HC Deb 25 February 1932 vol 262 cc595-635

(1) Where it appears to the Board of Trade that any trade or industry to which Section nine of this Act applies requires re-organisation in the national interest or is not conducted with efficiency and economy, it shall be the duty of the Board, after consultation with the interests concerned, to make such recommendations as they may deem proper to ensure the re-organisation of that trade or industry, and, in the event of such recommendations not being carried out within a reasonable time, the Board may, with the concurrence of the Treasury, by order direct that, from such date or dates as may be specified in the order, any or all of the duties imposed by this Act shall cease to be chargeable in respect of any goods of a similar class or description to those in the manufacture of which the trade or industry concerned is engaged.

(2) Any recommendations which may be made by the Board of Trade under this Section shall he presented to Parliament.—[Mr. Attlee.]

Brought up, and read the First time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

I hope to be able to recommend this Clause to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by a quotation from a source to which, I think, lie will give his very careful attention. We desire to make the best of a bad business. If you are going to have a tariff, we say you must try to use it in order to improve the organisation of industry. I am fortified in that view by a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) to the West Birmingham Division Unionist Association last night in which he drew attention to the dangers that this Clause is designed to meet. He said: Trades and traders who wanted protection and obtained it must justify that protection by the excellence of the work they produced, by the prices at which they sold and by the ability and energy with which they carried on their business. A tariff was not intended as a feather bed on which the lazy or unenterprising man could rest in peace. It was to be a tonic and a stimulant and, unless the traders of the country used it in that spirit, the protection would be withdrawn and they would go back to their former condition. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is providing the feather bed. We want to take his brother's advice and add the tonic and the stimulant. I do not think there is any need, after that speech, for me to labour the point that there is a danger of trades and traders going to sleep behind a tariff wall. I am aware that in certain quarters, if anyone suggests that there is anything at all wrong with British industry, he is told he must not cry stinking fish but must back up his own country and say British organisation of trade is second to none. I will not give my own opinion here on the subject of British industry, but I will quote one or two authorities who will probably be respected. Here is one quotation: I can find no basic British industry, even including railways, which will not rapidly respond to reorganisation. That is Lord Weir. He considers that some of our basic industries need modernising. The late Lord Melchett, a great captain of industry, said: Unless the steel industry is prepared to re-establish itself on a modern basis and disregard the personal ambitions or traditions of the past, unless it is prepared to reorganise itself on modern lines it neither deserves nor can it expect to receive Safeguarding. That is on the side of production. Let us look again to the side of marketing. We shall be able to bring many of our somewhat obsolete manufacturing plants up-to-date with modern equipment. Some fault there is undoubtedly in our salesmanship. That is a quotation from the heir to the Throne. As a matter of fact, everyone who has studied the subject knows that, as the report on British industry has pointed out, there are very great faults, and there is much leeway to be made up in production, and especially in marketing our goods. Under this Bill we are giving special advantages to industry. The iron and steel industry has said quite frankly that it has a reorganisation plan which it is prepared to put into force, but there are many industries which are not in that position. There is, for instance, the cotton trade. I do not think it will benefit by the Bill at all, but I give it as an instance, because we have the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Hammersley) and others who have borne witness to the disorganisation in that industry, There is need for reorganisation, but you have taken no power to bring it about in the Bill. That is one of our chief complaints against it, that you are leaving unused a powerful instrument which you might use for the reconstruction of British industry. The point perhaps cannot be put in better language than that used by the report on the Iron and Steel Industry. It says: If however, the State is to afford protection for private enterprise in the conduct of its business, the State must he satisfied, in the first instance, that those who seek that protection are without question carrying out their obligation in the course they adopt and paying due regard to the effects of the policy upon the national interest. All we say is that, where the State has taken powers and said, "We are going to protect you from foreign competition; we are going to put you in a privileged position," the State has every right to see that this side of the contract is carried out. In our view, one of the functions of the Board of Trade is not merely to be dealing with small details, but to be taking a wide and statesmanlike view over the whole of our trade and industry, and it should have the power to try to bring some sort of organisation and plan into our national life. Our proposal is simply that where the Board of Trade, with its sources of information, finds that reorganisation is not taking place, it should have power to go to firms and say, "Set your house in order," and, if they refuse, the tariff may be taken off until they do set their house in order. I think that is a perfectly fair proposition from the point of view of the State, and it will powerfully assist the more up-to-date firms in every industry. In all industries there are firms that are up-to-date and there are others that are not, and reorganisation has been held up time and again because of stupid people who will not take the line of the enlightened managers in their industry.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has pointed out the advantage of having a weapon though it may not be necessary to use it. We want to give him an instrument with which he can bring reconstruction into industry. We hope it will not be often used, but the fact that it is there will be a powerful argument with those who are trying to reorganise industry to see that they are not stopped by selfish interests. The best possible justification that can be put forward for a tariff is that it is a kind of temporary shield behind which industry is going to be reconstructed. If it is only going to be a shield for laziness it is clear that you are only out to serve private interests and you are not acting in the national interest at all.


I want to support the Clause and I am going to reiterate some of the remarks that have been made on previous occasions. We have appealed, I believe, to the President of the Board of Trade and we have also selected a deputation in order to place the policy of our federation before him. I now come to the question of the Committee appointed by the Labour Government under the Chairmanship of Lord Sankey and the recommendations that they made for the reconstruction of industry.


On a point of Order. I do not know whether I am quite correct, but I understood that the report of the Sankey Committee was supposed to be a confidential document to the Cabinet and, although some information in connection with it has leaked out in public, some of us have not made use of the information that we have. Is it considered the right thing to refer to it in the House?


The well-known rule applies that when an hon. Member quotes from a report or document he must lay it on the Table. If he cannot do it he must not quote.

4.30 p.m.


I am sorry the hon. Member interrupted, because he knows that the policy of the federation has been established on the report of the Sankey Commission, which appeared not in this country but in the foreign Press. We have put question after question down not only on behalf of the Labour party but on behalf of those who are really in favour of Tariff Reform. The Prime Minister himself has admitted that this report, so far as Lord Sankey and the Committee are concerned, was supposed to be a private report, but, because a leakage has taken place on the Continent, its contents have now become common property. We know it from A to Z. I have mentioned the question of the Sankey Report, and, as the Report is not on the Table, I will leave the question there. I come back to the proposals of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation. Those proposals have not only been submitted to the Labour party, but to the economy committees of the Liberal party and of the Conservative party, and they have also been placed, as late as a week last Friday, before the President of the Board of Trade. The difference between the Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) and myself is, that we lay down as a Confederation that the Government ought to see to it that the re-organisation of the industry takes place before any tariffs are imposed at all. The steel manufacturers come forward and say to the Government, "We must have a tariff first and re-construction afterwards." What is happening?

The "Western Mail," which is the South Wales local paper, says—and I hope the hon. Member for West Swansea will note this—that the pool is to be revived in the tinplate trade. The employers had a meeting in the Exchange at Swansea on Tuesday last. Let us see what this means. Their proposal is to establish a pool. I hope I shall have the attention of the President of the Board of Trade or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because this is a very important matter. The employers in the tinplate trade are now going to revive the pool which was in existence six months or 12 months ago. I have no objection to the pool because they are now going to rope in the 10 per cent. of independent employers who used to buy foreign steel bars and keep down the prices of the home-produced bar. I am in agreement with the pool being revived so that the 10 per cent, of independent employers who used to buy foreign bars should be roped in. I do not quarrel with them there. I want to point out to the President of the Board of Trade that these employers say that, if they work 75 per cent. of their plant, they cannot cover the cost of production. They say: "Under our pool we only want to work 50 per cent. of the plant. We will increase the price of plates to 14s. 6d. a box. It will be better for us as tinplate manufacturers to work 50 per cent. of the plant in the trade and make a profit rather than to work 75 per cent. of the plant and make a loss." From an economic standpoint, I even agree with the employers in that respect. It is a sound proposition to work so as to cover the cost of production and make a profit rather than to work at a loss.

