HC Deb 23 November 1954 vol 533 cc1185-206

10.13 p.m.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Cold Storage (Control of Undertakings) (Revocation) Order, 1954 (S.I., 1954, No. 1312), dated 6th October, 1954, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th October, be annulled. This is an interesting study in the attitude of either side of the House on the question of public ownership or private monopoly. It will be interesting tonight to test the attitude of the House on this question.

At the outbreak of the war, the Government decided that it would be necessary to build a large number of cold stores to supplement what the trade already had. While the Battle of Britain was on, negotiations were proceeding between the cold storage industry and Lord Woolton as to what should be the fate of these cold stores after the war. Lord Woolton arrived at an agreement in November 1940, with the cold storage industry about the future of any cold store that should be built. This is what he agreed: any stores that were built for the Government and on Government account should suffer one of the three following fates. They should be retained on a care-and-maintenance basis as a permanent reserve; or they should be dismantled and the sites sold or disposed of as the Government might decide at the time; or they should be offered to the industry at a price determined by an independent valuation.

That pledge has haunted the Government ever since. During the war the Government built cold storage capacity amounting to about 15 million cubic feet, which is about one-third of the total cold storage capacity of this country. The buildings then put up cost about £7 million, and the cold stores then built, being new, were obviously much more efficient than a number of the cold stores in private hands. Some of them were badly sited from the point of view of peace-time commercial competition, because they were built in areas which were not subject to bombing. Others, however, were sited in areas where at the present time they can compete with private cold stores and can hold their own in any competition that may take place. That, at any rate, is what I would aver.

As a particular illustration, I now come to the case of Cardiff's cold store, which I know best, because it is situated at the edge of King's Wharf in Cardiff and has 32 feet of deep water. It can hold 10,000 tons of refrigerated produce. It has lifts, an apron for loading and discharging, 20 lorries, and road and rail communications have been built. I think it is fair to say that it is the most modern and certainly one of the largest cold stores in the country.

For the last 14 years that cold store has been operated by the Government at a substantial profit. It is very interesting to look for a moment at the question of profitability, because if we examine, as the Public Accounts Committee have examined, the relative profitability of the new Government-owned cold stores and the rather older privately-owned cold stores, the figures work out something like this.

I will quote the figures that were given to the Public Accounts Committee in 1947–48. It cost the Government about £800,000 to operate 15 million cubic feet of cold storage, whereas it cost private industry £3,500,000 to operate 37 million cubic feet. In other words, it cost private enterprise four times as much to operate about twice as much cold storage capacity. The reason, I think, is well known, and has been admitted in evidence.

A number of privately-owned cold stores are inefficient and old and are not necessarily in the best situations. Therefore, it follows that good, new, modern, efficient cold stores, such as the one in Cardiff, and, of course, others elsewhere, can operate at a profit, and on a highly competitive basis with private industry.

To bring the story up to date, the Government are proposing to revoke the order under which cold storage in this country is controlled. Up to the moment, it has been necessary to have a licence in order to control a cold store and another for charges. The revocation of this Order brings into force the pledges given by Lord Woolton during the Battle of Britain. According to those pledges, these efficient Government-owned cold stores are either to be put on a care-and-maintenance basis or dismantled and the site sold, or they may be offered to the industry at a price to be determined by an independent valuation.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)

Hear, hear.

Mr. Callaghan

I am very interested to hear that the noble Lord agrees that private monopoly should take precedence over the public interest. It is what I would have expected from him, and, of course, it is what is going to happen, because the Government propose to hand over these cold stores—if I understand the Press notice which the Parliamentary Secretary was kind enough to send me—to a company jointly operated by the Government and the cold storage industry through the medium of the managing company. The details of this arrangement are now being discussed.

