§ 26. Mr. Harold Walker
asked the Minister of Power if he will revoke the appointment of Mr. Niall Macdiarmid as deputy-chairman of the Government's organising committee for the steel industry, in view of his public attack on the nationalisation of the iron and steel industry on 8th February, 1967.
§ 28. Mr. Varley
asked the Minister of Power if he will reconstitute the National Steel Corporation's organising committee ensuring that the new members he appoints will not publicly oppose public ownership of the industry.
§ 31. Mr. Gregor Mackenzie
asked the Minister of Power whether the public statement of the deputy chairman of the Government's organising committee for the steel industry, on 8th February, on the subject of the nationalisation of the industry was made with his approval.
§ Mr. Marsh
No, Sir. The organising committee is working well together. It will be succeeded by the National Steel Corporation shortly after Royal Assent to the Iron and Steel Bill, and changes in its composition at this late stage would not help the transfer of the steel industry to public ownership.
§ Mr. Walker
Is not Mr. Macdiarmid's speech an outrageous declaration of war On the industry—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and will my right hon. Friend make it perfectly clear that he will not tolerate any kind of sabotage by those who allow political prejudice—[Interruption.]—to override national interest?
§ Mr. Marsh
It would be introducing a very dangerous principle for this side of the House if we were to assume that people on voluntary bodies had to conform to the view of the Government of the day. I am perfectly satisfied that Mr. Macdiarmid's work for the organising committee has been in the interest of the nation.
§ Mr. Orme
Is my right hon. Friend aware that any individual is entitled to his political point of view? However, 1415 how does he justify the appointment to the board of one of the bitterest opponents of nationalisation, who has said, since being given the job of vice-chairman, that he wants to see the steel industry rise as a phoenix from the ashes of nationalisation and go into private ownership again? How does my right hon. Friend justify such remarks?
§ Mr. Marsh
The first point to get clear is that nobody, apart from the chairman-designate and Mr. Ron Smith, has been appointed to the board. The organising committee is a voluntary body which is coming to a conclusion after Royal Assent has been given to the Iron and Steel Bill. As for a phoenix rising from the ashes, there seems to be some dispute about what was actually intended by the remark. I wish to make it clear personally—and it is Ministers who are responsible for the political direction of this industry—that it would be a disaster for the industry if it were plunged into denationalisation again. I will do all in my power to ensure that this is not possible.
§ Mr. Varley
If my right hon. Friend will not reconstitute the organising committee, will he take this opportunity to say that the future Steel Corporation will not be set up with Mr. Macdiarmid as a member of it?
§ Mr. Mackenzie
Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there is a great deal of concern amongst steel workers, who want to co-operate with the Government on steel nationalisation, and will he remember this episode and the attitude of many of his hon. Friends when he is making appointments to the new board?
§ Mr. Marsh
I frequently hear businessmen complain about politicians, but I must say that sometimes businessmen are not as good as politicians when they move into that field. I accept that very strong feeling was aroused by this statement, but I repeat that in any voluntary body one has to draw a distinction between remarks that would be intolerable if 1416 made by a paid employee but which have to be looked at differently when coming from a member of the voluntary body.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Is not Mr. Macdiarmid one of the most experienced and capable executives in the steel industry, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of its affairs, and is it not better to appoint an executive of that kind rather than a broken-down trade union hack—[Interruption.]
§ Sir C. Osborne
Will the Minister explain why it is that so many of his hon. Friends seem so bitterly dissatisfied with various aspects of Government policy?
§ Mr. Barber
Will the right hon. Gentleman accept the gratitude of this side of the House for his rejection of the ludicrous requests of his hon. Friends, and for choosing the best man for the job? But if it is a prerequisite of appointment to the board of a nationalised industry that the person should have a belief in nationalisation, does not the Minister agree that a prerequisite of membership of Her Majesty's Government should be a belief in joining the Common Market?
§ Mr. Marsh
It is not my task to deal with that last point. On the right hon. Gentleman's original point, I would only say that this statement did, as is obvious, cause very widespread and very understandable offence, and a great deal of feeling, and I repeat that such a statement made by a person employed by a nationalised body would be disloyal, and the difference here is that the person was not so employed.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is not my right hon. Friend aware that when someone is appointed and accepts collective responsibility in accordance with a decision of 1417 Government policy, he is expected to keep his mouth shut?
§ 32. Mr. Moonman
asked the Minister of Power what job description was presented to the deputy chairman of the Government's organising committee for the steel industry on his appointment; and what was the collective brief given to the committee.
§ Mr. Moonman
Would my right hon. Friend consider that if Mr. Macdiarmid's statement had been made by a senior executive of a board of shareholders in private industry he would have been dismissed forthwith? Would he also agree that the motivation of the men running an industry is just as important to the structure of an industry under nationalisation?