§ (1) The Corporation shall from time to time publish, in such manner as appears to them best adapted for informing the persons affected, and in such form as appears to them appropriate, notices containing prices which they propose should, in normal circumstances, be charged in the United Kingdom by them and publicly-owned companies for iron and steel products, and terms and conditions on which they propose iron and steel products should, in normal circumstances, be sold in the United Kingdom by them and publicly-owned companies.
§ (2) The Corporation may in such a notice provide for the variation of a price term or condition published therein, according to such circumstances as may be specified therein.
§ (3) Subsection (1) above shall not apply to products of an activity specified in paragraph 4 or paragraph 6 of Schedule 3 to the 1953 Act except such, if any, of those products as the Minister may by order specify.—[Mr. Marsh.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
It would, I suggest, be convenient for the House to discuss, at the same time, the proposed Amendment to the Amendment standing in the name of the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber), in line 1, leave out from 'Corporation' to 'may' in line 8 and insert:'may from time to time publish and shall cause all or any of the publicly-owned companies to publish notices, setting out, in such form and manner as may in the judgment of the Corporation or such publicly-owned company best inform intending buyers of iron and steel products the prices that the Corporation or such publicly-owned company will charge in the United Kingdom for iron and steel products and the terms and conditions applicable to any sale or supply of such products.(2) The Corporation and any publicly-owned company'.
§ Mr. Marsh
Yes, Mr. Speaker.
This is the first of a number of Government Amendments and new Clauses 446 which have arisen out of contributions made in Standing Committee D and as a result of long discussions that have taken place between the Government and representatives of the industry and various persons involved in the industry in general.
Fears have been expressed by both those directly concerned with the steel industry and others about the position of the private sector. They have pointed out that the private sector will be faced with a new situation and a very powerful nationalised steel organisation. There is truth in that, in so far as it will be a very powerful body with an annual turnover of about £1,000 million. However, many of these fears have been exaggerated, although I accept that they exist.
The Government have made a considerable attempt to meet these fears at every possible point and the result is the considerable number of Government Amendments and new Clauses appearing on the Notice Paper. This is the first of them, and it is designed wholly and solely to meet the fears that have been expressed to the Government by the representatives of various sections of the industry.
Our discussions in Committee went on and on and on. This subject was debated at considerable length and requests were made that the Corporation should be under an obligation to publish the prices of its products. This request was made for obvious reasons. The only difference between the original representations and the new Clause is that—and I referred to this in Standing Committee and thought that this would be the result—the Clause is designed to ensure that it is necessary for the Corporation to publish only its normal prices.
It is essential to draw this distinction, because it would be impossible in reality to place on the Corporation an obligation to publish all its prices and trading terms. There must obviously be an element of flexibility. I say that because, for example, the position could arise when, in the public interest, the Corporation should be able quickly to change its prices so that it could compete with, say, imports.
Having said that, the Clause is self-evident. It requires the Corporation to publish the normal selling prices to be 447 charged both by itself and by the publicly-owned companies for, and the normal terms and conditions of sale of, iron and steel products. The right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) introduced an Amendment on these lines in Committee and on that occasion I agreed to seek to introduce an Amendment which would enable this point to be covered.
§ Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)
Would my right hon. Friend define more clearly what is meant in the new Clause by "normal circumstances"? For instance, could it not be argued that the circumstances prevailing at the moment are highly abnormal? This is bound to be the case when one has a high level of imports, on the one hand, and, say, 70 per cent. running capacity, on the other. What would my right hon. Friend describe as "normal" and "abnormal"?
§ Mr. Marsh
The position seems clear. It is difficult to define the legal position in terms which the layman can understand. Lawyers are able to go into these matters at much greater length and with much greater obscurity. It is clear that I am referring to the prices charged by the Corporation for the products which are normally in use; those applied in the vast majority of cases as a normal matter. As I explained, from time to time there will inevitably be a move away from the general level to other levels to meet particular circumstances.
The principle and intention is that the prices charged and the Corporation's terms shall be published—except that there must be sufficient flexibility to enable the Corporation to move quite rapidly to meet some unforeseen circumstances.
Subsection (3) of the Clause provides that these obligations which we are placing on the Corporation shall not apply to castings and forgings—that is, unless the Minister makes an order saying that they should. The reason for this is simply because it is accepted that the provisions of the Iron and Steel Act, 1953 apply in respect of these activities.
The case was well put by the then Minister of Supply, the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), who said: 448… castings and forgings … we feel, fall into a different category from the iron and steel products at the heavy end of the industry. There are so many firms in this section of the industry—foundries and forges—and it is so relatively easy for newcomers to enter it, as compared with the great financial cost involved in entering the heavy end of the industry, that we feel that normally it is reasonable"—Hon. Gentlemen opposite should note the use of the word "normally" in that context. There is, therefore, a good precedent for our using the word—to rely upon competition to assure to the consumers protection against excessive prices". —[OFFICIAL REPORT. 24th February 1953; Vol. 511, c. 1997.]The same general principles in relation to castings and forgings will apply following the passage of this Measure. The Corporation, despite its great size, will control only 9 per cent. of the steel castings output. It will control only 24 per cent. of the iron castings industry. However, if circumstances should arise when it appears desirable to extend the Corporation's activities, I have, as Minister, power under subsection (3) of the new Clause to make it an obligation for the Corporation to publish its prices relating to castings and forgings, and the Minister may do that by order, remembering that he is always answerable to Parliament for the use he makes or does not make of the powers conferred on him by this subsection. That order will be subject to the negative Resolution procedure because the affirmative Resolution procedure does not seem necessary since only the Corporation could be prejudicially affected by such an order.
The Opposition's Amendment to the Clause is defective, particularly since it leaves the form of the notice and the manner of publication to the publicly owned companies rather than to the Corporation. This is the wrong way of dealing with a matter as important as this. We should not charge the publicly owned companies with a responsibility for which they are not held responsible to the Minister. The Corporation is the body directly responsible to the Minister. However, I have no doubt that the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale will elaborate on that point.
§ Sir Gerald Nabarro (Worcestershire, South)
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the Corporation will be in a position to stipulate different prices for 449 different steel products by different steel companies, or will there be uniformity in pricing for all the 14 companies? That is the critical point.
§ Mr. Marsh
We will come to that later. I am at the moment dealing with a new Clause which is concerned solely with the publication of prices. I have no doubt that the right hon. Member for Altrincham and. Sale will explain the aims of the Amendment, after which, when I know his case, I will be in a better position to reply.
As I explained, the new Clause is merely concerned with the publication of prices and to ensure that those facts will be available to those who are interested in this matter and who will obviously react accordingly.
If the Amendment were accepted it would mean that the publicly-owned companies would be in the position of not having to pay attention to the views of the Corporation on the form of the notices and could ignore the Corporation in this matter, even if the Corporation were acting in response to a request by the Minister or hon. Members. As I explained, the Corporation will be responsible. to the Minister in such matters and not the individual companies. I do not believe that hon. Members would wish to create a situation in which an obligation in this important matter were placed on bodies over which the Corporation had no direct control and which was not directly responsible to the Minister.
As I said at the outset, the Clause is designed specifically to meet the understandable wishes of people in the industry. The Government have given a great deal of thought to this matter and have, as a result, introduced a provision which provides for the publication of this information but which, at the same time, makes it possible to have sufficient flexibility for the Corporation to act quite quickly if such an act were in the interests of the Corporation and the industry.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Barber (Altrincham and Sale)
I understand that perhaps the most helpful procedure with the new Clauses and Amendments is that when there is an Amendment to a new Clause the hon. Member in whose name it stands should follow the Minister, although not moving his Amendment, and then later, if it is 450 wished to press the matter to a Division when the whole discussion is complete, should move the Amendment formally then.
It is good to see the right hon. Gentleman here again at Westminster, refreshed after his long Christmas holiday and in such a conciliatory mood. I am sure that when he hears the arguments which my hon. Friends and I propose to adduce in its favour, he will either accept the Amendment, or, if he thinks that it could be drafted better, will make an appropriate Amendment himself when the Bill is considered in another place.
My first words must be words of congratulation and welcome to the new Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson). Nobody doubts his sincerity or his ability. He is very well fitted to deal with this, a nationalisation Bill. I say that because in his election address he wrote:We reject the selfish, greedy doctrines of capitalism.and went on:This means an expansion of common ownership—State-owned industries and firms, producer and consumer co-operatives and municipal ownership—substantial enough to give the community power over the commanding heights of the economy.Fortunately for the House, the country and the steel industry, the Minister of Power, as we know very well, takes an entirely different view. As he has just told us, the central purpose of the new Clause is to safeguard just those 200 companies, that 10 per cent. of the industry, which is to continue to operate under the "selfish, greedy doctrines" of capitalism.
This new Clause, providing for the publication of prices, stems directly from a debate which we had in Standing Committee D, a debate which took place at about two o'clock one morning. It represents an important concession to the private sector and to the Opposition and we welcome the Government's acceptance of the principle. But, for reasons which I shall adduce, we believe that as it stands the new Clause is defective and that an Amendment on the lines suggested should be accepted.
We have many matters of substance to consider. I think that I am right in saying that there are 10 new Clauses for debate and that Mr. Speaker has 451 suggested that, quite apart from Government Amendments, well over 40 Amendments, in the names of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite, should be considered. Obviously, we cannot in any event complete the Bill in the three days allotted by the Government. Be that as it may, because of the great deal of work which we have before us. I intend to be as brief as possible on this Amendment.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
Does my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) think that this moment would be appropriate for him to send a resounding welcome to the Chief Secretary, even though we must expect that his contributions will be somewhat disappointing?
§ Mr. Barber
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) for drawing my attention to the presence of the Chief Secretary. I had not noticed that the right hon. Gentleman had come into the Chamber. After our experience in Standing Committee D, it is, to put it mildly, quite a change to see the right hon. Gentleman with us. No doubt we can look forward to hearing him reply to this debate.
The present pricing system in the steel industry is wholly inappropriate. It is inflexible, it is outdated and, in practice, as everybody knows, it stultifies price competition, which we believe to be essential to efficiency. The steel industry has repeatedly urged upon the Government that it should be allowed to adopt a pricing system not identical with, but comparable to the system used in the European Coal and Steel Community. The Iron and Steel Board, a Government agency, agreed entirely with the industry and with the case which is put to the Government.
But the Minister who is now the Colonial Secretary—[Interruption.] He is at the Department of Economic Affairs, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; these Members move so quickly that it is very difficult to follow, but I am talking about the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor as Minister of Power—refused to allow the change to provide for more flexible and competitive pricing 452 which was put to him by the industry and by the Iron and Steel Board. He even threatened, if necessary, to bring in legislation to block this more flexible system which everyone else believed to be in the national interest, and he did so against the advice of a Government agency, the Iron and Steel Board. Likewise, the present Minister of Power has taken the same view.
