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

By Duncan Burn | Go to book overview

Chapter VI
THE CAPTURE AND RECAPTURE OF THE CITADEL

1. IRRESISTIBLE ASSAULT

Mr Herbert Morrison said in 1946 that nationalisation of steel was 'a matter of business'. It was 'not really a party political matter' at all. The Government suffered from a split mind if not a divided heart on the wisdom of nationalising, and Mr Morrison was perhaps the least certain of its timeliness. But when the faithful had irrevocably decided and the Bill came before the House of Commons in 1948 he stated the 'business' case for it with more perceptiveness than any other speaker. Perhaps it was because he understood better the case for the alternative, the system favoured by the Opposition, which was close to the system under the first Board.

Mr Selwyn Lloyd described this as a five-tier system. 'There are the companies, and above them, acting as a trade association, is the Iron and Steel Federation; above that, until recently, has been the Steel Board; above that the Minister; and above the Minister, at least in theory, Parliament. This has worked extraordinarily well in practice as, I think, everybody in the industry admits.'1 Mr Morrison argued on the contrary that the system 'cramps the style of management and impedes its freedom of action'.

'It is impeded in its freedom both by the Federation and by the State. We think that under that system it is more difficult to rationalise and modernise the industry, since if it is a question of expanding here or contracting there the fact of an industry being in private hands is bound to cause the maximum of difficulty. Next we think that it is difficult for the industry to achieve the necessary freedom of movement in reorganisation

____________________
1
House of Commons. Standing Committee on Iron and Steel Bill (abbreviated as S.C. Steel Nat.), 16 Dec. 1948, c. 322.

-291-

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