MISS ROBERTS ON STEEL
Miss Roberts mentioned nationalisation on Friday evening, when she addressed an audience of over 500 at Church Hall, Lowfield-street, Dartford. Mr. Haydn Fletcher again presided.
Referring to steel, she said its output was breaking all records. Its exports were all right. How were its labour relations? No labour strike for 30 years. It was a record of which the steel industry could be very proud. The price of steel was lower than anywhere else in the world, except Australia. In wages there were incentives for the workers. Where was the argument that the industry was inefficient or unfair? Why should the country take it over?
“It is private enterprise that made us what we were” she concluded, “We believe private enterprise can take us on to greater heights. It will sound the death-knell of the nation if we take one further step into nationalisation.”
(2) Graresend and Dartford Reporter, 18 February 1950: [end p9]
Margaret Roberts: Private enterprise can take us to great heights
A Quiet Hearing from Packed Hall
“We believe private enterprise can take us to greater heights. We believe it will sound the death knell of the nation if we take one further step into nationalisation.”
So said Dartford Conservative candidate Margaret Roberts at a packed meeting in the Church Hall on Friday evening. A mixed audience gave her a quiet hearing.
Nationalisation— “one of the central issues between ourselves and the other side” —was the main theme of Miss Roberts' challenging speech.
“I am interested to notice,” she remarked, “that it is not called nationalisation so much now. It has become socialisation or mutualisation. But it is still the same thing. It is still complete state ownership. It is still the fundamental tenet, still the central theme, of Socialism.”
Miss Roberts said she was not going to talk very much about the things that had already been nationalised. She wanted to talk more about the issues of the present election—whether the country should carry on with further nationalisation. The things she was particularly concerned with were steel, cement and sugar.
Taking steel first, the candidate reminded her audience that it was breaking all records. Its output was higher than ever before.
“And it is breaking all records,” she emphasised, “not with a greater labour force than in pre-war days but with virtually the same, so that output per man has gone up considerably—and that at a time when output per man in other industries is not as satisfactory as it might be.”
What about the industry's labour relations? There had been no major strike for 30 years. That was a tremendous record—one of which the steel industry could be very proud indeed.
How about prices? They were lower than anywhere else in the world except Australia.
Steel was one of the most efficient industries in the country at the present time. Its record was abundantly proving that. Why then should the Government take it over? There was no reason except for sheer party lines. There was no argument at all for nationalising steel that could not be answered from the record books and facts which the industry had.
Turning to cement, Miss Roberts said it was something which particularly interested the Dartford Division—for the amount of dust they got, if not for the product itself.
Cement was a smaller industry than steel, of course, but let them take a look at the output figures. Cement was the only one of our industries where the output per man in this country was greater than the output per man in America.
“That says a tremendous lot for British know-how,” Miss Roberts commented.
Referring to the profit-sharing and bonus and pensions schemes associated with the cement industry, the candidate said most of her audience well knew what happened to the co-partnership and profit-sharing schemes in the gas industry when that was nationalised. Many cement workers were asking if the same thing would happen to them if their industry was nationalised.
After discussing sugar, Miss Roberts appealed to her hearers not to allow wool to be pulled over their eves by Socialist boasts of a planned economy.
The function of a Government, she said, was not to take over every mortal thing in the country's economy. Its function was to let the ordinary people get on with the job as far as they could.
“Private enterprise has made us what we are—a great industrial nation,” Miss Roberts declared. “I do not believe we should be anything like as great if we had had a 100 years of Socialism. It was private enterprise which made us what we are and gave our people one of the highest standards of living in the world.”