HC Deb 18 November 1936 vol 317 cc1809-65

3.44 p.m.


I beg to move, That, owing to the serious decline in the recognised industrial areas of many major exporting industries upon which the pre-eminent commercial position of this country was built, this House is of opinion that steps should at once be taken to prevent further industrial concentration around London and in the South by diverting new undertakings to those areas where unemployment and under employment have for long caused hardship and distress among industrial populations. The subject of this Motion was, to a certain extent, covered in the Debate that we had last night and carried on until to-day, but I want, if possible, on this occasion, to keep away from the Special Areas and to avoid dealing with any question concerning subsequent legislative proposals in connection with those areas. I wish to deal with the subject from a wider point of view, and to bring in the whole of the North and not merely those areas which are regarded as Special Areas. In making a general survey of the North, if I particularise at all, I should like to particularise with regard to Lancashire. There is a feeling in Lancashire that the problems of that county are not sufficiently understood by people in the South and that the difficulties of Lancashire and her staple industry are not ventilated sufficiently in this House, and do not receive from the Government the consideration to which they are entitled. Now, of course, with the total eclipse of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Mr. R. MacDonald) and the decline of the Prime Minister, it is becoming clear to the people in the North that the Government will never be able to think north of Birmingham for the future, and it is as well that we should take this opportunity of stressing the needs and the claims of Lancashire.

This Motion does not refer to any drift of industry to the South, and I am of opinion that there is no substantial drift of industry to the South in the sense of industries leaving the North and going South. I am accepting the definition of "North" and "South" that was used by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in a similar Debate last year. By "South" we mean the Southeastern and South-western areas, the Midlands and London, while the rest of the country is included in the term "North." The Motion, then, does not state that there is any perceptible drift of industry to the South but emphasises the fact that new industries, industries in process of opening up, should be considered by the Government, and that powers should be taken by the Government to divert those industries from the South to the North where the need for them is so great.

There is no need to ask the Government to make the survey of the industrial life of the country. All the facts are known. The Ministry of Labour, the Ministry of Health and the Board of Trade have all the information at their disposal if there is any desire to act upon it. There have been innumerable surveys and if the Government lack any information with regard to northern towns and areas, the local authorities will speedily supply it when desired. For example, in Burnley, the constituency which I have the honour to represent, in the endeavour to draw new industries to the town, a census has been taken of the available labour with the object of finding out the experience of that labour and the extent of its adaptability. This has been done in order to be able to place at the disposal of prospective employers the latest information on the conditions obtaining in that town.

The point to which I am anxious to draw attention is that in decent years the centre of gravity of our industrial life has moved southward with consequent great hardship to the people in the areas which formerly contained the weight of our industrial life, that is, the areas which built up our big exporting industries, the staple industries which made this country industrially preeminent throughout the world. If hon. Members look at the figures they will find that there has been a change in the distribution of the insured population as between North and South. There has been a definite loss in the North and a definite gain in the South. There has been a loss in the old industries of 1,300,000, and there has been a gain in the new industries, that is, the lighter and more mechanised industries of the South, of 1,700,000.

In the change-over of the population Lancashire has lost from her industrial personnel a matter of 80,000 people, and that has very serious implications all the way round. If you look at the figures from a percentage point of view, you will discover that formerly the North had 52.5 per cent. of the insured population, while the South had 47.5 per cent. That was in 1923. To-day the position has switched right over, and the industrial North has only 45.8 per cent., while the South has gone up to 54.2 per cent. That means that there has been growth in certain places in the South, and London is presenting, not only to the local authorities there, but to the nation as a whole, a very serious problem. The aggregation of people and industries in London provides those who are responsible for the defence of this country with a very serious problem indeed. There is there the best possible target from the air, and when you consider that about 10,000,000 people, or nearly one-fourth of the population, are in that area and could be demoralised from the air in a very short space of time, from that point of view alone there is a very serious problem. That might be a problem that you could guard against with defensive weapons—I do not know—but I do know that it does present social problems of a very far-reaching character.

The London authority has had to consider whether to go in for tall, sky-scraper tenements, or whether, alternatively, it should carry its population out a matter of 20 miles, and you have people who are living in the centre parts of London separated by miles and miles of bricks and mortar from the countryside. In and around London these lighter industries are springing up and, being highly mechanised, attract to themselves juvenile labour, which is being exploited in London to-day just as years and years ago child labour was exploited in Lancashire, and London will be faced shortly with the same kind of problem that Lancashire was faced with then. It is true to say that a very considerable proportion of our unemployed to-day are round about 18 years of age, and a very considerable proportion also are round about 16 and 17 years of age. You have in those lighter industries that are carried on by cheap labour the system of what you in the South call non-progressive employment.

In Lancashire we call it blind-alley work. It just means that people are taken on while they are profitable enough, but as soon as they reach the age when they ought to receive a higher wage, they are turned off, and there is another flow of juvenile labour ready.

That is presenting a very difficult problem, and it is one with which people in Lancashire are concerned. We have had there for years past no fewer than 23,000 juveniles on the live register, and many of them have been induced to go to London or to other places in the South to find work. That has been the Government's method of trying to drain those pools of unemployment in the North, and it presents a problem, because the people in the North know that their young people, separated from their home surroundings and all the environment that might help them in times of difficulty, are down in the South and liable to be turned on to the industrial scrap-heap.

There is another angle of this problem with which we are concerned in the North. There were 510 new factories established last year, according to Government figures, of which number 213 were established in London, so that nearly half of all the new factories that the country had went into the London area. It is true that we got a proportion in Lancashire, but when you consider our losses against our gains, we did not get very much out of the deal. There were certainly 16 weaving establishments opened in Lancashire last year, some of which were establishments that had been closed down and were reopened, so that they were hardly new, but against the 16 that were opened, there was a loss of 82.

When you take a productive industry and start it up there, what happens? A number of subsidiary industries accumulates round about it, distributive and transport industries are attracted to it, people are attracted to it, wealth in that paricular part of the country grows, and wealth attracts wealth, the process of accumulation gathers momentum, and the whole balance of our industrial life is upset. The reverse also applies, and as you take people from the North, you take consuming power, you take money, you take the possibility of work, and you leave the people in the North presented with a heavier burden to bear, because of the shops and houses that are left empty, and with a very much narrower base to put that burden upon. The whole economic life of the country is getting seriously astray, because we are allowing the same haphazard methods to go on in the revolution that is taking place in this century as we did with the industrial revolution in the previous century.

Let us take the position particularly of the cotton trade. Lancashire is the cotton trade, though be it understood that not all of Lancashire is cotton. We have a variety of other industries there as well, but practically all cotton is Lancashire, and 90 per cent. of all the people who are engaged in the cotton trade are in Lancashire. All those people are suffering because of the very serious and sad decline in that industry during the last 15 years. In 1913 this country exported very nearly 90 per cent. of all the manufactured cotton goods in the world, but to-day there has been a serious change. For a century Lancashire enjoyed almost uninterrupted progress, but the change began to show itself before the War. It slackened down during the War, and the War did irreparable harm, because we could not get materials. There was a slight boom just after the War, but it was only a price boom, due largely to the appreciation of silver in the East, and when that went then came the slump for Lancashire, and the last 15 years have been 15 years of travail.

Seventeen years ago Oldham literally spun gold. There was gambling in shares, which were sold in church porches and public houses and everywhere. There was much watering of capital, and people said in those days that anybody who could not make money out of cotton was a lunatic. Then came from the South Jimmy White and his colleagues, and Lancashire was bled white. It was said that we lost in the next few years something like £200,000,000, and to-day 50 spinning mills per year are being closed down in Lancashire and weaving sheds are being dismantled. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Dodd) is here, but his firm know a great deal about it, because they have been engaged for a long while in smashing looms. One hundred and fifty years ago we had the Luddites and the workmen then smashed the machines. Now the employers are smashing up the mules in order to try to bring some prosperity back to the industry.

In Burnley the position is that you have not merely a great mass of unemployment, but something which I have mentioned in the Motion, a large amount of under-employment, a large amount of unrecognised employment, unrecorded employment, employment that you do not understand in the South but which means that although people are getting trade union rates of pay and are working a full 48-hour week they are drawing only 30s. or thereabouts every week. Forty per cent. of the people in the weaving industry of North-East Lancashire are getting 30s. or less a week. We have been told of the hardship of people in Jarrow, where a man and wife and two children get in relief only 32s. a week; but there are lots of married weavers with wives and children working a full 48 hours and not getting 30s. a week. That sort of thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks. One out of every five of the weavers in Lancashire is underemployed.

It is no use trying to tackle this problem by transferring labour. It is no use thinking for a moment that the cotton trade will come back again. We are having a slight revival at the moment, but I hope the Government do not think that there is anything really permanent about it. Japan is now acquiring new mills in Northern China, and we shall soon be subject in that part of the world to the rigors of Japanese competition which for a short time has slowed down. In 1929 we exported 3,700 million square yards of cotton, but we are now down to 1,949 million square yards. There is no chance of getting back that great Eastern market or the great Indian market. Remember the problem of under-employment. If there were a recapture of markets the operatives who are now working two looms would be put on to four looms, and that would not absorb the big pools of unemployment.

You may transfer a few juveniles, but that does not touch the problem of the middle-aged folk in Lancashire who are unemployed. To them the business of transference does not apply at all. They cannot be expected to move about the country. Many of them have bought their own houses, in which they have invested their savings. Lancashire and Cheshire are sometimes said to be the thriftiest counties in the country. There has been much house-buying there, and a good thing too. The more the people own their own goods the better it is for them. Ownership of property gives them dignity and standing and worth, and makes them feel that they have a stake in the country, with a background. I do not want the State to have any more ownership of things than is necessary to prevent exploitation. Lancashire people own their houses, and without great loss cannot be transferred.

The question is not one of transference but of giving us something else to take the place of the heavy exporting industries that we have lost. It need not be thought that Lancashire people have sat idly by and not tried to help themselves. The municipalities have done splendid work in trying to get industries up North. They have kept the social services going; they have looked after the health and education of the people with a marvellous efficiency. You have there a highly efficient industrial community whose skill is traditional, whose adaptability with machinery is almost a transmitted instinct, people who have been trained to be deft with hand and eye, people who are used to mill work. It therefore seems to me that the Government, instead of building new factories at Coventry where the unemployment is only 4 per cent, of those insured, might consider putting these factories somewhere in the industrial North. The unemployment figure in Burnley is 19 per cent. That is to say that for every person who is unemployed in Coventry there are five persons unemployed in Burnley. Yet Coventry, which is sufficiently well off, is the place that the Government have chosen for their new factories.

In Burnley we have spent a vast amount of money on technical education. The authorities there have not made the mistake of making the education too academic. They have realised the necessity of giving the young a sound technical training to fit them for any new industries that may come along. The people who attend the unemployment centre are encouraged to go to the technical school, and everything possible is done to keep up the reputation and tradition of a highly skilled population. Nevertheless the number of looms in Burnley has dropped by one-half. At one time it used to be said that we had 100,000 looms for 100,000 population. Now there are only 50,000 looms 'and the population is declining also. The birth rate in Burnley in 1934 was the lowest on record. For the first time the deaths exceeded the births. The same thing is true of Lancashire as a whole, where there were 1,800 more deaths than births in 1933. This is a very serious problem and it is caused largely by the industrial situation. With all the poverty and the risks people realise that large families are things that they cannot afford. I do not believe that you will solve the problem of unemployment by restricting families. There is sufficient wealth in the world for all the people who are in it, if things were rightly organised.

