§ Considered in Committee. [Progress, 3rd March.]
§ [Mr. JAMES HOPE in the Chair.]
§ CLAUSE 1.—(Increase of amount of loans which may be guaranteed under 11
§ & 12 Geo. 5. c. 65, and extension of period for giving guarantees.)
Amendment proposed [3rd March]: In page 1, line 16, at the end, to insert:
(3) A policy committee shall be set up which will be responsible to the Treasury for the consideration of national requirements and the promotion of suitable schemes in this connection."—[Mr. Morton.]
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."1201
§ Mr. STEPHEN
I desire to support this Amendment, and my reason for doing so is that in the earlier stages of this Measure we had occasion to put before the Financial Secretary to the Treasury a certain amount of criticism of the Advisory Committee, or, if not criticism, at least suggestions in connection with the carrying on the work of that Committee. Some of us have felt that that Committee has not been sufficiently in touch with matters of Government policy and with practical considerations that might be put before them. It was said, in reply, that that would be fatal to the satisfactory working of this Committee. It was suggested, for instance, that it would mean that there would be influences in the Lobby if the Minister were to come into the Committee in a more authoritative position, that it would introduce considerations, which, all along, many Members of the House have felt should not be brought into this matter. I am aware that after the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) moved his Amendment, we had a reply from the Minister in charge of the Measure, and it seemed to me the Minister went back a good deal upon what was the position not only of himself but of more than one of his predecessors in regard to this Advisory Committee. We have been assured that the big function of the Advisory Committee, already operating under previous legislation, has been practically to look at the proposition from the financial viewpoint—are the financial considerations satisfactory? Is this Act good financial business for the Treasury? If it is good financial business, then let it go.
Then, in the reply, the Minister went on to assure us that this Committee had been active in trying to bring within reach of the various commercial interests of the country the advantages of this scheme, and that they tried to function in a certain initiative manner. I do not feel at all satisfied with the position disclosed in that reply. I think, possibly, there may be something to be said, from what we have gathered from the past, that this Advisory Committee should be kept as a financial committee, and kept in the secluded atmosphere in which so many Members of the House have felt that it is necessary this Committee should work, away from any such influences as might 1202 come from Lobbying, and the Minister being pursuaded that it was a really good thing which ought to be encouraged, and that the Minister might use his influence to get a scheme put through. If that be so, I believe we have got there a really good ground for the Financial Secretary agreeing to accept this Amendment to set up a policy committee.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton discussed in particular the question of shipbuilding, and the great advantage of a policy committee in connection with that industry, which has already received certain of these guarantees. I want to refer to the shipbuilding industry again, because, since the Debate took place, something has happened, which, I think, makes the plea of the hon. Member for Bridgeton all the stronger. I refer to the fact that the Furness Withy Company has seen occasion to put a contract out of the country to a firm in Hamburg, and if we had had this policy committee, the committee could have been approached by this shipbuilding firm and it would have been the business of the committee, in the event of such a contract going out of the country, to make inquiries into the whole position. As a representative of the Clydeside in this House, I would make hold to 'say that with exchange advantages, with hours advantages and all the rest of the things, of which we have. heard in connection with the shipbuilding industry, Clydeside, so far as the workmen and the direction of the shipbuilding yards are concerned, would be able to meet anything in the way of foreign competition as regards the building of the ships. Yet here is this contract, which has gone out of the country, and, as far as we can see, there is no department to take cognisance of such an effect: whereas if we had had this policy committee, it would have been its natural business to go into the whole matter.
The Minister of Labour last night made certain grave statements as to the position of industries in this country, and referred to the question of efficiency in the workshops. While the Minister of Labour is there, and has a certain work to carry on, there is no committee of experts to go into such questions intimately, to find how we could get these measures of efficiency in organisation and the carrying on of the business of the country. We have suggested in this Amendment that a 1203 policy committee under this legislation should be set up, and such a committee, we are convinced, would fulfil a very useful function. It could take cognisance of the way in which contracts which might have been placed here are going out of this country. It could take cognisance as to whether industries were working efficiently, and in the best interests of the community. At Question Time to-day, a question was put by an hon. Member for a North Scottish constituency in which he suggested a scheme under which certain work should be carried on, which would be of great advantage to small landowners and to the agricultural population of Scotland. He was told what it would cost!
Again, if we had had a policy committee it would have been good business for this Committee to consider whether such an industry, by being revived in the districts, would not have been an advantage to the whole community. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury told us in his reply that, after all, while there was much in what was said by the hon. Member for Bridgeton on the organisation and development of policy in connection with industry, there was so much of responsibility that it had to be left with the Government. We do not challenge that. We say, however, that the Government should have an instrument. We say that under this legislation you would get a fairly good instrument created which would be of the very greatest service, through the Committee, to the Government and to the general industry of the country.
You have got so many Departments of State! Here is something, a Committee, which would establish a certain connection between the various Departments of State, and would look at the welfare of the community from the point of view of all the Departments. To my mind, since this legislation has every indication of being permanent legislation, we cannot too soon have such a general Committee in order that we may have the best advantages for the community. In a previous stage I thought to impress that point upon the attention of the Minister—that this legislation had now become pretty much a permanent feature of our legislation. I pointed to the fact that while some considered that such a suggestion as this was introducing the thin end of the wedge, that the thin end of the 1204 wedge had been introduced long ago. If the State is going to take its part in industry and in guaranteeing facilities, then there should be a Committee which u ill not only have regard to whether the venture is a sound financial venture, but whether it is going to add to the general well-being of the community: whether it is going to be in a line with the general policy of the Government itself, and whether it also will make for the advantage, comfort, and well-being of the mass of the people.
I hope that the Minister is going to meet us in connection with this Amendment. I do not just know how far he may go, but I think he can go the whole length. If, however, it is too much for him, then I would suggest that he might give us some assurance in connection with the passage of next year's Bill, because, he will quite agree, there will be a next year's Bill. Also there is the possibility at the present time that he will be on the opposite benches: that is to say, if ill-health keeps away from him. Allowing for this, it is most likely that he will be there, on the doorstep of the Cabinet, if he is not in the Cabinet itself. Consequently, I think that he might see his way to meet us in this connection and give us some assurance on this point that we are pressing upon him, that all this money, all this public credit, should bring some return to the people of this country in some form, if not in the way of them getting direct benefit, or part of the proceeds, at least in the fact that the whole policy of the concerns which will he helped will be for the general welfare of the people.
§ Mr. P. HARRIS
It is just as well to take this opportunity to criticise the general policy connected with these Trade Facilities Acts. This, of course, is very exceptional legislation, all arising out of the War, and all an honest attempt, if possible, to do something to meet the problem of unemployment. These efforts, so ingeniously devised, should have had more success than they have had up to the present. One would have thought that these ingenious methods would stimulate industry, the reorganisation of trade, and would have done something to deplete the number of the unemployed. Apparently, however, the opportunities offered to the number of men normally employed in industry do not seem to 1205 have substantially increased. The great danger, so far as I can see, in these trade facilities, is that, on the whole, inevitably, they go to big financial corn-ponies. I have always been a little suspicious as to whether these special facilities are actually, on the whole, increasing the amount of employment. Where you have a big financial interest, big shipping companies, big railway companies, or any powerful industry, if you have a sound financial proposition, these companies have really no serious difficulty in getting money from the general public.
