HC Deb 25 February 1965 vol 707 cc600-3
Q1. Mr. Prior

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint an additional Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Power in view of the extra work involved in the renationalisation of steel.

Q2. Mr. Kershaw

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint another Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power with a seat in this House, in view of the heavy work involved in the proposed legislation to do with the steel industry.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

No, Sir.

Mr. Prior

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Lord Bowden would make an excellent choice for an appointment of this nature? Is he further aware that the noble Lord's views correspond much more accurately with those in the country than do the right hon. Gentleman's views on the subject of steel nationalisation? If he expects other people to give up their out-of-date views, would it not be a good example for him to give up his out-of-date views about steel nationalisation?

The Prime Minister

If the House looks at what my right hon. Friend said, I think they will find that his remarks do not bear the construction put on them by the hon. Member. I was asked whether I would recommend the appointment of an additional Parliamentary Secretary. I have the fullest confidence in my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary to meet any calls put upon them.

Mr. Kershaw

Is the Prime Minister aware that Lord Bowden said that the Government's steel nationalisation plans were in jeopardy unless they were modified to help the Liberal Party to agree with them? Will the Prime Minister say what steps he proposes to take to modify steel nationalisation so as to help the Liberal Party to agree with him?

The Prime Minister

The Government will continue to put forward the proposals which they think are right in the interests of the nation, whether the Liberal Party agree with them or not.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that steel is a major factor in our balance of payments situation, that last year we paid £106 million for steel and iron imports which could and should have been made in this country, and that, in general, the case for steel nationalisation is so overwhelming that there will be no difficulty at all?

The Prime Minister

I think that the figures o a the balance of payments for exports and imports were very authoritatively dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power when this matter was last debated in the House. I seem to recall that on that occasion the House took a very wise decision when called upon to vote on this matter, and it will no doubt do so again.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Does the Prime Minister realise that these Questions are directed to the burden of work within the Department? Does he realise that the meeting between the Minister and the leaders of the steel industry last week was only the second meeting and that this consisted largely of the leaders of the industry telling the Minister that his speeches were harming the steel industry? Does he further realise that the undertaking to which the Prime Minister assented in the debate about firms with multiple interests—he knows the point well—has never been made to the House? Either these Ministers are overworked or they are inefficient. Which is it?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman will have a chance, no doubt, to make those points when the matter is debated once again.

Hon Members


The Prime Minister

When it appears in the weekly announcement of next week's business by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. We all know the impatience with which the right hon. Gentleman, for reasons which have nothing to do with steel, is awaiting this announcement. I have no doubt that, on that occasion, he will express the views of the steelmasters as fully and as slantedly as he has today.

Mr. Iain Macleod

Does the Prime Minister realise that the undertaking of full consultation was given not only to the steel industry but to industry and consumers generally in this country? Does he further realise that these consultations have turned out to be a farce, and will he see that these consultations are genuinely undertaken from now on?

The Prime Minister

In view of the need for these consultations, I cannot quite understand, except for the reason I hinted at, why the right hon. Gentleman is so impatient to bring the matter forward.

Mr. David Griffiths

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the allegations and assertions which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are making are purely "phoney" and that they are more concerned with what we are going to do on the question of land than on the question of steel?

Hon. Members


The Prime Minister

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the workings of the minds of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We really must make some progress.