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Volume 885: debated on Monday 3 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects to introduce his Bill for the nationalisation of the shipbuilding, aircraft and guided missile industries; and if it is the Government's intention that these measures, if Parliament agrees, should pass into law this year.

I intend to introduce legislation to bring these industries into public ownership as soon as possible, in the present Session, so that vesting can take place in early 1976.

Will the Secretary of State answer two questions? Will he give these important industries, especially the aircraft industry, a little more time to prepare their response to his consultative document? Another two or three weeks would not do the right hon. Gentleman any harm and would help the industry greatly.

Will the Secretary of State say also why he believes that nationalisation is desirable when the management of this great industry is convinced that it will not produce a single additional aircraft and when the workers as a whole do not want it?

The hon. Gentleman got in two questions. The first was about time. I do not think that anybody can complain about the time. This was in our programme well before the election—in both manifestos, in the August White Paper, and in the Queen's Speech. In addition, the hon. Gentleman himself helped to tell the industry about our policies for it. I think that the period of consultation is adequate.

On the second question, about the case for public ownership of the aircraft industry, to anticipate the answer to a Second Reading debate in a supplementary question would be an abuse of the House. I have made the Government's view clear. I shall be happy to debate the matter when the Bill comes forward.

Bearing in mind that the right hon. Gentleman refuses to pay any money for the time taken by the employees of the companies that he proposes to nationalise, is unwilling to pay for the travelling expenses of those employees, and, furthermore, is prepared to go behind the backs of the employers in order to consult their employees without the employers' permission, is it surprising that certain of those companies refuse to put working capital into contracts which are required for the Ministry of Defence? Will he consult the Secretary of State for Defence about the situation?

The announcement made in the Queen's Speech was a Government announcement embracing the views of the Cabinet, including the Secretary of State for Defence. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can help me. Did he say that one of the complaints was that I was talking to workers without the permission of their managements? Is it really the view of the Opposition that employers in private industry are entitled to give or to withhold permission to their employees to talk to the Government of the day? If it is, it throws an interesting light on the view of the Conservative Party on matters of consultation.

In view of what the right hon. Gentleman says, will he clarify the position in regard to publicly-owned industries, in respect of which Members of Parliament are not allowed to talk to employees without permission?

If that is the case in point, I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that I gave formidable support to the view I deeply hold—that Members of Parliament should be allowed to go to the plants in the public sector to see the workers there. I represented that view very strongly to the person concerned in the case which I know the hon. Gentleman has in mind.