What is to happen is that, in accordance with the pledges given, efficient public property will stand in jeopardy of being closed down in order that inefficient private property may maintain a profit. I notice that the noble Lord does not say "Hear, hear" to this. Perhaps the full consequences are now coming home to him because, in fact, what will happen is this. The industry, which is basically controlled by a monopoly—by the Union Cold Storage; Vestey's "empire," has a substantial interest in it, as hon. Gentlemen opposite will know very well, and so has Unilever—will be in a position to shut down these Government-owned cold stores because of the pledge given by Lord Woolton. If I am wrong in this the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me, but I think that those facts are correct. He may try to put a different gloss on them but, fundamentally, the facts are correct.

It is wrong that we should agree to the revocation of the Order until we have far more guarantees from the Government as to the line to be pursued by this managing company which is to be set up. The company is to be drawn from the industry and from the Government. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us whom he is to appoint as directors on the Government side? Are they to be civil servants? If not, who else are they to be? Secondly, what policy are they to follow? Thirdly, will they have a controlling voice in the management of these cold stores, or is the controlling voice to be that of the industry, through its nominees? Fourthly, are these Government cold stores to be operated commercially or not? That is the whole crux of the question and that is what we are chiefly interested in.

To us it looks as if these Government cold stores are being handed over to a company which will be mainly interested in ensuring that they are used only when the private cold storage accommodation is full. If that is wrong I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will deny it, but I am afraid that it is right. How does the hon. Gentleman think that these Government-owned cold stores can compete with the privately-owned ones if the competitors of the Government stores are sitting on the board of the managing company? It is difficult to resist the conclusion that we are, in fact, handing over the control of the Government-owned cold stores to the industry in the fulfilment of pledges which, in my view, were improperly given, and which set the interest of a few private persons above the public interest irrespective of the flow from it.

The Parliamentary Secretary represents a Government and a party which, so they say, believe in competition. I must say that I wonder whether they do not, in fact, preach competition and practise monopoly. I am bound to say to the Parliamentary Secretary that this is really a bad example of the way in which public interest is sacrificed to private enterprise. If, however, he and hon. Members opposite really believe in competition, will they give the Government-owned cold stores—and I single out Cardiff, because I know it best—will they give the Cardiff Government-owned cold stores a chance to show what they can do in competition with a private industry which is, admittedly, not efficient in all its cold stores? We know that there are efficient privately-owned cold stores, but there are inefficient ones also, and the margin of profitability fixed by the Government during the war had to be fixed at a level much higher than was otherwise necessary because of the number of inefficient privately-owned cold stores.

The Parliamentary Secretary really ought to give these publicly-owned cold stores in general—and Cardiff in particular—the opportunity of going into competition with the others. I suggest that, instead of handing all these over to a company on which the industry is to be represented—and I am sure that we shall be given details of the degree of representation—the hon. Gentleman should hand over the Cardiff store to the chief docks manager there. He and his colleagues would like the chance to make a go of it, and I am sure that they would make a go of it, They are interested in trying to get the Australian shippers and shipowners—and the New Zealand shippers and shipowners —to use the store, in order to get it going. It is a matter of great moment. The Parliamentary Secretary cannot expect us to believe much in his philosophy if his idea of private enterprise is to subordinate public assets to private monopoly.

That, broadly, is our case against the revocation of the Order. We think that he is doing it in a way which, if I may say so, slits the throat of the public cold stores, and for that reason I move this Motion.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

I beg to second the Motion.

We happen to have a special interest and concern in this question of the cold storage plants. In South Wales we have a particular interest in this question of the maintenance of an efficient publicly-owned cold storage plant. People of all parties and business people in all walks of life have joined together in the City of Cardiff in order to see what can be done to facilitate the trade of the Cardiff docks.

An efficient cold storage plant is a very important part of our plans for attracting trade into that important city and port. We are tonight finding that this cold storage plant is in danger because of a promise made nearly 15 years ago to big business interests, which apparently had to be placated even while we were with our backs to the wall during the war. It is a strange thing that in these palmier days we should find that we are being restricted because of the power of big business interests in the year 1940. I recognise that in public life promises made must be honoured by those who make them, but none the less I think that the changed circumstances which confront us today enable the Government to say that publicly-owned assets shall not be sacrificed to private greed, and that where we see publicly-owned activities, such as these cold storage plants, proved successful they will not wantonly be disregarded.

