§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. A. EDWARDS
I beg to move,That, in the opinion of this House, it is essential that a complete survey of the nation's industries should be undertaken without delay, and power taken to plan the location of industry throughout the country, in order to secure maximum efficiency and economy, safeguard amenities, and protect the interests of the industrial communities.The Amendment which has been placed upon the Paper does not deal with the situation that now exists, because the Prime Minister recently informed us that repeated appeals to the industrialists of the country had met with no response. It is becoming essential that the Government should take definite action, and I am therefore proposing that the Government should appoint a commission with power to survey the industries of the whole country and, when necessary, to take action. After yesterday's Debate it has become more necessary than ever that the Government should take action, and very prompt action. The tendency to take industries to the London area is without justification. Not one valid reason has yet been advanced for the establishment of factories in the London area. Every time factories are introduced to this district, the dangers to the community from inefficiency of production, and the problems accruing to the Minister of Transport, are accentuated. They have become worse, and it is evident that the problems of the Minister of Transport will become impossible of solution, because he will be unable to cope with them.
I suggest, therefore, that it should be the duty of the proposed commission, if appointed, to declare certain areas of the country closed areas, and that no one should be allowed to establish a factory in any place in the country without a Government permit. That is vitally important for the district concerned and for the Government's Census of Production. I would suggest an area of 40 miles round London being closed, and that even if a permit were given, which would not be the case until it had been proved to the satisfaction of the commission to be absolutely essential, in the interests of the community that it should be there, I should insist that such factories be placed in satellite towns, such as Welwyn, and 2146 certainly not within an area of 20 miles of the centre of London. Unless this matter be dealt with earnestly, so many problems will accrue that we shall lose all our power of control.
In my own district there is a big steel combine which for many years considered it necessary to have a large organisation in London, but when the combine were on the verge of bankruptcy, a committee of inspection who were appointed soon discovered that it was easy to dispense with the organisation in London. Foolish as it may seem, it is true to say—and I say it without fear of contradiction—that factories and organisations have been built up in London for no other reason than the amenities of London life, and on no other principle than that some people like to be here. That is bad for the community.
It is becoming an absolute necessity to be able to disperse factories throughout the country. We are now talking of industries that can be turned immediately to the production of munitions, and that makes it essential that factories should be spread as far as possible, in the interests of safety as well as in the interests of the industrial centres. We are deliberately making targets that could not be missed by a potential enemy. Each year we are making it easier for any enemy to attack us. There is no economic reason to do that. The tendency should be stopped at once, but it will not be stopped unless power is given to some commission to take drastic action. The powers given to the Commissioners in the Special Areas are very limited, but we can learn from the experience of Mr. Malcolm Stewart the necessity for planning the location of industry. With the various development boards in the northeast, he has tried for a number of years to induce people to put their plants in that area. The Prime Minister told us recently that he had personally tried to persuade people to put their factories down there, and that they had not responded.
If it be necessary for the safety and the welfare of the community to have industries in those areas, and if the industrialists have not responded to the invitation to do so in the interests of the community, and if a commission such as I suggest were appointed, that commission should have power to establish industries 2147 year after year. In report after report we have been told that light industries are essential to the revival of trade in those areas, and if private enterprise will not respond in the national interest, it should be the duty of the commission to establish such enterprises. The interest of the people in those areas is greater than the interest of a comparatively few people who are looking only at their own personal profit. I do not want to treat this Debate, and I do not want it to be treated, as a Capitalism-versus-Socialism Debate; it is very much more important than that. There is much common ground.
Members on the other side of the House have talked and written about planning for some considerable time, but, if I might say so without being offensive, the difference between their planning and what I should conceive to be good planning is that their planning merely has the effect of guaranteeing profits to the manufacturers, without necessarily guaranteeing any better conditions for the working people. I think that that is a fair criticism of most of their planning that I have been able to investigate. There are some things which can be done, and can be done quickly. Perhaps the most important of all, in the interests of the community, was emphasised in yesterday's Debate. I am sure we shall all be very grateful indeed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) for his lucid exposition of the technical intricacies of horse-drawn vehicles. If in yesterday's Debate he could point out that the Government were putting the cart before the horse, the Debate of the last two days is insignificant compared with this Debate to-day.
We are going to build up—let us accept it, for the purposes of this Debate, as a necessity—a defence plan, which is going to depend finally for its success on supplies of oil, and those supplies of oil we have not got. In my district we have had the advantage of the great experiment of Imperial Chemical Industries at Billing-ham. The matter is out of the experimental stage now, and I submit to the House that the greatest thing, the easiest thing, and the thing that could be done promptly, is to set about furnishing the nation with its own supplies of oil. The 2148 Billingham plant for 18 months has been employing 9,000 men, and it is capable of producing something between 5 and 7 per cent. of our national requirements. That is a very small percentage, but, if it is out of its experimental stage, the Willingham plant could be duplicated at the very places in the distressed areas where the need is greatest. There may be some difficulties, which perhaps will be pointed out by other Members or by the Parliamentary Secretary if he replies; I am just as anxious to know what they are as anyone. If, however, the Billingham plant is out of the experimental stage, and if it can produce 5 per cent of our national requirements, 20 Billingham plants would make us safe in times of peace, and at any rate much safer than we should be at present in times of war. In view of the American Neutrality Act, we are not, apparently, going to be able to draw any extra supplies from that source, and it is not difficult to conceive of our other supplies being very readily cut off.
The Billingham plant, as I have said, has employed 9,000 men for 18 months, and it can employ 2,000 men permanently. It has been using 600,000 tons of coal a year. Twenty of these plants would be a regular customer of the coal industry with a guaranteed market of 12,000,000 tons of coal. I do not know the coal industry, but I should imagine that that would be a considerable help to it, and a considerable easement of the unemployment problem in the very districts where it is most needed. As regards the question of planning, I think it is true to say that the Billingham plant could be duplicated at a cost of £5,000,000—less than the cost of a battleship, and infinitely more important according to the experts. For a comparatively small expenditure, then, we could make ourselves safe as regards oil.
There have been certain attempts at planning, under the guidance of Mr. Stewart, on the North-East Coast. There is a proposal to put down an iron and steel plant at Jarrow which has caused a considerable amount of controversy, and, as it affects my constituency, I want to submit that, if carried out, it would be about the worst sort of planning that anyone could adopt. It is very good philanthropy, but very bad finance and very bad economics. To put down such 2149 a plant at Jarrow would cost about £4,000,000. What the capacity is is not important, but I do know that a plant of the same capacity on Tees-side, where we have other facilities, could be laid down for £1,500,000. The nation cannot afford to spend £4,000,000 where £1,500,000 will do the same job. At Billingham, Imperial Chemical Industries spent from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 on a plant which ordinarily, at that time, would have cost £7,000,000, for they were able to work it in with the rest of their plant and so cut down the expenditure that was necessary. If anyone were allowed to spend £4,000,000 on putting down at Jarrow a plant of the same capacity that could be pit down in Middlesbrough for £1,500,000, it would simply be putting 2,000 or 3,000 men in work at Jarrow and throwing a similar number out of work in Middlesbrough. That is not good planning; it is a perfect example of what the Government should not allow to occur. I hope, therefore, that some steps will be taken, either through Mr. Stewart or someone else, to prevent any such planning as that. If anyone has £4,000,000 to spend in the North-East Coast district, I shall be very glad to volunteer my services to show them how to spend it very much better and more effectively than by following the suggestion to put down a steel plant in competition with Middlesbrough.
I would like to put forward another point which will have to be considered if we are going to plan. There is no profession in the world that calls for such careful planning as that of the burglar, but we do not want planning which, as I said a minute ago, will benefit a few people and injure a great many others. In the steel industry of Middlesbrough our highest record year for production was 1929–30. Last year we have beaten all records for production and all records for profits, but we had 6,000 fewer men employed in Middlesbrough, in spite of all those records. I suggest to the House that if in your planning you do not consider the earning power of the working classes, you are going to accumulate a problem with which you will never be able to deal. I have had a little experience in a Committee upstairs presided over by the Noble Lord the Member for Central Bristol (Lord Apsley). It seems that the object of the planning under the Measure which that 2150 Committee is considering is to scrap redundant cotton spindles in order that the remaining spindles may be made busier, that the cost of production may be reduced, that sales may be increased, and that capital may thereby be induced to flow into the industry with which to buy more spindles. I suggest that in an enlightened community there must be a way in which those spindles could be kept in operation. I know lots of men who require shirts, and would be very glad to make use of them.
I believe it is possible to use a great deal of what is called redundant capacity. We had redundant capacity to a tremendous extent in the steel industry four years ago, and no one ever thought that it was going to be employed again, but to-day, I suppose, the steel industry is working almost to its full capacity, and, in view of the Debate of yesterday and the day before, we are going to require all the capacity of the steel industry and of many other industries. I believe that the idea of alternative industries is a very sound one indeed, but, if it is to be carried out fairly and squarely to everyone concerned, some measure of security must be given to the workers. I believe that there is a considerable amount of agreement on these matters.
Let me take a moment to criticise one proposal that is made in the report of the Commissioner, as to the establishment of trading estates. It may seem a good thing, but I do not feel that anyone who wishes to put down a factory is going to be kept out of a particular area because there are no factories similar to those suggested by the Commissioner. We have in our district innumerable factories and sites suitable for all kinds of industries, but we cannot attract people to them. If you are going to take one section of an area, supposing that you are successful and attract industries there, I suggest that you will compete with the rest of that area and that that will not operate to the general good. I do not think that the establishment of factories in one particular part is going to be a good thing in the end. If successful it will mean a transference of people from one section to another. When the works were put down at Corby it was estimated that a profit could be made on the £3,000,000, but there is no consideration taken for the amount of capital that was destroyed by closing down works. To 2151 all those millions involved in social services and the homes which were broken up no consideration is given, nor is consideration taken for the money to be invested in building them up again in another part of the country. If they had been taken into consideration perhaps the amount on which they would have had to get a return would have been £12,000,000 instead of £3,000,000.
I submit that the Amendment on the Paper does not seriously deal with what seems to me to be the vital problem of the day. If the Government were in earnest in what they said yesterday and the day before it is absolutely essential that they should take immediate action and do something for the Special Areas, that they should do something to insist on factories being started there, and above all should take up the great question of the production of oil. If there is any shortage of oil in this country it will be the responsibility of the Government of the day, because oil can be produced both economically and successfully.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. PARKER
I beg to second the Motion.
As a Member for a Greater London constituency I naturally look at this matter from rather a different angle to that of my hon. Friend. To begin with I should like to deal shortly with some of the problems connected with the location of industry so far as London is related to the rest of the country, and then to look at the problem from a Greater London point of view. I think it will be fairly generally agreed that we have already quite a sufficient percentage of our population in the South-Eastern part of this country. We have also to consider the fact that from 1940 onwards a decline of population will be setting in. This factor is generally overlooked in most of the town-planning schemes that have been drawn up to date which, for some reason, provide for enormous populations and an enormous industrial development which cannot posibly take place. Consequently, we have to consider the question of preventing a further drift to thickly populated areas, because even when the population begins to decline you may still have a drift taking place to the larger cities and the thickly populated areas.
2152 There seems to me to be little chance of rural development which will lead to a larger population engaged in agriculture, in spite of all the efforts of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot). It seems to me that, as in other industries so in agriculture, with rationalisation and mechanisation you will see a further decline in the number of people employed, and if we succeed in raising the wage levels in agriculture we may by that process even hasten the decline. Therefore, if we are going to prevent populations crowding into large, thickly populated areas, we shall have to deal with the rural problem from rather a different angle, and it seems to me that one should encourage the growth of small industrial towns that combine the amenities of town and countryside.
I would like now to go on to the question of replanning in the Greater London area and in the whole of South-Eastern England. Even given the assumption that we will not allow Greater London to increase further in population, inside that area there is going to be a considerable redistribution of population. We are going to have slum clearance pursued further in London, which will mean that populations will be shifted inside that area. What are we going to do when that redistribution of population takes place? How are we going to guide it? To begin with I would favour, as my hon. Friend did, the creation of satellite towns ringed round London as far as possible with industries attached to them, the industries being sufficient to supply work for the people living there. It is very important to recognise what has occurred in the last 10 years. I represent the greater part of the largest housing estate in the world, the London County Council estate at Becontree. Great mistakes have been made with regard to that particular estate. There are over 100,000 living on the estate, and when the estate was originally laid out no suggestions were made for putting factories there to employ the workers living on the estate. It is true that areas were left in which it was suggested that manufacturers might come and place their factories, but no steps were taken to persuade them to come or to insist that they should come there.
2153 You have adjoining that estate a very large amount of land lying along the Thames, marshy land set aside for industrial development, and you have also a considerable area along the North-Eastern Railway on the north. There have been some industrial developments. Fords have built a factory at Dagenham, and a number of other factories have come there, but nothing like sufficient to employ the population living there. You have a very big problem to face to-day owing to the fact that a large number of young married people went to live on that estate. At the time they went there they had young children of school age. You now have these children growing up and an enormous labour reserve is available there, young people just turning 20. A problem of juvenile labour on such a large scale merits attention. Some relation ought to exist between the authority responsible for housing programmes, the authority responsible for local government, the authority responsible for transport and the authorities responsible for industry. To-day there are no connecting agencies between these different authorities. It should be the Government's duty to coordinate activities and see that these different authorities are related one to another. Factories should be moved out from the crowded area of inner London and put near the different housing estates already developed around London. This suggestion is a secondary suggestion to that which I made earlier about satellite towns, but it is essential and necessary. The satellite towns would be separated from London by green belts. Unfortunately the new housing estates already developed have not got green belts separating them from London.