If we try to restrict populations we pursue the wrong method. Rather we have to face the problem of getting a more equitable distribution of wealth. Because of the failure of the cotton industry there is a large surplus population for whom no work is available. What we ask the Government is, that instead of pursuing the present policy they should take immediate steps, not to compete with the South or other areas, but to divert new industries that may come into being into those places that have been robbed of employment. That can be done in a number of ways. I have often heard spokesmen on the Government Front Bench say, "You have made a speech, but you have not given us any constructive proposals." I thought that that remark was extremely funny when I first came here, because they were the Government and were the people who ought to have made the constructive proposals, and, being a National Government, with the interests of the nation so near and dear to their hearts, and being so large in numbers and having at one time a Minister of Thought amongst them, I expected that all the ideas would come from the Front Bench, and that all we were expected to do was to accept them or to criticise. However we have not got that.

I suggest a few ideas that may be helpful to places in the North that are suffering. There is, first of all, that very difficult problem of the unequal burden of rates. In my own constituency we have kept the rates fairly low by very wise management. Some places cannot do that; they have had such a great mass of unemployment that their rates have gone up. It is about time that the Government tackled the burning question of the equalisation of rates. Meanwhile I offer another suggestion. If the Government cannot do that, cannot they devise some scheme, some weighted factor, some formula to be introduced into the block grant system, whereby those places that are suffering in the way I have indicated shall be given some extra relief based on the number of persons who are getting unemployment assistance? For instance, Liverpool, with only one-quarter of the population of London, pays very much more to the Unemployment Assistance Board than London pays. That kind of anomaly you can find duplicated and reduplicated all over the country.

In addition, the Government could do something to determine where new factories are to be built. They may say that that is impossible. But they do it already. A man cannot open a bacon factory to-day where he likes. Licences are necessary. The Government give licences to foreign firms. I remember the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade saying on one occasion that it was right that the country should be able to choose where its imports were to come from. I agree. But if it is right to choose the countries from which imports are to come, it is possible also to choose the people who are to be allowed to open up factories, and to say where they shall be placed. Municipalities do it. In Manchester they have a miniature trading estate and they have scheduled part of it for industry. They say, "On that part you can build a factory, but on this part you cannot." They have gone further than that; they are prepared to lend to certain industries money to open up factories. If municipalities, with their limited powers, can do that sort of thing, surely the Government should take some steps in this matter.

More important than these things, cannot the Government agree, when new factories are to be opened up in the industrial North, for a limited time to guarantee to them a certain quantity of Government orders and contracts? Cannot they switch the money up North in that way? I do not want people taken from the North. It is money to be spent on consumption in the North that is really wanted. I see in the report of the Commissioner that £1,500,000 has been spent by him on the Special Areas. I imagine that the amount is really more than that, but that is the amount stated in one specific report. We are spending £300,000,000 on the Defence programme and £1,500,000 is all that is given to the Special Areas. That means that for every pound the Government spend on Defence they spend a penny on the whole of the Special Areas. That is not good enough. It is not fair to leave those areas to decline. Lancashire is not a Special Area as yet, and does not want to become a Special Area, and so we ask the Government to take powers to itself and to do something that will arrest the decay and decline now going on. It was done in the War. The Government took powers and organising ability was given a chance. The Government decided to build a factory at Gretna Green and they put it precisely where they wanted it. The Government now have the power and the majority to take similar action to help the distressed areas.

I believe that this Motion will get a good deal of sympathy in all quarters of the House. I do not know, however, whether the Government will use their power to prevent that sympathy finding expression as it did last night, but if they have the power to prevent the expression of sympathy they also have the power to use their weight to give that sympathy in a practical fashion. For economic reasons I ask the Government to restore the balance of our industrial life. For strategic reasons I ask them to do something to restore that balance. For humane reasons, in order that people shall not suffer the tragedy of further decline as years go on, I ask them to take steps immediately to do something for those great industries upon which this country rose to fame in the last century.

4.16 p.m.


I beg to second the Motion.

It is with pleasure that I support the Motion which has been moved so clearly, forcibly and splendidly by my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke). I hope that the case that he has made out for action to enable industry to be spread over the country instead of being concentrated in a particular part of it will be accepted by the Government, and that they will find the means that will enable our industries, with all their traditions of work and organisation, to have a chance of engaging in their share of the work of this country and of the world. It has been one of the features of the life of this country, particularly on the part of those who have been brought up in the provinces, never to allow London to dominate the other parts of the country. It is somewhat surprising at this time of day to find industrialists engaged in large manufacture wending their way in the direction of London and bringing to London all the difficulties and problems that have troubled the industrial North. Since the War many industries have come to the outer area of London, which was already the greatest manufacturing centre in the country.

One was always told that London could be looked upon more as a distributing and commercial centre than as a manufacturing centre, and it was a surprise to find, as the result of an investigation that took place many years ago, that London was indeed the largest manufacturing centre. Its industries are spread out over that great area among the 4,500,000 people in London proper and the 7,000,000 in Greater London. That problem in itself was keen enough to those who had to administer London affairs, but when there came the opportunity of obtaining cheap land and manufacturers set up their works just outside London, they brought with them many problems connected with housing, transport and the concentration of a great mass of people in one area. This tendency is not good for industry or for the country, especially when it has resulted in many parts of the country such as Lancashire with its engineering and textile industries, having so many people seeking opportunities to use their labour but being denied it and the opportunity of earning an income.

It is the duty of the Government to endeavour to see that industry is not concentrated in one particular part of the country. The suggestion of the Commissioner for the Special Areas, which we were discussing yesterday, is that persuasion should be engaged in, but something more than that will be required to see that industry is taken to other parts of the country than the South. My hon. Friend referred to what happened in 1935. It is interesting to note that there was a trend in the direction that we are suggesting in the Motion, and that of the 510 factories to which he referred many went to the North-West, the Midlands and other parts. In Greater London in 1935, 213 new factories were introduced giving employment to 19,000 people; 51 factories were extended and 184 closed. At the same time the Midlands, which were already strenuously engaged to complete orders in hand, had 169 new factories employing 7,900 people; 27 were extended, and 71 closed. In the North-West of England, which includes Lancashire, 121 new factories were introduced giving employment to 11,350 people; 62 were extended, and 139 closed, of which no fewer than 106 were textile factories. One can imagine, particularly those of us who spend much of our life in that part of the country, what tragedies the closing of those factories meant, coming as they did on top of a long period of short time and of working for wages such as were quoted by my hon. Friend.

There was also the tragedy of Yorkshire, which had many worsted and woollen factories closed during that period, and where the wages of the men employed round such places as Keighley were a disgrace to those who paid them. They were not adequate for anything approaching a reasonable standard of life. We ask that those industries which, although not paying good wages, are paying better wages than the industries to which I have referred, should be diverted from the southern part of the country and set up in the North and Wales. In the Debate last night the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) referred to Wales in such terms that I hope someone will answer him. He stated something that was most unfair, namely, that people were not prepared to engage in industry in Wales because they were fearful of what might happen if the country were in danger. That statement was not only unfair and unjust, but a discredit to a Member of the House. As one who had something to do with factories in Wales, the docks, and with the works that were erected for munitions during the War, I say that there was nothing higher in manufacture or greater in production than the Welsh factories.

Industry might well be diverted from the London district and set up in those parts of the country which have suffered so badly in the past few years. We endeavoured to find out what were the reasons given by many of the people for establishing factories in the South. Seven reasons were given; 38 said it was because of the accessibility of raw material; 27 because of the proximity of markets; 37 because of the suitability of labour; 19 because of cheap land, low rent or low rates; 28 because of the proximity of other factories in the same industry; 198 because of the convenience of the premises; and seven because of the proximity to the employers' residences. I have looked at all those excuses—they are rather crude as explanations—and certainly they do not justify industries settling in this part of the country instead of giving an opportunity to find work to people who at present are suffering so severely by reason of the absence of work and wages.

I join with the Mover of the Motion in thinking that we ought to profit by the lessons of the past. In the counties of the North we see the great forests of chimney stacks which have been allowed to rise there without planning, without regard to the amenities of the districts and without regard to the conditions under which people work. Surely it is time the Government took a hand in at any rate assisting in the planning of industry, so that the towns and villages where factory work is undertaken may not be despoiled by the setting up of factories without regard to planning arrangements. It is said that the population must have regard paid to it. We see industrious people in other parts of the country asking for that work which is denied to them, and we trust the House will pass this Motion unanimously, despite the Amendment which is on the Order Paper. I have tried to understand why the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr) and the hon. Member for Royton (Mr. Sutcliffe) put down the Amendment. They must know the difficulties of these areas. The hon. Member for Royton has his office within a few hundred yards of my own in my constituency, and the hon. Member for Oldham is on the border, and for them to suggest that we can engage in "further efforts" instead of joining with us to de- mand from the Government that there shall be some planning makes one think that they have only put down their Amendment in order to divide the House on the whole question. With confidence and pleasure I second this Motion and hope the House will carry it, so that we may remedy some of the evils which are troubling the industrial life of this country.

4.33 p.m.


I beg to move, in line 3, to leave out from "that" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: further efforts should be made to promote industrial development in those areas which, in spite of the trade revival, are still suffering from the hardships of unemployment and under-employment. I am certain the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) for having utilised his good fortune in the ballot to bring forward this Motion. I listened with interest to the sincere and eloquent plea he put forward for action by the Government. Indeed, w hen listening to him I thought that, perhaps, it was not altogether a coincidence that he bears the same name as the great orator and statesman of the 18th century. I would only remind him that the Mr. Burke of those days was a good Tory, and perhaps this reminder may persuade him to change his political opinions. I likewise welcome his reference to the county of Lancashire. The hon. Member for Royton (Mr. Sutcliffe), whose name is coupled with the Amendment, and myself have the honour to represent two great Lancashire constituencies, and I only wish that my colleague in the representation of Oldham, to whom the hon. Member for Burnley referred in his speech, could also have been here, and then it would have been a real Lancashire day.

The hon. Member for Burnley laid the issue clearly before us. Are we to allow any industrialist to plant his factory in any part of the country he wishes, or shall the State tell him exactly where he must go? Before we reach a decision on so difficult a problem it might be well to ask ourselves the reasons which in the past have governed the location of industries. I believe those reasons to have been mainly three—first, economic; second, historical; and third, fortuitous. The two main economic reasons are fairly obvious. A manufacturer wants to be near his markets and near the sources of his raw materials. The early shipbuilders on the Tyne and Clyde chose those rivers not only because they provide suitable waterways leading to the sea but because they lay near extensive coalfields, and coal fed the furnaces which made the steel for their ships. Likewise, the pioneers of the cotton industry of Lancashire came to that area not only because the moist climate favoured the spinning of cotton but because a skilled population existed already in the moorside villages, used to the spinning and weaving of cloth.