The Public Accounts Committee has had something to say about these cold storage plants. The present Minister of Pensions and National Insurance had the honour of being the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee when, in 1947–48, it considered the question of cold storage plants. It recommended to the House—I understand unanimously—that special consideration be given in the review of this question to ensuring that the fullest possible use was made of these Government stores which it might be decided to keep in operation. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will be kind enough to toll us whether these big concerns will have a voice in deciding whether the cold storage plant at Cardiff is to continue.

Have Unilever's the right to decide whether the Cardiff docks are to lose this publicly-owned cold storage plant or maintain it? If he will answer that, it will be at least clear in the minds of the people of Cardiff what policy the Government are pursuing. I have little to add because naturally there is a great difference between the other side of the House and this side on public ownership of important spheres of our industry, of which this cold storage plant is a very important part. We had it through the dark days of the war and the difficult days which followed the war, and the Government will be taking a great risk, and a security risk, if they endanger that cold storage plant, as they appear to be doing by this new joint committee which it is proposed to set up.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. David Llewellyn (Cardiff, North)

Normally I and my colleagues for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) are able to see eye to eye on many of the matters that concern Cardiff docks in their present plight, but this evening I think that my colleagues have somewhat over-stressed the issue of private as against public enterprise. It seems to me that there is not only a matter of doctrine involved here but also a matter of honour.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will give details of the precise nature of this pledge. I believe it was made originally on 16th January, 1940, by the then Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Food. It was confirmed in November, 1940, after the formation of the Coalition Government. Therefore, it seems a little unfair to try to pin the entire responsibility for this matter on to Lord Woolton. Here I would have thought that the doctrine of fair shares of blame for all ought to apply.

It may well be that this pledge is open to criticism, but I believe it was confirmed by the Coalition Government, and I should like to have confirmation or denial of that point from my hon. Friend. I feel that once that pledge was given, whether rightly or wrongly, it should either be honoured or varied by agreement.

Mr. Callaghan

Does the hon. Gentleman really mean that in November, 1940, when Lord Woolton was going to lunches and telling these people that the pledges that had been given by the previous Minister of Food were all right, that the Government, during the height of the Battle of Britain, formally confirmed this pledge? I do not believe it.

Mr. Llewellyn

That is a matter of which we should get confirmation. It is irrelevant whether Lord Woolton was sitting down to lunch or not. If the pledge was given by a Coalition Government, the responsibility for that cannot be pinned on the Conservatives——

Mr. Callaghan

On Lord Woolton.

Mr. Llewellyn

Or on Lord Woolton, because it happens this evening to suit the argument of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. If this pledge was considered so disreputable that it should not have been given, it seems to me odd that throughout the whole period of the Labour Government—the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East can correct me if I am wrong, because he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport—that no action was taken to vary that agreement.

Mr. Callaghan

The hon. Gentleman has not searched the records. If he does, he will find that I was subjected to fierce attack by the "Western Mail" because when I was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, I raised the issue from the Box opposite. I then referred once again to the pledge given and said how improper I thought it was. And in the 1950 Labour Party programme we recommended as one of the ways of dealing with this situation that the cold storage industry should be nationalised.

Mr. Llewellyn

It appears to be almost an occupational disease with the Labour Party to put in a programme something they have failed to do in previous years.

Mr. Callaghan

Is that all the hon. Gentleman has to say?

10.35 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Dr. Charles Hill)

One thing is clear. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) made the point, supported by his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), that the central question here is the pledge that was given. I should like to say a few words, first, about the background of the pledge. Before the war the cold storage space in this country, amounting to about 33 million cubic feet, was on average used to about half its capacity. It was in one sense a distressed industry and there were recollections of what had happened as a result of Government extensions of cold storage space during the First World War.

Cold storage, then, was being used to approximately one-half of its capacity. Hon. Members will appreciate what had happened. For example, the increasing importation of chilled beef into this country had substantially reduced the use of cold storage. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Llewellyn) said, it was on 16th January, 1940, that the then Minister of Food, anticipating what was clearly in sight—Government control of cold storage and Government building of additional cold storage space—gave pledges which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East accurately recited.