How are they going to do it? The steel employers, it should be remembered, are the tinplate employers as well, because the steel works own practically the whole of the tinplate works in South Wales. The steel employers are to make an arrangement with the tinplate employers in so far as the price of steel bars is concerned. But we are up against these facts. We must have a reorganisation of the industry. There are about 16 firms in South Wales producing tinplate bars, whereas eight steel works can produce all the steel. Our proposal in the confederation scheme is to have an import and export board so as to be able to buy the raw material and to say how many works should be kept going in order to produce the commodity required in the tinplate trade. Therefore, we appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to take this matter into consideration as far as South Wales is concerned. Whatever the hon. Member for West Swansea may say, I say—and I have been in the trade for 30 years—that we have inefficient plant in South Wales. We have exactly the same furnaces and the same bar mills to-day in South Wales—


And trade union leaders.


Wait until I have finished. We have exactly the same furnaces and the same bar mills. I am not saying that the capacity of the furnaces has not been increased, but we have not any of the great modern furnaces. We have furnaces and mills in some of the works in South Wales, the rates in regard to which I fixed up 30 years ago. I can tell the House and the country that in some of these steel works during the last 30 years they have paid from 80 to 100 per cent. profit, and they have not put any money to reserve in order to keep their plant sufficiently in order to meet not only competition in this country, but foreign competition as well. I challenge anybody to deny those facts. We appeal to the President of the Board of Trade to go carefully into the matter, because we believe that, if the people in South Wales and in other parts of the country do not reorganise the industry, they should be taken off their feather bed, as was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. (Sir A. Chamberlain). They should be compelled to bring their plant up-to-date, so that if we get a revival of trade they will be able to meet competition, not only in this country, but from foreign countries. If the right hon. Gentleman will do that, he will not only do good to the employers themselves but to the workmen and the community at large.


I had no intention of taking part in this Debate this afternoon. Having read the Clause proposed so ably by the hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench, I felt that the proposal was of a much wider application than merely affecting the South Wales area. Even now, I am very doubtful whether it is right to waste the time of the House and deal with the romances of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Griffiths). From many points of view, it is a pity to take up the time of the House with so little time being allowed for the Report stage of the Bill.


Why not do it? I want the answers on record, so do not be afraid to reply.


I hope that the hon. Member for Pontypool will give me credit, at any rate, for not following along the path which he has gone.


You are afraid.


The hon. Gentleman has on every possible occasion throughout the discussion of the Bill dealt with the South Wales steel position. I have on one or two occasions, not attempting to reply to the hon. Member, told the House of the state of trade as far as South Wales is concerned. Let me repeat the facts. We have the finest labour organisation of any steel industry in the whole world. We have a higher wage cost per ton than is paid by any steel-producing industry in the whole world. We have a shorter working week for our workmen than is given to any class of steel workers in any part of the world. We have been able to make steel at prices more advantageous to consuming industries than has been possible in any other steel-producing district. I am aware of the fact that the hon. Member for Pontypool has been in the trade for 30 years. We have bookkeepers in our industry who have been with us 60 years, but that does not make them chartered accountants.

The hon. Member for Pontypool has, it is true, until a few years ago, been responsible to a certain extent for the Labour policy adopted in the South Wales steel trade, but it is rather pathetic that he should come to the House of Commons and make statements, both to-day and last week, which are so removed from the truth. Only a few days ago he told the House that the industry in South Wales was so inefficient that he knew of four sons of a manager being placed in various positions. When I challenged the hon. Member outside the Debating Chamber, he said: "Oh, well, the Chamber is only a Debating Chamber." There is not an instance in the whole of the industry which would justify the hon. Member making statements of that kind on the Floor of the House of Commons, especially when such statements go into the records of the discussions of the House.

There is a great deal in the proposals of the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) with which I am in total agreement. There is no doubt that industries which are given the advantage of Safeguarding Duties should do everything possible to set their House in order. I am particularly anxious that industries throughout the country should, under the umbrella, take every possible step to reorganise. But it is amazing that every time these matters are discussed in the House of Commons, we hear charges against the efficiency of British industry. On a number of occasions when Amendments have been put forward by Opposition Members, and, unfortunately, by Members on this bench with whom I have not agreed on many occasions, hon. Members have made use of those Amendments to attack the efficiency of British industry. It is time that this sort of thing was stopped, especially in the House of Commons.

Mr. ATTLEE rose


I am not suggesting it about the hon. Member. Attacks of that kind upon British industry are flashed across the wires to all parts of the world, and it is particularly unfair that statements made in the House of Commons which are grossly untrue should be continuously exaggerated and emphasised by Members of the Opposition. It is unfair to South Wales, and as far as efficiency is concerned, we are proud of our record as compared with that of any steel-producing district in the world.


It is untrue.


The hon. Member knows as well as I that you may have in any district some works that are more efficient than others. You may have a greater and a lesser degree of efficiency. I should be the last man to suggest that you can have uniform efficiency in industry, but I do say that we have in South Wales some of the most efficient works in the whole country, and that it is because of that efficiency, well managed and well run, that we have been able to give to the men within the trade union of the hon. Member the highest wages paid in the whole country.


I do not want to see this Amendment embodied in the Bill. But we must not lose sight of the desirability of achieving the highest industrial efficiency, which our leading industrialists themselves desire. There is a fear amongst some hon. Members on this side of the House and also amongst hon. Members on the benches below that the urgent necessity for the national planning and development of industry along modern lines in this country has been to some extent unrecognised or, shall I say, insufficiently emphasised, in connection with this Bill; and also the equally urgent necessity of Imperial development and the Imperial consolidation and coordination of industry. I do not say that these are questions which can properly be handled by this House. This House cannot handle technical industrial questions of reorganisation and so forth. If it lay in the hands of the President of the Board of Trade to put into operation the tariff proposals, I do not think there would be any cause for anxiety on the part of any hon. Member. But the point I want to make is that this Bill hands over a tremendously powerful instrument to the Tariff Advisory Committee. The whole resources of the State are being put at the disposal of that Committee, and I would submit, with due deference, that, sooner or later, those resources will have to be concentrated upon certain more or less clearly defined objectives, of which I should like to suggest three, (1) the maximum efficiency of industry, in the interests of the country as a whole; (2) the regional planning and development of industry, also in the best interests of the country as a whole; and (3) Imperial co-ordination of industry, or what is sometimes called Imperial rationalisation.

The hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), speaking with all the authority of his great experience as an industrial leader, accused me the other day of having had no experience of industry and of having cast doubts upon the efficiency of British industry. I never cast any doubts upon the efficiency of British industry as a whole. I believe that, in the circumstances of the present time, British industry is at least as efficient and probably more efficient than the industry of any other country, and that if we use our opportunities properly in the years that lie ahead, owing to our position at the present moment, and particularly owing to the fact that we have left the Gold Standard, we have a chance of resumnig once more the leadership of the world, not only in industry, but in finance. I would, however, remind my hon. Friend that nothing in the world is as efficient as it could be. No British industry is as efficient as it could be. Even the hon. Member is not as efficient as he could be. If he thinks that he is, he will not have that glowing political future which otherwise I predict for him.

There have been from time to time observations by Lord Weir, Sir Harry McGowan, and other great industrial leaders in this country, that there is still a great deal to do before we can say that British industry is as efficient as it could be to meet the requirements of a modern era; a new era which is very different from the era before the War. There has also been a report by Sir Francis Goodenough on British salesmanship, which suggested that there was a good deal left to be desired in that direction. The President of the Board of Trade well knows that in some industries certain developments which are desired by the leaders, the most responsible people in the industry, are being held up by small and recalcitrant companies in those particular industries. What we desire to see is the maximum amount of co-operation between the Government, the banks, and the industries themselves in order to secure the maximum efficiency of industry, in the interests of the country as a whole. There are some things that the Government, the banks and industries acting together can do, which no industry acting singly can possibly do. In this Bill the Government are placing at the disposal of the Tariff Advisory Committee a great and powerful instrument, which can and ought to be used for very useful purposes, in order to assist British industry to become the most efficient industry in the world.