Under the administration of these various Acts they have to satisfy the special Committee that they have put forward a sound financial proposition. I have always felt that we should approach this problem from an entirely different angle. We have all of our labour now fairly well organised through the Employment Exchanges, and we are in a position to know the men in each district who are out of work, what are the trades they belong to, and what is their particular skill! I should have thought that to make the Trade Facilities machinery really successful, it should be linked up much more closely with the Employment Ex changes. At present the Employment Exchanges are largely passive, those concerned walking in and out and lining up for unemployment benefit. The Exchanges discharge their duties very efficiently, on the one hand paying out unemployment insurance, and on the other hand registering the trades and periods of unemployment of the men and women.
I should have thought that this machinery might have been made much more effective through the committees of the Exchanges—in many cases very efficient committees, if these committees, attached to the Exchanges, had the obligation put upon them to find out what particular trades in their area were depressed, the causes of depression, whether lack of markets, whether the machinery of the trades concerned was out of date, or whether the cause of depression was insufficient capital. In other words, I would make the initiative rather come from the Government than from the trades themselves. If the traders and leaders are really conscious that they have got a good proposition, and they need capital, I do not think that even at the present time they will 1206 have any very great difficulty in getting it. On the other hand, I have found, and other hon. Friends have had the same experience, that many industries are willing to jog along on half-time, with their old methods and old machinery, waiting for an improvement in trade. Meanwhile men who are thrown out in consequence of the depression in t he area are drawing unemployment insurance and the responsibility for their future is not on their industry.
If the organisation attached to the Employment Exchanges could make real inquiry as to whether the machinery provided by this legislation could be utilised in order to stimulate the industries in their area and to find employment, some real progress might be made in getting men back into industry and trade, and into regular employment. I go further. I know there are a great number of factories at the present time actually working overtime. But if they had more plant, more machinery and more capital available they could actually employ a very much greater number of men. Surely that is the purpose of all this legislation? Is it not to relieve unemployment and get the workers back into their own ordinary industry, their own ordinary categories of trade? If this legislation does not succeed in that purpose, we are largely wasting our efforts.
I do not know if the proposal now before the House is the right way to achieve the particular purpose in view. Certainly it does attempt something. But I do not know that a special committee is really going to be effective. What is wanted is local co-operation, and to use the existing knowledge in possession of the Employment Exchanges as to the amount of unemployment and the particular trades affected. There is one trade in one district, the cotton trade in another, shipbuilding in another, the woodwork trade in London—all these various industries have received a tremendous shock because of the disorganisation throughout the world through the War. We have not been able to recover from that shock in many cases, and the areas have not adapted their machinery and plant to the new demands, the new appliances, new methods of business that came about after the War. I would suggest to the Financial Secretary to the 1207 Treasury, and particularly to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department, that to make this machinery provided by this kind of legislation effective, the way is not to give these facilities to firms who already know their case is a, good proposition, and can raise the necessary money in the money market: we should rather use this machinery to assist the Employment Exchanges to get their workers who are out of employment absorbed in the local industries which are at present languishing, which need the stimulus of new credit or new markets to get them going again.
§ Mr. SHORT
I rise to support this Amendment, which seeks the appointment of a policy committee to assist in dealing with the guarantees that we give under the Trade Facilities Acts. I have never viewed with great favour the proposals embodied in this Bill. I have very little faith in what I term artificial props to maintain a system which confers no great advantages by its continuation upon the people. We have, of course, been passing through a very abnormal and unprecedented period. We have had as many as 2,000,000 of unemployed. We have been forced, necessarily, to the adoption of various proposals, many of them artificial in themselves. We cannot close our eyes to the need for some kind of assistance, and though I have never favoured these proposals, I have extended my support to Bills of this character from time to time. Up to now we have provided something in the neighbourhood of £65,000,000 in the way of guarantees, and under this Bill we are increasing that amount by £5,000,000, and it seems to be essential and desirable that we should have some co-ordinating influence in connection with these matters. Last year I supported an Amendment to place upon the Advisory Committee direct representatives of labour and capital, and I was hopeful, the right hon. Gentleman who was then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, that something of that kind would be accepted. However, they did not see their way to do it; but this Amendment at any rate is a step in the right direction.
1208 The only reason for introducing this Bill is to try to relieve unemployment, and it is suggested that if we provide another £5,000,000 on the top of what we have already provided by way of guarantee we shall be alleviating, if not eliminating, the causes of unemployment to some extent. But is it not a tragedy, with such provisions as are included in this Bill, and such powers as we have hitherto exercised, that a large order, involving £1,000,000 or thereabouts, in connection with the building of certain ships, should pass from this country to Germany? A committee such as is proposed in this Amendment would be considering, not merely the policy of the Government, if they have a policy at all upon these matters, but also the requirements of the country; and knowing the deplorable condition of the shipbuilding industry, and the allied engineering trades, they would direct and focus the attention of the trade facilities people upon the needs of industry. Such a committee would have made some inquiries as to whether such a large order could not be placed in this country, and if it could have been placed here, with the encouragement and the support that this Bill would give, we should have accomplished a very excellent thing. I do not know what my hon. Friend on that bench is muttering. I do not know what he is saying about this idea; but do I understand him to suggest by inference that it would have been a good thing to have kept this order in this country?
§ Mr. A. M. SAMUEL (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department) indicated ascent.
§ Mr. SHORT
You do? Well, that is the purpose of this Amendment. The Advisory Committee and I do not depreciate the value of the work they have done—act independently of the Government, with no relation to the policy of the Government in connection with the grave problem of unemployment. They have no relation to anybody or anything. All that happens, so far as I understand it, is that if someone with a proposition puts it before them and they are satisfied that it is a decent thing, it goes along. The plea behind this Amendment is that there should be some machinery which would enable the power and the support that 1209 you can give to an industry under the provisions of this Bill to be directed to the immediate needs of some particular industry. Up to now we have received nothing but a negative reply on these matters. Every time we have criticised the Advisory Committee and have suggested that they might do a little more, be a little more active than they have been, give encouragement to this industry as compared with that—which they have done, and which is recorded in the White Papers—we have always been told it would be unwise. We have no evidence, though; we have only got their opinion.
