HC Deb 26 April 1937 vol 323 cc45-96

Order for Third Reading read.

4.0 p.m.

The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Brown)

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Readers of Sir Walter Scott's books will remember that Andrew Fairservice as Rob Roy paid a visit to London and when he was asked what he thought about Parliament, said he did not understand why the two Houses should have their havers twice over. That was his trouble. Having our talks over large issues two and three and four times, as in the present case, before the Third Reading, has not only disadvantages, as Andrew Fair-service thought, but it has this advantage, that it makes it unnecessary for us to talk at length on the Third Reading, when we are confined to the proposals actually contained in the Bill. I shall, therefore, confine my attention to the proposals of the Bill. It is quite clear to the House as a whole that the Bill is one of a series of efforts made by the Government to help the Special Areas. The Bill goes further and comprises areas other than Special Areas. It is called: A Bill to continue until the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, 1934, and to enable further assistance to be given to the areas specified in the First Schedule to that Act, and to certain other areas. That is the long Title and it shows that the Bill has three purposes. The first purpose is to continue the Special Areas Act for another two years. That Act, which was due to expire on 31st March last, and was given a temporary extension of life under the Expiring Laws Bill, would otherwise have come to an end on 31st May next. I am sure that the House as a whole, taking a long view, would not desire that Act to come to an end.

The second purpose is to give the Commissioner of the Special Areas certain additional powers, which he does not already possess, to give financial inducements to industrial undertakings establishing themselves in the Special Areas. Thirdly, it is designed to enable the Treasury to give financial assistance directly and indirectly to new undertakings which establish themselves in certain areas which have suffered from prolonged unemployment but are outside the Special Areas.

In broad terms those are the three main objects secured by the Bill. I do not propose to detain the House very long on the matter, but I will say a word or two further to what I said on the Financial Resolution and in Committee on two or three of the issues. It is now clearly understood in the House and the country that the purpose of the Special Areas Act was to initiate an experimental and unorthodox procedure with regard to economic and social betterment in those areas. On more than one occasion I have told the House that it is my belief, and that of the Government, that there is no single formula and no simple formula for instilling new life into the areas which have suffered from heavy unemployment due to many causes. It is all the more true that there is no simple formula for this matter if the aim is to replace, by a variety of new industries, a single industry heavily hit, so that all the eggs are not in the one basket as they have been too often in the past. The intention of the Bill is to induce other industries to go to these areas so that in future their prosperity may not be concerned solely with the prosperity or adversity of one or at most two industries. As I said some time ago, the aim was to make a systematic attack at many points, taking care to embark only upon measures which have a reasonable hope of success, to win that ground, and then to consolidate it before making a further advance in any particular directions. I need not go further into that, except to say that if hon. Members will look at page 161 of Sir Malcolm Stewart's Third Report they will see, in the schedule he has drawn up, the many types of effort undertaken under the original Act of 1934, and how widespread and diverse has been the aid given in these areas. Up to the moment in Great Britain in the Special Areas the total commitments of the Commissioners are not less than £13,000,000.

The second main purpose of the Bill is to enable further assistance to be given to the Special Areas. Two special ways of doing this are covered in Clause 4 which deals with contributions by the Commissioners to road and drainage expenses in Special Areas. One of these is very important. In areas where streets and roads have been needing repair the Commissioner has not been able to assist the carrying out of repairs in the past because the Minister of Transport had the power to give the grants. This Bill does away with that embargo and will enable the Commissioner to go straight ahead with very necessary work in some of these towns. The other is a comparatively minor point. It deals with the question of field drainage.

The Bill is concerned with two things; first of all with giving an initial move to induce private enterprise to go to these areas. I shall quote to the House one sentence from Sir Malcolm Stewart's report and ask the House to think about the significance of the words in the light of this Bill: To start the movement the initial effort must be powerful. There can be no doubt of the adequacy of the attractive effect of the powers it is proposed to give the Commissioners under Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill; very wide, very unorthodox powers, and the Commissioner himself is unfettered in his discretion as to how he will use those powers. He will be able to acquire or to build and let factories at economic rents. He will be able to give grants for not more than five years at his own discretion towards rates and Income Tax, and, what was not advocated by the Commissioner but what the Government think more powerful than the other two, namely, grants towards rent—a very powerful inducement indeed. We have been encouraged to think that we may have discovered a method which will really start the movement with a strong initial pull. In some speeches at any rate, in this House, it has been pointed out that there is a possibility of unfairness to other areas because of the strength of the inducements contained inside the Bill.

I do not for one moment wish to suggest that every part of every Special Area is equally capable of industrial development on the new lines to the same extent. We know that inside the same area there is a great diversity of conditions, and regard will be had to those conditions in working out the new plans. Some are too remote from the main arteries of transport, others have not sufficient sites for new industries, and there are a score of other diversified conditions which make it much more suitable and easy to induce new industries to go to some parts of the areas than to others. On a previous occasion I pointed out that the combined efforts now being made to induce new industries to go to these areas are already having success. I have mentioned the six new undertakings that were to be established in South Wales with a capital of about £1,500,000. I also referred to Tyneside, the Team Valley Estate, and Scotland, and the reopening of the colliery in West Cumberland at Whitehaven; also factories which are to be established in Special Areas in connection with the Defence programme. There have been developments in this regard since I spoke, two of which are in an advanced state. The first is the new shell-filling plant to be installed in the works of the United Steel Company at Workington, and a second is the new central magazine depot for the Admiralty near Fishguard, and there are others under consideration.

Before I come to the third main purpose of the Bill, there are two other matters I shall mention. First in regard to the West Cumberland Site Development Company. Since the Debate on the Financial Resolution considerable progress has been made with regard to the establishment of this industrial company in West Cumberland, which is to clear sites and build factories in that area. The memorandum and articles of association of the company are now settled, and I understand that the Commissioner is shortly issuing invitations to the prospective chairman and members of the board. The second is the South-West Durham Improvement Association. It is not possible to report quite such rapid progress in this case, but here again the memorandum and articles of association have been agreed and settled and the Commissioner is now devoting his attention to securing a good working executive board. The duties of this board will be to investigate the economic possibilities of South-West Durham, to undertake a certain amount of site clearance, to improve the general appearance of the district by removing derelict buildings, and he will also give special consideration to the problem which is created by the existence of small and isolated villages where there is little prospect of industrial development. I would emphasise one point on which there has been some misunderstanding, namely, that neither the Government nor the Commissioner has ever said that South-West Durham as a whole must revert to agriculture or remain stagnant. I say that because there has been some misunderstanding, and the report of Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners had that suggestion. But I was perfectly clear in my answer to the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Batey) that neither the Government nor the Special Commissioner necessarily accepted the view of that report. Indeed there are parts of this area in which the Commissioner will do his utmost to encourage industrial development. Yet, as in other areas, it must be recognised that there are parts, even there, which are not equally well placed, and parts which will more easily attract new industries.

I must say a word about the speech of the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) regarding the Team Valley Estate. I cannot but think that on the rapid journey he took near that estate he must, as the Australians say, have been looking sideways. I do not suggest that he was asleep, but he must have been looking sideways. The facts as they are do not bear out his rapid impression. At the moment there are 500 men working on the estate, it factories are being erected, over two miles of road have been built, the electricity sub-station has been erected, the drainage is in, as is also a temporary water main. A large portion of the Team diversion has been cut, thousands of yards of fill have been put in for the new estate railway. Work has been started on an administrative block and arrangements have been made to date for 31 factories. The first factory, occupying 9,000 square feet, will be open within the next three weeks, I understand. The next factory, covering over 18,000 square feet, will be open soon after. On 3rd May the third tenant is to start to move his machinery in. That is a true picture and very different from that given to the House by the hon. Member for Seaham. These fads will show that real and rapid progress is being made. In view of the various speeches I have already made on the Bill I do not propose to detain the House long on the present occasion. Let me say that in order to stimulate private enterprise negotiations are constantly going on, and the facts that I have been able to give the House up to the moment will, as the weeks go on, mean that Members who represent Special Areas will have more and more new industries to consider as likely to come into their areas.