This is the background to the Amendment. I would like, therefore, to ask the right hon. Gentleman two simple questions. First, will the new Clause allow the nationalised industry to adopt a system analogous to the E.C.S.C. system? Secondly, is it still the Minister's intention to block any such move if the new National Steel Corporation considers it to be desirable? I am not arguing the merits of the E.C.S.C. system, nor pretending that it will not change. Indeed, I would think that it certainly would. But we should know what it is possible for the Corporation to do under the Clause and I would be grateful for information on those questions.
I now turn to the detail of the new Clause and the Amendment. The Clause is welcome as far as it goes, but it suffers from a number of defects with which I shall deal only briefly, because the same issues are raised in later new Clauses which have been selected for debate. The first is that the duty of publishing the prices lies solely on the Corporation. As I understood it, in his cursory observations on the Amendment the right hon. Gentleman said that it would not be appropriate for the operating companies to publish the prices, because they were not directly responsible to the Minister, but only indirectly through the Corporation.
That is absolute nonsense. Are we to take it that anything which happens in one of the operating companies is not the responsibility of the Minister, that he will not he answerable for what the operating companies may do, even though they may be allowed a great deal of autonomy by the Corporation, always assuming, of course, that it is not a matter of day-to-day administration? Surely, on matters of substance and policy, the right hon. Gentleman is just as responsible for the actions of the operating companies as he is for the Corporation itself.
453 Therefore, the first objection is that the duty of publishing prices lies solely on the Corporation, a monolithic State organisation, what the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster described as a single unit of direction. If this structure of the Corporation with a single unit of direction for the nationalised industry is not modified, then, for all the Minister's good intentions, it will eventually go the way of all nationalised industries. It will become top-heavy; it will become over-centralised; it will become rigid and, ultimately, it will become inefficient.
There is one way to minimise these hitherto common attributes of State ownership. That is to inject an element of competition. This Amendment seeks to do just that by providing for the 14 companies to be nationalised, or groups of those companies, to publish their own prices, which may differ according to their own particular circumstances and their own efficiency.
If I do not now elaborate the advantages which I believe there to be of competition within the nationalised industry, that is only because the point arises later on new Clause 4—Duties of Corporation and Minister relating to organisation—but there is a second advantage of this Amendment which also has a bearing on a later Clause, new Clause 13—Duty of Corporation relating to names and trade marks and publicly-owned companies. This Amendment, by enabling individual companies to publish their own prices, deliberately encourages the use of existing company names, which I should have thought everyone would agree would have far more customer appeal than will ever be achieved by the new nationalised body.
There are a number of other advantages of the Amendment which I shall leave for my hon. Friends to deal with. One was touched on by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley). The Amendment in my name does not involve the phrase "in normal circumstances", which is in the Minister's new Clause and which, I agree, is a very difficult one to interpret
I conclude with this appeal. The principle of a nationalised steel industry has been accepted by the House of Commons on Second Reading. This is the first time in our history that the State is taking over a great manufacturing industry. The 454 object at this stage of us on these benches is to make the best of what we believe to be a thoroughly stupid decision. We can at least save something if we provide for an element of price competition within the National Steel Corporation. The nationalisation of a major manufacturing industry is an entirely new venture for Britain. It requires an entirely new approach, an appproach to the operation of the industry quite different from that which may have been appropriate for a nationalised service industry. It is in that spirit that I commend this Amendment to the House.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I rise to support the Amendment in the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber), my hon. Friends, and myself. The matter has been fairly exhaustively debated in Standing Committee D which occupied so much of our time during the months of October, November and December. There are two objections to the lengthy new Clause moved by the Minister. The first is the use of the words "normal circumstances". The second is his failure to be much more precise and definitive as to what he means by the term "prices". I wish shortly to deal with both of these points at the outset.
"Normal circumstances," to me, means, if all of us in this House an both sides support policies of full employment, the operation of a basic industry such as iron and steel to maximum capacity. Maximum capacity in the steel industry is generally interpreted to mean 94 per cent. of the stated aggregation of output in terms of ingot tons. It is now well known that the capacity of the British iron and steel industry is 31 million ingot tons; that it produced 27 million ingot tons in 1965; 24 million ingot tons in 1966, and is to produce only 22 million ingot tons in 1967—judged by present order books and the best estimate which may be made of conditions which will relate to the affairs of the industry and our economy generally during the remainder of 1967.
An output of 22 million ingot tons represents only 70 per cent. of capacity, a point touched upon in an intervention by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley). Does the Minister 455 consider" normal circumstances" to be 70 per cent. of capacity? I do not. It is that kind of thing which renders the whole of his new Clause innocuous by failing to relate the term "normal circumstances" to the capacity of the industry. I believe that all my hon. Friends and I, if called upon to interpret "normal circumstances", would say, "In conditions of full employment I mean by normal circumstances the operation of the industry to maximum capacity."
When the Minister answers I hope that he will tell us a little more of what he means by "normal circumstances" because, though he quoted my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) in 1953, he failed to draw the attention of the House to the fact that he was quoting my right hon. Friend in a debate. My right hon. Friend did not seek to write into a Statute these words, "normal circumstances". Did he? No, he did not.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I am performing a function of the Opposition, and a very legitimate function. What the Minister means is that he has to despatch that monastic figure seated behind him, the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston) to the civil servants' box to get the answer. I hope that the hon. Member for Faversham will now perform his customary sprint to the civil servants and back again.
§ Mr. Terence Boston (Faversham)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Faversham is far more capable than the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) of performing "the customary sprint".
§ Mr. Peyton
I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) will not allow himself to become unfair to the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Boston), who did us no harm at all in Committee. That cannot be said of many of his colleagues.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
That is an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) which is characteristic of the generosity he always displays towards his opponents.
456 I am not going into a sprinting competition with the Parliamentary Private Secretary. I was inquiring whether those words had been written into a Statute. So far as I am aware—I stand to be corrected later—those words, "normal circumstances" have never been written into an iron and steel Statute. They were words used as delineation by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham during the passage of the 1953 Bill through this House.
My second point, in connection with prices—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
When the Minister reads HANSARD tomorrow he will find that he claimed as a precedent for his own Ministerial propriety the use of these words "normal circumstances" by my right hon. Friend. He said that they had a respectable precedent, or words to that effect. I say that they are not suitable words for inclusion in a Statute—the words "normal circumstances", which are to be found in line 6 of the new Clause—because no one understands in Britain, least of all today do they know in Britain, what "normal circumstances" means. Businessmen live on a razor-edge, so uncertain are the conditions of the immediate future. When the Minister answers I shall insist on a reply as to whether he interprets "normal circumstances" as stated capacity of the industry based on a policy of full employment.
Many of my hon. Friends, notably my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil will recall our long struggle over the years, to get changed the arrangements for price fixing in the industry, from 1953 onwards. The Iron and Steel Board had powers, after ministerial consultation, to fix maximum prices. Once a maximum price was published, it was always the minimum price. So the minimum was the maximum. Whomsoever as a user of steel applied to a firm in the steel industry for a quotation for supplies of steel in any specification or quantity, the maximum, which was also the minimum price as published, was returned as the 457 tender. There was no flexibility whatever.
What does the Minister mean in the context of the new Clause by "prices"? I ask him a series of questions to which I hope he will reply. First, does he mean that the Corporation will fix maximum prices alone, so that the thoroughly bad system of maximum prices being the minimum prices and the same prices being applied over the whole field of the user and consumption of steel throughout Great Britain is perpetuated?
My second question is this. This was the purpose of my intervention, though in an intervention in the Minister's speech I did not want to state it at any great length. We on this side wish to foster the utmost competition between the 14 publicly-owned units in the industry, first, the private sector of the industry, second, and imports of steel, third. Does the Minister propose to allow each of the 14 publicly-owned companies to publish their own prices and, within the framework of a maximum price, if delineated at all by the Corporation, shall those 14 publicly-owned steel companies have full freedom to price their products at figures which best suit their own plant and their own markets in Britain and overseas?
That is what we want to know, because the price of steel dominates the prices of a very large part of British exports. It was appropriate that the industrial reporter of the Daily Sketch wrote on 30th December:Steel prices may go up in the New Year because of the impact of the Government's squeeze policy on production costs …Now a new warning comes from Britain's steel masters. The Steel Review—journal of the British Iron and Steel Federation—forecasts today that the industry is moving into the worse slump 'since the market chaos of the early 'thirties'.It blames a predicted 2 million-ton output drop next year on:458 That is the Minister, again: it is his fault.
- 1. Extra cost burdens stemming directly from the Government's squeeze which will be 'an onerous load' to carry.
- 2. The fact that highly capitalised steel plants will only be able to run at 70 per cent. capacity next year, involving 'significant and unavoidable increases in costs per ton of output'.
- 3. Fuel and energy costs kept at an artificially high level' by Government policy."4. A jump in the industry's rate burden next year to a total of £14,750,000 (representing nearly 17s. 6d. a ton) compared with £8,500,000 (12s. 6d. a ton) in 1962–63.The article then continues in the vein that all durable consumer goods will rise in price if basic steel prices rise.
In such circumstances the situation of today adds a great deal of force to my right hon. Friend's arguments, because if a single uniform price is imposed and impressed by the Corporation at the centre on all the 14 publicly-owned steel companies and, I presume, on the private sector—the Minister is not the kind of man to allow the private sector of industry to gain any price advantage or otherwise over the public sector; presumably he will control the lot; if I am wrong in my assumption, let him say so when he replies—this will have the effect of driving up the price of all our exports which contain ferrous metals.
I say that that is a thoroughly bad situation and that our policy should allow the maximum price freedom to all these 14 public companies to make their own prices only within the general assent of the Corporation. Here I put my last question in this section to the Minister. Does he propose to authorise the prices to be stipulated by the Corporation, or will it be the decision of the Corporation alone? Here I am on a Parliamentary point. If it is the decision of the Corporation alone, we shall be in the wretched and invidious position as Members of Parliament of seeking to table Parliamentary Questions on the contemporary price of steel and rolled and re-rolled steel products and being told by the Table, "No. This is a day-to-day commercial decision of a nationalised corporation and ultra vires the responsibility of the Minister of Power". Are the prices to be within Ministerial competence or, as the Clause says, within the competence of the Corporation alone?
I turn, finally, to imports. It is anathema to me that Britain needs to import any steel, for we are one of the major steel-producing nations of the world. However, we import a great deal of steel. I wonder whether the Minister proposes in the Clause, for it does not say so, to assume responsibility for the pricing of imported steel.
