HC Deb 04 November 1974 vol 880 cc666-8
5. Mr. Loan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he will introduce legislation to establish a National Enterprise Board; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Eric S. Heffer)

Provisions for the establishment of the National Enterprise Board will be included in the Industry Bill, which will be brought before Parliament as soon as possible in the current Session.

Mr. Evans

My hon. Friend will realise that there will be general satisfaction in the Labour movement that this promise is to be fulfilled at an early date. In the extension of public ownership, will he ensure that it will not be confined to loss-making industries, such as Rolls-Royce, as it has been in the past? Will he realise also that there is a feeling in the country that it would be far better for some of these industries to come under British control than be owned by foreign capital?

Mr. Heffer

I am well aware of the general satisfaction in the Labour movement throughout the country. I have met with some of that satisfaction in my own area. With regard to my hon. Friend's second point, the White Paper clearly lays down that we shall be concerned not only with rescuing cases in bad financial difficulty but will enter the competitive profitable sphere.

13. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he proposes to announce the composition of the board of the National Enterprise Board and its capital.

Mr. Heffer

The financing of the National Enterprise Board will be dealt with in the Industry Bill which will be introduced as soon as possible in the current Session. An announcement about the composition of the board will be made at the appropriate time.

Mr. Renton

Cannot the Minister and his colleagues see that the total vagueness of their proposals about the National Enterprise Board lies like a dark threat over private enterprise just at a time when its confidence needs to be restored? Will he assure us that men will be appointed to the board who are not amateurs in business and who have experience in running successful private companies, and that they will be given a free hand in maintaining both the profitability and the independence of the companies in which the NEB buys stakes?

Mr. Heffer

Before hon. Members get too enthusiastic about the term "amateurs", may I say that there might be some argument as to exactly who is an amateur and who is a professional. But I inform hon. Gentlemen that the Government will appoint people best qualified by skill and experience to carry out the board's responsibilities.

Mr. Newens

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that in past nationalisation measures all too little consideration was given to giving adequate representation to the workers employed in industry? Will he ensure in future measures that the employees have a much better crack of the whip?

Mr. Heffer

I assure my hon. Friend that it is our intention to have trade unionists on the NEB. Provisions relating to the appointment of board members will be included in the Bill, but I must ask the House to await its introduction.

Mr. Heseltine

Why is the Minister so coy on all the money questions? He tells the House that he has a figure in mind. Would it not be a great step towards the open government about which we have heard so much if he told us the figure?

Mr. Heffer

The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do why it is not possible at this juncture to indicate precisely what figure the Government have in mind.