HC Deb 28 February 1917 vol 90 cc2102-3

Order for Second Beading read.


I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Whilst the last Bill might have excited some apprehension, I think this measure is sufficiently clear to secure for it an easy passage through the House. The object of the Bill is to avoid the necessity which arises under the Census of Production Act, 1906, for taking a census of production in the year 1918, covering the production of the present year. Everybody will agree that the present year is obviously a most unsuitable period for the purpose of a census of production. Industry is dislocated, and works, factories, and labour are diverted for the purposes of munitions and other war expedients. A census prepared under these conditions would afford no trustworthy index to the course of internal trade, which is really the purpose intended to be served by a census of production. Furthermore, the staffs that would be charged with the preparation of the census are also diverted to war work and work of greater urgency. It is, therefore, deemed desirable to secure power to postpone the third census of production. It will be remembered that under the Census of Production Act an Order was made in 1911 providing that the census should be taken over quinquennial periods, and unless this Bill is passed and that Order is altered it will be necessary for us to proceed in the matter. The manufacturers of the country would feel that they were overtaxed if they were called upon on this occasion to devote the services of their staffs to the compilation of the necessary statistics which are required under the Census of Production Act.

It is not possible at the present moment to state definitely what may be the earliest year for which the next census of production may properly be taken, and it is, therefore, proposed to confer on the Board of Trade power to prescribe by Order the dates of every future census, such Order to be made at least a year before the commencement of the year for which the statistics ma;; be required. It is clear that even a prophet could not with accuracy predict the duration of the War. After the War there will be a period of reconstruction and readjustment to normal standards, and to that period also it is difficult to give an accurate date. It will be observed that power is also to be taken to limit any census of production to prescribe trades or businesses. It is clear that some businesses may be readjusted earlier than others, and it might be helpful if statistics could be compiled for particular trades as readjustment ensues. There are really three points in the Bill. First of all, we ask for power to postpone the third census of production. Secondly, we ask that power be conferred on the Board of Trade to prescribe the dates of each future census. The third point is the power to limit any census of production to prescribed trades or businesses. I hope that I have succeeded in explaining the scope and purpose of this Bill, and that it may secure the assent of the House.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into Committee on the Bill."—[Mr. J. Hope.]

Bill accordingly considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment; read the third time, and passed.