459 Here there is a respectable precedent. In 1955, due to the small output of the nationalised coal industry, we had to import massive tonnages of American and other coals. One year it ran to the massive figure of £80 million sterling. The then Tory Government said, "The monopoly importer will be the National Coal Board". Private enterprise was not to buy the coal in America, Europe or elsewhere, bring it in and resell it. I never understood why not, but it was not allowed to.
We import a great deal of steel. Will the Minister insist that the Corporation imports the steel in future and resells the steel at prices which the Minister impresses on the Corporation or which the Corporation impresses on itself in consonance with the price of home-produced steel; or is imported steel to be allowed genuinely to compete with the private sector's output of steel and with the output of steel from the 14 publicly-owned companies?
To put this into its correct context, let me quote from Appendix 7, United Kingdom Steel Imports, page 112 of the Benson Committee's Report, which reveals that, in 1961, 570,000 ingot tons were imported; in 1962, 970,000 ingot tons; in 1963, 1,530,000 ingot tons; in 1964, 1,980,000 ingot tons; and in 1965, 760,000 ingot tons. There are no figures yet available for 1966. The five-year average of the figures I have quoted, 1961 to 1965, shows that 1,170,000 ingot tons of steel are annually being brought into Britain, which, if I priced it at £60, £60 per ton, means an import figure of approximately £70 million sterling as the average annually, during 1961 to 1965.
What does the Minister propose to do about present imports? Will he allow the Corporation to settle prices for its 14 constituent publicly-owned companies, with or without his Ministerial guidance, and in open competition with the private sector of industry and in open competition with imported steels: or will the Minister, through his instrument, the Corporation, take powers for pricing all steel consumed in Britain?
I recognise that this Clause deals with the publication of prices, but we cannot consider publication of prices unless answers are forthcoming this afternoon to all these important and very relevant 460 matters which I have endeavoured to put before the House. When the Minister replies, I hope he will give, seriatim, an answer to each of the six points which I have posed to him.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Peyton
May I say at the outset of my remarks that I hope to keep in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and not to be lured away from this subject. I shall do my best in that respect.
We have all listened with our accustomed admiration to the penetrating analysis given by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). I feel that I should start by mildly rebuking him. I am sorry that the Chief Secretary has gone. When my hon. Friend uses words like "seriatim" he is placing in front of the Chief Secretary an almost irresistible temptation to wander off into mutatis mutandis, and the like, with which he regaled us during the Committee stage.
It is also fair to say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) how very unfair he was at the start of his speech. He did not mention the previous Parliamentary Secretary whom we have lost. You. Mr. Deputy Speaker, did not have the privilege of sitting on that Standing Committee. It was a most enjoyable intellectual experience for most of us. Particularly was it studded with gleaming opportunities when we puzzled over what the devil the Parliamentary Secretary meant. It was very unfair of my right hon. Friend not to shed a passing tear at the passing of the Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Mr. Barber
The reason I did not refer to the erstwhile Parliamentary Secretary was that I understand that he will be coming to the House at a later stage in the debate to lend a hand, and we shall then have our opportunity.
§ Mr. Peyton
My right hon. Friend has done a great deal to remove the blot on his otherwise wonderful record, although it raises a point which one is bound to notice from time to time, which is that the privilege of advance knowledge always seems to be the monopoly of those who sit on the Front Bench. I say at once that no one is more worthy of that privilege than my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
Would not my hon. Friend agree that the transference of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology makes it abundantly clear that the Government have no intention of nationalising the computer industry?
§ Mr. Peyton
My right hon. Friend has raised a shrewd point. Whether he is right in attributing to the Government the same shrewdness that he undoubtedly possesses, I beg leave to doubt.
If I may refer with modesty and brevity to the new Clause which we are discussing, I should like to apply my mind and to invite the attention of the House to these ordinary, inoffensive and reasonable words "in normal circumstances". To find this Government talking of normal circumstances at all is in itself surprising, but to find them talking of normal circumstances in a Bill like this is obscene. I imagine that all of us have to attempt in our lame and inadequate way to try to define for ourselves what "normal circumstances" mean. I have concluded that they must mean being suspended over the very brink of catastrophe, but not yet descending into its jaws.
The right hon. Gentleman merely blinks. He does not contradict or shake his head, because by now he has become accustomed to the accuracy with which I sometimes express myself on such matters.
We should like to know what "normal circumstances" mean. I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker—this is being intolerably optimistic—but we would like to know what the Government regard as being "normal circumstances" and what they think "normal circumstances" mean in their new Clause.
I wish particularly to support the very important point that has been made about the Corporation publishing the prices. I invite the attention of the House to what the Minister said in column 740 of the No. 1 tome which was the result of our labours. In the middle of that column he used these words:It is my intention to consider introducing at a later stage an Amendment designed to require the Corporation and the publicly owned companies to publish their normal selling prices and their normal terms and conditions of sale of the main iron and steel 462 products in the United Kingdom."—OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 17th November, 1966; c. 740.]I understand from those words that it was intended not merely that the Corporation should publish the price of any iron and steel product, but that the publicly-owned companies would be free, and would have put upon them a duty, to do the same. I would fear the consequences for this industry if we were to embark from this point onwards upon a centralised and single price.
I do not know what my right hon. Friend's view is on this, but it was never my feeling during the Committee stage that we were, in fact, embarked upon creating a system where we would have one price for every steel product, and I very much hope that the Minister will take the opportunity afforded him by my right hon. Friend's Amendment to make it clear that the publicly-owned companies will be free to establish their own price, that there will be full competition.
I will gladly give way to the Minister if he wishes to make it clear now that there will be full competition between publicly-owned companies, not only as to quality and delivery, but also as to price. It would be very odd if the party opposite, having for years attacked the steel industry for having no competition at all, was now to preserve forever the same state of affairs in the name of what it would undoubtedly call the public interest.
I am bound to say that the mere mention of those words leads me to repeat the hope that we will not hear too much about them in these debates, because we believe that this matter is far divorced from public interest, and that Ministerial diagnoses of public interest are nearly always very far from the truth, tinged as they are with a colossal and intolerable arrogance.
§ Mr. Edward M. Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Is my hon. Friend aware that very great interest in the Scottish aspect of the Bill was displayed by the people of Scotland during the Committee stage? Will he add to his reputation by making it quite clear that the full and free competition he envisages does not mean an area like Scotland starting off with a handicap of very high coal prices, gas prices and electricity prices, and very high rates?
§ Mr. Peyton
I hope that the House will have the opportunity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, from the very beginning of our discussion of experiencing at first hand some very remarkable contributions by my hon. Friend. His knowledge of the industry, his love of Scotland, his concern for the public benefit—I nearly said the national interest—is matched only by his skill as a debater—
§ Mr. Barber
I intervene to point out that c. 740 of the Standing Committee proceedings reveals that my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) put a question to the Minister, and I think that in fairness I ought to repeat it. He asked:Would the right hon. Gentleman say a word about the meaningless, dangerous or otiose words 'public interest'?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 17th November, 1966; c. 740.]
§ Mr. Peyton
I am very much obliged to my right hon. Friend. It is very nice and very generous of him to call the attention of the world to a very unworthy utterance of mine. But I must not be deflected for a moment from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. E. M. Taylor), whose skill as a debater is very remarkable, and who, in the course of a very few remarks, is able to compass enormous subjects.
It would probably be in the interests of everyone on this occasion if I followed my normal practice of self-denial and did not turn my attention to the very important question which my hon. Friend put to me on the subject of Scotland, because I really do not think that this is the appropriate moment for me to pontificate on the subject of Scottish energy prices.
I want to follow the point made on imports by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro). It is important that the Minister should take this opportunity to let us know what is in his mind on this subject. When imports come into this country, to what extent are they to be subjected to prices published by the Corporation and/or the publicly-owned companies To come back to my main point, I very much hope that it is not the Minister's intention to curtail the ability of the publicly-owned companies themselves individually to publish their own prices.
§ Sir Spencer Summers (Aylesbury)
I hope that it will not be regarded as any kind of intrusion if someone contributes to this part of this discussion who was not on the Standing Committee. It will not need much reflection to understand why I am thankful that I was not on it, but I appear to have missed the opportunity of that good fellowship and bonhomie which is apparent on both sides of the House in those who took part—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
I have nothing to do with the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson). I am not associating with him.
§ Sir S. Summers
I cannot help thinking that the Minister, is deliberately, as I understand it, precluding the companies from publishing their own prices, and providing in the new Clause an obligation only on the Corporation to do so, is ignoring the realities of the situation in the steel trade. I will resist the temptation to go beyond who is to publish, and I will say nothing now about the freedom to publish different prices as opposed to uniform prices, because that is a very big subject with which there will be subsequent opportunities to deal.
What is important here is that if it is the intention that a user or buyer of steel will have only a document produced by the Corporation to study, it is bound to be out of date, and it is bound to be far too cumbersome to be practical, because it will have to deal with all the products by all the companies and any varieties that the Corporation may choose to permit in the marketing of the individual products. This highly centralised proposition must mean that the document is out of date, it must deny to the companies the very flexibility in dealing with imports which the Minister himself said was inherent in the whole situation.
I cannot understand the technical point to which he alluded, namely, that the Minister appears to have constitutional relations only with the Corporation as opposed to the companies, which will have relations with the Corporation. I cannot see why that relationship cannot be properly dealt with by permitting the 465 Corporation to give effect to the obligations placed upon it to publish prices by causing the companies themselves to publish the information that is here needed—
§ Mr. Marsh
The Clause would permit the Corporation to do that. The argument is not whether the publicly-owned companies should have the right or be able to publish these prices and terms. The argument between the Amendment and the Clause is whether or not a statutory obligation to ensure that this is done should rest with the publicly-owned companies or with the Corporation, but there is nothing in the Clause which would prevent the Corporation from requiring the publicly-owned companies to publish these figures.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Sir S. Summers
I am grateful to the Minister, but if we are to understand that the words in the Clause… in such manner as appears to them best adapted …include the right to cause the publication to be done through the companies, at least it appears to be established that part of the object of the Amendment is rendered unnecessary if the Minister will say that he intends to give effect to the intent in the Clause in that particular form.
Before turning to the other part of my remarks I should, perhaps, repair an omission that I had intended to deal with earlier. It is customary that anyone with a personal interest in the topic under discussion here should reveal it. Bearing the name I do, and being a director of one of the 14 companies, perhaps it is appropriate that I should now do that but, subject to that obligation, I hope that this declaration will be enough for the next few days, as to repeat it each time would be tedious.
