introduced so that the Board shall have regard not only to their duties in relation to one specific company or large organisation, which may have good friends at court and be represented on the Board, but to all the relevant factors relating to the fate of those persons who are not making applications.
This is an Amendment which does not seek to create a split in the Committee, even to the extent of a vote. I do not think that we should want to pursue this matter into the Lobbies. It is, however, an Amendment which we feel to be a practicable one. It is not one which is based on emotions and the history of the past, or on the vices which sprang up between the wars, but it is, we hope, one based on the virtues of what will happen in the future.
We ask the Minister to give the matter serious consideration. He will probably 673 tell us that the Board consists of the wisest men who have ever foregathered under one roof and that, although it is not laid down specifically in the Bill, they will take into account all the things which the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned earlier. I emphasise that we are anxious about the effect that any decision which is made or is not made will have upon the global steel situation. We are asking for something which we believe to be reasonable, practicable and workable and which will, in the long-term be of advantage if it is included in the Bill. On those grounds, and in a spirit of cool, calm reasonableness, not having been at all excited by what has happened in the past—much water has gone under the bridge and it cannot be brought back—I hope the Minister will grant this concession.
§ Mr. Summers
When I saw the many pages of Amendments to the Bill, I wondered how many were likely to be taken to the Division Lobby. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) for indicating that the prospect of their being taken to the Division Lobby is directly proportional to their emotional content, and I welcome his suggestion that there is no need for any emotion.
I hope to show that, whatever merit there may be in the idea of giving the Board the duty of considering the cumulative effect of a series of changes, the Amendment completely fails to give effect to that idea. It begins with the words:Provided that in considering as aforesaid …Those words are to be inserted at the end of subsection (2) and so they must refer to the preceding subsections, but those subsections are concerned solely with the conditions which the Board will impose upon the industry for notifying plans which the Board might wish to consider.
§ Mr. Jack Jones
The hon. Gentleman has misread the Bill. Subsection (2) reads:… no person will be required by the notice to give to the Board particulars of any proposal which, by reason of the limited size or cost of the proposed additional production facilities or the class of products concerned or other relevant factors, would be unlikely substantially to affect the efficient and economic development of production facilities in Great Britain.674 It relates to matters which are not required to be notified.
§ Mr. Summers
I am grateful to the hon. Member for having taken the trouble to read me the relevant passage, but I have it in front of me. It deals with the circumstances which the Board will expect to have notified to it. It is not concerned with the consideration which the Board will give to the information when it has it. The Amendment seeks to instruct the Board how it shall consider development plans which are submitted to it. The subsections to which I am referring have not reached the stage when the Board is considering the merits of development plans and are concerned only to define the nature of the development plans which the Board thinks it is wise to have submitted to it. For that reason, if there is any merit in the idea of the Board considering the cumulative effect, this is not the place in which to insert words with that object.
My second objection to the Amendment is that it asks companies which are making changes in their plans to report them to the Board if there are other relevant proposals which might affect consideration of them. The Amendment seeks to instruct companies to take into account possibilities of future comparable developments when deciding whether they ought or ought not to notify the Board of their plans. There is great confusion in the minds of those who put down the Amendment. I see the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) taking a keen interest in what I am saying. I dare say I shall induce him to rise, but I hope not, because we want to get on.
As drawn, the Amendment is concerned solely with what shall be the obligation of individual companies in reporting to the Board and is not directly related to the consideration of those plans which should be given by the Board itself. I cannot believe that a Board instructed to consider these matters in relation to the efficient and economical development of production facilities would consider each case in isolation from any other plans of very much the same kind which were put to it. Any responsible body of opinion dealing with the merits of a certain plan is obliged to consider not merely how 675 the plan will affect the general efficiency and set-up of the industry but also what its effect will be having regard to such developments as are known to be taking place at the time when that consideration is being given. It is unnecessary to lay down that account shall be taken of the cumulative effect of development plans, and, in addition, the Amendment does not achieve what the hon. Member for Rotherham has in mind.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Summers), but, though he had the Bill in front of him, I am not certain whether he had read it. He was getting fairly near the mark, but he did not state the case quite rightly. It is clear that the object of subsection (2) as it stands is to enable the Board to dispense with particulars of proposals where the particulars relate only to small matters. The definition of matters about which particulars need not be given is proposals which:… would be unlikely substantially to affect the efficient and economic development of production facilities….What we have to consider is what the Board can reasonably, after consultation, dispense with in the way of particulars from iron and steel producing companies.
At present there is some doubt whether the Board can look beyond the proposal which comes before it. It seems that when the Board comes to consider its requirements from the companies it has to look at the matter item by item. To give a very simple instance, any hon. Member who has ever had to convey a piece of property will know that the Stamp Duty Commissioners require a certificate that it is not part of a series of transactions amounting to a larger sum which would attract a higher rate of duty. That is a reasonable requirement in those circumstances. Similarly, no one would really wish companies to be able to get out of a limitation of amount by doing what they propose to do in a series of proposals instead of a single proposal.
§ Mr. Summers
The hon. and learned Gentleman is merely confirming the point I made, that we are here dealing with the instructions to companies. He is trying to argue that, as a result of this provision, a company will be required to take into 676 account the development plans of a whole series of other companies, of which it may have no knowledge, in deciding whether or not it escapes the provisions of the Act.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. Member spoke a little too soon. I have not tried to argue anything, only to explain this Amendment, and I am giving one instance. I did not understand the hon. Member to disagree with me in that. At any rate he has not said so, and I could not conceive so reasonable a person as he appears to be disagreeing on a matter of that sort. Nor do I think the Minister disagrees.
Let me give a case in point. I cannot deal in the astronomical figures peculiar to undertakings in Sheffield. I must take some more modest ones. Supposing a company promotes a scheme to spend £100,000 and the Board say, "You need not give us any particulars about anything that is less than £50,000," then this situation can arise. That company could put forward the first instalment of the scheme at £30,000, then one for £40,000 and another one for £30,000. They could technically keep themselves within the requirements of the Board in the matter. That might raise all sorts of difficult questions, such as whether they have or have not dealt with the requirements of this Clause.
All I am saying is that the Board have to consider the substantial effect, and they should take into account all similar proposals or relevant proposals. We on this side of the Committee have not got any Parliamentary draftsmen to help us in drafting our Amendments. Therefore, if the Minister or his hon. Friends think that this Amendment goes too far, we should be told what the Government will provide for the sort of contingency we have in mind, and how they propose to find appropriate language to do so.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) said, this is not an emotional Amendment. It is not a very major matter. We are simply trying to provide for the Board being able to consider a proposition as a whole irrespective of the number of proposals that come in. We also want to provide for one other matter, which I think the Board is bound to consider—it appears very doubtful whether it can do so as the 677 Clause at present stands. It is this sort of point. Supposing these particular proposals are so closely tied up with others that between them they have a substantial effect but it is rather hard to see which of them has the substantial effect, then we say the Board ought to be able to consider them.
I hope I am not going too far, but I feel personally that this is a matter of some importance. One wants to be clear about it. We think there should he opportunity to consider what, in fact, is substantial, and we want to see that reached by considering all the relevant factors.
§ Mr. Summers
The hon. and learned Member has referred to the case of a company having two or three projects and the possibility of deciding which has the substantial effect. Will he pay regard also to the fact that a company under his idea will have to pay attention to the relevant developments of other companies? That is a point of which he is taking no account whatever.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. Member has got it a little wrong. I think it is the Board which has got to consider these things and not a company.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I hope we shall not indulge in legal argument. I trust that we have made it clear what we have in mind. I do not believe that is any real difference in principle between us, and I am not in the least tied to the form of words here. 1f the Minister were to accept the principle—I cannot speak for my hon. Friend, but I expect he will agree with me—and say that he will consider the matter and give effect to the point we have in mind, that would satisfy us.
§ Mr. Sandys
I will try to reply to this Amendment without emotion. I hope I will not disappoint my hon. Friend the Member for Ay lesbury (Mr. Summers) when I say that I find myself in considerable sympathy with the intentions which have inspired this Amendment and that I am impressed with the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) and by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison).
678 The case, as I understand it, is that a single small development scheme might by itself be unimportant, but that the effect upon the plans and efficiency of the industry as a whole of a large number of similar small schemes, when taken together, might be substantial.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is deduced from that that the Board should have a right to call for the submission of small schemes when it considers that it is not an isolated case, and that there may be a number of other schemes of a similar nature which cumulatively might deserve the consideration of the Board. It is a valid argument, but there are also, I consider, valid arguments against it. The main one being that it would create a loophole which would enable the Board to call for the submission of any scheme of development, however small.
The Amendment even goes so far as to refer—I have not the exact words in front of me, but this is the effect of them —to a scheme which did not yet exist but which might be likely to be proposed later. That is very wide and sweeping, and in my opinion it virtually nullifies the effect of subsection (2).
The purpose of that subsection is to ensure that, as far as possible, the Board will concentrate its attention upon schemes of major importance and not feel obliged to concern itself actively with the mass of small improvements and extensions which go on in the industry all the time.
I do not wish hon. Gentlemen opposite to think that I am not in sympathy with their point of view, but there is a genuine conflict between our two wishes in regard to the Clause. I recognise that a number of small schemes which are individually insignificant may collectively reveal an undesirable trend. That is the crux of the problem. I submit that the way to deal with it is not through the Board's vetoing one small scheme after another firm by firm, but to tackle it, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury suggested, as part of the general review of the industry's plans and development which will take place under Clause 4.
In our view that is the most important part of the Bill. Much has been said about other Clauses but, so far as 679 development is concerned, the opening subsection of Clause 4 is the operative one. We believe that it is through these consultations with the industry that the Board will exercise its influence upon the structure of the industry rather than by the restrictions, limitations and definitions which have been discussed. If these consultations take place within the framework of the general review under Clause 4 the situation envisaged in the Amendment is not likely to arise.
It is a theoretical problem rather than a real one, and I am afraid that, in trying to solve it we may create the real and practical difficult of nullifying the effect of the subsection.
While I continue to feel sympathy towards the Amendment and the thought behind it, I think that, having regard to the difficulties, it would be better, on balance, not to make the changes which it proposes.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)
I beg to move, in page 6, line 13, after "appellant" to insert "or the Board."
Would it be convenient, Sir Charles, for the Committee also to consider all the consequential Amendments down to the Amendment in page 6, line 16?
§ Mr. Simon
Perhaps it would also be for the convenience of the Committee if I read the Clause as it will be if the Amendments to which I have referred are accepted. The Clause would then read as follows:If the Board refuse their consent to any such proposal, the person making the proposal may appeal to the Minister from that refusal, and the Minister shall consider any representations made by the appellant or the Board in writing and shall give the appellant and the Board an opportunity of appearing in person or by their representatives before a person appointed by the Minister and shall consider and (unless in his opinion it would be contrary to the national interest) publish the report of that person, and the Minister may, if he thinks fit, give his consent to the proposal, which shall have effect as if it were the consent of the Board.I hope the Committee will feel that this is an important point. The Clause is concerned with safeguarding the ordinary 680 citizen whose rights are invaded. We are all in favour of the citizen giving way in certain cases to the national interests, as represented by the Board, but the Clause is in the Bill to safeguard the citizen and it is essential that the safeguards should be real. This matter was very well put by my right hon. Friend in the White Paper debate. When dealing with this point, he said;Since we regard it as a serious thing to interfere with the right of companies to spend their own money in their own way and to take risks as they think right, we shall also provide a right of appeal to the Minister against the decision of the Board."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 23rd October, 1952; Vol. 505, c. 1291.]That means that the ordinary individual has the right to spend his own money in his own way on his own property. We are taking away that right, but the safeguards given to him by the Bill must be real. We feel that natural justice demands that certain conditions should be satisfied. The first is that the citizen must know what case he has to meet. He has not that right under the Clause as drafted.