The pledges were subsequently repeated before the instrumentation of control in March, 1941, by my noble Friend, Lord Woolton, then Minister of Food. He was speaking for the Coalition Government of the day in reaffirming the pledges that were given. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West said that in public life promises must be honoured. He then went on to refer to changed circumstances and a new atmosphere and the like.

I want to put this matter on a temperate and reasonable basis, and I submit that it is essential that such a pledge given to an industry should be honoured, however inconvenient it may now be in the view of many.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

I suppose, from what he has just said, that the hon. Gentleman would also believe that the promise that was given by his party at the last General Election to the housewife not to take off food subsidies should also be honoured.

Dr. Hill

The right hon. Gentleman would wish to move me to other and more party-political fields. I propose to confine myself to this important issue, for it lies at the heart of this controversy now.

The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East quoted the pledge—that the cold stores should be retained on a care-andmaintenance basis as permanent reserves, or that they should be dismantled and disposed of as the Government might decide at the time, or that they should be offered to the industry at prices determined by independent valuation. That is the essence of the pledge.

The Government have taken the view that the pledge, given incidentally by a Coalition Government, should now be honoured, even though it may be difficult and inconvenient to do so, and that the fact of difficulty or inconvenience should make no difference to our determination to honour it. Will the House assume for a moment that it is decided to honour the pledge? Bearing in mind that there were three possible courses described in the pledge, how should the pledge be honoured? The Government propose to honour it in the way I shall describe.

They could, of course, honour it by administering these Government-built cold stores on a care-and-maintenance basis; that is a possibility. Because they have not themselves the staff that is needed for the administration of 47 cold stores, the Government propose to accept the idea of the creation of a management company to administer and manage these cold stores in conformity with the pledge.

I answer at once the main doubt raised by the hon. Member. Although the Government directors of the company will be few in number, they will have an overriding vote on all issues which come before the company. I say that without qualification. I cannot answer the hon. Member's question about the personnel, as no decision has yet been reached, but there will be an overriding vote.

It will be appreciated, and I think it is an important factor, that of these 47 Government cold stores 37 are in safe areas—areas which by their definition of safety have a relatively small population and a relatively small consuming public. To that extent those cold stores are not a useful proposition, commercially or otherwise, in time of peace. They were deliberately built in less populated areas. The result is that they are of relatively little use today.

It is proposed, through this company, to utilise these cold stores for storage purposes—I shall not particularise, for reasons which will be obvious. It is in agreement with the cold store companies that the stores will be used for refrigeration purposes where and when the prewar public cold store capacity is used to the full. We are acting within the pledge. It will be available where needed in any area and, in the case of Cardiff, it will be available for use for refrigeration purposes when the existing refrigeration accommodation in inadequate for the purpose.

Mr. Callaghan

May I have that made clear? Does it mean that when all the private enterprise store is full the low-priced, efficient, Cardiff cold store can be brought into use?

Dr. Hill

It means what I said. In conformity with the pledge given, this accommodation for refrigeration purposes will be used when needed, when the existing cold store accommodation is used to the full.

Let us face this fact. If the Government were to ignore these pledges, or through others so to administer these 47 cold stores—with 37 of them, a very high proportion, in "safe" areas—and if they were determined to get the business, they could get it by undercutting the existing pre-war cold stores. The Government could bankrupt them, and put them out of business, and then it would be necessary to find some device to keep these cold stores on a care-and-maintenance basis against the risk of a future emergency.

But the Government are attached firmly to the keeping of the pledge which has been given as being the only proper course. During the years immediately after the war the demand for cold storage was high. By its very nature, rationing on a large scale demands that a larger proportion of foodstuffs must be in cold storage, and the fact that there had been no chilled beef coming into this country since before the war had raised the need for storage capacity. Of course, the need for it will tend to fall.