Reference has been made to the term "in normal circumstances". I understood the Minister to say in response to an intervention—and I hope that he is now listening, as well as writing on his paper—that he did not intend these words to imply any particular state of trade at any particular moment or any particular degree of capacity in use, but rather to permit flexibility from the published price in certain particular circumstances where a seller might deem it to be prudent. If 466 so, why did he not just use the word "normally"? In that blown-up form "in normal circumstances" there is introduced a whole series of considerations to which my hon. Friends have quite properly referred.
The word "normally" is something that most of us use frequently to qualify the general intention of the right to make an exception here and there. I do not know in what circumstances the right hon. Gentleman would wish to change the phrase to the word "normally", but it would please many minds if he could say that, in its final form, that will be the way in which the exceptional treatment is made permissive.
§ Mr. Ridley
I would like to pursue two points on this new Clause. The first relates to the vitally important matter of the Minister's decision to force the Corporation and the publicly-owned companies to publish prices. This is one of the essential safeguards for the public when dealing with the nationalised industry. All other nationalised industries, as far as I know, publish standard prices or rates for the services that they provide, and it would have been a very serious omission not to have required the Steel Corporation to do this. too.
There is a very real danger of bullying by public monopolies. A constituent of mine has received notice that because he was not prepared to agree immediately to having his telephone converted to a shared line it would be disconnected within one month. This is an intolerable example of the sort of bullying which a nationalised monopoly can do. It could happen in the steel industry if a customer were tiresome and complained, or were slow in paying or did something which was inconvenient to the Corporation or the companies.
The customer could then have a higher price levied against him for further orders, or he could be bullied in other ways. The National Steel Corporation and the publicly-owned companies will avoid—it is a self-denying ordinance and that it all that it can be—any attempt to bully a customer unreasonably as they would not have done so bad they not been in a monopoly position. It should be the rule that all publicly-owned enterprises should publish freely, for all to see, the prices of products sold by them.
467 The second point that I would like to touch upon deals with the question of whether it should be the publicly-owned companies or the Corporation which has the duty to publish the prices. I firmly believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) is absolutely right in insisting that the statuary onus should be on the company.
I take it that the prices offered will be offered ex-works. I may be wrong in this and this is one of the points which I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman—whether he intends prices to be ex-works or to be delivered to the customer, wherever he may reside in the United Kingdom. The customer will still wish, within the monopolistic framework of the Steel Corporation, to do as much shopping around as he can. He may wish to go to the nearest steel works, because transport costs would be lower; he may wish to avoid a certain works because it does not make steel of the quality or texture which he requires. It is very important for him to be able to see the prices of each works from which he can obtain his steel. It is vital that the published prices are published from each individual steel works and are not national average prices, laid upon the industry by the Corporation.
If the Minister has a technical constitutional point, such as that the Corporation is responsible to him and that he must have power to force it and it alone to publish the prices, he should, equally write into his new Clause provision whereby the Corporation requires the publicly-owned companies to publish their individual prices. This would meet my right hon. Friend's point and if it makes the Minister happier to have it this constitutional way rather than in the way that my right hon. Friend suggests, I am sure that my right hon. Friend would agree immediately.
What should be forbidden in this Clause is the publishing by the Corporation of blanket steel prices for the whole of the 31 million tons capacity in the country. This ties up with the question of Europe. From the European point of view, the objections to this monolithic block of 31 million ton capacity coming into the market is that it will remove com- 468 petition and make it impossible for consumers to be able to shop around and buy their steel from the better firms, at a better price, both in terms of quality and distance from their works.
The Minister would kill two birds with one stone if he were to accept this point. He would draw a tiny bit nearer to Europe—at the moment he is on the other side of the world from it he is getting as far away from it as he possibly can—and secondly he would meet the very genuine points which my right hon. and hon. Friends have been putting to him about the need to publish prices on behalf of the works and not on behalf of the Steel Corporation as a whole. I very much urge him to accept the principle of this Amendment, even if the words are wrong.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
Will the Minister make a statement now which would reduce a great deal of debate on this new Clause? Would he say whether it is his intention, as it presumably is under the Clause, to cause companies to produce individual lists of prices? If it is his intention and he will make this statement, most of us will be satisfied to let the new Clause go through. If it is not his intention, then we should know very much better where we stood.
§ Mr. Marsh
Since the point has been raised specifically, I will, first, turn to what the new Clause does. There is nothing in it which would prevent the publicly-owned companies' figures being published. The sole objection to the Amendment, and the other way of doing it is that it is right, in my view, that these figures should be published in such a way as to ensure that they are published by a body directly answerable to Parliament and the Minister, rather than by a body only answerable to another body, or one which in this case would not be answerable to another body, because it would have statutory authority of its own and would not be responsible to the Minister for the exercise of that statutory power.
With regard to the specific question, it would be open to the Corporation either to issue a single list of prices of individual companies or for it to ask the companies to publish them. The intention of the Clause is to ensure that this information is made available. I do not know whether 469 it is by accident, or somehow, but there seems to have grown up a fake dispute between us. I apologise for making such a long intervention. The only reason that I do not accept the Amendment is that it would be that much more difficult to insist upon that which we both want to do.
§ Mr. Barber
My hon. Friend is obviously trying to be helpful and we could bring this matter to a close if we could deal with this point. My concern is that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). In Committee, the Minister said:It is my intention to consider introducing at a later stage an Amendment designed to require the Corporation and the publicly-owned companies to publish their normal selling prices …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 17th November, 1966; c. 740.]This is really all that we are asking. If the Minister tells us that within the authority given to the Corporation by the Clause it is certainly his intention that the various publicly-owned companies should publish separate price lists, and that prices should not necessarily be the same, then I certainly would ask my hon. Friends not to press this any further and we could carry on with the next new Clause.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Sir D. Glover
May I now resume my speech? I regret that I am not in the closed, charmed circle which dealt with the Bill in Committee. Therefore, perhaps from time to time I shall get out of order, because I do not know the rules of the club.
The Minister's intervention was very helpful. He clearly said that the Corporation would have the power, if it desired, to ask the companies to produce their own prices. If English means anything, that means that the price lists will be independent price lists.
§ Mr. Marsh
I apologise for constantly interrupting, but it is probably best to settle this point. The intention is that the prices charged for these products normally—and perhaps we can agree on what "normally" means for the moment—shall be made public. There are two ways in which to do that. First, they could be published as 14 different statements by 14 different companies. Secondly, they could be published as a 470 separate list with 14 headings. My dispute with the Amendment is not about the need to publish the prices; it is only about where the statutory obligation shall lie. Whether the prices will be different prices is a matter not dealt with by the new Clause. There is nothing to stop it, but it is not a matter which we are discussing.
If we are discussing only publication the intention is that the normal prices, assuming that we agree what "normal" means for the moment, should be made known, whether in one list from the Corporation with 14 headings or by 14 different companies. The dispute is not about whether the prices of the 14 companies should be made known, but whether the obligation to make the prices known should be statutorily placed on the Corporation over which the Minister has the power of hire and fire and is directly responsible to the Minister, or the publicly-owned companies over which the Minister does not have the power of hire and fire and which are not directly responsible to the Minister.
§ Sir D. Glover
I am making a perfectly normal speech. It will go down in HANSARD as lasting about 25 minutes, of which I shall have used two. That shows what is meant by the word "normal".
I do not think that the House is reassured by what the Minister keeps saying about what is "normal". It is, ipso facto, a fact of life that when a country has a Socialist Government it is living in an abnormal state. Therefore, the period of normalcy does not apply at that time in history. As my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) said, is 70 per cent. production normal? That is the sort of production level which will exist when the Corporation takes over. If that is what the State handed to the Corporation, presumably the Corporation would take it that that was normal. Presumably it will not reckon that it has been handed something in an abnormal state. Is 50 per cent. production normal? In other words, do the Government think that they will maintain statutory price levels with output in the industry down to perhaps 50 per cent.?
This is the sort of question the answer to which the free enterprise 10 per cent., in particular, will want to know. Will 471 there be a lot of scuffling in competition against them by prices bearing no relevance to basic costs because the situation is not normal? We are trying to discover what it is reasonable to consider as normal. Is it anything over 75 per cent. of production, or is it 50 per cent. of production? The Minister must have some idea about what he thinks is a period of normal conditions. The House has a right to know from the Minister, who will be dealing very closely with the Corporation, what he thinks is normal.
I come to the question of the individual prices, which has been mentioned, but only in passing. It will be a very long time indeed before the Corporation has the prestige in international markets of the individual companies. Summers and Dorman Long are household words which are known all over the world. It would be a great loss if there were a tendency to use the name of the Steel Corporation rather than the names of the companies. If the pricing structure emanates from the Corporation rather than the individual companies, it will be a move away from the identity of the individual companies. I therefore hope that the Minister, who I believe, despite his difficulties in Committee, is a fairly reasonable man, will consider that this is not another argument for the companies producing prices individually.
The Minister has the opportunity of doing something which has never been done in a nationalised industry. This is the first nationalised manufacturing industry. If the right hon. Gentleman can achieve the parallel aim which his party wishes to achieve—that is, a responsible organisation working for the people—and at the same time introduce into that organisation the element of efficiency brought about by price competition, the nation will be very grateful to him. I think that he can do it. I do not know whether it is his intention to do it.
What happens when the Corporation begins its activities will set the pattern which is likely to last for a very long time. It is, therefore, important that the Minister's decision on pricing should be right from the word "go". It will be very difficult to alter it once the system comes into operation. If he can introduce, as I think he can, a form of price competition in a nationalised industry, he will 472 remove one of the great arguments against nationalisation. He has the opportunity to do so under the new Clause, and I hope that he will seize it.
§ Sir John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
I agree very much with the general view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) in his closing remarks. One of the Minister's difficulties lies chiefly in the fact that he does not know what the organisation of the industry will be. Is his problem that he has no idea what the relationship will be between the publicly-owned companies and the National Steel Corporation?
§ Sir J. Eden
The Minister shakes his head. Is he therefore indicating that he has a clear vision of the future structure of the industry?
§ Sir J. Eden
With respect, it has quite a lot to do with the Clause. If there is to be an element of competition within the new nationalised industry, there must be price competition. The 14 publicly-owned companies would then be allowed to compete among each other in price and in other terms and conditions of sale. If that is so, it must have a significant bearing on our discussion of the Clause. This is why I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) that much of what we are discussing has considerable relevance to our later discussion on new Clause No. 4—Duties of Corporation and Minister relating to organisation.
I want, however, to probe a little further the comments made by way of an interjection in the speech of my hon. Friend by the Minister. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying—I have probably genuinely misunderstood him and would be grateful for clarification—that his dislike of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale stems from the fact that it states that the Corporationmay from time to time publishbut seeks by use of the word "shall" to impose statutory obligation on the publicly-owned companies?