I was a little disappointed by the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade the other night when a similar Amendment was being discussed. It seemed to me that he implied that this was the very last word, that this was the end of the Protection policy, that there was nothing more to be said, and that the necessity for the constructive planning and development of British industry has been completely lost sight of. I am sure that that is not really the case. What the House desires to hear from the Government to-day is that, as we are being asked to hand over this tremendously powerful instrument to the advisory committee and to place the great resources of the State at their disposal, the Government, neither now nor in the future, will not forget the necessity for seeing that at all times, and in all ways, the efficiency of British industry is maintained.


May I congratulate the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) on the very much better speech that he has made to-day than the one he made last week? I rejoice that some criticisms in which I then indulged have not been unfruitful. Sometimes, however, as I have listened to my hon. Friend I have been inclined to think that the mantle of Oswald has fallen upon Robert.


I hope so.


I do not quite understand the point of view of those who seem to be like little children who have been given a garden plot to look after. When little children start gardening and they plant something, they go to the garden after two or three days and take up the plant to see how the roots are getting on. That seems to me to be entirely characteristic of the mentality of those who are responsible for the Amendment that we are now discussing. Some people think that you have only to say, "rationalisation, co-ordination, reorganisation, co-operation" seven times running and something will happen. Frankly, I am getting a little tired of that sort of talk. We have had too much inquiry into British industry in recent years. The more we inquire, the less prosperous industry seems to be. Judging from the coal-mining industry, you have only to grant an industry two Select Committees and three Royal Commissions and it will land into the bankruptcy court. This ceaseless urge for interfering in other people's business, this nosey parkerism of modern politics, is not beneficial but harmful to industry. We ought to leave people alone to get on with their own business and give them that greater security—


Then why give them a tariff?


It is always an awful mistake to interject remarks at the wrong moment. Allow me to complete the sentence—and give them that greater security that will enable them to look after their own salvation. Up to now they have never had security. Everyone who has studied the problem of security and insecurity knows that if you give anybody absolute security they become inefficient, and that if you give them no security they become inefficient. You have to give them that degree of security which will enable them to develop themselves properly. It is because I believe that this Bill is laying the foundations of that security and making it possible for industries to reorganise themselves, that I support the Bill, although for certain reasons I wish it went a little further. I do wish we could leave people alone, and let them go quietly on with their business. Give them the conditions under which they can manufacture economically, and then I have not the slightest doubt that our business men will show in the future that efficiency which they have shown in the past.


I have considerable sympathy with the Clause that has been moved by the hon. Member opposite, and I am very anxious that what he has at the back of his mind should not be lost sight of, but it seems to me that the Amendment he has moved will not be likely to any great extent to assist in what be desires to bring about. It is foolish to close our eyes to the fact that in industry in this country there are defects that can be remedied. One of the greatest difficulties is the fact that when the majority of an industry have been anxious to reorganise, the whole of the reorganisation scheme has been prevented because there has been a minority unwilling to agree to it. It does not seem to me that this new Clause is likely to help any industry to get over a difficulty of that kind. There is another point which arises in connection with this matter. The action of the present Government and of the late Government has been to attempt to bring about improvements in reorganisation in several industries. It is no secret that the President of the Board of Trade in the days of the late Labour Government devoted a great deal of time to an attempt in one or two notable instances to bring about the reorganisation of industry.

Possibly the hon. Member who moved the adoption of the new Clause has under-estimated the tremendous difficulties of bringing these things about. Not only are there the special difficulties of the trade, but in every case where you try to amalgamate a number of private interests there are personal difficulties, such questions as what is going to happen to the directors, the managers, and the men who have occupied positions, who will no longer be required under the new scheme. I cannot conceive how those difficulties are going to be met, or how it is going to be made easier to bring about amalgamations by passing this Clause. At the same time, I am exceedingly anxious that the President of the Board of Trade should definitely state that it is the intention of the Government to use all their influence and to give all the assistance they can to industries that desire to bring about reorganisation, or in any way to improve themselves. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will give an undertaking that the Government are distinctly determined to assist such industries in every possible way.

5.0 p.m.

When I was at the Overseas Trade Department I was very much impressed, as I went about the country, with the views of business men who, perhaps knowing the views of the Government which I represented, were very anxious to have Protection introduced. Whatever our views may be about Protection and whatever may be the views of hon. Members about the Measure now going through the House, there can be no doubt that the vast mass of business men believe that, in some way, this Bill is going to help their industries. I became convinced that money was simply being held back because the financial interests would nut put their money into industry unless there was some measure of Protection for that industry. Presumably now, for better or for worse, whatever the views of hon. Members may be, advantage is going to be taken of this Measure to give, shall I say, a new impetus to industry. I believe that is the result that we are going to see from passing this Measure. It is most imperative that at the same time there should be forthcoming all the financial assistance that is required and that industry itself in its various sections—I agree that there are minorities which are still moving with laggard steps—should recognise that this Bill alone will never put industry on its feet. Neither by Protection nor Free Trade will you ever solve the great industrial problems of to-day. They are infinitely too great to be solved by those methods. Whatever our views may be as to whether it will be of assistance or otherwise, it is imperative that the Government should give financial assistance, which I believe can be rendered in certain directions, and also give wherever possible full assistance to industry to reorganise itself. Hon. Members opposite sometimes overlook the danger of giving the Government too much power to interfere in industry. You can have private enterprise and some system of public control, but the moment you begin to have neither the one nor the other and combine interference by public authorities in private enterprise, you will find yourself in difficulties. If the Government is to be asked to interfere on certain lines of reorganisation, I suggest that it is not quite so easy as hon. Members imagine.

A short time ago there was a general idea in business circles that large amalgamations were beneficial, but recent experience has shown that some of these amalgamations have been too big. If they had been brought about on the direct initiative of the Government it would have raised questions of considerable difficulty. These are the problems we have to bear in mind when we ask the Government to take action such as this proposal requires. Something of this nature will have to be done, but in quite a different way. The proposal may not commend itself to the President of the Board of Trade as it is, but at the same time the idea that is behind it, that efficiency is essential if industry is really to go ahead, is important, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will assure the House that it has the fullest sympathy of the Government.


I should not have intervened but for the remarks made by the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) in replying to the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Griffiths). If the hon. Member for West Swansea had been in the House as long as some of us he would be well aware that some of the strongest criticisms of the present organisation of industry have come from supporters of the Conservative party, some of whom have become convinced that none of the nostrums advanced by Members of the Front Bench are of the slightest use. They have admitted that one of the things most needed in industry to-day is to clear out some of the senile individuals who are obstructing the development of industry at the present time. I have heard eminent members of the Conservative party declare that one of the drawbacks to British industry is the fact that many directors were 70 and 80 years of age, suffering from senile decay, and that it was time they cleared out.

The hon. Member must also remember that the Prince of Wales has criticised British industry as much as anybody. He never makes a speech but what he impresses the necessity of reorganisation of British industry, and criticises strongly the difficulties under which British industry suffers under its present management. [interruption.] You have made him your commercial traveller. You have sent him all over the world on your commissions. It is not long ago since you asked him to go to the Argentine to talk to the people there and do something to revive our trade. And he almost persuaded the Argentinians to wear boater hats as the salvation of the Luton straw hat trade. The hon. Member for West Swansea has said that in the steel trade of this country the best wages in the world are paid. In the steel trade about 80 per cent. of the labour is unskilled, with an average wage of £2 5s. per week, and the 20 per cent. of skilled labour receives wages varying in amount, I do not know exactly what it is. But if the steel trade of South Wales has made enormous profits, 100 per cent. as mentioned by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Griffiths), then it is because the trade has rested largely on the skill of the workers employed and not upon the push of the management.