There is the additional factor of a tremendous increase in the amount of what might be termed individual refrigeration; butchers' refrigeration which, by its existence, makes it unnecessary to use cold stores in the way in which they were previously used. So this company is to be the agency under Government control for using these cold stores to the full, consistent with the pledge given; and, in general, they will be used for storage purposes and for refrigeration when needed. In 1938, in Cardiff, 50 per cent. or less of the pre-war refrigeration capacity was used.

Mr. G. Thomas

There were 3,000 unemployed then.

Dr. Hill

Yes, but one cold store—the Great Western, I believe—went out of use before the war.

In that area there is a much heavier reliance on home-killed than on imported meat, although during the war years Cardiff, as a western port, was used more than in pre-war days. If we are, as I believe we should, to keep these promises, then this company should manage cold stores and bring the skill and experience which it will have into this system of control; we believe that that represents a reasonable and sensible way of doing it.

The point made by the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East arises from the pledge, but the difference between us seems to be whether the pledge given by the Government in 1940 should be honoured or should not be honoured. We believe that we are inescapably bound to honour the pledge given to an industry which so fully co-operated during the years of war, and subsequently, and we believe that the promises should be kept; and that, in the light of the pledge, we should make the best use of the cold storage accommodation.

Mr. William Keenan (Liverpool, Kirk-dale)

I know a little about this subject. During the war a lot of cold storage accommodation was destroyed in Liverpool, and I should like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if his records disclose that, before the war, we were storing meat, which should have been in refrigerators, in boats because there was insufficient storage accommodation. Is the storage capacity sufficient to dispense with the 47 cold stores which are now presumably owned by the Government? I agree that many of them were put in safe places because of the war.

Dr. Hill

Without notice, I could not give a detailed answer about the Liverpool problem.

On the main question, the position is that there is still a good deal of Government-owned food in the existing cold stores. As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) knows, we received up to September, and will be receiving for a little time, meat on Government account from Australia and New Zealand, and there is meat still owed to us under contract by the Argentine and the like.

There are other foodstuffs still in these cold stores. These foodstuffs will remain in these cold stores for some time, We are in a transitional phase between full usage of these stores for Government purposes and a position in which they may not be fully used at all times of the year.

10.51 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

The Parliamentary Secretary has spoken in a temperate and reasonable way and we are obliged, because that is an objective which usually he does not set himself. But what he said must be cold comfort to the Cardiff Members. He said we were bound by a pledge. If he will look at the proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee and the Select Committee on Estimates, he will see that it is clear that Members of those all-party Committees expected some reconsideration of this matter. It was not a party matter.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that he could not give any assurance on all the matters asked about, because we were governed by these pledges. I doubt whether anything has been done so speedily as the giving of the pledges to the trade in the opening months of the war. It is not good enough, in a matter affecting £7 million, to say we are bound by a verbal assurance given by Sir Henry French at a lunch for the trade.

All these matters were discovered later. It is no good saying that the Coalition Government were aware of this. This was discovered when the Select Committee inquired into these matters and it was found that a permanent official had bound the Government by a verbal assurance given at a lunch.

Let us look at the nature of the pledge. It was given in January, 1940. The Government did not then know that £7 million of the taxpayers' money would be spent on cold stores. They did not know the nature of the war which we were facing, and that, in 15 years' time, these cold stores would still be in the hands of the Government. Those are all new factors and it is ordinary commercial prudence to reconsider this agreement when there have been changes of circumstances.

Everybody, even the trade—and I emphasise that—expected that there would be some negotiation and discussion on this matter. For the Parliamentary Secretary to shrug his shoulders and say that the pledge was given by a Permanent Secretary at the luncheon of the British Association of Refrigeration in January, 1940, and that, therefore, it cannot be looked at again, is really trying the patience of the House.

Dr. Hill

There is only one point on which I wish to intervene. These pledges should not be belittled because they were oral pledges. The pledges were also conveyed to the industry in writing and were carefully phrased. It is clear from the context that they were deliberately given, and the occasion seems to have no reference to their validity.