Mr. Maxton

Who is carrying on these negotiations?

Mr. Brown

They have been carried on under the Act of 1934 by the Government in connection with the Nuffield Trust. The bodies work together and we are using every effort to induce private enterprise to start in the Special Areas and we have been successful in the case of six industries in South Wales.

Mr. Maxton

The Minister has mentioned one or two bodies. But who precisely is doing the job for the Government?

Mr. Brown

The link between the bodies is the Special Commissioner and Lord Portal, who is Chairman of the Nuffield Trust.

Mr. Lawson

The question of the Team Valley Estate is rather important. The right hon. Gentleman says that six new industries are going there.

Mr. Brown

I said that 31 factories had been arranged up to date; and I referred to three which are going to the Team Valley almost immediately, one within three weeks, the second soon after that —the roof is on—and the third before 3rd May.

Mr. Lawson

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether these industries are simply industries transferred from other parts of the country which would normally not have been expected to operate in the North of England?

Mr. Brown

I think not. I think they are new enterprises which have been attracted by the opportunity given them by the Team Valley Estate, and by the knowledge that there is a fine reserve of labour, some of the finest labour in the whole world. These areas have great attractions on more than one side, and I am sure the whole House will wish to emphasise that particular point. In addition to giving the Commission power to do these things in the Special Areas, the Bill also provides, in Clause 5, for additional help to be given to similar areas which are not inside the Act of 1934. I spoke at length on this matter, and I propose to add only one word now. It is, that the Treasury is to provide £2,000,000. I want to make it clear that it is not a loan like the £1,000,000 under S.A.R.A.; it is not a revolving fund, but a sum to be provided by the Treasury to be applied in cases where site companies induce manufacturers to come to the areas.

To sum up. The Bill extends the power of the Special Commissioner in these areas and also embodies the answer to the demand of the then Special Commissioner, Sir Malcolm Stewart, that the greatest single service that can be done for these areas would be to provide a magnet to induce a more diversified series of industries to settle down, operate and succeed in these areas. It is an answer which comes at a very appropriate moment, for we all know that the industrial tide is moving very strongly just now. It is also in line with the real trend of modern development, namely, a demand for a much greater diversity of goods for all consumers, and, not only that, a supply of new industries to supply hundreds of new articles which were not thought of 25 and 30 years ago. Being in line with the trend of modern development it is surely wise planning to see that we do all we can to redress the balance in favour of these areas which have suffered so long and so heavily from the great depression. It is our confident belief that these inducements will prove most valuable, and I give the House the assurance that they will be used with energy and dispatch, both by the Commissioner himself, by the Government and by all associated with them, in order that a happier time may lie ahead for the hundreds and thousands of souls unemployed in these areas than they have had, unhappily, in recent years.

4.24 p.m.

Mr. Lawson

This is the final stage of a long and hotly contested Bill. It is the seventh day of debate, and I must draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Bill stands to-day as it did on Second Reading, and differs very little from the Money Resolution. As a matter of fact, there is to be only one word altered. The Minister of Labour, when he was very much alive on Friday morning—I forget the exact time, and I am sure he does not remember it—promised to accept an Amendment. As a matter of fact the right hon. Gentleman has been a very good stone-wailer. I wish his imagination as a constructive statesman was equal to his capacity for stonewalling. He accepted one Amendment, the alteration of one word, and then he said that he would see that the matter was put right in another place. It was merely a question of grammar. After seven days' debate, on one of the most serious matters affecting the life of this country, and after hon. Members in different parts of the House had borne testimony to the grim conditions prevailing in these areas, testimony gained at first-hand experience, the Government have not accepted any Amendment.

Mr. Batey

Would not even discuss them.

Mr. Lawson

That is a deep wrong to Parliament as well as to the Special Areas. We said what we thought about the Money Resolution, which tied the House down, and I hope for the sake of fruitful discussions in this House, and in fhe interests of democratic institutions, we shall not have a repetition of that kind of thing. The right hon. Gentleman has told us a good many things which the Bill is going to do. There are 1,500,000 unemployed in this country. Most of them—at least 1,000,000—are concentrated in the distressed areas. These areas cover but a comparatively small part of the country—a matter of great importance and significance for the nation. It means that the average citizen who does not live in these areas cannot be expected to know all the facts or understand what they mean, but it is certainly the business of statesmen to treat these conditions very seriously indeed. The lack of employment is in the basic industries. Unemployment is in those industries upon which the country still depends for its life. We are told that prosperity prevails in secondary industries, but if the country had to depend upon them it would perish

This nation, industrially, still lives by coal, cotton, steel, shipbuilding and heavy engineering. No amount of juggling with figures can avoid the fact that fewer and fewer people are being employed in these great industries. In the North-East, coal mining during the last 12 years has lost one-quarter of its workers, iron and steel has also lost one-quarter, and shipbuilding about two-fifths. I do not know what is the loss in cotton, but it is very great. Year by year there has been a decrease in the number of workers employed in these industries, and that is leading to larger numbers of unemployed being concentrated in these particular areas, at a time when we are told there is something like a boom in trade and employment. If that is the condition of things during a boom, there will be a very grave problem when the inevitable downward slide in industry comes.

The great problem that has to be faced is not one of the Special Areas, but of the great basic industries and the whole areas that those industries cover. It is a question of getting a right balance between the principal industries and the secondary industries. This Bill does not do anything to correct the balance; all it does is to try, by what I might call indirect means, to get a number of factories in certain areas. It deals with the Special Areas rather than with the whole of the areas in which the basic industries are established. For instance, it fails utterly to deal with Lancashire. It is true that there is in the Bill a proposal to set up site-companies, but the cotton areas are only dealt with indirectly through site-companies.

Because it concentrates on the Special Areas, it plays one district off against another in the old industrial areas. It plays the Team Valley off against Middlesbrough. There is very bad unemployment in Middlesbrough. I agree with an hon. Member who said the other night that it is the irony of history that Middlesbrough should be outside in these matters, although it was a former Member for Middlesbrough, the late Mr. Trevelyan Thomson, who first drew attention to this lamentable state of things. In the Durham area, the Bill plays off the Team Valley against South-West Durham; it plays the Team Valley off against Sunderland. The Bill deals in a petty, irritating sort of way with the problem, and has the effect of creating jealousy among local authorities without enabling one to be sure that it will do anything really effective. As to the Team Valley, I was surprised to hear the description which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour gave of the Team Valley Trading Estate. I agree that it is laid down on a large scale and has a beautiful situation, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) that there is not much sign of factories there if one looks at it from the railway or from the road. I do not doubt what the right hon. Gentleman said, but it was news to me, and I may mention that I went along the road yesterday and observed the estate very closely. I do not want any false impressions to prevail on this point.

The Team Valley is in a good natural position, and the road and the railway go alongside it; if any place is likely to develop, that is the most likely place in the county. But what will be the effect of this estate on South-West Durham? It will drastically reduce the chances of South-West Durham, which is in a most lamentable position. I have the figures for unemployment in South-West Durham for 15th March of this year and they are as follow: Bishop Auckland, 39.5 per cent. (10,630 persons); Cockfield (a colliery area), 37.1 per cent. (1,980 persons); Crook, 30.4 per cent. (9,300 persons); Spennymoor 24.1 per cent. (11,010 persons); Shildon, 39.8 per cent. (3,790 persons). Sunderland has nearly 3o per cent. The same applies to a whole range of districts within that Special Area. Even at a time when great orders are being placed for armaments purposes and when there is a call for more regular work in the mines, unemployment on that scale is prevailing in those areas. The net effect of the Team Valley Estate will be to lessen the chances of South-West Durham of getting new factories established. There is something the Government could have done for South-West Durham. I want the right hon. Gentleman to treat this matter very seriously. The Commissioner, through the Government, has completely avoided his duty with reference to the draining of mines in South-West Durham. They have tried to put the question of the draining of mines on to the gentlemen who investigated the possibility of draining them. The question has been shuffled from one place to another, the latest move being to ask the Durham County Council for its opinion. We want to know who is going to drain those pits in South-West Durham.

Mr. Ellis Smith

And in other areas.

