7th December 1955.
Today in 1955 Clement Attlee resigned leadership of the Labour Party. He is best known as the war-time Deputy Prime Minister, under Churchill, following him as Premier from 1945 to 1951.
As Prime Minister he was responsible for pushing forward Nationalisation of Britain’s heavy industries and public utilities.
No matter what the arguments about nationalisation are, railways were ‘clapped-out’ after the war, coal mines were uneconomic and leading political thought was that government support for ‘the commanding heights of the economy’, was needed to put the country back on its feet.
It was towards the end of the war that the 1944 Labour Party Conference proposed nationalisation of the Bank of England. However the rank and file led by Ian Mikardo MP insisted that coal, gas, electricity, civil-aviation, roads, rail, ports and steel be added to the list.
The Bank of England was the first to be nationalised in 1946.
On January 1st 1947, 1,500 coal mines were nationalised with Emmanuel Shinwell, Minister of Fuel and Power, saying that ’the National Coal Board (NCB) now manages on behalf of the people’. By 1949 the industry was in profit.
January 1st 1948 saw the railways nationalised; electricity followed that year, even travel agents, Thomas Cook were to come under the British Traffic Commission.
Road services in 1948 came under government control as British Road Services (BRS).
Gas control came in May 1949, with iron and steel following, only to be reversed by the Tories back in government, under Churchill in 1951.
In 1953 The Transport Act broke the British Traffic Commission’s monopoly in long distance public road haulage, demonstrating the Conservative’s tentative move back private enterprise.
Iron and steel was re-nationalised in 1967 under Wilson’s Labour administration, only in 1988, under Thatcher to be returned to the private sector where it has been ever since, though in a much depleted state. (1)
Between the years 1979 and 1990 the age of Thatcherism saw Privatisation equated with selling the family silver, as Tory ex-Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan said.
(1) Most being owned by the Indian Company Tata.
Ref: news.bbc.co.uk/December 7th 1955.
Ref: flickr.com/photos/Image of lorry.
Ref: wikipedia.org/December 1955.