Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [14th November],
That the Reports of Investigations into Industrial Conditions in certain Depressed Areas, presented to this House on 6th November, be now considered."—[Mr. Chamberlain.]
§ Question again proposed.2248
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ Mr. NUNN
I wish to start the few remarks which I have to make by adding my thanks to those already given by various hon. Members to the commissioners for their work in reporting upon these areas. There are other hon. Members who want to speak about their own particular areas and, therefore, I shall confine my remarks entirely to the area in which I am most interested, namely, West Cumberland. To the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster I wish to give my most hearty thanks for a very full and extremely sympathetic and very valuable contribution. That he certainly was aided in making his report by the equally valuable report produced by two students of economics of the Manchester University is only too true, but the fact that he had that groundwork to go upon has cleared him from any possible charge of not having gone very fully into the questions affecting the area.
My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) who had the good fortune to get into the Debate yesterday was good enough to admit that the problems in my particular area were serious, and, therefore, I will not refer to the dreadful state of unemployment—dreadful in percentage rather than in numbers —but will ask hon. Members, if they feel any doubt about it, to refer to page 10 of the report where they will see the figures set out. For a long time in West Cumberland we have faced the position that our people either have to be found work or must be transferred to other areas, or be maintained as long as they live by the State or by the local authority. I am interested in this question of transference but I would draw the attention of the House to the very striking remarks made by the commissioner who examined the conditions of the area upon the question of transference. On pages 2249 5 and 6 the Chancellor of the Duchy draws attention to our very peculiar conditions. We are in West Cumberland a very isolated community. We are cut off geographically from the rest of the country and as my hon. Friend said we have rather a peculiar temperament, which may be due to the fact that we may claim descent from the Vikings who established themselves there and left their Herdwick sheep behind them, or perhaps it is because we have been rather inbred. That very isolation makes the question of transference much more difficult than perhaps it is in other areas. The commissioner said that transference presents immense difficulties.
Looked at from any point of view one hesitates to recommend transference except as a last resort. When one thinks of people being taken away from our glorious hills and valleys and put into crowded areas—I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), who originates from this area, will agree with me—where they are only going to add to the difficulties of housing and the big health problems in those crowded areas, one does hesitate to recommend transference. So far as the older people of my areas are concerned I think the question of transference would be extremely difficult. So far as the younger people are concerned it is not so difficult. My own personal experience is that I am constantly being approached by these young lads to get them opportunities for going away to work. I should not like anybody to think that, apart from natural unwillingness to leave their native hills and dales, there is any unwillingness on the part of any of my constituents or anyone in Cumberland, to work. My young people almost pester me with applications for work elsewhere, or for training which might lead to work elsewhere.
There is a minor point which I should like to make in the presence of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, and that is, in regard to young people who go to work outside the area. Situated as we are geographically, the nearest places where our young people can get work are, unfortunately, places which are associated in the mind of the Minister of Labour as places where seasonal work is obtainable. I will not press the matter but if the Ministry would give some little relaxation with regard 2250 to the interpretation of what is or what is not seasonable work we might perhaps be able to get more of our people taking an opportunity of getting work in places like Keswick, Blackpool, Southport, and other places which are in the immediate neighbourhood.
Before I come to the main subject with which I wish to deal I should like to say something about the question of training young people. A good deal was said about that last night. For my people nothing could be more important than that they should have opportunities of being trained. We have a people brought up practically to three occupations, two of them the main occupations of the bulk of my people—iron ore mining, coal mining and a simple form of agriculture. None of these occupations fit our young people by tradition for the ordinary occupations of industrial life elsewhere, and it is vitally essential that those young people should be adequately trained. We have encountered a practical difficulty in regard to the junior training centre in Whitehaven. I am justified in making this point because the commissioner who examined the area has also made it in his report, on page 46. The difficulty is that the authorities have long been prepared to open a junior male training centre if they could be assured of a mid-day meal being provided for the young lads. So far that provision has not been made and therefore they refuse to open the centre, quite rightly, I think, because they have had difficulties before. I will not labour the point except to remind the Parliamentary Secretary that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster drew attention to it in his report.
With regard to agricultural development, I have been interested for a long time in this question, so much so that last year a member of my family spent five or six months conducting a pretty intensive investigation in the county into the possibilities of forms of agricultural development and so forth. I have been so interested in the question that the commissioner's report upon the possibility of agricultural extension for the benefit of people who are not otherwise able to get work has impressed me very much, but I cannot help feeling that the development of smallholdings and small market gardens or anything of that nature cannot be successful unless we 2251 have in our area a general measure of rising prosperity. It is no good a man growing cabbages unless he can sell them. I put that very bluntly, and it is a plain fact. Our area is so isolated that it would be difficult to find opportunities for the sale of our produce outside our area. Therefore, unless the area can become prosperous with its ordinary industries or with imported industries it is not much good, except by way of keeping the men from degenerating, to go in for any large scale smallholdings, much as I should like to see it done. But I am not without hope that we may be able to get the smallholdings going because we shall have developed our main industries.
I come to the two main points of my speech. The first one is the question of coal. North of my area there is coal mining and iron ore mining. In regard to coal, we have, with the new colliery ownership which has been in possession for about a year, one of the finest mines in the Kingdom, with a practically inexhaustible supply of coal. Those who now own the property have spent an enormous sum of money during the last year on purely development purposes. They have a magnificent system of ventilation in a mine which was at one time notorious for its dangers and is associated in the minds of the mining public with some terrible disasters. They have now an almost perfect system of ventilation, and the last piece of work in that respect was done last month. Its roadways—the Parliamentary Secretary will bear me out in what I say, in as much as he visited the place a few months ago—are almost as perfect as they can be in any up-to-date mine. The owners of the mine are prepared to go in for a very extensive system of development of production, but they are being handicapped in maintaining a market which they know they have and which they could maintain if they got proper facilities. They are being handicapped by lack of a proper harbour. I am not going to say much on this point, because I am extremely grateful for the sympathetic way the Minister of Labour referred last night to the question of Whitehaven Harbour.
Although I am not naturally an optimist I am disposed in this respect to find a certain amount of hope spring- 2252 ing eternal, and I hope that the arguments which will be adduced at further inquiries will be such that we shall get the harbour which will enable the colliery to go ahead and give work to our unemployed coal miners in Whitehaven and to some of our unemployed outside Whitehaven. If it is really established it will finish as far as Whitehaven and the immediate district is concerned the question of unemployment. It would be a great achievement for the Government. This question of the harbour, however, does not only affect the colliery. We have good prospects of establishing a new industry in Whitehaven, but it depends on the question of harbour accommodation. If we can get harbour accommodation, I think we shall get the new industry as well, and one can see clearly a degenerating area, a distressed area, becoming a prosperous and happy district. Already hove is springing up in the breasts of Whitehaven people, and it would be a great calamity if those hopes were dashed. I received yesterday a resolution from a joint meeting of the town council and harbour authorities asking me to point out to the Government that they had invested in houses alone in Whitehaven £600,000, and in other town works about £1,000,000. What is required for the harbour is but a small amount with what has been already invested in the town. I am living in the hope of being able to express my gratitude to the Government. I do not ask the Parliamentary Secretary to commit himself, not that he would, in any case, to any statement as to whether or not the harbour is likely to be a possibility. I confine in the soundness of our scheme, and I hope that I shall be able to stand here and on behalf of the people of my area give my cordial thanks to the Government for having re-established us in Whitehaven.
Let me say a few words upon the position of the iron ore industry. West Cumberland is the main source of the production of hematite iron ore. There are three districts which produce this ore: Glamorgan, which produces a considerable amount, and the Forest of Dean, which produces a small amount. These three areas are the only ones in which you get high-class hematite iron ore. It may not be generally known that hematite iron ore is an essential raw material for the highest forms of iron 2253 and steel, so essential that in certain contracts for the Army and Navy, west coast steel is definitely specified. For many years the production of iron ore in our district has been going down. In 1929 it was 1,320,000 tons. It is now about half that amount whereas the present quantity used by the country as a whole is 11,000,000 tons. The possible production in West Cumberland is probably between 1,500,000 tons and 2,000,000 tons. Some two and a half years ago I laid before the Government, before every member of the Government, a plan for the rehabilitation of our iron ore industry, and a little later representatives of the industry came up to London where they were kindly received by the Secretary for Mines. From that time the Secretary for Mines has been working upon plans which may develop the iron ore industry, but we have not got far with the main plan.
So far we have been discussing the removal of certain difficulties which tend to enhance the price of home iron ore as against the price of foreign iron ore, and we have come rather to a deadlock. We have had to concentrate upon a reduction of railway freights. I should like the Government to give more active assistance in this matter. I have not discussed it with the Secretary for Mines and I do not know how he feels about it, but I do think that the Government should give this matter some active attention. Here we have an industry which is of vital importance in the event of war. If war should break out again, heaven forbid, we have no other source from which we can get this iron ore. It is an industry on which the worse hit areas in my district have lived, and it is an industry which concerns one of the vital sources of wealth of the country. The development of this industry would not cost the Government any money, it is merely a matter of policy, and it seems to me that before we begin to encourage other industries by the expenditure of State money we might give closer attention to the possibilities of developing our own national wealth. It is there. This particular area, Cleator Moor, which bulks largely in the employment figures, 2,210 unemployed, a percentage of 52, is sitting upon iron ore which is not worked. Beneath the town hall there are iron ore deposits which are known to be within a few feet of the surface. When these deposits were last 2254 worked the people living close by the town hall could hear the miners working in the mine.
