HC Deb 23 November 1965 vol 721 cc217-8
3. Sir R. Nugent

asked the Minister of Power to what extent it is his policy to direct the nationalised industries for which he is responsible to adopt policies other than those dictated by their commercial interests.

Mr. Frederick Lee

No occasion has arisen for me to issue a general direction. Where boards, in response to the Government's views, act otherwise than in their commercial interest, the procedures of Command 1337 are followed.

Sir R. Nugent

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that interference with the price of the area gas boards by him-self and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs has raised a doubt about Government policy? Does he realise how much this interference weakens and discourages the efficiency and independence of management of these industries? Will he please refrain from using this as an instrument of Government economic policy?

Mr. Lee

I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is now divorcing himself from the White Paper issued by the Government of which he was a member.

Mr. Peyton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the point made by my hon. Friend is that the principles of the White Paper to which he has referred should remain inviolate? What has happened, we suspect, is that interventions by his right hon. Friend the First Secretary are proving absolutely disastrous to those principles.

Mr. Lee

I think the hon. Gentleman will find at the end of the quinquennium that the principles contained in the White Paper have not been violated in any way.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is it not correct that the previous Administration interfered time and time again with the pricing policy of the Coal Board, and, in particular, is it not the case that the former Prime Minister but one, or two, or three, whatever it was, interfered with fares in London for purely political purposes?

Mr. Lee

Yes, of course, Governments have intervened. Otherwise, one of the good effects of nationalised industry would be lost.