§ 14. Mr. M. Foot
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, pending the Government's decision about the future of Richard Thomas and Baldwins, he will give a guarantee that he will forbid the purchase of any of the shares in the firm by foreign financial interests.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
Until the shares are saleable on the Stock Exchange the question of their purchase by foreign financial interests cannot arise.
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman a question which is not hypothetical? Is he aware that the only reason why a foreign or a British investor could become interested in these shares is that this is an exceedingly well run and profitable firm? In these circumstances, does he realise that it would be legalised robbery to allow any foreign investors to take any part of it?
§ Mr. Lloyd
That is why I said the question is hypothetical. We intend to denationalise the industry. Then the shares will be saleable on the Stock Exchange and the question might arise. As the hon. Member knows, at present there is no means whereby we can prevent private people from making transactions to acquire shares on the Stock Exchange. The Treasury comes in under exchange control regulations, in the case of a transaction of the kind we had in relation to Fords recently. The situation the hon. Gentleman is referring to is a hypothetical one, which I should deal with when the time came to deal with it.
Mr. Gresham Cooke
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I know that you are anxious, as always, to proceed with Questions, but I would draw your attention to the practice which seems to have grown up recently of hon. Members asking a kind of double supplementary question.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that it will be convenient for the hon. Member to raise his point of order after Questions.
§ 15. Mr. M. Foot
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, with a view to maintaining good labour relations, he will refrain from denationalising Richard Thomas and Baldwins.
§ Mr. Foot
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give one good reason why the denationalisation of this highly successful publicly-owned industry should be proceeded with? Is he aware that in the recent by-election in Ebbw Vale an overwhelming number of people who work in the industry voted against this piece of "legalised robbery," as my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) called it?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I do not think that there is one good reason why the industry should ever have been nationalised. We have fought three elections on these matters and we intend to carry out our decision. I do not accept, as the hon Gentleman suggested, that the workers in the concern are not in favour. But even were it so, I do not think that is the test, and I am certain that the hon. Member would not accept it were things the other way round.
Mr. H. Wilson
Since the Chancellor has said that, as long as it is in public hands it cannot be sold out to the Americans, but that if it were in private hands we could not stop it, is not that one good reason why it should remain in public control? Secondly, while disagreeing with my hon. Friends about the use of the words "legalised robbery", may I ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that if he sells this concern on the same humiliating terms as Staveleys and Llanelly, the robbery will not be legalised under Section 18 of the denationalisation Act: it will be "illegal" robbery?