All I want to say, in conclusion, is that there seems to be a strong need for co-ordination in connection with these matters. I do not want this Committee to be the subject of political influences. I do not want to see a lot of lobbying in the Lobbies of this House. I do not want to encourage Members of this House to get up from the benches and advocate this, that or the other for some ulterior purpose or motive, and I think we are big enough and sound enough public servants to lift ourselves above that kind of thing, and I do not think the fear of that is a reasonable objection to this proposal. I urge the Government not to reject this Amendment merely because it is a new idea, because it involves some new principle, because it is going to shake up, as it were, the Advisory Committee. It is a reasonable Amendment, and one which, if adopted and practised in the spirit in which the speeches are being made from this aide, will improve the administration of this Bill, and will enable us to assist those industries which hitherto have escaped the support which they ought to have had under the provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I must apologise for rising again on the particular subject of the Trade Facilities Bill, but I want respectfully to put a couple of questions, and to ask that this time we may be given an explicit answer, instead of the kind of answer which the right hon. Gentleman who replied for the Government gave us on the occasion of the last Debate. The first question is, Will the Trade Facilities Act be available for financing trade with Russia on equal terms with any other country? The reply given to me last time was that the only two applications 1210 under the Trade Facilities Act for financing trade between this country and Russia were applications which were turned down by the Labour Government. No explanation was given of the reason why those applications were turned down. I suppose that at the moment such a reply seemed to fill the bill. I want to know, on behalf of people who depend for their livelihood, or who did depend for their livelihood, upon the export of goods to Russia—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain FitzRoy)
The hon. Member is making a Second Reading speech. He must confine himself to the actual Amendment before the Committee, which is concerned with the setting up of a policy committee.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Is it not in order upon this particular Amendment to discuss precisely this question which would be better handled by a committee responsible to this House than by a committee which is not responsible?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I did not gather that that was the hon. Member's argument. He was speaking on the general policy of the Bill, which is a Second Reading argument.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
I am sorry if I have transgressed, but I was just about to emphasise the importance of the principle embodied in the Amendment. From my point of view it is extremely important, if public credit is t'.) be used, and the resources of the State are to be pledged to support private concerns, that regard should be had to other than purely economic considerations. Therefore, I think the proposal contained in the Amendment is one that would help us to get consideration for export industries which are faced with a difficult situation. I would be glad if a definite reply could be given to the question as to whether or not the Trade Facilities Act will be available for the purpose I have named.
My second question is, Will the Government give very careful consideration, in the application of the principles of this Act, to the establishment of new industries in areas that are suffering from abnormal unemployment? If you establish a committee of this kind, it will be able to look at the propositions put before it from rather a different point of 1211 view from those who are judging the proposition as economic or monetary experts, and if we are going to pledge the credit of the State, ostensibly for the purpose of relieving unemployment, we ought to have preference, or at any rate full consideration, for all proposals which are aimed at establishing new industries in areas where they are suffering from abnormal unemployment and where loss of trade is of such a character that it may possibly be a permanent thing. I would especially draw attention to those areas where there is a large reserve of unemployed female labour, and where, possibly, the facilities of this Act could be used for establishing entirely new industries.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
In rising to support this Amendment, I want to say, first, that I have criticised the personnel of the Committee that already deals with these applications, and said that I thought that, over and above dealing with the claims that came in, they might make the facilities under this Act more widely known, especially to the smaller firms. I rise to-night to supplement the remarks that have been made in support of the policy committee. The Prime Minister, is speaking last Friday, said in a most admirable speech, that what was wanted in industry to-day was not interference by politicians, but the getting together of men who understood industry on both sides of the table to hammer out a solution. With regard to that, before employers can safely recommend to what I might term our side of the table, closer co-operation, in my opinion, they ought to have closer co-operation amongst themselves. When I am speaking about a policy committee, and the necessity for men like those sitting on these benches being represented on that committee, I want to say that we do understand something with regard to the business with which we have been engaged all our lives. I want to emphasise the fact that employers of labour do not confine, even to their own side, those things that might materially help themselves and also help the industry. That is one of the reasons why British ships have been sent to Germany to be built.
1212 I note here two items of expenditure that came under my own notice with regard to shipbuilding. I take the case of two firms quite close at hand working on two sister ships. I was supervising one, and a person of my acquaintance was supervising the other. The ship being built in my department cost £9,170 while the ship being built on the other side of the river cost £23,700. When you hear figures like these, then you begin to understand why ships are going to Germany to be built. With regard to the two great firms I am speaking of, in one port one did not know what the other was doing, and they could not put the real figures before this House which I am putting. The heads of departments were conferring, and I was conferring with my colleagues, but the two firms concerned were quite ignorant of the comparative cost of the two ships.
With regard to overhead charges they are known to all those who supervise industry, and there are supervisory costs four times as great in some parts of the country as they are in others. In regard to directors' fees, you find the same thing as you find in reference to supervisory charges. I am concerned with those ships which have gone to Germany, and despite what the Prime Minister said that no help can be given by politicians, I would like to know the real reason why the ships about which we have heard so much have gone to Germany to be built. No price has been stated in the newspapers, but the difference in the tenders has been given. In one case it is placed at £6 per ton, or a difference of £60,000 and in another case £10 per ton, or a difference of £100,000. As a matter of fact, we cannot get to know whether the £60,000 or the £100,000 difference is a correct figure. This is only a symptom of the disease which is eating like a canker into the shipbuilding industry to-day.
What is the use of the Premier saying that closer co-operation is necessary when we cannot get to know what the actual facts are in regard to the cost. What is going on now has been going on all the time. The President of the Board of Trade knows that when, the Australian Syndicate was over here to find out what was the reason for £70,000 difference between the highest and lowest tenders for the Australian meat ships, a deputation appeared before. the Board of Trade 1213 and asked the President to intervene with the British shipbuilders. There was a difference of £70,000 and the price was £8 15s. per ton, which is 25 per cent. greater on the tonnage of 1914. What do the employers in the shipbuilding industry tell our representatives. They have been telling us that if they could only build ships at £10 per ton they could get orders.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is not in order in going into minute details of the shipbuilding industry on this Amendment.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
May I point out that this Amendment deals with the appointment of a policy committee which would have power to consider appropriate schemes as well as to go into matters like those which are being raised by the hon. Member. Would not part of the policy of the committee be to examine such cases as the hon. Member has been placing before the Committee, because he has been simply quoting these cases as an argument in favour of the setting up of such a committee.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The details which were being given by the hon. Member seem to me to be more suitable to a castings committee, than to a policy committee as proposed in this Amendment.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
We want to know clearly the limits within which we must keep on this Amendment. Would not a policy committee, in considering schemes, have to take into account the various costs, and in that way a policy committee would necessarily be a costings committee.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Clearly the Committee cannot discuss the general policy of this Bill on every Amendment.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
I will not develop further that phase of the matter. My object is to bring to the notice of this Committee things that might come under the purview of a Palicy Committee. I will now come back to the Trade Facilities Act, and I want to make a suggestion based upon the giving of these orders by British shipowners to German builders. There are many factors that enter into this matter. It is not only the cost of labour but many other things. I might go over to the German and the Dutch 1214 shipyards and compare what I find there in the shape of subsidy with what obtains here, and I am going to suggest that this difficulty should be met by the Trade Facilities Committee. There are subsidies given in Germany and Holland, and, in contradistinction to our Trade Facilities Guarantees Loans at 4 per cent. interest, you have German guaranteed loans at no percentage at all for the first three years, 4 per cent. for the fourth year, and 6 per cent. for the fifth year. That leaves behind altogether what is provided for by our Trade Facilities Act. Even in those matters the Germans arc ahead of us.
We cannot get to know exactly what are the German subsidies, but I know that four of the boats which were sent over there to be built were subsidised to the extent, in one case, of 30 per cent. of the wages paid by the municipalities, and that was augmented by the Government to 50 per cent. of the wages, Consider that in contradistinction to what we do here with our rates forced up by unemployment and other things. The Poor Rate in the city, part of which I have the honour to represent, is 5s. 5d. in the and that is almost as large as the total rate was in 1914. How are we going to keep our orders at home as long as that sort of thing obtains? Our rates now are 24, times higher than they were in 1914.