Secondly, if there is an arbitrament and the Minister is to be in the position of an arbiter, the two contestants, the one whose interests are invaded and the one who invades those interests, should appear before the arbiter on terms of substantial equality; and, arising out of that and even more important, the arbiter must not in any circumstances discuss the case with one of the contestants before giving his decision and after hearing the representations. I think it was Kipling. in one of his finest verses, who said:… Let no man talk asideIn secret with his judges the while his case is tried.As the Clause is drawn, one of the contesting parties is drawn aside with the judge, and that is objectionable.
There is another important point here which does not relate so much to natural justice—which should weigh with us in considering the rights of the two parties as they appear before the Minister—as to the rights of the House. We all value throughout this Committee the great safeguards of the civil rights of the citizen even more highly than we value the iron and steel industry and the people who work in it. The feeling that has been marked throughout the debate is that what we value even more than the wealth and prosperity of this industry is our tradition of freedom and of civil 681 liberty. We all united to defend it when it was threatened, and I do not doubt that we should do so again. However, all these civil liberties are invaded little by little. In our lifetime we have had an example of how the first step can be taken and the liberties of a nation disappear in the process of time. The truth is that freedom has no natural frontiers and a breach in any part of the frontier means that the whole position is sold.
So these points are really important if we are to make a stand as we must, as the House always has, against the encroachments of the Executive. That leads me to my last point. The great safeguards of the individual in his struggle against the encroachments of the Executive have been two-fold—the courts and the House of Commons. Here the House of Commons has a power to control the Minister who is given the final arbitrament, but it can only do that if it knows on what grounds he gave his decision.
It is for that reason that we who have put our names to these Amendments believe that the report on which the Minister acts should be published unless it is against the national interest that it should be published. If it contains only the arguments of the Board and of the appellant, as he is called, there is no possible reason why it should not be published. If it contains more than that, it if contains the recommendation of the man appointed to hear those representations, there is every reason why it should be published because, without that, this House can retain no control over the Minister when he gives his decision in the case.
In conclusion, the Committee may feel that the word "appellant" here is misleading. This is not the case of an appeal from a judge to a superior court. If it were that, it might be argued that it would be wrong to have the Board appearing on terms of substantial equality with the person whose rights it is invading before the judge; but it is not. This is an appeal to the Minister by the person whose rights have been prima facie invaded against the action of the Board which, with the sanction of Parliament. has invaded those rights. Therefore they are two contestants on terms of equality and they should be put on terms of equality.
682 I admit freely that the words in which we have sought to express this purpose are probably inadequate, but I ask my hon. and learned Friend to say that he will deal with these points to see not only that substantial justice is done but that natural justice can be seen to be done to the citizens whose rights we have given the Board the right to invade.
§ Mr. Hylton-Foster (York)
I am glad that my hon. and learned Friend has put this matter on the basis of natural justice, because I anticipated the accusation that this was some clutter of lawyers making jobs for themselves. It is not. I could not hope to improve on the way my hon. and learned Friend has put the point before the Committee, and it certainly would not be improved by repetition, but I believe that as the Clause stands it is even worse.
In the first place we confer upon this appellant the opportunity of challenging the contention of the Board. He will, of course, be at a grave disadvantage if he does not know what the contention of the Board is. and at present there is no machinery to rid him of that marked disadvantage. There is thus conferred a generous opportunity for him to prefer his own case, and he will have joy of that, but his joy will be greatly diminished if the Board has a right of replying on it, and even further diminished if that right of reply is to be exercised in secret, whispered into the ear of the Minister.
That is what I believe would happen under the words of the subsection as it stands because, if there is consultation with the Board, it is not to happen until the so-called appellant has revealed what is his own case. It is, therefore, a reply and a reply nominally done in hole-and-corner fashion, which will not dispel gloom. I hope in all sincerity, in order to make this a proper appearance of justice, that either my hon. and learned Friend will himself, or by persuasion of the Minister or his Parliamentary Secretary, take the opportunity to have another look at this matter.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)
I have listened with interest to the arguments advanced by my two hon. and learned Friends in criticising this Clause. Certain of them had a familiar ring, but when this Clause is fully understood I think my hon. and learned Friends will appreciate that in 683 relation to it their remarks are not really very applicable.
In considering this subsection to which my hon. and learned Friends desire to make so many Amendments, one has to bear in mind on what kind of matters this right of appeal may be exercisable. It is clear that the Board is not likely to have any power to refuse its consent to any proposal which isunlikely substantially to affect the efficient and economic development of production facilities in Great Britain.It would follow, therefore, that if the proposal is of a limited size or cost, or the class of products concerned is small— so small as to be unlikely substantially to affect the efficient and economic development of production facilities in Great Britain, the Board would not have power to refuse consent. That is the short interpretation of subsection (2). When it gets a proposal which does not come within that category, the power of the Board to refuse consent is limited to one ground specified in subsection (3), namely,that the proposal will seriously prejudice the efficient and economic development of production facilities in Great Britain.So one can conclude from this that the project where consent is refused is likely to be of a major character.
When one comes to subsection (3), the first point made by my hon. and learned Friend was that if the Board refuses its consent it should give to the appellant the reason for its refusal in order to ensure that the appellant knows what case he has to meet if he wishes to appeal. One of the curious features about this long list of Amendments is that there is no Amendment in the name of my hon. and learned Friends to secure that purpose.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am very sorry but I did not hear all that, though perhaps I should have done. If I may continue the argument I was advancing, the reason why the Board can refuse an application is specified in terms in subsection (3), but if it is seriously felt that some additional reason might or could be given by the Board which would be 684 helpful to the appellant, that is a matter for further consideration and one on which some adjustment might be made.
Take now the next point raised by my hon. and learned Friend on his Amendment. It is very easy to talk about natural justice and to specify certain conditions which must be satisfied, and it is easy to refer to the Board and to the unsuccessful applicant as being two parties to litigation. I am sure that in the minds of my hon. and learned Friends there lies the idea of some sort of inquiry by an inspector appointed by the Minister. The subsection, however, does not provide anything of that sort. It has got away from the old form of inquiry under an inspector appointed by a Minister, with which we are all so very familiar. It is, perhaps, because this has not been sufficiently realised that we have to meet so many Amendments on the Clause.
In the first place, the Board have to decide, and they can only reject on the ground that I have mentioned. Then, if there is an appeal, it goes to the Minister, and by the subsection the final decision is placed fairly and squarely upon the shoulders of the Minister, and not upon any representative appointed by him. It is the Minister's decision, and he will be responsible to the House.
What we seek to secure by the Clause is that the appellant can first submit any representations he likes in writing to the Minister. There can be no complaint about that. There is then the further stage that if the appellant wishes to make some oral observations also—if, for instance, the appellant says, "It is difficult for me to put my case as I should like to put it in writing. I should like to see someone and to explain the points"—under the Clause, that appellant has the statutory right to see a representative of the Minister for the purpose of expounding his case better. That will go to the Minister, and the representative of the Minister, to hear those oral representations, is really a reporter to the Minister and quite distinct from the position of an inspector holding an inquiry and making a recommendation.
I do not say that it would be wrong of the representative to report to his Minister, "These arguments were advanced by the appellant. He feels much more strongly upon this one than 685 upon that"; but the final decision—and this, I think, is the advantage of the Clause—rests entirely upon the Minister.
If we are to allow the appellant to make representations in writing and by word of mouth, then obviously, if we consider the position of the Minister, who has to decide, he should be entitled to hear the views of the Board. It may be that when he has heard the views of the Board he will want further information from the appellant, and he ought to be able to get it. Similarly, if he wants further information from the Board, he ought to be able to get it.
There is a little force in the criticism which has been advanced of the drafting of the subsection which would make it appear that the Board will always be consulted last. That is not the intention. The intention is that the Minister, who has to decide, should be able to consult whichever of the two parties he wants, in which ever order he wishes and how many times he wants, before he finally arrives at a decision. I think that to avoid giving the impression that the Board will be consulted, and must be consulted, last, it will be possible to make some rearrangement of the drafting of that part of the subsection so as to secure that while the Minister has power to get such information as he desires, both from the Board and from the appellant, there should be nothing in the Clause prescribing which he should consult last.
I hope that with this explanation my hon. and learned Friends will realise that the effect of their Amendment is to make the appeal very different from what is prescribed by the subsection, in that the effect of their Amendment would be to make the appeal very similar to the inquiry such as is held under the Town and Country Planning Act and other Acts. To make it similar in that respect, the effect of the Amendments would, I think, be to put the representative of the Minister into the same position as an inspector—and many a time we have had criticisms advanced of those inquiries. In the subsection, by dealing with it in the way that we have, I feel that we have avoided some of the measures to which great objection was taken.
One further point which was put by my hon. and learned Friends concerned 686 the publication of the decision of the Minister.
§ The Solicitor-General
I did not gather that my hon. and learned Friend was asking for publication of the report made by the representative. If he is asking for that, I cannot meet him on it. The report which is made by the representative to his Minister is something which should not be published. If the appellant likes to put anything in writing to the Minister, he can do so. If the appellant—the choice lies with him—likes to see a representative of the Minister, he can do so; but it would be wrong to ask that whatever report was made by the representative of the Minister should be made public. I thought that my hon. and learned Friend's point was that the Minister's decision, after hearing all representations that are made to him, either by the Board or by the appellant, should be published with, presumably, the reasons for that decision. I am afraid that we cannot meet my hon. and learned Friend with regard to that.
The reasons for the decision may be such that the appellant or other persons in the industry would certainly not welcome publication. I feel that we have gone sufficiently far to provide the essential safeguards of natural justice by providing that there should be this appeal from the decision of the Board and providing also that the determination of that appeal should rest with the Minister.
I hope that I have covered all the points made by my hon. and learned Friend. I am glad that he has raised this matter. If one can avoid looking at this problem as if there were, as he suggested, two contestants on terms of equality, and could look at it, perhaps, in a non-legal fashion—that here is a Board which has to determine matters of policy, a decision which may, of course, result in an application being turned down, and that from that Board there is this right of appeal to the Minister himself—I hope that on reflection my hon. and learned Friends will agree that the essential safeguards are satisfactorily met.
I should like to make it quite clear that on those two points—namely, the publication of the reasons why the Board rejects, and second, the rearrangement so 687 as to make it clear that the Board will not necessarily have the last word—I can undertake that further consideration will be given to securing the amendment of the subsection on those matters.
§ Mr. Peter Roberts (Sheffield, Heeley)
I feel that the concessions which the Solicitor-General has given go towards taking away the fears I had, but I should like to make one point. My hon. and learned Friend said that it is not likely that these production facilities will be of a small character. I should like to point out that it is quite possible, under the Bill as now drafted, for the Board to notify one particular class of product, which might be a specialised class of product, and if there were to be a development of that specialised class of product, even quite a small amount, nevertheless it might represent a substantial advantage to the national pro. duct of that kind.
If the notice in writing from the Board which my hon. and learned Friend proposes comes to the appellant, will the appellant have any opportunity of cross-examining or putting any points to the Board, or to the representative of the Board? It appears that there might be a man or a firm under a sense of injustice. My hon. and learned Friend must accept that; there may be no injustice and the sense of injustice might be dispelled, but, if the man goes before the representative, the representative need give no reasons whatever to the appellant and the Minister need give no reasons whatever to the appellant. The man might be told that the matter is turned down by reason of the national interest.