Mr. Lawson

I was taking South-West Durham as an illustration. In those pits there are millions of tons of coal of very good quality. The mines remain flooded because the people who own the pits have gone away and take no interest in them. The coal is wasting. We have very good grounds for saying that if the pits were drained, some of them would work and would give employment, at any rate as the thin end of the wedge, to the people in those areas. It seems to me that there is not very much sincerity on the part of the Government in its attitude about putting industries in South-West Durham if they refuse—

Major Braithwaite

Will the hon. Member tell us how it will be possible to get the standard tonnage from those pits under the Coal Mines Act?

Mr. Lawson

That is a very simple question. A pit quite near to these pits, but outside the flooded area, after having been closed for five years, was opened within the last two weeks by another company. The standard tonnage could be dealt with easily. There are companies—at least, I have heard of one—which are willing to operate in South West Durham. Moreover, I would remind the hon. and gallant Member that some of these pits are rather shallow ones, and would not call for the same costs of maintenance. If they were freed of water, they would be good pits, and some of them are more worthy of consideration than some of the pits that are actually being worked in Durham. The position in South West Durham in this matter is only an instance of what happens in other parts of the country. I ask the Minister who is to reply to tell us whether the Government accept responsibility for the de-watering of these mines It is a matter of very great importance to the people in South West Durham.

I have said that the Government are not taking any steps to correct the balance between the secondary industries and the older basic industries. I know that the Bill gives a special financial temptation to companies in order to try to divert certain industries into those areas. The question is much bigger than that. I think that past experience has shown that even if there are some industries going to Wales, Scotland, Lancashire and Durham, hardly the edge of the question is being touched. With 1,500,000 unemployed at a time such as this, with £1,000,000 unemployed in the old basic industry areas, and having had 1,000,000 unemployed for the greater part of the 18 years since the War, has not experience shown the need for a Minister being appointed for the purpose of surveying industry and of directing—even compelling—people to stop planting factories in some parts of the country and to establish themselves instead in the older basic industry areas? I am sure that is a principle that will be accepted in this country before we are very much older. The Government have given the steel companies power to stop steel mills being established in certain parts of the country. They have stopped them at Jarrow.

Miss Wilkinson

Hear, hear!

Mr. Lawson

I am very pleased to hear the voice of Jarrow once more. They have given power to the coalowners to close certain pits and to limit output. In every direction they have given industry the power to limit output, to stop operations at certain works and to say that works shall not be established in certain places—is it not high time that the Government, having the benefit of that experience which has been forced upon the country by the facts of modern industry, should do the job themselves.

As far as I can see, the Bill does not alter the general powers of the Commissioner. He remains in exactly the same position. It is true there are two specific things in connection with which he has been given some power. One is the drainage of agricultural land and there is another power which, at the moment, I forget. But the Commissioner is still in the lamentable position of wanting to do certain things and having no power to do them. The right hon. Gentleman told us that we had only to look at the report in order to see the large and varied number of matters with which the Commissioner had dealt and the advantages which he had given to the Special Areas. I come from one of the worst of those areas and I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I see very little evidence there of the work of the Commissioner. That is mainly due to the fact, as the Commissioner himself said in his third report, that he had no real power himself and that in order to get any power to do anything, he had to go from Department to Department, which occupied a considerable time.

I challenge the hon. Gentleman who is to reply to deny, on behalf of the Government, my statement that the position of the Commissioner—against which, be it remembered, there was considerable criticism from both sides of the House—remains unchanged. I challenge him to show that the position of the Commissioner is in the least altered by the Bill. The Commissioner is still just as much the pawn of the Departments as he has been during the past two years. He has no real power to deal with such things as amenities or the cleaning up of those burning slag-heaps in Lancashire, of which we heard in Friday's discussion, and which are even worse than the pit-heaps in Wales, because of the way in which they are scattered about the country. When it comes to a question of making the landscape decent and cleaning up these sites, the Commissioner has no power unless such powers as may be given him by some obscure person in some Department. We are considering here a problem which every thinking Member of the House wishes to have dealt with effectively. It is a problem which is disturbing the minds of the most thoughtful people in the country, almost irrespective of party. Yet it is a fact which has been expounded and commented on by almost every type of person and of newspaper that the Commissioner during the past two years has been almost helpless. He will remain helpless even after this Bill has been passed.

I shall never be able to understand why the critics on the other side of the House who were so generously disposed towards the Special Areas in the earlier stages of these discussions, and who compelled the Government to take some action, should have hastily retreated when this Bill was introduced, since the very centre of the position which they then assailed has been left untouched by the Government in this Measure. The Government seem to me to be relying as much as ever upon transference. That is the centre of their policy. I think the House can bear witness that I have never been an opponent of transference as such, but I ask the Government to take it from me that transference is now becoming something like a menace to the areas affected. As the Commissioner pointed out in his third report, during the last 15 years, 608,000 young people have left the Special Areas. I ask the House to mark the fact that that number refers not to the depressed areas generally, not to the old industrial areas as a whole, which have been afflicted by unemployment, but only to that micro- scopic portion of those areas selected by the Government for treatment.

From that comparatively small area alone 608,000 young people—they are practically all young people—have gone elsewhere. I am glad to say that most of them have been placed. Some of them have had difficulties to face. But as I said in the Second Reading Debate their going has robbed the older industrial areas of young people to such an extent that people in the shipbuilding industry are complaining that they cannot get apprentices and in the mining industry they are saying that they cannot get youngsters to do the jobs which used to be done by them. Personally I am not sorry at that because some of the jobs which the youngsters were doing were really jobs for men. But I wish to point out that this is not merely a complaint made by us on the ground of sentiment, that these young people have had to leave their families and that homes have been broken up in consequence.

At the same time I assure the House that this has meant very grim experiences for a great many families. It is not that the people are soft, but when a man and a woman living on a small wage bring up a boy or girl, they want to keep that boy or girl there because they like to have their children at home and boys of 14, at any rate, when it comes to industrial matters ought not, I think, to be away from home. It is not merely that consideration which is involved. Sometimes a little help is needed in the home. I shall not soon forget an experience I had recently of meeting a man who is an old friend of mine. He answered me rather abruptly and seemed unwilling to enter into conversation, which was very unusual on his part. Then he apologised and told me that he was much upset because he had two boys and a girl who had gone away and he added that it was a shame that children should have to leave their homes in order to get work.

The Government, as I say, still rely upon transference, upon drawing away the boys and the girls from these areas, as a means of dealing with the problem. When are they going to do something in the direction of compensating the areas which are losing those boys and girls, the areas which educated them and housed them, and supplied their social needs? When are the Government going to consider making some return of that kind? I know the Minister of Health says that some return has been given in the block grant. But the block grant in relation to the need of the Special Areas is like a drop of water in the sea. If it gives a mythical 5s. to Merthyr, it leaves Merthyr with rates of over 20S. in the If it gives a mythical 2s. to Durham—which turns out to be only 1s. 6d. or 1s. 7d. in reality—it leaves Durham with rates of 16s. in the £. If it leaves those areas in such a position that they cannot carry out their administrative duties under the law, then it is time that the Government were taking some extraordinary measures, some measures more effective than those proposed in this Bill, to deal with the problem. We have always taken the same attitude in regard to this question. We opposed the first steps taken by the Government because we thought they were dealing in a very limited way with the problem. We thought from the first that a matter involving great and disturbing economic changes required the special attention of the Cabinet instead of the casual attention of the Minister of Labour. But we said although we disagreed with the Government's proposal we were prepared to see what the result of the experiment would be. We said: "The conditions are such that we have to accept the little that you offer."

We take the same attitude in respect of this Bill. We would not think of voting against its Third Reading, but we warn the Government and the House that the problems underlying this question are wider and deeper than is indicated by the microscopic areas selected by the Government and termed "Special." Rearmament having been accomplished, the Government will only have succeeded in sidestepping for the time being a grim problem, one which will yet bring even more pain and sorrow, and sadness to these areas than they have already suffered. It will be discovered by the time this Measure has run its course, that instead of having done something for the Special Areas the Government have rendered an ill-service to the country by blinding themselves to the real issues and to the real problem which calls for attention.