Similarly, we have historic reasons, of which there is an example in the town of Coventry. In the eighteenth century French Huguenot emigrés flying from France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes came to Coventry and started silk and watch making industries. As the use of silk declined and rayon came to take its place, and as watchmaking declined, Coventry turned first to bicycles, then to motors, and now, even, to aeroplanes. Thus we see how industries develop in one particular spot for historic reasons. Finally, we have the fortuitous reason. Because, perhaps, some 30 years ago the present Lord Nuffield sat patching bicycle tyres in an Oxford shop Oxford now has the great Morris Cowley works. Instances such as these abound throughout the whole story of industrial development.

What has been the history of industry in this country since the War? As the hon. Member for Burnley pointed out, we have seen a great concentration of light industries around London. As the great basic exporting industries of coal, cotton and shipbuilding declined, the light industries producing such things as patent foods, razor blades and articles of apparel, assumed a greater importance, and from a study of the Appendix to Mr. Malcolm Stewart's report we can well see why light industries have concentrated to so great an extent round London. In that Appendix he gives some revealing figures. He tells us that Greater London now covers 692 square miles, and that no less than one-fifth of the total population of the country lives within that area, and that it contains, also, no less than a quarter of the total rateable value. No wonder that the manufacturers engaged in light industries saw in the London market so tempting a prize. The question is, Shall the Government immediately place a ban on the entrance of any future new industries into London, or shall it even go as far as to say that no manufacturer at the present moment shall so much as extend his works? If we come to that issue we must realise that a great many difficulties lie in the way. First, there is the difficulty of compensation. I am told that when a manufacturer buys a site for a factory he buys, likewise, a piece of adjoining ground, so that should the industry prosper and times be good he can extend that factory.


I should like to point out that there is nothing in the Motion about a person extending an established factory. It is concerned only with new industries.


I am grateful to the hon. Member for explaining that point. I shall come to the question of new industries, but I am dealing with some of the difficulties to be considered when we have to treat the problem as a whole, although it would be much easier, as the hon. Member suggested, to see that no new industries enter the London area. We should have to be persuaded that the reasons were overwhelming which would face the Government with the alternative of taking this bold measure, and perhaps we may find the reason, one which we hope the Government may consider, in what Mr. Malcolm Stewart cites in that Appendix to his report as the "strategic reason." Science has so increased the power of the aeroplane that an enemy pilot, in less than 20 minutes after crossing the English coastline at Dover or Sheerness, would be over the Victoria or East India Docks, and as he flew over that great area which lies, roughly between Barking in the east, Brentford in the west, Croydon in the south, and Tottenham in the north, he would find himself over an area which provides more vulnerable targets than any other area of its size in the world. He would see riot only such targets as the crowded docks, their warehouses and their shipping, but the Government offices of Whitehall, the Bank of England, the great power stations, such as the Battersea Power Station, the great centres of organisation, such as the Smithfield meat market; and should even these targets escape, bombs scattered in large quantities and at random would so dislocate the whole complicated fabric of service and supply upon which London depends that the very greatest disorganisation would follow. Few of us realise how great is the organisation which supplies London every day. The Londoner, when he rises in the morning, expects his wife to cook his breakfast on the electric stove or gas cooker—


He does it himself.


I will ask the hon. Member to cook my breakfast. He hopes to find eggs, bacon and milk on his breakfast table, and on his luncheon table meat and vegetables. These are all brought by complicated system of transport and storage, and we must realise, going over the simple facts of everyday life, how vast is the organisation upon which London depends, and how vulnerable it will be in any future war when we have to face the air peril. During the last War the German gun known as "Big Bertha" fired shells from a distance of over 70 miles into Paris, and Mr. Malcolm Stewart most rightly pointed out that with the increased range of guns an enemy in any future contest who should be in possession of the ports either of Calais or Dunkirk might easily plant shells in London on our most vital centres of organisation. This strategic reason should, I think, be a most pressing reason for the Government to consider very seriously the suggestions which Mr. Malcolm Stewart has put forward.

But the problem is, as the hon. Member said, how to attract light industries back to the North. The situation now is different from that which formerly existed. The armament programme embarked on by the Government is bringing back a measure of prosperity to the heavy industries, and purchasing power is slowly coming back to the areas where they exist. When a man gets back into employment after having been out of work for a long time he requires many things. He probably wants a new pair of boots for himself, and shoes for his children; he will smoke more tobacco; his wife will buy herself a new hat or a new dress, and spend more on food; and both of them, perhaps, will go more often to the cinema or take excursions to Blackpool or Scarborough.

Surely the opportunity there exists for light industries to minister to those new needs. The modern manufacturer, just as his predecessor, wants equally to be near his market and his source of raw materials. Few of us, perhaps, realise that in the North, a market exists almost comparable in size to that of London. I believe that I am right in saying that within a certain radius of Manchester you will find no fewer than 5,000,000 people, a market about three-fifths the size of the total London market. What are the causes which impede the manufacturers of light goods from going back to those areas? I believe they are mainly psychological. The physical appearance of the great derelict northern towns does not encourage new enterprises. The modern manufacturer, when he goes to his factory, probably wants to step into a well built, airy, concrete building, well lighted by ranges of windows. He probably wants to be near some great arterial road or railway, where the passers-by can read the advertisements on his walls. In the great towns of the North, towns outside the Special Areas as well, these conditions cannot be found.

If you go to a great Lancashire town; you will probably see in many places, at the end of a street of huddled houses, the chimney stack and the brick wall of a mill which, built in the boom period of the 1870's, was probably well built in its day, but is now totally unfitted for modern manufacture. Year in and year out, the broken panes of its windows and the bits of broken timber lying about in its yard tell of the depression that has come upon the industry, and has come to stay. That is scarcely an atmosphere in which to encourage new enterprise. The local authority in any of the great northern towns has no power to remove that eyesore, and unless that great mill stands near a public thoroughfare and its crumbling structure actually menaces the public safety, has no power to act. If the crumbling structure menaces public safety, the only power which the authority possesses to is to ask the millowner to repair it at his own cost. The public authority may, nevertheless, consider that the mill and its adjacent site stand at a place most suitable for factory development, and at a spot which could be developed to increase the amenities of the town.

The Manchester (Powers and Improvements) Act, 1930, strikes me as a valuable model for future legislation. At that time, the Manchester Corporation was anxious to develop the Wythenshaw Estate and in 1930 they obtained power from Parliament, first of all to build warehouses and offices on the area, and secondly to advance money at cheap rates to individuals purchasing factories or leasing ground on which to build factories. The safeguard demanded was that the Minister of Health should first give his consent to any such Measure. It seems to me that similar powers should be granted to local authorities, who should be encouraged to come to the Ministry of Health and to point out how vital is the psychological factor in attracting new industries back to their localities. Let us by all means encourage in the North a spirit of self-help, but however willing and however progressive that spirit may be, it cannot overcome difficulties which are too great. We must realise that local authorities in the North are faced with two main difficulties, the continuous decline of rateable values in their boroughs, and the increased charge for public assistance. The Borough of Oldham, which I have the honour to represent, is not classified as a distressed area, but the rate of public assistance there is more than 4s. 2d. in the £. A public authority, however optimistic, might well hestitate to embark on schemes which, if not definitely speculative, would, in the long run, but slowly bring back money for the original outlay.

I ask the Government urgently to consider giving, in selected cases, rating relief to the most hard-hit areas, and loaning money at specially cheap rates of interest. The country will be sympathetic to any action. I think the country demands action at the present time. I would, in conclusion, borrow a phrase used with great effect by President Roosevelt in his last Election campaign. He was replying to charges by his opponents that money was being squandered needlessly and that the nation was being imperilled in its financial stability. To this he replied, as I think we should reply in similar case: "Humanity comes first."

4.51 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment, and in doing so I would also pay a tribute to the very excellent manner in which the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) moved the Motion. His speech was free from political bias, and showed that he, just as much as we, was endeavouring to do what he could for Lancashire. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) has called attention to our Amendment and has asked why we are moving it. We move it far the reason that we do not agree with compulsion. The Motion before the House contains these words: this House is of opinion that steps should at once be taken to prevent further industrial concentration around London and in the South by diverting new undertakings. If for the word "prevent" were substituted the word "discourage," our point would be met. We do not agree with compulsory licensing and control of industry such as the Motion suggests. It. is proposed to say to industrialists: "You shall not go there with your manufactory; you shall go here." That is State interference with industry, in our opinion, and we do not like it. As has been said, Lancashire is not classed as a Special Area.


Does not the Motion propose, not prevention in the positive form, but Government prevention by divergence of industry to the North; not preventing industries coming to London or prohibiting them, but encouraging them to go to the North?


I cannot agree with the hon. Member there. That does not seem to be suggested by the words: Steps should be taken to prevent. I take that to mean that the Government should prevent.


Is that not qualified by the suggestion that the Government should also do something?


I cannot agree with that. I think it is a definite prevention to be undertaken by the Government. I was saying that Lancashire is not classed as a Special Area, and I am very pleased that it is not. I do not think I have met anyone coming from Lancashire who wished the county to be in that category. There are many special features of Lancashire, and the fact that it is not in the category of Special Area does not mean that it can be neglected, or that as much interest need not be taken in it. We ask the Government to take more interest in Lancashire, and more definite action. I do not say by any means that they have not done so in the past, but we ask them to do so still further. There was a time when Lancashire placed all her faith in one industry, which was second to none. The world clamoured for Lancashire goods, and sufficient could not be supplied. To-day, Lancashire has to clamour in order to be able to compete, in selling her goods to countries which are making such goods themselves. That position has to be faced. We cannot think of Lancashire in terms of cotton only.

Although the position has considerably improved and there is a good deal more employment there than there was even a year ago, there is still a surplus of workers, and there is bound to be a surplus in the years to come. We must realise that the cotton trade will never attain its former pre-eminence and volume of employment. For that reason alone, many mills have been dismantled, and machinery has been taken from them, even where they have not been pulled down. There are not enough mills in some parts of Lancashire at the present time. I would like to draw attention, while I am dealing with the cotton industry, to the question of improving our cotton trade by means of further trade agreements. The other day I was looking at the recent returns of imports and exports to and from this country. The position is once again becoming alarming. Manufactured goods are coming here in ever-increasing quantities and the matter will have to be dealt with. I suggest that it should be undertaken and looked into as soon as possible.

I would ask that further trade agreements be considered, if possible. So far we have not entered into trade agreements except with countries which have asked for them. Could we not make more agreements of that nature? That is one of the most urgent needs, in order to help trade. How can we occupy our surplus mills and our surplus labour in alternative ways to supplement the cotton trade, which is not sufficient to employ all our workers? How can we attract industries to work alongside the major industries? We do not want our people to leave. Figures have been quoted showing what large numbers of people have left Lancashire during the last few years. It is the best people who leave, the keenest and often the young people, who leave for the South and other places, and who are lost for ever to the trade in the North. We need to prevent that, if possible.

The Lancashire Industrial Development Council has done great work during the last few years in attracting new industries by bringing to the notice of intending manufacturers and recommending certain mills in certain towns, but it can do only that. When it has done that, it has to leave the manufacturers to make their own choice. It cannot offer them any definite inducement to go to one place or another; it can only say: "There you are; that is all we have on our books." What is wanted, therefore, is something more drastic, more attractive to manufacturers.