Let us take the question of London transport, which is very vital. Already it is impossible to provide adequate services for people living more than 10 or 11 miles from the middle of London. Shorter hours and higher wages have been won by fierce fighting on the part of trade unions in the past, but the advantage of these are taken from the workers and sacrificed on the altar of London transport. People spend their leisure going to and fro, and so spend the extra wages won in the past. I would like to read a letter I received from one of my constituents. He says: 2154I work at the Holborn Restaurant. So does my wife. My wages, when insurance is paid, are £1 14s. 8d., out of which I pay 7s. 6d. a week railway fares. My wife, who bas to work to help keep the place going, is not very strong, and three times a week has to be out just after half-past six in the morning and does not get home until a quarter to ten at night. She also pays 6s. a week for fares, and we have one daughter whose fare is 3s. 6d. a week and she is earning only 15s. So you can see we pay 17s. a week in fares out of our wages. We should very much like a place round Holborn, and have applied twice unsuccessfully for a transfer back to London.How can people like that really enjoy the fresh air and the gardens of Dagenham? The Holborn Restaurant cannot be moved to Dagenham, but it would be possible to move factories from the centre of London to such areas and so ensure a redistribution of population.
Then there is the question of local government anomalies. I do not want to raise the whole question of London government now, though I think that this very big problem should be seriously considered by the Government. It is essential to point out some of the anomalies of Greater London government that results from the fact that there is no planning or no control of the location of industry. Let us take again the Becontree Estate. The London County Council built the houses. They left the Essex County Council and the various local councils to find all the amenities and social services at very great cost. Take the town of Barking. Its capital commitments in 1931 were £1,500,000. In 1935 they were £2,300,000 and further heavy expenditure is absolutely essential if satisfactory services are to be provided. Something like another £1,000,000 almost certainly will have to be spent in the next five years. Until recently the town has been filling up with houses. Now there is no further space available for houses but there is one square mile by the riverside available for industrial development. There is no chance of getting an increased rateable value by building further houses, so the problem of the local authority is very acute indeed, unless they can get factory development and increase their rateable value in the area beside the river. I suggest that the Government ought to do something either to ease directly this wrong rateable position or else try to control the location of industry by seeing that 2155 factories are put there which will help to solve the problem. I would like to give the general case for controlling the location of industry. You have these depressed areas in the country, with houses, water supply, roads and so on all ready for use. Other places in undeveloped areas have not these services. It is a form of national waste when you allow the services already provided to go into ruin and you build up services elsewhere.
"Transference" is frequently a form of national waste. We should not transfer labour but transfer industry to labour as far as possible. Take the case of Richard Thomas and Company in South Wales. Had they moved to Scunthorpe a considerable amount of national waste would have been caused. South Wales would have lost employment and the services provided there would no longer have been of use, whilst Scunthorpe would have had to provide enormous new services for the people who would go there as a result of the transfer. The people of both areas would have suffered and the firm concerned would have had no responsibility for the suffering caused. They would have escaped all the responsibility. I believe, therefore, that if we are to have transference, and obviously in some cases transference is necessary, we should have some national body in existence which should weigh up the question and give a decision before allowing transference of that kind.
There is another important point, and it is a vital part of the whole problem, if you are to control the location of factories and to control the whole industrial and urban life of the country. The people who are engaged in manufacturing processes tend to become a smaller and smaller number of the whole employed population, while the number of those engaged in distribution and in providing services for the population is increasing. That part of the population engaged in manufacture, which is the really vital part of the population from the industrial point of view, is decreasing. Given the control, however, of that section of the population and where it is situated, you control the other section of the population also, for if you have a factory in a particular area you must provide also all the local government services. You must 2156 provide the means for teaching the children and must provide transport and so on. Therefore, the control of the location of factories is the essential factor in the whole of the problem. If the Government wish to secure efficiency and economy and if they really wish to safeguard the amenities of the countryside and look after the welfare of the workers of the country as a whole they will take action to plan the location of industry in the future.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:His Majesty's Government should endeavour to discourage the undue concentration of modern industries in. the southern counties and to encourage new industries where practicable to establish themselves in the older industrial centres.Hon. Members on this side of the House, or most of us, at any rate, find ourselves in substantial agreement with both the speeches that have been delivered, and particularly the speech of the hon. Member who moved the Motion. The reason that I move the Amendment is not that I differ fundamentally from either of the hon. Members, but because I regard with some alarm one phrase in the Motion, where they ask that power should be taken by the Government to plan the location of industries. I think that is, to say the least of it, premature. With our existing knowledge, and under existing conditions, I think it would be a very dangerous thing for the State to arm itself with authority to order industries to go into districts where they do not wish to go. In the long run, always assuming that we are operating a capitalist system, that would be detrimental to the industrial life of the country as a whole. I thought at one moment that the hon. Member who moved the Motion almost agreed with me when he referred to one scheme as good philanthropy but bad economics, and he turned it down on that account.
As a rule, I think that industrialists, so far as business is concerned, are not very good philanthropists. Although they may be philanthropists in their private lives, and that may be an admirable thing, they are not philanthropists in their business life, and it would be a great pity if they were. They can be 2157 depended upon to go to that part of the country where they think they will make the greatest success of their business. I would remind hon. Members opposite that at the present time, and under the present system, our industrial revival and the continuance of our industrial revival is dependent on the steady flow of investment into industry, under the combined stimulus of profits and confidence. Those are the two things which are essential if the large measure of industrial prosperity that we have managed to regain during recent years is to be maintained and improved upon. I do not see how we are going to increase confidence or profits by forcing modern developing industries to go into special areas and districts where they are not inclined to go. Moreover, I do not think that we shall encourage the investor to invest his money in those industries under those conditions. Under the present system no Government can possibly "plan" for the infinite varieties of future progress in industry and business, or estimate the future demands which will be made for certain products.
The real advantage of the capitalist system lies in a condition of continuous flux and change; in the shifting of the emphasis from one industry to another in order to meet the varying demands of the public; and I do not see how any Government can estimate for the future what those demands are going to be. Therefore, I say to hon. Members opposite that to give power to the Government to order industries about under existing conditions would be dangerous to industry. That is why I have moved the Amendment.
But there is an obvious need for vigorous action on the part of the Government to deal with the general situation that confronts us in the country today. What are the salient features of that situation so far as industry is concerned? First of all, we have a super-concentration of industry in and around London and the southern counties. The disadvantages of that concentration are so obvious that they need hardly be emphasised. From the strategical point of view alone it is desperately dangerous to concentrate nine-tenths of the wealth of this country within an area of 100 square miles in the extreme south. We are the most vulnerable nation in the world; and we must aim at the dispersal of industry in the North, from the social, 2158 economic and, not least, from the strategical point of view.
Then there is what the hon. Member opposite well described as the appalling waste of the existing facilities in this country for the conduct of industry. We have schools, houses, churches, parish halls, which are becoming derelict and wasting away, although they are soundly constructed, and only need a certain amount of repair. Yet those buildings are not being used; while on the other hand we are putting up new buildings in the south to meet the increasing demands caused by the younger industries which will continue to flock into the southern counties, and to cluster around London. That is obvious wastage. There is great wastage involved also in large-scale movements of the population from one part of the country to another. If we were a country of the size of Russia there might be some economic justification for the movement of population on a large scale; but we are a tiny country, and to say that transport facilities are too bad and that our distances are too great is fantastic. In the modern world a distance of 100 or 200 miles is, or should be, negligible; and the pushing of people about distances of 50 or 60 miles, taking them from their homes, is pure waste, and should be stopped as far as possible.
Lastly, there is the continuing social deterioration in the Special Areas, where the incidence of unemployment is high. It is extraordinarily bad for young people year after year to be out of a job and to see no prospect of ever getting a job or even any reason why they should have been born. You cannot estimate the psychological effect on young people brought up under these conditions. I think we are all agreed as to the harm that it does. The first step to be taken is not to start ordering industries about, but to do what was pointed out by the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department in his admirable report on the Distressed Areas of the North-East Coast, when he said:It is necessary to remove or minimise the causes which operate to exclude certain areas in this country from any industrial development.Before we start telling industries where to go, the Government would be well advised to concentrate on improving the special areas, because we all want them to become attractive to industry again. 2159 It is because some of us do not think that the Government have been active enough in this direction that we are inclined to complain, not that we want planning of industry—I am not what might be called a "planner"—but because the Government have been remiss in not taking sufficiently energetic steps to make these areas tolerable. There lies a ground of complaint, and that is one of the reasons why I have put down my Amendment.
What are the causes that make these districts so unattractive to industry? They were admirably summarised by the Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department in his report. Briefly, they may be described under three heads, according to the Minister, and I think he is right. First, there is undoubtedly the question of rates, to which the right hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) drew attention recently. I do not think the Government have paid adequate attention to that problem. Only one real attempt has been made since I have been a Member of this House to deal with this problem, and that was when my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) brought in his Derating Bill in 1929. Many hon. Members opposite do not like that Act; but it was a genuine attempt to grapple with the problem of rates, and it was founded on the very sound principle that you should not tax capital or the means of production, but only profits arising from the use of capital. That was an effort which did bring about certain improvement in these districts; and I think that more is needed in that direction. I know that this point does not concern the Board of Trade, but this Debate covers a wide field, and if I deal with any subjects which belong to other Departments I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will draw the attention of his colleagues to anything that is said, which he thinks may be of interest.
In regard to the question of rating I submit that there are too many local authorities in this country. There are too many little local authorities, which makes real planning in the sense of town or regional planning frightfully difficult. It also makes for a very bad system when you get local areas segregated into rich areas and poor areas. You get a small district administered by one local 2160 authority where all the people are pretty well-to-do, while next door you have another small district where everybody is absolutely down and out, with no money at all. There is no sense in the present local geographical arrangement of local government, and the question might well be surveyed by the Government. These local areas were defined long before the modern industrial system grew to its present extent, and they do not really meet the requirements of modern times.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I do not think that the amalgamation of these particular areas is necessary. But local authorities do not like each other very much. I think the only possible thing for the Government to do is to set up a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole question of the delimitation of areas for local government in this country. That is a thing that ought to be taken in hand.
Another point was raised by the Secretary to the Department for Overseas Trade when he said that there should be a subsidy from the Exchequer to reduce the cost of public assistance in the distressed areas upon the rates to the average level appertaining throughout the country. The Government have not acted on the suggestion; and until they do, it is idle to expect that industrialists will deliberately and voluntarily go to the special areas. I should like to direct the attention of hon. Members to that matter. There is finally the bad reputation of these areas which, I think, is largely due to the appearance of these depressed and derelict areas, which has been, in some cases, very much exaggerated in the Press. It is psychological to some extent. If you mention South Wales to an ordinary person who has never been there, he regards it as a kind of desert. There has been so much propaganda about these distressed areas, and the horrors of them have been described so vividly and graphically, that industralists when embarking upon a new industry, say, "We are not going there anyway." I think that this evil reputation is caused by the tales of these districts. I suggest to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that one of the first objects of the Government should be to clean up the older industrial 2161 areas, and make them more attractive for industry, and for the people who, unfortunately, have to live in them. How, under existing conditions, can anyone who has to live in these areas be proud of their district, or of their homes, or of their lives? It really is impossible. These districts, in their present condition, are a direct encouragement to dirt, untidiness, and lack of sociability, and lead their inhabitants to despair and deterioration in every way.
I was taken to task the other day for describing the central industrial belt of my own country of Scotland as looking like Abyssinia after an air raid. I do not take back one word. That is a true and fair description of large parts of the country between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and particularly of parts of Renfrewshire and of Lanarkshire. The area is just a desert, and a very squalid, dirty, filthy desert at that. It is horrible. And the attention of the Government should really be most forcibly directed to that state of affairs. This is, at the moment, infinitely more important than planning. You cannot get industries to go to these slag heaps and mud pits, with dirty, drab, dreary little houses, inhabited by miserable people without any hope for the future, with enormously high rates pressing upon them. The ironical part of all this is when you compare these conditions with those in our Dominions and Colonies and many other places, like South America. British capital has helped to develop and lay out marvellous cities all over the world; and it is a pity, when you come to the centre of it all—the source of the whole strength and wealth of the British Empire—that we find we have capital enough to spare for almost every other place in the world but home; and the second city in the Empire classed as a "depressed area." It is a disgrace. It reflects badly not only upon the Government, but upon the whole community, upon local authorities, upon industry, and upon everybody.
There is a sort of latent passion in the people of this country to develop every other country to the maximum extent possible—not only in search of profit, but out of love for the development of everything overseas—and to ignore their own front door. That is one of the tendencies that ought to be checked. How? I understand that the Government are con- 2162 sidering the setting up of trading estates in various of the Special Areas. One of the first tasks which should be given to these trading estates should be the cleaning up of the Special Areas, and making them not only habitable, but attractive, and if they did that immediately, it would be the greatest step they could take to attract industries to go into them.
The second point I should like to raise in this connection is the question of economic development. I do not mean great schemes of public works to provide employment, but long-term capital improvement; to improve the capital equipment of this country, which really increases our fundamental wealth. We have neglected this since the War. I mention roads anti docks. I think that we should have done more in this connection, as both roads and docks are inadequate in this country. I hope that hon. Members will forgive me if I go back to my native country, but I know a little more about it than I do of some other parts of Great Britain. I am sure that the same arguments apply to other parts. In Scotland it is a scandal that there is no adequate system of road transport on the main trunk route up and down the east coast. There is no road bridge across the Firth of Forth, and no road bridge across the Firth of Tay. Under any system working properly these bridges would have been built 10 years ago. The authorities are still haggling whether they shall build a road bridge to carry the whole main stream of traffic by road up and down from the main centres of industrial Scotland along the north east coast.