Mr. Willey

The point I am making, if I may make it plain, is that here is a matter affecting £7 million which was not even negotiated. Nor was an agreement drawn up.

Mr. Callaghan

A sell-out.

Mr. Willey

To say that the luncheon speech was carefully prepared is hardly an answer to the charge that I am making.

As to the nature of the agreement, it has been summarised—the Parliamentary Secretary cannot challenge this—in these words: "The Government cold stores shall not be operated in competition with the private cold stores." As my hon. Friends have said, the Government cold stores work at half the operating costs of private cold stores. Yet the Parliamentary Secretary dares to say "I am going to compel the Government cold stores, which are working at half the costs of the private cold stores, to go out of business. I am going to put the sugar that is in the Dutch barges into the Government cold stores." That is no answer at all.

The Parliamentary Secretary has not even discussed the matter with the trade. He has not negotiated with the trade. If he had done so he would have said so. He could have told the trade "There has been a change of circumstances; the position is entirely different from that obtaining in 1940, and the matter ought to be discussed on the Floor of the House."

Dr. Hill

Of course there have been discussions with the trade. The hon. Gentleman really must not let it be inferred that the whole business and the arrangements that I have described tonight have not been the subject of discussion with the trade.

Mr. Willey

The Parliamentary Secretary cannot deny that he merely accepted what the trade demanded, which was the honouring of the pledge. I do not call that negotiation or discussion. It is an absolute flagrant abuse of public financial liability. I do not think the trade itself ever expected for a moment to get away with it, in face of the comments of the two Select Committees.

It is preposterous that these efficient cold stores should now be closed and put out of use, regardless of the vital national strategic interest. It is important to keep the personnel at the stores and to maintain the stores in operation. It was not a question of their being out-competed because of their location. Reports have shown that they were much too competitive for private trade, and that was the difficulty. I hope that the House will feel that the Parliamentary Secretary's reply is unsatisfactory.

10.58 p.m.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

One of the characteristics of this Session has been "Hill-baiting." It has gone on day after day, and week after week, with singularly little success. I can understand that the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) is a frustrated and disappointed politician, faced with a Minister who has handled his Department with consummate success, and his reinforcement tonight by the twins from Cardiff seems to indicate how poor and thin his campaign has been running.

Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)

Threadbare Willey.

Sir W. Darling

The Parliamentary Secretary has always given better than he has got, and he requires no great support from me tonight.

However, I am aware of something of the circumstances of the commandeering of this great industry at the outbreak of the war. It has not been made clear, either by my hon. Friend or hon. Gentlemen opposite, that what happened at the outbreak of war was that every cold storage in the country was commandeered and private enterprise disappeared. Many valuable cold stores were taken over. I know one built at a cost of £200,000 and completed in 1939, which was taken over by the Ministry of Food——

Mr. Callaghan

At a very fat profit, no doubt.

Sir W. Darling

—and its owner is now unable to sell it. It is against that background that the House should consider revocation of the 1948 Order.

Mr. Callaghan rose——

Sir W. Darling

I thought that the hon. Gentleman had made his speech.

Mr. Callaghan

I had. I am now trying to make the hon. Gentleman's. Does not the hon. Gentleman know that in order to fill in the picture he should add that the profits on the commandeered cold stores were so excessive that they were twice reduced by the Ministry?

Mr. Nabarro

May I remind the hon. Gentleman that these admittedly limited profits were all subject to 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax?

Sir W. Darling

My hon. Friend need not remind me of that; or the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who was, I believe, in happier days, engaged in the business of tax collection with an assiduity that he has been quite unable to repeat in his Parliamentary career.

This industry was commandeered at the outbreak of war, and very serious sacrifices were made—worthless sacrifices, in view of the taxation which resulted. To taunt this industry with being out of date and not up to the standard of modern refrigeration is unworthy of the Opposition. The building of refrigerators, like all building during the war, was entirely in the control of the Government. It would have been impossible for me, had I wished to run a cold store, to get a licence to build one. I should have been compelled to put up with the store I had, or to put up with the price that the Government gave when they commandeered it. Any profits I might have made would have been taken by the former colleagues of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East.