I did not trouble to refute the statement of the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Griffiths) as to profits, because I hardly thought anyone in the House would give credence to it. His statement is a gross exaggeration.


I hope now that the hon. Member for Swansea West (Mr. L. Jones) is going to be just with Members of this House and will not be prepared to make misleading and lying statements.


Order, order!

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)

I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw that expression at once.


With all respect to you, I will not withdraw to that man. He has been a nuisance ever since he came into this House. [Interruption.]


I call upon the lion. Member to withdraw the statement which he has made.


Out of respect to you, Sir, I do; and I will substitute it by saying that he is a perverter of the truth. [Interruption.]


The hon. Member must withdraw the statement unreservedly.


No, I shall not for that man. He has ruined the steel trade in South Wales.


I must ask the hon. Member to withdraw the statement.


No, I will not withdraw that.


Then the hon. Member will please withdraw from the House. [Interruption.] I must ask the hon. Member again to withdraw from the House for the remainder of to-day's sitting.

The hon. Member withdrew accordingly.


I was saying that it would appear as though the South Wales steel trade rested upon the skill of the workers rather than on the push of the management. I am informed that the wages paid in the steel trade in Monmouthshire are about 5s. per day for unskilled labour, and that in the North of England they are about 35s. per week. If these are high wages in the steel trade, higher than any paid in any part of the world, then all I can say is, God help those who are receiving wages in protected countries. It will not appear as though the workers are going to receive very much by the introduction of this Bill. But behind all these questions there is the eternal question which Thomas Carlyle discussed—the condition of the people—and the Conservative party comes forward with this Bill as part of their plan for altering the conditions under which the masses of the people live. I hope they will succeed, but I do not think they will. This Measure is bound to fail because the problem is not one which can be touched by mere tariffs or Free Trade, or by the reorganisation of industry.

As far as reorganisation is concerned the United States of America has pushed it as far as it can go. They have got as big concerns as can be worked, and eminent psychologists have pointed out that it is possible to make your business so big that you will be unable to find a single man big enough to control it, it will be beyond the control of mere human beings. That is the position in the United States. Concerns are almost equally big in Germany, and are getting as big in France. These countries where rationalisation, so-called, and reorganisation have been pushed to extremes are no better off economically than we in this country with a somewhat looser form of industrial organisation. I am told that some of our organisations have arrangements with selling organisations abroad and that organisations here cannot sell to a third country without the transaction going through the country in which this scheme of arrangement exists.

What is the use of talking about tariffs in those circumstances? The problem cannot be tinkered with by tariffs. It is not a little thing, which a tinker's soldering iron can put right. It is not a leaky kettle; the whole thing is bursting and breaking—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may say that it is not as had as that, but I think it is. You may tell me that under this scheme of organisation and tariffs the condition of the mass of people is going to be improved. Experience does not prove that. When this country has been wealthy the manufacturers have been no more generous than they were when the country was poor. I spoke earlier in the Debates on this Bill, and the Lord President of the Council expressed a certain amount of satisfaction with a tribute that I then paid. I am glad that I was able to provide him with a little solace. If the depression could be removed a little from the Government, Front Bench it would perhaps be useful for them, for it has been over them long enough. The right hon. Gentleman has discovered that he had to act the part of a peacemaker, and the part of the peacemaker, like that of the transgressor, is somewhat hard. At any rate the right hon. Gentleman found some satisfaction in what I said.

What was it that I pointed out? It was that under Free Trade this country had become enormously wealthy, but that at the time when it was being demonstrated that we were wealthier than at any period in our history, that we were the wealthiest cone try in the world from the point of view of foreign possessions, Charles Booth was writing his book about the life and labours of the poor, and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was telling us that 33 per cent. of our people were on the border-line of poverty and starvation. These revelations were being made when the country was simply rolling in wealth. But the people were left poor. The Government may increase wealth here, but the people will still remain poor and their struggle will go on just the same. All kinds of provisions are in the Bill for an increase of the profit side of industry, but there is little for the worker, and for that reason I have comparatively little interest in these discussions. But we are entitled to point out that neither tariffs nor Free Trade can solve the problem, and as to re-organisation, I think that that will leave us pretty well where we are now.


The supporters of the new Clause will not claim any originality for the hope they express that the boons conferred by this Bill will not be used as an excuse for somnolence. The Government has gone very much further than an expression of hope. It has given a positive assurance, and indeed my hon. Friend who moved the new Clause quoted from a speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer which was quite clear upon that point. I could quote other passages from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the same effect, and I could certainly quote my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. For the purpose of removing any doubts which may still subsist in the minds of my hon. Friends opposite, about the purpose of this Bill, I claim indulgence while I read what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said on the Financial Resolution relating to the Bill. He was making a reference to a previous speech and referring to another right hon. Gentleman, and his words were these: He would like to see these additional duties used in such a way as to encourage the reorganisation and rationalisation of industry. So should we; the difference being that we should use the Cabinet and the Advisory Committee while he would use a commission. There is practically no difference between us there. We say that if there is to be anything in the way of reorganisation and rationalisation you should give these industries a chance of doing it with a little shelter while the change is going on. My right hon. Friend went further than that and said: We retain the power to check profiteering, because, obviously, if any attempt at profiteering is brought to the notice of the Government, they are not going to allow it to pass; and the simplest way of getting rid of profiteering is to withdraw the duty." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February, 1932; cols. 704 and 705, Vol. 261.] Those are the assurances that have been given by my right hon. Friend in the course of these Debates. Nor does the Government stop at assurances, for it is clearly laid down in the Bill in two places that the Advisory Committee may recommend a withdrawal of a, duty, or that the Treasury may of its own motion do likewise. Therefore, there are in the Bill ample safeguards to assure that these advantages will not be used to cover slackness or incompetence. So much for what my right hon. Friend said and so much for what is in the Bill.

Now let us contrast what I have said about what has been stated and what is in the Bill, with what is proposed in the new Clause. I would direct the attention of the House to the actual provisions of the new Clause. The new Clause lays down this proposition: That where the Board of Trade thinks that an industry is inefficient or being run uneconomically, it shall make such recommendations as shall ensure the reorganisation of that industry. The Board of Trade is first of all to say that the organisation of such and such an industry is defective. It has next to say how it is defective; thirdly, it has to say how the defects are to be remedied; and, fourthly, it has to say, "We are now satisfied that the defects have been remedied." That is a very onerous task to place upon the Board of Trade. I do not dissent for one minute from the assertion made by my hon. Friend opposite that the function of the Board of Trade is to give every possible and every appropriate assistance to industry. That we do. The difference between my hon. Friend and ourselves is this: He evidently thinks it is the function of the Board of Trade to run industry, and we think it is the function of the Board of Trade and the Government to create the conditions in which industry can be run. My hon. Friend displays a touching faith in machinery. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), who made such a powerful speech upon this subject and who is known to be so interested in it, seems to hold the view that if there is a scheme things will be all right. But success in this world does not depend upon machinery, but upon the men who run the machinery.


You must have the machinery though.


My hon. Friend has suggested that we have in the Board of Trade a number of supermen who know more about the details of an industry than those actually engaged in it. I do not think that any Government Department will ever be in the position to do other people's work for them. The moment people cease to be able to run their own affairs the country will be in as disastrous a plight as the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Wall-head) suggested. He believes in the inevitability of calamity. In order that we could carry out those functions we would have to make precise criticisms about the lay-out of factories, about overhead costs and about marketing arrangements, and I suggest that if those whose responsibility it is, on the spot and in touch with the actual factories, are unable to do these things, no Government Department can do them for them. I go further and say that there is a very dangerous implication in this new Clause, an implication which my hon. Friend who moved it did not seem to realise. If you say to an industry "Organise in such and such a way if you wish this tariff to be continued," you give by inference a promise to the industry that the tariff will be continued if the industry carries out what you propose. We have powers in the Bill to take a tariff off. But suppose that on the strength of a scheme finance is raised for the industry, we should be in the position of having given a pledge to the industry to continue the tariff as long as that money was invested in the industry.