473 Is the Minister saying that his new Clause requires the National Steel Corporation to publish pricesin such manner as appears to them appropriateand that that manner could possibly be from time to time the publication of separate price lists by the 14 publicly-owned companies? Is that what the Minister's new Clause is trying to achieve? The right hon. Gentleman appears to be going for the same objective by a different route. He is calling for the publication of prices by the National Steel Corporation and, if the Corporation so thinks fit, by the publicly-owned companies. Is this what the right hon. Gentleman is trying to achieve?
I am extremely grateful that the Minister has gone as far as he has done in bringing forward the new Clause at all. This was an undertaking which he gave in Committee. Some of my hon. Friends have said that it is fundamental in the relationship that the Corporation and the associated companies are to have with the companies outside the publicly-owned sector that the prices of the Corporation should be published. Our wish is that this should go a stage further and that there should be variation and flexibility in the prices as between the individual publicly-owned companies.
I do not see how it is possible for the Minister to be didactic here unless he can give a clear indication of what is in his mind about the future structure and organisation of the industry.
§ Mr. Peyton
Is not my hon. Friend being a little optimistic? Does he not remember the hours which we spent in Committee, painfully but without success, attempting to extract this information?
§ Sir J. Eden
Yes, I certainly recall it, and I am not in the least optimistic. I did not expect the Minister to leap to his feet and give me a thumbnail sketch of his view of the future structure of the industry, because ever since 25th October he has made it abundantly clear that he has no idea of what the industry will look like. He has no concept of its future structure. He has absolutely no idea and yet he sets out a new Clause which will hedge in, restrict and confine an essential feature of the competitive ele- 474 ment which should be enshrined in the future structure of the industry.
If the right hon. Gentleman has a clear idea of what the industry will be like, what is the purpose of the organising committee? What will it be engaged in? Why will we have to wait a year after vesting day before we get any concept of the future structure of the industry? [Interruption.] The Minister repeatedly shakes his head and mutters under his breath, in words loud enough for me to hear, that this has nothing to do with the new Clause. It has a direct bearing upon it, because one of the essential features of competition—I do not blame the Minister for not understanding this—is price competition.
If the prices which are to be published are published only by the National Steel Corporation, if it is only the Corporation which lays down what the prices shall be, it follows that there is to be no competition whatever in the future structure and organisation of the industry. We need a lot more clarification from the Minister.
I agree very much with the comments made by my hon. Friends on some of the expressions and phrases used in the new Clause. The Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale is infinitely to be preferred. At least, it is intelligible. It says what it means. It is clear and capable of being understood, whereas the Minister's new Clause is open to all kinds of interpretations, and probably misinterpretations, which, I am certain, the right hon. Gentleman would not wish to happen. For one reason or another, therefore, I hope that my hight hon. Friend's Amendment will be accepted.
My final point concerns the enormous range of prices which the Corporation is likely to be concerned with if it is to go across the whole range of the 14 companies' products. The Minister will agree that this would be an enormous volume comparable, perhaps, even with the HANSARD proceedings of our debates in Standing Committee.
Is it the intention that the Corporation will, for example, publish the price of electrical sheet, galvanised sheet or high-strength corrosion resistant steel? Is this the line to be pursued by the Corporation, 475 although it will be using many of its proprietary names which are now employed by the scheduled companies to describe their own product?
As the Minister will certainly know, the company of John Summers and Sons has a form of galvanised sheet called Galvatite, whereas the Steel Company of Wales has a form of it which is called Dragonzin. There are all kinds of descriptive labels which can be attached to virtually much the same product.
On the other hand, we might have the price of galvanised sheet but in the case of the individual companies their own particular product is what they have and are trying to sell. If they are to continue to trade as separate entities, they must continue to be allowed to identify their own product with their own trade name. Is it to be the responsibility of the Corporation to publish the price of every one of the different trade products now being manufactured by the 14 companies which are to come into public ownership? If so, it will be a massive document which will make our proceedings in Standing Committee look like a little pocket dictionary. I hope, therefore, that we will get further explanation of what the Minister has in mind.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
I speak as a newcomer to this lengthy and instructive debate. I have read many of the words which have been spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) and I admired him very much during the Christmas Recess. It was a great honour to join the debate on the Clause and to contribute in a small way to it. I was glad to do so when the Minister was making concessions, for which one is grateful. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) concerning the extreme complication ties in with one of my first points on the procedural aspect about how the prices will be approved.
The Minister said that prices will be approved by him and will be subject to the negative Resolution procedure. I understand that under the negative Resolution procedure it will be almost impossible for the House of Commons to examine anything as complicated as my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West has described. This makes 476 it impossible for the House to have any check on the fairness and flexibility of prices, which is what we on this side require.
My second point, which again concerns the negative Resolution procedure, is that since the Government have come to power I have steadily got a suspicion that functions which formerly were made operative by the affirmative Resolution procedure and which required the initiation of a debate are now to be brought in by the negative procedure, and that what previously was taken under the negative procedure is now being introduced under what, I believe, is called the interrogatory procedure. This is only a suspicion at present, but I have a very deep suspicion about it, and it is something which I should very much like to probe.
The third point is that, as one is aware. this Government are particularly inept in handling their business and are apt to spend many nights on late sittings in order to bulldoze through the House legislation dealing with highly controversial issues. As a result, they go on late at night and the opportunity to pray against such matters is limited.
Those are three reasons why I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will not be happy about the negative procedure.
As my right hon. Friend has said, the present Minister's predecessor, who I think is now Minister without Portfolio—certainly that is what he ought to be—or Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, used to say that he would not have the basic price and freight rate type of pricing which exists within the Coal and Steel Community. It would be very sad and almost criminal if that were to be proceeded with. I hope that we shall get a statement from the Minister on what basis this type of pricing will be carried out. It is important to know that. There are certain advantages both of the maximum and the minimum laid down by the Coal and Steel Community. Above all, it is the most flexible system. It gives a definite basic price, and the customer is able to work out his own optimum method of freight rates.
If the Government mean what they are professing, it appears that we are trying 477 to get nearer to the European Community—[Interruption.] I am sorry that the Minister thinks it funny that we should be trying to get nearer to the European Community. If the Government mean that, they ought to do something to try to harmonise their arrangements on this and many other aspects.
§ Mr. Webster
That is all very well, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, like myself, is probing this point.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
He was as out of order as the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) is.
§ Mr. Webster
If the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) will get his feet behind the red line, he will probably be more in order.
§ Mr. Barber
The Minister cannot say that the Clause is not concerned with pricing systems. I asked a perfectly reasonable question which is in order and which arises out of the Clause. Under the Clause, would it be open to the National Steel Corporation to base its prices on the E.C.S. system, which is a system that, hitherto, the Government have declined to allow private enterprise industry to adopt? That is a perfectly reasonable question to ask.
§ Mr. Webster
I hope that the Minister will condescend to give the House an answer. It is not the Minister's function to shake his head and say that the question is not in order. If he does not try to give the House a little courtesy, he will find that difficulties are put in his path. We have been reasonable so far. We have attempted to cut short the debate. However, if that is his attitude, we know where we stand, and we shall have plenty more complicated points to raise with him—[Interruption.] I cannot hear what the former Minister of Works is saying—
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) may try to raise complicated points. Unfortunately, he will not understand one of them.
§ Mr. Webster
I do not think that I am quite on the same level of intelligence as the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell). However, I am grateful for his help. He often clarifies an issue by making the most extraordinary gaffs. I hope that he will help us more often. I am sure that he will be making some contribution to our debates, particularly in view of his criticism of the Government from the moment that he left office. I hope that, with his usual candour and frankness, he will assist the House in this matter and knock some sense into his right hon. Friend.
It would be better if we went not only to the prices of the companies products but also to the prices at which they were buying their supplies. This is a wide aspect. The connection is exactly the same. One gets monolithic State-controlled bodies which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) has said, can intimidate their customers. If customers complain against them or raise objections about prices, they have great powers of intimidation. The same applies to suppliers.
I hope that we in this House can protect them, because one of the greatest menaces in the increase of the public sector is that the private supplier or customer is being squeezed and intimidated, and is prevented from having the competitive prices which are necessary if the economy of the country is to flourish.
§ Sir Tatton Brinton (Kidderminster)
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the actual wording of the proposed Clause. The Minister has repeatedly said that the Clause deals solely with the publication of prices. Omitting certain explanatory words, subsection (1) says:The Corporation shall from time to time publish … notices containing prices which they propose should … be charged … by them and publicly-owned companies …The Corporation is to publish the prices which it proposes should be charged. This is an essential point. I was not a member of the Committee which considered the Bill, but I believe that the Minister is trying to put up a smokescreen when he says that this is solely a question of publication and nothing else. The Clause clearly states that the body which will 479 determine the prices that are to be charged is to be the Corporation itself.
Taking it a step further, who will believe that the National Steel Corporation will say, when it determines its prices, that Company A will charge so much for a certain grade of steel and that Company B will charge a different prices because it may be a more economical producer of that grade? I do not believe it. We shall have standardised national price for all companies in respect of comparable grades of steel. That is the inevitable result of a single body determining prices.
My right hon. and hon. Friends and I have put our names to this Amendment in the hope of setting up a structure which will mean that individual companies will themselves determine the prices at which they can and will sell their products profitably. Unless they do, I do not think that there will be any price competition. The form of our Amendment makes it clear that it is the Corporation which imposes the duty and it is the Corporation which is responsible to the Minister, but it is evident that the Minister wants the Corporation to determine all prices, and he wants matters so arranged that he has the final say on what they are to be. If he comes clean and says that that is his intention, at least we shall know where we stand. On the other hand, if he is prepared to accept price competition between one company and another, he must accept this Amendment or introduce some rewording of his own Clause to make it clear who will propose the prices.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
As another non-member of Standing Committee D—perhaps I might call myself a non-member of the D Club—I should like to press the Minister to give us a categorical statement of his pricing policy. If he does that, a lot of hon. Members on this side of the House may be satisfied.
Let me put it to the Minister two ways round. Let me put two practical problems to him. Consider, for instance, the steelmakers on the North-West Coast at Workington and Barrow. They have always had difficulty in selling their steel products, because they are far from the markets, they have high transport costs, and so on. Will they be allowed to sell 480 steel at lower prices than, say, the steelmakers of Sheffield or on the North-East Coast? Will they from their point of view, be allowed to sell at cheaper prices?
Alternatively, will a customer, say the Pressed Steel Co. in Scotland, be able to go to Colville's and say, "We are working in a comparatively low-cost area. Can we buy steel from you at a cheaper rate than we have to pay John Summers?", with due respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers).
