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Industrial Policy (Prime Minister's Speech)

Volume 887: debated on Tuesday 25 February 1975

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Q5.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on Friday 7th February in Liverpool on the National Enterprise Board.

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech in Liverpool on the Industry Bill to the Merseyside Productivity Board on 7th February.

But as Sir Don Ryder is to report to my right hon. Friend, does that mean that the National Enterprise Board will be in any way less interventionist? What did my right hon. Friend say to the Confederation of British Industry at that famous meeting of the board when the Director-General of the CBI came away saying that he felt happier?

The matter is still before Parliament, in a Bill which has only just received its Second Reading. The board will be responsible to the industrial Department concerned. What I did in that speech was to repeat what I have said many times: that the Bill, and its operation when it becomes an Act, will follow exactly the White Paper which was published before the election and which was so manifestly acceptable to the British people, as shown in the way they voted last October.

As the Prime Minister said in that speech that the effect of the Industry Bill would not be to concentrate power in the hands of the Secretary of State, will he explain why it is that under the Bill the Secretary of State has power to spend £700 million of public money to buy shares in industrial companies, without a reference to Parliament?

Despite the fact that, as I said, I went to the great trouble of putting a copy of that speech in the Library on 10th February, I am sorry to note that the hon. Gentleman has not read it. I did not say any of the things that he attributed to me. I said then that the operation set out in the White Paper will be carried out, although all expenditure voted by the House is under the control of the Treasury, not to mention that rarely mentioned Minister the First Lord of the Treasury, who happens to be involved in these matters. That is what I said. It was nothing like what the hon. Gentleman suggested.

Will my right hon. Friend send to the Merseyside Productivity Board, and then to the CBI, a copy of the third in his series of Edinburgh speeches in 1973, in which he called for the full disclosure to workers of the ownership and control of companies?

The speech to which my hon. Friend refers, which I think was made at Blackpool, is well known to all my constituents on Merseyside. Many of them have read it in full.

The Prime Minister said that the Bill will reflect the White Paper, and the White Paper says that companies can be taken over only by agreement and as a result of a full parliamentary process. What part of the Bill reflects either of those two safeguards?

Of course I have read the Bill. This is the concept of the Bill. The point raised by the hon. Gentleman is one of the matters which I discussed with the CBI and which I shall discuss again tomorrow. If there is any doubt from the drafting of the Bill whether the things I said on Merseyside and what we said in the White Paper are in question, those matters can be considered in Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] But all along I have said that this is how the Bill will operate. If the hon. Gentleman wants to spend all his time trying to pretend that it is a different Bill from what it is, we are prepared to discuss it with him.