4.58 p.m.

Mr. W. Roberts

The number of days allotted to this Bill and the length of some of the Debates upon it show the interest which is taken in it by Members in all parts of the House. This is the seventh day of the proceedings on this Bill, but I hope the Minister of Labour will not now content himself with saying that he sees that it is good and that he proposes to rest. I hope on the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman will proceed to make the fullest use of the powers such as they are, which the Bill gives the Government and through the Government, the Commissioner. We have noticed a certain reluctance on the part of the Government to give us the opportunities which we would have liked for the full discussion of the Bill and at this stage, we are entitled to point out again, that much of the time in Committee was occupied by Amendments placed on the Paper by supporters of the Government. We regret that on account of the way in which the Financial Resolution was drafted and the limited time afforded us, fuller discussion of some of the Amendments was not possible. In spite of that fact, those of us who sit on these benches welcome the Bill for what it is worth. Its faults are those of omission rather than commission. I doubt whether the Bill does, in any sense, accomplish what some of us hoped for from any new Special Areas Bill which was introduced. I think it has been best expressed by the Commissioner in his last Report. The passage may have been quoted before but it is, I think, worth quoting again at this stage, because many of us have approached the problem in exactly this way. The Commissioner says in paragraph 13: Seeing that the Special Areas Act provides no means of directly reducing unemployment, the all-important question that arises from a study of the results obtained from its administration is whether the time is not now ripe for a second experiment which, whilst continuing work already embarked upon, would make an attempt to deal more directly with the problem of unemployment. When the Government realised the limitations of the first Special Areas Act, which some of us pointed out at the time, and when it had been proved that those limitations of the Commissioner's powers were a hindrance to effective work, we hoped that this Bill might have inaugurated a new and vigorous policy. I do not think the Government can really claim for this Bill that it does that. All it does is to widen the powers of the Commissioners in some small, though perhaps important, ways. It permits the Commissioners to let factories for gain, and it does make a breach in the former rule—a condition laid down in the original Act—which has enormously hampered the work of the Commissioners.

We welcome the power to contribute towards rent, Income Tax and rates, but we doubt whether these inducements will really be sufficient to prevent the drift of industry to the London area and the South. We believe that something more vigorous than that will be necessary; and, while the Minister may be able in a few years time to say that half a dozen or a dozen or, we may hope, more industries have been started in the distressed areas, partly as a result of these additional inducements, we do not believe that, unless these inducements are administered in a much broader way than has been the case with much of the legislation dealing with the Special Areas in the past, they will prove sufficient.

We welcome some small points, and as representing Cumberland I particularly welcome the provisions about field drainage. We live near the Scottish Border. Not only do we envy the Scots their privileges, but, like them, we perhaps sometimes want rather more than we can get, and I should have liked to see the provisions extended to rather wider areas. But I believe they will do something to meet a type of unemployment among unskilled workers which is very difficult to deal with in some towns. Our experience has been that with a skilled foreman it is still possible to use quite unskilled labour, and I hope that this labour will be used on a large scale for this purpose. A small step has been taken in the direction of meeting the real grievance of the distinction between the Special Areas and the distressed areas. I am not quite clear how the Clause affecting the provision of sites, which is so carefully hedged round and circumscribed with conditions, is actually going to work. We hope that this Clause, Clause 5, like the other Clauses of the Act, will be used, in the Minister's phrase, with energy and despatch. But unless the Government are going to offer greater inducements in the way of factories and in the way of terms for loans than can be obtained from private sources, these provisions will be of very little practical use.

There is another special problem, and that is the transport problem, which is a serious one in many areas. In Cumberland we want a new trunk road, and I, do not see anything in this Bill which will, facilitate that. That is a problem which affects other districts as well as Cumberland. And that brings me to the point that we had hoped that under this Bill the legislation which has grown up piecemeal would have been unified under the Commissioners or under a Special Minister. That is another omission from this Bill which we regret. But, looking at the problem from a broad point of view, this I believe is an opportunity which should not have been missed for laying the foundations for a much more permanent reconstruction of many districts in the North of England, for using the experience which the Commissioner has already obtained and, above all, for preparing for the emergency which will arise when the rearmament programme is complete. We may look forward then possibly to an even worse slump than the one we have gone through, and in this Bill the opportunity should have been taken to develop and explore the possibilities of establishing new industries, which would deal with the situation when that time came.

If that is not done the North may relapse again into a still worse depression, because you are in many places creating further productive capacity which, when this hurried boom in iron and steel is complete, may leave us with an even more difficult problem than the one we have at present. After all, the problem on the North-East Coast, for instance, was largely the aftermath of the intense activity of the War, and plans should be made now to deal with the aftermath of the intense activity of the armaments boom; otherwise the last stage of the Special Areas will be worse than the first.

I should like for a moment to examine the effect of the rearmament programme on the Special Areas. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has claimed, perhaps with justification, that the financial recovery which has taken place since 1931 and 1932, the worst years of the slump, has made it possible for him to finance the rearmament programme. I would point out that the Chancellor is also under an obligation to the idle men and the idle plant which make rearmament possible at the present time. Had this country's man-power and industrial resources been fully occupied in the last six months, the carrying out of the Government's rearmament programme would have been almost impossible without a very serious rise in prices. In that sense the Chancellor is beholden to the men who have stood idle, ready to work, all these years. He is beholden to those men who have been bullied by their means test supervisors, who have been told, at one period at any rate—though perhaps one does not hear it so much now—that they were idle and did not want to work. They are wanted now, and if there were war they would be wanted even more. Without the industrial slack that has existed in heavy industry rearmament would have been a very much more difficult policy to carry out.

I do not know that there is a moral to that at the present time except the very simple and perhaps too obvious one that when time has passed and men are no longer wanted for the making of armaments they should not be thrown back upon the industrial scrap-heap and neglected until perhaps some further national crisis comes and they are called upon to come to the rescue. Of course, fundamentally the problem is the problem of the export trade, and if there is one consolation to be derived from the rearmament boom it is to my mind this: If it proves to be possible to re-employ a large part of the million and a half unemployed something may have been done to break that desperate fatalism which I find in all parties and in all parts of England—the feeling that somehow or other unemployment is inevitable, that it is due to mechanisation, to the loss of our export trade, and that nothing can be done about it except to grin and bear it. At least this temporary expedient does show that means can be adopted and that it is not necessary to put up with the desolation of unemployment indefinitely.

We on these benches are not satisfied with this Bill, and all we can say is that we hope that the Minister of Labour will look ahead and will contemplate the time when reconstruction will be even more necessary than it is to-day. The rearmament programme may be a short-term policy, but this Bill should really be the long-term policy, and if you compare the short-term and the long-term policies, the money spent on the short-term policy is ten times the amount that is actually being spent on more permanent reconstruction and the creation of new industries in these areas. Men as well as machines deteriorate, and I will quote to the House one further passage from Sir Malcolm Stewart's last report: It is not generally realised how far below the standard strength and health enjoyed by the normal active working man are those who have been long out of work, and how severely they suffer both physically and mentally from the loss of habit of work. I do not know whether I am in order in mentioning that, because it does not occur in the Bill, but I recommend again to the Minister to consider whether something cannot be done to improve the nutrition of men, women, and children in the Special Areas. There is nothing about it in this Bill, and that is another omission that we regret. Let me suggest to the Government benches that if that war comes about which they are so busy warning us, the question of the manpower in the distressed areas and among the unemployed generally will be a matter which may be a very serious item in the future. I hope the Minister of Labour will not rest on this seventh day, on the seventh day of this Bill, that he will not rest content, but that he will see to it that the somewhat vague provisions of the Bill are administered so as to give the maximum of effect to the Bill. We have not been altogether happy about some Acts of Parliament that have been passed. We feel, for instance, that the administration of S.A.R.A. has been such as to render the effect which it might have had very much less than we had hoped. In spite of rearmament and in spite of this Bill, I fear that there will be a very high proportion of unemployment in some of the towns and villages in the mining areas of South Wales, Durham, Cumberland, and elsewhere. Therefore, my last word is that the Government should see to it that this Bill, which has been forced through this House, whether we liked it or not and in spite of all our criticism, is made the fullest possible use of.