All the Solicitor-General has conceded is that the Board must state its views in writing. It may well be that someone who is aggrieved feels there are some ulterior motives behind the action of the Board. It should be possible for the appellant to cross-examine the representative of the Board to see how he stands up under cross-examination. We do not seem to have gone so far as that. If notice in writing is given, I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will make quite certain that the reason will be an adequate reason and not merely that of the national interest. My hon. and learned Friend has gone a long way to allay the fears I had and I imagine that the last part, 688 dealing with consultation with the Board after the appellant has seen the Minister, or the representative of the Minister, would also be amended. Subject to my hon. and learned Friend explaining the point in regard to a man with a sense of grievance being able to put points to the representative of the Board, I think he has gone a long way to help us in this matter.
§ The Solicitor-General
My hon. Friend the Member for Heeley (Mr. P. Roberts) and I may differ as to the probability of the Board taking action in regard to a very small class of products. There I commend to his attention subsection (2). He asked if an unsuccessful appellant would have an opportunity of cross-examining the Board. The answer, quite frankly, is "no." I do not think he should have that opportunity. The Board acts as a high body making decisions on policy and, to use the analogy of the courts, we are not normally able to cross-examine a county court judge if we wish to appeal.
My hon. Friend also asked if the appellant could put points to the Board. There is nothing here to stop the appellant putting what points he wishes. The appellant can put what points he likes to the Minister and make any representations he likes. He can say to the Minister, or to his representative, "I think the Board were wrong about this." Then, obviously, it would be a matter for the Minister to inquire into and to make up his mind upon. I think that in that way justice will be done and the person whose application is refused is given a very valuable right should the Board perchance come to a wrong conclusion.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon
We have had two concessions from my hon. and learned Friend, though I must say it struck me that they were given in an extraordinarily grudging way—rather with the air of an Eastern despot sparing the life of some unfortunate slave. We were told that it would be wrong to publish the report. My hon. and learned Friend is a very eminent figure in the profession to which I am proud to belong. When he advances any legal argument we listen to him with respect. When he advances any argument we listen to him with respect. But when 689 he merely gives an ethical judgment we say, "No, we prefer to listen to the bench of bishops." Unfortunately, we are left with the feeling that this is not a real safeguard for the individual whose rights are endangered but merely an opportunity for blowing off steam. We do not feel that that is good enough. I do hope that the Minister, in reconsidering the matter, will approach it in a less grudging spirit than that shown by my hon. and learned Friend. With that request to him, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Sandys
I beg to move in page 6, line 21, at the end, to add:(6) This section shall not apply to any proposal to provide or secure the provision of additional production facilities consisting only of premises, plant or machinery proposed to be used for the carrying on of any activity included in paragraph 4 of the Third Schedule to this Act or for the carrying on of any incidental activity in connection with any activity so included.The purpose of this Amendment is to exempt the foundries from the application of the Board's power of veto in respect of development schemes under Clause 5. From the start we have made it quite clear that we wish the Iron and Steel Board to concentrate on major issues of policy and not to become involved in too much detail.
As I said to the House during the Second Reading debate, we consider that the Board should concern itself primarily with large expansion schemes in the heavy end of the industry. The smaller the scheme and the further we get away from the heavy end of the industry, the less it is necessary for the Board to exercise the power of veto in regard to development schemes. We sought in our original draft of the Bill to make this intention perfectly clear. Subsection (3) limits the Board's power of veto to schemes which wouldseriously prejudice the efficient and economic development of production facilities.In addition, under subsection (2), the Board have a duty to consult the industry to ensure that producers are not required to submit small schemes which would be unlikely to have any substantial effect on the efficient and economic development of the industry.
So far as the foundries are concerned, I explained during the Second Reading debate that, it was most unlikely that any foundry scheme would, in practice, be 690 large enough to come within the scope of the Board's veto powers as defined in this Clause. Since then, I have had an analysis made of all the foundry development schemes carried out during the last six years. Altogether, there have been about 2,000. The Committee may be interested to know that more than 90 per cent. of them cost less than £50,000.
Personally, I remain satisfied that the Bill, as it is now drafted, makes it clear that the Board is not intended to concern itself with minor schemes of this kind; nor do I believe that any Board composed of sensible and responsible men would interpret this Clause in any other way. Nevertheless, there is no harm in making quite sure.
I have already accepted several Amendments, proposed by the Party opposite designed to remove doubts about the definition of other aspects of the Board's powers. Some of these Amendments were not strictly necessary. I accepted them because I felt—and I think that I have had the support of hon. Members in this, though not the support of Parliamentary draftsmen, who are apt to question the desirability of adding words which are not strictly necessary—that it is desirable to remove any possible uncertainty which there may be in regard to the intention of Parliament.
On an earlier Amendment today, the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) advised us to leave nothing to chance and to write our intentions clearly into the Bill. The hon. Lady said that it is better to be safe than to be sorry, and it is in that spirit that I submit this Amendment.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I had better say at the outset that I am completely opposed to this Amendment, but had I not been completely opposed to it when I read it, I should certainly be opposed to it after hearing the Minister's speech, because he gave a most frank, and one could almost say, abject admission that the whole thing was really a piece of windowdressing. While everybody is anxious that the Bill should be clear, and that anything necessary for its clarity should be inserted into it, it would be a common view amongst all hon. Members that there was something objectionable about putting into a Bill things which have no value at all or whose only value is window-dressing for pressure groups outside.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I do not know how far the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) is capable of understanding the implications of what his right hon. Friend has said, but the Minister has not interpreted it in the way that he has. The right hon. Gentleman said, "I have been advised by those competent to advise me that my intentions are secured without putting these words in, but I am going to put them in." Why is he going to put them in? It is because he has been under pressure from the associations or organisations which own foundries to put them in, and I must say that these people will not be very pleased when they read the right hon. Gentleman's words in HANSARD tomorrow.
What he said, as nearly as I can remember it, is that any reasonable body of persons would see the point without the words, and that seems to carry very clearly the implication that he does not look upon the foundry associaions which have been pressing him as reasonable bodies of persons. It looks to me as though he has become a bit fet up with them, and with their lobbying, pressure and nagging, and that he was tempted into a slightly indiscreet observation or implication about them.
We are not here discussing whether foundries should be left out of consideration, because the great majority of their schemes are very small, and, indeed, the Minister gave us figures, but for those that are very small there is already a subsection which leaves them out of account. All we are discussing now is whether, if there are or should be any development schemes in foundries which substantially affect efficiency—and we are agreed that if there are any, they will be only a small number—they should fall within the purview of the Board or not.
There seems to me to be no case, and certainly no case so far made out, for saying that if a scheme, because of its size or nature, would not be exempted by subsection (2) if it were some other part of the steel industry than foundries, it should be exempted merely because it is a foundry. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that, if a foundry scheme brought forward is of such a nature as seriously to effect efficiency, in the words of the Bill, the Board ought to have no 692 cognisance of it at all, merely because it is treating metal in one way instead of another way?
As a matter of fact, as hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Committee know, the part which is played by foundry work has steadily increased in importance throughout the metal industries over the last few years, and recent technical developments suggest that it may increase still further. There is almost no other metal product which can so influence a general production programme as a casting, and we are tending to rely more and more upon castings and to develop new techniques which will enable us to produce bigger and heavier castings all the time without any structural weaknesses. There are likely to be developments in the future which will be of such a nature that they ought to fall within the consideration of the Board, and it is a great pity if we are preventing the Board from considering them.
I know from my own experience, and I expect that the right hon. Gentleman has found this out with the contracts which his Department put out, that when we chase a production programme which is falling behind schedule, seven times out of 10 the reason is castings, and although this sector of the industry represents only a small proportion of its total value and weight, it is an important section.
There is one further point. We are all cognisant of the fact that taken averagely, and with some honourable exceptions, foundries are the slums of the metal-using industries. We are all cognisant of the fact that the prevalance of bad working conditions, bad air, bad ventilation, unnecessarily high temperatures, and, above all, dirt is much more widespread in foundries than in any other sector of the metal-using industries, and, indeed, one might almost say in any other industry at all.
Over and over again we have been told—and above all in the Report of the Garrett Committee—that everybody recognises that something ought to be done about this. But everybody equally recognises that in order to do something about it one would need to spend a fair amount of money. Even that is something of a change of heart. I can remember the time when the evil conditions of foundries, the foul air and the 693 dirt used to be regarded almost as an act of God, and something about which one could do nothing.
Now, of course, one realises that if we devoted to the provision of proper environmental conditions in factories the same ingenuity and thought, and anything like the same amount of money, as we devote to perfecting the techniques of the foundry itself, we could go a long way towards removing these very bad conditions. I can visualise, and I am sure other hon. Members can also, a condition in which it becomes a very debatable question whether money spent at a given point and for a given purpose in foundries is better spent on new development or in improving the environmental conditions in an existing foundry.
I should have thought that the Minister would want to retain large foundry projects within the purview of the Clause—the small ones are, as he said, already ruled out—if only for the purpose of putting the Board in a position in which it might well say to a company, "Before you go ahead with the building of this great new foundry, will you please spend some money making your existing foundry fit for workers to work in."
I am quite sure that is a valid point on technical grounds, and I know it is one of the points which the trade unions and the General Council of the T.U.C. have very much in mind when they demand the inclusion of large foundry projects within the purview of the Bill. I do not say—indeed, it would be something that no hon. Member would wish to say—that the fact that the General Council of the T.U.C. and all the unions in the industry concerned unanimously take a certain view should be the ultimate and determining factor in deciding what the House or the Committee of the House should do; but it is certainly a factor which we would not want to leave out of account without the most careful consideration.
There is a great deal of feeling in the industry—indeed, I do not know any other single matter which has raised such strong feeling in the trade union movement—concerning the fact that conditions in foundries have improved scarcely at all over the last few years, whereas conditions in industry generally have shown a very considerable improvement indeed. I should have thought, if only on the 694 grounds that this subsection might be used in some cases to ameliorate those conditions, that the Minister would not want to preclude large foundry schemes from the Bill. I ask him to think again about this. He is giving way to a bit of pressure—
§ Mr. Sandys
I would make clear to the hon. Gentleman, because I think he has perhaps misread the Bill, that, while this Amendment excludes foundries from the Board's veto on development under Clause 5, they are, of course, included like any other part of the iron and steel industry under Clause 3 which gives the Board the duty to keep under review the health, safety and well-being of the workpeople. Therefore, as regards conditions of work, the foundry industry is in exactly the same relation to the Board as is any other part of the industry.
§ Mr. Mikardo
The right hon. Gentleman has made a very important part of my case. May I put one consideration to him? Honestly, I am not trying to score any points about this. The worst thing one could possibly do is to give to the Board a duty without power to carry out that duty. That is really the worst of all possible worlds. If they have no power they had better not have the responsibility, and if they have a responsibility we had better give them the power to carry it out. If foundries are left out of this part of the Clause, how on earth can the Board carry out the duty which the Minister has laid on them under Clause 3 in regard to foundries?
Much the best point at which the Board can use their influence to improve conditions is precisely at the point in the example which I gave of a company which is already doing foundry work on a large scale and comes along and says, "We want to build an additional foundry." It ought to lie within the purview of the Board—which it will not if the Amendment is carried—to say, "No. We think you would get greater and more efficient output, not by tacking a new foundry on to the old one, but by putting your old, bad foundry into a decent condition." If they did that, they would carry out precisely the duty which the Minister quite rightly described in his intervention. But if the Minister carries his Amendment, he will prohibit them completely from carrying out that duty.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am sorry to interrupt, but I do not want a suggestion to go out of this Committee that the Board, as a result of this Amendment, will not be able to do their duty. As the hon. Member himself has said, even if this Amendment were not introduced, the vast majority of the foundry schemes, large or small, would not come before the Board. But with his knowledge of the foundry industry, the hon. Member will know that in the main the large foundries are, for obvious reasons, the most advanced and progressive in their development. The small ones, which perhaps are below the standards that we would like to have, are just the ones which, in any case, if the Amendment were not passed, would not be subject to the veto powers of the Board.