There are reasons why this position exists. One reason is that we are not being encouraged as we should by the iron and steel industry. I must be perfectly plain whatever may happen. When there was a desire on the part of industries in this country to get a proper scientific protective tariff working I received great assistance from the iron and steel people. The iron and steel industry has got its protection and is doing well, but my miners have not really benefited. There has been a little benefit, but very little, in the last few months, but they still walk about the hillsides looking down on the port of Workington where they can see foreign vessels bringing in foreign iron ore. That is a state of affairs which requires the earnest attention of His Majesty's Government. Thankful as I am for other things and allowing, as I do, that the Secretary for Mines has been working hard on the question, I do wish the Government would direct their attention to the matter and in some way, either by the scheme which I had the honour of putting forward some two and a half years ago, or some other scheme, save the industry from going out of existence.
The Commissioner, the Chancellor of the Duchy, on page 16 of his report—this is the only criticism I have to make of him—says he considers that the industry is highly unlikely to afford more employment and that it may even give less. That, of course, is based very largely upon the opinion formed by those two expert economists from Manchester University. But over a year ago I had the temerity to call a county conference in Cumberland, which set up committees to inquire into certain industries and certain possibilities, and one committee was formed to consider the question of the iron ore position. The persons composing that committee were experts in iron ore. Their opinion is by no means an opinion to endorse that of the Manchester University survey, that the iron ore industry is dead. They considered that it is possible to rehabilitate it, and they make certain definite proposals. I do not propose to read the whole of them, but I think that certain points in the committee's report might be of interest. They point out that any increase in the output 2255 of the iron ore mines would help employment in other industries. That is obvious. It would help agriculture for instance. They say that there is no reason to suppose that there is not a possibility of getting the present mines working again or of making future developments if certain difficulties are removed. One of the difficulties they dealt with was the difficulty of royalties, which is referred to by the investigator in my area. I do not agree with the Chancellor of the Duchy in his remarks about the royalties. He says:The feeling that the royalties should be reduced or redeemed is general.I know that that is a general opinion, but the general public is not aware of what has been happening. It is now nearly two years since we got the royalty owners together in conference, and they, considering the position of the industry, made a unanimous decision of which my hon. Friend the Secretary for Mines is aware, that if they could get a guarantee that the production of the ore mines would be assisted and that the ore would be enabled to go out into other districts of the country, they would reduce their royalties. I am not entitled to state the figure to which they would reduce, but it was a very reasonable figure indeed. There is no difficulty likely to arise in my area about royalties. So I think we can dismiss that. The practical difficulty is the question of railway freights. If we can get the railways to meet us in some way in the local and national interest and reduce the freights so that our iron ore can compete on fair terms with the ore that is being brought into the East Coast of this country, I see no reason why we should not have that industry restarted and going very strongly in the area.
There are one or two other matters which might be taken into account, if the Government would consider them. They are referred to in this very useful report of the iron-ore people. One question is the question of pumping. Most of the mines as they have fallen into disuse have become sumps, from which the water percolates into the few mines that are working. Something in the nature of a central pumping station, if it could be considered, would relieve some mines at any rate of at least 2s. 6d. a ton in cost. I have one mine in my area, the manager of which assured me that it 2256 costs him 2s. 6d. a ton to pump the water out of the mine. If that cost alone could be redeemed it would at once bring our products on to something like competitive terms with the products in other parts of the country. Another suggestion is that a new and more equitable basis of taxation should be devised in regard to the depreciation and amortisation of mining plant and property. I recommend that to the Government for consideration. Another suggestion made by a very sound authority in mining is that the Government should set up at once a geophysical survey of the country. If we want to develop new areas of iron-ore we are up against the difficulty that the necessary surveys and proving have to be done at the cost either of the owner or lessee. In these days is it impossible for them to bear that cost. That is a piece of work which the Government might well take over. It is an obvious piece of work for a Government to do and it should be done. I make that suggestion in all seriousness.
§ Mr. NUNN
I am not sufficiently expert to know whether you can discover what deposits of iron-ore there are by going up in the air, though you might make a big enough hole in the ground if you happened to come down. A geophysical survey could be taken in hand by the Government. Last of all I wish the Government would consider seriously the proposal for establishing a quota in the iron-ore industry, not a quota of imports but a very different type of quota. A 20 per cent. quota of home-produced hematite ore compulsorily used in the manufacture of hematite iron would use all the ore which this country is capable of producing, and I would like to see users of British hematite iron compelled to use that quantity of British ore, which would put our iron-ore miners into work. The only objection to it is that at the present time, the freight rates being high, it makes it competitively impossible, because you get the foreign ore in cheaper. But the real difficulty behind it is the considerable amount of opposition from the steel industry. That industry owns certain mines. It knows that it has a certain requirement for hematite iron-ore. So long as it can corner its supply of that ore sufficiently to supply its own need, it is definitely not interested in 2257 assisting any of the iron-ore mines outside its ring to be developed. That is a plain fact which we know to be the truth.
It is up to the Government now to take in hand some of these questions, which have already been so long discussed in the Ministry of Mines. The matter has been going on now for two years. It is the duty of the Government to consult with the Minister for Mines and to see whether some quicker progress cannot be made to get this industry back into work. After all, if we get the coal mines working, as I hope we shall through a new harbour, and if we get the iron-ore mines working, there will not be a discontented or unemployed person in the whole of West Cumberland. It is a big thing to aim for but it is not impossible of achievement. While I thank the Government very heartily indeed for having established this commission, for having received the report so sympathetically, and in faith for having decided to consider the question of the Whitehaven Harbour, I hope they will not stop there, but will make an attempt to get that other portion of this distressed area going by direct and earnest attention to iron-ore.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
When it was decided to appoint these four commissioners to conduct investigations into the distressed areas some of us stated that all the facts were already known to the Government. But the appointments were being made chiefly upon the ground that new facts and materials would be collected as a result. As far back as 25th July the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour made this observation:It is not only a question of the commissioners going out and getting toots. Even if those facts could be collected by somebody else, the important thing is the possibility of seeing the facts through those new eyes and the obtaining of their personal reactions on what is really a problem of persons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1934, col 1835, Vol. 292.]Be that as it may, to me the greatest justification for the reports is that they have afforded another opportunity of discussing the positions in those areas. I am specially interested in this question because in my division most of the towns are situated in what are considered to be distressed areas. In fact one of the towns could legitimately be described as 2258 not only a depressed but as a derelict area. Sir Wyndham Portal investigated no fewer than 34 areas in South Wales and according to the statment in the report one of the towns in my division contains a percentage of no less than 71.7 of unemployment among men. In another town, Abertillery, the percentage of unemployment among men is 54.7 and in a third town, Crumlin, the percentage is 43.6. In the Blaina area the percentage of men who have had no regular work for five years and over is no less than 21.2. When reference was made in the House to the reports of the surveys of 1932 the Minister of Labour remarked that the facts and figures therein contained were two years old. That is true but the conditions in the depressed areas of South Wales since 1932 have become considerably worse. That is not my opinion only. It is the opinion expressed by no less an authority than Professor H. A. Marquand of University College, Cardiff, who was director of the Board of Trade Industrial Survey of South Wales in 1932. In a statement made to the only Welsh paper that we have in Wales he said:The publication of the reports of the four commissioners serves chiefly to draw attention to the tragic delay of the Government in dealing with the problem. We find that no new information has been discovered and that almost the whole of their recommendations have been made before. It is notable that Sir Wyndham estimates the surplus of labour to be at least 39,000. In 1931 we estimated the surplus for a much wider area than he has surveyed to be at least 40,000. This is proof that, as I stated in July of this year, the position is now considerably worse than in 1931.I would not be expected, even if time permitted, to deal with all the matters mentioned in the report, and I do not propose to make exhaustive references to the recommendations, but I wish to refer to a few of the suggested remedies. Before doing so I would direct attention to an observation to be found in Sir Wyndham Portal's report on page 170:I visited one of the school feeding centres at Abertillery and was much gratified with the appearance of the large number of children who were having dinner at the time of my visit. Two meals (dinner and tea) are supplied daily to children whose parents receive unemployment insurance, transitional payments, or Poor Law relief, and I am informed that the cost per meal works out at about 1¼d.The House, I am sure, will be surprised to hear that the Board of Education, pre- 2259 sided over by an important Member of this Government, proposes that these children should not continue to receive this 1¼d. meal per day unless a medical certificate is produced to show that they are suffering from malnutrition. To speak of bringing "a sense of dignity into the lives of the adults" in my division and to suggest at the same time that treatment of that kind should be meted out to the children of the unemployed is in my opinion nothing short of sheer political hypocrisy. Yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted, with the approval of every Member in this House, the following observation made by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty in his report:Prolonged unemployment is destroying the confidence and self-respect of a large part of the population, their fitness for work is being steadily lost and the anxiety of living always upon a bare minimum without any margin or resources or any hope of improvement is slowly sapping their nervous strength and their powers of resistance.I ask the Government whether the proposed action of the Board of Education is not designed to sap the nervous strength and powers of resistance of the unemployed man's child in order to save a few 1¼d. meals. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that it was impossible to read that observation to the House without one's emotions being stirred. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will receive the information which I am conveying to the House without some stirrings of emotion. Such an action, I submit, is on the lowest level of inhumanity.
