HC Deb 20 January 1959 vol 598 cc37-9

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

66. Mr. H. WILSON

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he is yet in a position to make a statement about his decision on the applications made to him concerning the British Aluminium Company.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. J. E. S. Simon)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I will answer Question No. 66.

The Treasury have today given the necessary consents in connection with the acquisition of a majority holding in the British Aluminium Company Limited, by Reynolds-T.I. Aluminium Company Limited, a United Kingdom company.

Consent to an application arising out of a conditional agreement made between British Aluminium Company Limited, and the Aluminium Company of America has, in the circumstances, been withheld.

The arrangements made between Tube Investments Limited and Reynolds Metals Company ensure that the control of the British Aluminium Company remains in United Kingdom hands. These arrangements will not be modified without the consent of the Treasury.

Mr. Wilson

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the House will applaud the decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to defer taking a decision on this matter, as we asked him, until the situation had been clarified? Is he further aware that, despite the somewhat undignified performance of certain powerful interests in the City, this matter has now become clarified and that we feel that the decision taken by the Treasury is the only decision to be taken in the circumstances?

Are we to take it, as the hon. and learned Gentleman said, and we understand, that control is still unequivocally in this country? Will he give a further assurance, to which we on this side of the House attach great importance, namely, that the new company owning British Aluminium will ensure to the employees of that company the same status, facilities and rights that were granted to them under the previous management?

Mr. Simon

The companies that have acquired the control of the British Aluminium Company, as I think the right hon. Gentleman knows, are very well known for their excellent employment policies. I do not think that there is any reason to doubt that the employees of British Aluminium will continue to receive the same fair treatment that they have had in the past.

Mr. Wilson

Quite. When we had the famous clash with the outgoing Prime Minister on the Trinidad Oil Company deal, though we much disagreed with the unpatriotic decision of Her Majesty's Government on that occasion, we secured from the right hon. Gentleman an assurance about the conditions of employment of employees of the Trinidad Oil Company. When the hon. and learned Gentleman communicates to the new interests the decision which he has announced in the House this afternoon, will he inform them that it is the desire of the House and of the Treasury that all these employees' rights should be safeguarded by the new management?

Mr. Simon

I think that I can safely give the assurance that, as we communicate the consent, we will communicate the desire of the whole House that the employees of this company should be treated in every way in a fair manner.

Mr. Bellenger

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman enlighten the House about the fact on which he has based his assurance that control will remain in this country? Is it due to the fact that there are to be only three American directors on the board, or that the majority holding is actually an American one?

Mr. Simon

No, Sir. The majority holding will not be an American one. The essence of the arrangement is that actual control of the company will be by the British company, the Reynolds-T.I. Aluminium Company, in which Tube Investments have a majority holding.

Mr. Osborne


Mr. Speaker

I think that this had better stop.