§ Mr. Mikardo
What the right hon. Gentleman has said about the effect on foundries as they are now is perfectly correct, but we are not talking about existing foundries or their size. We are talking about developments. In exercising influence over development, the Board would have some opportunity—I grant that it would be an opportunity severely limited by the terms of subsection (2)— of exercising influence in raising the standard of conditions in some parts of the foundry industry.
I am not arguing that the situation would be perfect if the Minister withdrew his Amendment. My argument is that if we adopt the Amendment the situation would be worse than otherwise it would be, because it then means that, whatever else the Board do about conditions, they cannot use their influence over development in any foundries, great or small. in order to improve conditions. Although the right hon. Gentleman made it understandably clear about its not going out from the Committee that the Board will not be in a position to do their duty, it is a cold, simple, hard fact that if the Bill is amended the Board will not do anything about conditions in foundries, because the Board will not have any power to do anything about bad conditions.
I hope that the Minister will take the observations which I have made in the constructive and helpful spirit in which I meant to put them. I hope that he will think very hard again about this subject before we come to that stage of the Bill 696 where the die is finally cast. Here is a case where, for the sake of a little window-dressing, he is giving away what may be something of importance and creating a great deal of hard feeling amongst workers throughout the industry and, indeed, amongst millions of workers beyond the confines of the industry.
§ Mr. Nabarro
As in the case of the Second Reading debate on this Bill, I have the pleasure of following the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo). The hon. Member has fallen into the error of believing that statutory responsibility for improving conditions with regard to health, safety and welfare in the iron founding industries belongs to the Iron and Steel Board. In fact, it never will do so, whether this Bill reaches the Statute Book in its amended form or otherwise. The responsibility belongs to the Minister of Labour, under the appropriate sections of the Factories Act, 1937.
The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) introduced a Private Member's Bill a few weeks ago the express purpose of which was to improve the conditions and welfare of the workers in the iron founding industry. I supported that Bill; but the hon. Lady subsequently withdrew it, on the understanding that the appropriate Statutory Instruments could be created by the Minister of Labour to give effect to her desires—which are also our desires—the general purpose of which is to improve conditions in the foundries.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I do not violently quarrel with what the hon. Gentleman has said. I said what I did in reply to an intervention by the Minister, who said that under this Bill the responsibility lay with the Board. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the pre-nationalisation Iron and Steel Board had responsibility for foundries; so we are retrogressing even beyond the pre-nationalisation position.
§ Mr. Nabarro
I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman is placing the correct interpretation upon this position. He is being a trifle disingenuous. The position under the old Board was that they accepted a general responsibility for health, safety and welfare conditions, and they could make the appropriate recommendations to the Minister of Labour.
697 We are splitting hairs in this matter because really the purpose of this Amendment is not to deal specifically with health, safety and welfare; it is to deal with the expansion and development of iron foundries. In the Second Reading debate on this Bill, I used these words:… the Board should have no restrictive powers affecting the development of iron foundries except in cases where such development is called for in an amount of more than £250,000 as an aggregate of plant and buildings. For anything less than that amount, the Board should not have any degree of control at all. Such an arrangement would, of course, restrict the use of such powers to major schemes alone."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 705.]I based that proposal on a long and practical experience of the engineering and allied industries.
The fact is that there are more than 2,000 foundries of one kind and another in this country. Ninety-five per cent. of them employ fewer than 50 persons. They are a heterogeneous mass of small units, generally to be found in the areas where the engineering industry is concentrated. The engineering firms in the Midlands and the Black Country have satellite foundries around them, supplying them with the specialised castings they need for their individual products and purposes. In addition to that, there is the complication, which I have been at pains to endeavour to impress upon my right hon. Friend, that many engineering companies have their own foundries, which are generally referred to as tied foundries.
I say, with great emphasis and sincerity, that it should not be the purpose or responsibility of the Iron and Steel Board to interfere in the production processes or development of the engineering industry. Had there been control by the Iron and Steel Board over the development of all foundries, one of the difficulties would have been that the Board would have exercised a degree of statutory limitation, restriction and control over the affairs of tied foundries, which are essentially an integral part of the engineering industry, as opposed to the iron and steel industry.
I consider that my right hon. Friend has behaved with considerable perspicacity in this matter and with a good deal of versatility of mind. He has not 698 submitted, as the hon. Member for Reading, South, suggested had been the case, to blandishments, threats or pressures from outside interests. I have done a good deal of persuasion and made certain points, not the least of which the hon. Gentleman has conveniently omitted from the course of his long speech this evening—the fact that if the terms of the Bill had stood in their original form, it would have meant that a foundry employing two men and only one sandbox, making a few castings, and wishing to add one more sandbox and two more men to double its' minute size, would have had to apply to the Iron and Steel Board for permission to do so.
§ Mr. Nabarro
It is not nonsense. The right hon. Gentleman should go away and read the Bill as it was originally drafted. That would have been the case, and that is why I appealed to my right hon. Friend to exclude all iron foundries from these development provisions for amounts involved in the aggregate of plant and machinery, of less than £250,000. That has nothing to do with health, safety or welfare. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the considerate and generous way in which he has responded to my representations and to those of the engineering and allied industries.
§ Mr. Nabarro
In fact, my right hon. Friend has gone a good deal further than I asked, because he has exempted from the control of the Board all development plans for iron foundries. I consider that in so doing he has created a much better Bill and has removed a great deal of misunderstanding which might otherwise have occurred.
It was rather amusing to see the Minister trembling as he heard his master's voice once again in public. Perhaps I can go a little further than the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) in his discussion of the Private Member's Bill by reminding him that the Ministry of Labour issued those Regulations last week, so that he and I have done something, together with the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Robson Brown). in bringing that about.
699 Most of the development which has taken place in recent years in connection with foundries—and this may sound a little Irish—has not been inside the foundries. I refer to the pre-fabrication and welding which is now taking place. In many big factories a majority of the large individual pieces which previously were cast are now pre-fabricated. That sort of development demands the deployment of a great deal of capital. What is the position of the Board in that kind of work?
If we take the case of a job which until recently has been a casting and which has now been taken out of the foundry into a tank shop to be welded and produced as a pre-fabricated piece, in what relationship do the Board stand to that sort of development? The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) will tell the Minister that this feature is growing. Indeed, there was a well-known anxiety in the foundry world at one time which I feel manifested itself in the small number of parents who were sending their sons into the trade. They thought there would be no work for the foundries to do. That is a development which the Bill does not take into consideration.
I really think that before we part with the Bill the Minister should enlighten us as to whether that sort of development will come within the Amendment he is now proposing, or whether it was within the control of the Board as he envisaged it before proposing the Amendment.
§ Mr. F. J. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) for referring to my small knowledge of foundry work, gained from the same firm, I believe, as that from which he gained most of his engineering knowledge
I would point out that in Altrincham we still have a number of iron foundries producing a large number of iron castings. Contrary to the experience of certain other engineering plants, foundries at Altrincham find that their products are still very much in demand, because there is a number of types of engineering work for which castings, and large castings, are still absolutely essential, and while this new technique of welding and fabrication may make serious inroads 700 into many firms' types of foundry products, there is still a mainstay of heavy castings which will always be required.
Of course, at the same time there is a large demand for cast products of new types to meet new requirements, and that is why it is very important that we should do nothing in this Bill, however unintentionally, to inhibit those groups of people and firms who may wish to embark on large developments to take advantage of the demand for new types of cast iron products.
Just as the Minister has referred to the "fringe of industries" around the edges of the iron and steel industry, so there is, of course, in any Bill a fringe of definitions, and where some individuals may express doubt, it is surely as well that that doubt should be cleared up by making the definition more exact. So I submit that it was quite right of the Minister, because there had obviously been doubt expressed, to remove the doubt by saying that no foundry developments would have to be submitted to the Board for its prior consent, thereby removing any inhibitions that individuals or firms may have felt about going forward to a new development.
I cannot say that I have much regard for the point made by the hon. Member for Reading, South (Mr. Mikardo) about this being the best way of ensuring better working conditions.
§ Mr. Erroll
I can assure the hon. Member that we on this side of the Committee are just as sensitive to the importance of improving working conditions in foundries as he is. Probably, I have worked much more in foundries than he has, and I know what that work is like. There are many occupations that are dirtier than foundry work, such as certain agricultural and mining operations, and foundries are not always as bad as they are painted by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Erroll
However, the important thing is not by any means, however unintentionally, to inhibit possible and useful and worth-while development with a view to keeping the industry still a great one, although, as the hon. Member for 701 Newton pointed out, inevitably and rightly a changing one.
I should like to correct a possible slight ebullition of over enthusiasm by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) in talking about a foundry employing two men and one sandbox—a very low standard of productivity even for a British foundry—perhaps a foundry controlled by my hon. Friend, and having, I hope, a small cupola from which to pour the ferrous metal. He was suggesting that if it were desired in such a foundry to have one more sandbox it would be necessary to apply to the Board for approval. I do not think, although he tries to style himself a king maker, if not from Warwick, at least from Kidderminster, that he has read the Bill as closely as he should have done. He may claim to have altered the Bill, to have influenced the Bill, but I doubt whether he has actually read it; because had he read it more carefully he would have seen that the Board will have absolute power and discretion to decide upon the size and nature of the development work which will have to be reported to it. I cannot believe that any body of men appointed by the Minister, doubtless alter consulting the hon. Member for Kidderminster, would be quite so foolish as to insist upon the reporting of
§ the addition of a sandbox to the ordinary working equipment of a two-men foundry.
§ Mr. Nabarro
My hon. Friend is in one of his most speculative moods. He cannot presume, at this stage of the proceedings, to say what would be the intentions, the desire, the purpose or the policy of this Board. In fact, I took the matter to an absurd extreme, but it is nevertheless the fact that in the interpretation, strictly literally—and I said literally—it is still possible for the Board to require an authorisation to carry out a minor improvement of that sort.