It is unfortunate that, apparently, the sole arbiter on this question is the Minister of Transport. I yield to no one in my admiration of the Minister of Transport for the energy, enthusiasm and courage with which he has grappled with his various problems. But I do not think that the Minister of Transport ought to be the sole judge of whether Scotland is properly equipped with road transport. The attention of the Government as a whole ought to be given to what used to be a problem, and has now become a scandal. In this connection I would direct the attention of my lion. Friend to the necessity, twice pointed out by the Commissioner for the special 2163 area in Scotland, and to which I believe my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has now given his attention, for the institution of a central development council for Scotland. The council should consist of the leading industrialists in Scotland, representatives of the trade unions, and leaders of local government, with a representative of the Government to act as liaison officer between the Government and the council, to co-ordinate activity, and direct economic development. The influence of such a body on the location of industry would, in my opinion, be enormous, and, I think, decisive in the long run. I believe that the institution of such a body would do away with the necessity for Government planning of the type envisaged by the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion.
The subject of housing is also tremendously important. The houses in the Special Areas are now so grim and so forbidding that the very sight of them would frighten anybody away who contemplated setting down an industry and asking his workers to reside there. The Government ought to direct special attention to this aspect of the problem of the Special Areas and the location of industry. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) who seconded the Motion dealt with this, and I agree with every word he said. I am sure that he and hon. Members generally would be interested to read the most interesting report of a deputation sent by the Secretary of State for Scotland to study Continental methods of housing. They issued a report, which is not as widely known as it should be, upon the present methods of housing on the Continent of Europe. It received the warm approval of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but it wants more than words from the Secretary of State to carry the recommendations of this report into practice. It wants vigorous action. We are faced now with the necessity for rebuilding considerable portions in the built-up areas of our towns where for economic reasons it is impossible to erect single family dwellings. Therefore, some more concentrated form of development on modern lines, with communal amenities, in other words, flats, is necessary. Mass building for the workers has become a real necessity, 2164 certainly in Scotland, and, I expect, in many other industrial districts in this country. The report which I have mentioned says:The housing schemes on the Continent is given into the hands of a competent (and often a brilliant) architect, who proceeds to fit the details into a general architectural conception. In Scotland house design is too often hack work.I beg of the hon. Gentleman to ask the Minister of Health, and also the Secretary of State for Scotland to devote great attention to this problem of housing construction. In Amsterdam, the report says, that there is a committee representative of the municipality, the Public Works Department. the architects, and the builders, to whom plans for all new buildings are submitted for approval. Their powers are delegated by the municipality, but they are founded upon powers to control design and amenities which are statutorily available to the municipality. No such powers exist in this country. Such powers should exist. The municipalities should be given power by the Government to exercise some general control and supervision over new housing construction. The housing construction which has gone on in this country during the last 10 years is a nightmare of ugliness, and is completely haphazard and unco-ordinated.
§ Mr. MAXTON
The remarks of the hon. Gentleman apply as much to the small individual houses as to flats. The architectural problem is the same. The hon. Member has approved the flat system as against individual houses. What are his reasons for supporting the system of tenements, now that we are getting away from it?
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
The real answer is that I have always known in my heart of hearts that the hon. Gentleman is fundamentally an individualist and I am fundamentally a communist. I really do believe in a communal social life for the workers of this country; in common kitchens, laundries, electric light, hot water, babies' crÊches, chemists shops, and in general co-operation and coordination.
§ Mr. MAXTON
We cannot go the length of having a common institution in Glasgow in our tenements, of one lavatory for 10 tenements. That would be carrying his communism to extremes.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
They may do that in Russia, but they are not doing it here. I am proposing the most up-to-date and modern workers' tenements such as exist, and such as I have personally seen on the Continent of Europe. That is an admirable system. I do not say, do away with single houses altogether, but to do so in built-up areas where you cannot extend into the countryside and have not unlimited sites.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
It certainly is not the case so far as central industrial Scotland is concerned. If you shifted all houses outside you would have an enormous additional cost of transport to the workers in getting to their work. If the hon. Member had seen, as I have seen, some of these Continental schemes—
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
So have I. I merely say that if you are to build these schemes, and you will have to build some of these schemes, there is no reason at all for the frontage of the tenement building to be in strict alignment with the frontage of the traffic street. That has been the main cause of the wretchedness of all our tenement buildings. If you built flats, and made the frontages attractive, it would make all the difference.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I hate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he is so confident as to how to deal with the inhabitants. I want to put to him one problem. I do not know whether it is one which he has to face in his own domestic circle. Has he ever faced the necessity of airing a baby? In the newspapers to-day he will see a picture of a celebrated American citizen who has had to bring his baby in the pram down 36 flights because there is a strike among the liftmen. Does he realise that one part of tenement life is the problem of rearing babies in a healthy way?
Has the hon. Member seen some of the modern flats with balconies, and is he honestly against that type?
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I am bound to give way to my Noble Friend when it comes to a question of rearing babies. I would point out to the hon. Member opposite that I do not propose skyscrapers. The maximum height need only be two storeys. In any event there are facilities in the way of balconies, and of communal playgrounds for children in tenements abroad incomparably superior to anything we possess in this country.
I come to a final point, perhaps the most important of all. The Motion talks about the Government planning private industry. There is immediate and effective action that the Government might take at once and that is in the sphere of defence. This is the most important of all. It has been shown in the last two days that there is a shortage of factories capable of making munitions, and a serious shortage of skilled and semiskilled labour. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) pointed out—and Members on all sides agreed—the necessity for the provision of alternative manufacture, so that we should be able, if necessity arose, to swing over our industrial production from the products of peace to the products of war. He pointed out the necessity for the widely distributed manufacture of components, and the provision of assembly plants. That is where the Government can effectively intervene at once so far as the Special Areas are concerned. Whether hon. Members opposite think it is desirable to proceed with a large rearmament programme is irrelevant, because we are going to proceed with it; and therefore it is essential that the Government should place some, at any rate, of these orders and some of these factories in the special and depressed areas. And in doing so they should seek the assistance of the trade unions.
There is, of course, a point, which I have no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will raise, and that is the revival of international trade, if it can possibly be achieved. That would do more good in the long run to the Special Areas and industrial districts of the North than anything else. It may seem a mad moment even to mention the 2167 subject of international trade. Nevertheless I am not at all sure that we may not be on the verge of being able to pull off something pretty big in international politics. I have a sort of feeling that in the next few weeks, perhaps days, the future fate of the League of Nations will be decided one way or the other; and if it is decided for the good I would beg my hon. Friend to consider how valuable the services of the League of Nations have been in the past in the economic field, and how overlooked and ignored they have been. If more attention had been paid to the activities of the League on the economic side and less to their activities in the political field, it would be a far stronger body than it is to-day. Think what the Committee on Nutrition is doing at present, and how much agreement it has achieved.
The same applies to other economic committees. A great measure of international agreement has been reached, always subsequently stultified and brought to nought by purely political antagonisms. There are certain problems to be faced in the economic field which can only be solved by international action and agreement. The problems of embargoes and currency stabilisation; of the redaction of tariffs; of migration; of raw materials, which may involve the open-door in the colonies of all nations—all these problems demand an international solution, and cannot be solved in any other way. Until we get such solutions, all our other problems will remain.
The surest way of getting a real revival of the League of Nations is to make it concentrate on economic problems, which are the chief cause of poverty and the chief cause of the war threat. If there is any hope, if there is going to be any solution of the negotiations going on in London this week, then to my mind is the first field to which the attention of the League of Nations should be directed is the economic field.
This Debate has covered an immense ground. And I cannot see how the Government can carry through an effective economic policy without a far better administrative organisation than they have at present. The Seconder of the Motion referred to that aspect of the question, and I entirely agree with him. We do not complain of 2168 the intentions of the Government. We believe them to be admirable and excellent in every way. What we do complain of is lack of central direction; and I must also say of lack of imagination and vision in the past. The problem of government on the economic side is identical with the problem of government in the field of defence. There is a lack of co-ordination. You have Ministries such as the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Labour, all working in separate water-tight compartments, very well administered in their own field, but no co-ordination. No central direction, and therefore no theme. They talk of setting up a Munitions Council. I hope such a council will be set up—it was suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping—but it will be of no more use than any other council or department unless you have a Minister to co-ordinate all the departments concerned with supplies, who can survey the whole field, including the supply of food; and who can pursue a well-considered long-term policy designed to make the country a well-balanced economic unit, and make it efficient not only for war and for the products of war, but for peace and the products of peace.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. DUGGAN
I beg to second the Amendment.
The hon. Member who moved the Motion suggested that possibly the Debate was as important as that which took place yesterday. Whether that is true or not, there is a far more substantial measure of agreement in all parts of the House on the broad lines of the question that we are discussing, and on the necessity of some action to prevent the continued drift of industry to the South. The only part of the Motion to which we object is the suggestion that industry should be placed under the complete control of the Government with regard to locality, which it says will secure the maximum efficiency and economy of industry. I have no reason to believe that that would in fact be the case. As a matter of fact, I cannot help feeling that throughout the last four or five extremely difficult years of the world depression the tendency has been in many cases to attempt to regulate industry to too great 2169 an extent. After all, industry, generally speaking, has fulfilled admirably the functions expected of it. It is currency, banking, and generally the system of the exchanges and the consuming power of the world that have broken down and not the actual effectiveness of industry itself.
If we are to assume that the function of industry in the world is to produce a steady flow of cheap goods, to pay adequate wages and to see that the general conditions under which the wages are being earned are on the whole improved, taking a long view of the last 20 years or so certainly industry has succeeded in fulfilling that function. What has broken down has been the financial system of banking, the troubles that have arisen from currency and all those matters, which have only ended in choking the industries of the world in a perpetually rising flood of cheaper and cheaper goods. I cannot help thinking that, instead of placing added restrictions and perhaps placing difficulties in the way of industry, we should turn our attention to trying to cure the other evils of which I have spoken.
There is one other aspect of the situation that might possibly be dwelt upon, and that is that the drift of these industries south is not always an unmixed blessing to the localities to which they drift. I represent one of the areas to which that drift has taken place. Proud as we are of being one of the most highly industrialised areas in the country now that there is a very wide range of products being manufactured, we are approaching a point in which the advent of new factories to our area is not quite so welcome as it was. I should like to say a word about what is causing that situation, and that is the working of de-rating as it is actually affecting new industries and areas in which new industries are being built to-day. The hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) pointed out that he had a very large housing area and that new estates had grown up in the last few years, and suggested that it would be a benefit to that area and to the industries themselves if more industries were built within it. But he might find that, as those industries were built more and more and they had the advantages of the De-rating Act, the people in the housing area would perhaps 2170 resent the fact that they would have put upon them more and more the burden of replacing the deficiency caused by the de-rating of the factories that had been built within the area.
I should like to suggest that a more effective way of dealing with this general drift would be to have an inquiry into the working of the De-rating Act, bearing in mind that you might not necessarily have to apply exactly the same provisions of the Act to all parts of the country at the same time.
In intention and in effect the Act, I believe, has been successful in northern areas in keeping industries going, upon which large numbers of people in the localities are dependent. I think it should continue, but the Government might seriously consider whether the Act should not be withdrawn when dealing with new factories to be set up in the future in the wide areas in the south. It would be a deterrent to those people who may want to move their factories into the southern area. There is bound to be a border line somewhere through the country upon one side of which you will find factories derated and on the other side factories which are not derated; that is bound to happen, but the principle has already been accepted in much of the legislation passed through this House. We are constantly attempting to assist this or that industry in this or that place because an emergency has arisen and because we cannot allow the industry to come to an end. That argument is constantly used when we are discussing the question of subsidising an industry. The question whether we should assist industry in one part of the country and not in another, is not a matter of academic justice; the point is to encourage industries to remain or spring up in those parts of the country where they will be most beneficial.
Let me emphasise again that it is not only hon. Members who represent seats in the north of England, those parts of the country from which industry has been inclined to flow, but also hon. Members who sit for seats in the south who are capable of appreciating a national need and seeing further than the local newspaper in their constituency. They also realise that a perpetual journey of fresh industries to areas which in the past have been largely residential is a somewhat mixed blessing, and that there is 2171 a good deal to be said against the uncontrolled entry of these industries into these residential areas.
§ 5.4 p.m.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
I want to make one or two observations on the subject matter of the Motion. The hon. Member is to be congratulated on having brought it forward, because it enables the House to have a discussion on a matter of vital importance to the country. But I suggest that it would have been better if he had extended his suggested survey a little beyond the immediate industrial field. You cannot get a complete picture unless the survey is extended to co-ordinate information on a much wider range. For instance, he referred to the control of industry and to the urban life of the country and said that the industrial population is a vital part of the nation. Some of us regard it as of importance for the future that the urban section of our community should not be regarded as being so vital as it is to-day. It would be much better to have a bigger proportion of the population elsewhere. I should like to have seen the suggested survey extended to collect information on land drainage, for the sake of the cultivation of the soil and of industry itself. I should like to have a survey of the water resources of the country, not only for the purposes of water supply but of power; and, with regard to the location of industry, I should like to have seen an examination of the case of existing industries and their potentialities, having regard to their present location, their power possibilities and also their transport facilities.