There has been talk of pledges. The Prime Minister said during the war to the people of Britain, "The war must be won, and we will take from you everything you have in order that it may be won, but all shall be restored to you." This was the paramount pledge, and if the Government are at fault it is that they have waited for eight years before returning this industry to its proper ownership.

The Opposition do not realise that we, too, have a theory of running the business of the country. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East described the theory that we support as one of greed. It is not so. We believe that industry must be run in the interests of the mass of the people and of mankind, and not by means of the somewhat clumsy instrument of nationalisation, which is more suitable to the running of a police force, or tax collection, as the hon. Member knows well.

I am unrepentant. We are as entitled to stand by our pledges as the Opposition are to stand by theirs. Our pledge was that we would set the people free and restore to them what was taken from them in order to win the war. This Order is taking that step, although belatedly, Harm has been done to this industry because it has been hampered and hindered for the last eight years. It is to be set free, not in the interests of the Union Cold Storage Company or anyone else like that, but of the people of this country.

11.4 p.m.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

We must assume that that is the best that can be said on this Order. I should be quite prepared to leave it at that. What are we asked to do? We are asked to accept the position that the least efficient storage accommodation shall be used and the most efficient shall not be used. That is a doctrine to which I should not think the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) would subscribe. It is astonishing to see the subterfuges to which politicians are driven when they try—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South need not put his hand by the side of his mouth. I am quite willing to listen to anything that he has to say.

Sir W. Darling

The hon. Gentleman knows about this matter very well.

Mr. Ede

What is the hon. Gentleman saying? Why can we not all share the knowledge? Why these secrets?

Sir W. Darling

That would come more fittingly from his hon. Friend.

Mr. Ede

I am sure that my hon. Friend needs no prompting from the hon. Member. The strange doctrine which we have heard, that the least efficient is to survive and the most efficient is not to be used, is not one which we can accept. I would suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, and to the Government, that he should have approached the industry to discover what was the proper thing to be done in the public interest, in the light of the efficient accommodation which the Government had been able to provide.

Dr. Hill

Will the right hon. Gentleman carry that a stage further? If the industry had said, "Keep your promise," would he have kept the promise, or broken it?

Mr. Ede

That is the position with which I was faced in connection with the fire service. I went to the people to whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) had given pledges, and I said, "Do you wish them to be kept?" They said that they did, as in any event the service would be under public control. I said, "Since you ask for the pledges to be kept they shall be"; and ever since they have been cursing me for not taking the service away. I kept the pledge.

The Parliamentary Secretary has not approached the industry. He has not put to the industry that departure from the agreement which was entered into would increase public efficiency. Until he can say that he has been to the industry and that those in it were so unmindful of the public interest that they said, "Our private profit first and the public interest second," he has no right to put to me the question that he did. I advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote in the Division Lobby in favour of the Motion.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 139; Noes, 168.