§ Mr. Erroll
I was expecting only an interruption, but it proved to be a second speech. Subsection (2) does mention particularly thatproposed additional production facilities or the class of products concerned or other relevant factors, would be unlikely substantially to affect the efficient and economic development of production facilities….I do not think that small-scale developments of the type exemplified by my hon. Friend could possibly fall within that category.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 238; Noes, 218.705
|Division No. 90.]||AYES||[8.57 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Brooman-White, R. C.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Erroll, F. J.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon P. G. T.||Fell, A.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bullard, D. G.||Finlay, Graeme|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Campbell, Sir David||Fort, R.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Carr, Robert||Foster, John|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Carson, Hon. E.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Cary, Sir Robert||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lansdale)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Banks, Col. C.||Clarke, Brig Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Barber, Anthony||Cole, Norman||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Colegate, W. A.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd|
|Baxter, A. B.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Godber, J. B.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Cranborne, Viscount||Gower, H. R.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F C.||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Crouch, R. F.||Gridley, Sir Arnold|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Grimond, J.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Cuthbert, W. N.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Birch, Nigel||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Davidson, Viscountess||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Black, C. W.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Boothby, R. J. G||Deedes, W. F.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hay, John|
|Braine, B. R.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Heald, Sir Lionel|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Drayson, G. B.||Heath, Edward|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Higgs, J. M. C.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Holt, A. F.||Markham, Major S. F||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Hope, Lord John||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Marples, A. E.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Shepherd, William|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Mellor, Sir John||Smithiers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Molson, A. H. E.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Speir, R. M.|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Nicholls, Harmer||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Storey, S.|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Noble. Cmdr. A. H. P.||Summers, G. S.|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon L. W.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Teeling, W.|
|Kaberry, D.||Odey, G. W.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Keeling, Sir Edward||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C N|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Tilney, John|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Turner, H. F. L|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Turton, R. H.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Vosper, D. F|
|Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wade, D. W.|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Linstead, H. N.||Powell, J. Enoch||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Llewel[...]yn, D. T.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Profumo, J. D.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Low, A. R. W.||Raikes, Sir Victor||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S)||Rayner, Brig. R.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Redmayne, M.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Renton, D. L. M.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|McAdden, S. J.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Robertson, Sir David||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Roper Sir Harold|
|Maclean, Fitzroy||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Russell, R. S.||Mr. Drewe and Mr. Wills|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Adams, Richard||Crosland, C. A. R||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Albu, A. H.||Crossman, R. H. S||Hale, Leslie|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Daines, P.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hamilton, W. W|
|Baird, J.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Hannan, W.|
|Balfour, A.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hargreaves, A.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||de Freitas, Geoffrey)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Bartley, P.||Deer, G.||Hastings, S.|
|Bence, C. R.||Delargy, H. J.||Hayman, F. H|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Dodds, N. N.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)|
|Benson, G.||Donnelly, D. L.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Beswick, F.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hewitson, Capt. M|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Ede, Rt. Hon J. C.||Hobson, C. R|
|Blackburn, F.||Edelman, M.||Holman, P.|
|Blenkinsop, A,||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Houghton, Douglas|
|Blyton, W. R.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Ewart, R.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Fienburgh, W.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Finch, H. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Janner, B.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Follick, M.||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Foot, M. M.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Forman, J. C.||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Carmichael, J.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)|
|Champion, A. J.||Freeman, John (Watford)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)|
|Chapman, W. D||Gibson, C. W.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham. S.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Glanville, James||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Clunie, J.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)|
|Coldrick, W.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Keenan, W.|
|Collick, P. H.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Kenyon, C.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Grenfell, Rt. Hon, D. R.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W|
|King, Dr. H. M||Paget, R. T.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Kinley, J.||Palmer, A. M. F||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Pannell, Charles||Swingler, S. T.|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Pargiter, G. A.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Lewis, Arthur||Parker, J.||Taylor Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Lindgren, G. S||Paten, J.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Lipton, Lt,-Col. M||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Popplewell, E.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|McGovern, J.||Porter, G.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|McInnes, J.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|McLeavy, F.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Proctor, W. T.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Pryde, D. J.||Tomney, F.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Pursey, Cmdr. H||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Reeves, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Weitzman, D.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E,)||Reid, William (Camlachie)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Rhodes, H.||West, D. G.|
|Manuel, A. C.||Richards, R.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon, John|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Messer, F.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Ross, William||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Short, E. W.||Wigg, George|
|Moody, A. S.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Morley, R.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Mort, D. L.||Slater, J.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Moyle, A.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mulley, F. W.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Murray, J. D.||Snow, J. W.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Nally, W.||Sorensen, R. W.||Yates, V. F.|
|Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Oliver, G H.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Orbach, M.||Steele, T.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Oswald, T.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham. E.)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. A. Allen.|
|Padley, W. E.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J|
§ Sir Frank Soskice (Sheffield, Neepsend)
I beg to move, in page 6, line 21, after the words last added, to add:(6) If any person fails to comply with the requirements of this section, he shall be liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or to both such imprisonment and such fine, and, if the default in respect of which he is convicted is continued after the conviction, he shall be guilty of a further offence punishable as aforesaid, except that the fine to which he may be sentenced shall be a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or five pounds for each day on which the default is so continued, whichever is the greater.I am glad to see the Solicitor-General is present, because I feel sure that he will agree with the arguments which I propose to adduce to the Committee. The purpose of the Amendment is to introduce criminal responsibility for a breach of the injunction which Clause 5 of the Bill contains. We on this side of the Committee feel considerably puzzled with the Minister's thinking here. Clause 5 sets up the machinery for consent to fresh development being given by the Board. Consent cannot be refused unless the Board is of opinion that a proposal will seriously prejudice the efficient and economic development of production facilities in Great Britain.
706 What is the situation which results? Supposing a company wishes to undertake fresh development, it cannot carry out that development without the consent of the Board. That is plain and simple. Those responsible for the company will know whether they have consent or not. The Board can only refuse consent if the new development is going to be—I paraphrase the words in the subsection— highly prejudicial to the interests of the country. Unless development is going to prejudice—and not only prejudice but seriously prejudice—the country's interests in interfering with the efficient and economic development of production facilities in Great Britain, the undertaker who wishes to carry out new development is bound to get consent.
If the Board takes the view that consent shall not be given the undertaker has the right of appeal to the Minister. Therefore, if the company concerned in fresh development carries out that development without getting consent, it will be a company which, in the Board's view, is carrying out a highly prejudicial development and doing something which grossly offends against the nation's interests. Whether such an undertaking is prejudicial can be judged by the simple touchstone of whether the consent of the 707 Board was given, and if the consent is not given there can be no conceivable excuse for those responsible for the company embarking upon such fresh development.
We do not like this Bill at all, as we have made clear on a number of occasions, but we are doing our best to improve it. We are trying to smooth awkward edges and to make the Bill work in a sensible and efficient way, so far as it is possible to do so. When we see serious offences created by the provisions of Clause 5 we look to see what are the enforcement provisions of the Bill to prevent those offences.
All we find is the cumbrous and roundabout procedure contained in Clause 27 for obtaining an injunction in civil proceedings. If we look elsewhere in our statutory code we find that if we do more building than we are allowed to do we transgress a statute in the obvious way, and that criminal responsibility practically always ensues. Here in the Bill is a particularly serious offence, one of the most serious that a company can commit we cannot understand why the extraordinary exception should be made by which those responsible for the commission of that offence do not find themselves involved in criminal liability. That is the short case that we make against the Clause.
Hon. Members will have noticed that later on the Order Paper there is a corresponding Amendment to Clause 7. I would be out of order if I discussed that Amendment, but perhaps you would allow me the indulgence, Sir Gordon, of saying a word about it. Possibly it might be for the convenience of the Committee if we discussed both Amendments together. I do not know whether you would allow that course. If so, I would like to address a short argument to the Committee on the matter.
§ The Solicitor-General
I understood that we were going to discuss both these Amendments together. They cover much the same ground, although the arguments are slightly different.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I am much obliged. If you will allow me to do so, Sir Gordon, I will address my argument to the Committee on that Clause as well.
708 Clause 7 enables the Board to impose maximum prices. If a company charges prices higher than the maximum prices authorised, it plainly transgresses the law. It has done something which is said by the law plainly and unequivocally to be forbidden. Again, for some extraordinary reason which we do not understand, criminal responsibility does not follow. With all the other provisions in our statutory code which prevent prices being charged above fixed maxima, if a maximum is exceeded, criminal responsibility follows. No doubt the SolicitorGeneral will correct me if I am wrong.
In the case of steel, if prices are charged above the permitted amount an enormous sum of money will go into the pockets of those who charge them, but somehow those who are responsible have no need to fear being brought before a criminal court. We ask the Government why this extraordinary exception is being made. I would ask the Committee to consider what the Government propose in Clause 27. They propose this: A company, knowing that it has not got permission and being under no illusion about that, can carry out a very serious and prejudicial type of development. All that is to happen is that the Board can go to the High Court and issue a writ. I suppose there will be the usual procedure—statement of claim, even the usual interlocutory procedure, particulars, and all the rest of it—and the law will take its ordinary course, lasting many months before the matter in question gets before the trial judge. Even then, no penalties are imposed.
These moneys do not have to be refunded by the judgment of the court. Those that have overcharged can keep the money in their pockets, and they can keep the money they have gained by charging those prices for many months while the proceedings are pending. It is conceivable that the judge may grant an interlocutory injunction, but that is highly speculative. When judgment is obtained there can be an appeal, and ultimately the matter may get to the House of Lords many months later still.
Why is there to be this two-stage system of enforcement? Until an injunction is obtained those who are transgressing have nothing to fear. When the injunction is obtained, if they disobey it, of 709 course, they will be guilty of contempt and no doubt committed to prison, but until then they can go on and there is nothing to stop them getting in more money than they are allowed to get in, keeping that money and carrying on, if they think fit, with the development they propose.
What we propose is the following. We have taken a criminal penalty which at present appears in Clause 13. The Solicitor-General will very likely criticise me by saying that for this particularly heinous offence we have, in adopting the penalty of the Government for a much lesser offence, namely, refusing to give information, adopted far too light a penalty. If so, the hon. and learned Gentleman can change it by making the necessary alteration in the draft. However, my defence is that I have adopted the penalty which the Government have themselves imposed for a far lesser offence in Clause 13. If that is a mistake, the Solicitor-General knows how to increase the penalty and he may well think that is the correct step.
I am not suggesting that there should not also be a remedy by way of injunction. That may have its uses. It may be necessary to put it in the Bill and no doubt the Government have reasons for doing so. In our Amendment we do not propose to leave out the provision in Clause 27 for an injunction but we cannot think why these people who, in the assumed circumstances, will have committed not some light amiable transgression, a light peccadillo of some sort, but an offence which is amongst the most serious offences one could consider, should get off, so far as the criminal law is concerned, virtually scot-free.
If they refuse to give information, they are prosecuted criminally. If they do this far more serious thing of disobeying the injunction that they must not build without the permission of the Board, they can get off free and go on for months until the injunction is ultimately obtained. That seems to us a wholly illogical position. Now that the position has been pointed out to him, I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that it has slipped his vigilant eye in some way or other. We know he is heavily overburdened, and it is quite understandable, but I am sure he will be anxious to put it right now.
710 The only matter for controversy is whether the penalties we have proposed are sufficiently severe. I know all hon. Members dislike multiplying penalties, particularly criminal ones. Everybody dislikes it. Unfortunately they are an inevitable necessity in some cases and there can be no justification for excluding from the general code of the criminal law a really serious offence.
For those reasons I hope the SolicitorGeneral will be able to cut short the discussion by saying that he is only too ready to see the force of the arguments we have adduced and that he will readily assent to this Amendment. I feel sure that my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee will not seriously quarrel with him if he says he thinks the penaltles ought to be increased.
§ The Solicitor-General
I think it might be the desire of the Committee that I should reply to the right hon. and learned Gentleman at this stage. He has delivered himself of a powerful oration and I make no complaint of the way in which he has expressed his view. With a great deal of what he has said I am in agreement, but I am not in agreement with him on the advisability of accepting this Amendment.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that I had perhaps overlooked the possibility of making failure to comply with these requirements a criminal offence. I have by no means overlooked that, but, for reasons which I propose to advance, I came to the conclusion that for a breach by a company of the requirements imposed by the Board— namely, the refusal of consent by the Board and the Company going on with the development and the breach of a maximum price fixed by the Board—the remedy of injunction was by far the most appropriate.
I entirely agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if a company flouts the Board's decision as to development, it is a serious matter.
§ The Solicitor-General
Yes, deliberately. There is no dispute between us as to that. The right hon. and learned Gentleman kept on reiterating that it would be a particularly serious offence. We can all use different adjectives, but I 711 do not want anything that I say to be taken as inferring or suggesting that I regard deliberate disobedience to the Board's refusal of consent as constituting in any sense a light matter. As to that, we are on common ground.
§ The Solicitor-General
When one comes on to enforcement—the penalty for disobedience—either on this Clause or on Clause 7, I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to bear in mind that it is an important principle that when criminal offences are created by statute, they should be defined in the statute.
One does not know quite what the decision of the Board might be, in this sense: The Board might say, "Yes, you can do that amount of development, but you cannot do the bit beyond." Take the case of prices: The Board will be fixing the maximum prices. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment is accepted, what it amounts to is that the House of Commons will be saying, "If you do not do what the Board tell you to do, you will be guilty of a criminal offence and subject to a heavy penalty." We will, in fact, be saying that it will be for the Board to lay down what constitutes a criminal offence. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, and particularly with regard to prices.