With regard to State-provided inducements, I would suggest the establishment of small trading estates in different parts of Lancashire—not one large estate in one particular place, such as Trafford Park. We know that Trafford Park has been a great success, but it is concerned mostly with heavy industry. To-day we want more decentralisation; we want, as I have said, small trading estates in various parts of Lancashire which are most hit. I would suggest that they might be put on the borders of our large towns—that one might be tried first of all, and that the number might perhaps be extended to two or three around the towns which are most affected. I think that in the district adjoining Oldham one small estate of that nature could very well be set up. We can even offer a manufacturer the green fields which are so beloved of some of our large industrialists to-day, especially for such factories as those which manufacture patent foods and things of that nature. We have even the green fields; we are not entirely industrialised, and we have, therefore, plenty of scope in that direction for the setting up of these small estates. If one small estate were built it would, I think, attract those light industries such as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr) mentioned a few minutes ago.

We have everything in our favour in Lancashire. We have the population, and we have the roads. We have excellent roads; we have inter-communication between one town and another; in many cases there is just a long main road from one town to another; and at the end there is Manchester, with its famous Ship Canal, than which there is nothing better in the world for the conveyance of goods to all parts. It is just as easy to get to the Ship Canal as it is to the River Thames in London, probably a good deal nearer than it is for some industries which are established some miles out of London. There can be no complaint, therefore, on that score. Labour is there in plenty, and the excuse cannot be made in regard to Lancashire, as it is in regard to some places, that manufacturers hesitate to go there because of labour troubles, strikes and so on. I do not think it can be said that labour is difficult in Lancashire. The Lancashire man takes a pride in his work. All that he wants to do is to put his best into it. He does put his best into it, and he is not a man who is easily led away by the professional agitator. I do not think that that point can be made against labour in any part of Lancashire.

There is, however, one point that I wish to mention, and that is with regard to the railways. The railways are not as good as they might be, because they are not electrified. I have many times asked questions in this House regarding railway electrification in South-east Lancashire, and the Government have been very favourable towards such schemes, having, indeed, quite recently helped financially schemes which have been put forward by the railway companies; but, of course, it is for the railways to make the first move; it is not for the Government. If the railways put forward their plan, the Government will examine it and see if it is worthy of help. The railways have been examining this position for a long time, and they have before them the example of the line between Manchester and Bury. That line was electrified a few years ago, and since then houses have sprung up in large numbers and the whole district has changed. It has become a large industrial district, arid I am told that that is almost entirely due to the fact that the railway was electrified.

In our part of South-East Lancashire the absence of electrification is holding us back, and I would put this very strongly to anyone who may be connected with the railway company concerned. We want that above everything. It is all very well to go to Scotland in six hours, and we congratulate the railway company concerned; we are very pleased that they have won this world's record; but it is not everyone who has either the opportunity or the wish to go to Glasgow, and I submit that the electrification of the railways in a big industrial area is well worthy of consideration with a view to its being done as soon as possible. I am sure it would pay for itself by the improvement which would take place in industry and the increase in the quantities of industrial materials and in the number of passengers carried.

There is another point to which I should like to draw the attention of the House. It has already been touched upon, but not at any great length. In some of our towns we have a sorry spectacle of semi-dismantled factories. I am sorry to say that this is becoming more prevalent, and it is very wasteful. Not only is the inside machinery taken out of a mill, but the best of the bricks are taken away, and the best of the roof may be taken away, the rest being left completely derelict—half a wall on one side, the whole of a wall on another side, and so on. All the materials that are of any value are removed, but the site is rendered useless, because no one can go there to set up a new factory without the expense of removing the old brickwork and so on. It is an ugly picture of desolation. It has been mentioned by my hon. Friend, and I support his suggestion that some help in this matter should be given to the local authorities, or that the local authorities should be given power to remove such eyesores.

Then there is a further point on the question of the charges for electricity for lighting and power. This point has arisen in my own area, and it is definitely militating against the establishment of new industries there. The urban district in question is supplied with current in bulk from a town a few miles away, but so expensive is the current supplied that recently a firm who were going to take over a disused mill in the district, on finding what the charges for electricity were, left the mill and transferred most of the people whom they were going to employ there—several hundreds—to another part of Lancashire a few miles off, leaving only a very few in that particular mill. That transfer was due—the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) probably knows the case to which I am referring—entirely to the high charges for electricity, and I would urge that, if possible, something should be done on this point. I might explain, with regard to this particular urban district, that unfortunately the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1926, does not touch it, because it made an agreement with the adjoining town just before that Act was passed, and it appears to be tied until 1940 to paying this price. It is a very serious position. I do not quite know what could be done, but I wish that something could be done to alleviate the position, because it is a very poor district, and is definitely suffering as a result of these high charges. I am told that the town, in supplying the urban district, has a margin of over 50 per cent. on the cost price, just for transferring the current in bulk over the high tension wires. That seems to be out of all reason.

Finally, what do we suggest? We suggest, as my hon. Friend has mentioned, that rates should be allowed—in other words, that the State should pay the rates of these new industries which are going to set up in Lancashire, in order that they may have some definite attraction. There must be some strong inducement to them to go to such parts of the country, and the preferential rating of new industries seems to me to be by far the best way of attracting them. The local authorities should be reimbursed by the Exchequer. Another attraction would be a loan of cheap money. In the Debate last night the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated that he was not sure he looked upon that with favour. He said: If these proposals were to be applied to the country as a whole, I think I should still he inclined to offer firm resistance to them, but if they are put to me as an experiment in the Special Areas … that, I think, puts them in altogether a different category."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1936; col. 1596, Vol. 317.] I would urge my right hon. Friend and the Government, when they come to look further into that question, to reconsider the position. It would be a tremendous help; in fact, to my mind it is the only way in which industries can be attracted, and they must be attracted in some generous way if Lancashire is to be saved. Why not appoint a small committee of public-spirited business men who could advise on any practical steps that could be taken? I know that some of us do not like a lot of committees, but this is a very special case, and I think that a small committee such as this, of men who have been in industry all their lives—they would not, of course, be financially connected with the new industries which it is proposed to set up—a committee of business men of independent views apart from these industries would, I think, be of great help in advising the Government as to whether rate relief should be given in any particular case, or whether a loan such as I have suggested should be made. They would have more experience of industry than Whitehall can possibly have, because they are more in touch with it from day to day, and I put that forward as a suggestion.

These are the suggestions which we on this side of the House make for remedying the present situation. I do not think we want compulsory measures. You cannot force people to set up factories against their will. If you definitely forbid them to set up factories in London or round London, you cannot force them to go to Lancashire. As I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday, they might quite easily go to Birmingham, or to the outskirts of Birmingham. You cannot force them to go to any particular part of the country. To my mind you are not doing much good by stopping them by legislation setting up around London. We want to bring these hard pressed areas out of the rut that they are in by voluntary effort. I hope, therefore, that the House will reject the Motion and will prefer the Amendment, which encourages private enterprises in these hard pressed industrial districts by giving them a definite incentive to establish themselves in these localities that are before the House.

5.17 p.m.


I do not propose to lift the Debate out of the non-political atmosphere which has surrounded it up to the present. It is all to the good that, when we are dealing with problems affecting industry and the welfare of localities, we should be able to get down to the discussion of them without the atmosphere of political antagonism which surrounds so many of our other Debates. I should, however, like to lift it out of the geographical area into which it seems to have sunk. After all, there are other places than Lancashire on the map of Great Britain, and I propose to direct my remarks to questions as they affect Scotland, particularly as they affect the middle belt of Scotland and, if I may further particularise, so far as they affect the town of Falkirk, which I represent. Large industrial areas of England, and parts of Scotland other than the part that I represent, require the goods that are manufactured in that part of Scotland to which I have referred on purpose to avoid creating derelict areas, which, after all, is an even more noble purpose than trying to rectify these problems after they have been created.

Transport is absolutely essential if we are to do what is just by the iron founding and the light castings industries of the middle belt of Scotland. The railway companies have not been doing all they could to help the industries in many parts of Great Britain and I want to concentrate my remarks particularly on that part of the Motion which states that steps should at once be taken to prevent further industrial concentration around London. The railways have never set themselves to meet more modern transport requirements, and this particularly applies so far as the middle belt of Scotland is concerned. Road transport has meant the salvation of our industry, yet applications for licences for road transport are always opposed by the railway companies. I received a communication this morning from a leading manufacturer in the light casting industry in my constituency: As you are aware, Falkirk depends entirely on the iron founding industry, especially builders' castings, for its success. In past years it held the foremost position in the country for light castings, but no longer do we find ourselves happily placed in that position. For some considerable time there has been a steady drift south, and this is largely attributable to the fact that railway freights are so high, together with the abnormal breakages, that we could not compete with English firms. Happily we were enabled somewhat to overcome this stumbling block by the introduction of motor transport, which has proved cheaper, brought down breakages to a minimum and, a most important feature, given us very much speedier delivery right to customers' doorstep. Now, just when iron founders are getting somewhat settled, we are faced with a new menace. The railway companies are up in arms against road transport. It ought not to be a question of competition for the carrying trade as between railway and road transport. What is best for the industry ought to be the only ideal in dealing with the question of transport. If road transport is best, the power of the railway companies ought not to be allowed to prevent us getting the best type of road transport to deal with these problems as they affect us in Scotland, and particularly in the Falkirk light industries. The railway companies are up in arms against road transport and are actually fighting the granting of licences to motor proprietors. Should they succeed, it will prove fatal to Falkirk. What will happen will be merely the creation of another derelict area. That is why I said it is far better to prevent the creation of derelict areas than to occupy time in trying to solve these problems after they have been created. In a few years the foundries will have to close down as nothing is more certain than that the trade will all go to England, where a great many small foundries have been opened up. Surely it ought to be possible for something to be done to stop this from becoming actual fact. It is rather a hopeless position for the small road transport services to fight the railway companies. Nevertheless, these same transport companies are proving the salvation of Falkirk's industries. Would it be possible for the President of the Board of Trade, in association with the Minister of Transport, to meet a deputation of the representatives of the iron founding and the motor transport industries of that area so that we could get down to a discussion on practical lines as to what would be best to avoid Falkirk and similar areas becoming derelict merely because of the false competition between railway and road transport companies? After all, we have to get down to details to see what is best in the way of transport and not have this mad competition and these high freightage costs. We shall avoid breakages and have cheaper transport charges and be able to keep in the various localities those industries which are providing work for our people if we can only be wise in dealing with the transport problem.

We hear a great deal to-day about aerial invasion and we are being asked to carry through necessary preventive measures. If you have your main industries all concentrated in one area, a solitary raid might mean disaster. The best way to avoid all our industries being put out of action merely because they are concentrated in one locality is to have industries spread throughout the length arid breadth of the land, so that air raids will not mean disaster nationally. Yet to all intents and purposes it seems that everything is being done to encourage hives of industry springing up all round London and the leading big cities, leaving Scotland high and dry. The folly of such a state of affairs is so manifest and so obvious to the feeblest intellect that we ought to do all we can to see that the location of industry is so spread that, if war broke out, there would be no possibility of enfeebling or destroying all these industries at one blow by a foreign enemy.

