HC Deb 06 February 1962 vol 653 cc228-30
Q10. Mr. Shinwell

asked the Prime Minister whether he will instruct the President of the Board of Trade and Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer to prepare legislation for the appointment of a public corporation to take over the chemical industry and those industries concerned with the production of manmade fibres.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir.

Mr. Shinwell

Is not that a somewhat strange reply? Would not my proposition relieve the Government of their difficulties about mergers? Instead of merging these two very important firms—which is regarded as being in the national interest—is it not a more rational proposition to serve the national interest fully by taking them over?

The Prime Minister

I understood that, at the last General Election, the country rejected the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman for the nationalisation of the chemical industry. No doubt the electorate will be invited to consider this and other old nostrums of the party opposite on some future occasion.

Mr. Shinwell

Have not many changes taken place in Government policy since the last election? Can the right hon. Gentleman recall some of the pledges he made about security and the people never having it so good?

The Prime Minister

I understand, unless I misinterpret, that there is not the same keenness for broad nationalisation as there was once in the Socialist Party.

Mr. Peyton

Does not my right hon. hon. Friend think it extraordinary that, despite the temporary disadvantages of the Tory Party, the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends should continue to advocate this millstone of theirs about nationalisation?

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Prime Minister aware that since the Government propose, apparently, to do nothing to stop the formation of huge mergers and private monopolies, there emerges a powerful case for making those monopolies public?

The Prime Minister

No doubt that will be put before the country in due course when the new text of the revised version of Clause 4 has been finally agreed.

Mr. Wade

As an alternative to the procedure of nationalisation, which the Opposition favour, will the Prime Minister seriously consider some new procedure for dealing with these great mergers which involve important questions of national interest? Is it not desirable that consent should be obtained before the merger takes place, rather than that there should be consideration long afterwards when it may be too late to do anything about it?

The Prime Minister

That matter was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who explained the review which the Government are now making of this problem.

Sir C. Osborne

Is my right hon. Friend aware that people engaged in the man-made fibre industry would regard nationalisation as an absolute disaster; but that we would rather have two suppliers of our raw material than one? Cannot something be done to see that we do?

The Prime Minister

This matter has been raised before in Questions and I understand that it is likely to be raised again in debate.

Mr. S. Silverman

Does not the Prime Minister recall his many years' advocacy of the public ownership and control of public utilities? Does he not consider that some of the ideas of his youth and middle age may be apposite in the present situation, when dangerous giant monopolies are developing almost every month?

The Prime Minister

I do not retreat from those views, but I do not think that an industry making these products, faced with tremendous competition from Europe and the United States, can be called a public utility.

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