I suggest that the Policy Committee might take into consideration the protection of our trade at home in so far as the decay of the trade is due to artificial conditions on the Continent. We should not subsidise an industry that cannot stand on its own legs under fair conditions. I have worked in three of the largest shipyards in the country, and I have no hesitation in saying that neither German, Dutch, nor Americans can compare with us for workmanship or the designing of ships, and they cannot take from us our trade if we are placed on an equal footing with them. Has anyone in this House ever compared the cost of ironworks in the German, Dutch, or American yards? That is the reason why our shipowners are sending orders to Germany.
As far as constructive cost is concerned I have evidence in my possession showing that there is no other place in the world 1215 can compete with us. The reason why artificial conditions exist at the present time is on account of the difference in the value of capital abroad, and the Germans, on account. of the inflation of their capital, occupy a most advantageous position. They have also their subsidies and guaranteed loans on much more favourable terms than we have under the Trade Facilities Act, and I think it is nearly time that we got down to the bedrock of this business, and did something to sustain our industries in a way that will counteract what is going on on the Continent. Under the Trade Facilities Act we ought to be able to consider the removal of the taxation on the shipbuilding and engineering industries, and if we cannot wipe out the cost of taxation altogether in this respect something ought to be done to relieve it. On several occasions this House has considered the question of the rating of machinery. The taxes placed on the shipbuilding and engineering industries are not imposed in any other country in the world where machinery is not attached to the hereditament. Every electrical machine and pneumatic machine is taxed here in, England and in England alone, and that is a thing that ought to be wiped out under the Trade Facilities Act. In this way I think a Policy Committee could give some relief to our hard-pressed shipbuilding and engineering trades, which I am sure could stand on their own legs under fair conditions.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ The Prime Minister said on Thursday last that politicians could not help in industry but if they cannot help, at any rate they have done a great deal of harm, and the very fact that we have had to resort to artificial means under the Trade Facilities Act, has been necessitated by political action taken in the name of the nation. Application for relief under the Trade Facilities Act came immediately after the Treaty of Versailles, when nearly £400,000,000 of shipping was handed over to our country. All ships between a thousand—
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
Well, Sir, I will conclude by saying that it is very difficult to know what comes within the purview of 1216 the Committee that is to be set up. I am trying to show reasons why a Policy Committee ought to be set up, and the whole industry surveyed, because it will need to be surveyed. If the differences in price between these ships that have gone to Germany are as stated it simply means this, that all industrial and all constructive work was given for nothing. We are still going to compete with them, and it is time we sat down together, and looked at things fairly and squarely in the face. I am trying to give reasons why a Policy Committee should be set up, and men brought into it from this side of the House. We are not all what we are termed to be, "friends of every country but our own." I love my country, and I am prepared to sit down with anybody and discuss these important matters and give the benefit of what experience I have to put the industry on its feet again. I may say to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that this Policy Committee is something they can support to bring us together to see if we can devise means for resuscitating our industries. On these benches we are not making a fetish of certain things. If a certain industry requires protection, we are prepared to give consideration to it and our advice and help. I want to earnestly appeal to the Members on the other side to give us support in this matter that a Policy Committee shall be set up under the Act to go thoroughly into these matters.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
We are in an extraordinary position in discussing this matter of trade facilities. I think a. Policy Committee is very necessary, because under the Trade Facilities Act you grant money for the supplying of people. That is because private enterprise has so utterly and lamentably failed. We often hear that the majority in this House, the overwhelming majority, is against Socialism. I would rather have Socialism pure and simple, but if you will have it in this half-and-half, halting doddering and stumbling fashion, people like myself ought to be on the Committee to see you do it in the right way. None of us on these benches now need worry about finding arguments in favour of State action. State trading. State banking—in fact. State everything. [An HON. MEMBER: "And State company promotion!"] And State company promotion. The 1217 gentlemen who administer these funds may be the most honest gentlemen in the City of London, but I do not see why this House should entrust them with the credit of this country. We are the people who in the last resort have to determine what money or money's worth or what value shall be given to individual concerns. It is very difficult indeed to defend the granting of public credit to private companies in any circumstances. I personally would have voted against this in the very beginning, but for the exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves. But I do think that if the Government to-night refuse to grant us this Policy Committee they will be saying to the British public that only a set of experts—who may be themselves financially interested in a concern directly or indirectly—should he the only people to say to whom these credits are to be granted. For those reasons I very much hope that we are going to get a Policy Committee.
But there is another reason. I do not think that everybody who comes before this body gets fair treatment. I think the small fry would not get fair treat-merit. The people who run this think help should only be given to the big sort of people that run the big businesses, else long ago very much more credit facilities would have been given to people who wished to do trade with Russia. I cannot for the life of me see why long ago very much more business should not have been done with Russia were it not for the fact that the gentlemen who control these credits are gentlemen who are very largely in opposition to the form of government in Russia. That is another reason why I think a Committee of ordinary, common or garden people like myself and some of my friends here should be on a Policy Committee. But the real reason why I got up was to emphasise the fact that the great financiers of the City of London, the great business men of the City of London, the great merchants of this country, have confessed the utter breakdown and failure of private enterprise, and they come here to ask the British Government to take up their private enterprise by these trade facilities, and, to this extent, Socialism limited. As I said at the beginning, I want Socialism unlimited, and as you are doing it in 1218 this half-and-half fashion I want you to be watched, so that if your Socialistic operations fail you shall not say it is due to the principles of Socialism, when some of us who are watching over what you are doing will be able to prove the true reason you fail when you do fail.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I want the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is in charge of the Bill, to consider the appointment of the Policy Committee as set out in the Amendment that we are at present discussing. If he and the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department, who is sitting next to him, will remember that the Governments of the past as well as the present Government have guaranteed a sum probably amounting to £55,000,000, and that in this Bill there is being asked an extension by £5,000,000 as well as the extending of the power of the Act for another 12 months. I want to ask both those hon. Gentlemen whether, in regard: to any of that large sum of money, the Government have had to come in to make good any of the sums they have guaranteed, either in the way of interest or principal? Many firms in this country, particularly shipbuilding firms, have received a guarantee of the principal and also of the interest that they required in obtaining backing to get ships built in some shipbuilding yard, or to enable them to carry out some particular scheme. I have looked over the figures carefully. I have looked at the list of firms to whom guarantees have been given and I cannot see in any of the lists that any of these firms defaulted or that this Government have had to come to the rescue to make good either the principal or the interest that they have guaranteed to any particular firm. Consequently, I think it would be greatly in the interests of this House if either of the hon. Gentlemen who may reply to the Debate would indicate to the Committee whether my impressions are correct or are wrong. If my impression of what has happened is correct, then I submit that the Trade Facilities Acts that have been pased in the past Sessions of Parliament as well as the present Trade Facilities Act we are now extending, have not in any way imposed on any of the Governments that have been ruling whilst those Acts have been in operation, any financial expenditure because of the defaulting of any of these firms.
1219 I should hope that any sums that we are now guaranteeing and any sums that are likely to be guaranteed will have at least a prospect of being met by those to whom the guarantees are given. That brings me to the point of this committee. Most of these guarantees that have been already issued have been guarantees for work along lines that have in the past been carried out by various firms. Those firms, when they have received orders, and have found they have not either sufficient finances to carry them through themselves or sufficient funds in the bank, or cannot raise them from private sources, have come to the Government or rather the Advisory Committee. That is the first point. The firm itself must have had an offer of work before it comes Lo the Advisory Committee in order to obtain a Government guarantee under the Trade. Facilities Act; in other words, the promotion of a scheme of work must have taken place somewhere in ordinary private enterprise and in ordinary private commercialism. The Amendment now before us is an Amendment which seeks to set up a policy committee—a committee that shall be entirely different from the Advisory Committee which is presently operating and which has only the power to recommend to the Government schemes which this Advisory Committee consider would be safe for the Government to guarantee.