For these reasons I am supporting the Motion. I hope that my suggestion of a conference between the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Transport and the iron founding and transport industries of the central belt of Scotland will be adopted, so that we may get down to a businesslike discussion with a view to getting the best transport facilities possible to help us to continue to maintain our industries and prevent districts like Falkirk being created derelict areas as others have been.

5.29 p.m.


The last speaker has given an excellent example of the influences which, unfortunately, cause trades to move southwards, and he has given excellent reasons why those influences should be controlled. I think this problem of getting manufacturers back from the Southern districts is one in which all forms of legitimate enterprise should be used. The growth of modern London is something of a nightmare. It has been going on with almost increasing momentum. I expect that many hon. Members listening to this Debate have enjoyed reading Cobbett's "Rural Rides" written a little over a century ago, in which he already described London as the Wen, the evil growth of the body politic which he then thought was becoming far too large and ought to be diminished. In those days Kensington and Chelsea were adjacent rural villages. The modern growth that we have seen going on year after year is staggering. It is really something of a scandal that we have only been allowed to wake up to this fact, not by regarding the disease of the growth of London in itself, but by the facts of the Special Areas and distress in other parts, and the fear that has been aroused by the possibility of air raids. We have suddenly realised that we are creating the most vulnerable target in the world, and it is causing people to recognise that a problem needs tackling that we ought to have tackled already years ago.

My hon. Friends behind me object to public control and to saying to industry, "You shall not come here." Of course, if you choose to read this Motion with great particularity, I agree that the language goes perhaps a little further than the Movers intended. I do not suppose that they mean that no other new undertaking is to be allowed near London at all. All they say is that there should be a general process of diverting new undertakings. They do not want to prevent any other factory being put round London, but to prevent further industrial concentration. The broad meaning of their Motion seems to be exactly what the majority of the Members of this House would wish to express, and it is on that broad meaning that I support it. In these days it is really too late to resent public control of industry. We are working in mixed conditions of private and public enterprise. The two are intimately interlocked and have to work hand in hand. What is one to say of the theory that private enterprise may plant a factory near London and then have free right to call upon public enterprise for all those essentials of life which public authorities have to provide? Why, on the other hand, if private enterprise can make that law, cannot public authorities say to the manufacturer "You must not leave these areas derelict but must see to it that what has been provided by public authorities for the public good shall not be allowed to go derelict and become disused." These are very familiar propositions to hon. Gentlemen and it really seems to be a little unnecessary for my hon. Friends to seek to improve what is already a very good Motion.

The Commissioner for the Special Areas shows quite clearly that in the matter of locating industry persuasion has broken down. You can no longer rely upon persuasion. It seems to be much simpler that the Government should have power to license the location of factories and to say to manufacturers that, unless they can show an overwhelming reason why a factory should be placed in the London area, they must look elsewhere. I think that you will gradually build up a system whereby there will be an intelligent location of industries in different parts of the country. I did not intend when I came down here to occupy even five minutes of the time of the House, but in view of the fact that this Motion has an Amendment to it, I desire to make it plain that I support the Motion, and I hope that the House will accept it in the spirit in which it is obviously intended to be understood.

5.38 p.m.


It is with a certain amount of responsibility that I rise to address the House for a short time upon what is to me a very important question. The location of industry means much to tens of thousands of people domiciled in the Special Areas. In this Debate we have heard mention of Lancashire and the conditions that obtain there, and of Scotland and what Scotland needs in the interests of its people, and I wish to come in between Scotland and Lancashire and talk for a few minutes about the conditions prevailing in Durham county. Durham county, once one of the most prosperous industrial counties in England and Wales, is to-day, through trade depression, one of the hardest hit areas in the country. We know what has happened to shipbuilding, to Jarrow, through the action of National Securities Ltd. and what has happened so far as the great staple industry of Durham—the coalmining industry—is concerned. In 1924 we had engaged in mining in Durham 172,326 persons, and in October this year we had 101,333, a reduction of 70,993. Since 1930 we have had 51 collieries closed definitely, involving the discharge of approximately 8,721 men and boys.

We have often asked questions and made speeches in this House, and the gist of those questions and speeches has been, What are the Government prepared to do to help those hard-hit areas? When we have talked about the location of industry as one means of meeting our need in Durham, we have been told oftentimes from the Front Government Bench that the Government were doing what they could and that in all good time salvation would reach the boundaries of our county. We have suggested the setting up of hydrogenation plants to get oil from coal. I have been looking at some figures to-day and find that we are importing approximately 1,300,000,000 gallons of petrol every year. We have established in Durham one great plant which has given us about 2 per cent. of that large amount, and Mr. Malcolm Stewart in his latest report, and in reports that have gone before, has suggested to the Government and to this House that, if we wish salvation to come to the coal industry of this country, greater attention must be given to hydrogenation from the point of view of the defence of our country in time of need and in finding work for the vast army of miners who are unemployed. He suggests in page 12 of his report that what ought to be done by the Government is that finance should be provided with the object of setting up and getting these plants established from the point of view of finding work for our people.

It has been said in this House by the Government that they have fulfilled their pledges to an appreciable extent in seeking to bring new industries to the North-East coast. It has been mentioned time and again that within recent months a site has been acquired in the Tyne Valley between Gateshead and Durham for the establishment of a trading estate. When that trading estate is established it may bring a certain amount of prosperity to Tyneside, but it will not touch by one jot or tittle the problem which is facing us in Mid and in West Durham. I have been taking out some figures, and I was interested to find that in the Bishop Auckland area, in spite of what the Government are supposed to be doing on the question of the location of industry, we have a percentage of unemployment of 46.6. In the Sheldon area, a town adjacent to Bishop Auckland, we have a percentage of 33.6, and in the Crook area we have a percentage of 40.2.

When we come to the county boroughs of Durham we find in South Shields an unemployment percentage of 36.3, and in Sunderland, a large county borough, 31.3. Taking these figures into consideration one is led to the conclusion that the Government ought to do something to meet this deplorable condition of affairs, and as far as possible to see that industries are diverted from the southern area, or prevented from going there, and encouraged to establish themselves in the areas which need them so much. I was interested to see in the report of Mr. Malcolm Stewart a reference to the Bishop Auckland area. In paragraph 145 he says: South-West Durham undoubtedly presents one of the most difficult problems of the Special Areas. Even if the coal-mining industry generally had not been experiencing exceptional difficulties during the last ten years, South-West Durham would have had its own special problem arising out of the fact that a number of its pits have been worked out and the industrial community built round these pits have comequently become idle. Some of the village communities in South-West Durham must face the fact that they have no industrial future and that their district must revert to the agricultural life which prevailed up to a century ago. What a picture! Here is a large industrial area, surrounded with collieries giving employment to thousands of men and boys, and this paragraph suggests that it is not possible to put new industries there, but that the people must revert to agricultural pursuits and do something that was done by their forebears 100 years ago. Surely, the Government ought to step in and see that something worth while is done in the interests of these people, who cannot at the moment help themselves to any appreciable extent.

I have taken out some figures from the Board of Trade survey for 1935, and I find that the number of persons employed in new factories during that year totalled 49,750 against 46,550 in 1934. Some 19,000 persons found work in those new factories in the London area, but only 6,650 found work in the north-east of England. Just before the Parliamentary Recess I listened with interest to a speech from the benches opposite by an hon. Member who was dealing with the question of the location of industry. He said that in the Dagenham area they had industries that could not get into full swing owing to the fact that they needed another 1,500 operatives. To me that was amusing and yet tragic. Dagenham with her industries needing 1,500 skilled men, and Durham with its men needing the industries. Surely, it does not need a man with the brains of a superman to devise a scheme to bring industries to the areas where labour is available.

One thing that the Government have done in their effort to solve the unemployment problem is to embark on a scheme of transfer. That does not meet the situation. We on the North-East Coast who have asked for industries and cannot get them are concerned with the fact that our county has been drained of its best, and that the track is to be towards the South. What we ask for is that training centres should be set up in our own area to train our boys and girls as skilled operators, so that if industries do come along by any chance we shall have the boys and girls there able to work them. There is another side to this question. By taking our young people out of Our county we are being left with the aged and infirm, who will be a permanent charge on the local ratepayers. Mr. Malcolm Stewart in his report on the location of industry suggested that one of the deterrents against industries being introduced into the North-East Area was the question of high rates, yet we find that owing to industrial depression and the fact that we are left with large numbers of aged and infirm, in Durham County our poor rate is 8s. 4¾d. There is one thing that we have pressed for in Durham, and that is that if the Government can do nothing for us as far as the establishment of new industries are concerned they might go into the question of the equalisation of rating, and make our poor rate comparable with that of the rest of the country.

When the National Government took over in 1931 we in Durham County had 51,506 persons in receipt of Poor Law relief, and our weekly cost was £13,815. In 1936 the figures had jumped from 51,506 to 64,281 and our weekly cost from £13,815 to £21,424. Bearing these things in mind the Government must realise that instead of prosperity coming to our area things are going from bad to worse in Durham. In the North-East of England we have some of the finest men and women in the country, but the "do-nothing" policy of the Government is condemning them to a life of despair and semi-starvation. In the name of humanity and justice something ought to be done to lift that area out of the slough of despond. We are Britishers just the same as you who are domiciled in the South of England. When the country needs men she finds them just as ready to answer the country's call in the North of England as in the South. I should like to read, in conclusion, a paragraph from the report of the Unemployment Assistance Board for 1935, and in doing so I want to bring to those within the sound of my voice the tragic circumstances and conditions under which many of our people are living. The report was not compiled by a Socialist but by a servant of the Ministry of Labour. It said: The Durham housewife from sheer necessity appears to have acquired a technique in household management which enables her to do wonders on a small income. She is helped by the fact that outside Sunderland rents are low and that her husband if he wishes can work an allotment. Many of the wives there show signs of the stress and strain of this continued fight against great odds. That is a picture of the Durham housewife, domiciled in our towns and our mining villages. There, we have thousands of men who have been out of work for a number of years, largely because no attention has been paid to the question of the location of industry. They get their assistance from the Employment Exchange on one day of the week and when they have put it down they clear out. They are living in an atmosphere of economic stress and strain, where every penny counts, and the struggle of the woman in the home goes on for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, month in and month out, year in and year out. The result of that continued fight against great odds is making our young mothers in our villages prematurely old. What are you going to do about it? We live in the richest country in the world. We boast of our standard of civilisation and our great prosperity, and I ask you as responsible persons, what are you going to do with these people? Are you going to introduce legislation and other methods which will bring industries to our depressed areas, or are you going to allow these people to go on living in an atmosphere of stress and strain under conditions of semi-starvation and in many instances under housing conditions that are a disgrace to twentieth century civilisation?

6.0 p.m.