Already there is a great deal of this information available, and all that is wanted is that there should be Government action on the information already possessed. In the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Transport and in the reports of the Commissioners for the Special Areas, information is available on practically all these subjects, and what is really wanted now is for the Government to act on the information which is there. It is, of course, well known that rapid changes are taking place in the location of industry in this country. For some years there has been a move of industry from the north to the south, and if you look at the figures for certain areas around the Metropolis you 2172 will be startled at the enormous increase on the insured population in some districts. In the County of Middlesex in the last six years there has been an increase of 100 per cent. in the insured population, and an increase of 30 and 40 per cent. is quite common. While that is going on here you will find the insured population in depressed areas is actually a good deal higher than it was five years ago.
Many reasons are given for this. In the reports on the depressed areas mention is made of the inaccessibility of markets, although outside Cumberland this does not apply to the depressed areas. There is also the question of high rates. I do not agree with the Commissioner that too much stress is laid on the question of high rates, because I think it plays a much bigger part than the Commissioner cares to admit. Then there is the fear of labour unrest. I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister's statement the other day; it will have a great effect on industries who are contemplating moving into these areas. The facts do not warrant this fear. But whatever are the reasons, this uncontrolled drift of industry to the south is a serious matter. By allowing this uncontrolled drift of industry into new areas, without any plan at all, you are possibly creating depressed areas of the future, and, in addition, you are taking away agricultural land at a rate which is really quite alarming. It also means an appalling waste of money. You have municipal expenditure in these districts on housing, drainage and water supply, and, further, the expenditure of the people who buy or erect their own house.
While you have this appalling waste you hear from day to day of industries locating themselves, or new industries being put up, in sparsely populated places like the Highlands because water power is available. I have yet to learn that water power is cheaper than highly efficient electricity produced from coal. There is no evidence as yet to show that it is any cheaper. Industries go to places without houses and without labour. Houses have to be built and labour has to be brought to these districts. Indeed, the raw material of those industries in some cases has to be brought from the depressed areas, and then the finished product brought to the south before it is 2173 sold. It all means an appalling waste. When there are places in which labour is available and where the raw materials are available, with all the housing and municipal services in existence I urge the Government, in a case of that sort, to use their influence to see that industries are put in places where all these facilities are already available. There is also the question of those places far removed from the industrial centres of the country which are hit by unemployment and have no hope of partaking in any revival. In these places I would ask the Government to consider the possibility of assisting local industries in order to give employment to the population. I think the Government can help a very great deal in this matter. The hon. Member for Aberdeen East (Mr. Boothby) suggested that it would be dangerous for the Government to arm themselves with powers to order industry to go to any particular place. I have no wish to see this done, but the Government have more right to insist on this now because industries themselves have come to the Government and have received considerable help. If the State gives public assistance, directly or indirectly, to industries, they are entitled to demand that the public interests should be considered when these industries are being put up.
The trouble so far has been that the depressed areas have not been treated as part of a national problem. The inquiries which have been conducted have been of great value in letting the country know what most of us knew already, but I do not think that anything worth while will be done unless it is done nationally. It is a national responsibility. These depressed or Special Areas have in their days contributed very largely to the prosperity and development of the country and the Empire, and in their prosperity every other section of the community benefited. It is therefore not too much to ask the nation as a whole to help these areas in their adversity. After the Great War the devastated areas of France were treated as a national responsibility; they were not asked to repair the damage in their own areas. Our Special Areas are as much devastated as any areas during the War and, therefore, I think we are entitled to ask the Government to treat them as a national problem. It is vital to the 2174 welfare and well-being of our country that it should be so decided.
In supporting this Motion I would like to say finally that I hope the Government, while undertaking a survey of the industrial life of this country, will not forget that it is of vital importance that every aspect of the national life should be investigated, not only the industrial but the agricultural, and the potential resources of the country. I believe that if the Government would take a national view and would utilise the tremendous amount of information which is already available to them and act upon it, we should then start on a road which would lead us to recovery.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. LYONS
I am sure that all hon. Members are grateful to the two hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Motion this afternoon, for, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) said, this is a national matter and cannot be considered as something detached or as something which affects only the areas about which the Motion speaks. I represent a city of great industrial diversity, a city which happily is not a depressed area; but I think it is the duty of everyone of us to do all we can to assist the areas which are not so fortunately placed, and which are to-day suffering such misfortunes. I think that whatever we may do to assist those areas at the present time will have its effect in the national sphere, and for that reason I think a national effort is called for. It is important to remember that the areas which are so afflicted are the very places where the raw materials exist in abundance, where there are eager hands waiting and where they have been fitted and equipped for many years to play a very important part in the industrial life of the nation. It is those areas that are suffering and it is to those areas that our attention must be directed.
My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment said that one of the difficulties facing the Commissioners and the Government in their efforts to deal with the problem is that there are too many local authorities. That may be a very easy thing to say, but when one tries to remove an authority in these areas or elsewhere there are great objections. One has only to read the report of the Commissioners 2175 with regard to Merthyr Tydfil to see the difficulties that have to be met when it is sought to take away the status of a local authority or to reduce the number of district administrations. In this connection, I would like to ask whether the Government have taken any steps to carry out the recommendations of the report so far as Merthyr Tydfil is concerned, or whether Merthyr Tydfil will he allowed to continue as a separate entity as at present. The story which the report tells of Merthyr Tydfil is a, very disconcerting one. It tells of how a large, busy industrial area, while still possessing all its raw materials and labour facilities, has arrived in the position in which Merthyr Tydfil now is. Unemployment has tremendously increased and the rateable charges of the area have become so great that they are the highest in the country. That is a position which it is very sad to contemplate, but it is a position which has to be dealt with.
I do not like to think, as is suggested in the Motion, that we should have to license industries and to compel them to get permission before being established. I think this would be placing difficulties in the way of areas which are not depressed, and yet would do no good to the depressed areas; but I do think that something could be done by united effort to bring some kind of industrial activity to places such as Merthyr Tydfil and the other depressed areas. These areas have contributed very much to the industrial life of the nation and I do not think we ought to despair of their position now, but ought to face the facts. We know there has been a big trend of industry to the South.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
I apologise for interrupting the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I would like to say that when it comes to my turn to intervene in the Debate I shall hope to satisfy the House that there has been no drift of industry to the South, although there has been a large movement of population. I think it would be hard for any hon. Member to find an instance of an industry moving from the North to the South. There have been movements of population and certainly a large number of new industries have been started in the 2176 South, but do not let us use an expression which carries with it in this House and outside a misapprehension.
§ Mr. LYONS
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his interruption. It must be recognised that the population has moved and, as far as one can understand, has been employed in the South in industries which have been set up there for the first time. These industries have either been started for the first time in this country, partly because of the restrictions on imports imposed by this Government, or they have been established somewhere else and it has been desired to start a branch in this country. There is no question of a movement of industry as such from the North to the South, but the industries have been started in the South. I hope the condition of the Special Areas can be changed, but any licensing of industry might have unfortunate repercussions on industry taken nationally. I hope that an attempt will be made to comply with the hope that was expressed so passionately a short time ago by the Prime Minister when he said, referring to the national work which the Government has done, that industry should look at the position from the national standpoint and co-operate accordingly.
It is unfortunate to read in the report of the Commissioner how little attention is being paid to the efforts that are being made. For instance, I see that 5,829 copies of a questionnaire were circulated by the Commissioner asking whether or not, if they were thinking of extending their works, they would come into one of the depressed areas. The Commissioner states in his report that 4,066 firms did not reply, and I think that is a very serious reflection upon industry in general. 1,313 firms gave unqualified negative replies to all questions; 386 gave qualified negatives to all questions; and 64 answered at least one question in the affirmative. Here we have an effort made by the Commissioner, who is charged with a very difficult public duty, and he has met, in my humble judgment, with very little co-operation from industry, if this is the only result he has obtained from the labour he has been trying to perform. The report goes on to say:Of the 1,763 who replied, only 38 stated that they had established new works or 2177 branches in the Special Areas in the last few years, while 35 stated that they had actually considered within the last five years the choice of a site in one of the Special Areas but had decided against it. Of the latter number, 12 gave no reason for their adverse decisions. Of those who gave reasons, 14 indicated "technical trade reasons"; seven indicated inaccessibility; three fear of labour troubles; three lack of capital; two shortage of work, and two high rates.I venture to say that this shows that there have not been the co-operation there ought to have been between industry and the Commissioner. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment and who gave the House a very interesting discourse on many matters, went into great details as to what should be done. I wish the Government would tell us to-day that they are taking the initiative in starting immediately trading estates in these areas.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I hesitate to interrupt my hon. and learned Friend again, but I would remind him that the Motion under discussion is not in the least degree limited to the depressed areas. To confine the Debate to the depressed areas is, I think, unnecessarily limiting the scope of what the hon. Member who moved the Motion had in mind.
§ Mr. LYONS
I am always grateful for any intervention of my hon. Friend, because he is always so helpful in every way. But I do hope that while discussing industry generally we shall be able to discuss some sort of remedy for the more particularly depressed areas. If I understood correctly, what the hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion had in mind was that the survey of industry should be made for some real and effective purpose and should have the object of finding, as far as possible, some means of helping the areas which are in need of help. One observation I would like to make regarding the whole survey is that I hope one of the results of any such survey would be to arrange some decentralised body to help at any time any industry which applies to the Import Duties Advisory Committee for an increase in protective duties, because I believe co-operation between industry and that board, without any Parliamentary interference, is very much to be desired.
I would like to turn to the depressed areas and to express the hope that in that part of the survey dealing with the depression 2178 in industry, the Government will put into effect the recommendations for the establishment of trading estates. I do not wish to deal with the many questions of housing, transport and building, to which my hon. Friend referred in moving the Amendment, but I would like to remark that when a trading estate is being dealt with it will be in the largest sense, and will also include transportation, electrification, and so on. One advantage of a trading estate is that it enables all difficulties which arise to be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. In the proposed survey I would urge the Government to adopt the view of the Commissioner which is that:There is universal agreement as to the need for attracting to and developing in the Special Areas fresh industries of the lighter type.It is no good asking voluntary associations to undertake the whole labour and responsibility of finding some kind of palliative for the present situation. We must try to get at the root of the trouble and it is only the Government that can do so. They can do so by carrying out an industrial survey of a thorough character by the erection of towns and the maintenance of easy transport and electrification and I submit that the establishment of trading estates would be the first step towards bringing some kind of industrial prosperity to the affected areas. The Commissioner further says:Such industries have been increasing very rapidly in the south of England during recent years but there has been little development on similar lines in any of the Special Areas.He also states:The small industrialist seeking a site for a new factory is attracted by the admirable facilities provided so freely on estates like those at Trafford Park and at Slough … and is repelled from the Special Areas by the lack of such facilities and the expense of the preliminary work which he realises is necessary in their absence … Private enterprise has hitherto refrained from establishing trading estates in the Special Areas presumably because the risk involved is considered too great.I suggest that the Government now have a first-class chance of taking an important step forward by making this survey. If risks are involved we ought surely to consider that no risk would be too great that would give us a reasonable chance of re-creating the trade and prosperity of these areas.
§ Mr. ROLAND ROBINSON
Has my hon. and learned Friend considered trading estates established by private enterprise, such as that at Welwyn Garden City?
§ Mr. LYONS
I think that Welwyn Garden City is a first-class example of a trading estate established and managed by private enterprise; but we are in this difficulty. For reasons which may be right or wrong and into which I cannot enter now, there is an objection on the part of private enterprise to establishing trading estates in the distressed areas. If the Government take the view of the Commissioner that trading estates represent a vital part of the solution of the problem of the distressed areas, and if private enterprise is not willing, for whatever reasons, to establish estates like that at Welwyn, I hope the Government will take such action as will encourage private enterprise in this respect or else that they will take steps to encourage the Commissioner himself to establish something in the nature of trading estates. I know and appreciate the readiness of the Parliamentary Secretary at all times to co-operate with industrialists in dealing with the difficulties which we are now encountering, and I hope before the close of this Debate he will tell us that this grave problem is going to be tackled—not that it is going to be put off temporarily or that some remedy of a purely partial character is going to be suggested but that it is going to be tackled fundamentally.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) referred to a readiness at all times to expend money anywhere except at home. What has been done elsewhere could be more readily accomplished here. We have developed our Empire and built up great cities in the furthest parts where, years ago, there were only forest clearings. Here we have our own depressed areas full of natural resources and yet suffering heavily through no fault of their own and forming black spots in the employment map of this country. We know that trade in this country to a very large extent to-day is experiencing a period of comparative prosperity, and I hope that the Government will not hesitate about tackling the black spots which remain. In connection with the necessary defence schemes which we 2180 have been discussing for the last two days I hope that the Government will insist, when their survey has been made, that certain areas covered by that survey shall be singled out for contracts. In my own constituency we have a great diversity of industries and by good management, by the skill of our workers and by co-operation to create favourable conditions, we have been enabled to enjoy a certain measure of prosperity. But I suggest that we must not look at these questions merely as they affect our constituencies individually. We must regard the problem as a whole and I hope that effective measures will be taken to overcome the difficulties of the Special Areas and to put an end to the tragedy and suffering which exists in those areas. Whether it is to be done by a limitation of the hours of labour, by a shorter working week—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I think the hon. and learned Member had better get somewhere nearer to the Motion which is under discussion.