§ The Solicitor-General
May I follow on with the argument? I did not interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Particularly with regard to prices, the price control orders can come before the House and be subject to control by the House, but the exercise of the Board's discretion as to fixing maximum prices will not come before the House. It will be fixed by the Board, and that is one very powerful argument for saying that the criminal procedure here would be quite inappropriate.
Now I come to the other point on which I differ from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, on grounds which I shall advance as shortly as I can. He has suggested that I might take the view that the penalties imposed by his Amendment are slight having regard to the apparent gravity of the offence. That view might be held, but whatever penalties are imposed here, I believe that the injunction 712 procedure against a company of the sort that is likely to, or which might, disobey the Board's command or refusal of the permission under the Clause, is really a much more effective procedure against a company than a prosecution in the local magistrates' court.
I entirely disagree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his argument that it was bound to take a considerable time before an injunction could be obtained. If a case is taken under Clause 5 where it is clear that a company is disobeying the Board, I should have thought there was very little doubt that one could get an interim injunction very speedily to stop the building or development going on. I believe from all I have seen that the injunction procedure against a corporation is an extremely effective remedy.
It can be followed, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, if there is disobedience to the injunction, by committal and by sequestration of the assets of the company. It is a powerful remedy. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may disagree—I dare say there is a great deal of disagreement all round—but I believe, if one is considering what is the most effective sanction against a big corporation, that the injunction procedure is much more effective than the risk of a prosecution in the local magistrates' court, whatever penalty is imposed.
§ The Solicitor-General
If it is not, the same argument may apply.
I believe that an injunction is much more effective. One has had instances of it, which the hon. Gentleman may have seen recently. Steps can be taken, I think, in the magistrates' court regarding the pollution of rivers. The injunction procedure in the case of polluting a river seems to bring about very satisfactory results very often where the person guilty of pollution has the injunction placed upon him.
Whilst views among lawyers may differ on this point, I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to accept—as I am sure he will—that it was after most careful consideration, and in the belief that this injunction procedure will be effective in the first instance to deal with any 713 breach either of the provisions of Clause 5 or of maximum prices fixed by the Board under Clause 7, that the Bill was drafted in the form in which it now appears.
If we try to make it a criminal offence, particularly in regard to prices, we get into the difficulty that the prices would be fixed by the Board without any control by Parliament and what would determine the constituent features of the criminal offence would be determined without any recourse to the House. That may be an argument which does not appeal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but it is an argument which should be considered. If we are to create fresh criminal offences—and we have created many in the last few years—I think it desirable that all the ingredients of the offence should be clearly defined in the Act of Parliament which creates that particular crime.
I hope I have answered all the points raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I am not sufficiently optimistic to think that I have satisfied him on all of them, but I trust that I have at least satisfied him that it is because we regard the injunction procedure as likely to be speedy and effective, followed by adequate sanctions if the injunction is disobeyed, that we have adopted that procedure rather than the criminal procedure for the enforcement of these provisions in the Bill, [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not have both?"] I was just going to add, in conclusion that for the reasons I have given we are against criminal procedure where the Board lays down what the prices have to be. Therefore, I do not think it would be right or proper to marry the two, having regard to the fact that the offences will resuIt from disobedience of the Board's mandate and not disobedience of something defined by this House.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Of course I accept the statement of the Solicitor-General that he believes an injunction is the best remedy here. I would only reply to him in the words used on a famous occasion by the Duke of Wellington:If you believe that, you would believe anything.I think I have good reason for my reply. Let us begin with the injunction and see what happens. I was glad to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman agree—as 714 obviously we must all agree—that here we are dealing, or at any rate may be dealing, with a very serious matter. It is something which must be prejudicial to the common good, something which must cause very considerable damage to the community, damage which will be reflected in the lives and fortunes of other citizens, as is always, or practically always, the case with crime of any sort.
In this particular case, the person who has committed this grave offence, for offence I call it on moral grounds, is to be exempted from any criminal proceedings, and is to be brought, after such delays as the law may think fit in the case—for, after all, an interim injunction is a discretionary remedy, and one cannot count on it—at one time or another, before the court, and what is to happen to him? He is to be told: "Sir, you have damaged the community; you have injured your fellow men; you have done the most unpatriotic thing, and you have done it consciously, and you knew what you were doing."
§ The Solicitor-General
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman allow me? Does he appreciate that one can get an injunction if someone threatens or intends, even though they have not actually done it?
§ Mr. Mitchison
Let us be perfectly clear about this, because it is a serious matter. I am dealing with the case in which an iron and steel producer has already deliberately flouted the Board.
§ The Solicitor-General
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman really suggesting that one of these big schemes turned down by the Board would be completed without the Board knowing that it had even been started?
§ Mr. Mitchison
If, in fact, this is never going to happen, I do not think that the learned Solicitor-General need be so concerned about a criminal penalty for something which is never going to take place. I am assuming that, when there are provisions in a Bill even for an injunction in respect of something which has been done, this kind of provision is meant seriously, even by a Tory SolicitorGeneral, and is meant to have some sort of relation to the facts, and is not a mere figment of fancy. On that assumption, I proceed with what I was saying.
715 I assume that this offence has been committed. If it is never going to be committed, if the whole iron and steel industry is to be canonised and made incapable of committing an offence, we need not go any further. But let us assume that an offence has been committed. These people are brought before the court, and they are told: "My dear sirs, you have committed this very serious offence. You have damaged your country, injured your fellow citizens; you have done this, that and the other, and we are all agreed on the seriousness of it, but, as regards all that you have done, nothing whatever is going to happen to you."
There can, of course, be no damages, because the Board has not suffered damage. The damage is done to the community, and to the fellow citizens of these people, and it is the kind of damage for which, as a rule, there is a criminal penalty, but all that they are told is, "Do not do it again, and here is an injunction to say that you shall not." I say that to suggest that as a method of preventing the repetition of an offence which everybody can see was going on, without the faintest quality of punishment about it whatever, is a most remarkable form of special pleading.
Let us see what, in fact, is being suggested. Let us take a price matter. At one time or another, under successive Governments, we have controlled a number of commodities, and in this country the small man, whether he be a butcher or shopkeeper of another kind, is hauled up before the court and punished because he has broken some regulations about the prices of food. He does not get the benefit of the rather specialist advocacy which we have heard tonight when, in fact, he has done it and there is no doubt about it. There appears to be a degree of certainty about the nature of joints of meat which does not attach to the nature of pieces of iron and steel. I really cannot believe that kind of thing. Personally, I find it much easier to recognise an ingot when I see it than to go into the niceties of a butcher's description about particular kinds of meat, or trade descriptions of various other kinds of food.
What is the real distinction between the two cases? Let me tell the hon. and learned Gentleman what it is. The 716 butcher is usually a small man, and the shopkeeper is usually a small man; but in this case the people with whom one would have to deal for contraventions of price orders would not be small men. They would be big men, very big men, because a small man is unfortunately not able at the present time to start up a modern steel works.
As far as I can see, the only distinction between the offender in the one case and the offender in the other is a question of the size of the offender and, possibly, a corresponding distinction about the size of his crime. The big offender with the big crime escapes unpunished, and is told in the quiet seclusion of a civil court not to do it again—there is no penalty for the past because that is what an injunction comes to—whereas, at the same time, the little man with the little offence is hauled before the police court near where he lives and is punished as a crook.
Surely we cannot stand for that kind of thing. Let the Government make what distinctions they like between one type of breach of the provisions of the price regulations and another; let them adjust the penalty as they think fit, because it may well be that it is not serious enough. Perhaps they would like to consider the corporal punishment Bill which is coming on in a day or two. There are all sorts of possibilities.
I am not concerned with that, but to let off the big man scot-free and to punish the small man who breaks other price regulations is a scandal and a disgrace to this House and to the party which is prepared to stand for it. There may be some differentiation to be made, but that is an entirely different matter. If the Solicitor-General were to get up and say that the point is rather a difficult one and that he would like to consider it more fully because special provision may have to be made, we would not object.
I turn now to the provision about projects. The parallel is perfectly obvious. There are building projects at present which have exactly the same degree of uncertainty surrounding them and which are in every possible respect exactly comparable to what is going to happen in this case. If one were to hunt about for it, one might be able to find some subtle distinction of logic or hair splitting between the one case and the other.
717 But, after all, we are sent here by ordinary people who have scant patience when dealing with a lot of hair splitting as between one case and another, and who see the private man who breaks the building regulations being punished now and who have seen him being punished for a long time in the past in every case in which he is caught. But when it comes to the big people, though their breaches of the regulations will be far easier to detect because they will be doing something which the Board has expressly refused them the right to do, they will see also that in those circumstances the big people will not be punished.
We are all interested in preserving the decency of this place and the decency of democratic Government in this country. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite must themselves know what the ordinary man would say both as regards price contraventions and what I would call the project contraventions. He will simply say that the Tory Party are this time looking after their friends a little too obviously. He will say that if this involved anyone but the big boys in the iron and steel industry there would be criminal penalties for both these matters in this Bill, and that it is nothing short of scandalous that they were omitted in the first instance and are now refused.
§ The Solicitor-General
I should like to say a few words in answer to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), because he made a powerful speech and I always listen with the greatest attention to all the arguments which he advances. He started off by saying that under Clause 5 of this Bill, as it now stands, there would be no remedy if, in fact, someone completed a scheme. He said that if the scheme were carried out nothing could be done except the obtaining of an injunction. That is quite true, but one advantage which he has overlooked is that the Board can step in directly a big scheme starts and obtain an injunction then. They do not have to wait until it is completed.
The hon. and learned Member also talked a great deal about how he could tell the difference between ingots and pieces of meat. I am very glad that he can. But when he seeks to compare the scheme in this Bill with price controls imposed under legislation passed by the 718 House of Commons, fixed by Orders against which Prayers can be moved in the House—price controls imposed upon butchers and shopkeepers—with a scheme set out in this Bill, then I say that he is comparing things which are completely dissimilar.
Price controls fixed by Statutory Instruments and Regulations create criminal offences under which small and big people may, if they infringe them, be rendered liable to criminal conviction. There is no distinction there; and here if there is a breach by a small man of a price fixed by the Board, he is in no greater risk and liable to no greater penalty or to a penalty of a different character than a big concern. In each case the remedies here suggested are the remedies of injunction against the accused, or the guilty person if I may use that term, large or small. Therefore, I suggest to the hon. and learned Member that really it is not right to compare the system set up by this Bill, which has as a precedent something which was contained in the Monopolies Act, with price control set up by Statutory Instrument or statute.
Then the hon. and learned Member talks about letting these people off scot-free. I do not at all agree with him about that. I believe that this injunction procedure will prove in fact far more satisfactory against both the big and small infringers of prices fixed by the Board than any proceedings in the criminal courts.
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
I cannot refrain from pointing out that the Solicitor-General in his last few words made a completely illusory analogy. He used as a comparison the penalties which now operate in the field of food prices, in relation to criminal acts such as charging prices which are higher than those permitted under Orders laid down by Parliament. In doing so he made a comparison between the person who commits the small offence and the person who commits the big offence, and he implied that both are treated under the same procedure.
He then went on to say, "The small man in the iron and steel industry will be treated in exactly the same way as the big man, if and when either commits a breach of the price arrangements or 719 the building extension arrangements." We say that offences against food prices and offences for which punishment is contemplated in the Bill should both be treated as criminal offences and punished accordingly.
It is obvious to anyone who considers it that the Solicitor-General's statement is not an explanation or a justification of Government policy; it is an entirely false analogy, running away from the
§ facts which are contemplated in this Measure. I suggest that there is only one course to be taken by hon. Members on this side of the Committee, and that is to go into the Division Lobby to express utter contempt for the attitude of the Government in this matter.