I am not going to follow the hon. Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart) in his remarks about Durham, a county of which I have very little knowledge. After the very admirable opening speech in this Debate by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) it was perhaps to be expected that after last night's Debate it should become a little redundant and somewhat lukewarm, but I should like to protest against a practice which is steadily growing of putting down Amendments to a private Member's Motion which change the whole subject of the Debate. Generally the Amendment is to leave out from the word "that" at the beginning of the Motion, in fact taking away the whole substance of the Motion, and then to add words which mean nothing at all; they depend on the Government's intentions for the future. These intentions we do not know. We should like very much to know them. We on the back benches are perfectly willing to place confidence in the Government, we have much to take on trust, but we should like to know that the Government have a more active policy. Here we have on a private Member's Motion a question which is really a most interesting subject for debate, and the opportunity of taking the opinion of the House, but instead of that we are asked to vote on an Amendment which, in spite of the admirable speech of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. H. Kerr), really means nothing at all. He has put into his Amendment all kinds of hopes of his own, being a progressive man.

I consider that in last night's Debate the Government were somewhat harshly treated. They have done many of the things which they in fact promised to do. They have put into the Gracious Speech the nationalisation of royalties and of trunk roads, and have already passed certain financial facilities which are having great effect in these Special Areas. I took my name from the Amendment to withdraw the Special Areas Act from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill because I am willing to trust the Government until we have seen the proposals of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If those proposals, in fact, prove to be inadequate, or prove that the Government do not really intend to grasp this problem with a declared policy—I emphasise the declaration of policy—then next year when it comes up again many of us may be forced to change our opinions and take a more active line. I hope the Government realise this from the Debate last night.

Let me now come more directly to the subject under discussion. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech yesterday referred to the proposals to check the growth of London and said that it was in fact an extension of the town planning principle. That is quite true, but the fact which every one must realise is that it is no use leaving it to the local authorities to plan this portion of our national programme. It is essentially a Government matter, and nothing short of some form of Government control, if it is decided upon, will meet this type of planning. If the Special Areas are to be dealt with more drastically I hope we shall get some opportunity of discussing what are Special Areas. I rather agree with what is implied in the Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley that we should deal with them not as areas but as special industries, because there are certain industries, particularly exporting industries, which require special treatment. One proposal—it may not be in the report of the Commissioner but it was certainly in some other document—was that in certain exporting industries there might be earlier and larger pensions. I do not believe that pensions on the large scale and at an earlier age are financially possible to-day, but applied solely to special industries, to special exporting industries, it might help to solve a part of the problem which has fallen on them.

I want to return to the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham who moved the Amendment upon which we are being asked to vote. I do not think he really stated the question accurately. He said, shall we allow a manufacturer to place his factory exactly where he likes or shall we tell him where he ought to go? There is clearly another choice. You can tell the manufacturer where he cannot go. That is a choice which cannot be left Out, and it is implied in the Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley. Then my hon. Friend went on to draw a picture of how industry in certain areas changes. He instanced Coventry, and said that they started with silk, then went on to artificial silk, then to bicycles and motor cars, and now to aeroplanes. That may be so, but that is not a parallel for the districts to which we are trying to bring industries. The parallel surely is the case of Norfolk, where the Flemish wool workers went first, but in order to be nearer their raw material they shifted from Norfolk to Yorkshire. You find in Norfolk those fine churches the remnants of an era when Norfolk was the principal industrial area in England. When industry moved away from Norfolk it suffered a period of appalling industrial decline which left the people without work, nowhere to go and, of course, in the economic circumstances of those days, with no pensions or social services, eventually they transferred themselves. That is the parallel to the present situation.

I should like to ask that the Government when framing their policy should definitely decide exactly which areas are capable of resuscitation, of recovery, and which areas are definitely derelict. There are certain areas which should be written off, from which every young man ought to be taken. Transference should be speeded up, and there should be apprenticeship scholarships in order that young men may learn trades in which they are really needed to-day. There are several Welsh valleys, and I believe parts in South Durham which would come into this category. I ask the Government to determine on those areas which can be resuscitated and concentrate on the transference of industry to the men in those areas.

My hon. Friend then came to London and tried to create a picture of London life and the services which supply every Londoner from the time he wakes to the time he goes to bed in the evening, or, in the case of unhappy people like ourselves, in the early morning. There again I do not think he stated the case. You cannot alter London as it has grown. The problem is, are you or are you not prepared to take London as it is and say that it shall not be any larger than it is at present? If you are prepared to do that, I, personally, think it would be a wise decision. It is so vast; there are so many problems concentrated in the area. It is not from Morden to Tottenham but from Croydon to Berkhamstead, from Reading to Southend. I agree that the Chancellor of the Exchequer put up a sound argument that London alone is not enough. There are the areas of Southampton and Portsmouth, Coventry and Birmingham, which I think should be prohibited. There are all kinds of reasons why it is desirable to do so. It is not only the wastage of social capital in the North of England, but the ruination of a great part of rural England, which in the opinion of many hon. Members is a most valuable part. I fish sometimes in the Test Valley, and I hate to see Southampton splaying out into the country further and further, rows of houses being built which I know are not being inhabited by the people in the South but by people who have been transferred against their will from the North, because it suits an employer to set down his industry in the South. I do not want to see more compulsion than is necessary, but the main reasons why employers go to the South is that it is much more attractive in their personal life. That is a very human reason. A Northern Sunday, which is one of the two free days an employer gets, is not an attractive prospect for an employer living in the North of England. Manchester on a Sunday is really one of the most desolate towns in the country.

But the main reason, I think, is that an employer thinks the London market is going to be the best market for him. He also finds that labour is very cheap in London. From my experience in the East End of London, with which I am very familiar, I know that the employer is able to find very cheap labour there. Moreover, there is no doubt that it is true, however much it may offend hon. Members opposite, that the employer is extremely afraid—I think erroneously, as the record of Merthyr shows—of labour troubles in some other districts. If, for those reasons, he prefers to go to Southampton or to London, the question must arise: Is it in the national interest that he should be allowed to go to those places? All sorts of reasons have been given in this Debate to show that it is not in the national interest. Reasons of strategy and the balance of population have been advanced, and I would add another reason, which is that the area around London is now becoming so built over that there is not anything like enough room for playing fields for the inhabitants. Even the "green belt," which is so much boasted about, is gradually receding, and the question of this lack of space for playing fields is becoming a very serious problem in relation to the physical fitness plans which the Government are putting forward.

I would like now to refer to another problem which many hon. Members spoke about before the Debate was raised to the "high and dry" atmosphere of Scotland and Durham. It is the problem of Lancashire. One reason more industries are not going to Lancashire is that all the time the cotton trade appears to be decaying. I use the word "appears" particularly because the cotton trade has not declined but has rather recovered a little during the last three years. Nevertheless, it appears to be decaying, and I would explain that by saying that it is an industry which still has far too much fixed capital for its output. There are too many buildings and there is too much machinery. If the industry is to be a prosperous and thriving one, it has to be far more drastically reorganised than was done by the little Spindles Bill which the President of the Board of Trade and many other people, including myself, co-operated in taking through the House last year. If we are to have a prosperous and thriving industry, with better wages—and there are no worse wages in the country than in the cotton trade—hon. Members opposite have to face the fact that there must be a two-shift system. There could be lower hours and higher wages if there were a two-shift system, which would mean using the machinery more, and then having decided on the mills that were to be worked—the remainder could be cleared away and one would have gone a long way towards restoring the conditions that would attract industry to that area. I do not wish to leave the House with the idea that I am not impressed by the progress that has been made. When I was Member for Oldham, unemployment was never below 20 per cent., but it is now down to 16 per cent. over the whole—in the case of women it is down to 11 per cent. and in that of men 20 per cent. That represents a very great and valuable improvement, and I know that much of it has been directly due to the efforts of my right hon. Friend.

In conclusion, I want to make an appeal to the President of the Board of Trade. He was converted to a measure of tariffs late in his political life—perhaps I ought not to have said late, for I hope that he has very many more years before him; and he then made trade agreements which were of very great value to Lancashire, among other parts of the country. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend does not regret either of those decisions. Then, in some industries, he has very reluctantly taken the preliminary steps in reorganisation. I want him now to take further steps in reorganisation, and not allow his inherent love of laissez faire to prevent him from tackling the problem of London before it is too late. Ultimately I feel certain he will come to agree with me in this matter and see that some form of Government direction is necessary in order to say where industry ought to be prevented from developing; but I hope that he will reach that point soon. If our countryside is not to be further ruined by the growth of towns, and if we are not to have the tragedy of the Ribbon Development Bill, which came ten years too late, again perpetrated because of a failure to grasp some measure of national planning in time, I feel we ought to do it now.

I believe the President of the Board of Trade is the key man, the determining factor—[An HON. MEMBER: "The common denominator!"]—No, I do not mean that—the pivot around which the solution of this problem would turn. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to make his decision soon, because I am sure, as was said by the hon. Member for Oldham and the hon. Member for Burnley in their speeches, that the country wants a decision, wants that decision to be a brave one, and wants to know what it is. The country is immensely proud of the great work the Government have done. It is owing to that work and the possibility of recovery even in some of these areas that the country desires the Government to tackle this one other problem which it regards as a blot on their prestige and which it is determined shall be tackled soon.

6.18 p.m.


I entirely agree with the analysis made by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) of the Motion now before the House. The hon. Member for Royton (Mr. Sutcliffe) stated as his reason for supporting the Amendment to the Motion that he was against State interference. That may be a good reason for the hon. Member for Royton, but it cannot possibly be a sound reason for the President of the Board of Trade to oppose the Motion. May I, however, remind the hon. Member for Royton that, although he now opposes the Motion because he is against State interference, it was only the year before last that he assisted in the passing of the Road Traffic Act, and in that way helped to establish in this country a system of licensing for lorries. The hon. Member cannot have forgotten that to-day the Traffic Commissioners have the right to say to the owners of lorries that they shall not go beyond a certain distance and shall not carry anything except the things which the Traffic Commissioners allow them to carry. Has the hon. Member forgotten that the State interferes very greatly in the coal trade? Has he never heard of the laws regulating hours? Has he forgotten the Factories Act and the most recent of State interference, the licensing system which has been established with regard to bacon factories? He cannot establish this reason as a sound one for opposing the Motion before the House.

It seems to me that the problem of the location of industry is divided into two parts. First there is the problem of the location of industry in the ordinary way, and secondly, there is the problem of the location of industry in the Special Areas. Whatever we may say in this House does not seem to affect manufacturers when they come in and around London to establish their factories, for if there is one thing that has come out of this Debate it is the fact that more and more factories are being established in and around London. I support most sincerely the point made by the hon. Member for Stretford as to the countryside being eaten up by this totally uncontrolled planning of factories. Since 1935, 76,600 acres of good agricultural land have ceased to be agricultural land. In the 30 years from 1901 to 1931, 655,000 acres were eaten up, and from 1921 to 1931, the annual rate at which good agricultural land went out of employment was 34,000 acres. I cannot possibly put this matter in better language than Professor Staple-don has in his book on "The Land." On page 58 one reads: Our agricultural acres are dwindling rapidly and dwindle they inevitably must; and unless some decision is made as to the minimum of acreage that should at all costs be retained for food production, and appropriate action taken, no mere than 200 years hence may see the farmlands of England reduced to one-half. I submit to the House that the land taken for industry in this way must be taken with some regard to the type of land that is used, with a view to seeing that the best possible use is made of the land.

