The Steel Industry, 1939-1959: A Study in Competition and Planning

By Duncan Burn | Go to book overview

Chapter V
THE FIRST STEEL BOARD 1946-1949

1. PURPOSE AND PERSONS

Little was said at all, in the first post-war debate on the Government's steel policy, about the Control Board which, as seen above, was to bridge the gap between the wartime Steel Control and nationalisation. It was 'to see that the industry is carried on', that it had adequate raw materials despite their scarcity, 'that the modernisation schemes proceed smoothly and rapidly'. It was to be responsible for the regulation of production and distribution, and for advice on prices. And, Mr Wilmot added fatally when he first announced his plan, the Board would 'also act as my advisor on questions arising in the preparation of the scheme of nationalisation'.1 Advice only, he explained in the later debate, on detailed technical matters.2 But he had provoked the first short phase of passive resistance. The Federation would not co-operate with the Minister on the Board until the Ministry agreed that the members were not expected individually or collectively to advise on nationalisation,3 and so long as it took this stand no directors from member firms would join the Board. The Minister after trying to persuade the chairman of the nationalised Iron and Steel Corporation of South Africa to act as chairman,4 gave way on the point and the Board was finally set up in September.5

Its constitution followed the contemporary pattern set, for example, in the 'Working Parties'. The chairman was 'independent'; Mr Wilmot chose Sir Archibald Forbes for the role, the financial director of Spillers, originally an accountant, who

____________________
1
Hansard, c. 850-1, and 17 April 1946, 1693
3
The Times, 2 Aug. and 19 Aug. 1946.

-191-

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