31 JULY 1964, Page 13

STEEL NATIONALISATION SIR,—Mr. Charles de Peyer, a distinguished former Under-Secretary

of the steel division of the Ministry of Power, has a much more intimate knowledge of the sources of the advice on which the Government decided not to de-nationalise Richard Thomas and Baldwins in 1960 than I am ever likely to acquire, so I naturally accept his statement that this decision had nothing to do with the late Sir Henry Spencer. However, when he speaks of the shares in the company being sold at 'some knock-down price' he is on less sure ground.

The City, which makes its living in this way, is as capable as Mr. de Peyer and his former colleagues in the Ministry of appraising the value of a business; this is done by taking into account its prospects as well as its past performances. One thing that we can all be sure of is that the price at which RTB

shares could have been marketed in 1960, however low it may have seemed to Mr. de Peyer and his colleagues, would appear dear today. Had the Government fulfilled its election undertaking the subsequent loss would now be borne not by the public purse but by the shareholders.

Although Mr. de Peyer's letter would seem to put the issue back in doubt I am still wondering on whose advice the Government acted in 1960. Perhaps Mr. de Peyer can solve this riddle too.

House of Commons