We consider that the time has passed for that sort of thing alone. Good enough as it has been, and good enough as it still is for schemes that come before them from commercial firms, it has now become necessary that the Government should set up another Committee having the power to promote schemes—the power, in the words of this Amendment, to consider national requirements and the promotion of suitable schemes in connection with national requirements. I submit that a Committee of this character would go a very long way in considering the national requirements for coping with the great mass of unemployment with which we are faced at the present time—in considering schemes of work which would employ in productive enterprise many of those who are at present unemployed, and not, as in many cases at the present time, in enterprises that cannot be said to be productive or 1220 calculated to extend, or even continue, the old skill which these people might have in the trades in which they were trained. The establishment of a Committee of this character, which would go into schemes of national requirements, carefully estimate the cost, and consider the class of labour that is at hand waiting to be employed and capable of being employed upon these schemes, would be doing a much greater work and would be more profitable to the entire community, than simply continuing this scheme of merely advisory committees.
The Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department will remember that last year there was an Amendment down to this very same Bill, with which he and other Members were associated. That Amendment was at first much wider than it was when it ultimately appeared on the Paper, and, as a result of limiting the Amendment, after some negotiations that we had with him, it was possible to give a great deal of work to people who were at that time unemployed. I want to compliment the hon. Gentleman now, and to say that, as a result of the limitation of the scope of that Amendment, we were able in Govan to take fully 2,000 people off the exchanges and find them employment in the dockyards there. That follows along the lines of the suggestion which has been made from these benches. We hear a great deal about ships going abroad, and I should imagine that one of the things which this suggested Committee would be able to do would be to promote schemes of employment, to go into certain circumstances that force firms to-day to place their orders abroad, to go into the facts of the whole situation, and to find out whether there is any truth in the statement that other British firms are supplying these foreign competitors of home shipbuilding firms with iron and steel plates for the building of their ships at 30s. a ton less than the price at which they are selling them to the British shipbuilder. All the costs of transport, shipping freights, and all the rest, have to be paid in taking those goods abroad, whereas here at home we have our own shipbuilding companies asked to pay 30s. a ton more for plates manufactured in this country than the foreigner who is competing with us.
I submit that that is the very reverse of patriotism. We on these benches have levelled at us the accusation, which has 1221 been rebutted to-night, that we love every country but our own, but let me say quite frankly that the commercial capitalist class of this country love anybody's money, whether it comes from Germany or Timbuctoo or anywhere else, so long as they can get more than they can in this country. We on this side are much more concerned with the uplifting of trade than hon. Members opposite. To us it means bringing work into the constituencies which we, in the main, represent. I submit that it is not sufficient merely to have this Advisory Committee; we want something more than that. This Trade Facilities Bill has been coming up annually until it has become perennial. It is brought forward every year to be continued for another year, while hon. Members opposite know in their hearts that when next year comes they will bring forward another Bill. We need to get down to the heart of the matter and see if we cannot promote schemes that will enable us to give employment to the people, instead of merely guaranteeing things when they come along.
Big firms are getting their schemes considered and passed, but little firms are not. I know of a firm in Glasgow that had a very fine alternative system of house-building, and they came along and asked for some guarantee under the Trade Facilities Act. They were refused, and on what ground? They were told that they must prove that the machinery they were operating, or wanting to operate, would be successful. They had bought the machinery in America—it was an American scheme—and it had been operating in America; but they were told that, unless they could show that that machinery, which had been successful in turning out what they said it would turn out in America, would be equally successful in this country, nothing could be done. And yet the cry of the country and the cry of the Minister of Health is for more houses. Slurs have been cast on the building operatives on the ground that they are retarding house-building, when the Government themselves decline to give the necessary guarantees to firms of this kind, who can make effective contributions to house-building. I suggest that the Government should accept this Amendment. The hon. Member 'for Bow and Bromley has said 1222 that this is a little bit of Socialism—not our Amendment, but the whole Bill itself. It is an admission on the part of the Government, as well as on the part of the employers of this country, that the capitalist system has broken down and cannot be maintained without the aid of the credit of the country. Whose credit is it? Who provides the credit? It is provided by the population of this country, the community of this country; and if the community is providing the credit, if the industry, ingenuity and ability of the community are all being called upon to stand behind the schemes that are presently being guaranteed, why should not the community share in some degree in the results of those schemes? It is because we want to see the community sharing to some extent in the schemes that are undertaken, that we desire that this Amendment should be accepted by the Government and that this Committee should be set up. I suggest to the Financial Secretary that he can very well accept this without in any way lowering the dignity of the Government or making it appear to any of their die-hard back-bench Members, who are anti-Socialistic, that they are submitting to the Red Flag.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
We are not quarrelling; we are a happy band of brothers after the Prime Minister's speech last Friday. I am asking the Government to accept this Amendment in the spirit in which it is moved. They are not doing sufficient for us by a mere advisory committee; we want a committee to promote schemes and go into the requirements of the nation. The composition of that committee is not set down here, and we are perfectly open in regard to it, but I would suggest that some members of it should come from this side of the House or from those whom we represent—that it should be composed of men who not only have direct knowledge of their trade by working at it with their hands, but also a directing interest in the trade from working as foremen, managers, and inspectors in the shipbuilding and other industries. If those people are taken 1223 into the committee, you will be getting the best advice that can be possibly given from the workers' point of view, while on the other side of the committee you can have the best advice from the directors' or the employers' point of view. A committee of that kind, which would get down into the roots and possibilities of the whole question, would be a power for good, and would do something to bring this country, not only into the position which it occupied in trade before the War, but into a position ahead of any nation in the world, not merely as regards output in production, but as regards what is a great deal more to me namely, a much better nation as regards better housing, better living, and more comfortable citizens.
§ Mr. THURTLE
I should like to say a word in support of this modest contribution from our side towards the solution of the unemployment problem. I am sure hon. Members opposite will realise that this proposal of ours is going to fill a long-felt want. There are very many departments connected with the Government, but it happens not to be the function of any one of them to devise useful means of providing work for those who are unemployed. We found last year, in particular, that the Ministry of Labour, which might be expected to think out and devise such schemes, has not had that function put upon it, and, so far as it is possible to discover, no other Government Department has the obligation of devising schemes for providing work for those who are unemployed. Some kind of co-ordinating committee is needed which will devise useful schemes for providing work. So far, that committee does not exist, and the purpose of this Amendment is to provide it. As the Amendment states, it is to consider national requirements, and I take it that if we had a really representative committee of this kind its business would be to take a serious survey of national requirements, and to devise ways and means of meeting those requirements which would provide work for large numbers of the unemployed.
If I may give an illustration I would direct attention to the need that there is for greater production of foodstuffs. We find that our home produced food supplies are a diminishing quantity.