Reference is made by Sir Wyndham Portal to the question of afforestation in the Welsh valleys. He expresses the opinion that afforestation would be unsuitable there because of the smoke fumes and the danger of fire. I submit that wherever schemes of afforestation are initiated there is always the danger of damage by fire. To suggest that it would be impossible to initiate schemes of afforestation in the Welsh valleys because of smoke fumes is absolutely irrelevant because most of the mines that are working to-day have been electrified within the last 10 years. In fact one of the criticisms that we have levelled against coalowners in South Wales is that while contending that the Navy should be confined to the consump- 2260 tion of coal in order to resuscitate, partially at any rate, the mining industry, they themselves, with the coalowners in Great Britain, have reduced the demand for coal by the electrification of their pits to the extent of no less than 9,000,000 tons per annum. To talk about the fumes being detrimental to the growth of trees is, in my opinion, absolutely absurd.
We agree, most of us on these Benches, with the observation of Sir Wyndham Portal that such a scheme would give employment to very few men. He states that 1,000 acres would simply employ 100 men for four months and 60 for a whole year, but I should support such a scheme on the ground that it would improve the intolerable conditions under which our unemployed live, especially those who will never have the opportunity, as the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour said, of being able to start a new life somewhere else. I think, as far as the interests of these people are concerned, that no one has put it more effectively or more truthfully than the Minister of Labour himself, when he said:But I am afraid there is still a class for whom we shall not he able to find work in the place where they live, and whose age and condition make it unfair to expect them to start a new life somewhere else. It is clear that we have first of all to ensure to them a tolerable physical life for the future, but I am not certain that, when we have done that, we have really done all that is expected of us, or that the mere possibility of physical existence for the rest of their lives is all that they are entitled to ask. We have to go beyond that and bring into their lives sonic sense of dignity and utility, some sense of feeling that they are of use to themselves and to the community."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1934; col. 1831, Vol. 292.]I favour such a proposal as afforestation, not because it would solve the unemployment problem, but for the reasons I have already given and because the South Wales report points out that of the number of wholly unemployed in the areas covered by the report, no fewer than 29,000 are over the age of 45 years, 13,000 of whom are over 55, few of whom will ever be absorbed in the basic industries of coal, iron, or steel. I shall support the proposal as an ameliorative measure which will tend to improve the area in which these people will be compelled to end their days on this earth. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the 2261 Exchequer said yesterday that he thought the question of rates did not affect the establishment of new industries in these depressed areas, and I am disposed to agree, but there is a phase of this problem of rates, concerning particularly the depressed areas, which was ignored by the right hon. Gentleman, but is referred to in the report of Sir Wyndham Portal, who says, on page 185 of the report:It will be well to wait until the effect of the new Unemployment Insurance Act (Part II) on this area is ascertained as regards the public assistance rate. If this makes no substantial reduction, the position should be reviewed. I think in these depressed areas they have a rest grievance, as it is not through their fault that the coal industry has become so depressed.The evidence for that statement is also to be found in the report, and we find that the indebtedness of these areas, in so far as the Goschen loans are concerned, means a charge that represents an annual rate of no less than 9¾d. in the administrative County of Monmouthshire, 5d. in Breconshire, 3½d. in Glamorganshire, and 9d. in Merthyr Tydvil. This charge, with the public assistance rate, is equal to a rate in Merthyr Tydvil of no less than 15s. 7¼d. in the pound, in Glamorganshire 8s. 5d., and 7s. 9d. in Monmouthshire—those rates, in comparison with rates in other counties and boroughs, of 1s. 10d. and even 6d. in the pound. These facts have always been known to the Government, and something should be done to remove this burden.
The hon. Gentleman who preceded me discounted the importance of royalties in the area which he represents, but royalties are of considerable importance in the South Wales coalfields. On innumerable occasions attention has been drawn to this industrial incubus, and it should be removed if the coal industry is to be resuscitated.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
I realise that, but I should be amazed to find that royalties do not handicap the development of the iron-ore to the same extent as they handicap and prevent the resuscitation of the mining industry of this country. For the last three years in Great Britain the royalty owners took from this depressed industry no less than £15,000,000. Last year they took £4,642,000, and in 2262 South Wales last year they took £1,095,800, which means that the average for Great Britain paid in royalties last year was no less than 5.5d. per ton, and in South Wales, where the industry, generally speaking, is more depressed than in any other part of Great Britain, the average payment for royalties was 8.8d. per ton. This difference means that in South Wales last year there was paid £400,000 more in royalties than would have been paid if the charge had been the same as in the other coalfields. The coalowners have always whined and squealed about the payment of rates, and they have fought through their representatives in the House in order to reduce the welfare levy from 1d. to ½d., but there is not an instance where the coalowners in South Wales have ever objected to the payment of 8.8d. per ton in royalties. I do not consider that the acceptance of any or all of the recommendations will seriously affect the situation in South Wales. I think that is admitted in the report itself. The greater part of the areas with which the report deals depends, in the opinion of Sir Wyndham Portal, "substantially on the export of steam coal." He says:Under the existing conditions it seems to be doubtful whether a substantial recovery in the near future can be anticipated.After making clear thatcoal has been the mainstay of the population and the depression in the coal trade the chief cause of the very large percentage in unemployment figures,he becomes more definite and makes this statement:One is bound to face up to the fact that there can be no real prospect of the coal production in South Wales ever being likely to return to anything like its former figure of production.It is patent to those familiar with the position of this industry that Sir Wyndham refers to the output of coal of 1913, which was the peak year. We have all known for years the observation made by him to be true, and we have made that statement many times from these benches in the Debates on mining. I repeat that there is no hope for South Wales without a revival of the coal industry. The extent of the decline of the industry is even now not fully appreciated. In 1913 we produced 57,000,000 tons of coal. Last year we produced 36,000,000, a difference of 21,000,000 tons. It may be said that 1913 was a peak 2263 year, and I willingly agree, but the output in 1929 was 48,000,000 tons, showing that last year there was a reduction of over 12,000,000 tons in five years. The shipments of coal, which include foreign, coastwise, bunkers, coke, and patent fuel in terms of coal, were 32,000,000 tons in 1929. Last year they were 21,500,000, a reduction in five years of 10,500,000 tons.
As a result not only of a reduction in output but of the improved methods of producing coal, the number of men employed has decreased from 160,972 in 1929 to 129,179 last year—a reduction in five years of no fewer than 31,793. We hear a lot of talk about the need for increasing the purchasing power of our people. The South Wales miners have experienced during the last few years the converse of that. There has been a considerable decrease in their earnings, with the result that there has been a decrease in their purchasing power, and the effect of that in turn has been to aggravate the problem of unemployment. The total wage in 1920 for miners was £65,500,000; last year it was £14,500,000. We hear a good deal about the trade agreements, but it is admitted by the supporters of the Government that South Wales has suffered considerably as a result of them. There is also a decrease in the amount of coal going to the Irish Free State, to which South Wales exported 554,000 tons in 1930, and a little over 233,000 tons last year, a reduction of over 321,000 tons.
Yesterday they were celebrating in Cardiff the opening of Barry Docks. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) was at that celebration, and he spoke, in view of the fact that he is interested in a particular company, of the importance of utilising coal for the extraction of oil. At that meeting a statement was made by Mr. Evans, who said that he had authority for stating that as a result of the trade agreements, and largely because of them, Germany and Poland were selling coal to Italy, and that this had robbed the South Wales district of no less than 3,000,000 tons output. All the talk about planning industry leaves most of us on these benches absolutely cold because a Government that cannot compel the investment of foreign capital in these depressed areas by the erection of factories are the last people to talk about the planning of industry. No complete remedy is suggested. 2264 We on these benches will support any satisfactory palliative or ameliorative measures to deal with these areas. We are convinced that £2,000,000 and two Commissioners, with all the imagination of which we heard yesterday, will be of little avail in dealing with the position in the depressed areas.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir GEORGE COURTHOPE
A number of references are made in the report of the investigators, and have also been made in speeches during the Debate, to afforestation by the Forestry Commission and to labour training camps on land which the Commission has secured for planting purposes. The Commissioners think it well that a brief statement should be made to the House of the contribution which we think we might make, if we are allowed to do so, to the solution of the problems which we are considering. There is a special reference in the report of Sir Wyndham Portal on South Wales. I say "special" in that he makes a definite recommendation that the Forestry Commission should be requested by the Government to draw up planting schemes for the South Wales area. I will say a word or two about that before coming on to the more general question. We have been endeavouring for years to carry out afforestation in South Wales, and, as my hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) knows well—and he is a most valuable colleague on the Forestry Commission—we have more than a dozen planting schemes already initiated in the counties of South Wales, and I wish we could have more.
