1 AUGUST 1952, Page 2

Next Move for Steel

The White Paper on the re-transfer of the iron and steel industry to private ownership has the basic merit that it proposes the restoration of the Iron and Steel Board, which supervised the industry in the period of harmonious advance between the end of the war and the onset of nationalisation. The powers given to the Board and the Government under the new scheme are rather more extensive than they were then, and it.is difficult to see how the Opposition can frame a con- vincing attack on the old ground that public control of the industry is inadequate. But an attack (and a defence) there will certainly be, and there is no assurance whatever that in it economic realism will be given more weight than party polemics. The Daily Herald rushing in where the Labour Party leaders have not yet trod, describes the Government's proposals as " this crackpot plan "—a comment which carries no more promise of rational debate than the Daily Telegraph's claim that the White Paper presents " the best possible structure for the industry." A highly centralised industry, a supervising Government Board, the abolition of the distinc- tion between the nationalised and non-nationalised sectors of the steel-making industry, the exclusion from the direct purview of the Board of engineering and other steel-using activities— all these are welcomed by the steel companies and much more likely to promote harmony and order in the industry than the curious mixture which was being compounded under nationalisation. But there are still plenty of dangerous tendencies within the industry itself, most notably the tendency to complicate unduly the relationship between costs and prices, and these tendencies are not removed or checked by the new plan. There are also plenty of difficulties to be faced in the process of transferring the securities of the nationalised com- panies to private ownership, and the plan in its present form does not, and would not, provide a complete formula for the solution of all of these. But neither set of difficulties would be incapable of-solution if the game of battledore and shuttle- cock over ownership could be abandoned and all attention concentrated on concrete problems of organisation.