HC Deb 26 April 1966 vol 727 cc513-5
15. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Minister of Power whether the proposed terms of compensation for the acquisition of steel shares, set out in the White Paper of April 1965, still represent Government policy.

Mr. Marsh

I cannot anticipate the publication of the Bill.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Would it not be in the public interest to end the uncertainty which many thousands of investors are in about the value of their shareholdings, which has turned this most vital of our industries into a speculator's paradise?

Mr. Marsh

It is important to end all the uncertainty hovering over this industry, and the Government will do so in this Session. The particular issue raised by the hon. Gentleman is one which, obviously, will be covered by part of the Bill, and it must await publication of the Bill.

Mr. O'Malley

While accepting the method of assessing compensation set out in the White Paper, will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of bringing the five-year period up to date to read 1961-66, and will he take note of the implications of such a change?

Mr. Marsh

In the situation now, we have to take notice of the changed circumstances, if such exist, since the last debate we had in the House. Obviously, one of the things which will be considered, among many others, is the whole pattern of the terms of compensation, together with the rest of the Bill, though within the context, presumably, of the White Paper.

Mr. Barber

May I take this first opportunity to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on attaining his high office? Does he agree with the White Paper which described the compensation terms there set out as the fairest basis of valuation?

Mr. Marsh

The terms of the White Paper were accepted at that time, and have been accepted since, as the Government's attitude to this issue. A period of time has elapsed since, and, if for no reason other than that I come fresh to this office, one is re-examining the Bill within the context of the White Paper.

Mr. Michael Foot

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the attainment of his office and on the consideration he is giving to this subject. Will he consider, also, the proposition that it might be a good idea, as happened in the case of many other previous nationalisation Measures, if the compensation was not fixed at the beginning but was fixed after discussion about it in the House of Commons?

Mr. Marsh

Without wishing to be too repetitive, I think my hon. Friend will agree that we must all await publication of the Bill.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

When will the Bill be published?

Mr. Marsh

If the hon. Gentleman cares to put down a Question, I shall willingly answer.

17. Mr. Rose

asked the Minister of Power when he proposes to introduce a Bill for the public ownership of the steel industry.

20. Sir G. de Freitas

asked the Minister of Power when he expects to introduce a Bill to restore public ownership and control of the main part of the steel industry.

Mr. Marsh

I would refer by hon. Friends to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 21st April.

Mr. Rose

Before introducing the Bill, will my right hon. Friend give a firm commitment to look once again into the question of the compensation, which many of us on this side feel to be over-generous, and will he give an undertaking also to look into the question of a real injection of industrial democracy into the reorganisation of the industry?

Mr. Marsh

Yes, Sir.

Sir G. de Freitas

Can my right hon. Friend assure us that, when the Bill is introduced, it will cover all the assets of the firm of Stewarts and Lloyds in Corby, Northamptonshire?

Mr. Marsh

Again, it is not possible to anticipate the Bill. I would be rather surprised if the particular firm was not included in the proposals.

Mr. Barber

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider, in the national interest, deferring the introduction of the Bill, which can only hinder our economic recovery and bring gloom to our overseas creditors?