Labour Governments and Private Industry: The Experience of 1945-1951

By H. Mercer; N. Rollings et al. | Go to book overview
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Eight
The cotton industry: a middle way between nationalisation and self-government?

MARGUERITE DUPREE

Let Us Face the Future, the Labour Party's statement for the 1945 election, gave only a general idea of what a Labour government's policy towards private industry would be. 1 Nevertheless, Stafford Cripps brought a distinctive policy to the Board of Trade when he became President in July 1945. He attempted to create a 'partnership' for industrial policy formation among employers, unions and consumers, and an organisational structure embodying that partnership which would promote desired changes in industry and serve as a permanent means of communication between government and industry. He appointed 'tripartite' Working Parties to investigate the major non-nationalised industries, particularly those characterised by small units, producing consumer goods and experiencing concentration during the war. Subsequently Cripps put forward legislation which allowed the establishment of Development Councils, 'Labour's main institutional innovation for dealing with private industry?'. 2 Involving neither nationalisation with compulsory public ownership of firms nor reliance on the industrial self-government of trade associations partially representative of employers in an industry, Development Councils offered a type of central statutory organisation covering all firms in an industry financed by a levy on firms and including representatives of employers, employees and independents (representing consumers or the national interest or contributing technical expertise). A Development Council was to have no compulsory powers over prices, nor were wages and conditions of employment part of its functions. Instead, a Development Council was intended as a means for private industries to improve the efficiency of production and distribution, to provide common services such as research, design and statistics and, as Cripps emphasised particularly in introducing the Third Reading of the Bill, to serve as 'that liaison with industry which is now an essential part of any national planning?'. 3

A full account of the Attlee government's policies towards the cotton industry would include the decision not to reopen the Liverpool cotton market and to nationalise the import and sale of raw cotton, creating the Raw Cotton Commission. 4 Although outside the scope of a volume dealing with private industry, this decision which singled out raw cotton

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