There is a great deal of land which, in the opinion of our experts, is well suited to afforestation. There is no doubt that it would be of material value to that district, although I do not want that value to be exaggerated in terms of employment. I venture to hope that one of the principal obstacles that we have found to our progress in South Wales may be overcome by the assistance and good will of hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) who has just spoken. A great deal of the suitable land in South Wales is unenclosed land. Some of it, no doubt, is definitely common land over which people have legal rights. A great deal more is certainly not common land, and, although there has been an unrestricted habit of 2265 wandering over it, there are, so far as we can ascertain, no rights, but there has been in the past strong local opposition to any form of enclosure for purposes of planting. I am sure that without argument the House will take it from me that the establishment of young plantations without fencing is impossible. I hope a strong local public opinion will assist the Forestry Commission in the efforts that we continue to make to increase planting in South Wales.
To turn from that special problem to the consideration of what contribution we can make in general to the problems with which we are concerned, I want in the first place to make it clear that, although I believe our contribution may, if we are allowed to make it, become a very substantial and progressive one, we are not in a position by the nature of circumstances to make a sudden jump in contribution. It cannot be done, and anything above the normal programme on which we are working to-day will require considerable notice. If we were given all the money we could use we could make only a small increase next year and the year after in the planting programme to which we were reduced as the result of the May Committee's report, because not only has land to be found and acquired but seed has to be collected and nurseries prepared for the sowing of the seed and for the young plants, and it would be three or four years from now before any very large increase in the acreage that we could plant each year would be economically possible. I urge upon the House and the Government to bear this in mind, and I hope that in the future planting programme, which in my opinion and in the opinion of my colleagues should be a steadily growing one, until it reaches substantially greater figures than those to which we are confined to-day, we may be allowed to make a start as soon as possible in looking for more land and obtaining seed.
What labour can we absorb supposing we are allowed to expand? Once a plantation has been established—the planting and other early work occupies two or three years—it employs little labour for a few years. Then the employment gradually grows, up to the time when part of it has reached maturity, and then we find that the permanent employment it gives amounts to 25 men per 2266 1,000 acres—it is a little more than that in the Forest of Dean which is our maximum area. So by the time we have 1,000,000 acres of plantations—we hope to have a lot more if we carry out the full programme—all fully established, we may hope to employ not less than 25,000 men. But in the early days there is a strict limit to the number of people for whom work can be found.
I turn now to the Forest Workers' Holdings, a movement which makes another useful contribution but is, again, limited. At present we have established rather more than 1,200 holdings, and it is interesting evidence of their success that while none of the holders had any capital at all, and many were in debt, they now have, on those 1,200 holdings, more than £40,000 worth of livestock of their own. That is a very encouraging thing. If more money were available we could increase materially the number of holdings, but, of course, they must be restricted to the number of people to who we can offer employment. We guarantee to each of our forestry workers a minimum of 150 days' paid employment as well as the facilities of the holding.
Then we are offering facilities to the Minister of Labour, which he was good enough a few days ago to say had been very useful, and which he wanted to extend, for labour training camps. I understand that we are to be asked for further facilities. The additional facilities which we can offer under our present planting programme are much less than what, I understand, he seeks. He has not officially put a figure on his requirements, but figures have come to us, and on our present planting programme I do not think we can offer him much more than half of what he wants. If we are to offer more, and we should like to be in a position to do so, we must be put into a position to acquire more land for future planting, upon which useful work can be done by the occupants of the labour training camps. So far as the Forestry Commissioners are concerned the system of labour training camps is most satisfactory. We like them. They do work which we should not do and could not do with our present resources, but much of which we shall have to do in future for the final development of our plantations.
I would like to sum up, as I began, by saying that we believe we can make a 2267 useful contribution to this problem, but that our contribution cannot be really effective until a considerable lapse of time after we have been given the word "go," and if that contribution is to be of the maximum value it is of the greatest importance, both for its efficiency and its economy, that it should not fluctuate violently, as has the forestry programme in the past. We are just completing our fifteenth year as a Forestry Commission. Twice during that time our programme has been cut to ribbons as a result of the "Geddes axe," as it was called, and the May Committee. After the May Committee's report we had to cut 55 per cent. We do not complain, but it was bad business for the State. After utilising every plant we could—either ourselves or through public authorities who could take the plants without inflicting a heavy blow on the nursery trade—we had, as a result of that economy, to destroy just over 50,000,000 plants. If our programme had allowed us to carry them on they would have been very useful to-day, when we are considering this problem of depressed areas.
Therefore, I hope the Government and the House will give consideration very quickly to future afforestation policy, and lay down a scale to which our successors—because a new Forestry Commission will be appointed by the Crown at the end of this month—will be able to work without fear of sudden cuts and the consequent destruction of plants which, a short time afterwards, we would give our eyes to get. Subject to that consideration, and with due warning, I believe we can help this problem quite materially.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The Debate which opened yesterday, whatever its merits or defaults, at least has had the merit of arousing human interest and thought. No one can dismiss lightly any statement made by any Government which affects the lives and well-being of so many people. At the outset I wish to make a comment on the Motion on the Order Paper and our Amendment. I know that it is not proposed to call our Amendment, but I want to make this comment on the Government's method of proceeding with the business. We were told yesterday by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a Bill would be introduced 2268 embodying many of the details to which he referred in his statement, but to-day the House is asked, by the Motion on the Paper, to accept these reports. If we accept that Motion we, in effect, commit ourselves in advance to the Bill which is to come. The Minister of Labour shakes his head, but I hope to be able to prove it.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his statement yesterday said he proposed to appoint two commissioners, one for England and Wales and one for Scotland, and these commissioners were to be given certain powers. The Chancellor told us that for that purpose a Bill will be introduced asking for a certain sum of money. But in the meantime, he said, a great deal of preparatory work could go on. If we allow this Motion to pass to-day, then when we meet to discuss on Second Reading the Bill to be introduced next Session we shall find that preparations have been going on, and rightly so, from the Government's point of view. The acceptance of the reports to-day means in effect that we have approved the commissioners' reports and given the Government power to go on. The consequence is that when we meet again we shall have to discuss a Bill, it is true, but seeing that much preparatory work will have been accomplished, the House will be in the position of having to decide not whether it approves of certain principles, but whether certain work already accomplished should be set at nought and thrown aside. So I wish to say that the small group which I represent is going to challenge this Motion to-night. I am not sure of the attitude of other parties, but I gather from the Debate that all the other sections of the House, Labour, Liberal and Tory are united on one thing—that the reports should be accepted. They disagree about the principle but they are united in saying that the reports should be accepted.
We do not agree. We think that the acceptance of these reports is open to a. strong and true indictment. What are the reasons against their acceptance? I hope I shall be forgiven for making reference to what has happened in the past. I have been in the House for 12 years. I entered it comparatively young, and I have now had a fair experience. Let me try to recall, for the sake of making 2269 things clear, just what has been done in the past and how successive cures have been held up to us and how hopes have been held out to the people when no hope was ever justified. I go back to the time before I entered Parliament. In those days I read on railway stations, posters which bore pictures of John Clynes and Sir Alan Smith with this heading: "If you only produce more, your problems will be solved." Work hard and produce more—that was what was said then. If it were only given a trial, that was to be the one way out of our difficulties. And men worked hard; their output went up, and up and up, but all this only brought greater poverty to the common people.
Then we come to the Parliament of 1922, which I entered. We made a start with labour transference, and we were told that if we pushed ahead with that policy it might solve the problem. It was tried and failed. We also had the proposals for Empire settlement in 1922. "Emigrate our people," it was said, and it was held up to us that if only we could get the surplus population away to Canada and other Dominions, all would be well. That policy was tried and failed. Then we came to the 1924 Labour Government, and we were told that if we worked diligently in certain directions much could be done for the placing of people in employment. I remember the then Minister of Labour saying that the great thing was labour organisation by the Ministry of Labour—finding work and placing men. That failed. Then we went on to the Tory Government whose great cry was "Rates." If we could only level rates, they said, things would be well with industry. That Government brought in its de-rating proposals for the relief of industry, but still the figures of unemployment went up.
Then there succeeded another Labour Government with the desire and the will to solve this problem. With all the capacity that they possessed what did they do? They certainly took more ambitious steps than are proposed now. They did not appoint two outside commissioners, two unpaid men from outside their ranks, to deal with the problem. They decided to set aside for this work a Member of the Cabinet, one who was right in the inner circle, and one of their most skilled men. We sometimes 2270 sneer at the Dominions Secretary, but he had a reputation for capacity as a skilled negotiator. He had built up almost the strongest trade union in Great Britain and made it powerful. He had been chairman of the Trades Union Congress, and had held other official posts. It was said: "This is the man for us, a man with Cabinet rank and with no other job." Not only that, but he was given the assistance of one who was then looked upon as one of the brilliant men of the Labour party, Sir Oswald Mosley. Nor did it end there, for the Under-Secretary for Scotland of that time, Mr. Johnston, was also deputed to assist. He was looked upon as one of the most skilful politicians in the party and he was always advocating in his paper large schemes for the solution of unemployment, schemes such as the construction of canals and roads, coal carbonisation, and afforestation. And the steps taken did not end there. The Prime Minister appointed a brains' trust. This was the Economic Council, a group of people chosen by the Prime Minister to assist the responsible Ministers. There is one thing, too, that can be said for Viscount Snowden when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He may have grudged us money in some directions, but no money was grudged to that Department. At the end, disillusion. At the end, nothing. At the end, the hope that was held out become hope dismayed, and the poor poorer than before.