Surely in this matter one might expect a lead from the Government. The Government are establishing up and down the country factories for the manufacture of arms and aerodromes, and in almost every case the very best agricultural land is taken for the purpose. I wish to enter my protest, and to give as an example of this policy the land which has been taken in the Vale of Glamorgan, which is my home—land which I know very well. Three square miles from the very heart of the Vale of Glamorgan have been taken for an aerodrome, and this will become in the future an industry for the district. Surely it cannot be argued that there is no other land of an inferior type available. My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) knows that in his district there are miles and miles of land on which this form of industry could be established and where many hundreds, if not thousands, of unemployed men could be employed.

As regards the location of industries in the Special Areas, that is a different problem and a difficult problem. I do not think it can be argued to-day that manufacturers can be forced to go where we want them to go, but I agree with the point made by the last speaker that this House, following principles which have already been applied to industry, should say where they cannot go. I agree with the Mover of the Amendment that inducements should be offered to manufacturers but South Wales has offered all kinds of inducements to manufacturers without any result whatever. In the division of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly, which borders on my own, land has been offered free to a firm by the side of the railway where water and power would be cheap, but with all those inducements the manufacturers will not go there. Every inducement has been held out to manufacturers to come to South Wales and that policy has failed. It seems to me there is only one thing left for the House to do, and that is to apply further pressure by way of prohibiting manufacturers from going to certain parts of the country.

May I draw the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the failure of the Special Areas Reconstruction Act? I would draw his attention especially to the admirable letter which appears in the "Times" to-day from Mr. Sydney Simons of Merthyr Tydvil, in which he discusses in detail the ways in which the Act has failed to help the small manufacturers in the Special Areas. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider instituting an inquiry at once into the working of this Act. If he does so, he will find, in my submission, that the Act has been an entire failure and that next to nothing has been done in South Wales as a result of it. I would ask whether it is not the case that only one loan, and that of a few thousand pounds, has been the result of the Act in South Wales?


The hon. Member has made a statement on which I would like to ask him a question. I have read the letter in the "Times" to which he refers. He tells us that manufacturers will not go into South Wales, and he deplores the fact. But will he tell us one of the reasons for their unwillingness to go there? Is it not the fact that the Socialist party and the Labour leaders in South Wales—an area which we all wish to see helped—are continually abusing capital and condemning private enterprise? In those circumstances how can he expect private manufacturers to go there? Many private manufacturers would not require any loans under the Act which he has mentioned. They have adequate resources but they will not go down and found successful private enterprises in those areas for which the hon. Member is pleading when they are told that as soon as the Labour party gets into power it will under Marxian Socialism deprive private enterprise and capitalists of the opportunity of working their businesses for private gain?


I should have imagined that the manufacturers for whom the hon. Baronet speaks would have had much higher ideals than those which he has mentioned, and I think he will agree that any manufacturer who desires to go to South Wales to make profits will take very little notice indeed of what anybody says, and in particular of any speeches which may be made by Members of this party.


Do not believe it. He takes full note of the Socialist threat.


May I also ask the Government not to forget the areas which are outside the Special Areas. I would refer shortly to one area in my own division where there has been in the past a very flourishing weaving industry. Today there is hardly a man employed in that industry. I am not so foolish as to think that the central Government can look into the cases of all the dozens of similar small industries throughout Wales, but I would draw attention to the suggestion put forward in the "Western Mail" that the appointment of a Commissioner for Wales should, at least, be considered by the Government. Such a Commissioner could look after these small industries and see that they get a fair share, and that is all we desire, of orders from the Army and Navy. The men are there, the machinery is there, and the only thing we want in order to start prosperous businesses is capital. The more one delves into these particular instances, the more certain it appears that what the country really wants is some strong central authority by which industry can be planned for the benefit of the whole country.

6.36 p.m.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

This Debate has been totally dissimilar from that which we had yesterday. From the opening speech of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) there has been shown throughout it, a great deal of sympathy in all parts of the House, which is somewhat rare in these contentious days. There is very little doubt that the aspirations, the hopes, and the aims of every section of the House are, in this matter, identical. I begin by saying at once that the Government welcome every contribution towards the solution of the great problem involved in this Motion and proposals that are akin to it. The whole problem of London is one which must be considered by all parties, and not only by this House, but also by the great local Parliament on the other side of the river. The problem of Lancashire is one which concerns not only the Members for Lancashire who are here to-night, but an entire population which in the past has been too dependent upon one industry.

The interests of the Special Areas which have been very well advocated to-night show us another aspect of this group of closely-related problems, and I would like to say at the outset how deeply I sympathise with a great deal of what was said by the representatives of the County of Durham in particular. I, naturally, have kindly feelings towards Durham because I was born there. I have a great many friends there who are connected with many of the great social and religious institutions in that county. I have never ceased to lend a ready ear to their complaints, and I know how deeply-rooted are those complaints. It is in that spirit that I have approached these problems, even in the recent past, and in particular with reference to South Wales and other districts. I think some hon. Gentlemen opposite will not have overlooked the fact that, in connection with this very question of the location of industry, I have exercised what influence I possess to prevent industries from being taken away from South Wales in particular and located elsewhere. But it is not always easy to persuade great captains of industry and planners of commercial development to take the advice of the Government on subjects of this kind.

The hon. Member who has just sat down described some of the difficulties which arise when one is trying to induce those responsible for commercial undertakings to select what are regarded as suitable areas in which to extend their enterprises. It is our duty at the Board of Trade, as I interpret it, to make it clear to the business community that they can rely on us for good judgment in these matters, for assistance in obtaining the necessary information, and such inducements to those who may be reconsidering the planning of an industry or the placing of new industries, as will enable us to obtain what we all have in view, without attempting to compel rather than to attract those whom we are anxious to influence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley), who earlier in the evening promised somewhat qualified support to the Government, has had experience of one or two of the most intractable of the problems with which we are faced. He must be well aware of the fact that Oldham was wholly dependent upon one section of one industry which really meant sooner or later a very grave problem for its work-people. I do not know what my hon. Friend would suggest with regard to the Oldham problem, but I am afraid that we are not likely to have great improvements made in the condition of Oldham, merely by suggesting to Oldham that it should throw its doors open to industries which do not want to go there. There you come to the whole kernel of the problem. How are you going to make these people wish to go into these areas? What are you going to do which will attract them? You must have some magnet which will draw them there. You cannot merely sit down and make demands that A, or B, or C, should move out of Southern England and go to Oldham. They will not go merely on that statement. They want something more fundamental. What can you offer to them? First there is an industrial population, which is the very basis of all industry.


Does my right hon. Friend suggest that had certain areas been prohibited to industries four years ago, a number of the concerns which have been started since that time would not, in fact have gone to places like Oldham? Two new factories have indeed been established at Oldham. Would there not have been many more both there and in other parts of the industrial North, if that had been done?


I have grave doubts about that. I think there would always be some who would go there, but I doubt very much whether you could base a general policy on that method. May I point out to the House exactly what are the dimensions of the problem? In the first place, 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 a result of transfers from the North. Such new factories as have been set up in the South are new ventures and their processes new very often to this country. They have not been new in the sense of having been taken from the North and planted in the South. The survey for 1935 shows that, as regards transfers of factories, the net movement last year was actually from the South to the North. I must confess that that was a very surprising fact, but that is the actual result of an official investigation.

There has been, of course, a drift of population to the South and Midlands in recent years and, indisputably, a majority of the new undertakings started have been located in the South. But the main attraction of the large wealthy, London market is for the light industries, those concerns which we see springing up on Western Avenue and on the Great West Road, and indeed on every side of London at the present time. The extent to which these factories are responsible for migration can be exaggerated and I should like to give these figures by way of contrast. While the number of insured persons in employment in southern England that is to say, London, the South-East, the South-West and the Midland divisions, increased by nearly 350,000 between June, 1935, and June, 1936, the new factories, covered by the Board of Trade survey, which were opened last year in that same area employed only 30,000. Those new factories also brought a certain amount of employment indirectly, and that should be added to the 30,000; but allowing for this and for the exclusion from the survey of factories employing fewer than 25 people, it seems clear that the main reason for the great expansion of employment in the South and the Midlands is to be found, not in the new factories but in the increased activity of existing undertakings. Among the other factors are the increased attraction of London as the capital city of the Empire and as an administrative centre of large scale business. Also the South generally has a great market provided by a residential population. Those characteristics of this very attractive market have been so strong that undoubtedly the tendency has been towards the closer accumulation of these industries in and around London, so that the cost of carriage could be reduced.

I observed that the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. Westwood) had uppermost in his mind to-day the effect of transport upon the maintenance of existing industries and that he was thinking, not of the allocation of new industries, but of the preservation of those industries which were already there. It is a very remarkable fact that there is no part of Great Britain which is more than about 80 miles from the sea. We have very good sea transport, and our coastwise traffic is conducted on an extraordinarily economical basis, but road traffic is undoubtedly, and quite properly, taking the place of some of the lighter rail traffic. He asked whether I could arrange for a conference on this subject with the. Board of Trade or the Ministry of Transport, and I shall be very glad to arrange for him to discuss these topics with us as soon as it is convenient for him. It may not be strictly Board of Trade business, but if it is not, it will be one of the other Departments, and I will answer for it that it will be prepared to go into this problem and see where it stands.

I quite realise that in the preservation of the old industries transport must play a very important part. That is one of the extraordinary facts of this extraordinarily busy country and the proximity of the sea is of enormous advantage. It is no is our shutting our eyes to the fact that unless a sea port is within reach of one of these greater industries, they have very little chance of expansion. But do not let us overlook the fact that there are growing up, even in South Wales, which appears to be one of the most difficult of all our areas, a tendency to get down nearer to the sea. I believe that one of the reasons why the big Guest, Keen, and Nettlefolds firm have planted their new works at Cardiff is in order that they may be near to the port of shipment so as to be able to get their raw materials, and, when they have finished their products, get them away cheaply by sea. South Wales, therefore, has that great advantage.

I know that it is very cold comfort to give to South Wales to say that, when she is not really obtaining a great increase in her trade, but I hope there will be other concerns which will follow the example of Guest, Keen, and Nettlefolds and that they will, in the course of time, build up around that area an active South Wales once more. At all events, so far as my personal influence goes, exercised at the Board of Trade, I am ready at all times to recommend to suitable individuals and concerns the advantages which they can find in South Wales if they will go and look at them. It is no use doing as so many hon. Members do in the course of these Debates, namely, visualising the problem without actually knowing the local facts. Before I entered the profession of politics I spent in South Wales all my early business life, and one found there a great spirit of trading enterprise. I cannot believe that that enterprise has died out. At all events, I know some very enterprising business men who showed a tendency to drift away from Wales and who are now going back into that Principality.

May I mention in passing the position of Merthyr Tydvil, which always seems to me to present in itself a problem very much more difficult than almost any other area? Merthyr Tydvil has two advantages. One, and a very important one to-day, is an abundant supply of labour. Do not let the House run away with the idea that there is enough labour to go round, because in skilled labour there is not enough for our present requirements while we are working under our present strain. Particularly while we are at work on an ambitious, and a necessarily ambitious, defence programme, we have not enough men to go round in the skilled trades. In Merthyr Tydvil there is to be found a very considerable supply of the kinds of labour that would be used in any heavy industry set up there. That is one of the facts which certainly we shall bring to the notice of anyone who consults the Board of Trade about the location of a new industry; but I should hope there might be a revival in Merthyr Tydvil, and I hope there will be in Ebbw Vale, by a return of the old industries.