That is the clear implication of the new Clause. No, we believe that we have in the Bill adequate safeguards for seeing that industry will be run efficiently. Obviously that is one of the primary matters that the Advisory Committee has to take into account. It is instructed to have regard to the interests of British industry as well as to national interests as a whole and to the interests of consumers. No Advisory Committee worth its salt would ignore the important requirements which my hon. Friend seems to think necessary and with which no one in principle would disagree.

We have had a very interesting Debate and we are very much indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) for the protest which he made against those who are constantly crying stinking fish about British industry. I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen when I use the term "stinking fish." By that I do not mean to suggest that I can tell the herring fishermen of Aberdeen how to catch herring. The hon. Member evidently thinks the Government can tell them. I thank the hon. Member for West Swansea for the protest that he made against constant jeremiads about British industry. British industry has suffered a great many hardships. Its taxation is high. The conditions which are imposed upon it with regard to wages and other matters are quite rigid. It is robbed to a large extent of its competitive power. We believe that we shall give it the conditions in which it can work out its own salvation, and, if it cannot, it is goodbye to the future prosperity of this country.


I really must protest against the Parliamentary Secretary talking of those who say that British industry is not as efficient as it might be as criers of "stinking fish." We remember a speech made by the President of the Board of Trade not so very long ago upon the steel industry. The right hon. Gentleman then went into every detail of the steel industry and pointed out, as is well known to everyone, that although our industry may be efficient with the plant it is running, efficient in the state of organisation it has reached, the state of organisation is far behind that of both Germany and America.


I do not want my hon. and learned Friend to misinterpret what I said. I said that British industry was as efficient as the conditions would permit.

5.30 p.m.


Now we are getting at the facts. The whole point is as to the conditions. The hon. Gentleman who visited all the steel factories 5.30 p.m. in this country must have appreciated the fact that it was the conditions in the factories which did not permit of better organisation—the size of the blast furnaces, the number of units of electric power used per man for the lifting of heavy weights, and all the other matters which come into these criteria. I see that the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), who knows everything about all things, is laughing. I think that we might justly say of him, as he said of someone else, that perhaps the mantle of Charles is falling upon Herbert. This new Clause seems to us to carry out exactly what the Parliamentary Secretary wants. I put this proposition to him. He says that he and his colleagues on the Front Bench agree that if an industry is not efficiently and economically run, then protection ought to be withdrawn. I take it that he goes with me to that extent. Am I right?


The hon. and learned Gentleman must not confuse this place with a court of law.


If I could confuse it with a court of law I should apply to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to make the witness answer. In the absence of contradiction, however, I assume that I am right so far. If the hon. Gentleman does not deny it, I must assume that he agrees with me. That being so, how is he or anybody to fix whether an industry is efficiently and economically run under these protective duties, in order to ascertain whether the duties should be withdrawn or not? That is all we are asking. We only say that we want you to have the machinery to do that which you say you wish to do, and nothing further. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the Clause he will see that we ask that the Board of Trade should have power to consult with the interests concerned. He forgot to include that passage in the little precis which he gave to the House a short time ago. Under the new Clause the Board of Trade is to consult with the industry as to the methods of reorganisation which are necessary, and, having arrived, after consultation with the industry, at the methods which are necessary for reorganisation, they are not, as suggested, to compel the carrying out of that organisation, but they are to say: "Unless this is carried out, we cannot allow you to have protection any longer."

How does that proposal in the least militate against the expression of opinion which the hon. Gentleman tells us has been given by all the leaders of the Government? It is exactly what they want, but as the Bill stands there is no power to accomplish it. The hon. Gentleman says that the Advisory Committee can do it, but it has been pointed out over and over again that the advisory committee are not intended to do that sort of thing. Some hon. Members who sit on this side and who are, I think, called the Y.M.C.A. group, were chided because they suggested that such a task should be put upon the committee. Nor have the committee power to undertake such a task. They can only act upon representations made. But this task is desired by the Government. The Treasury cannot do it because they have no machinery, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman is not going to suggest that the Treasury are the people to inquire whether industries are efficiently and economically run, and if not, to take these taxes off. Therefore, he is left with his own Department, but there is no power under the Bill for his own Department to do it.




There is really no power under the Bill. If the hon. Member says there is, perhaps he will kindly point it out.


Clause 2, page 3, line 25, "any representations." Clause 3, page 5, line 40, "discontinued." If the hon. and learned Gentleman reads the rest he will understand.


The hon. Member is confusing himself. Neither of these passages deals with the Board of Trade.




I was pointing out that the Board of Trade had no power under the Bill, and neither of these passages gives power to the Board of Trade. One gives it to the committee and the other to the Treasury on the recommendation of the committee. If this is really a genuine desire of the Government; if they are not merely saying this in order to make tariffs more palatable for the consumer, but if it is their intention to use the tariff, as has been said, for the purpose of bringing about improved efficiency and economy in industry, then surely they cannot refuse to arm themselves with the one instrument which makes that possible. They have said that they are taking the instrument of possible discrimination against tariff countries though they hope that they will not have to use it. Why do they not take this instrument, which will be the earnest of their desire to do something towards the reorganisation of industry and towards keeping it from that feather bed upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) seems to think it is going to couch itself.


The hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out that the Board of Trade could not take action with regard to any particular industry which they might like to take, but, as a matter of fact, Clause 2 permits the Board of Trade, like anybody else, to make representations to the Advisory Committee to make any survey which they desire to make. I agree with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that the new Clause is unnecessary. We have had commissions and committees with regard to industry in the past, and it is not necessary to waste any further time in that way. What we do require is that the Advisory Committee should have full power to make a complete survey of the industries of the country, and the only criticism which I have to make in regard to the Bill is that the Advisory Committee has not those full powers. Something has been said in this discussion about efficiency. At the present moment we have not only efficient works, but also inefficient works standing idle. The efficient works are just as idle as the inefficient works; and the cause of their idleness is not their efficiency or their inefficiency. They are idle because they are unable to sell what they can produce. In South Wales there is an up-to-date and efficient plant for the production of ship plates. That plant is idle, not because it is inefficient or out-of-date, but because there is no market for ship plates. In my opinion, the Advisory Committee have not the necessary powers to find out what is wrong with that industry.


The hon. and gallant Member is now going beyond the question which is before the House. We cannot discuss what is in other Clauses of the Bill as to the powers of the Advisory Committee. The hon. and gallant Member must confine himself to the proposed new Clause.


The new Clause proposes to give the Board of Trade more powers than it has at present. I feel that the new Clause has this merit at any rate that it is a criticism of the powers which have already been given by the Bill. The powers which have been given in Clause 9, to which this new Clause relates, are not wide enough. Although the Committee may be able to decide whether an industry is efficient or not, they have no powers to find out whether an efficient industry is idle merely because it cannot sell what it can produce. I am pointing out that we have idle plant in South Wales which would he entirely outside the purview of the Advisory Committee in that respect, and my argument is that the powers of the Committee should be extended, so as to cover what hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to suggest with regard to this new Clause. The Advisory Committee should have power to examine not only each and every industry but also the markets of each and every industry.


The hon. and gallant Member is now getting on to the question of markets, which is quite outside the subject-matter of the proposed new Clause.


it is quite useless to make a survey of industry unless you can at the same time make a survey of the markets for which that industry works.


If the hon. and gallant Member will read the proposed new Clause, he will see that it is not directed to a survey of markets, but only to provisions as to the reorganisation of particular trades or industries.