Then we came to this Government with the same Prime Minister. If we could only exercise economy; if we could only use our talents and not waste, we could solve the problem. We have saved and saved. It is true that the problem now is less than some time ago. For that, the Government claim credit, as any Government would do. It is no good people here asking whether it was this Government which accomplished that improvement. I do not know whether it was or was not; I only know that it is the same Prime Minister. I am simple. All that I know is that the Labour party, were they in power, would claim that they had done it; all parties would claim it. Giving the Government credit that they have done it, the figure remains colossal. It represents human tragedy.
They send out four Commissioners to England, Wales and Scotland. They 2271 send to the Tyne and to Cumberland. It was a contemptible thing to do. They are not the only places. Middlesbrough is outside the pale. Has any hon. Member ever walked through the streets of that town? It is as bad as mine. Middlesbrough has its poverty. Who has not walked through Wigan and has not come away with the feeling of the terrible tragedy in its life? Who has not gone through Burnley or to Dundee? Who has not stood, as I stood the other week, outside the Employment Exchange at Dundee and seen the poverty there? Go even to Aberdeen—a nice town. In Aberdeen they still have a little of what one might term respectability that we have not in Gorbals, but it is poverty with a collar and tie. Those places are told: "You are not playing the game. Your ball is outside the touch. You cannot come in; it is only the others. You are not in the match. The only people we can do anything for are Cumberland, and the others."
Then the four reports come. The tragedy of their reports is that in every line, sentence and comma, it has all been said in this House time after time. I have seen Tories, decent, kindly fellows whose human feelings made them say the same things. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland made his reputation here eight years ago on one of the things they shout about, and nobody paid attention to it—plots of land. He spoke about carbonisation. I have heard that ever since I entered the House. Everything has been said, but not by Sir Wyndham Portal or by anybody who was a sort of Douglas Fairbanks; they were said by the ordinary man—not by God-appointed people. They were ordinary folk, and nobody paid attention to them. You must send four men to find out what we already knew, and even that was not done too well. The Scottish Report—look at it; a barren, contemptible report, not even decently written. It is empty of thought. This is a man who has produced a report of which a schoolboy of 15 would almost be ashamed. This man is sent up to solve the problem of Alexandria, with its dyeworks adrift; to solve the problem of Gorbals with its intense poverty. Nobody knows him. Who in Scotland knows Sir Arthur Rose? It is a shame, a sham and an outrage. Send the Under-Secretary for Scotland if you 2272 like; he has ability, capacity and courage, but do not subject the folk to a man who has no place in the sun in this problem.
They are to get £2,000,000. On what have they to spend it? First let me take what they have not to spend it on. They have not to spend it on land drainage. Sewage is the job of the local authorities, land of the Ministry of Agriculture, roads of the Ministry of Transport, housing of the local authority and afforestation of the board represented by the hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Sir G. Courthope) who last addressed the House. They are to do nothing in those directions because all that is controlled by the Departments. What is left? They have to beautify the districts with the £2,000,000. A sum of £2,000,000 to beautify Glasgow, to beautify Wales, or the Clyde, or Cumberland. Why beautify the places? I know Newcastle, and hon. Members here know Newcastle. Nobody will tell me that anybody stops building a factory because parts of Newcastle are not beautiful. I was out at Gosforth the other day, a beautiful part and as fine a place as anybody wants to go to; it needs no money to beautify that, because its beauty is there.
It is not beauty that is wrong. There may be too much. Never were there finer banks in the world than those of the Clyde. Beautify slag heaps: do we never think that we should spend money, not in beautifying slag heaps, but in beautifying men, women and children? The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) spoke about the feeding of the children. I have felt worse than he about it. I admire the Chancellor of the Exchequer for his capacity and skill, and I often think that he has a fine human kindness that we often do not understand. What are the facts? We are out to beautify things and to improve the beauty of places in order to find work. How do you treat the human beings? The case of an unemployed man who was five years out of work was quoted in a speech; he needs our help and sympathy. How have they treated that man? To-day he cannot get his health insurance money. Let his wife have a bairn, and she cannot get maternity benefit. Let that man be out of work for three years, and he cannot get a doctor. Nay, if he does not sign at the bureau—if he goes out hopeless, and does not sign—he gets no pension, 2273 and next year, if he dies, and if there is no new law, there will be nothing for the widow and the children. You talk about beautifying the country, but the human beings are left to die. Is not that a terrible state of affairs? If I wanted to start a factory I would not look at the roads; I would look at the men and women. That is where you want to start.
The Minister of Labour, at the close of his speech last night, made an appeal. I do not want to score a point at all, but it seemed to me that he lost his nerve. He made an appeal to Members here not to go out into the country and slang these proposals. That was not the way the government spoke three years ago. Elections have come, and I think that next time, whether we like it or not, the next Government will be a Labour Government. No force can keep them back. An appeal has been made to us not to go out and slang these proposals. I make this offer. I will not slang. I will let the Minister try his petty commissioners; I will give them all the trial that he needs. I will give them, not four months, but years. I will let them make mistakes, because they are human. I will allow them everything. But I will ask him in the meantime, while he is planning, while he is thinking, while he is developing, while he is working out his scheme, at least to look after the sick and infirm, the young and the old, and the men and women who are unemployed. Surely, in this rich country, where wealth abounds, where there are unlimited quantities of goods to be disposed of, it is at least possible in the meantime, while these schemes are being worked out, that the poverty and degradation that we see and know can be swept aside, and that in the meantime no child should starve, no person should be underfed, but that this nation should give them the human material necessities for human happiness and human joy.
§ 9.49 p.m.
§ Mr. MAGNAY
I understand that the discussion to-night is upon the commissioners' reports and upon the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House yesterday, and I will confine my remarks to the commissioner's report with respect to the Tyneside area. First of all, I must congratulate the Civil Lord of the Admiralty on his report, and on his insight and foresight. I am not going to read, as many have done to-night, 2274 huge extracts from the report-, but would like to draw the attention of the Minister to one governing factor in the situation on Tyneside which the commissioner seems to me to have overlooked, and which has had a most vicious effect on the industries on Tyneside. I refer to the question of rationalisation. First of all, I should like to give Professor Gregory's definition of the term "rationalisation":It means the merging of small units into a. large combine, with the object of increasing profits, eliminating competition, and reducing manufacturing costs.In other words, the holy trinity who are in charge of industry to-day seem to me to be the financier, the chemist and the works accountant; and there is no sentiment about them at all as they function. Frequently they deal quite ruthlessly with industry, and on Tyneside the effects of rationalisation have, as I have indicated, been very bad indeed. I have some figures which have been most carefully prepared, and which I will give to the Minister to look over, respecting the chemical trade and the glass trade, but to-night I will refer only to the vicious effects of rationalisation on shipbuilding. Shipbuilders Securities, Limited, have bought out and closed down ten shipyards on Tyneside on the ground of redundancy. I am not going to say anything about that policy if it is fairly applied, nor am I going to say anything about what the company have done in respect of the neighbouring ports of Sunderland and Scotland. Others will speak on that subject. But, as I have said, they have bought out and closed down 10 shipyards on Tyneside, and I want to ask the Government why this action of Shipbuilders Securities, Limited, impinges so harshly upon Tyneside Why are the dice loaded in favour of the Clyde, and Barrow, and Sheffield? Is it because of the personnel of the steel ring? I am not going to mention names when the persons concerned are not here to defend themselves. At a dinner two or three weeks ago I did tackle Sir Charles Craven, but I did it deliberately, when he was there, and after warning him that I was going to make him "go through the hoop." I ask the Government, and I ask hon. Members, who know the facts as well as I do, and possibly better, whether the steel ring—Lord Aberconway, Mr. Lithgow and others—who are deliberately in 2275 favour of the Clyde, and who have John Brown of Sheffield closely akin to John Brown of Clydebank—
§ Mr. MARTIN
Will the hon. Member give the answer of Sir Charles Craven on the occasion to which he has referred?
§ Mr. MAGNAY
Sir Charles Craven was there himself, and does not need any assistance from my hon. Friend. He can take care of himself. I repeat my question: Is it because the personnel of the steel ring load the dice in favour of the Clyde? Statistics were given yesterday by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Newcastle (Sir R. Aske), and we know from the Board of Trade's statistics how the trend of shipbuilding has gone from the Tyne to the Clyde; and I want to know whether the personnel of the steel ring, and the presence there of people interested in other places, have had anything to do with it? At any rate, we feel on Tyneside that we ought to have something to do with it, and that we ought to ask these questions and, if possible, get the answers to them. In my opinion it is a grave question of public policy that is involved here, and we ought to have an independent industrial survey board or committee appointed by the Government to control the activity of these combines. It was bad enough in the days of Free Trade, but in these days of Protection it may become a great public menace or even a calamity. The hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Pearson) told us yesterday how viciously this impinged upon Jarrow. Municipalities are seriously affected by the depreciation of rateable values, and even the destruction of values and property. Shipyards are closed down for 40 years.