1224 Those who survey the present national position will agree with me that it is imperative, if this country is to maintain its present population, that efforts should be directed towards the development of our agricultural industry. We already find that our exports are somewhat on the decline. Unless we can recover the great markets which we have lost, or discover new ones, we are not likely to be able, in the years to come, to support anything like our present population as a manufacturing country, and therefore we ought to be considering seriously the question of great schemes for the development of uncultivated land. We have the land and we have the labour for the purpose of cultivating it. My hon. Friend yesterday drew attention to the very large number of able-bodied single young men who were becoming demoralised and unworthy citizens because they could not get useful employment. Having the need for your food supplies, having your uncultivated land, and having your unemployed men, surely you have there the three factors which make it imperative, if you are looking ahead to the future, that you should devise schemes for bringing the land in touch with the unemployed and producing the foodstuffs.
There is another great question which this advisory committee could very properly consider. I admit this is all looking ahead, but surely it is the business of Governments to look ahead. I fear politicians generally live too much in the present. It would be far better for the welfare of the country if they would look ahead a great deal more than they do. I am thinking now of the great question of the electricity supply of the country. It is common ground, I believe, that in years to come electricity is going to be a great national need and is going to be used on a much more comprehensive scale than at present. If we had an advisory committee of this character, with the assistance of Members on this side of the House, I am certain it would make it one of its first jobs to consider the whole question of electricity in all its great national aspects, the laying down of great generating stations and transmission cables throughout the country, and if such a scheme as that were devised and it received assistance under the Trades Facilities Act, it would be conferring a great benefit on the people and 1225 would at the same time be providing very useful productive work for men at present unemployed. We on this side of the House, I think, have a good title to be represented on such a committee. I do not wish to cast the least reflection upon the integrity and. good faith of hon. Members opposite, but it is natural that on such a committee as this, if you have people who have large interests themselves and have intimate connection with big finance, in considering applications under the Trade Facilities Act they are apt to take a rather partial point of view. We on this side, happily, are not under any such handicap. We have little money ourselves, and the people we are connected with are not connected with high finance, and therefore we should be able to bring to the committee a perfectly impartial and unbiassed judgment. I am certain that would be a beneficial element in the consideration of any projects which might be brought before us.
There is also this to be said. Hon. Members opposite have great imagination, but it is imagination of a peculiar character in connection with the planning of schemes. Their imagination never seems to work properly unless it has the stimulus of great dividends in prospect. Under the Trade Facilities Act we have financed a project in the Sudan. It is a tremendous project into which many millions of public money have been poured. If I might put it in rather Biblical language, we have cast the public bread upon the Nile waters, and hon. Members opposite hope it will return to them after many days. If there are Members opposite who, under the stimulus of the prospect of big dividends, are able to devise schemes of this sort, think it is desirable that we on this side, who are not animated by any desire to obtain large dividends either for ourselves or our friends, but solely by a desire to promote the national interest and to promote work for the unemployed, should have the opportunity of giving our advice and our knowledge to such an advisory committee with a view to devising schemes which would benefit the nation as a whole, and would benefit the unemployed and would redound in the long run to the prosperity and the well-being of the country as a whole. For these reasons, because I believe we have a serious and a very helpful contribution to 1226 make to this problem of unemployment in connection with this advisory committee, I have much pleasure in supporting the Amendment, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, in the interest of the unemployed and of the country as a whole, will see his way to accept it.
I have already once spoken to this Amendment, but I think it is only courteous to hon. Members opposite to deal with the further points which have been brought forward to-day. We have had a Debate in which functions have been proposed to this Committee which supporters of the Amendment wish to see; set up, which we consider to be absolutely unsuitable for any body acting in connection with our present trade-facilities machinery. The hon. Member for Newcastle East (Mr. Connolly) made a very interesting speech, which might have come from an extreme Protectionist. He argued that in view of the serious plight of the shipbuilding industry we ought to have protection against bounty-fed competition. I am not going to discuss his proposals. I do not think they really are in very close connection with this Bill, because, after all, that problem comes much more within the scope of the machinery for the safeguarding of industry. The hon. Member went on to suggest that the advisory committee, in connection with the Trade Facilities Bill, should be empowered to discuss the principles of valuation.
It is quite remote from the work of trade facilities that the principles of assessment should be discussed by any committee charged with its administration. Then he suggested that the committee was necessary because at present one shipyard did not know the methods of control and the costings which were going on in a neighbouring shipyard, and I gathered that he founded on that fact the argument that we should control the shipbuilding industry through some new form of trade facilities machinery, though I see very little connection with trade facilities in the proposal that we should be able to call for facts and figures and details of management so as to order the methods which are pursued in these competing firms.
Then the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) suggested that it was necessary to control export prices. That is very remote from the machinery of 1227 the Trade Facilities Bill. The problem of the control of export prices is already being explored by Sir Arthur Balfour's Committee, a Board of Trade inquiry on general production and costs as compared with foreign costs, and it would merely be duplicating the work of this Committee if, in response to this Amendment, we set up another body charged with the same work. But really what was no doubt in the hon. Member's mind was this very alarming case of the ships ordered by Messrs. Furness, Withy from a German yard. He suggested that the loss of that contract was due to the fact that the German yards were obtaining British steel at prices lower than those quoted for home consumption. I have no information as to that at all. But if we are to have foreign trade at all, and to keep going the steel industry, we can only hope to carry it on at competitive prices with the foreign producer in his own market. But apart from general considerations, really the 30s. difference which the hon. Member alleges does not explain the loss of this contract, because the difference in price between the German and the British yard was not really 30s. a ton on steel, but a much larger amount. I do not know what it would work out to on the raw material, but it worked out to £6 a ton on the ship. An hon. Member opposite asked what was the total price that had been quoted by British yards. I understand that the lowest price that can be offered in this country was £1,150,000, whereas the German price was £850,000. Hon. Members will, therefore, see that the Trade Facilities scheme was not in any way capable of dealing with this big difference. Messrs. Furness, Withy & Company, very patriotically, offered to give an extra £50,000 in order to keep the work in this country, but even so it left a gap of £250,000 between the German price and the British price, with the £50,000 bonus thrown in.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
If the difference was only £250,000, it could not be £6 per ton on a 10,000 ton ship.
I believe the hon. Member will find that the figures fit in with the figures which he himself gave. The real point of the matter in connection with trade facilities is that the advantage which a guarantee gives, even on a loan of £1,000,000 is only a matter of tens of thousands of pounds. The greater the company the less is the advantage which a trade facilities guarantee can give. Messrs. Furness, Withy and Company are a very strong organisation, and to them a trade facilities guarantee means very little. A sum of £250,000 is far more than a trade facilities guarantee could mean, even to the rottenest company in the country.
The hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) and other hon. Members suggested that the trade facilities machinery should deal adequately with the necessity for large schemes of electricity production. A great deal has been done in that respect, but the larger schemes which are now under consideration are much more suitable for the Electricity Commissioners. These proposals involve a policy far beyond the scope of private companies, and hon. Members opposite would be the first to say they are quite unsuitable for private enterprise. They are quite impossible for the Government as a whole to deal with in any piecemeal development under the trade facilities machine.
§ Mr. THURTLE
This Amendment provides that schemes may he dealt with by the State and not by private companies. It refers to national requirements, and the promotion of suitable schemes in connection therewith, and it does not imply, necessarily, that such schemes must be carried out by private enterprise.