And my criticism is that the reason why plant is idle is not on account of lack of efficiency in organisation or otherwise, not because the costs of production are so high. My contention is that you may have high efficiency in plant, organisation and everything else, and yet that plant may be idle merely owing to the fact that there is no market for what it produces.


That point is not dealt with in the proposed new Clause. I must ask the hon. and gallant Member to read the Clause, and he will find the words: Where it appears to the Board of Trade that any trade or industry to which Section nine of this Act applies requires reorganisation in the national interest, or is not conducted with efficiency and economy, it shall be the duty and so on. The hon. and gallant Member must confine his remarks to the reorganisation of a trade or industry.


As far as reorganisation is concerned, if we are going to spend the next few years in examining, by means of commissions and committees, the condition of our industries, which in present circumstances have not a chance of any kind of reorganisation, we are never going to do any good. I conclude by saying that I oppose the proposed new Clause.


Everyone has been talking about British industry, and some of us remember the time when the doctrine of competition was the last word in human wisdom. Now we are beginning to believe in reorganisation, which is more or less the elimination of competition. Hon. Members opposite object to the Board of Trade having these powers, but what does Protection mean? Does it not mean that the Government must interfere in industry, that a tax is to be placed on goods coming into the country for the benefit of those engaged in industry, and are you going to ask for gifts from the State without accepting responsibility from the State? If you are going to have your industry protected, the State should get something in return for what it gives. It gives you protection against competition from abroad, and is it not right to expect that part of the benefit so derived shall come back to the State itself? Revenue may be all right, but where do the workers come in? There is nothing in this Bill to guarantee any benefit to the workers. All that we can get is a promise: "Wait till the clouds roll by."

We know what we get, and that is political Dead Sea fruit, after this Bill becomes law. What crime is there in asking, as this Clause asks, that the Board of Trade should have the right to see that the industries of the country are efficiently conducted and that those who take benefits from the State should at least give a quid pro quo? I know who take the "quids," and I have a slight idea myself that we shall get. the "pro quo," and that is all. For a hundred years we have had more or less Free Trade, and now we are simply reversing the system. We have had the experience of other countries, and can anyone say that Protection has been a magnificent success elsewhere? Are the people in those countries so much better off than we have been under our antiquated system? I do not like to hear hon. Members of this House talking about the decline of British industry. I think our capitalists are as good robbers as those of any other country. They have been successful exploiters, not merely at home, but abroad, ever since I can read history. They have got on very well, but now they are up against it. The people who used to be our customers are becom- ing our competitors, so that we are looking round to see if we can find a sticking plaster for a wooden leg, and we have found Protection. We are putting this Bill through and when everybody has built a fence round every country, and when we are all sitting in our own back yards, we shall be able to say, "Thank God, I am not like the fellow over the road."

Tariffs will not solve the problem, but we have a right when we are giving Protection for the Government to say that if your industries are not properly organised and conducted, they will withdraw this Protection from you. What more appropriate body is there than the Board of Trade? Its very name gives the idea that it ought to know something about it. They used generally to put somebody over the Board of Trade who had had no connection with trade, but on this occasion the President of the Board of Trade does know something about trade, having been engaged in it. In the days gone by they used to have somebody who knew nothing about it, because he would be the easiest person to manage if there was any dispute between the Board and any particular trade. Surely no one will imagine that any of our Government Departments are so revolutionary in their activities that they will hit their friends one in the jaw.

There are Members of this House closely connected with the Government who are directors of no fewer than 14 different industries. How they manage to carry on all their jobs, I do not know; it takes me all my time to work two. Those Members are directors of 14 different companies, and they get salaries for each, but they are clever people, and we are not. They were born with natural ability; we were born with more or less inability, and we are here to prove it. Surely we have a right to say, when you are going to give a boon to certain sections of industry, that there shall be some sort of control over the kind of benefits which they are to receive and over what they are going to give in return. As the Bill stands, there is no guarantee to the public that they will be protected at all. The ordinary member of the working class will have no guarantee that his interests will be pro- tected, and the only people who will be protected are those engaged in the production, outside of the ordinary workers, and we know what is going to be the end of it. The more you protect certain classes of industry, the more you will give means whereby industry will become more and more amalgamated into trusts, combines and syndicates.

I have heard the word "rationalisation' used here to-day. What is the consequence of rationalisation for the ordinary people? We are finding out to-day that industry has been so organised that two men are doing three men's work, and that we are manufacturing unemployment. We are producing, not less, but more, but we are employing less to produce more. The same thing has happened in protected countries. Competition always ends in monopoly, and monopoly ends in amalgamation, which means that eventually we shall be up against it. We are asking in this Clause that there shall be some protection for the common people, that if we are going to give people, through their control of industry, the right to levy taxes on their fellows, the Government should have something to say as to how their industry should be conducted. I remember the time when some of the hon. Members opposite who are backing this Government used to make fierce denunciations of Protection, but we have never been enthusiastic Free Traders. I do not believe in Free Trade from the orthodox point of view. I believe in freedom for the people, the right of the worker to control his own destiny and that his labour should not be treated as a commodity in the way in which it is treated. We are asking in this Clause that proper provision should be made to protect the public interest against private exploitation.


I cannot congratulate the leaders, as I think they are, of the Opposition on the wording of this new Clause, because in all the Debates that we have had upon this Bill I have not seen a Clause containing such an extraordinary proposal as this. I can understand any Socialist proposal to take over the whole management of industry, and I can understand a proposal that the State should control industry and could run it better than private individuals, but this goes very much further than that. If you please, we are asked to pass a Clause which will take in the duty of the Board of Trade to make recommendations to ensure the reorganisation of a trade or industry; that is to say, that the Board of Trade are to be capable of teaching every industry in the country which they think is not working in the manner in which it ought to work, how to put its house in order.

I have heard more nonsense talked in the House of Commons on the question of the want of efficiency of British industry than upon almost any other subject. I do not hesitate to say that there is nothing whatever wrong with British industry except the fact that up to date we have never given it a chance of making profits. The moment there is any money available, British industry will put its house in order without any help from the State; and incidentally I think it is worth drawing attention to the fact that the Government with which hon. Members who are putting forward this new Clause were concerned were also very much concerned with the setting up of the Economic Advisory Council, which deliberately went all over the Continent of Europe to examine Continental factories and works and to compare the efficiency, as they saw it, of those works with that of those at home. The report refers to only one industry, but there may be other examples in connection with other British industries. As regards the steel and iron trade, this is what they state: As regards the efficiency of management, the modernity and equipment of certain units of plant, they (that is, the British industries) were equal and in some cases superior to the iron and steel plants which we have seen on the Continent.


"Certain units of plant," not all the plants.


They could not manifestly see every plant in both countries. I am not going to let the hon. and learned Gentleman get away with the idea that this refers to certain units as against the whole, because no such words appear. It is quite clear that they could not see all the plants. It refers only to those plants that they saw, both here and abroad, but comparing what they saw abroad with what they saw here, it is clear that those here were equal and in some cases superior to the plants on the Continent. I mention that one illustration because I happened to have this report beside me when I entered the House. There has been far too much nonsense talked about the inefficiency of British industry. There is not the smallest doubt, in my own mind, that British industry can look after itself perfectly well and that it does not require any instruction from the State as to how to put its house in order. Where there are deficiencies to be made up, where there are plants that are out of date, those in charge know very well what is wanted, and all that they desire from the State is a chance to be able to work their industries free from State interference, but with a fair field in comparison with the competition of other countries.

The crux of the matter lies in another part of the same report, in which they state what the wage rates are in the different countries, from which it appears that in Germany they are only 67 per cent., as compared with this country, in France 50 per cent., in Belgium 47 per cent., and in Czechoslovakia 42 per cent. That is where the unfair competition comes in, and it is those conditions which have made it impossible for industries here to enjoy that prosperity which they ought to have enjoyed under any real chance of fair trade. That does not mean at all that the remedy is to reduce our wages to those levels—far from it—but that you must prevent your market being flooded with cheap materials brought over here and produced as a result of the very low wages referred to in that report. It would be out of order for me to go beyond the actual terms of the new Clause on the Paper, and I can only say that I hope the House will reject the Clause entirely as something which is quite outside the bounds of possibility, and worse even than the most Socialistic proposals ever put before this House.