5.19 p.m.

Mr. Hopkin

There is one thing upon which Members in every part of the House must be in complete agreement, and that is that it is most certainly not in the best interests of this House that a Money Resolution should be introduced a t the beginning in precisely the same terms as the Bill which we are now discussing on the Third Reading. I think the very fact that the attendance in this House at this moment is such as it is shows that the heart and the interest have been knocked completely out of the Bill, because Members know that whatever they say cannot alter in any way the terms of the Bill, which were originally settled in the Money Resolution. With the object and the purpose of the Bill every Member on this side is in complete accord with the Minister, and the only question that has to be asked is, Does this Bill carry out the purpose for which every Member desires that it should be used? It is with very great regret that I, along with other Members on this side, have come to the conclusion that this Bill must of necessity be a failure. The problem with which it deals has been stated over and over again, and it is not for me at this stage to re-state it, but in so far as the Bill continues the old Act, I think it is a good Bill. But does it go outside that Act? Does it in any way do anything for areas other than the Special Areas? I am of the opinion that it brings no assistance at all to what have been called "certified areas." Perhaps I am wrong in saying that it brings no assistance, because if the working of the Bill when it becomes an Act shows that it is utterly futile in doing that which it sets out to do, then certainly new methods will have to be employed.

May I use the county which my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and I represent as an example? I hope the Minister, in his reply, will be able to deal with this matter, because it is one that is pressing with a weight that cannot even be imagined on the people in the valleys that have been producing the finest anthracite in the world. For them this Bill is completely futile and absolutely hopeless. It brings no hope whatsoever to thousands and thousands of the people who live in these valleys, and I entirely agree that there is no hope for the people of the Gwendraeth or Amman Valleys in this Bill. I should like to examine the terms of the Bill to see whether there is really any hope for them in it. Carmarthenshire is not a Special Area, although the figures for unemployment for March of this year are as follows: Carmarthen-shire, 24.8; Glamorganshire, 26.2; and Monmouthshire, 22.7—or much about the same thing. The unemployment in Carmarthenshire is higher in fact than in Monmouthshire. In February, in Carmarthenshire, it was 34.5, in Glamorgan-shire 27, and in Monmouthshire 23. Here is an area comparable with Glamorgan-shire and Monmouthshire which is much worse off than either of the other two. Take particular pockets in this county. The unemployment percentage in Ammanford in March of this year was 36.6. What has the Minister to say of a town and a district like Garnant, with 57.5 this month, 74 last month, and 64 in the month before that? Yet in spite of that this area is not a Special Area, and it will not have the advantages which the old Act might bring it, and in my submission there is nothing in this Bill that will give this area that is hit in this way anything. It must be apparent to every Member of the House that this is an area that needs help, but it gets no help at all.

Under Clause 5 of the Bill, as I understand it, representations must be made to the Minister, and I presume that they must be made either by the county council, or by the district councils, or by anybody else, but I presume that it would be a special duty cast upon the county council to make the representations themselves. What are the representations which they must make? First of all, they must show that there is an overwhelming amount of unemployment in the district. That can easily be done. The second point that they have to show to the Minister is that they have a site-company which can be brought into the district. Where on earth will this county council find such a site-company? I dare to say in this House that the county council for the county of Carmarthenshire could not find such a company with the hope that it could be formed in the way that is set out in the Bill to come down into these valleys. It is utterly absurd. I do not think they could find such a company, and unless they do find one, they cannot get any of the advantages which are offered to the certified areas.

It is only a week ago that I was in this particular valley, the Gwendraeth Valley, in a little village called Ponthenry. I believe I am right in saying that not a single man is working there at all. The colliery close at hand has been closed, and I believe that it has been closed for good and all, but there they were trying to enjoy themselves. Near by there is another little village, the village of Pontyates, dependent entirely on one industry, and when the local colliery closes there, all goes; everything is finished for them. Yet under these circumstances, I must tell the House, these people are behaving in the most courageous way and doing what they can to make the best of things as they are. These are people whom I think to be the best people on earth, the kind of people who are thrifty. Nearly every one of them, for instance, owns his own house, and here they are. They look at this Bill, they study it, they go to their local county councillors to see what can be done under it, and they find no hope at all. For them, it is absolutely hopeless.

A county such as Carmarthenshire is debarred even from using the parts of the Bill which say that help may be given for land drainage. There are two valleys, the Towy and Gwendraeth, which are eminently suitable for land drainage, but they cannot get a penny. Every year as regularly as clockwork floods come there. They go over the whole land, they spoil a good part of it, and then the floods go back. That happens every year, but under this Bill no help can be given, because that area is not a Special Area. It is for that reason that I believe this Bill is going to be a failure as regards the certified areas. I regret to have to say that. I think the Minister intends well for those areas, and I ask him to tell us whether he thinks that any use can be made of the Bill generally for these people in the Amman Valley and in the Gwendraeth Valley.

Further than that, we have about the county small industries, as in the case of Velindre and Llandyssul for weaving. In the old days the Minister knew them very well when he was fighting for other interests in elections. He met the people at that time and he knows that they have for years carried on that industry. I hope the Minister will be able to say that there is some way out of this difficulty to find a site-company that will bring some hope to the people who are not in Special Areas, but who are on the fringe of them.

5.31 p.m.

Mr. R. J. Taylor

I want to add my condemnation of this Bill because we have waited so long and been pressing so strongly for a new Measure which would bring some immediate and definite prospects of relief to the Special Areas. I also want to deal with that part of the Bill which we expected would provide for those otherwise fairly prosperous areas where there is a high proportion of unemployment. The part of the Bill that deals with the Special Areas is entirely inadequate. I have in mind a district which is probably one of the most distressed of the Special Areas largely because the mining industry, which was the principal industry, has closed down, not because there is an abundance of coal, but because, at least in the case of the last colliery to be closed, it was unable to make a profit. I am persuaded that there is an abundance of coal remaining in the area. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) referred to the de-watering of mines in South-West Durham in order to make them a live proposition again. We have in the area that I have in mind the same position—a valuable seam of coal waiting to be exploited, but, because of the water in the works, private enterprise has not been able to tackle the expenditure that would be involved. If this Bill contained some glimmer of hope, however slender, that would make it possible for that area to be de-watered, I should look forward to the prospect of the men who are now unemployed having some work. I can, however, see nothing in the Bill that will help in that direction.

What else is there that they can expect in that district? The Commissioner has certain powers. He can let a factory, but before he does so it is evident that some company will have to be satisfied that a factory will be a profitable proposition. If this Bill had been big and bold enough to deal with the location of industry, we should have had hope for the Special Areas. The Minister spoke about the diversified works of man in the last 25 or 30 years. It is true that the wants of man will become more diversified as the standard of live improves but there is no particular reason why the satisfaction of those wants should be confined to factories in the south of England. People have the same wants in the north and in the distressed areas and instead of the goods being carried from London, the factories should have been established on the North-East Coast and in other Special Areas.

I want to refer to paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) in Clause 5 (2). In one of the areas of my division we have had for a long time a fairly high rate of unemployment, ranging about 24 per cent. Paragraph (a) says: that there is, and has been for a considerable time, severe unemployment in the area. There are many areas similar to the one of which I am speaking, namely, Myth, where the unemployment ranges about 24 and 25 per cent. which are not scheduled as Special Areas. What standard is there by which we can measure severe unemployment before we can go to the Minister and state a case? Paragraph (b) deals with the setting up of a site-company, and probably we could meet that condition. The most difficult condition to meet, however, is that in paragraph (c), which says: that employment in the area is mainly dependent on one or more industries which are unable to provide sufficient employment by reason of general depression in those industries. What constitutes general depression in those industries? Since we have had the fireless we have become cognisant of depressions. A depression over Iceland has its effects in the Canary Islands. Franco sends out wireless messages about what is going to happen to ships on the high seas if they take food to Bilbao, and it causes depression in the Admiralty, and such a depression in the Cabinet that they have a meeting on a Sunday. We saw a depression last Tuesday on the other side of the House when the Chancellor announced his Defence Contribution proposal. There was a depression on the Stock Exchange, and it does not appear to have lifted yet. We know of depressions of that kind, but when we approach this part of the Bill, we wonder how an area will be able to qualify because of depression.

