Nationalisation is a farce. When an industry is supposedly ‘nationalised’, the industry remains in private ownership. The government and the public never own the industry – vast amounts of public money is just used to upgrade, expand, and cover financial losses incurred by the private owners. And when the industry has been upgraded, the industry is presented back to the private owners under the guise of ‘privatisation’ to continue managing the industry themselves.
A memorandum from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, dated 10 September 1945, and for the eyes of the cabinet only, includes a draft of the bill to bring the Bank of England under public control, which is not the same as public ownership. Section 1 of the bill (p.55) begins by stating “the whole of the existing capital stock of the Bank of England (here inafter referred to as ‘Bank Stock 1’) shall, by virtue of this section, be transferred to such person as the Treasury may nominate, and shall be held by that person on behalf of the Treasury free of all trusts, liabilities and incumbrances.” The memorandum (p.53) also states that “Clause 1 provides that the existing capital stock of the bank, amounting to £14,553,000, shall be acquired by the Treasury from the stockholders in return for 3% government stock of such amount that the sum payable annually by way of interest thereon is equal to the average annual gross dividend declared during the period of twenty years immediately preceding the 31st March 1945. Sub-clause (4) gives the Treasury the right to redeem the stock anytime after the 31st March 1966: subject to that, the stock will be perpetual. Thus, the stockholders will, at any rate for 20 years, receive the same income, neither more nor less, as they have received in recent years.” Clause 5 (p.56) states that “The Treasury may, for the purpose of providing any sums required by them in order to redeem the government stock, raise money in any manner in which they are authorised to raise money under the National Loans Act, 1939.” Section 4 (p.58) tells us that “A person shall be disqualified for holding the office of Governor, Deputy Governor, or director [of the Bank of England] if he is a member of the Commons House of Parliament or a person holding an office of profit under the crown” i.e. member of the House of Lords.
The following document (p.99) dated 13 September 1945, from the UK national archives, was classified ‘Secret’ and tells us that “The cabinet had before them a memorandum by the Chancellor of the Exchequer covering the draft of a bill to bring the Bank of England under public ownership.” Point 4(g) goes on to state that “The view was also expressed that, while it was necessary that there should be power to give directions, it was undesirable also to take the power to make regulations. If the latter power was taken, the question would at once arise whether such regulations would be the subject of affirmative or negative resolutions. While the actions of the Minister could, of course, be called in question by Parliament, it was undesirable that the directions given in these matters should be automatically brought before Parliament.” In 1946 the Bank of England was supposedly nationalised.
Clement Atlee’s Labour government, under the Iron and Steel Act 1949, nationalised the Iron and Steel Industry in 1951 via The Iron and Steel Corporation of Great Britain (ISCGB), which became the sole shareholder in 80 companies. The ISCGB, in turn, was subject to the policy control of a ‘non-functional corporation‘. On page 12, here, we are told that “Responsibility for the general conduct of the State-owned industry would be assigned to a quasi-independent statutory authority called henceforth, the board.” On page 1, section 4(c) tells us that “the form of organisation of the publicly-owned industry should be based on the retention of the company structure. All the securities would be vested in a central board, appointed by the Minister [of Supply], which would have complete and effective control over the companies comprising the publicly owned industry, by reason both of its statutory powers and of its ownership of all of their securities.” Appendix I, Section 13(b) (p.4) states that, “the securities shall vest in the Board on the specified date without transfer deed or other formality…”
In 1953, Winston Churchill’s Conservative government replaced the ISCGB with the Iron and Steel Holding and Realisation Agency, which privatised most of the industry.
Renationalisation of the Iron and Steel Industry was carried out by Harold Wilson;s Labour government via the Iron and Steel Act 1967 which has been locked up in the government archives for a period of 84 years and is not available for public viewing until the year 2054.
By 1971, there was cross-party consensus on nationalisation and it was established that the Conservatives would not de-nationalise the Iron and Steel industry.
In the House of Commons in 1971, Conservative MP Nicholas Ridley said in reply to Labour MP Michael Foot, that “The Iron Steel Act, which the hon. Gentleman’s own Government brought in, expressly forbids Ministers from interfering in the commercial management of the [British Steel] corporation.” And goes on to say that “The hon. Gentleman [Michael Foot] knows very well that this Government, like the last one, have no power to intervene in commercial decisions of the [British Steel] corporation of this sort.” The last government that Nicholas Ridley is referring to is the Labour government (1964-1970) led by Harold Wilson. If the so-called nationalised British Steel Corporation was owned by the State, then why wouldn’t ministers be involved in the commercial management of a State owned industry?
Speaking in the House of Commons in 1971, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, John Davies, said “The new programme which has been accepted and agreed allows the British Steel Corporation to proceed with all the existing projects that it had in its plan, including those at Llanwern and Ravenscraig. As I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite have been keenly concerned about this, may I tell the House that, as a result of the decisions taken, the control of the operation of that programme of investment is wholly in the hands of the Corporation. It will go through with that investment programme as it considers best, subject always to the normal communications that it has with the Department of Trade and Industry, whereby it lets the Department have foreknowledge of the major initiatives that it takes in major projects.