§ Mr. LYONS
I am sorry if I have wandered from the actual Motion, but I wished to conclude by saying that whatever measures may be found necessary as a result of the industrial survey to deal with the present situation I hope the Government will not hesitate to apply those measures. I have one further request to make. There seems to be a considerable measure of agreement in the House upon this Motion. This has been, I hope, a useful Debate. There seems to be a general desire on the part of hon. Members that something effective should be done ta deal with the problem and I hope, therefore, that it will not be found necessary to divide the House on a question in regard to which there is, I think, a real consensus of opinion.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
I think it is rather unfortunate that the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) did not address himself to the difference between fie Motion and the Amendment. It would be unfortunate if this became a debate centring round the distressed areas. I believe that that would be the greatest possible disservice that could be done to the distressed 2181 areas, because it would obscure the nature of the problem which we have to discuss. The difference between the Amendment and the Motion is that whereas the Amendment declares that the location of industry can be determined by inducement, the Motion declares that it must be done by means of plans imposed by the Government on the economic structure of the country. The issue lies between the Amendment and the Motion in that regard. There is general agreement that industry has to some extent found its way to the wrong places and the question arises, how is it to be redistributed or how can further maldistribution be prevented in order to avoid the bad social consequences which have been mentioned this afternoon.
I think if we approach the problem from that angle we shall at once begin to see some light. We have to ask ourselves, why is industry growing up in the South and South-Eastern parts of the country more than in the Northern and Western parts? I think it is incorrect to say that one of the main causes is the rate burden. I should be the very last to argue against an equalisation of rates in Great Britain. I think the higher rates in some of the industrial districts are utterly inequitable and that there ought to be a redistribution of the burden. But it is incorrect to say that that is the cause—
§ Mr. BEVAN
It is more than 30s. But I must be careful to guard myself in this respect. I would be the last to argue that the rate burden should remain at that height. We on these benches have, on many occasions, advocated the equalisation of rates in Great Britain and we stand by that proposition. What I say is that it would be a mistake to suppose that, if there were equalisation, it would materially affect the distribution of industry. Obviously, if a manufacturer is considering whether he should put his factory in the North or in the South the fact that only one-quarter of the rates will fall upon the factory, whether it is in the North or in the South, means that the difference in the rates does not make much difference in the overhead charges. Furthermore when there is competition 2182 between factories, the relief given to both factories in respect of rates means that their competitive position remains relatively the same. If one man is six feet and another man is seven feet, you do not detract from the disparity by taking an inch off both. The trouble with de-rating was that it exempted the factory outside the distressed areas from three-quarters of its rate burden, as well as the factory inside the distressed area. I believe that the Parliamentary Secretary himself is agreed that it can be shown that the equalisation of rates, while desirable for many other reasons, would not have a great influence on the distribution of industry in Great Britain.
The trouble, as I see it, is this: There has not been a drift of industry. There has been a contraction of the capital goods industries in the North and West. There has been a great deal of technological unemployment in those industries and the redundant industrial population has been drawn to man the light industries which have grown up in the South and South-East. Those light industries have grown up for reasons that must be artificially controlled if redistribution is to be arrested. Before the industrial revolution the location of population was determined by purely physical factors. Mankind established himself at the mouths of rivers, along the banks of rivers or in places where nature smiled upon his social plans. When the industrial revolution occurred the extractive industries determined the places where the main industries were established. The iron ore belt, the coalfields, the location of forests and water power formed for society a sort of ground plan and mankind had to conform to it. Mankind in those days was more mobile than industry and as a consequence of the fixation of industry there grew up the industrial centres in the North and West where the extractive industries were to be found.
That ground plan has now been destroyed, very largely because of the development of motive power and the increase in mobility. Electricity can be provided almost everywhere at the same cost. It is possible to create inside factories artificial climates so that articles can be produced under artificially-created climatic conditions, where it would have been impossible to produce them before. That is bound to have an ever-increasing influence upon the location, 2183 for instance, of the textile industry. Indeed, textile factories have now been established in parts of the world where they would have been impossible 20 years ago. So the fact now is that industry is more mobile than man. Man, when he settles down, establishes round himself a complicated, social apparatus of roads, drains, sewers, hospitals, colleges, and other institutions. When industry goes away, he is left there with all that immobilised social capital. That seems to be the fundamental difference between our society and the society immediately following the industrial revolution.
Why is it that, in these circumstances, industry grows in the South and South-East and not in the North and the West? It is because of one single thing; it is because these light industries depend enormously upon a local market. Light industry is taking the place of the extractive capital goods industry because light industry becomes more and more the characteristic industry of society as the standard of living rises, and these industries are growing up around London because London affords an enormous market. Here is a challenge that we have to make to the Movers of the Amendment: How, apart from Governmental intervention, can you arrest that process?
§ Mr. PETHERICK
I do not know why the hon. Member looks at me. I have nothing to do with the Amendment.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I was not looking at the hon. Member. I was looking in that direction, because if I did not look there, I should have to look somewhere else, and my challenge was also rhetoric. I hope the defenders of the Amendment will reply to it. How are you, apart from Government intervention, going to arrest the growth of new industries which grow up around London because London affords the market?
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
Intervention may be intervention which involves force, or compulsion, or it may be intervention which involves encouragement. That is the difference between the Amendment and the Motion.
§ Mr. BEVAN
I agree, but when I speak about intervention, I mean intervention by compulsion, and that is the difference, as the hon. Member says, between the 2184 Amendment and the Motion. My complaint of hon. Members opposite is that they continually complain about circumstances which they are not prepared to take action to stop. There was a report made by Lord Haldane in about 1921–22. That report recommended that the establishment of great power stations should be in the coal areas. Had we taken that advice then, the Battersea power station would not be where it is, and although it is one of our loveliest buildings, it ought not to be where it is; it ought to have been situated in the coal belt. The whole organisation of Great Britain would have been influenced if there had been a plan of industrial development in this country. Certainly the shocking excrescences, the aesthetic barbarities, of the vulgarised belt around London would have been prevented if we had had control over the industrial development. When I look across at hon. Members, who may ask to be regarded as patriotic, I invite them to go with me for a motor ride around the outskirts of London and say whether that sort of country is worth defending at all. It is so ugly, so monstrous, that every patriotic Englishman ought to be up in arms against it. I regard the jerry builder as a worse enemy of Great Britain than the Germans ever could be, and if it were possible to organise an air raid and take the population out, I would be in favour of it in some of these districts around us.
I say that simply as a digression, but I do want to challenge hon. Members that they must face that central position, that in some way we must intervene, and, as the Mover of the Motion put it, we must insist upon sanitary belts, upon the prevention of factories being erected in certain areas. If factories want to establish themselves, they ought to go to other parts of the country. Could any hon. Member here tell me the point at which this drift need stop? If it is true that light industries do go to the South and South-East because the local market is to be found there, then there is nothing at all to stop London growing indefinitely until it sucks the whole of Great Britain in. If you are going to start a different set of influences, they must be started artificially, or you must provide inducements which will start the process in the reverse direction, or, in other words, make it more attractive for industry to establish 2185 itself. say, in Wales, or in some part of Lancashire, or on the North-East Coast, than in London. And mark this: They must be inducements of an economic kind and not of a philanthropic kind. You must make it as profitable or more profitable to take their factories there than around London.
I should be interested to learn how it is going to be done, because one of the tragedies of the situation is that the spending power of the new areas in the South and in the South-East is so much more per head of the population that it provides a larger market for the sort of goods produced by these industries. That is one of the difficulties. The spending power in the North and the West is to a very large extent now being determined by the numbers on unemployment insurance benefit. So long as the impoverishment of the population continues, you will not be able to provide in those areas the attraction that the factories find round London, and when we have been pleading in this House and in the country for greater spending power for miners, for increased wages for miners, it is because we know that, apart from its particular merits, increased spending power for the miners is an essential condition if you are to maintain the light industries in the distressed areas when you have established them there.
I hope I have said enough to indicate the lines on which our minds are moving. I believe the House is to a very large extent conducting a post-mortem examination on a situation which could have been prevented if the House had insisted upon taking it in hand long before this. It makes some of us a little tired to listen to these well-meaning, erudite speeches from hon. Members in other parts of the House that never reach executive action, because they are continually trying to superimpose order upon the anarchy of capitalist competition. I would end by saying that if it is true, as I have tried to show, that the ground plan of society has been destroyed by modern, commercial, city development, it seems to me that an artificial plan must be put in its place. It is therefore incumbent upon the Government, if they are going to show any sense of social responsibility, to conduct the survey which is asked for in the Motion and to bring before the House of Commons a plan of 2186 controlled industrial development in Great Britain which will prevent these migrations of the industrial population every 50 or 100 years, with the vast waste of social expenditure involved in them.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. ROLAND ROBINSON
In the speeches which we have heard this afternoon it seems that there is general agreement that the haphazard drift of economic life can no longer continue. That has been recognised too by the Government, as has been shown by their introduction of tariffs and trade agreements and by the statutory guidance that has been given to industry in such matters as electricity, agricultural marketing schemes, the Coal Mines Act, North Atlantic shipping, and indeed, more recently, in the regulation of the cotton and beet-sugar industries. It seems that "The old order changeth, yielding place to new." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members opposite cheer that, but it is the National Government that has changed the old order, and yielded place to the new.
It seems that a certain amount of State intervention has come to stay, and I feel that it is our duty to see that this is done under conditions of the greatest possible economic freedom. I feel that the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. Edwards) did a service to the House when he brought forward the location aspect of this problem, and I would say that we on this side of the House believe that the general location of industrial activity can be guided without interfering with the control of industry itself. My hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) also did a good service, because I feel that he was able to bring the discussion to a more specific point when he showed us the real danger to the industrial structure that exists in the concentration of the industries of the nation in the South and South-East, The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) raised a point which I believe he thought insuperable when he told us that light industries went where the chief markets lay, and those markets were around London. Surely he had entirely forgotten the fact that the bulk of the population of Great Britain lies North of a line which could be drawn from the Severn to the Wash.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
When we speak of London, we use it as an illustration. Any great city with such an enormous population is equally in point. It does not please any of us that you should have a terrific development, say, in Birmingham at the expense of impoverishment elsewhere.
§ Mr. ROBINSON
I would not do the hon. Member an injustice, but I would enlarge his point by saying that perhaps the biggest market of all lies in the Midlands and the north and that therefore there is an equal opportunity there for the development of new and light industries. As was pointed out a little earlier, the new location of industry is causing something of a drift of population to the south of England, but it is only a drift, because on the whole the population is largely immobile. Very often it is the case of a lack of inclination to tear up family roots from districts in which for generations people have lived, and indeed where they have spoken a common dialect, and because people are anxious not to part from their friends. They have developed a pride of locality, and I feel sure that such people would rather the Government should try, not to develop new areas, but to assist them in clearing up the old areas and rebuilding something new and fine in those situations. After all, while the personnel is not mobile, I submit that capital is, and it makes no difference to the use for which money is raised in the City for new industries where the factory is to be placed. It comes for all industry, wherever it may be. I feel that we must face this and that we should have regard to the optimum use of existing populations in places where we find them.
There is the further point that if the population is moved, it is impossible to tear up the houses and take them to the new areas. We have built up in the industrial areas a vast System of social services, such as drainage, waterworks, roads, schools and hospitals, and it is foolish to incur great expenses and new capital expenditure in other areas until we have tested the limits of re-development in the older areas with a view to making the maximum possible use of the existing capital. That capital is the nation's capital, the people's capital, and it is the duty of the Government to see that it is put to the greatest possible use. 2188 In the older areas, if a factory is closed or removed to another area, it leaves a greater burden on the factories that remain. Whereas in the past perhaps five factories contributed to the rates which carried the social services, when one factory went it meant a greater burden on the industry that remained. There is, too, the question of amenities. Once a new area is industrialised much of its amenity value is, of necessity, lost for ever. We should try to preserve the amenities of our countryside and display caution in opening up a new area until we have made the most strenuous efforts to develop the equipment of those areas which are already industrialised.
After the question of the areas themselves comes the question of the skilled labour which should be within them. It has been admitted in the White Paper on defence that one of the great tragedies of the depression has been the destruction of a large part of the country's skilled labour force. Nevertheless, when people have once been employed as skilled labour they usually retain their capacity for learning skilled trades. It will probably be wiser to try and infiltrate into the older industrial areas some new trades and occupations, and for that purpose to take into those areas some skilled workers who will teach some new trade to the people already there. We cannot move the old factories, but we can take skilled workers to them so that they can teach the unemployed of the distressed areas some new avenue of employment. For the success of such a scheme good will is necessary, and we must have the co-operation of the trade unions and the workers in seeing that the labour conditions are such that manufacturers can be assured always of a helpful and friendly spirit of reasonableness in negotiations. I am sure that the trade unions would be glad to co-operate in seeing that such conditions are brought about.
Much has been said, with regard to the question of defence, about the danger of putting our vital industries into one place because they could easily be destroyed by a potential enemy. Perhaps more important is the position of the skilled workpeople themselves, because, if they are too much concentrated in one area, they are liable to destruction. It is our duty to see that they are made safe by 2189 being scattered over safer parts of the country. There is undoubtedly a tendency of industry to concentrate round London, an area which is one of the most vulnerable parts of the country from the point of view of attack. Socially, it is bad that London should grow in this way because already it means that there is scarcely any direction from London in which it is not necessary to travel 20 miles before finding open country. Apart from that consideration, when everything is tending to become concentrated it is bad from the point of view of defence. The areas in the North and West, where the expert industrial populations are, are the safest, and the Government should pay great attention to this aspect of the question.