There is no depression in my area. We are working as hard as we can. The pits are working every day, and for a considerable time they have been working all the days that are permissible under the Act. In the shipbuilding industry they tell me that repair work which would a few years ago have taken over five months, can now be done in five weeks on account of the improvement that has taken place in mechanisation. In the coal industry in Northumberland we produced, in 1924, 13,500,000 tons of coal, and in 1936 we produced 14,000,000 tons. In 1924, 3,250,000 tons were machine cut, but in 1936 the amount of machine-cut coal was 12,500,000 tons. The underground employes in 1924 numbered 51,121, and in 1936 there were only 34,191. We are working regularly, but new factors have arisen with which this Bill does not attempt to deal, and they will become increasingly more apparent as the days go on. We have not reached the end of mechanisation and science has not said the last word. As competition becomes keener when the armaments spending is over and the markets become limited, industry will again become geared up a little faster and it will produce more per employed person, as we have seen in Northumberland, where coal production has risen from three tons per man to 10 to 15 tons. That is the cause of the distress in my area, and this Bill does nothing to meet the situation. In March, 1936, the unemployment in Blyth was 22 per cent. In spite of all the prosperity and all the activity that has taken place, it was, in March this year, 21.7 per cent. Would that come under the head of prolonged employment, and would that percentage of unemployment be high enough to bring us within the areas which could expect to benefit through the medium of the Commissioner under this Bill?

5.45 P.m

Mr. Cove

This is the first time that I have had the privilege of saying a few words about the distressed areas. I have always had to leave things to those who were more confident to speak upon them than I am, although I have the justification for intervening that my own constituency has been scheduled as a distressed area. Looking at this Bill in relation to the problem which confronts this nation, and particularly the problem facing a constituency like my own, I say that it provides nothing of substantial value. I think that the introduction of this Bill shows that the Government have no cure for this tragic problem, a problem of immense gravity. There is no cure in the Bill itself, there is no tackling of the root causes. Take the case of South Wales. One of the factors which has brought about unemployment there is the lack of trade. An area which had hitherto been prosperous because it could sell a lot of coal has now become derelict over large areas, and this Bill makes no contribution to that side of the problem. Nothing is done under the Bill to ensure the increased sale of coal; there is no provision by which miners can be kept at work.

Then there is the main cause of the widespread unemployment in South Wales, the process of rationalisation, and for that the Bill provides no remedy, nor even a palliative. One would have thought that somewhere in their programme the Government would have had a measure to alleviate the unemployment caused by rationalisation, but nowhere can one find it. I know that I cannot dilate upon the point, but the Government have said they have made a contribution; but it was that of providing that a child can leave school at the age of 14 if he can find beneficial employment. The Bill makes no attempt to deal with the problem of the surplus of labour. There is no doubt that under the capitalist system, as is recognised by those who support it, you are obliged to have a large reserve of labour which is not wanted temporarily, a hard core of surplus labour. This Bill makes no contribution towards solving that central problem. One would have thought that the Government would have looked at the problem from that angle and said: "At least we can provide increased leisure; we can stop youths going into industry so early in life and provide old age pensions to take older workers out of industry." But the Bill does nothing on those lines. I would remind the Minister of what has already been said many times, but cannot be said too often, that even now, when we are at the height of or approaching the height of an ordinary trade boom, and have the additional stimulus of rearmament to provide work, there are still 1,500,000 people unemployed. The Government are making no contribution to the solution of that problem.

In certain respects this Bill may not only fail to do good to some of the distressed areas but may even do harm. The experience which I have had during the last 12 months in trying to get industry to come into my area indicates to me that dangers and difficulties may be created by the provisions of this Bill. The Minister is still dominated by the interests of private finance and private companies. The proposals in the Bill do not break the shackles of private finance and private industry in these areas. The Bill is limited to offering inducements to industry. There is the inducement of saying to a site-company, "If you put up factories in these areas we will make some contribution to your rent, or rates, or Income Tax." What inducement will that be, when all the time what those people will be thinking will be, "What is the good of relieving us of Income Tax if we cannot earn profits?"

The provisions of the Bill are dominated by the depression in those areas and there is no way out of the depression through the Bill. The Minister has provided that loans may be given up to the amount of £2,500,000 if an industrial concern will go to those areas, but he does not say what proportion of the capital which is needed may be loaned. Neither I nor any industrial company has any knowledge of the proportion of the capital that it will be necessary for it to put up. I am rather afraid from past experience that the proportion of capital which a company will have to provide will be so high as to prove an effective bar to the company's going there. The Government have not gone far enough in the way of providing money out of the Exchequer to relieve private enterprise of the necessity of looking round for money.

I do not know much about high finance, but from my experience during the last 12 months of trying to get factories started in Port Talbot I feel that what will occur will be this: The finance houses will say, "How much of this money have we got to find? We may have to find two-thirds and the Government may find the remaining one-third, or the Government may find a half." Then they will look round and say, "What are the prospects of making profit?" The prospects of making profit in these areas have been so diminished by the past policy of the Government that they will regard them as very remote, and will say, "What is the use of offering us loans? What is the use of offering us help towards the establishment either of the shell of the factory or of the factory itself it we cannot see the prospect of making profit out of the products which we make there?"

The real criticism against this Bill is that it provides no escape from the shackles of private profit, and profit will still be the dominant consideration in the minds of private companies in deciding whether they will go to these areas. I have lately been concerned with a proposal to start what I believe is technically called a thermal electric generating station in my area, and latterly I have had a suspicion—I will not put it any higher at the moment—that because there is a shell of a factory in Treforest, and it is a Government trading estate, all those in authority are content with what has been done there. When help and sympathy are sought for projects in other areas I have heard it said, "Oh, we cannot allow anything to develop in Area B or Area C because it might endanger the interests of the Government factory in Treforest." That is happening in South Wales at the moment. There is the fear, based upon certain statements made in certain quarters, that it is useless to try to get anything in any other area while the Government trading estate is in Treforest, though I cannot see that meanwhile there is any rapid development going on at Treforest. The Treforest trading estate is really being made an excuse for not doing anything in other places.

The Minister may seem to doubt what I am saying, and I cannot gives names here, but I can assure him that during the past 12 months I have been associated with certain hon. Members of this House and with people outside in trying to get factories established in Port Talbot, and I find this happening: You get the negotiations up to a certain point, and when you think everything is all right, you have a suspicion that the big electrical companies and the finance houses have a feeling that their interests may be endangered by the establishment of some concern in Port Talbot, and they put an end to the negotiations and you cannot get further forward. Latterly there has been this suggestion—or more than a suggestion—that because there is a trading estate in Treforest we cannot have anything in Port Talbot and in the other places in the area.

There is another thing, in which I may differ from some of the opinions held by my hon. Friends around me. Take my own area as an example, although I do not mind which area you take as long as it is somewhere in South Wales I am not out to take away an industry from somewhere else; I do not want to take something away from Sunderland to give it to somebody else. Among the excuses which I have heard the following is typical: "Your steel works in Port Talbot are going. You have only 4,000 or 5,000 people employed—I am not giving actual figures—and you have only 10 per cent. or 25 per cent. people insured. You cannot have anything done there." That kind of excuse, and others which I have not mentioned, will probably be used, in the application of this Bill, to prevent anything effective from being done. The Bill is hedged around by checks and counter-checks and advisory committees for this and for the other. Before you can get to the Treasury you have to pass an advisory committee, which will be concerned about the stability and security of the return upon the capital invested, and not merely about the position of the depressed area.