6.0 p.m.


I do not want to indulge in the profitless method of tu quoque, but I cannot allow the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, a quondam Free Trader, to get away with his remarks. Nothing has done more harm to the prestige of this country as an industrial unit during the last few years than the Protectionist propaganda which has made out that we were down and out. That is wholly untrue. Other countries which are Protectionist are in a worse condition than we are, and it is there that the blame ought to be placed for the "stinking fish" cry that has been referred to. I am disappointed with the attitude of the Government towards this Amendment and other Amendments of the same kind that have been brought before the House. We were told that this scheme was to be unlike anything else in the world; that it was to be scientific, progressive and constructive, and a different, more novel and better thing. Every constructive proposal, however, that has been put forward from these benches, Members on which have done their best to assist in that direction perfectly sincerely, has been turned own. We have been told that it will be all right, but no safeguards of any kind to see that these ideas are really put into effect have been accepted, and it will be the same selfish narrow nationalistic scheme that is in operation in every other country in the world.

I have no doubt that the great majority of the industries of this country are as efficient as any in the world, hut I am certain that there are some that are not in a high state of efficiency, and we ought to take steps in connection with this Measure to bring them up to that standard if they are to have the advantage of State interference. We very often hear that manufacturers want no State interference, but they do not really mean that for they want the kind of State interference that they happen to fancy. They want State interference in regard to every article which they sell, but they do not want the kind that they do not happen to fancy. I hope, therefore, that the cry that manufacturers do not want intereference, will not he accepted. It will be generally agreed that the difficulty that faces industry here is that we are an old industrial nation. In the last century we were the first among the great manufacturing nations of the world. We built up a certain technique which enabled us to amass wealth and to do well in every market in the world. That technique and organisation were well fitted to those times, but the world situation has now wholly changed. We are now faced with conditions that make the rigidity with which we stuck to our old system a great handicap to us. What in the past has been an invaluable individuality in every industry, has now, to some extent, become a drawback, because it is realised that if you are to be successful you cannot leave each man to work alone; you must have co-operation, amalgamation and organisation of industry on a national basis, and on an international basis too.

If we are to attain that effectively, here is a weapon in this new Clause which might make something of the kind possible. We have a valuable chance for organising our businesses on a national basis by entirely new methods and by using the tariff as a weapon. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may -say that that can be done under the Bill, but we do not know. How often have we heard Ministers say, "It is all right; we are going to do that." They mean it, and have the best intentions, but when a Measure comes to be carried out by the Department as the years go by, a different state of affairs arises. I urge the Government to make a definite and binding statement as to their intentions in this respect. I hope that I am wrong in the future that I see under this Measure, but it looks to me as if this Debate has exposed in all its nakedness its really reactionary character.


This is my first intervention in the Debates on this Measure. I cannot understand the speech of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Wardlaw-Milne) about non-interference by the State. I thought that most intelligent Conservatives had now thrown over the doctrine of laissez faire. You cannot ask for State interference in the regulation of imports and then say that no State interference is to be allowed in any other directions.


Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that it is so in any other country?


I am only saying that if there is protection of imports, the natural thing is that the State regulation ought not to end with imports. It was the old-fashioned Liberalism that stood for the doctrine of non-interference by the State, and I thought that most intelligent Conservatives had long thrown it over. Without being unduly critical I want to ask one or two questions on this new Clause, because I genuinely want to see what is in the minds of hon. Members who support it. It speaks of a trade or industry that "is not conducted with efficiency and economy." What is meant by economy? I mean one thing by it, and other men mean something else. Hon. Members on the other side generally mean economy in wages and social conditions. This Amendment says, in effect, that if the Board of Trade do not think the wages are low enough—[Interruption.] That is the meaning, as I read it. I am surely entitled to ask intelligent questions. What do the mass of the common people mean by economy? I see hon. Members for three mining divisions here. If they spoke in their divisions, what would their people mean by economy. They would mean low wages and money off the parish.


That is not my interpretation of economy.


It is not the hon. Member's interpretation, but it is the interpretation of the common people. Unless economy is defined by something else than a bald statement, it might mean the economy that the head of the Board of Trade wanted at any particular moment. If you said "economy" now to hon. Members opposite, it would mean low wages. You are saying in this Amendment that hon. Members opposite should have the power to withdraw the tariff unless an industry economises, and the only way they know of economising is to pay lower wages. I do not doubt that the Movers of the Amendment have other meanings, and that if asked what they meant, they would say that they wanted to eliminate landlord's charges, way-leaves, directors' fees and so on, but that is not stated here. It is left to the President of the Board of Trade to decide—a man whom, only a year ago, we were attacking for his action over landlordism and wayleaves. I do not believe in making almost a fetish of reorganisation.

What does reorganisation mean? I admit that I am a one-sided man, and that I see things only as my constituents see them. I make no attempt to represent any section but a class section. I believe in a class and in that only, and I make no attempt at any other belief. I ask then what reorganisation means to my class. The great industry involved here is steel. Where I live, and where some of my constituents live, there are some steelworks partly owned by the family of the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department. They are the Clyde-bridge Steelworks, and never were works more finely organised. Last year the output of steel was a record—a world's record almost. The machinery is beautifully equipped. But what has that meant to my people, week about, month about? No wages! The very reorganisation, the economy, and the getting together has meant that my people are being thrown out mercilessly. The machine has smashed them. It is no use asking for reorganisation unless we can put alongside it either a proper wage to maintain the people, or a proper way of giving them alternative work.

Take the case of shipbuilding. I know a little about that. Take Harland and Wolff's yard, and many another yard. Their organisation is wonderful. There is none of the old-fashioned going down to the boats and putting in a plate. Watch one of the piano punches at work. When I served my time, we used the old laborious punch one at a time; now a punch is used that works like a piano. What is the effect of all this organization? My people have not had work for six years. It is not because the output has gone down; it has gone up. It is because we have never found an alternative basis for industry so to organise itself to keep men in, I know the purpose behind this Clause. It is a laudable one, but apply my criticism to it. I am accused of loose thinking. I reply to those who say so, "how me that you are less loose in your thinking." Worthy as the intentions of this Clause arc, and though I would honestly like to vote for it, I cannot vote for a Clause which could be interpreted as an attack upon the conditions of my folk and which, if it were carried into effect, would only mean misery and poverty for the very poor whom I represent.


I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) into the rather interesting though wide subject he has introduced, but I cannot help feeling that it is rather a pity that this question of reorganisation, of bringing industry up to the pitch of efficiency, has been raised in this Debate by a Socialist Clause which, I imagine, nobody on these benches could possibly wish to see passed. It has enabled plausible and anxious people like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to ride off, on some rather unfair answers, from genuine arguments such as those of an hon. Member who has been sitting beside me. In passing, I must say that it seems to me it is high time the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade got over his morbid fear of the faggots. Whenever one of his strong Protectionist colleagues is on the Treasury Bench, he gets the fidgets, and if there is more than one he runs out to shelter behind the President of the Board of Trade.

It is a pity that, when we are discussing reorganisation, it should always be in conjunction with the word "efficiency." Those of us who feel some interest in this matter have no intention of suggesting—it would be impertinent for us to do so—that individual firms are inefficient; but that is not the point, for the best English firms are second to none in the world. The point is the extent to which some English industries have appreciated the need for co-operation between individual firms. That is not a matter of Government Departments telling firms how to run their businesses or of Socialistic interference in industry, and still less is it any question of crying "stinking fish." As I cannot shelter myself behind the right hon. Gentleman opposite may I shelter behind an equally eminent industrialist, a very great industrialist, whose recent sudden death many Members of this House will deplore, and that is Sir Arthur Duckham? If anybody had a right to speak for British industry it was he. He was President of the Federation of British Industries this year. All Members will probably remember the scheme for dealing with the coal trade which he put before the Sankey Commission. I do not propose to argue whether it was a good scheme or a bad

one, but it is absurd to accuse everybody who gets up to point out the importance of insuring that this Bill shall aid and not hinder reorganisation of crying stinking fish or making impertinent comments on the condition of British industry.

