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Industry Act

Volume 893: debated on Monday 9 June 1975

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askd the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will publish a further White Paper on the working of the proposed Industry Act.

The Government will consider the publication of a further White Paper on the working of the proposed Industry Act in the course of the review of the Bill which we have undertaken to carry out.

I am sure that the whole House will be interested to hear that remarkable revelation from the right hon. Gentleman. May I remind him that neither the Bill nor the White Paper makes any mention of the Government's intention to nationalise one or more of the main clearing banks? In view of the committee which the right hon. Gentleman is chairing outside the House tonight, will he say whether it is his view that the National Enterprise Board has powers to nationalise one of the banks?

As we say, that is another question. I invite the hon. Gentleman to consider very seriously whether a paper written in a party office and coming up to a party committee—a paper which it so happens I had not read until I saw a reference to it in The Times, a document of options—is legitimately to be taken as the subject of a supplementary question. The House will know full well that in our programme for Britain, which we published two years ago, the Labour Party indicated our preliminary thinking about the matter and said that further work would be done on it. The matter does not arise on the question the hon. Gentleman put, but all political parties properly undertake forward policy work and it would be a great pity if that work were not undertaken and the results put before political leaders for consideration.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that while the Industry Bill, the related White Papers and the paper he may publish, are all very important matters for proper discussion, all these things will come to naught if we ever repeat the disastrous experiment which ended up in Britain's being put on a three-day working week, for which we are still paying a very heavy bill? Conservative Members should concentrate on that and the damage they have caused this country when they try to anticipate any evils that this Government may do.

The House knows that this country's manufacturing industry suffers from a period of decline that has gone on for some time. That decline is due partly to a lack of adequate investment and partly to a failure to make necessary reforms in industrial policy. Undoubtedly, the final few weeks of the siege economy we inherited from our predecessors made it worse.

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch)? Do the Government intend to use the powers taken in the Industry Bill to nationalise a major bank? Do they intend to nationalise a major insurance company? If the powers exist—as it has been admitted in Committee they do—are we now to assume from the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have no intention of using them?