Certain of the industries in the North of England, cotton in particular, are far from the peak of past years, but around the cotton industry there has grown up other highly skilled industries for the manufacture of machinery, chemicals, glass, and such-like trades. There is no reason why the Government should not make a serious effort to sec that the new factories which will be needed to fulfil their defence policy are located in the northern areas. There are, all over Lancashire and Yorkshire, factories which are vacant and ready for development. They are on fine sites in many places. There is an example in Lancashire at Lytham, where there was a big seaplane base and where the men understand that side of industry. It was allowed to decay and surely the time has come for the Government to go back to that and other such places that were used in the Great War. Similar opportunities present themselves in the country between Liverpool and Widnes, where skilled people are waiting to take advantage of the defence policy of the Government.
We must make the maximum use of the existing equipment, both in labour and in capital, and remember that from the defence point of view these areas are the safest, being in the least accessible and least dangerous parts of the country from the point of view of a potential enemy. Our view on this side of the House, in considering the redirection of industry in the older areas, is that it is not a question of force, but we do ask the Government to do everything within their power to make the older areas as attractive as possible so that new industries will go to 2190 them. I would remind the Government, that their new defence policy wilt probably give them the power to give guidance to industry. This is an opportunity to see that that policy is used for something greater than the mere manufacture of destructive equipment, for practically and socially there is every argument for a reconsideration of the location of industry so as to utilise the resources of the nation to the full.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
I am in rather a peculiar position in regard to this Debate, because I do not altogether agree with the wording of the Motion, and must, therefore, be out of harmony with the Amendment. It is very pathetic that the House should listen to these long speeches which have no relevance to the matter under discussion. Each speaker that succeeds the other has as much invention as a child unborn in dealing with the subject. I often wonder what would happen if the Gallery were enlarged so that the voters could hear their representatives when they deal with a subject like this. We have invented a new word "planning." If we want to do anything, we must plan for it; if a problem faces us, we appoint a commission so that we can have a plan. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), at whose mind I marvel, is full of schemes and designs. It is all very well saying, "If I were dictator this is what I would do." The point is, what are you going to do now? It is not what you are going to do if you live long enough. When the hon. Member for East Aberdeen got going this afternoon, I wondered where he was going to stop because he started with Aberdeen and wound up with a, new idea with regard to the League of Nations. What that had to do with the location of industry I do not know.
Why do industries go to certain places and refuse to go to others? My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) rightly said that in the first instance industry is attracted because of the natural situation and amenities of an area. That is true of any industry. May I say in parenthesis that I cannot help feeling that the Debate we are having is not so much due to any idiosyncracy of employment in industry as to the fact that the Government are 2191 worried about the distressed areas. That is why we hear so much about them this afternoon. We were assured by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it would be well to keep this Debate wide and not to keep our attention too much on the distressed areas. I agree with him, but I think that he will admit that we can scarcely carry on a discussion like this without making reference to the rather depressed conditions that prevail.
§ Mr. PETHERICK
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that the Government wanted to have this Debate because they were anxious about the depressed areas. The Motion is put forward by an hon. Member on his side of the House.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
Is there anything ingenious about that? I hope the hon. Member was awake when I started my speech. I remember trying my hand at getting an industry into a health resort which I represent, called Stoke-on-Trent. There was a large foreign tyre company which was anxious to set up business there. As it would employ 10,000 people, we got busy to try and attract it. We discovered that there was another town in the running to get these people. What did we do to beat it down? There was a question in the House about the unseemly procedure we adopted. We said that we would give them the land for half of nothing, and that we would wink at the valuation so far as rates were concerned—quite good, honest, straightforward dealing. The other town lost the advantage because it was not quick enough with these inducements. We have got that factory in Stoke now, and it is one of the largest tyre works in the country. I suggest that an industry can easily be induced to go to a certain area if the site is suitable in all senses for it, if the local rates are not oppressive, and if the general conditions of the populace round the area are not likely to become menacing because of poverty and consequently of higher rates.
Let me give an example. We must revert back to the report on the distressed areas. What does the hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Captain Wallace) say in that report?Rightly or wrongly, the burden of high rates is most frequently quoted. As already 2192 stated, a vicious circle has been established, and an area which by means of its industrial development in one cycle has become populous cannot arrest its industrial decline by substituting developing industries for those that are contracting, because the very contraction which it seeks to remedy imposes a burden which acts as a strong deterrent to a new industrial influx.The Commissioner in Wales gave a ghastly description of rates of 35s. in the pound being a deterrent to new industries. I put it to any hon. Member whether he would not go to an area where the rates are 5s. in the pound in preference to another area where they are 35s. in the pound? The thing is plain and inevitable. We were told this afternoon that many industries have purposely not come to the South of England. I do not think it will be denied that many new industries have been established in the South, and I made inquiries as to the rates in the districts where those new industries are springing up, and the result is well worth noting. For years this House has condoned the spending of millions of public money in making new roads round about the South of England. These new roads, contiguous to railway centres, must, of necessity, form an inducement to new industrial enterprises, coupled with the rates ruling in those areas. In one particular area where new industrial developments are pretty rife, Malden and Coombe, the composite rate, the county rate and local rate combined, comes to 5s. 5¼d. In Merton and Morden the county rate and the local rate is 9s. 2d. In Surbiton the rate is 8s. 8d.
Compare the position there with the conditions that prevail in the distressed areas. Suppose that we were issuing an advertisement in an effort to induce industrialists to come into an area to put up a new factory. One of the items in the advertisement would be, "Low rates" and then we should speak of railway and transport services, of water laid on, of electricity and gas being available. What inducements could we put into an advertisement to persuade an industrialist to come into one of the distressed areas, because the Amendment says that industrialists must be induced to go there? I went over the report to pick out the inducements that jump to the eye. You would have to put down, "Come to the distressed areas. There you will find high rates, subsiding land owing to unscientific mining, waterlogged land, heavy unemployment and 2193 distress, and acres of old-fashioned housing and slums." That is a true description, according to the Government report, of the circumstances in the distressed areas. Comparing these conditions with those in Surrey and in Kent, will anyone tell me that any man in his senses who was going to put up a new workshop would not make his choice down here rather than up yonder? Of course he would.
The hon. Member for East Aberdeen suggested that the rating question should be dealt with. One of the serious actions of the Government in this connection was the passing of the Derating Act, because it relieved industry from certain rates, hut despite that fact we still have this distress. Derating has not in the slightest degree helped to solve the problem and it will not do so. I agree that rates should not be levied upon industry, but the Derating Act was about the most fatuous proposal that ever passed this House. It may be that some people believed we were going to help industry by that Act, but anyone who knew what the economic results would be is not surprised at what has happened.
I heard someone on this side, I think it was the Member for Ebbw Vale speak about the equalisation of rates. I hope that that policy will not creep round this House. Some people think the State is a sort of milch cow. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Oh yes, hon. Members opposite do, otherwise they would not take the subsidies they have received in the last 10 years. The only difference is that they want no State control and plenty of State subsidies, while we on this side say "State subsidies plus State control." Between the two I wonder where I am going. But where will equalisation of rates land us? Is it suggested that the rates in certain places shall be raised to pay the rates somewhere else? It would be out of order for me to discuss that question, and I will not do so, but I can well imagine what would happen under a system of that kind. The Derating Act has been no solution, and the equalisation of rates would be no solution, and I cannot see how we could, in present circumstances, invest the Government with some power of compulsion to require manufacturers, industrialists or anyone else to leave one area and go to a distressed area. To that extent, I think, this Debate will not prove of very much worth.
2194 The hon. Member for East Aberdeen also said that what we wanted was not merely that the rates should be removed from industries, but that there should be a general cleaning-up of the industrial districts. Who made them mucky? Who turned these districts into what they are to-day? I suggest that the people responsible for the ghastliness of those areas should be called in to clean them, up, by a special tax if necessary. Why should the burden of it be thrown on the people who did not do it?
§ Mr. MacLAREN
That is largely true—at least, in some cases it is true. I have no objection to the community being asked to do the cleaning-up, on the condition that after it has done so the community shall step in as the owner of the property. I have two cases at the back of my mind in which the local authorities and the State, by contributions, helped the cleaning-up of certain areas, and when they were cleaned up the local landowners got higher prices for the sites. I object to wholesale robbery of this kind. If there is to be cleaning-up and the State has to do it I will vote for it, but only on condition that the rejuvenated property shall be the property of those who cleaned it up.
Next we were told that trades would go to certain areas if there were new and better houses in those areas. In the old days we used to say that trade followed the flag. I am inclined to think that houses follow trade. Why worry about building houses in places where there is no trade or industry? The houses will follow all right if the industry is there. Then we were told that not merely must we have houses—built, remember, with State grants—but new roads, new bridges and other public amenities, built by the State, in order to induce—what? Trade and industry. Not that the trades and industries will operate for the profit of the State as a whole, it will be for the profit of private individuals. I do not think that that proposal will please the average working man or working woman in this country. We shall not cure the present chaotic conditions in industry by investing the Government with power to compel 2195 industries to go here, there or anywhere the Government may wish.
We are in the mess we are in to-day as the result of the policies which have been pursued for years by this House. We have the derelict areas. In Durham we have a county the natural wealth of which is not excelled by any part of England, and on that wealthy natural asset called the land of Durham we have unemployed men and women drawing £7,500,000 in public assistance and out-of-work relief. We have hungry men and unemployed men living on public organised charity, drawn from the taxes and the local rates, living, moving and having their being on one of the finest gifts that God could give to man; unemployment on God's great gift of land, on which man could employ himself were it not for some great barrier that stands between labour and natural wealth. We cannot solve that problem by tinkering little tricks of this kind, by empowering the Government to move factories like chessmen on a chessboard. We are suffering to-night not merely from the faults of years ago, but from the accentuated and impetuous haste with which the present combination called the National Government has petrified the northern areas by the strangulation of international trade, by the piling up of artificial industries drawing their sinews and substance from the Treasury of the State. Go on with that if you think it will help, but it is clear to those of us who are watching this tendency that there is nothing but destruction awaiting the State which pursues this policy. Therefore, the proposal before us to-night, like so many more which have been made the excuse for Debate here, will lead us nowhere; and as I sit in this House and watch men at that Box handling the great responsibilities of State and listen to the counsels they offer, I oftentimes loudly say "Amen" when the Chaplain comes in and prays for the State.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I am sure the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) will agree with me that he certainly cannot sell Durham coal by rhetoric. It will be generally agreed that when a private Member initiates a discussion as interesting as that which we have enjoyed to-day, he deserves the thanks of the 2196 House, as does his Seconder, and I pay a tribute at once to the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) for the way in which he moved the Motion and for the matter contained in his speech. I think some of it was a little theoretical. I think that, like the occupants of certain pulpits, he suffered a little from not being contradicted enough; but that is something we can deal with in subsequent and private discussion. I would like him to be good enough to re-examine his geography. I understand that one of his proposals was that an area of 40 miles round London should be a closed area, and that factories should not be allowed to be built within it. Having some sort of idea that my constituency came within that 40-mile limit, I had the geography looked up. His proposal would bar new factories in Maidstone, Chatham, Guildford, Reading, Aylesbury, Luton, Dunstable, Hitchin, Hertford and Welwyn, only to name a few places. That may be what the hon. Gentleman intends, but the House may as well know where the arbitrary 40-mile limit round London takes us.
I should do the best service in my power to the House this evening if I communicated information rather than dealt with the arguments or with any points that have been raised. The Motion contemplates a survey. To have any meaning at all such a survey must include all the manifold industries carried on in this country. Would anything be added to our knowledge if such a survey were made? We know in broad outline the economic and historical considerations which have led, for example, to cotton being established in Lancashire, woollens in Yorkshire and iron and steel and shipbuilding in the North-East and in Scotland. All the facts necessary to fill in the outline are already available in Government publications. The reports of the census of production taken at intervals contain information as to the regional distribution of industry, including information as to output and the number of persons employed in each of the regions. The country is divided into eight regions for England and Wales, two for Scotland and one for Northern Ireland, and in the reports changes in the distribution of industry can readily be traced. We are at work now on the census of production for 1935, and, are bringing the information up to date. Besides that, the 2197 Ministry of Labour Gazette gives information as to the distribution of insured persons in employment in the various industries. A series of industrial surveys has been made by various universities at the request of the Board of Trade. Supplementary surveys, bringing them up to date, are now being made for the Commissioners for the Special Areas. Apart from these Government reports, there are a large number of authoritative works dealing with particular regions in which the fullest use is made of Government information.
I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member is probably not suggesting that that survey should be made, but that the information which is available should be compiled in a different form. I suggest that mere compilation which does not add to knowledge is hardly worth the magnitude of the task that it would involve. Unless it were completely thorough and completely efficient, its results would be misleading. I have indicated to the House the extent of the information which is available because it is desirable that there should be no misapprehension on that point.
A good deal of discussion has taken place about the drift to the south. I ventured to interrupt the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) when he was addressing the House, to call attention to the fact that it was not common ground that there was a drift of industry to the south. I admit that there have been great changes in population. It has been made clear by speakers in the Debate that many new and lighter industries, including a number that have been set up under the tariff wall for the first time in this country, have, because they made consumable goods, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) pointed out so well, been attracted to the proximity of a great market with immense spending power. At the risk of keeping the House for a minute let me deal with this drift of industry and give the House some information.
§ Mr. MacLAREN
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? Twice this afternoon it has been stated that new industries came to the South of England because of-some protection policy. I would like to ask the hon. Gentleman how much industry 2198 has left this country to establish itself by foreign tariffs in other countries?