Great industrialists such as he are agreed that the old days of individualism are to some extent past in many industries; and it is also common ground that in many industries reorganisation is overdue at this moment, not on account of Government interference but simply because it is the case over and over again that every scheme brought forward is turned down by a majority of either selfish or particularly well-placed or particularly short-sighted employers. The point which we have endeavoured to make on this Clause, without in the least wishing to criticise the efficiency of British industry, and still less wishing to incorporate the Clause in the Bill, is that we have a certain fear lest the protection which is being given to all alike, good and bad, efficient and inefficient, active and inactive, hinders the efforts which are being made, and must be made, to bring about these reorganisations. A great many of these schemes are held up because individual firms are clinging on by their eyelids after they ought to have been shaken out, and if this Measure enables them to cling on for another six months or a year instead of coming into a scheme which they ought to join—indeed, which some of us think they ought to be compelled to join—it will do harm. That point seems to be far too serious to be met by the very amusing but quite superficial remarks we have had from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in the answer he gave to previous speeches.

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 46; Noes, 356.

Division No. 88.] AYES. [6.22 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Jenkins. Sir William
Attlee, Clement Richard Edwards, Charles John, William
Batey, Joseph Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)
Bernays, Robert George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Grundy, Thomas W. Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
Cape, Thomas Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Lawson, John James
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Leonard, William
Cripps, Sir Stafford Hicks, Ernest George Lunn, William
Daggar, George Hirst, George Henry Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Holdsworth, Herbert McEntee, Valentine L.
Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Salter, Dr. Alfred Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Mander, Geoffrey le M. Thorne, William James Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan) Tinker, John Joseph
Nathan, Major H. L. Wallhead, Richard C. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Owen, Major Goronwy Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David Mr. Groves and Mr. Duncan
Parkinson, John Allen Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah Graham.
Price, Gabriel Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Craven-Ellis, William Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Crooke, J. Smedley Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford).
Albery, Irving James Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.) Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Hepworth, Joseph
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Cross, R. H. Hillman, Dr. George B.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh) Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)
Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Davies, Edward C, (Montgomery) Hore-Belisha, Leslie
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Hornby, Frank
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Davison, Sir William Henry Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.
Apsley, Lord Dawson, sir Philip Horobin, Ian M.
Aske, Sir Robert William Denman, Hon. R. D. Horsbrugh, Florence
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Denville, Alfred Howard, Tom Forrest
Atkinson, Cyril Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Dickie, John P. Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Dixey, Arthur C. N. Hume, Sir George Hopwood
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Doran, Edward Hurd, Percy A.
Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar Drewe, Cedric Hurst, Sir Gerald B.
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Duckworth, George A. V. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Duggan, Hubert John Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.) Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) James, Wing-Corn. A. W. H.
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Dunglass, Lord Jesson, Major Thomas E.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Eales, John Frederick Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.) Eastwood, John Francis Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)
Blaker, sir Reginald Eden, Robert Anthony Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)
Blindell, James Edmondson, Major A. J. Ker, J. Campbell
Boothby, Robert John Graham Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Kimball, Lawrence
Bossom, A, C. Ellis, Robert Geoffrey Kirkpatrick, William M.
Boulton, W. W. Elmley, Viscount Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R..
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Knebworth, Viscount
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Knight, Holford
Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Knox, Sir Alfred
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Essenhigh, Reginald Clare Lambert, Rt. Hon. George
Broadbent, Colonel John Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Latham, Sir Herbert Paul
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Falle, Sir Bertram G. Law, Sir Alfred
Brown, Col. O. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Fermoy, Lord Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst Leech, Dr. J. W.
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berks.,Newb'y) Ford, Sir Patrick J. Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Browne, Captain A. C. Fraser, Captain Ian Levy, Thomas
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. Lewis, Oswald
Burghley, Lord Fuller, Captain A. G. Liddall, Walter S.
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Galbraith, James Francis Wallace Llewellin, Major John J.
Burnett, John George Ganzoni, Sir John Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)
Burton, Colonel Henry Walter Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Loder, Captain J. de Vere
Butt, Sir Alfred Gillett, Sir George Masterman Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander
Caine, G. R. Hall- Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Glossop, C. W. H. Lyons, Abraham Montagu
Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley) Giucksteln, Louis Halle Mabane, William
Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm Glyn, Major Ralph G. C. MacAndrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Golf, Sir Park MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Carver, Major William H. Goldie, Noel B. McCorquodale, M. S.
Castlereagh, Viscount Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Castle Stewart, Earl Gower, Sir Robert Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) McEwen, J. H. F.
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Graves, Marjorie McKie, John Hamilton
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton
Gazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John McLean, Major Alan
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.) Grimston, R. V. McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston) Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Magnay, Thomas
Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring) Gunston, Captain D. W. Maitland, Adam
Christie, James Archibald Guy, J. C. Morrison Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest
Clarry, Reginald George Hales, Harold K. Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
Clayton, Dr. George C. Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon) Marjoribanks, Edward
Colfox, Major William Philip Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Marsden, Commander Arthur
Colville, Major David John Hanbury, Cecil Martin, Thomas B.
Conant, R. J. E. Hanley, Dennis A. Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
Cook, Thomas A. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Cooper, A. Duff Harbord, Arthur Merriman, Sir F. Boyd
Copeland, Ida Hartland, George A. Millar, Sir James Duncan
Courtauld, Major John Sewell Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'gt'n) Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Milne, Charles
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Hasiam, Sir John (Bolton) Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-
Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip Stourton, Hon. John J.
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U. Strauss, Edward A.
Mitcheson, G. G. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Robinson, John Roland Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.) Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Morrison, William Shephard Ropner, Colonel L. Summersby, Charles H.
Muirhead, Major A. J. Rosbotham, S. T. Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n.S.)
Munro, Patrick Ross, Ronald D. Templeton, William P.
Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. K. Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Newton, Sir Douglas George C. Runge, Norah Cecil Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpsth) Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside) Thompson, Luke
Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld) Salmon, Major Isidore Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Normand, Wilfrid Guild Salt, Edward W. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
North, Captain Edward T. Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Nunn, William Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Touche, Gordon Cosmo
O'Connor, Terence James Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Savery, Samuel Servington Turton, Robert Hugh
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Scone, Lord Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Palmer, Francis Noel Selley, Harry R. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Patrick, Colin M. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Peake, Captain Osbert Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Pearson, William G. Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Peat, Charles U. Shepperson, Sir Ernest W. Ward. Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Penny, Sir George Simmonds, Oliver Edwin Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Perkins, Walter R. D. Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast) Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Peters, Dr. Sidney John Skelton, Archibald Noel Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston) Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Weymouth, Viscount
Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Procter, Major Henry Adam Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Pybus, Percy John Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine,C.) Williams, Herbert 6. (Croydon, S.)
Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Smith-Carington, Neville W. Wills, Wilfrid D.
Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Smithers, Waldron Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Somervell, Donald Bradley Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western isles) Somerville, Annesley A (Windsor) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Ramsbotham, Herwald Soper, Richard Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Ramsden, E. Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E. Wise, Alfred R.
Rankin, Robert Southby, Commander Archibald R. J. Womersley, Walter James
Ratcliffe, Arthur Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L. Wood. Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H. Worthington, Dr. John V.
Reid, David D. (County Down) Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Reid, James S. C. (Stirling) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Remer, John R. Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Rentoul, Sir Gervais S. Stones, James Captain Austin Hudson and Lord
Renwick, Major Gustav A. Storey, Samuel Erskine.