Those are the questions which we want answered today. What will be the policy of the Minister and of the Corporation? If the Minister does not allow these differential prices, every word uttered by the Socialists during the last 12 years about fixed prices will be absolute hypocrisy. Ever since the Restrictive Trade Practices Act of 1956 we have been told about the wickedness of price-fixing associations. We have been told of the devilry of the steel industry and other industries getting together and arranging prices between them—the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) told us a lot about that—and during the discussions on the Resale Prices Bill we were told that there must be competitive pricing between different firms. If the Minister today does not say that he wants competitive prices between these various companies, the Socialists will stand branded before the public as the biggest set of hypocrites who have ever presented themselves for election.
Not only do we want different prices between different companies; we want to know whether there will be different regional prices, because, as I have said, prices are different between Sheffield and Wales, the North-West Coast, and so on. There are 1,500 merchants, and 67 re-rollers. They all want to know what these prices will be. The rerollers who live near steelworks are particularly interested in the steel prices in their areas. They are not interested in national prices. They want to know what local prices will be. They also want to know whether those will be delivered prices.
That is the sort of information which they want published, and this debate could be brought to a speedy end if the 481 Minister said, "I shall stand by every word uttered by the Socialist Party during the last year, and there will be competitive prices. There will be no price-fixing in future, and no standardised prices. In other words, I will do what we have been urging the Conservative Party to do for the last 12 years".
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
When I went to Sunday school, I used to sing a hymn, "Yield not to temptation for to yield is to sin". By Jove! I do not think that it is a sin any longer tonight. During the whole of my experience in this House I have never heard such a wealth of claptrap and irrelevant observation as I have heard today.
The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) started by talking about the difference in prices, or the relativity of prices, charged by national concerns compared with those charged by private ones. He also introduced the question of imports, but he forgot to talk about dumping, and so on. However, I shall let him have that for extra measure just to keep him content.
Everyone who has spoken from the benches opposite has talked about prices. There is nothing in this Clause which deals with prices.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
The hon. Gentleman should read the first four lines of the Clause:The Corporation shall"—
§ Mr. Winterbottom
Publish the prices. That is all we are dealing with in the Clause, the publication of prices. According to the Clause it will be the duty of the Corporation to publish, with suitable variations, the prices of steel.
It has been explained to hon. Gentlemen opposite that the duty of the Corporation—a duty which it has to undertake because somebody must publish these prices—will not in any shape or form restrict the publication of prices by private companies which remain outside the fold of nationalisation.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have thought fit to bring in an Amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber)—
§ Mr. Winterbottom
—and the hon. Gentleman as he says, and others, which, as we used to say in Lancashire, is like a bung hole without a barrel—it means nothing. Someone has to publish the prices of steel, and to publish them in such a way that the world and the country know what prices are being charged. There is no restriction on private companies to publish their prices when they so desire, or to please themselves whether they publish prices at all. There is no guarantee that private concerns will publish prices, and we must make provision in the Bill for some authority to do so. That authority can only be the Corporation. If hon. Gentlemen opposite do not invest the Corporation with that authority, there will be no power for this to be done, unless they try to restore that which has been a complete failure in the iron and steel trade during the last 10 or 12 years. I suggest that my right hon. Friend is right in saying that prices should be published, and that this is the only logical and sensible way of doing it.
It is irrelevant and unwise for the Opposition to take up the time of the House with irrelevant trivialities by, so to speak, taking us up the garden path and showing us a beautiful crop of dandelions, all to no purpose. I think that this is one of the things which ought to be nipped in the bud before it goes too far, because I consider that some of the later Amendments will provide an opportunity to discuss things which really matter to the steel industry and to the country's economy. I think that we should do that, rather than waste the time of the House on things which are irrelevant.
Mr. John Mott (St. Ives)
The question of pricing policy and of who publishes the prices is of fundamental importance to the whole question of the National Steel Corporation. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom) does not understand the implications of the new Clause and our Amendment. The new Clause provides that the Corporation should publish the prices which it proposes for steel products, and the Amendment requires the Minister to cause all the companies underlying the Corporation to publish their prices as well. We say that on every occasion every one of the underlying companies should be under an obligation to 483 publish the prices of its products. This is clearly very relevant to the new Clause. It is not wasting the time of the House. Pricing policy lies at the heart of the question whether or not the steel industry will compete within itself. This is a fundamental political dispute which has arisen since the Second Reading.
If we are to have a steel industry in which the Corporation publishes a uniform price for certain products throughout the industry we shall lose all the flexibility, all the competition and all the management incentive which could exist within the steel industry. That is why we press the Amendment, and consider it to be of fundamental importance.
Later on we shall deal with a Common Market new Clause, but the present one also has relevance to the Common Market. Unless the subsidiaries of the Corporation all publish, on all occasions, the price lists for their own products, they will fall outside Article 66 of the Treaty of Paris and the Corporation will be a dominant producer, as defined by that Article. It is therefore of vital importance to the debate which is to be carried on over the next three days.
Prices, above all, are the means whereby the underlying companies can compete with each other. Although questions of quality and delivery also come into the issue, prices are fundamental and there can be no competition between subsidiaries of the National Steel Corporation unless, on all occasions, they publish their prices. The Minister has not yet given a direct answer to the questions that we have put. I can understand his concern about not having a uniform price list for all products. If we consider the other nationalised industries for which his Ministry is also responsible we recognise the huge problems that arise in connection with the pricing policy of electricity, coal and gas. We accept those problems and understand them.
The fundamental difference between a nationalised steel industry and a nationalised coal, electricity or gas industry is, however, that the consumer of steel can shop around from one underlying nationalised company to another in order to find the cheapest product, whereas the consumer of gas or electricity, living in a house, cannot shop 484 around for his electricity or gas. If he wishes to do so he has to move his house. His only redress is to go from one fuel to another. But in the case of steel the consumers can shop around. That is why we argue that there is a fundamental difference from other nationalised industries, and that a quite different question arises in this case.
The Minister says that he would not wish to place an obligation on companies over which he has no direct control. That is a most astonishing statement. The board of a holding company in the private sector, and its shareholders, have control over the underlying subsidiaries of that holding company. The Minister has control over the prices that the brickworks division of the National Coal Board charges to consumers of bricks. The Coal Board owns 51 per cent. of its subsidiary—J. H. Sankey and Son. Is the Minister saying that it is not his responsibility?
§ Mr. Nott
We require the Minister to oblige the underlying companies to publish their prices. We say that if those prices are published we can still question the Minister on them. He is still responsible for the Corporation, which controls the underlying companies.
The hon. Member for Brightside does not understand the problem if he thinks that this discussion on the question of who publishes the prices is irrelevant to the issue. We require the Minister to say that in all circumstances the underlying subsidiaries shall publish the prices of each of their products on all occasions, and that it should not merely be an obligation upon the holding company—the National Steel Corporation—because if that happens we fear that there will be uniform prices throughout the industry and that the competition which we desire will not take place.
§ Mr. Michael Shaw (Scarborough and Whitby)
I wish to intervene very briefly in this full and interesting debate. I agree almost wholeheartedly with my right hon. and hon. Friends, especially about the 485 need for separate pricing lists for each member of groups of companies which are wholly owned by the Corporation. I want to take up one point which was raised by the Minister and another which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Nott).
The right hon. Gentleman said that these prices were to be proposed for normal circumstances, and went on to say that the price lists clearly could not be binding. Do I infer that a price list will be in the form of a recommendation, rather in the same way as recommendations are made concerning branded articles which are no longer subject to resale price maintenance? Or will companies, unless circumstances are abnormal, be forced to adhere quite strictly to the price lists?
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives referred to the need for price lists to be published by all the underlying companies. As I read the new Clause this just will not happen. The proposal is that the Corporation shall publish notices containing prices which it proposes should be charged in the United Kingdom by it and by the publicly-owned companies. There are other companies besides the publicly-owned ones which are in the control of the Corporation. By the terms of the Bill, publicly-owned companies are only companies wherein the Corporation, either directly or indirectly, has 100 per cent. control. None the less, there are other companies in which, directly or indirectly, the Corporation has less than 100 per cent. control but in respect of which it has power to fix prices. As the new Clause is drafted, companies not 100 per cent. owned by the Corporation will not be required to publish their prices. This could be a serious flaw in the new Clause, in that certain companies will escape the obligation to publish prices, even though they are under the control of the Corporation.
An example which I have not had time to check but which I believe is correct is that of Firth-Vickers, in which the majority of the shares will be held by the 14 companies which are to be taken over. But a part of the Firth-Vickers' shareholdings will continue to be held by a company which is not to be nationalised. Under these circumstances, therefore, the prices of the steel products of that company will not need to be 486 published, because the Corporation will not control all the shares in the company. I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would deal with that point and say whether he has considered it and whether he does not think it advisable that the prices of these companies should be listed also.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
I also was not a member of the Committee, though I watched it sometimes from afar and sometimes near at hand, and I was amazed, as I am sure everyone was, at the stamina shown by my hon. Friends. I do not want to extend that stamina today, so I shall be brief.
The Amendment seeks to get a little flexibility into the industry, though we are aware that we cannot get much into a nationalised industry. We are, however, doing our best. The Minister brought this Clause forward as the result of representations made to him in Committee. I believe that he has come to us with a smokescreen, because this Clause does not do what he suggests and what we should like it to do. He has not told us whether or not the companies will be able to fix their own prices. I believe that this Clause in itself—this is where I disagree with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom)—would influence companies towards a common price, fixed by, or at any rate under the persuasion of, the Corporation, and that we shall not see the competition of different prices from the different companies.
The Clause talks about the Corporation "proposing" the prices to be charged and the terms and conditions which should exist. This is a tight hold and not the flexible hold which the Amendment proposes; I hope, therefore, that we shall press it. What are "normal circumstances"? What are "abnormal circumstances"? These terms can be applied only to a nationalised industry. This is the incredible feature of the debate. We cannot talk about normal or abnormal circumstances in regard to free enterprise, because free enterprise has to take the circumstances as they come, and has to battle on the conditions which exist—sometimes, unhappily, under a Labour Government depressing the economic scene, or, happily, under a Conservative Government, when things are under boom.
487 A board of directors fixes its prices and its whole business arrangements—selling and production—on the basis of circumstances as they exist, neither normal nor abnormal. Who decides which are the abnormal circumstances? Do the separate companies decide? Does the Corporation? Does the Corporation advise the companies when circumstances are abnormal? If one company under the Corporation said, "At the moment, the circumstances are abnormal for us and we want to vary our prices," will the Corporation agree that that company should be given advantage over all the other companies in that circumstance?
