HC Deb 24 July 1962 vol 663 cc1268-70
36. Mr. Nabarro

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what further progress has now been made in steel denationalisation; what steps he now proposes to take in connection with the sale of Richard Thomas and Baldwins Ltd., in view of the impending completion of the Spencer works; what is the aggregate inventory value of steel stocks and shares of all classes still held by the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency at the latest convenient date; and how this figure compares with the aggregate inventory value when the denationalisation programme was inaugurated in 1953.

Mr. Barber

The book value to the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency of its investments and obligations on the 20th July, 1953, was £364.3 million. The book value on the 20th July, 1962, was £155 million, of which £73.9 million related to securities in and loans to Richard Thomas and Baldwins Ltd. The House was recently informed of the sale by the Agency of its debentures in the Guest Keen and Nettlefolds Companies, with a book value of £29 million. I have nothing to add to previous statements concerning Richard Thomas and Baldwins Ltd.

Mr. Nabarro

Would my hon. Friend confirm that it remains the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to follow the earlier statements made by four of his Conservative predecessors to complete the denationalisation of steel in the lifetime of this Parliament?

Mr. Barber

I think I cannot do better than to repeat to my hon. Friend and the House the very clear expression of intention by my right hon. Friend the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer which remains our policy, namely, when he said on 22nd May last: We have said again and again that our intention is that the concern should be de-vested, but when depends on the circumstances. I think that the important factor is to judge the time at which a fair price can be obtained, and that depends on the development plan, which is not yet completed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1962; Vol. 660, c. 214.]

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

In spite of the egregious clamour of the hon. Member who tabled this Question, will the Financial Secretary bear in mind the fact that there is a very considerable body of opinion in this country which is most interested to see a publicly and privately owned steel industry going along side by side to show the irrelevance of the ownership of the capital to the efficiency of a concern?

Mr. Barber

We all have our own particular contacts, but I am bound to say that I have not found the people of this country over-enthusiastic for nationalisation.

Mr. M. Foot

Does the Financial Secretary not recognise that the Labour Party is fully committed to the nationalisation of the whole of the steel industry? Would not the Chancellor of the Exchequer serve the interests of the whole steel industry much better by making it quite clear that there is not the foggiest chance of their being able to denationalise Richard Thomas and Baldwins Ltd.?

Mr. Barber

I am sure that the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for that clear expression of policy.