HC Deb 22 June 1954 vol 529 cc224-5
33. Mr. G. R. Strauss

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he endorsed the terms of the sale of the English Steel Corporation shares by the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency to Vickers and Cammell Lairds.

Mr. R. A. Butler

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Strauss

Will the Chancellor say why he agreed to the terms of this transaction? Will he agree that the essentials of it are that the previous owners, Vickers and Cammell Lairds, have bought back for half the price for which they sold it—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—at£10 million as against£22 million, the full control of English Steel, and an entitlement to six-sevenths of all the profits this company make?

Mr. Butler

The circumstances are set out in the public notice. The right hon. Gentleman has given an abbreviated version. It is true that the equity was sold for£10 million and that there are to a considerable extent prior charges still remaining for disposal at the hands of the Agency. But it is, of course, the wish and intention of the Agency to dispose of them as well.

Mr. Gaitskell

But does the Chancellor deny the statement of the facts given by my right hon. Friend? May we have an answer?

Mr. Butler

I said that the full picture is given out in the published prospectus. The abbreviated version of it, in so far as you can abbreviate it, is broadly correct. The position is one which I should have thought right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would welcome. They have been pressing us to sell steel and asking why we have not been successful. We are being more and more successful in selling steel, and I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman would have been satisfied.

Mr. Strauss

Is the Chancellor aware that during the discussions on the denationalisation Bill many undertakings were given by the Government that no steel company would be sold except at a fair price and in the public interest? Can he really justify this transaction as in the public interest?

Mr. Butler

We have to sell the steel on the market—

Hon. Members

Rigging the market.

Mr. Butler

Various sales have been made, some of which show a profit and some of which do not show so much profit. I believe that we have achieved a reasonable balance in making the sales, as would appear from the transactions.

Mr. Assheton

Would my right hon. Friend agree that the Question put by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) is mischievous and misleading and gives a totally false impression?

Mr. Butler

The answer is "Yes. Sir."