I want to make the House quite easy in their minds in case they think that National Securities, Limited, is doing this in the public interest that they will be quite financially sound in doing this. One per cent, in a normal year will mean £263,000, and the creation of a monopoly to shipbuilding may destroy our competitive power for foreign orders. I object with all the vehemence at my disposal to any combine deciding what is the national capacity for shipbuilding. We know that in 1920 and 1921 these experts—these cosmopolitan financiers—were grossly in error. They are the same 2276 breed that nearly ruined us in 1931. Finance knows no colour bar and has no conscience in many respects. They do not care at all about the Tyne. It does not concern them. The Tyne harbour might as well silt up and be as unsightly and useless as Jarrow Thake. I have figures from the Employment Exchange at Newcastle to show the difference that has been made by the alteration that has taken place in shipbuilding on Tyneside in the last few years. Insured persons in shipbuilding and ship repairing at the end of June last year were 24,940, in general engineering, 13,670, and in marine engineering, 9,100, a total of 47,770. The numbers of such trades unemployed at the end of September this year are respectively, 14,379, 4,503 and 3,587, a total of 22,469, or over 47 per cent. unemployed insured workers in these trades over 16 and under 64 years of age. That shows in the shipbuilding trade alone how difficult things have been made on Tyneside, not altogther but mainly by this policy of rationalisation, which is another way of spelling unemployment. At the same time I urge the appointment of a public safety board by the Government to be independent of all interested parties.
I congratulate the commissioner on his report, and I should like to express my thanks to the Government for their quick action. No one really expected that a long-range policy would be implemented at once. It was unthinkable. But we note the recommendations of the commissioners, and I shall expect them to be implemented in due course. I see it as a door of opportunity newly opened which no Government hereafter will be able to shut. The commissioners are the pivot on which the door swings. I wish the commissioner God speed and I promise him, as far as the Northern group of Members is concerned, the unstinted support of everyone of us. I trust he will make the fullest use of us as and when Ire chooses. If I might give any advice at all, I would say that he ought to be bold and be bold again. Already some well-informed critics have said to me that it is impossible for any commissioner, however able and energetic, to overcome the opposition of the various Government Departments. One said to me that the only man he ever knew in his long experience of the House who could overcome the Departments was the right hon. Gen- 2277 tleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), and he only did it because he threatened that if he did not get munitions as he wanted them he would explain things through the public Press. There is an alternative to that. The Government are on their trial and there is a general election not far away. I think that will be a spur, if nothing else will, to get a move on. I should like this commissioner for the North, at any rate, to make history by re-making the distressed areas. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says, "There is £2,000,000 to be getting on with. Show what you are worth, and there will be more where that came from." That is what his speech boiled down to. The co-operation of local authorities is assured and, being what he is, I expect the commissioner for the Northern area to bring forth concrete proposals, and I at any rate, hope that he will reinforce the spirit and morale of our people.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I should like to take the opportunity of correcting what seemed to me to be the implication of the very able speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). He seemed to imply that in discussing this Motion we were accepting the reports. In fact, all that the Motion says is that the reports should be considered.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It is a matter of opinion. My own view is that it is a Government Motion, and if you want to disclaim it entirely there is only way way to do it, and that is to vote against it.
§ Mr. LAWSON
All I can say is that we are not likely to vote for the acceptance of these reports, in view of some of the opinions and recommendations in the Durham report, despite the very able way in which it is written. The Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out yesterday that when these commissioners were appointed it was said on these benches that it was almost a waste of time. In truth, that view was not only held on these benches. The view that practically all the information that was necessary was now in the hands of the Government was held on the opposite side as well, and was widely held and expressed in the country. We knew when the commission was appointed that it would amount almost 2278 to a year before anything useful were done, yet we were so pleased that at last the Government were moving in the matter that we withheld criticism. We gave all the help we could as far as the inquiries in the various areas were concerned. Those who made the investigations will agree that it was due to that co-operation that they met with a warm spirit and considerable help in the form of suggestions.
In the light of that fact the reference of the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday to the absence of men of light and leading in those areas was rather ungracious. He seemed to fall into the trap into which the Civil Lord of the Admiralty fell when he was writing his report. Both the Civil Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer fell victims to statements which are usually made in areas wherever Labour has a majority. My Welsh friends know this story just as well as I know it in my own erea. There never were any men of light and leading in the industrial area of Durham in my time. What really took place was that those who in the main owned the collieries put their satellites upon the local councils in order to stop laws which were on the Statute Book from being operated for the purposes of housing. I raise this matter because I want the Government and the Commissioners to take it very seriously. If there is not a different attitude upon it, there will be no co-operation in the areas. They can make their way about as well as they can, but all the efforts of the Government will lead to disaster if we are to be faced by a sort of superiority complex.
The facts are these. When Labour came into power in all the councils in Durham—it is the same in other great industrial areas—there were thousands of houses in areas where there were swamps rather than streets, and privies which were a disgrace to civilisation. Only the other day I took two independent men who did not share my views to a street in one of our villages and tried to explain to them what the old privies had been like when people had to walk across the road, and when there were two or three families to one privy. I was trying to explain to them what had been done. In that village there is now a proper place for each family in the yard. There is water, and all the conveniences. Sud- 2279 denly we came across one of those old places at the end of the street, and they were amazed at the kind of place the people had had to use. We had the problem to meet. There was a bankrupt water supply in the county, and we had to meet these problems in order to give "hands and feet," so to speak, to the law. Therefore it does not lie in the mouth of those associated, even with the party that was responsible, to accuse us of failing to carry out laws for the administration of which the Government are responsible. It is very important that this matter should be understood. There is a well-known disease called inferiority complex, but it expresses itself sometimes in the form of superiority complex, and sometimes we call it snobbery. I am sure that many of those who have spoken in this way would not be guilty of snobbery. That is the last thing you would expect from them in this House, but the fact is there, and there have been evidences of it. I hope that those who have co-operated with the Government commissioners will be met in a proper spirit.
I wish I had time to put on record what the commissioners have said about the people in these areas. Many of their statements have been quoted, but it seems to be taken for granted that because statements are contained in a Blue Book most people are aware of them. It is a pity that they cannot be placed in the official record. There is a quotation of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about the people of Cumberland. It is true, and I say it with pride because I was born in that part of the world. I have always said that any education I received was almost worthless compared with the education that one received when living in the midst of the hills and beautiful natural surroundings. A tribute has been paid to the Welsh people, a very fine tribute. The commissioner spoke of how he was met by people of excellent intelligence. Tribute was paid to the Dunham people because of the remarkable patience and courage with which they are facing the present situation, and to the Scottish people for their tremendous resistance in tie face of a very difficult situation. These are the people to whom these reports refer. They are unemployed but they are people of the finest calibre.
2280 The reports do not give us anything new as far as information is concerned. They confirm evidence accumulated by the Transference Board as far back as 1927. There was a survey in 1932, and there have been articles in the Press and many speeches in this House. If there be any difference in these reports it is simply that the passage of time has enabled them to underline the progressive deterioration of the industrialists of those areas. That is all that has been done. For years in those areas hope has been held out that somewhere there was a silver lining and that trade would turn and change the face of things. At last we have had it laid down in unmistakable terms that, unless the situation be faced in a consultative frame of mind by the Government of the day, that deterioration will move irresistibly on its grim and gloomy way.
The evolution of this problem is remarkable. When the late Mr. Trevelyan Thomson used to speak from the bench below the Gangway it was called the necessitous areas problem, and afterwards it became the distressed areas problem. Now it is described as a depressed areas problem. It is clear that each one of these reports seeks to prove that these areas are not exactly derelict, but they admit that in every area there are places which are absolutely derelict. What do they prove? They make it quite clear that it is not a question of areas. There is nothing particular in the people themselves that make them responsible for this position. There is nothing in the social organisation that is responsible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer went so far as to say that it was not a question of rates. I think he tried to put the point that although people blamed the local authorities for the rates it was not the rates that were responsible. It is some-think that is typical of these areas that is responsible, and that is the industries, in the areas.
I cannot understand why the Government when they set up their commissioners omitted Lancashire. The cotton industry is in a very parlous condition. When the surveys were made they not only took in Lancashire but they made an express investigation into Liverpool, because of the state of shipping. Cotton, shipbuilding, coal, heavy engineering, iron and steel in most parts of the country are all depressed. There are 2281 certain bright exceptions, but these are the five industries that are concerned. Why the Government did not take in Lancashire and Liverpool for investigation by commissioners I cannot understand. Liverpool has the highest poor rate in the country. Liverpool has 1,059 per 10,000 of its population on public assistance and even Durham has only 735 per 10,000.
It is a question of these industries. It is clear from the reports that the industrial depression has not only gone on but it is going on now, and no man can tell when we shall see the end of the process. They talk about mechanisation, appliances and inventions of all kinds and that the causes are international, but if there is one thing in the reports that is clear it is that the process of deterioration has not finished and that the industries, stage by stage, have not only turned off great masses of people but that they will continue to do so in future years. I do not wish to blacken the picture too much, but the facts are on record, and I only wish there had been time to produce the very striking statements that the commissioners make on this part of the question.