§ Dr. BURGIN
Broadly, "None," is the answer. I will give the matter a little further examination and give the hon. Member a fuller answer.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I will deal with the point now. The Board of Trade Surveys of Industrial Developments for 1933 and 1934 show that there is very little evidence of a drift to the South in the sense that new factories have been set up in the South as the result of transfer from the North. What has happened is that the majority of new undertakings that have been started have been located in the South because of the attraction of the huge London market for the industries producing goods such as clothing, fancy and semi-luxury articles and component parts.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I would like to examine that point, but I think the hon. Member will agree that as to a power station being in the vicinity of a coalfield it has been shown that electricity is capable of being conveyed for considerable distances. New development is by no means confined to the South. Material for the 1935 Survey of Industrial Development is not yet complete but several important new undertakings have been set up last year in the North, including factories for the manufacture of clothing near Manchester and Leeds, shirts at Warrington, waterproofs at Stalybridge, caps in Glasgow, radio apparatus at Manchester, aircraft at Stockport and Bakelite at Blackburn, to mention but a few. In addition, there was of course the development at Billingham, to which the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough called attention, and important manufactures in Ayrshire, Scotland. If there is a drift to the South, there is a counter-drift to the North. Of that there were instances last year, of 2199 which I have the details, including a factory which opened at Dundee following the closing down of a factory in London, the transfer of the production of moulded wood products from Kent to Scotland, of surgical dressings from Slough to Yorkshire and the transfer of a plant for the manufacture of linoleum from Greenwich to Kirkcaldy. I only mention those so that the House may see two sides of the picture.
It is probable that the depression in the heavy and export industries, which affected the North and Wales much more severely than the South, has had a greater effect on the regional distribution of employment than the attraction of the South for lighter industries. The Ministry of Labour figures show that between 1927, and 1935, the number of insured workpeople between 16 and 64 in employment in the Southern section of Great Britain rose by 680,000, while the number in the Northern section fell by 387,000. This difference in the trend of employment only occurred up to 1932, and it was most marked between 1929 and 1932. Between 1932 and 1935, the number of employed rose both in the southern section and in the northern section, the increase in the southern section being 652,000 and the increase in the northern section being 407,000, since 1932. It is therefore misleading to talk of the drift of industry to the south, and to suggest that the tendency which existed between 1927 and 1932 for employment to expand in the south while contracting in the north, has continued and is increasing. It is a mistake to affirm any such thing. The truth is on the lines that I have given.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The division of the country into North and South puts Birmingham into this area. The South includes London, South-Eastern, South-Western and Midlands. North includes North-Eastern, North-Western, Scotland and Wales. That is a classification which is well known, but I am grateful to the hon. Member for allowing me to make it clear. The House will understand that the problem of the location of industry differs very much according to whether 2200 you are discussing the building up of an entirely new area, or are dealing with an industrial country in which the major industries have already, to a large extent, settled the problem of their own location. No doubt in an authoritarian State there would be a prohibition on any individual or group from starting an industry without permission, and the applicant for that permission would either find himself unconditionally refused or, if his application were granted, it would be subject to conditions that he should establish his factory in such a location as the Government of the clay might indicate. As between the authoritarian State in which everything is prohibited unless permission is granted, and the complete freedom of a western country or a republic, there is all the difference between complete control on the one hand and the almost complete absence of control on the other. The question raised to-day in this Debate is really whether it is possible to have a half-way house.
Let me examine the problem a little. Presumably the hon. Member who introduced this discussion has at the hack of his mind the attracting of industries to certain parts of the country. He sees areas which have enjoyed industrial prosperity finding themselves with the tide of industry receding from them, and busy industrial quarters giving way to deserted or semi-derelict areas. Confronted with that sight, and knowing all that that means in terms of human misery, the hon. Member seeks a way of remedying that state of affairs, and he has conceived and brought before the House to-day this idea that the, way of dealing with the matter would be to exercise pressure upon new industries to take the place or the old which, for varying reasons, have fallen into decay. That is the substantive point behind the hon. Member's Motion. Side by side with this receding of the tide from certain industrial areas in the north, the northeast coast, South Wales and Scotland, he observes groupings of industries round the Metropolis and round some of the larger industrial towns. He observes the diversity of lighter industries carrying with them a low ratio of unemployment, and he observes the prosperity of many industries, which means an increased rateable value and a tendency to make a greater yield for a 2201 penny rate, and consequently a lower figure for local rates. He sees what he thinks a disproportionate advantage in the south, and a disproportionate disadvantage in the older areas.
No one will quarrel with that broad analysis. These striking differences, locality by locality, undoubtedly exist. The problem is whether the hon. Member's remedy is the right one, whether it is feasible, whether it has consequences which are undesirable and whether it has consequences which are even worse than the disease which the hon. Member is seeking to remedy. Take the question of persuasion. The hon. Member is probably well aware that every effort is used by the Government, by development councils and by Commissioners for the distressed areas to induce industry to take advantage of manufacturing conditions that already exist. No one wants an area which has suffered from depression to become more depressed. Everyone wants industry to return to those districts where industries formerly flourished. The question is, is persuasion the right way or should coercion be permitted, and if you call it coercion, what do you mean? Does it mean that any hon. Member would go so far as to say that an individual industrialist, proposing to embark his money in an adventure, is to be prohibited by the Government from starting his industry in the area which he, as an industrialist, considers to be the only one in which he can employ his money to the greatest advantage? Prevention must mean prohibition. If the hon. Member means that the Government should take powers by Statute to prohibit an individual from starting a factory where he wishes, in order to compel him to go to some place where he does not wish to go, I fear that that is a proposition which I could not commend to the House as a whole, and which the House as a whole would not be likely to accept.
§ Mr. HENDERSON STEWART
Is it not the case that regional planning schemes now do precisely what the hon. Gentleman says cannot be done?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I am not objecting to town planning. There are various schemes of town planning, with which I shall deal in a moment, but I am asking a question of the House, and I am asking it genuinely for information I am seeking 2202 to ascertain the mind of the House. The speech of the Mover of the Motion was rather theoretical—
§ Sir JOHN WITHERS
I certainly think that the Government could exercise powers of prohibition in certain circumstances. For instance, should a. man, if he thinks he can profitably expend his money by so doing, be allowed to put up some beastly factory on a beautiful place like the top of Box Hill?
§ Mr. TINKER
In view of the hon. Gentleman's statement, what value is there in the Prime Minister's suggestion that industrialists should go into the derelict areas? There must be some form of pressure, because otherwise they would not go there.
§ Dr. BURGIN
Obviously, I cannot deal with all these points at once. I sympathise with the example given by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Sir J. Withers). The case of someone wishing to destroy an amenity is one problem, but that is not the real industrial problem. If amenities are included, and if it is necessary to make some reservation, let us make it, but the problem with which we are confronted, and to which the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough invites us to address our minds, is whether a man shall be prevented from starting an industry where he wants to do so and shall be ordered to go somewhere else where he does not want to go, and what are the consequences of these two lines of conduct? The problem is different according to whether it is looked at from the point of view of compelling a man to go or prohibiting him from starting; these are two sides of what may be a connected problem.
There are powers under the Town Planning Acts which schedule areas for business purposes and for residential purposes, and local authorities are to a large extent obtaining control over their own areas; but within an area scheduled for business purposes there is not as yet—apart from the necessity of complying with by-laws and observing the restrictions attaching to the land on any building estate and the lay-out of the ground—any condition which prohibits the installation of such a factory as the industrialist desires to set up. It is felt that in the last resort it must be for the industrialist, whose money is at stake, 2203 to determine for himself the factors which are most likely to make for or militate against the success of his enterprise. Think of the consequences of an attempt by the Government to veto the selection by the industrialist of the site of the industry which he desires to start. How far would the Government, by vetoing the site chosen by the industrialist, expose itself to the criticisms that it was Government action which had resulted in the industry proving unsuccessful? How far would the Government become partners in the adventure? Would there not be Government responsibility for the consequences, without any form of Government control in the event of success?
§ Miss WILKINSON
Does not the hon. Gentleman know that local authorities are doing that every day? Certain offensive trades are not allowed to be started in certain areas.
§ Dr. BURGIN
Of course, there are trades which cannot be set up within certain areas, but these are the exceptions. I am addressing myself to the broad problem of industry, and not to the minor exceptions; and I think the hon. Lady will agree with me that, over the broad range of industry, there is at present no power to say to an industrialist, "You shall not start your factory in one county; you must start it in another." I am aware of the limitations that there are, but the generality of the question which I am putting is, I think, substantially right. I do not want to quarrel with the House over any question of minor or local or particular exception; I believe that the Government's duty to foster industry is an equal duty to the older and to the newer industrial areas. I do not think it is for the Government to select the industrial area that they wish particularly to sponsor. There may be national reasons, there may be arguments, which would induce the exercise of powers of persuasion, but I feel that they have the same duty towards both the newer and the older industrial areas in regard to the fostering of industry.
It will be gathered from what I have said that I find a difficulty in finding any half-way house between individual liberty of selection of a site and complete Government control, and I do not believe that the House as a whole is prepared to 2204 sponsor complete Government control with the power of veto. I think that that is the division between those who sit on this side of the House and certain Members who sit on the other side. The Government would feel a difficulty in assenting to this Motion in the terms in which it has been moved. We sympathise with the objects that the Mover has at heart; we sympathise with the causes which have induced him to select this subject; many of the points which emerge from the analysis he has made of conditions in industry we do not dispute. The very interesting points that have been raised over a wide field will all be examined, and, if it appears possible that a closer examination would be profitable, I will invite the hon. Member to be so good as to favour me with further details of certain plans which he only sketched out. But the Government think that the terms of the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) more completely represent their views, and they will be able to support that Amendment. [An HON. MEMBER: "He said he was a communist."] The hon. Member said he was a communist, but it is not necessary for me to say that I agree with every word that he said. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen roamed over a very wide field—
§ Dr. BURGIN
I do not know whether the field was a very good field, but it certainly was a very wide one. There would not be time for me now to explore, still less to debate, the large number of very interesting points which were raised by him, and also by the Seconder of the Amendment in a speech which I think found considerable favour in all parts of the House. The construction which the Government put upon the Amendment must, of course, be the one which follows from the general tenor of the remarks I have made. In a complex world, and in discussions relating to British industry, I venture to think it is a mistake to imagine that the task is simple, the structure uniform, or the remedy a single one. I believe that it is at least possible that Government intervention in the location of industry might raise as many problems as it would solve, and that many difficulties undreamt of by those who sponsor planning would 2205 be created by Government intervention in the selection of sites of factories, whether old or new.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
Will the Parliamentary Secretary bring to the notice of his colleagues the problem that I raised with regard to the machinery of government, because I do not think that he himself is quite satisfied in that regard?
§ Dr. BURGIN
A great number of the points which the hon. Member raised were, I think, points of great interest, and not least the one to which he has just referred. I will see that the different Departments have the advantage of their attention being drawn to those points. Had time permitted, I should have liked to discuss the questions of transport and public utility services, the question of labour in industry, and the general question of the structure of industry as we know it to-day. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman will at least agree with me that, when you are talking of industry, you must think of the work-people as much as the industry.
§ Dr. BURGIN
It was not my good fortune to be in charge of yesterday's Debate. These matters can be raised on another occasion. It is sufficient for me to say to-day that there are formidable difficulties in the way of accepting the terms of the Motion, and that I think the Amendment, which I am proposing to accept, adequately covers what the Government have in mind. I conclude, as I began, with an expression of thanks to the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough for raising so interesting a topic.
§ Mr. R. ROBINSON
Are there not means by which the Government can bring pressure to bear on industrialists, who come over here to start new factories, to locate them in certain areas? If someone comes from abroad with a new process, and wishes to set up a factory in this country, he must bring with him a number of key men to get the process going. Is it not possible for the Minister of Labour, for instance, when he comes to grant a permit, to say he will make matters a little easier, and, perhaps, give more permits for key men, if the factory is set up in a distressed area?
§ Dr. BURGIN
Certainly, it is possible to use powers of persuasion, but if the choice is between the factory being put up or not being put up, there is no power to prevent it, and it is only to the point of prohibition that I have been addressing my observations. Powers of persuasion exist, but, as I interpret the Motion, the Mover wanted power to prohibit. That the Government cannot see their way to grant. Powers of persuasion they desire to encourage.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I think the hon. Gentleman's speech has been somewhat illogical. He is now prepared to accept the Amendment, which is over the borderline of persuasion. It says that the Government should endeavour to discourage as well as to encourage new industries in various areas, and that is the point to which I think the House must address its attention. The economic situation is a very serious one. I am bound to admit that it is perfectly natural that industrialists should consider their own interests. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has talked about industrialists going where they think it would be for their own personal advantage, but a large number of questions are raised in consequence of this freedom of choice on the part of industrialists to do what they like with other people's capital. Big sociological questions are raised when industrialists do what they like with the capital which they control. This country was industrialised first of all the nations a century and a-half ago. Industry was concentrated in those areas which were fortunate enough to possess coal and iron. That concentration has continued.
The situation is, of course, entirely different to-day. We must admit it. The development of road transport makes nearness to raw materials less important than it used to be. The development of electricity and the ease with which electricity can be conducted, makes the power problem simpler than it used to be when coal was the great magnet. There is another motive which has been at work since the War, and that has been the motive of cheap labour. Employers have sought areas where transport facilities, electricity and so on were available and where they could find amenable and docile labour, far away from those stormy petrels in South Wales, for example, 2207 areas where trade unionism was weak, where wage standards were down to the rural level, and where there was a plentiful supply of cheap labour. The result has been a diffusion of industry. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary was right. There has been no drift of industry to the south, but there has been a wider diffusion of industry over the country, due to the factors which I have enumerated.