Division No. 241.] AYES [11.9 p.m.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)
Awbery, S. S. Fernyhough, E. Jones, Jack (Rotherham)
Balfour, A. Fienburgh, W. Keenan, W.
Bartley, P. Finch, H. J. Kenyon, C.
Beswick, F. Fletcher, Erie (Islington, E.) King, Dr. H. M.
Bins, G. H. C. Foot, M. M. Lawson, G. M.
Blenkinsop, A. Forman, J. C. Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lewis, Arthur
Bowden, H. W. Gibson, C. W. MacColl, J. E.
Bowles, F. G. Grey, C. F. McGhee, H. G.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) McGovern, J.
Brockway, A. F. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) McInnes, J.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Hamilton, W. W. Mann, Mrs. Jean
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hannan, W. Manuel, A. C.
Burke, W. A. Hargreaves, A. Mason, Roy
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.) Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.) Mayhew, C. P.
Callaghan, L. J. Hayman, F. H. Mikardo, Ian
Champion, A. J. Herbison, Miss M. Mitchison, G. R.
Chetwynd, G. R. Hobson, C. R. Molson, A. H. E.
Coldrick, W. Holman, P. Moody, A. S.
Collick, P. H. Holmes, Horace Morley, R.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Houghton, Douglas Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Crossman, R. H. S. Hoy, J. H. Mulley, F. W.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Murray, J. D.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Nally, W.
Delargy, H. J. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Meal, Harold (Bolsover)
Driberg, T. E. N. Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Janner, B. Oliver, G. H.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Oswald, T.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Johnson, James (Rugby) Owen, W. J.
Padley, W. E. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Watkins, T. E.
Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield) Weitzman, D.
Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Sorensen, R. W. Wells, William (Walsall)
Palmer, A. M. F. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank West, D. G.
Pearson, A. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.) Wheeldon, W. E.
Porter, G Stross, Dr. Barnett White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Swingler, S. T. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Probert, A. R. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Wigg, George
Proctor, W. T. Taylor, John (West Lothian) Wilkins, W. A.
Pryde, D. J. Thomas, George (Cardiff) Willey, F. T.
Rhodes, H. Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.) Williams, David (Neath)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Winerbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Royle, C. Thornton, E. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Shackleton, E. A. A. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Yates, V. F.
Short, E. W. Wallace, H. W.
Silverman, Julius (Erdington) Warbey, W. N. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Rogers.
Aitken, W. T. Higgs, J. M. C. Perkins, Sir Robert
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Alport, C. J. M. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Anstruther-Gray, Maj. W. J Hirst, Geoffrey Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Armstrong, C. W Holland-Martin, C. J. Pitt, Miss E. M.
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Powell, J. Enoch
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Baldwin, A. E. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Raikes, Sir Victor
Banks, Col. C. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Rayner, Brig. R.
Barlow, Sir John Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Redmayne, M.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Remnant, Hon. P.
Beach, Maj. Hicks Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.) Ridsdale, J. E.
Bell Philip (Bolton, E.) Hutchison, James (Scotstoun) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.) Hyiton-Foster, Sir H. B H. Roper, Sir Harold
Bennett, William (Woodside) Iremonger, T. L. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Jennings, Sir Roland Russell, R. S.
Bishop, F. P. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Bossom, Sir A. C. Kaberry, D. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W
Boyle, Sir Edward Kerby, Capt. H. B. Sharples, Maj. R. C.
Brooman-White, R. C. Kerr, H. W. Shepherd, William
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Lambton, Viscount Simon, J, E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Bullard, D. G. Leather, E. H. C. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Soames, Capt. C.
Campbell, Sir David Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Spearman, A. C. M.
Carr, Robert Linstead, Sir H. N. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Channon, H. Llewellyn, D. T. Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Storey, S.
Cole, Norman Longden, Gilbert Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Studholme, H. G.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Summers, G. S
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) McKibbin, A. J. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Teeling, W.
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)
Deedes, W. F. Maclean, Fitzroy Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Donner, Sir P. W. Manningham-Buller, Rt.Hn. Sir Reginald Tilney, John
Drewe, Sir C. Markham, Major Sir Frank Touche, Sir Gordon
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Marlowe, A. A. H. Turton, R. H.
Errington, Sir Eric Marples, A. E. Vane, W. M. F.
Fell, A. Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Maude, Angus Vosper, D. F.
Fort, R. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) Medlicott, Brig. F. Wakfield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)
Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok) Mellor, Sir John Walker-Smith, D. C.
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Molson, A. H. E. Wall, Major Patrick
Garner-Evans, E. H. Nabarro, G. D. N. Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)
Glover, D. Neave, Alrey Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)
Gough, C. F. H. Nicholls, Harmar Wellwood, W.
Gower, H. R. Nicolson, Niger (Bournemouth, E.) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Graham, Sir Fergus Nield, Basil (Chester) Wills, G.
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Oakshott, H. D. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.) O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Wood, Hon R.
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Ormsby-Gors, Hon. W. D. Woollam, John Victor
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Page, R. G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES;
Heath, Edward Partridge, E. Mr. Richard Thompson and
Colonel J. H. Harrison.

Question put, and agreed to.