Is an abnormal circumstance covered by a strike? It is not in any other industry. I am not aware that any other Minister responsible for nationalised industries has ever been given the right to tell an industry, "The situation is abnormal at the moment and therefore you can put up your prices because you have losses caused by a strike." This phrase in the Clause leaves the matter open for the Minister, the Corporation or the companies to vary prices. Furthermore, it allows them to do so without giving notice.
There is nothing in the Clause to say that, in other than normal circumstances, companies will have to give notice of a change. Presumably, they could decide tomorrow morning or next week that the circumstances are not normal. There is no phrase to suggest that they should have to give notice to their customers—British free enterprise industry as a whole, other nationalised industries, and many of our export businesses. Therefore, what they might do overnight without giving notice can have a great effect right around the British industrial scene.
The Minister has said that, if the Corporation did not have this control of prices, if the Clause did not exist, and it was left in the hands of the companies, the House of Commons would not be able to question the Minister about prices. Is he quite certain that we will be able to probe on prices even if the Corporation has this? This does not apply in any other case.
Members of Parliament have great experience of putting Questions to Minis- 488 ters with overall control of nationalised industries, only to be told that the Questions are not acceptable—and not because the Table Office said so. My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) mentioned the Table Office. When I go to the Table Office I know that they are not the sole adjudicators on this. They check with the Minister—
§ Sir G. Nabarro
The row with the Table Office is invariably about demarcation of responsibility on pricing policy, which we are here debating—whether it is Ministerial authority which determines, for example, gas or electricity tariffs, or whether it is the Board's. The difficulty arises because it is a part of each. That is why I was trying earlier to define responsibility in a Parliamentary sense as between the Minister and the Corporation.
§ Mr. Marsh
We have debated this issue for two and a half hours, and it has been a surprising debate. This issue, as hon. Gentlemen on both sides know, is regarded by the industry and the organs of the industry as a matter of considerable importance. It is a matter which is concerned wholly and solely with publication. There are real arguments about pricing policies—I do not deny that—but this is an issue concerned with publication and one with which the industry, in the private sector and generally, is very concerned.
I hope that it will cause him no embarrassment when I say that, with the exception of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Summers), a large proportion of speakers opposite completely misunderstood what the new Clause and the argument is about. We have had a long debate on issues which are not part of the new Clause and are not affected by it.
A point was raised earlier about the meaning of "normal", and this is 489 obviously an important part of the dispute. I tried earlier to give an explanation and said that I thought that it meant "that which normally happened", but apparently this was not sufficient. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it at some length as constituting, conforming to, not deviating or differing from, a common type or standard, regular or usual. It carries a footnote which says that the word has been in use since about 1840. Therefore, I should have thought that on the whole "normal" was a fairly normally understood word.
The hon. Member for Aylesbury raised the specific and simple point whether we are talking about normal conditions for all the prices or whether we are talking about deviations from the normal in terms of specific price changes in specific instances. The answer is that we are talking about specific deviations from the normal as distinct from the generality.
"Normal" refers to the prices which would normally be charged. The Corporation or the publicly-owned companies would be free to charge different prices in specific cases, but they could not make so many specific exceptions that the prices published were no longer those normally charged. The difference here is very clear. If the prices of the British steel industry for a certain product are X in a period of unemployment, deflation or inflation, that is the normal price, but if there is a deviation in a specific case for a specific purpose, that price is a departure from the norm. I think that we are fairly clear where we divide that.
There is a second point that I want to make clear. There are arguments about pricing policy and about the extent to which publicly-owned companies should be able to compete with each other. Leaving aside the arguments about different pricing policies, there is nothing in this new Clause which prevents or imposes any particular type of pricing policy.
What, then, were we arguing about earlier on in relation to the Amendment? On technical grounds, an hon. Member opposite made a case for the Amendment, and listed what he thought the Amendment did as opposed to the new Clause. He was wrong. All that the Amendment calls for is thatall or any of the publicly-owned companies490 shouldpublish notices, setting out, in such form and manner as may in the judgment of the Corporationand so on. The hon. Gentleman raised the specific analogy of the National Coal Board.
Of course a Minister has control or power over subsidiaries of organisations for which he has Parliamentary statutory authority, but if Parliament gives those organisations specific powers, as the Amendment seeks to do, that Parliamentary statutory power clearly takes precedence over the authority of the Minister. In any case, the Amendment does not call on all companies to publish the information. It says "all or any" The Amendment would be met completely if a couple of the publicly-owned companies gave some information and not all of them. I am sure that this does not meet all the desires of hon. Gentlemen opposite who have spoken. Indeed, I do not think that any of them would be satisfied with the Opposition Amendment.
Another point raised was the Ministerial power and the Corporation's power over the publicly-owned companies. It is precisely because this is important and a matter of great interest in the private sector that it should be possible for the Corporation, which is directly, statutorily responsible to the Minister, to be able to determine—the Minister is answerable to Parliament—the form of the publication. It would be completely wrong to give the 14 companies independent right, not subject to the Minister or to the Corporation, to decide what they thought was the right form.
I cannot understand how we have discussed this for two and a half hours. The whole point of the Amendment is to negate or water down many of the wishes of the private sector. The whole purpose of the new Clause—there is nothing machiavellian about it—is genuinely and simply to ensure that the lists of normal prices are available. It is asked whether they should be published in one lot, and whether that means that the Corporation will take the lot and put them altogether and then issue a figure, or whether they should be published from the individual companies. Either can be done. There is nothing to prevent this.
§ Sir S. Summers
It is because the right hon. Gentleman keeps on saying, "There is nothing to prevent it" that he distinguishes his point of view from ours. We wish it to be obligatory as a result of what is put in the Bill on the individual companies to publish lists.
§ Mr. Marsh
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the point. I do not think that this really is the difference between us. What I want to do—it is the intention of the Clause and what the Clause does—is to ensure that the prices charged are published. The choice is not between whether a central figure is published by the Corporation or whether the individual prices of the 14 companies shall be published. The only choice is whether they shall be published in one list by the Corporation or whether they shall be published by the individual companies. The hon. Gentleman made a point in his speech with which I agree, that the reality is that one of the problems may well be that the delay in getting the figures together might be such that it would he a lone time before they were published. This is not dealt with in the Amendment, but the hon. Gentleman was not arguing the Amendment on that.
If this is so, it is a problem. But there is no reason why we cannot ensure—because the Corporation is responsible to the Minister; this is the difference between the Clause and the Amendment—that the figures are published separately. There is nothing to stop it. We merely say that we do not want to impose in a statute that it must be done in a certain way and only in that way. We want to leave the way open in order to ensure that the prices are published however it may be done, and that they are published not as the Amendment would permit, perhaps by two or three companies, but in such a form that they are all available. I genuinely believe that there is no dispute between us in terms of intention.
§ Sir D. Glover
If the Corporation publishes one list, the thinking behind that will be that it represents the standing price throughout the Corporation. I do not mind if the Corporation collects the figures together, with each company producing separate figures, meaning different prices.
§ Mr. Marsh
I was about to refer to the question of whether there should be competition between the separate companies or whether there should be one standing price. I accept that this is a big argument, although, personally, it seems pointless to take these companies into public ownership if one is then going to have free competition between them.
§ Mr. Marsh
We can discuss this matter on another occasion. I accept that the question of whether there should be a central list published by the Corporation or a separate list of 14 different prices, if there were 14 different prices, is an important point. This could be so if the policy decisions were such as to allow this to happen. However, I am not talking about having one amalgam of 14 prices put together, although the new Clause would not prevent them from being published in that way. The new Clause does not fix pricing policy and it contains nothing which would prevent us from entering the Common Market. I have no doubt that there will be much discussion about our entry and the connected matters that must be negotiated. The new Clause does not commit us to any type of pricing policy. Indeed, before we embarked on the Bill the industry was concerned with this whole question of pricing policy and much discussion about it had taken place. I hope I have made it clear that, whatever pricing policy is favoured, the new Clause would not prevent any policy from being adopted.
When considering whether there should be one price list or a separate list containing a number of different prices, one must remember that there might be, and probably would be, obvious advantages to steel buyers—as well as to Parliament and the Government—in having a single list of the prices being charged, rather than separate lists for each company. The hon. Member for Aylesbury made a number of points which should be taken into account. His comments were the sort of things that will have to be considered when deciding on whether to have a central list, a list from each company or, perhaps, both at the same time.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that while the wording of the new 493 Clause may not exactly explain what the pricing policy should he, it to some extent limits what that policy will be, because it clearly states that the prices shall be those which the Corporation proposes? If it merely said that they were the prices which the companies would charge, that would still leave the matter open, but as long as the new Clause remains unamended it must limit the form of the pricing policy.
§ Mr. Marsh
That is not so, because the Corporation, which is charged with making recommendations to the nationalised industry, could easily propose separate and competing price structures and, therefore, the prices which the Corporation was proposing would, in such circumstances, represent prices emerging from the structure which the Corporation proposed to set up.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
Of course the Corporation can propose separate prices, but the companies cannot do so. The Corporation has control over the pricing system of the companies, which is a totally different matter.
§ Mr. Marsh
If it is being suggested that, having nationalised the industry, we should have a number of groups with complete freedom to fix whatever prices they wish, without reference to the Corporation, there would appear to be no point in having the Corporation. There is nothing to prevent the Corporation and the Minister deciding upon a competitive price system. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not giving an undertaking that this is Government policy, but merely pointing out that there would be nothing to prevent even that from happening.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Winterbottom), in one of his usual helpful speeches—all Members of the Standing Committee D Club are aware of the help readily given by my hon. Friend; I am pleased to see him looking so healthy after his recent illness—made the simple point, which I accept, that the new Clause would not preclude any such pricing structure from being arrived at.
The right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Barber) asked whether the new Clause would allow the Corporation to adopt a system in line with the E.C.S.C. type of pricing system. The answer is 494 yes, if it wished to do so. As I pointed out, no system is precluded by the new Clause.
The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Michael Shaw) was right to suggest that this provision applies only to the Corporation and the publicly-owned companies. As he rightly said, it does not apply to companies controlled, but not wholly owned, by the Corporation. This is the case because there is a real difference between the one type of case and the other, in which category are companies which have private commercial shareholders. To impose on such companies obligations which would go far beyond the general companies law of the country could prejudice their commercial interests.
An interesting point to remember in this connection is that, by the new Clause, we are imposing on the nationalised industry obligations which extend beyond the requirements applying to the private sector. However, I accept that there is a difference, notably because this is a different type of industry. It would be wrong to impose obligations going beyond company law on companies with private shareholders, particularly since they might be involved in diversified activities and might be obliged to divulge information which would be known to their competitors and which, as a result, would be unfair to their private shareholders.
