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National Enterprise Board

Volume 888: debated on Monday 10 March 1975

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17.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he intends to give the National Enterprise Board specific directions to acquire shares in profitable manufacturing industry.

This is unlikely, because the Industry Bill already provides the necessary powers.

Whose agreement will be necessary before shares are acquired in profitable manufacturing industries?

As the hon. Gentleman knows full well, the position is that there are no compulsory powers in the Industry Bill or in the White Paper.

Does my hon. Friend agree that a large section of people were disturbed by Sir Don Ryder's view, expressed on television to Mr. Christopher Chataway, that nationalisation is a method of regenerating collapsing British industry in order to hand it back, ultimately, to private enterprise? Will my hon. Friend take note of that and make it clear that large numbers of working people hope that profitable industry will be nationalised on behalf of working people and not taken over only when it is in a process of collapse, as it inevitably is under capitalism?

I personally am not aware of Sir Don Ryder making such a statement, although I understand that something similar was supposedly said— although it was denied afterwards—by the chairman of a nationalised industry. It is clearly laid down in the White Paper and in the statement of the National Enterprise Board that one of the functions of the board is that it should enter into profit-making industry.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will make it a condition of appointment to the National Enterprise Board that no persons appointed shall take up further appointments at the termination of their contracts with any firm with whom they have had financial dealings in the course of their work at the NEB.

This is a very complicated problem, but one which is important, and we are looking into the issues involved. At this stage, it is not possible to give a definite answer one way or the other.

I thank my hon. Friend for that neutral answer. In view of the special and privileged relationship between members of the NEB and industrial firms, is it not desirable that there should be an interval before such members take up appointments with private industry with which they may have had financial or advisory dealings? In those circumstances, will the Minister ensure that the rules governing such continuing appointments are assimilated to those governing the appointment of senior ex-civil servants when they leave the public service to take up appointments with private enterprise?

My hon. Friend is right. There are well-established rules for the Civil Service and the Armed Forces. There is no general code for public corporations. However, I have taken on board the point that my hon. Friend has made. I cannot go further than saying that we are looking into the issues involved.