The whole machinery of trade facilities works through private companies, and we are not prepared to transform the machine in the way suggested. The schemes mentioned by hon. Members opposite would be entirely outside the scope of the trade facilities scheme. The Advisory Committee, with all the encyclopædic activities which hon. Members opposite propose to give it, would not be anything like as suitable for dealing with a technical matter such 1229 as the bulk supply of electricity as would the highly expert Electricity Commissioners, who are engaged in the examination of this particular problem. Hon. Members opposite have suggested that we ought to allow this Committee to deal with the home production of food. If the Debate went on long enough, I suppose they would suggest that we should transfer to this Committee the whole of the responsibility of government, because they have taken one Department after another—the Board of Trade, the Board of Agriculture, and so on—and have suggested that their responsibilities and the responsibilities of the Government in deciding their policy should be handed over to a Committee which hon. Members opposite have, quite frankly, said should consist very largely of members of a party which is not responsible for the government of the country at the present time. [HON. MEMBERS: No!] I do not want to misrepresent what has been said, but several hon. Members opposite have said that members of the Committee must come from the party opposite. I think the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) said so.
It is a little difficult for me to follow the cross-currents of opinion on the other side. I am within the recollection of the Committee when I say that it was the argument that hon. Members oppose were not concerned with finance and have very little finance at their disposal, and that, therefore, they would set on one side all these financial considerations—
Hon. Members opposite would deal with it from points of view entirely unrelated to the financial prospects of the proposal under review. We believe that the present Trade Facilities Committee is the most efficient body that could be entrusted 'with the taking of a long view of the needs of industry, and the opportunities of finding further employment by the provision of work. The expert machinery of the Government is at their disposal. They are in touch with the Board of Trade as to the industrial conditions of the country, and they are in touch with the 1230 Ministry of Labour and through them with the evidence of the Employment Exchanges as to the needs for employment in any particular area. The proposals brought forward by hon. Members opposite really are to usurp the functions of the Cabinet and of the Government of the day in controlling policy.
No, there is only one banker, a merchant banker. Sir William Plender is a very eminent accountant. These gentlemen consider applications, with expert opinion at their disposal, and also with advice at their disposal from Government Departments, as to the needs of employment. They keep in touch with outside experts, as in the case of the efforts they have made to get harbour schemes brought forward. They have negotiated with the Chamber of Shipping and have sent out letters to various harbour authorities, who have been recommended by the Chamber of Shipping as suitable for trade facilities, suggesting that they should put forward proposals for modernising and improving harbour facilities. It. is not the fault of the Committee that no scheme has been brought forward, but simply because the financial assistance is not sufficient to tempt the harbour authorities. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough West (Mr. T. Thomson) wished us to transform the functions of the trade facilities scheme. He wished to change the method now pursued by the Trade Facilities Committee.
The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) may have sugvsted the same thing. Perhaps he does not remember what was said by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough West in the last Debate, after I had spoken. He made a strong attack on the present policy, saying that it was not enough to encourage and stimulate the bringing forward of schemes, but that we ought to go to the City and promote 1231 schemes on Government responsibility. If the Government is to go to the City and press the City to take up schemes which are not, in the opinion of the City, justifiable on their commercial merits, it is quite certain that we shall have to pay far larger terms and that the cost of trade facilities operations will be very much increased.
The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean) asked what losses we had made. Up to the present time, I am glad to say, the only loss which has reached its final stage is that of the Holbrook Brick and Tile Company, for about £4,000, but there are guarantees of £250,000 in danger at the present present time. I hope that negotiations which are going on will save us from having to bear the full loss. It would be very rash to prophesy that during the future years in which these guarantees will be in force no further losses will take place. I can only say, as I said on the last occasion, that as far as the objects of those who support this Amendment are to actively encourage schemes consistent with the policy of the present Government, we believe that their object is achieved by the present Trade Facilities Committee, but as far as the arguments which we have heard this afternoon and last week go beyond the scope of the existing trade facilities machinery and involve the widening of that system we are unable to accept them, and we must ask the Committee to reject them.
§ Mr. WHEATLEY
I had not intended to take any part in the discussion, because I should require further consideration of this matter before entering upon a path that is covered by so many political pitfalls; but after listening most carefully to the very exhaustive and generous reply just given by the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot refrain from saying that the Government have not grasped the significance of this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman complained, almost in his last sentence, that the expert Committee which considers the pros and cons of applications for financial assistance that come before them, has done everything in its power to carry out its duties most faithfully. This Amendment does not suggest that the Committee has failed in its duty. We propose that the initiative should be 1232 taken out of the hands of the private profit-seeker, and placed in the hands of a Committee representing the nation as a whole. I cannot understand why the Government does not accept this Amendment.
I had not the pleasure of listening to the Prime Minister's speech the other day, but I read it, and I had the honour of listening to the speech delivered last night by the Minister of Labour. The spirit of both those speeches was to consider this problem of employment and unemployment from the point of view of the nation and not from the point of view of individuals or sections
I thoroughly agree with the sentiments behind these speeches, and for years I have on my own responsibility pointed out that if the nation were to be saved in the crisis which is now approaching that can only be done on the basis of a national organisation of industry and trade. Here is the first response to the appeals that have been made to us from the other side of the House. The Mover of this Amendment said: "Do not rely on the sectional interests of the people who bring forward schemes. Do not wait until someone says that he sees a personal profit in a transaction before you consider whether or not it is in the national interest, but place the responsibility on the shoulders of a group representing the nation to consider this problem as a whole and to advise the Committee, the Government and the nation as to the steps to be taken."
The first thing that is asked is that the committee should have as its primary function the consideration of national requirements. Surely it is not going to be argued from the other side that any group or any individual who brings forward a scheme to this Trade Facilities Committee to-day has given any consideration to national requirements. From the very nature of their business they can give consideration only to sectional requirements, to the requirements of the shareholders to whom they are responsible in the case of a limited company, or to their own personal requirements when the scheme is brought forward by an individual and not by a company. The primary purpose of the Trade Facilities machinery is not to help individual traders, nor is it to help particular com- 1233 panies or sections or groups of traders. The primary purpose is to deal with the problem of unemployment. It is only in so far as assisting capitalists to proceed with schemes contributes to the alleviation of our national difficulties that we use our Trade Facilities machinery for the purpose of assisting private manufacturers or traders.