The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) asked whether this would apply to import prices. I assure him that it applies to anything being sold by the Corporation or the publicly-owned companies. It applies to the products of either.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
That is a half-baked answer, particularly since that was not the question I asked. I asked about imports generally, after which I went on to give an analogy of the National Coal Board in 1955 and questioned whether the Corporation would have a monopoly of selling iron and steel imports and rolled and rerolled iron and steel products imported into this country. I gave an average figure of £60 million worth of these goods coming in every year from 1961 to 1965. If the Corporation sells them, there will be control. If the Corporation does not sell and there is a free 495 market, what would the Minister propose to do about that?
§ Mr. Marsh
That is not the issue we are discussing. Nor was my answer half-baked. I thought that I explained the matter perfectly clearly. Anything which the Corporation or the publicly-owned companies sell in the United Kingdom is covered by these provisions. The mistake which hon. Members have been making today is that they have been talking not about the new Clause but about the policies which might be associated with it.
We have had a long debate on this Clause. It is an important Clause and one that will, I think, be acceptable. It is a definite attempt by the Government to meet the requests of people with whom we have discussed the subject outside the Standing Committee. I hope that hon. and right hon. Members opposite will feel that, in the light of the explanations given, their fears were unfounded and that, as has so often been the case in the past, they tended, quite unfairly and unjustifiably, to attribute to the Government evil motives.
§ Mr. Barber
By leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, I ask to be allowed to make a few observations before we end this debate. If you allow a Division on our Amendment, I would seek merely to move it formally, so it might be more convenient to the House were Ito speak now. We will not seek to divide the House on the new Clause, because although in our opinion it has a number of defects, to which attention has been drawn by my hon. Friends, and although it does not go as far as we would have wished, it is, at any rate, a concession to the request that we made in Standing Committee D and the request made to the Minister by the private sector of the industry. It is not all we want, but I think that we should allow it a Second Reading without a Division.
I turn now to the Minister's reply to the points I raised when proposing the Amendment some two hours ago. First, he criticised the Amendment on a number of technical grounds. I grant him that, but I must tell him that during the 13 years when he and his party were in opposition, had we, as a Government, 496 particularly on Finance Bills, stood our ground on the basis that the Labour Party's Amendments were technically inaccurate, we should never have had to debate any Amendments at all.
The truth is that he knows perfectly well what the objective of our Amendment is. I hope that my hon. Friends will take it to a Division for two reasons. First of all, the right hon. Gentleman has refused to include in the Bill a provision requiring the publicly-owned companies to publish prices, though that was his intention when he spoke in the Committee. I will not waste time now by quoting again the words referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), but his intention then was to do just what the Amendment seeks. For some reason that I do not understand he has now changed his mind, and has sought to brush aside lightly as being of no particular concern the Amendment I shall soon be moving.
The second reason why I think that we should take the matter to a Division is that the right hon. Gentleman has given no assurance at all that in the publication of these prices in accordance with the Clause there will be any element whatsoever of price competition between the several publicly-owned companies or groups of companies which, again, is clearly implicit in the Amendment. The truth is that after 13 years of opposition the Labour Party simply has not a clue about what it wants to do with this industry other than to nationalise it. Everyone else has a view about the prices policy they think ought to be adopted, but not the Minister, yet only a few months ago, with the industry in private hands, the Labour Government had a view about pricing policy because they threatened to legislate to allow the industry to bring in price competition.
The objective of the Amendment is perfectly clear. What is more, for all the derision he sought to pour upon it by pretending that it was nothing very different from the Clause itself, I would remind him, if he does not already know, that its substance conforms with the view of the whole of the private sector and of the 14 companies to be nationalised. That it represents the view of the whole steel industry of Britain is a factor that should be taken into account.
497 We on these benches are occasionally jeered at by hon. Members opposite because we appear to be the spokesmen of interests outside. I have no particular interest in the steel industry, or any steel shares, bat when the whole of the steel industry is unanimous in believing that the substance of this Amendment ought to be incorporated in the Minister's new Clause it is at least something of which he should take note.
There is much else that I could have said in answer to the right hon. Gentleman, but we want to make progress. I therefore conclude by advising my hon. and right hon. Friends not to divide the House on the new Clause but to proceed to a Division when the Amendment is moved.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time.498
Amendment proposed to the proposed Clause: In line 1, leave out from 'Corporation' to 'may' in line 8 and insert:
'may from time to time publish and shall cause all or any of the publicly-owned companies to publish notices, setting out, in such form and manner as may in the judgment of the Corporation or such publicly-owned company best inform intending buyers of iron and steel products the prices that the Corporation or such publicly-owned company will charge in the United Kingdom for iron and steel products and the terms and conditions applicable to any sale or supply of such products.
(2) The Corporation and any publicly-owned company'.x2014;[Mr. Barber.]
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Clause:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 297, Noes 226.501
|Division No. 233.]||AYES||[6.56 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Gardner, Tony|
|Albu, Austen||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Garrett, W. E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Crawshaw, Richard||Ginsburg, David|
|Alldritt, Walter||Cronin, John||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Allen, Scholefield||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gourlay, Harry|
|Anderson, Donald||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Gray, Dr, Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Archer, Peter||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dalyell, Tam||Gregory, Arnold|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Barnes, Michael||Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Barnett, Joel||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Beaney, Alan||Delargy, Hugh||Hamling, William|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Dell, Edmund||Hannan, William|
|Bence, Cyril||Dempsey, James||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Dewar, Donald||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Haseldine, Norman|
|Binns, John||Dickens, James||Hattersley, Roy|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dobson, Ray||Hazell, Bert|
|Blackburn, F.||Doig, Peter||Healey, Rt. Hon. Denis|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Driberg, Tom||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Boardman, H.||Dunn, James A.||Henig, Stanley|
|Booth, Albert||Dunnett, Jack||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Boston, Terence||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hilton, W. S.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Eadle, Alex||Hooley, Frank|
|Boyden, Jumes||Edelman, Maurice||Horner, John|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Bradley, Tom||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Ellis, John||Howell, Denis (Smart Heath)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D, D.||English, Michael||Howie, W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Ennals, David||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Ensor, David||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen N.)|
|Brown, Bob(N' c' tle -upon-Tyne, W.)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Brown, R. W, (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Evans, Ioan L. (Blrm'h'm, Yardley)||Hunter, Adam|
|Buchan, Norman||Fernyhough, E.||Hynd, John|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Butter, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Calfaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Foley, Maurice||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Cant, R. B.||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Ford, Ben||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Chapman, Donald||Forrester, John||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Coe, Denis||Fowler, Gerry||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Coleman, Donald||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Kelley, Richard|
|Concannon, J. D.||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Conlan, Bernard||Freeson, Reginald||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Lawson, George|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Newens, Stan||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Oakes, Gordon||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Ogden, Eric||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||O'Malley, Brian||Slater, Joseph|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Oram, Albert E.||Small, William|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Orbach, Maurice||Snow, Julian|
|Loughlin, Charles||Orme, Stanley||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Luard, Evan||Oswald, Thomas||Steele,Thomas(Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Lyon, Alexander w. (York)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Stonehouse, John|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Mabon, Or. J. Dickson||Paget, R. T.||Swain, Thomas|
|McBride, Neil||Palmer, Arthur||Taverne, Dick|
|McCann, John||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|MacColl, James||Park, Trevor||Thornton, Ernest|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Tinn, James|
|McGuire, Michael||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Tomney Frank|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Pavitt, Laurence||Tuck, Raphael|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Mackie, John||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Pentland, Norman||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Wallace, George|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Price, William (Rugby)||Weitzman, David|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Probert, Arthur||Wellbeloved, James|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Randall, Harry||Whitaker, Ben|
|Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Rankin, John||White, Mrs, Eirene|
|Manuel, Archie||Redhead, Edward||Whitlock, William|
|Mapp, Charles||Reynolds, G. W.||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Marquand, David||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wilkins, w. A.|
|Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Mason, Roy||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Williams, Clifford (Ahertillery)|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Millan, Bruce||Roebuck, Roy||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Moonman, Eric||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)||Winnick, David|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Ryan, John||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Woof, Robert|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Moyle, Roland||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Yates, Victor|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Murray, Albert||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Neal, Harold||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Mr. Alan Pitch and Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Bullus, Sir Eric||Eden, Sir John|
|Allason, James (Hemel) Hempstead)||Burden, F. A.||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Astor, John||Campbell, Gordon||Farr, John|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Carlisle, Mark||Fisher, Nigel|
|Awdry, Daniel||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Cary, Sir Robert||Forrest, George|
|Balniel, Lord||Channon, H. P. G.||Fortescue, Tim|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Chichester-Clark, R.||Foster, Sir John|
|Batsford, Brian||Clark, Henry||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Clegg, Walter||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.|
|Bell, Ronald||Cooke, Robert||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Costain, A. P.||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)|
|Biffen, John||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spetthorne)||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Crawley, Aidan||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Glyn, Sir Richard|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Crouch, David||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.|
|Blaker, Peter||Crowder, F. P.||Goodhart, Philip|
|Body, Richard||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Goodhew, Victor|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Currie, G. B. H.||Gower, Raymond|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Dalkeith, Earl of||Grant, Anthony|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Dance, James||Grant-Ferris, R.|
|Braine, Bernard||Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Brewis, John||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Grieve, Percy|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Deedes, Rt. Hn. w. F. (Ashford)||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Digby, Simon Wingfleld||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J,||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Bryan, Paul||Doughty, Charles||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Drayson, G. B,||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mackenzie,Alasdair(Ross&Crom'ty)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Roots, William|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Maddan, Martin||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Hastings, Stephen||Maginnis, John E.||Royle, Anthony|
|Hawkins, Paul||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Hay, John||Marten, Neil||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Maude, Angus||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Scott, Nicholas|
|Heseltine, Michael||Mawby, Ray||Sharples, Richard|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Smith, John|
|Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Miscampbell, Norman||Stainton, Keith|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Holland, Philip||Monro, Hector||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Hordern, Peter||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hornby, Richard||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hunt, John||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Temple, John M.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Murton, Oscar||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Tilney, John|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Neave, Airey||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Nott, John||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. sir John|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Onslow, Cranley||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Jopling, Michael||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Walkker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Wall, Patrick|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Kimball, Marcus||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Webster, David|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Peel, John||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Kitson, Timothy||Peyton, John||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Knight, Mrs. Jill||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Pink, R, Bonner||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Pounder, Rafton||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Prior, J. M. L.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Pym, Francis||Worsley, Marcus|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Wylle, N. R.|
|Longden, Gilbert||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Younger, Hn. George|
|Loveys, W. H.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Rees-Davies, W. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES|
|MacArthur, Ian||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Mr. Jasper More and Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
§ Clause added to the Bill.