§ Question put. "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 217: Noes, 234.723
|Division No. 91.]||AYES||[9.46 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Freeman, John (Watford)||Moody, A. S.|
|Adams, Richard||Gibson, C. W.||Morgan,. Dr. H. B. W.|
|Albu, A. H.||Glanville, James||Morley, R.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Mort. D. L.|
|Awbary, S. S.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield)||Moyle, A.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Grentfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Baird, J.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Murray, J. D.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Nally, W.|
|Bartley, P.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Bence, C. R.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Oliver, G. H.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Hamilton, W. W.||Orbach, M.|
|Benson, G.||Hannan, W.||Oswald, T.|
|Beswick, F.||Hargreaves, A.||Padley, W. E.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hastings, S.||Palmer, A. M. F|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hayman, F. H.||Pannell, Charles|
|Blyton, W. R.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Pargitar, G. A.|
|Boardman, H.||Herbison, Miss M.||Parker, J.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Paton, J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hobson, C. R.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Brockway, A. F.||Holman, P.||Popplewell, E.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Houghton, Douglas||Porter, G.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hughes, Emrys (S Ayrshire)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pryde D. J|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Callaghan, L. J||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reeves, J|
|Carmichael, J.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Champion, A. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Janner, B.||Rhodes, H.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Richards, R.|
|Clunie, J.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Collick, P. H.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Ross, William|
|Craddock, George (Bradferd, S.)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Short, E. W.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham. S)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Keenan, W.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Kenyon, C.||Slater, J.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||King, Dr. H. M.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|de Freitas. Geoffrey||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S)|
|Deer, G.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwiok)||Snow, J. W.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lewis, Arthur||Sorensen, R. W|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lindgre[...], G. S||Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||MacColl, J. E||Steele, T.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. [...] C.||McGovern, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Edelman, M.||McInnes, J.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Edwards, John (Brighouse)||McLeavy, F.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. H.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Ewart, R.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Finch, H. J.||Manuel, A. C.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Follick, M.||Mellish. R. J.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Foot, M. M.||Messer, F.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mikardo, Ian||Tomney, F.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mitchison. G. R.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||While, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Viant, S. P.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Wallace, H. W.||Wigg, George||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Weitzman, D.||Wilkins, W. A.||Yates, V. F.|
|Wells, William (Walsall)||Williams, David (Neath)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|West, D. G.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wheeldon, W. E.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. A. Allen|
|White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Foster, John||Markham, Major S. F.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Marples, A. E.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Medlicott, Brig. F.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Mellor, Sir John|
|Arbuthnot, John||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Godber, J. B.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas|
|Asshelon, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W)||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Gough, C. F. H.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Gower, H. R.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Banks, Col. C.||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Barber, Anthony||Grimond, J.||Nicholson, Nigel (Bournemouth, [...].)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Odey, G. W.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Orr, Capt, L. P. S.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hay, John||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Heald, Sir Lionel||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Black, C. W.||Heath, Edward||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Higgs, J. M. C.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Hirst, Geoffrey||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Braine, B. R.||Holland-Martin, C. J||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Holt, A. F.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H||Hope, Lord John||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Profumo, J. D.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Redmayne, M.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hurd, A R.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S)|
|Carr, Robert||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Hyton-Foster, H. B. H.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Russell, R. S.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Cole, Norman||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Keeling, Sir Edward||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Kerr, H. W||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Cooper, Son. Ldr. Albert||Lambert, Hon. G||Scott, R. Donald|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Lambton, Viscount||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Shepherd, William|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Leather, E. H. C.||Snadden, M. WcN.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Speir, R. M.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Deedes, W. F.||Linstead, H. N.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Llewellyn, D. T.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Longden, Gilbert||Storey, S.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Low, A. R. W.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Summers, G. S.|
|Drewe, C.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Teeling, W.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Erroll, F. J.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Tilney, John|
|Fell, A.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Maclean, Fitzroy||Turton, R. H.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Wade, D. W.|
|Fort, R.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)||Wills, G.|
|Walker-Smith, D. C.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)||Wood, Hon. R|
|Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Watkinson, H. A||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Sir H. Butcher and Mr. Kaberry.|
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 7.—(DUTY OF PRODUCERS TO COMPLY WITH BOARD'S DETERMINATION OF MAXIMUM PRICES.)
§ Mr. J. Freeman
Although it is only drafting, I think that we are entitled to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to explain exactly what it means. It is a little obscure.
§ Mr. Low
It means what it says: subject to the following provisions of this Act; and it is put in here to draw the Committee's attention to the fact that the powers in Clause 7 are subject to the following provisions. As the Committee knows, there is a new Clause to be moved —[Application of price provisions to castings and forgings.]—and there is Clause 8, which concerns the use of the powers in this Clause, and I think the reader's attention should be drawn to that point.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss
I beg to move, in page 6, line 33, to leave out "Board," and to insert "Minister."
The purpose of this Amendment is to substitute the Minister for the Board as the authority, and the sole authority, for fixing iron and steel prices. It seems to us that one of the worst features of this Bill is that it keeps on dividing authority and responsibility. It is the first essential of any good organisation, whether in industry or elsewhere, that responsibility for executive action should be clearly defined. We find that this is not so in this Bill; that it is exceedingly deficient in this respect. As we shall be discussing later, this Bill contains provisions which divide authority in the most remarkable way. In many matters responsibility is divided between 724 six bodies, the company concerned, the Iron and Steel Federation, the Board, the Minister of Supply, the Agency, and the Treasury. We leave that for a later Clause, when we discuss the position of the Agency, but what is perfectly clear is that here the very important responsibility for deciding who should fix maximum prices rests both with the Board and the Minister.
We think that that is wrong, and we cannot think why the Minister inserted this very strange provision in the Bill, unless there was some inter-Departmental or inter-Ministerial argument as to who should have this important power, the Board or the Minister, and finally a compromise was reached that they should both have it, that the Board should first fix prices and then, if the Minister or Parliament did not like the Board's prices, the Minister could step in, cancel the prices fixed by the Board, and start imposing his own. We think that that is a ridiculous situation, and we say that there should not be two people responsible for this; the responsibility should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Minister who is responsible to Parliament.
It seems to us that the Minister has chosen the worst of both worlds, because by the present position he will not escape responsibility to Parliament, if any prices fixed by the Board are considered unreasonable. Parliament will be able to question him about it. Any hon. Member will be able, under Clause 8, to get up and ask him why he has not fixed the prices as he was empowered to do and will be able to cross-question him and make a row. The Minister will presumably be able to say, "prior responsibility is on the Board," and will be able to use the Board as an excuse. That seems to us to be an indefensible situation, an improper one and structurally a very ill-thought out one which will lead to considerable differences.
It may be argued—and very likely the Minister will argue this—that under our nationalisation Bill the Corporation were given the authority to 725 fix prices, and it may be suggested that, as we gave that authority to the Corporation, it is only proper that the Board should have it now. But that argument is unsound because the status of the Corporation is entirely different from that of the Board which is to be set up.
The Corporation were particularly entrusted to look after the interests of the public, the national interest and the consumers'. The Board's job, as we know from a number of speeches made by the Minister, is not to look after the national or public interest. That, we are told, is the job of the Government and of the Minister of Supply in particular, and that is the reason why we say that the Minister of Supply should accept that responsibility and should have the onus of fixing prices which he thinks necessary.
I should like to read to the Committee the general duties which were given to the Corporation, from which it will be seen that they are very different from those being entrusted to the Board. We said, in Section 3 of the Iron and Steel Act, 1949:It shall be the general duty of the Corporation so to exercise their powers as—(a) to promote the efficient and economical supply of the products of the activities specified in the first column of the Second Schedule to this Act, and to secure that those products are available in such quantities, and are of such types, qualities and sizes, and are available at such prices, as may seem to the Corporation best calculated to satisfy the reasonable demands of the persons who use those products for manufacturing purposes and to further the public interest in all respects;When we sought to move an Amendment to the present Bill to ensure that the Board should carry out their duty, bearing the public interest or the national interest in mind, that Amendment was rejected, and we were told that that was not to be the responsibility of the Board. We regret that decision but we must accept it.
The difference is this; it was the job of the Corporation to look after the public interest—that is what it was there for. Therefore, there was the argument— a doubtful one even then—that the Corporation which was to be set up to look after the public interest and the interest of the consumers should be entrusted with the authority for fixing maximum prices. I was in some doubt at the time whether it would not be better 726 for the Minister to have those powers. We decided, on balance, that it was right that the Corporation should have them.
Today, if we have a Board set up whose duty is limited to looking after the efficiency of the iron and steel industry and which told that it is not its duty and that it cannot and should not look after the public interest—that that is the responsibility of the Minister as only the Minister and Government can do that—then we say that it is right, where the national interest is so much involved, for the Government and the Minister to decide what the maximum prices should be and not the Board. Dual responsibility between the Board and the Minister is all wrong.
There are one or two further arguments which I should like to put before the Committee in support of this Amendment. Obviously, the Board, as it is to be set up, is bound to be biased in favour of high prices. It is going to have on it people definitely representative of industry, some consumers' representatives, it is true, and people drawn from both sides of the iron and steel industry, but it is plain I think that this Board which is told that it is not its duty to consider the national interest will be biased in favour of high prices for the iron and steel industry.
A board which has that bias will not command the respect or confidence of the consumers of iron and steel products. It is not the slightest good saying that this is all right because there will be on the Board a couple of folk who are supposed to represent consumer interests. It will not work out like that. Having on the Board somebody from the shipbuilding industry will not in the slightest satisfy those in the automobile industry. Having someone from the automobile industry on the Board will not satisfy those in the railways or the mines, who are very large consumers of iron and steel. If someone from the Transport Commission representing the railways is on the Board, that will not satisfy those in the building industry who are also large consumers. If there are representatives of the building industry on the Board, that will not satisfy the boiler makers. So I could go on. A couple of consumers' representatives on the Board will not satisfy consumers as a whole.
727 In this matter, where the national interest must be paramount, where all factors must be taken into account, and where the prices which are charged may, as we argued earlier, seriously affect employment in this country, enable industry to export or to lose its export market, and have profound effects in all parts of the country, the body which the Minister admits is the sole one which can take the general national interest into account, must be the one to decide what the level of prices of its products should be.
This would enable us to obviate the difficulty into which we got on the last Amendment. We had then the argument of the Solicitor-General in defence of the injunction procedure instead of criminal procedure. The Solicitor-General said that the prices will be fixed by the Board and not by Parliament and, therefore, it is 'ridiculous that there should be criminal procedure. All that would be swept aside if the Minister brought orders before the House, as he does now, after taking all matters into account and fixing prices.
What happens now about price fixing? AIthough the Corporation was given the power—we thought that, on balance, it was right to do so, although there was some doubt—it is the Minister who still does it. Both I and my successor felt it right that this grave responsibility should rest on the Minister, who is responsible to Parliament, rather than on the Board. How are prices fixed? The steel industry, through the Iron and Steel Federation, come to the Ministry and says "We really think there must be increases in prices on certain ranges," and it puts up its case. The case is considered independently by the Minister's advisers, and accepted or rejected what usually happens is that it is accepted in part and rejected in part. The Minister's decision is final.
The Ministry may consult certain big consuming interests, and may not be a bit persuaded, or may be fully persuaded, by the arguments put forward by Steel House. There is bound to be a bias on the part of manufacturers of products who are asking for higher prices. I suggest that the Board is likely to be very much influenced by the demands put forward by the steel industry for higher 728 prices, and those demands will not be so carefully scrutinised, and objection taken to them, by expert independent advisers as happens now when the Minister, advised by civil servants, examines the demands for higher prices which are put forward by Steel House.