In what frame of mind do the Government face a situation of that kind, after nine months of investigation? I had the temerity at the end of last year to say that if the Government did not take steps before the House rose at the end of last Session it would mean that we should not get any work done so far as assisting the people were concerned, until next spring. Many people thought that I was exaggerating the situation for party purposes, but the fact remains that there is very little prospect after this long period of investigation of getting anything done before the spring.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am going on to deal with whether or not there will be anything done. What do the Government propose to meet the problem? They propose to give us commissioners; that was the essence of the Chancellor's statement. I have never known an area so depressed as the House of Commons last night when the Chancellor had finished, and if the faces of hon. Members opposite had continued to lengthen as the right 2282 hon. Gentleman went on promising the good things I should not have been surprised if there had been an inquest on some hon. Members. I am wondering what has been the result of that speech on the mind of the average Member of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that the commissioners are to be men of light and leading. After reading his speech to-day the net result is that the commissioners are going to act as a sort of soft pillow between the areas and the Government. In the future, if the areas feel their burden so acutely they will send a request to the Government to receive a deputation and the Government will say "There is the commissioner." If they say we get nowhere with the commissioner, all that they can do is to make a public protest and there is an end of it The commissioners may be men of good will, I do not know, and I do not want to depreciate their value, but I have never heard of them in any public capacity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer makes it clear that the commissioners are to be under the control of the Treasury. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will take particular note of that fact. I have read the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech very carefully this morning and he said that due regard will be had to the Treasury as far as these gentlemen are concerned. I know that a certain formal sanction has to be given, but, he said:Accordingly, I am proposing to ask the House, if it shows it approval of our policy on the Second Reading of the Bill, to vote a sum of £2,000,000 to be paid out of the revenues of the current year into a Depressed Areas Fund, issues from which will he under the control of the Treasury."— [OFFICIA; REPORT, 14th November, 1934; col. 2000, Vol. 293.]Who are the Treasury? The Treasury is the same body which has been responsible for the stoppage of public works during the past three years; it is the same body which has been responsible for the dislocation of the great Land Utilisation Act, 1931, and it is the body which flouts at every possible stage every possible proposal for great public works. The only difference seems to me is that local authorities in these areas are going to have this kind of obstruction between themselves and the Government, without the direct contact which they sometimes have now by means of deputation. If this was all the Government were 2283 going to do, why did they not do it three years ago? A sum of £2,000,000 has been put at the disposal of these people. As a matter of fact I believe £900,000 was given by the late Labour Government towards the making of a big reservoir in the hills of County Durham. That was nearly half of the amount that the Chancellor is placing at the disposal of the commissioners, and the right hon. Gentleman says that there is a possibility of some return being made to the Treasury. At any rate he is making arrangements for that. So we have waited three years for this suggestion which the Government might well have made at the outset, for apparently it is to cost them nothing.
If you want to see the result of the work of the Treasury go to the areas that have just been investigated. One of the points in the report is that the people are not suffering physically. It is said that the commissioners have saved £300,000 on transitional payment and that the people are not suffering. I believe, Dr. Newman, the Medical Officer of the Ministry of Health, makes the same statement. In the light of my own experience I am amazed at any such statement being made. I could give this House instance after instance clearly showing that there is wholesale physical deterioration taking place. There was a time, even in the roughest days of mining, when many miners used to dress crudely, but even in those days there was pride of dress; the miners' dress was good. Even if the miner had only a tie round his neck it was smart. In my time I have never seen such deterioration of dress amongst a certain section of the community as I have seen in the last year or two. When people let their dress go it means that they have been tightening their belts and denying themselves.
When this House is not sitting I should like to give the Ministry's medical officer of health an invitation to stay at my home for a week. I am sure that in spite of his previous report he will admit from sight that there are obvious signs of physical deterioration and very great self-denial. All this report is going to do, with very little done, is to continue the kind of business that has been going on for the last three years without any hope. I believe that that was the feeling of the country when the Chancellor of 2284 the Exchequer's speech was read. I certainly think it was the feeling of the House yesterday. The right hon. Gentleman talked about doing something with land. No special powers are needed to deal with land. The Government have broken down the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act of 1931, which was designed to use land on a big scale and to help men financially. It would not have required any commissioners to do that.
Then there is the talk about transfer. The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary knows that I have never been an enemy of transfer but I think that that kind of thing can be carried too far. There is no hope of solving the problem by transfer. I should like to have time to deal particularly with the transfer of juveniles. I have not been opposed to it. As a matter of fact I have almost adopted quite a colony of boys, although sometimes I thought they had adopted me. When I was at the Ministry I found myself sometimes embarrassed to know whether I was giving orders to them or was being bossed by them. But there is one thing of which I would remind the House in reference to juvenile transfers. These boys go away from their homes at the age of 14. They are not going to school and they are, practically speaking, lost to their parents. They get home for a holiday once a year. Imagine that in the case of a boy of 14. To a working-class family which has had to struggle to bring up that boy, it is a lamentable position. I would like the Under-Secretary to make a statement as to the kind of trades to which these boys are being put and the work which they are called upon to do. As I say, I do not think there is any hope whatever of making a real contribution towards the solution of the problem in that way.
This problem is too big for the kind of pettifogging suggestions that have been made by the Government. If the Government do not deal with it now and if they remain in office for the normal period I venture to say that they will be compelled to deal with far deeper and bigger issues by the very nature of this problem. There is the question of the raising of the school age. It is not good enough that great masses of these children should be located in particular 2285 areas without any prospect of finding work there and with only the prospect of leaving their homes altogether. The school age question will have to be dealt with and so will the question of the utilisation of land and other and bigger questions. The Government have not faced these reports. They have retreated before the logic of the reports. That logic was that the Government should deal with deep and wide questions of policy in order to get at the root of what is responsible for the existence of the depressed areas. In the light of the facts, I say that the only result of the Chancellor's statement has been to show that he has had more regard for the City and gilt-edged stocks and for all the people who are interested in that kind of thing, than he has had for the men and women in those areas who have shown such bravery and patience, who have served the nation in time of peace as well as in time of war with courage, dignity and nobility and who in the light of these proposals are now apparently to be left to rot in these remote places. All I can say is that very soon there will be a calling to account in the country for the negligence which has been responsible for the increasing deterioration described in these reports. I do not think that it will be possible to have a vote to-night upon this matter, but we give the Government this guarantee—that we are going to resist at every stage, proposals of this kind as not being worth the paper on which they are written.
§ 10.35 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the MINISTRY of LABOUR (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
I find myself in some slight difficulty, because my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Labour covered the ground so fully yesterday that I have very little indeed left to do to-night. I would like to pick up one or two points that have been raised in the Debate, and then go on to deal, with one or two of the broader aspects of the question. May I start by saying that I think the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) misunderstood slightly what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had in mind when he was referring to the condition of things in the depressed areas. I happen to know that he by no means intended what the hon. Gentleman suggested, because when the Leader of the 2286 Opposition, I think it was, was speaking, the Chancellor of the Exchequer actually called my attention to the passage in the Durham and Tyneside Report which he had in mind, and which he paraphrased. This is what the Chancellor had in mind, and it occurs on page 75. The Civil Lord stated:This figure of 148,496 represents 10 per cent. of the total population, and this large proportion must have included the most able and active members of the community who could find no local employment.That is all the Chancellor had in mind when he made the statement to which the hon. Member took exception. I am sure of that, because he called my attention to it. He did not want to interrupt the Leader of the Opposition at the time, so lie asked me to make it clear when I spoke. Various hon. Members yesterday took exception to the proposals that were made by the Chancellor, and I think probably many people were under the impression that the appointment of two commissioners and the allocation of £2,000,000 sterling was the only think that the Government proposed to do, not merely for the depressed areas, but for the unemployed in the rest of the country. That is not the case. The appointment of the commissioners and the allocation of that preliminary sum of £2,000,000 is additional to all the other efforts that the Government have made, are making, and propose to continue to make by virtue of their present powers.
The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. S. Davies) and some others suggested that the existing policy of transference was not the right policy to pursue. My right hon. Friend the Minister said that we intended to intensify this policy, and he gave some very striking facts showing that there were still openings for persons from the depressed areas in other and more prosperous parts of the country. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil went on to suggest that this was not a right policy, because it was wrong to take people from towns where they had grown up and where they had established roots in the soil, and move them to other places, and that the proper policy was to bring industries to those towns. He painted a picture of Merthyr Tydfil, as he said, one of the oldest industrialised towns in Wales, grown up, with a tradition of its own, speaking an alien language, and anyone 2287 listening to him would have got the impression that the whole of the present population of Merthyr Tydfil were descended from the original Welsh stock and that it was wrong to move them.
But what are the facts? It so happens that a special inquiry was made into the population of Merthyr Tydfil only four years ago, and it was found that in 1851, when Merthyr was the largest industrialised town in South Wales, out of 35,000 adult inhabitants, only 9,000 had been born in Merthyr and over 21,000 had come in from outside Glamorgan itself. In the course of the decade from 1871 to 1881–20 years later—no less than 18,000 of the then population of Merthyr was lost by migration. As lately as 1901 to 1910 tens of thousands of English persons migrated to the county of Glamorgan. To such an extent was that the case that in the Census of 1910, of 1,100,000 inhabitants of Glamorgan, nearly 400,000 had been, born outside the county, considerably more than half of them in England.
§ Mr. STEPHEN DAVIES
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he knows the difference between Merthyr Tydfil and the county of Glamorgan? Evidently there is some confusion.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I am quoting the figures to show the whole of the South Wales area. I have the figures for Merthyr Tydfil here, and I shall be glad to show them to the hon. Member. I am trying to bring out that both in South Wales and Merthyr Tydfil the population has not since the earliest days of history been a native, indigenous one. There have been wide movements of migration into those areas, and there is no reason why there should not be a similar migration out.
