Labour drops policy of nationalisation: Smith echoes Heseltine on industrial strategy

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LABOUR'S LAST lingering commitment to nationalisation was quietly dropped yesterday when John Smith published proposals for an industrial strategy seeking maximum consensus with business, unions and


Contrasting what he saw as a Tory record of damage and neglect with his wish to 'tackle the bias against industry', the Labour leader said: 'Labour means business.'

While Tories attempted to portray Labour's consultative document as a 'rerun of tried and tired policies' that smacked of socialism, many of the proposed options echoed those made by Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, during the late 1980s.

The most significant development, however, was the omission of any trace of Labour's 75-year-old commitment to 'the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange' - Clause IV, Part 4 of the constitution. Instead, Labour would restrict its role to throwing lifelines to 'companies in distress'.

One well-placed party source said the document, Making Britain's Future, flowed naturally from Mr Smith's speech at the Bournemouth local government conference in February, in which he rejected dogma and condemned the debate about ownership as a sterile irrelevance.

'We've stopped discussing public ownership or control because there will be very little left in the public sector by the time of the next election,' the source said.

That did not stop Labour producing its limited commitment on electricity industries to 'restore public control of the National Grid' in last year's election manifesto but was a considerable dilution of Labour's 1983 election pledge to return all privatised assets to public ownership.

Sense of 'deja vu', page 8

Ivor Crewe, page 21