There is no experimental interest being taken in the Bill, and no initiative worth talking about. If anything is to be done inside the present capitalist system the Government ought to take some risk and ought to be prepared to experiment in a much more fearless and—if you like—outrageous manner than they are showing in the Bill. It is a niggling, conservative, piffling little Bill. In my area, and in other areas in South Wales, how many men will be benefited in five years? Will the Minister give us an estimate of what it will mean? I should like him to get up and tell us what he expects the reasonable results of the Bill to be. Will he tell us that within the next five years, out of the 1,000,000 hard core, there are reasonable prospects of 50,000 men being employed? We should feel gratified even at that, but he knows he dare not get up and give an estimate; he dare riot hazard his political reputation on such an estimate. If he gave it he would disclose the meanness and hollowness of the Bill.

The Bill does not meet the problem of the youths. On the one hand these areas are being emptied of their virile population by transfer elsewhere, and on the other industries are being told to go down there, into areas which have been depleted of their consumers. What a policy. I protest. One of the things which fill me with anger is that the policy of transference is taking youths out of these areas and destroying the Welsh nation; youths are being transferred in tens of thousands to do the menial and unskilled work in other parts of the country. If the policy of transference is to be pursued, why do the Government not see to it that those who are transferred have in their hands skill and technical knowledge which will give them a fair chance in those other areas? The Government are driving out at the present time droves of unskilled labourers into the market. That is no contribution to the problem.

The magnitude and the tragedy of this problem are both evaded by the Bill. It makes hardly a contribution worth speaking of, and the Minister of Labour knows in his heart of hearts that the Bill is only a hush-up; it is only make-believe and an attempt to persuade people that something is being done. But the hard core will remain there. The problem of the distressed areas is an illumination and an experience of what will fall upon greater areas in this country in the not distant future, when the armament programme has come to an end and the trade cycle is going down again. There will be more widespread distress, and if this is to be the only contribution by the Government I am certain that the working class of this country will tolerate them no longer, nor the system under which they live.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Kingsley Griffith

In speaking from this side of the House I can make a fitting reference to the use of the seventh day as a day of rest. The Minister seems to have adapted his rest-day activity by using it in order to admire the works of his own hands and to find that they are very good. I am not sure that other people will go as far as that. There is always the difficulty about a Third Reading Debate which cramps the speakers, in that they are restricted to talking about what is actually in the Bill. Middlesbrough is outside and not inside the Bill, and if I am prevented from talking about Middlesbrough that will be indeed a hardship.

This Third Reading is even more depressing than most Third Readings because of the history of the previous stages of the Bill. Hon. Members like to feel when they get to a Third Reading that they have played some part in shaping the legislation, but we know that from the beginning the attitude of the Government has been that they did not mean to have a Report stage. They meant to pass the Bill exactly as it came from the Department. The result is that this is not a House of Commons Bill at all but a Departmental Bill, and a rather small one at that. Since the Minister has been so determined that the Bill shall be his own child entirely, he cannot complain if we are not very enthusiastic when he leaves it on our doorstep. I cannot understand why he has chosen to tie his own hands in the Bill and to prevent himself from doing good. References have been made to the paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), in Clause 5 (2), and various objections have been taken to the form of each of them. Why not stop at paragraph (a): that there is, and has been for a considerable time, severe unemployment in the area"? The paragraphs are only permissive. When an area has, with great sweat and strain, succeeded in qualifying under those paragraphs, it is still not sure of getting a penny or any kind of help whatever. If the Minister had limited himself to paragraph (a) he would still have been left with unlimited discretion to refuse.

Instead of that, he has chosen to put the other paragraphs into the Bill. I have no doubt that he has got it in a locket hanging round his neck, that those three conditions are to be satisfied before he does anything whatever. It appears to be an unnecessary proceeding. I am entitled to refer to Middlesbrough to this extent, that what is in the Bill is not only going to do us no good but may do us positive harm. Perhaps I cannot argue that very far, because it would be pleading to come into the Bill, whereas we are out, but how can anyone deny that there is depression in Middlesbrough? There might be a very great deal of activity going on in a certain industry in a particular town, and although the town might be dependent upon that industry it might not be getting the benefit of the revival. That would not show that there was a general depression, but only a local depression. When conditions in the one main industry have reached their full activity, there might yet be, as is the case in Middlesbrough, 8,000 people left out who, by reason of their training, their health or by reason of the fact of their very long unemployment, have no reasonable chance of being reabsorbed in that area, even though it must be working well at the time.

Those people are a problem which can be treated either by transference or by the provision of work in light industries. The Minister has admitted that transferring everybody who belongs to a distressed area is the worse of those measures. I thought it was the object of this Bill, of S.A.R.A. and the rest of it, to provide work. If your patients need a prescription which you agree is good in some cases, why not apply it to them? Why should these 8,000 people be left without a panel doctor in this respect? That seems unreasonable. I reflect upon the fact, to which the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) very kindly called attention, of the association of Middlesbrough, without any merit of mine but of my predecessor, with the question of the Special Areas. It does not stop there. The Tees-side Development Board, a non-political body, had been most active in suggesting ways of dealing with unemployment in the North-East area. I think I am right in saying that they first proposed the manoeuvre of the trading estate, and now the trading estate has been established, but not in Tees-side. That reminds me of a little tag of Latin which I learned when I was at school and of which I now, fortunately, remember only the first four words, which are: Sic vos, non vobis. Its meaning was: Thus you make honey, but not for yourselves O bees! I might apply that translation to the present situation thus: Thus you provide trading estates, but not for yourselves O Tees!"

Those who come from Tees-side feel a certain bitterness in looking at these proposals. One does not want to adopt the attitude of a dog in the manger and say that because we are not getting anything we shall not let anyone else do so, but when it comes to the point of work being sucked away from you that you could very well do with, work that you urgently need and have needed for years, it is a very dark and forbidding problem which Members who come from that kind of area have to face in dealing with this Bill.

6.14 p.m.

Mr. A. Edwards

I would confirm what my colleague from Middlesbrough has said about the bitterness associated with some of the things in the Bill, especially when one remembers that a single word of two letters would have made just the difference to us and would have put us on a level with other people in the distressed areas. One feels that a Minister imbued with malice aforethought could not have done worse than the Minister has done on this occasion. His summary to-day was very brief, but I think there are those of us who could have summed it up still more briefly. He was asked by one speaker from these benches to look ahead. I do not think he has looked very far ahead. In fact, as he said himself, he only took a side look at Middlesbrough. As I pointed out the last time I addressed the House on this subject, the first Canmissioner left Middlesbrough out of the distressed areas, for the simple reason that, when he got as far as the north bank of the Tees, he did not have time to cross the water. It takes three minutes on the ferry, but for that reason alone, as he has admitted himself, we do not come into the distressed areas. Is the poverty on the north bank different from the poverty on the south bank? Here you have a most ridiculous situation. The north bank, where they have shipbuilding uninterrupted, is in a distressed area. On the south bank of the Tees we have been deprived, by that iniquitous company called Shipbuilding Securities, Limited, of the possibility of building any ships for 40 years, but still we are not in a distressed area.

For the last four years we have suffered under all the disabilities set out in the three paragraphs of Sub-section (2) of Clause 5. We have suffered from severe depression in our only industry during all these years, but, just because we are temporarily employed as a result of rearmament work, we are not allowed to get the benefit of a claim under this Bill. What a tragic outlook it would be for Middlesbrough if there were to be such a calamity as a successful peace conference. Supposing that we agreed to disarm, the last state of Middlesbrough would be worse than the first. The Minister said to-day that the one aim of this Bill was that districts such as ours should not again put all their eggs in one basket, but we have no other industry except the iron and steel industry, and, as an earlier speaker said, our local development board has spent thousands of pounds and years of work in trying to make its own magnet, as has been recommended by the Commissioner. All this time and money might just as well have been saved, because we are to have no benefit from this Measure at all if the Minister can avoid it. Anyhow, as he has decided that we are not to have such benefits as he claims, I would like to say a word or two about the Bill as it is going to operate. As to S.A.R.A., I think her life will be brief and barren. The Minister who was in charge on the last occasion is not on the bench at the moment, but I then pointed out that, if an industry requiring assistance can fulfil all the conditions laid down by the Government, it would be able to get that assistance more easily without the aid of S.A.R.A. I was surprised to hear from the Minister that the Team Valley Estate is so far advanced as he claims. I passed it not long since, and saw hardly anything. I hope the Minister is right, but the tragic thing for the distressed areas is that, the more successful the Team Valley Trading Estate is, the worse the conditions of these other districts will become. Are all those industries which will go to the Team Valley Trading Estate industries which otherwise would not have gone to the Special Areas? Will the Minister explain how it is—I hope he will contradict me if it is not the case—that a concern like Imperial Chemical Industries, which is presumably one of the companies that he referred to to-day, and which, as we were told last week, has made such fabulous profits in the past that it will not have to contribute anything towards the National Defence Contribution—will the Minister explain how it is that a concern like that is able to go to the Team Valley Trading Estate? That trading estate was not established at great expense to help concerns of that kind.