Let the House not deceive itself into thinking that it is only by the growing up of the light industries that we shall employ these industrial areas anew. It is by the recovery of the greater industries that we shall do it, and that is one of the reasons why I have devoted time at the Board of Trade to obtaining hold of the markets which there are for the bigger industries abroad, and to providing, as far as we could by agreements, for fair play in these foreign markets.


Is my right hon. Friend able to assure us that no clog by trade union or other organisations is put on the training of these untrained men to prevent their being trained?


No. I think you will always find, in every class of the community, opposition to any new ideas of that kind, but, on the whole, I think there has been a general welcome for these training arrangements, and anybody who can provide our skilled artisans with their necessary art in a short period of time will be very popular anywhere in industrial England, provided he can get the business for the heavy industries. if we do our part through negotiations abroad, so that our foreign markets are reopened for us, if we do what we can here to see that such advice as we give is well founded, I have not the least doubt that we shall discover, in the next two or three years, a tendency to go back to the areas which have always been attractive for the development of the greater industries.

I do not think we can consent to any proposal which would mean that you were to take a factory owner or a works manager and compel him to put down his industry in such area as we like. There are some limitations, of course, on the freedom of everybody in the use of land. Our Town Planning Acts provide us with a principle which is likely to carry us a very long way, but, so far as we are concerned, we could not consent to any system which would result in the compulsion of business men to plant down factories in places where it might be impossible for them to make ends meet. All that we can do is to provide them with the necessary information and to add to the inducements which might possibly attract them into these areas. That is what was in the mind of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he spoke yesterday. He wanted the magnets to be used to draw those great industries into the areas where they are likely to be of general use as well as profitable to themselves.

I must revert to a somewhat unpopular and unpalatable topic to hon. Members opposite when I say that, unless you can plant factories in a position where they will make profits, in the first place they will not go willingly and you have no power to compel them, and, in the second place, if they go there without the prospect of making a profit, they may not last very long. It is absolutely necessary that whatever we do should be lasting in its effects. To the extent that it involves compulsion, I could not accept the Motion on the Paper, but I believe that the general hopes and aspirations of the House are sufficiently expressed in it if we are not tied down to a literal translation of what it means. If that is the case, I would ask my hon. Friends behind me whether they would not be satisfied with the discussion which we have had to-day and allow the original Motion to go on to the Journals of the House. If that is done, I do not think it will commit them to anything which they would regard as unpalatable, and it would enable us, by a unanimous vote to declare that we shall do what we can for these unfortunate areas.

6.55 p.m.


The Debate has shown that a late sitting of the House is not always disadvantageous in its subsequent effect on the temper of the House. It may be that weariness is not incompatible with greater mental activity and harmony of spirit. Anyhow, I think my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) has performed a service in moving this Motion. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly), who seconded it, has additional qualifications for speaking in that he not only represents a Lancashire division here, but across the water, in the County Hall, he is, I believe, vice-chairman of the Town Planning Committee of the London County Council, and therefore he sees this problem from two points of view.

The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has made a proposal which we gladly accept, so far as the formalities of the Debate are concerned, namely, that he will put his own interpretation upon certain phrases which may be contained in the Motion but that he is willing that it should go on the records of the House thus interpreted; and he appealed to his hon. Friends behind him to withdraw their Amendment. We are very content with such a result of this Debate. I did not think that the speeches of either the Mover or the Seconder of the Amendment were in violent conflict with the speeches made by my two hon. Friends who moved and seconded the original Motion. I did think that the chief differ- ence between the terms of their Amendment and the terms of the Motion was merely a difference of emphasis and definiteness, and in particular I did regret that they left out any specific reference to London, about which I wish to say a word.

We can certainly claim that the idea of the planning of the location of industry is making great progress in many sections of opinion. We are, by agreement, not making party points, but there was a time when many of my hon. Friends were alone in putting up the idea that the powers of the State, by one means or another, should be employed in order to influence powerfully the flow of economic life and the geographical distribution of population and industry. I think there has now been some considerable acceptance of this idea, though with some qualifications by those who normally are our political opponents, and naturally we welcome this advance.

The purpose of the Motion of my hon. Friends is, I think, two-fold. There are two principal points. First of all, there is the question of directing additional industries and means of livelihood into the distressed areas, which many of us represent, and, on the other hand, there is the proposal that London should be limited in its future growth. The arguments for these two propositions are partly similar and partly separate. If you are to bring more industry into the distressed areas, it is evidently indispensable that to some extent you should prevent industry going elsewhere, and in particular that you should prevent it from clustering around the outer London ring. But, in addition to that, there are separate reasons, which I hope to emphasise before I sit down, for regarding the growth of London as a menace in itself, quite separate from any problem of the distressed areas as we usually define them.

So far as the distressed areas aspect of the matter is concerned, I have nothing to add to the very admirable statement of the case by my hon. Friend the Member for Houghton-le-Spring (Mr. W. Joseph Stewart). He was kind enough to refer to certain conditions in the South-West corner of Durham, where I have the honour to be one of the Parliamentary representatives, and he painted that picture very vividly and very truly. I think there is a growing sense of shame, independent of party divisions altogether, at the spectacle of the increasing contrast between the depressed areas, in which no appreciable improvement is taking place at all, and the rest of the country, in which, whatever we may say about the reasons for it or as to the probable permanence of it, none the less industrial improvement of a marked character is for the moment evident. With the growth of prosperity elsewhere the contrast is sharpened. The case has been put so well by many hon. Friends of mine that I do not need now to develop it along the ordinary lines.

As to London. I make no complaint, but I think that no Minister charged with the Defence of the country has been present this afternoon. I note that no one is here who is specially charged with Defence, and yet one of the principal arguments in support of this Motion is a Defence argument as far as London is concerned. Mr. Malcolm Stewart, in his latest report, has some very pungent passages; they are in an appendix, but I hope none the less they will be widely read. On page 168 he writes: From the strategic point of view, the position is one of the greatest possible danger. Reference has already been made to the concentration of population and wealth in this small area dependent on an extremely complicated mechanical organisation. It would take very little in the way of systematic attack to destroy the most vital parts of this organisation, with the result that the feeding of the population would become impossible. Having developed the argument a little further he proceeds: It is remarkable that, out of the 25 aircraft manufacturing firms. 12 are in or near London and a further 5 are in the South Eastern Counties. Further, some of our most important electrical firms are in the London area, and it is understood that the only manufacturers of large scale cold storage equipment are also situated in London. London is not only open to attack from the air but could be bombarded from the Continental Ports on the other side of the Straits of Dover should these be in enemy hands. It is high time these things were not only said but generally appreciated, and we must be grateful to Mr. Malcolm Stewart for hitting that nail hard on the head; it needed hitting. The reference to aircraft factories was new to me. It is a disastrous state of affairs that we should have permitted the concentration of aircraft production to take place in the most vulnerable part of this country. Once more I quote Mr. Malcolm Stewart: Over 18 months ago and before the Defence Programme was formulated I made representations to Lord Londonderry, then Secretary of State for Air, that some measure of decentralisation of production of aircraft was desirable to secure increased safety against attack, and put forward the advantages of relative safety offered by some districts in the South Wales and Cumberland Areas. It was not considered possible at that time to take any action in the matter. I hope action will be taken soon to disperse, in the geographical sense, aircraft production, and indeed all our essential industries. I am told that this afternoon news is coming which illustrates in a very dramatic way what may happen to a great agglomeration of population if aircraft are on the wing. Mr. Speaker, I assure you that I do not intend to stray from the point but merely to give this as an illustration. I am told that as we debate here Madrid is burning in many parts; houses, hospitals, art galleries and human bodies are being consumed in flames. Yet it is a low-geared sort of war that is going on in Spain compared with what may happen if some fears are realised. I hope that the Government are taking this matter seriously. I hope that on Defence grounds alone they will accept the intention in broad terms of that part of my friend's Motion which requests that a limit should be set on the growth of what has become both a monstrosity and a national danger.

The ways of Providence are curious, but this question does link up with the distressed areas, because when you look at the Special Areas it so happens that they are almost all to the West. South Wales is relatively very far from those places whence bombers might come. West Cumberland is well away behind a range of hills and as far West as anywhere in the North of England. It is the West of Scotland which is most depressed. In the County of Durham it is the Western end which is most distressed and which is relatively invulnerable, compared with many other centres where essential production is still carried on. The right hon. Gentleman referred, I think, to the case of Messrs. Richard Thomas, who desired to leave South Wales and set up what they hoped would be a more profitable enterprise on the coast of Lincolnshire. What prevented that has been somewhat in the dark, but if it was the right hon. Gentleman's hand that kept them back, metaphorically I shake it. That was a good deed, both from the point of view of preventing the further decay of an already sorely tried area and from the point of view of Defence. Another act of lunacy was prevented. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having knocked some sense into that industrial head. I hope that the Government's influence will be exercised to persuade industry to go west, because if it does not go west in the geographical sense the danger is greatly increased that it will go west in a metaphorical sense. The depressed areas are fortunate in one thing, if only one thing—their geographical situation, from the strategical point of view, and I hope, therefore, that the Government will accept our view and take into their hands one more argument for bringing about that movement desired in the Motion.

If I might cite one foreign example, in France at present, the production of aircraft—I am not trying to score a party point, but it has, incidentally, been taken over by the State—has been arranged in this way. Geographically what is happening in France is that under the new control five public corporations for different regions have been set up and the whole thing has been organised with a view to a Westward and South-Westward movement, and I understand that the French Government are exercising considerable pressure on the location of industry from the strategical point of view.

We have had an admirable Debate, and it has been a pleasure to agree so completely with some of the speeches made from the benches opposite. In particular the speech of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) appeared to me to be wholly admirable and extremely cogent, and I trust that his influence with the right hon. Gentleman, which I hope is already considerable, will extend. I hope that his influence and that of his friends will extend, because evidently we have now a general agreement in favour of the exercise of public influence—I want to use neutral terms which shall not seem provocative or partisan—on the location of industry. The right hon. Gentleman reminded us that no point in this island is more than 80 miles from the seaboard. That helps to illustrate the fact that within very wide limits you can put industry where you choose. It would be much more difficult to do that if distances to the seaboard were greater. The fact that this is a small island and is shaped as it is does assist us to play draughts with industry. The problem is soluble and the desire to solve it is more and more widely entertained by all sections of opinion.

My hon. Friends are well content with the reception which their Motion has received from the House, and to accept the conclusion suggested by the right hon. Gentleman. I trust that in future Debates we shall learn that a still further advance has been made both in boldness and concrete detail towards the realisation of the ideas for which the Motion was put forward.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, owing to the serious decline in the recognised industrial areas of many major exporting industries upon which the preeminent commercial position of this country was built, this House is of the opinion that steps should at once be taken to prevent further industrial concentration around London and in the South by diverting new undertakings to those areas where unemployment and under-employment have for long caused hardship and distress among industrial populations.