I remember how the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, foisted on an unwilling Ministry of Health his De-rating Act, and he put forward when he spoke one argument—I think that it is the only argument he ever used in this House with which I agreed—in favour of de-rating. His argument has not proved to be effective, but his reasoning seemed to me to be sound. He said that in these industrialised areas, for a variety of reasons, rates were high, but these were the areas which had been industrialised and if anything could be done to prevent this diffusion, it ought to be done. His suggestion was de-rating. De-rating has not proved to be successful.
But it is true that in those old-established industrial areas you have a population which is used to the conditions of industrial life, you have a great variety of skill. There the employers have some sense of industrial organisation, the whole community's life has been organised on a basis of industry—transport, house supply and so on. And behind all that there is an enormous amount of social capital invested. Every industrial area in this country has profited by the activities of local authorities. Local authorities have on an increasing scale had to provide houses which private enterprise did not supply, and roads, schools, hospitals, water, power and so on. If those areas are allowed to become derelict because they are deserted by industrialists an enormous amount of social capital in this country is virtually destroyed. That is a very serious situation. I could not agree that because some large manufacturer thought that capital could be better employed elsewhere he should bankrupt a local authority. It is not merely a question of whether the industrialist can make more profits, but that even in private enterprise the local authorities of this country have become 2208 partners. They have made the successful conduct of these enterprises in the past possible. You take away from the big industrial areas all the activities of local authorities and those industrial enterprises could not survive for a fortnight.
Therefore the State has a very great stake in this problem. The State is prepared to organise itself for defence, is prepared to divert the economic system from its normal channels of peaceful production without considering the interests of individuals. Why is not the State prepared to take a hand in this problem of considering what is best in the national economic interest? It is not easy. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke about persuasion. This is the last Government who ought to speak about persuasion. Mr. Malcolm Stewart has tried persuasion with no result. He made an appeal with no result. The State time and time again has stepped in deliberately to limit the freedom of people to do as they like. The Parliamentary Secretary, when my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) referred to regulations with regard to offensive trades, said that they were exceptional. But there are a large number of exceptions and it is exceptions which, multiplied, in time make the rule. We have time and time again interfered with the rights of people to put their businesses where they liked. The Town and County Planning Act enables local authorities to exercise very powerful influences to stop the establishment of factories, petrol stations and so on. This Government in its policy has done it. Can anybody set up a bacon factory nowadays where they want and when they want? Of course they cannot.
The whole policy of this Government, misdirected, has been really to fetter individual initiative, to deprive individuals of the right of doing what they like with their own; and indeed the Parliamentary Secretary is one of the architects of this authoritarian State which he deplores so much. I remember when I was last in office a great deal of discussion, in which the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) took a prominent part, on the building of satellite towns. His idea was that we should take a great national 2209 pepper pot and sprinkle this country with satellite towns. It seemed to me on the face of it a magnificent idea. I asked whether these were to be merely dormitory towns and the answer was No; they were to be towns with industries located in them. The question I put was, "Is anybody in this House prepared to make me a commissar, with all the powers of a commissar, to compel people to put factories where I want them?" Persuasion is no good. I did my best when I was in office to persuade large enterprises to go down to Merthyr Tydfil, to go down to South Wales, to go down to the new Garden City of Welwyn. How reluctant they were. Persuasion, as this Government has discovered, is not the slightest use, and I am prepared to face the problem of compulsion.
The Parliamentary Secretary says that there is no half-way house. I agree. I say that we have arrived at a stage now when we cannot allow Britain's surface, Britain's soil, Britain's resources and Britain's beauties to be used as people who are only seeking profit think fit. It raises great problems and difficulties, but a Government which is prepared to begin with the organisation of our industry for war purposes ought at least to have sufficient imagination to try to organise it for peace purposes. The Government, having supported the Amendment, are in a dilemma. If they are prepared to leave this vast problem to their own persuasive powers, which have not been effective up to now, they will fail, and it will mean that in an age when economic direction, national economic direction, is becoming more and more necessary, they will fail. The only alternative is for the State, through such organisms as it cares to establish, to take on this problem with all its responsibilities. It is not by any means the most difficult problem which this nation has had to face. The chief obstacle is the inherent individualism of those who conduct the big economic enterprises of this country.
I should hope that sooner or later this country will have the courage to take its economic life into its own hands and to refuse to permit industries to ramble about the country wherever they like, when they like, and that the nation will regard the control of its own economic life as essential to its prosperity and to the well-being of its people. I am glad 2210 that my hon. Friend put down this Motion. He is a business man of some experience. I am glad that the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) seconded, because, if I may say so in his presence, he is one of our rising economists. I am neither a business man nor an economist, but only an ordinary person; but I am glad that people who have some claim to speak on this subject have chosen to speak on it. I am glad that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) who has certain natural affinities with Members on this side but finds the tug of Toryism too great for him, said what he did. A Debate of this kind is all to the good. The Government's policy will not be deflected one inch by what happens tonight, despite the Parliamentary Secretary, but at least it has given Members on both sides food for thought, and it shows that on all sides of the House there is uneasiness about the present situation and a realisation that something should be done. My only hope is that hon. Members will realise that the way to do what should be done is the way indicated in the Motion.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. H. MITCHELL
We have had a very interesting Debate ranging over a wide variety of topics. I think the Parliamentary Secretary in his excellent and lucid speech gave us very adequate reasons why there is no need for having a survey, though in particular branches there may be some special need for investigation. Particularly in the heavy industries I think there might be a maximum amount of investigation to get as much co-ordination as possible in case of emergency between the Government and those industries particularly associated with national defence, and I have no doubt that this is in the mind of the Government. I found myself in agreement with the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. Edwards) when he dwelt on the importance of producing more supplies of oil from coal. When people criticise London as being so vulnerable to attack, they should remember that it is not London alone which might in time of war be attacked, and in discussing the location of industries the Government should bear in mind that certain other areas, including the East Coast, are just as vulnerable.
2211 In this Debate we have to separate industries. In regard to the heavy industries, so closely associated with national defence, the Government can use their influence to some extent in directing them towards the Special Areas and away from London, but in regard to the lighter industries the situation is rather different. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough said there was no valid reason for establishing factories in the London area. The only reason he could think of for them coming was that the principals of the firms concerned liked to be in London. As representing one of the areas in which there has been the greatest development, comprising the larger part of the district known as the Great West Road, there seem to me many reasons why the light industries should be attracted to London. The most obvious is the immense market that is available. In addition to that, the question of transport is of considerable importance. I found myself at variance with the hon. Member for Aberdeen East (Mr. Boothby) when he rather deprecated any importance being attached to transport. In regard to many industries, the question is of very real importance indeed, and it may entirely make or mar the success of a particular industry. Another reason why they like being near London is that they are in a position to supply the demands of the market which fluctuate quickly.
The hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) told us of the various means that have been adopted to induce a certain large foreign tyre company to come to his constituency. I, too, have in my constituency a large foreign tyre industry. I cannot tell the hon. Member how they were persuaded to come there, because at the time I was not myself a resident, but I can tell him that as the result of that factory coming there—it is an American concern—it is not merely supplying the home market but also supplying Continental needs which were formerly supplied from America. I mention that to illustrate the importance of allowing industry to be free and to show that sometimes you get a foreign firm coming here and doing an export trade which is of very considerable value. We must not forget the immense importance of the export trade and I think that to accept a Motion which places so much 2212 power in the hands of the Government in deciding the location of industries would be most unwise. I have had in recent weeks to give a considerable amount of time and thought in connection with the starting up of a new industry. I hasten to add that it is not in the London area but in that region which has been described by the hon. Member for Aberdeen as looking like Abyssinia after an air raid, namely the industrial belt of Scotland.
There are many difficulties in starting up a new industry. Many negotiations have to be carried through and one has to consider sites, raw materials and labour supply. If you are going to add to that the difficulty of having to consult and get permission from a Government Department, delays will take place which will only add to the difficulties of those who are starting up new industries. Industry is a thing that changes. It moves. I do not believe you can tie it down to particular areas. You must allow it to move and follow the market, and one of the reasons why Great Britain has, on the whole, been such a successful industrial country, developing new ideas and producing goods which compete with those of other countries all over the world, is that industry has been untrammelled and has been allowed to move and follow the market.
I recognise the plight of the special areas, and anyone representing a constituency that is more fortunately placed would be unreasonable if he was not prepared to lend support to anything that was likely to assist them, but I believe you must not limit industry too much. The Government have considerable powers at present, particularly in connection with the heavy industries and, if they apply them wisely, it will go a long way towards bringing back happier times to the special areas and at the same time not limit the development that has taken place in other areas and has played such a large part in bringing about the better conditions and increased employment that exists at present.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. ADAMSON
The Debate has very largely centred round what are termed the Special Areas. I want to touch upon a problem which is just as great, the urban areas that surround huge industrial centres. I am speaking of the Black 2213 Country and the area adjacent to Birmingham. The problem there in the main concerns one particular industry. The reserves of labour, particularly young persons, have to be transplanted from this district into adjacent industrial areas. I want to put in the plea that special facilities should be provided for the admission of this industry into the urban districts for the use of this labour which is at its disposal. I have in mind the production of oil from coal. The authorities gave little facility for the experimental processes which have been in operation. Gradually the enterprise was squeezed out and it had to find a refuge somewhere else where it could get better facilities, and it has now become a practical commercial concern providing employment elsewhere than where it was originally intended.
§ In planning the location of industry some regard should be had to the absorption of labour in districts which are mainly dependent upon the basic industry but which have little opportunity to provide for the young people who have no desire for the occupation in question, and in particular young women who have some conception other than domestic service. I would urge the importance of bringing those industries into the districts where the labour is instead of transferring the people to follow the industry.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 124; Noes, 139.2215
|Division No. 90.]||AYES.||[7.30 p.m.|
|Acland, R. T, D. (Barnstaple)||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Price, M. P.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Ishr.)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Richards, R. (Wrexham)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Riley. B.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ritson, J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Hicks, E. G.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Benson, G.||Hopkin, D.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bevan, A||Jagger, J.||Rowson, G.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Bromfield, W.||John, W.||Short, A.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Silverman, S. S.|
|Burke. W. A.||Kelly, W. T.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Kirby, B. V.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Chater, D.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lathan, G.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Lawson, J. J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Leach, W.||Stephen, C.|
|Daggar, G.||Lee, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Dalton, H.||Leonard, W.||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Leslie, J. R.||Taylor, R..1. (Morpeth)|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Logan, D. G.||Thorne, W.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Thurtie, E.|
|Dobble, W.||McEntee, V. La T.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Dunn, E. (Rather Valley)||Maclean, N.||Viant, S. P.|
|Ede, J. C.||Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees)||Walkden, A. G.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Walker, J.|
|Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)||Marklew, E.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Mathers, G.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Foot, D. M.||Maxton, J.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Frankel, D.||Messer, F.||Westwood, J.|
|Furness, S. N.||Milner. Major J.||White, H. Graham|
|Gardner, B. W.||Montague, F.||Whiteley, W.|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Gibbins, J.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Muff, G.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Naylor, T. E.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Oliver, G. H.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Owen, Major G.||Withers, Sir J. J.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Paling, W.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Groves, T. E.||Potts, J.||TELLERS FOR THE A YES.—|
|Mr. Edwards and Mr. Parker.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brocklebank C. E. R.|
|Albery, I. J.||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsrn'h)||Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Birchall, Sir J. D.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)|
|Apsley, Lord||Bird, Sir R. B.||Bull, B. B.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Boulton, W. W.||Burghley, Lord|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Burgin, Dr. E. L.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W.||Butler, R. A.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Joel, D. J. B.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Channon, H.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Rowlands, G.|
|Christie, J. A.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Runciman. Rt. Hon. W.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Leckie, J. A.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Salt, E. W.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff (W'st'r S.G'gs)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Samuel, Sir A. M. (Farnham)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E' burgh, W.)||Llewellin. Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Loder, Captain Hon. J. de V.||Savery, Servington|
|Cross, R. H.||Loftus, P. C.||Scott, Lord William|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Lumley, Capt. L. R.||Selley, H. R.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Lyons, A. M.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. C. C.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Davies, Major G. F. (Yeovil)||McKie, J. H.||Somervell, Sir D. B (Crewe)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Drewe, C.||Magnay, T.||Spender-Clay, Lt.-Cl. Rt. Hn. H. H.|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Spens, W. P.|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Markham, S. F.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Oliver (W'm'I'd)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Ellis, Sir G.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Elliston, G. S.||Moreing, A. C.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)||Thomson, Sir. J. D. W.|
|Erskine Hill, A. G.||Munro. P.||Touche, G. C.|
|Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. G.||Train, Sir J.|
|Gledhill. G.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Gluckstein, L. H.||Patrick, C. M.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Penny, Sir G.||Wallace, Captain Euan|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Perkins, W. R. D.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Petherick, M.||Ward, Irene (Wallsend)|
|Hannah, I. C.||Procter, Major H, A.||Wardlaw-Milne, Slr J. S.|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P||Radford. E. A.||Waterhouse, Captain C.|
|Hepworth, J.||Ramsden, Sir E.||Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.|
|Holdsworth, H.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Hopkinson, A.||Remer, J. R.|
|Hulbert, N. J.||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Boothby and Mr. Duggan.|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Proposed words there added.
That, in the opinion of this House. His Majesty's Government should endeavour to discourage the undue concentration of modern industries in the southern counties and to encourage new industries where practicable to establish themselves in the older industrial centres.