For all those reasons, we say that this authority should be taken out of the hands of the Board. It complicates the situation. There is a dual authority. The Board cannot be nationally responsible, as the Minister has told us. The Government is nationally responsible for the welfare of industry and the standard of life of our people. Parliament should be able to challenge prices which it thinks are inappropriate. I do not think there are any politics in it. The reasons we put forward are purely technical. It would seriously improve this Measure and make it far more workable if the Minister were prepared to make himself fully responsible for the prices of iron and steel products.
§ Mr. Aubrey Jones
This Amendment recalls in many ways an earlier Amendment which we discussed and which would have given the Minister general powers of direction. I ventured in that debate to argue that, although in theory the Minister might well act in the national interest, in practice the Minister, who is that rather incalculable creature, a political animal, might well act in political interests. That danger is much greater in relation to prices than in relation to almost any other subject.
Consider what might happen. We live in an era of inflation. Prices are rising. Some prices are controlled, others are not. The steel industry would find its costs rising and, under this Amendment, it would go to the Minister and indicate that costs have risen by x per cent. and ask for an increase in price by x per cent. The Minister before granting that increase would consult his Ministerial colleagues, and it is perfectly understandable that his colleagues might say to him, "Look here, this is a very serious step. If we do this then the cost of living goes up, and that rather pertinacious gentleman, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall, will ask awkward questions in the House of Commons." On purely political grounds it is conceivable that the demand would be turned down or, at any rate, toned down.
729 This could happen, and if I myself were not a political animal of a certain colour, I would assert that it has happened under political administrations of more than one colour. That is why my bias lies, in the normal run of things, towards giving the price determining powers to the Board, which will come to its decision on purely economic grounds. I concede, as was conceded during the course of the afternoon on an earlier Amendment, that noneconomic considerations are to be taken into account. There is, for instance, the matter of full employment, and we contend that the person to take these other considerations into account should be the Minister. We contend that the Board should take the economic factors into account and the Minister the noneconomic factors. The right hon. Gentleman objects to this division of functions. It is just because it is a division of functions that it seems to me to be the right solution.
Earlier we discussed development—the economic factors and the noneconomic factors. Hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to entrust the decision on both these factors to the Board. One might well work against the other, and had we accepted that earlier Amendment by the Opposition on the matter of full employment we should have been giving to the Board a self-contradictory direction. It is to avert that element of contradiction that we say it is entirely right to separate the two things—the economic to the Board, the non-economic to the Minister. Otherwise, were the Minister to take the decision on both grounds we should never know what, in fact, was happening—whether the increase was granted on economic grounds or noneconomic grounds. Once we depart blindly and ignorantly from the rule of economics, it seems to me that we are heading for economic disaster. To avert that this Amendment, in my opinion, should be rejected.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
As the Bill is drafted, responsibility for preventing excessive prices is placed, in the first instance, upon the Board. Clause 8, however, gives the Minister power to override the Board if he thinks it necessary in the national interest. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) made 730 some play of the fact that there was divided responsibility. I agree with him that, in an efficient organisation, the division of responsibility should be clearly defined, but I do not agree that all responsibility and authority has to be placed in the hands of one body and that it is always wrong to have reserve powers resting with some other body. I will say a little more about that in reply to the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman.
The Bill is not the result of disagreement between any of my right hon. Friends and myself; it is the result of careful thought. In some respects we did not hesitate to study the Act which the right hon. Gentleman himself produced in 1949. In many places he will see whole paragraphs taken almost directly out of his Measure. He referred to certain points of resemblance, no doubt in the hope of disarming my criticism.
The Amendment proposes to take the price-fixing powers away from the Board and to give them to the Minister. I am a little surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should adopt this line. The price-fixing power is one of the principal instruments of the Board in securing the efficient and adequate production of iron and steel. The Opposition have on several occasions complained that the Board has not enough teeth, but this Amendment seeks to extract such teeth as it has got. That seems highly inconsistent.
§ Mr. Sandys
The Board certainly will have wisdom teeth, but wisdom teeth are not always very useful. It is some of the main molars that the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to extract on this occasion. This would very greatly impair the influence of the Board and its ability to discharge its duties effectively. To transfer price-fixing powers to the Minister would have another serious disadvantage—we believe this will not be disputed—in that it would tend to bring steel prices needlessly into the centre of political controversy.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman created enough controversy a year 731 ago on this subject. If steel prices are to be fixed in normal times—I am not talking about times of shortage and of steel rationing—by the Government of the day, it is inevitable they will become an issue of party politics. That is not the right atmosphere in which complicated technical problems like price-fixing should be considered. We think it far better to entrust this responsibility to an independent body outside the political arena.
The Board, which will include producers, consumers, trade unionists and independent members, will be well qualified to arrive at a fair and balanced view on this question. We believe that its decisions will normally be accepted without question both by the producing and the consuming industries concerned. Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall said, the Minister will not escape responsibility before Parliament and it is not our intention that he should do so. Since the Minister will have a reserve power to override the Board on prices, should he consider it necessary in the national interest, Parliament will have the right at any time to question the Minister in regard to the exercise or non-exercise of his powers under Clause 8.
My belief is that Parliament will not expect the Minister to override the Board unless there is evidence that something is seriously wrong with the prices fixed by the Board. In that case Parliament will be able to hold the Minister accountable for steel prices every bit as much as it could if this Amendment were adopted. It will not in any way alter the accountability of the Minister to Parliament should the Board fail in its duty but as I have said, I do not think Parliament will normally expect the Minister to interfere. In fact, it would be surprised and displeased if the Minister constantly interfered in details of the Board's performance of its duties.
Parliament would, however, expect the Minister to interfere if, say, a scandal arose or if it appeared that the Board had failed to discharge its duties.
I am surprised that the Opposition should adopt this line which is so completely different from that in the 1949 Act. The right hon. Gentleman tried 732 to say that it was quite a another matter to give price-fixing powers to the Corporation, because conditions were different. They were indeed. The 1949 Act created conditions of monopoly under State ownership where it is all the more important that some effective power should be held by the Government.
The right hon. Gentleman took pride in having divested himself of responsibility for price control, but I do not think he was quite correct in that. He has criticised our proposal on the ground that it represents divided responsibility. I submit to him that the 1949 Act divided responsibility even more than the present Bill. The primary responsibility rested with the Corporation, as in this Bill the primary responsibility rests with the Board. Under the 1949 Act the Minister, apart from his general right of giving a direction to the Corporation, had the right to intervene on prices, if asked to do so by a third body—the Consumers' Council.
Under this Bill, the responsibility is, in the first instance, placed upon the Board, with a reserve power to the Minister. Under the right hon. Gentleman's Act, we had the responsibility in the first instance placed upon the Corporation, and then we had a kind of Siamese-twin arrangement between the right hon. Gentleman and the Consumers' Council; they together had a reserve power to intervene. A more divided and more doubtful arrangement it is hard to imagine.
Instead of having a fairly clear division of responsibility as between the Board and the Minister, there was this extraordinary arrangement under the 1949 Act. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can criticise us for creating divided responsibility.
Hon. Members will, therefore, see that we are providing more effective safeguards —this is important, and the point was made by the right hon. Gentleman for Ministerial and Parliamentary control over steel prices than was provided in the 1949 Act. Yet at the same time we are delegating this responsibility in the first instance to an independent body outside the political arena. We feel that these are important advantages, and I hope that, on further reflection, the party opposite will not press this Amendment.
§ Question put, "That Board ' stand part of the Clause."734
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 234; Noes, 214.735
|Division No. 92.]||AYES||[10.28 p.m.|
|Aitkin, W. T||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Nicholls, Harmer|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Godber, J. B.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Gough, C. F. H||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Gower, H. R.||Nield, Basil (Chester)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P|
|Arbuthnot, John||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Grimond, J.||Odey, G. W.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||O'Neill, Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Ormesby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Orr, Capt L. P. S.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Peaks, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Barber, Anthony||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Perkins, W. R. D|
|Barlow, Sir John||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Peto, Brig. C. H. M|
|Baxter, A. B.||Hay, John||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Heald, Sir Lionel||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Heath, Edward||Pilkington, Capt. R. A|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Bennett, Sic Peter (Edgbaston)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Birch, Nigel||Hirst, Geoffrey||Profumo, J. D.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Black, C. W.||Holt, A. F.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Hope, Lord John||Redmayne, M.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Robertson, Sir David|
|Braine, B. R.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)||Robson-Brown, W|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col, W. H.||Hurd, A. R.||Rodgers, Jahn (Sevenoaks)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Hutchinson, Sir Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hutchison, Lt..Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Browne, Jack (Govan)||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Russell, R. S.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G T.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Ryder, Capt R. E. D.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Scott, R. Donald|
|Campbell, Sir David||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr R|
|Carr, Robert||Kaberry, D.||Shepherd, William|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Keeling, Sir Edward||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Kerr, H. W.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Churohill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Snadden, W. McN|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Lambton, Viscount||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Speir, R. M.|
|Cole, Norman||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Colegate, W. A.||Law, Rt. Hon. R K.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Leather, E. H. C.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Stoddart-Scott, Col M.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)||Storey, S.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Linstead, H. N.||Summers, G. S.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Llewellyn, D. T.||Teeling, W.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Longden, Gilbert||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Low, A. R. W.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Tilney, John|
|Digby, S. Wingfield||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Turner, H. F. L|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Turton, R. H.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Vosper, D. F|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Dugdale, RI. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||Maclean, Fitzroy||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Watkinson, H. A|
|Fell, A.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Markham, Major S. F.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Charles (Torquay)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F||Marples, A. E.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Fort, R.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Wills, G.|
|Foster, John||Mellor, Sir John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||MoIxon, A. H. E.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Mr. Drewe and Major Conant.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Hale, Leslie||Pannell, Charles|
|Adams, Richard||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Albu, A. H.||Hamilton, W. W.||Parker, J.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hannan, W.||Paton, J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hargreaves, A.||Pearson, A|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hastings, S.||Porter, G.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hayman, F. H.||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)|
|Baird, J.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Proctor, W. T|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Herbison, Miss M.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Bartley, P.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Purley, Cmdr. H.|
|Bence, C. R.||Hobson, C. R.||Reeves, J.|
|Bann, Wedgwood||Holman, P.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Benson, G.||Houghton, Douglas||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Beswick, F.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Rhodes, H.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Richards, R.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Blenkinsop, A||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Boardman, H.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Ross, William|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Short, E. W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Janner, B.||Shurmer, P. L. E|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Snow, J. W.|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Soskice, Rt, Hon. Sir Frank|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Keenan, W.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Coldrick, W.||Kenyon, C.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Go!lick, P. H.||King, Dr. H. M.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Lewis, Arthur||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Lindgren, G. S.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||MacColl, J. E||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||McGovern, J.||Thomas, David (Aberdeen)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||McInnes, J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|de Freilas, Geoffrey||McLeavy, F.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Deer, G.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Delargy, H. J.||McNeill, Rt. Hon. H.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Tomney, F.|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Mainwaring, W H.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Brdmwich).||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Edelman, M.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wallace, H. W.|
|Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Manuel, A. C||Weitzman, D.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mayhew, C. P.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mellish, R. J.||West, D. G.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Messer, F.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Mikardo, Ian||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Ewart, R.||Mitchison, G. R.||White, Mrs, Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Moody, A. S.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Finch, H. J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Morley, R.||Wigg, George|
|Follick, M.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Foot, M. M.||Mort, D. L.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Forman, J. C.||Moyle, A.||Williams, Rev. Llewelyn (Abertillery)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Mulley, F. W.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Murray, J. D.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Nally, W.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Glanville, James||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon P. C.||Oliver, G. H.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Orbach, M.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn, Arthur (Wakefield)||Oswald, T.||Yates, V. F.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Padley, W. E.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Griffiths, David (Rather Valley)||Paget, R. T.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Palmer, A. M. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Bowden and Mr. Popplewell|
|It being after Half-past Ten o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN, pursuant to Order, left the Chair to report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.|
|Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.|
Question put, and agreed to.