§ Mr. HUDSON
And now it is to be a free movement out to work. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street said he was not opposed to juvenile transference, but many of his friends objected that there was in fact no appreciable demand for juvenile labour at the present time. Last September there were no fewer than 4,000 vacancies in London alone which could not be filled. I know of one Exchange in the South of England to-day 2288 where they have 300 vacancies which they cannot fill. I will show the extent of juvenile employment in the last 12 months. Hon. Members are aware of the large bulge in the school-leaving population. If employment among juveniles had remained the same during the whole of 1933–34 as it was for September, 1933, it is calculated that there would have been available for work and unemployed 330,000 juveniles now. Actually there are only 93,000, and that represents the improvement in 12 months. It is idle in face of figures like that to suggest that there is no opening for the transfer of juveniles. My right hon. Friend suggested last night some of the difficulties, and we propose to get over them, we hope, to some extent by the provision of hostels in large towns where there are definite openings to try to meet some of the difficulties which have faced this movement in the past.
There is one other point I might mention in passing, and that is the question of the employment of women. The Civil Lord suggested in his report that there was an excess number of women to-day in employment, and that if arrangements could be made to substitute males it would be an advantage. No doubt many hon. Members have received, as I did, a violent complaint from women's societies at the bare suggestion. I am happy to be able to relieve their minds, because we have no intention of doing anything that will upset the present arrangement, more especially as of recent months the number of men in employment has been catching up, and the disproportion which was noticeable some years ago is disappearing. In the distributive trades, which are usually quoted as the classic case, the proportion of insured males in employment to insured females is exactly the same this year as it was in 1923. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), suggested that the schemes outlined by my right hon. Friend were, in effect, nothing more than asking working people to bear the burden of work sharing. That is not quite true. The schemes that the party opposite wished us to adopt at Geneva would have meant asking working people to bear the whole burden of work sharing; but we think there is something to be done along the lines we have indicated.
2289 I have taken the trouble—it may be of some interest to hon. Members—to try to see what is the size of the problem with which we have to deal to-day. I would remind hon. Members, in passing, that at the end of September, but it was probably true also of the beginning of October, there were in employment in this country, actually at work, a number of persons, which was within 80,000 of the peak number of persons who have ever been at work in this country since the War. Nevertheless, the figure of registered unemployed is over 2,000,000. Let us pause for a moment to see how that figure is made up. It is made up, of course, in the first place, of a large number of persons temporarily stopped but still connected with their own firms, and a number of persons normally in casual employment. It is made up, further, of some hundreds of thousands of persons who, through no fault of their own very often, are below the normal level of employability, very often they are accident cases and have been receiving workmen's compensation—and are very unlikely, except in times of really booming trade, to get a job. There are also a considerable number of boys at the bottom end of the scale, a certain number of the older persons in the depressed areas and a certain number of married women nominally attached to industry but not really in search of permanent employment. If we omit all these groups we come, finally, to a figure of somewhere between 1,000,000 and 1,250,000 persons actively in search of work, in the prime of life, who may be called the first-line reserve of the industrial army.
Those are the people who are our main problem, and for whom we have to try to find some solution of it, but as expressed in those figures I think the problem is less forbidding and less hopeless. The question of whether it is possible by some means of work sharing or shortening of hours to get increased chances of employment for them is a very real one. We have several times made efforts at the Ministry to get the co-operation of the Confederation of Employers Federations and the Trade Union Congress to examine this question, but up to now the whole problem has been obscured by the fact that the International Labour Organisation at Geneva Were considering a convention for the 2290 limitation of the hours of work to 40 in the week, covering all industries. We as a Government have said more than once we do not believe such a thing is possible, and we have seen at the recent proceedings at Geneva that what the foreign worker, at all events, wants is mere work sharing, dividing out the existing work among more people, without any consideration of what the result on wages is going to be. What we think ought to be done in this country is to see, industry by industry, whether it is possible to shorten hours without reducing wages, and, if it is not possible to do it without reducing wages, to see what sacrifices the employers or the men respectively are prepared to make. Having done that we still have to see whether that reduction of hours will or will not have any appreciable effect on getting more employment for the men. My right hon. Friend has issued invitations to both the bodies I have mentioned to come to see him on this matter, and we have every hope that they will accept, and that the investigations will be carried out in a realistic spirit. We believe that is the most hopeful way of approaching the problem.
I started this analysis by pointing out that there were a certain number of people whom I excluded from the numbers with whom we have to deal. In particular, there are persons who are no longer able-bodied and there are the people over a certain age who are unlikely to obtain further employment. My right hon. Friend the Minister pointed out last night that he could not leave these people out of consideration. It is very largely because we realise that that we have set up these commissioners, who are to be given very full powers and a large sum of money with which to try experiments.
There are in this country a large number of people who have valuable ideas, but it is very difficult to put them into practice if you go through the elaborate procedure of Government Departments to make sure that every single thing you do will stand the criticism of the Public Accounts Committee of this House and questions across the Floor. We believe that it is possible to cut that procedure short and to go behind a great deal of that red tape. It is precisely to enable experiments on a very large scale of every sort and kind to be made in the depressed 2291 areas with a view to solving these very problems that we have set up these commissioners. The commissioners are not going to stop in any way any existing activity of the central government or the local government in those areas. [An HON. MEMBER.: "There are none."] Certainly there are. Transference is going on, training is going on, and the construction of roads and bridges is going on. There is all the time a whole host of Government activities taking place which are having a material effect, taking the country as a whole, on the trade situation.
I fully anticipated that some hon. Members from Scotland would have taken part in the Debate to-day. I know that the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) had intended to intervene and to point out that in his opinion—he told me this in the Lobby—coal was one of the key positions in these distressed areas. We can agree with that. But what is the position of coal in Scotland, as a result, very largely, of the Agreements with foreign countries which were so derided by some hon. Members yesterday? As a result of these Agreements, very largely, the export of coal from Scotland this year has been materially greater than it was last year. Some Members have said that it is no good having Agreements of this kind, and they have pointed to the loss of the Irish market. It is perfectly true that Lanarkshire has lost a certain amount of its export market for coal to Ireland, but the losses so suffered in the Irish market have now been more than made up by increased exports to Scandinavia, Finland and the Argentine which have followed upon those Agreements that we have made. The same thing is true of many other parts of the country. It is quite true that we are dependent, as hon. Members opposite have said, on the export trade. I would remind them that the Board of Trade figures published yesterday showed that the export trade of this country was greater last month than in any month since January, 1931. That is one of the reasons, the recovery in trade, which justifies us in hoping that our transference policy, among others, is one that will be of material assistance to the depressed areas.
The only other point I would like to emphasise is that the setting up of com- 2292 missioners is not going to interfere, we hope, with the various voluntary services that have been rendered in these distressed areas in the past. In particular, one or two wealthy counties under the leadership of the high sheriffs are, we understand, copying the example of Surrey and making an attempt to adopt or to help depressed areas or villages in other parts of the country. I hope that the setting up of the commissioners will not in any way interfere with those experiments.
My final point deals with the question of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, who asked why we had left out Lancashire, and with the remarks of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) who said that many other towns in England were equally depressed. If they will read the reports, they will find what was included in the terms of reference of the Civil Lord. They will realise why, when he got there, he decided to confine his activities and his investigations to Durham and Tyneside.
§ Mr. MACMILLAN
In his report the Civil Lord says that the reason why he omitted Teesside was the time factor, and not the condition of the area.
§ Mr. HUDSON
Precisely; the time factor enters. We want the commissioners to get on with the job of trying experiments within a reasonable area as quickly as they can, but we are not, as I have tried to point out, blind to the condition of the rest of the country. We fully appreciate its needs. Our general policy is directed towards improving the situation there, and we certainly hope that, as a result of the experiments that will be carried on with this money in the depressed areas, we shall learn valuable lessons which we shall be able, as soon as the results of the experiments are available, to adapt, extend and apply to any town or area with heavy unemployment.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. DENVILLE
When the Tyneside report appeared I was very dubious about the results, and, being questioned by several people in my constituency, I said I would not give my opinion until I had heard them debated. I have listened to the Debate since the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose until, with the exception of one short interval, the present moment. 2293 This is a most important report and will have a great bearing upon the prosperity of Tyneside and the depressed areas eventually, and, if sufficient trade is created in one portion of the country, surely it will beneficially affect other portions of the country. I welcome this report, but I am very sorry that there has been so much mud-slinging from one side of the House to the other in connection with it. One would have thought that it was something on which the entire House could join issue. I am satisfied with the provisions of the report. We can look upon it as an instalment, as an attempt to do something. Something attempted means that something might be done. It is far better to do something and make a mistake than to do nothing at all. Let us hope that the first instalment will be sufficient, and that there will be no necessity for a second report.
There seems to be a common complaint about the appointment of the two commissioners. They are appointed for the purpose of creating trade in the areas for which they are appointed. I hope their appointment will be justified. I go further; in every one of our large towns it is a practical policy for the councils to appoint a business man to take charge of their affairs. If we had such an arrangement in the city of Newcastle, I can see in my mind's eye one who understands the languages of foreign countries—an ambassador—going from the city of Newcastle to foreign countries and treating with them 2294 with the object of bringing new factories and new industries to Tyneside. Only yesterday the question was asked: "What is the use of building, say, a boot factory in Newcastle-on-Tyne with the object—"
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.