We have lived for generations in this country relying as a nation on the chance results of free competition among the private profit seekers of the country. The Conservative Government have been appealing to us to get away from that as our basis of dealing with the matter, and to take the view that the trade of a nation is much too vital a matter for the nation to allow it to remain in the hands of people who cannot look at it from a national point of view. Here is a response from the other side of the House. Here is a proposal to set up a Committee not to supersede the present Committee, but to take the first step in a national stocktaking of our national requirements. Surely this is a proposal to which any people, looking at the matter from a business point of view, must give sympathetic consideration, and so I rise not for the purpose of going at any length into this, but to try to impress on the Government that there is something here which is in striking harmony with the appeals which they have made to the nation within the past three or four days, and to ask them to give continued consideration to this matter and to postpone this discussion until another evening in order that they may consider whether it is not in harmony with the policy of the Trades Facilities machinery to accept the Amendment and act on the suggestion contained in the Amendment.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The statement just made by the Minister in charge proves what has been argued from these benches. If I understood him aright he said that there was £250,000 in the balance, and that you are in difficulties to that amount. That means that what we on this side are asking for is absolutely necessary, because it is evident that you are in difficulties. You have never come forward honestly and said that whatever the industry is you call in certain experts. You have never condescended to answer the questions put from these benches. To me this 1234 Committee seems to be a most incapable Committee. I am dealing with it from an industrial point of view. Has any committee dealt with the national industries since the War stopped If you had attended to these industries it would have made you more fitted to have competed with the improvements which have been made in the German shipyards, but not a penny of Trade Facilities money has been given to prevent the waste in industries concerned with the production of ships. Why are we consuming on an average 36 cwt. more of coal in producing a ton of steel than Germany does? Have the Trade Facilities Committee ever looked into this apart from the pawnbrokers' point of view? Not once. I have challenged you before on this and you do not seem able or willing to give an answer, just as you refuse to say when you give a £ of credit whether you are getting a £ of real stocks or a quarter of a million of bogus stocks.
What may be called the failure of trade facilities is not a failure at all, but only shows that the men in charge have not any capacity to deal with the industrial side of things. I will sit down now if there is any promise to give me an answer to the statements which I have made. I have challenged you five times, but have never had any reply. I repeat the challenge now, and it will riot be accepted. In reference to the ships which are to be built in another country, did your Committee deal with the question as to the difference in the price of steel? Have they dealt with the statement of Mr. Holt, a big shipowner, at the launching of a ship in Liverpool—this is not a new statement—as to the price at which steel plates were being sold? Has the Committee sifted that information? Has the Committee sifted the statement of Mr. John Hill of the Boilermakers' Association confirming the statement made by Mr. Holt? They have never gone into any of these things. Here to-day the great boasted British nation is being knocked out by those whom we used to call the Jerrys and with whom we were never to shake hands.
Come to the basis of your shipbuilding, which is coal. What have you done? You are still wasting half of the coal which you are burning. You are not using it, and yet you want to claim to compete with other countries in which 1235 intelligence is directed to all these things. Take an average boiler; 48 per cent. of the coal which it consumes is wasted, and yet you claim to be efficient and you want to build a wall of protection around this inefficiency. No matter how high you build the barriers of protection, you will not produce efficiency. You can only do that by the application of science. What is most aggravating is that we have thousands of engineers, equalled in skill by none others in the world, and yet because of this damnable capitalist
§ system, which says, "You will be allowed to go on with your industry only on our terms," by which a chemist is asked to make rotten beef look fresh or do something to increase the profit on sausages by a ½d. per lb., we are left behind. If the Committee had been a real Committee none of these things which have been referred to to-night would have happened.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided; Ayes, 110; Noes, 220.1237
|Division No. 34.]||AYES.||[8.13 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Sexton, James|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Ammon, Charles George||Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Smillie, Robert|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Barnes, A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Batey, Joseph||Jones, T, I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Kelly, W. T.||Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Kennedy, T.||Stamford, T. W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Lansbury, George||Stephen, Campbell|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Lawson, John James||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Buchanan, G.||Lee, F.||Sutton, J. E. Taylor, R. A.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Lowth, T.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lunn, William||Thurtle, E.|
|Close, W. S.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J R. (Aberavon)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Compton, Joseph||Mackinder, W.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Connolly, M.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Varley, Frank B.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||March, S.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Maxton, James||Warne, G. H.|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Dennison, R.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Duncan, C.||Murnin, H.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Naylor, T. E.||Westwood, J.|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Oliver, George Harold||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gillett, George M.||Palin, John Henry||Whiteley, W.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Paling, W.||Wignall, James|
|Greenall, T.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wilkinson, Ellen C.|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Williams. T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Groves, T.||Potts, John S.||Wilson, C H. (Sheffield, Attercliffs)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Windsor, Walter|
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Riley, Ben||Wright, W.|
|Hall, G. H. (Meothyr Tydvil)||Ritson, J.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hardle, George D.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Harris, Percy A.||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Rose, Frank H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hayday, Arthur||Scrymgeour, E.||Mr. John Robertson and Mr. T.|
|Hayes, John Henry||Scurr, John||Griffiths.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Clayton, G. C.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Ainsworth, Major Charles||Brass, Captain W.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Albery, Irving James||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Briscoe, Richard George||Cope, Major William|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Brittain, Sir Harry||Cooper, J. B.|
|Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.|
|Ashley, Lt-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Craik Rt. Hon. Sir Herry|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Crook. C. W.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bullock, Captain M.||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Curzon, Captain Viscount|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burman, J. B.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Beamish, Captain T. P. H||Burton, Colonel H. W.||Davidson,J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd)|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.|
|Berry, Sir George||Butt, Sir Alfred||Davies, A. V. (Lancaster, Royton)|
|Bethell, A.||Campbell, E. T.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Chapman, Sir S.||Dixey, A. C.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Christie, J. A.||Drewe, C.|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Jephcott, A. R.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merloneth)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Elliot, Captain Walter E.||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs, Stretford)|
|Elveden, Viscount||Kenyon, Barnet||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|England, Colonel A.||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Knox, Sir Alfred||Salmon, Major I.|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Fenby, T. D.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Flelden, E. B.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Sandon, Lord|
|Finburgh, S.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Savery, S. S.|
|Fleming, D. P.||Loder, J. de V,||Shaw, Capt. W. W. (Wilts, Westb'y)|
|Ford, P. J.||Looker, Herbert William||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Forestier-Walker, L.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Forrest, W.||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Harman||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Galbraith, J. F.||Lumley, L. R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Gates, Percy||MacAndrew, Charles Glen||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Gee, Captain R.||Macdonald R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Goff, Sir Park||MacIntyre, Ian||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||McLean, Major A.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Macmillian, Caption H.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Grentell, Edward C. (City of London)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Macquisten, F. A.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Makins, Brigadler-General E.||Thomson, Sir W. M. Mitchell (Croydon, S.)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Tinne, J. A.|
|Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Margesson, Caption D.||Titchfiend, Major the Marquess of|
|Harland, A.||Meller, R. J.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Waddington, R.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut, Col. J. T. C.||Warner, Brlgadier-General W. W.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Moreing, Captain A. H.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Murchison, C. K.||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Neville, R. J.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Wells, S R.|
|Henniker-Hughan, Vice-Adm. Sir A.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Herbert, S. (York. N.R., Scar. & Wh'by)||Nuttall, Ellis||White, Lieut.-Colonel G. Dalrymple|
|Hilton, Cecil||Oakley, T.||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Perring, William George||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Peto, Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Homan, C. W. J.||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frame)||Wornersley, W. J.|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Philipson, Mabel||Wood, B. C. (Somerset, Bridgwater)|
|Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)||Pilcher, G.||Wood, Rt. Hon. E. (York, W. R., Ripon)|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Price, Major C. W. M.||Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'dge & Hyde)|
|Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Radford, E. A.||Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich, W.).|
|Howard, Captain Hon. Donald||Raino, W.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Ramsden, E.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Rawson, Alfred Cooper||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Huntingfield, Lord||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Hutchison, G.A. Clark (Midl'n & P'bl's)||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Surly, Ch'ts'y)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Colonel Gibbs and Major Hennessy.|
§ It being after a Quarter-past Eight of the Clock, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 4.