There is one point that I would like to put to the Minister, if he is really serious about this matter, if he realises the importance of being earnest. The one objection to the distressed areas is that they are too far away from the London and Midland markets. I went to a little trouble on the previous occasion to suggest to the Minister that that difficulty could easily be remedied if he would cooperate with the Ministry of Transport, but not a word was said about that suggestion. I wonder if whoever is going to reply could spare a moment or two to pass an opinion upon it. An estimate has been made of the cost of building an entirely new road from Newcastle to London, and it is reckoned that it would cost £15,000,000. Such a road would bring the distressed areas within less than five hours of London if it is built on the right lines—

Mr. Speaker

The Minister would not be in order in dealing with that point; it is quite outside the Bill.

Mr. Edwards

I accept your Ruling, but I cannot help thinking that it would be a powerful magnet to attract industries to those areas if they were brought within five hours of London, instead of 12 or 14 hours as at present. It took us 12 months to get any reply from the Government on the question of the production of oil from coal, but now we are to have an inquiry. I have watched the efforts of two Commissioners, have listened to appeals from the Prime Minister, and have seen all the work that has been done during the time that this Bill was passing through the House, and there does not appear to be any possible solution of this question unless the Government seriously insist on planning the location of industry. There seems to be a weakness or reluctance on the part of the Government to put the least pressure on industrialists in this respect, but surely they will admit that, however much has been attempted under these Bills, very little has been accomplished, and I do not believe that the Minister feels in his heart that anything will be worth while that stops at this point. I hope that, when he is satisfied that the problem cannot be dealt with in this way, he will be prepared to recommend to the Government a definite planning of the location of industry, and insistence upon the distribution of factories. Instead of this miserable method of transferring people to works, will he insist on the works going where the people already are?

I would ask him to consider the disastrous effect from the economic point of view, and to remember what happened at Corby. He will find that, when Messrs. Stewarts and Lloyds transferred their works there, they estimated that it would cost something like £3,000,000 to get a plant laid down at Corby and produce a return on their capital; but, taking into account the cost of the destruction of public works before they could leave their district, and the cost of putting up other public works, houses and so on, for the new factory, the amount on which a return will have to be obtained is probably £9,000,000 rather than £3,000,000, and from the point of view of the community, from the point of view of the nation, it is not an economic proposition. I do not believe that the Minister is going to find that what he is proposing to do under this new scheme is an economic proposition. He will have to tackle the problem in a very much bigger way, and I hope he will give some indication that he is going to endeavour to get the Government to deal seriously with the planning and location of industry.

6.28 p.m.

Mr. George Griffiths

As I think the Minister will remember, I did not bitterly oppose the previous Bill. I tried, however, to emphasise that, while there were small pockets of unemployment as severe as any that exists in the Special Areas, the districts where they existed were not included under the last Special Areas Bill, Under that Bill the Commissioners had the power to transfer men out of the Special Areas into other areas which were not scheduled under the Act, but where, nevertheless, there was a high percentage of unemployment. I am not going to decry this Bill as much as some of my hon. Friends here have. There is something in it, but there is not sufficient in it either for them or for myself. If, however, there is an opportunity for those of us who are outside the Special Areas at the present time to get something out of Clause 5, I want it for my people the same as for anyone else who is getting it. Since the passing of the first Special Areas Bill I got my own local authority to take a survey. There is something almost as bad as full-time unemployment, and that is part-time unemployment, intermittent unemployment, as the hon. Member for Chesterle-Street (Mr. Lawson) said; and that intermittent or part-time unemployment is so rampant in some districts that, if the employment were given out only to men who could do the job, instead of its being spread over everyone, the unemployment in those areas would be higher than it is in some of the Special Areas.

I had a survey made in my own division to bear out what I want to put across to the Minister, and what I hope he will consider, under Clause 5. In a township with a population of 7,400 the miners over 21 years of age working full time were 65, those working part time were 1,037, and under 21 they were 23, or, out of a total of 1,188 men working at the coal face, there were only 65 on full time. The others were voluntarily sharing the work, and in 1936 and 1937 some were working only two days a fortnight. The Employment Exchange was paying as much money to the part-time men as though they were on full time. If you take underground haulage, there were 19 working full time, 139 over 21 working part time, and 169 under 21 working part time, or out of 351 there were only 27 working full time. The other men were sharing the work, and sharing the starvation, and they were doing it willingly. But, because they were sharing the work, to the Minister of Labour they counted for nothing. I have interviewed him a few times. He says, "George, you have only so many." But, if those men were not sharing it, that "so many" would be something like 45 per cent. totally unemployed in that little township. Middlesbrough is a big township, but, when you work the percentages out, our unemployment is worse than theirs. The matter rests with the Minister. He has to be satisfied: (a) that there is and has been for a considerable time severe unemployment in the area. That does not apply to my area. There has not been severe unemployment, but there has been severe under-employment, and if our men had not practised self-sacrifice there would have been severe unemployment. But because the men themselves have been prepared to share the work the Minister says he is not satisfied. Then there is a second condition: (b) that, unless financial assistance is pro. vided under this section to a site-company which will operate in the area, there will be no immediate likelihood of a substantial increase in employment in the area. He has to be satisfied. He says, "The mining industry is picking up. You had better wait a bit. If you 'wait and see' for another couple of years, there may be severe unemployment." The Minister not only has to be satisfied on the present but on the future that there will not be severe unemployment. Although the mining industry is picking up, two men at the coal face are producing what five produced 10 years ago. Before I came into the House I was asked to sign on at g½d per ton, and I came out of the office and shut the door. They can put the coal on to the belt II tons a man. Although production will increase, that does not mean that there will be increased employment. There is a decrease of employment all along the line, and the Minister will be able to say, "You only produced 224,000,000 tons two years ago, and the industry is now producing 250,000,000." Because there is no general depression in the industry we shall be wiped out under paragraph (c). But there will be an opportunity of getting a bit out of the Bill if the Minister will be satisfied with less than he has been satisfied with in the past.

To show the distress in our area, the agenda for an education sub-committee that I should have attended to-night gives the children in the area who are receiving milk free. Out of 3,800 scholars during the last month, 26 were receiving a third of a pint of milk free. There is a scale in the West Riding County Council, and if the parent's income is below a certain figure the children get the milk free. They were getting it free because their parents were unemployed, or under-employed, and the income was less than 30s. a week. A man who lives next door to me had three days' pay to draw at the pit. He had nothing to draw the week before, and he drew his unemployment assistance. When it came to this week he had exceeded his 156 days and had to appear before the committee. He drew three days' wages, which was 24s. 9d., but there were stoppages amounting to 11s. in all. When he went to the Employment Exchange, he thought he had three days to come, or 14s. 6d., but he was told that he only had 4s. 3d. to draw, because he had 28s. of wages, and he had run his 156 days statutory benefit—

Mr. Speaker

This does not seem to have anything to do with this Bill.

Mr. Griffiths

I quite agree. I was trying to link up part-time unemployment as well as full unemployment, and I hope the Minister will deal with the matter in his reply.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. Muff

We are parting with the Bill on the Third Reading and I cannot even support it with faint praises. In the prevailing almost Sunday-school atmosphere that surrounds us, I am not even going to shoot at the pianist. I acknowledge freely that he has stuck to his piano very well indeed, and if he wants to qualify for another non-stop or long-run contest I am prepared to put my money on him, as far as that is concerned. I differ from the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) in belittling Clause 3. I consider that it is a very important concession for firms to settle in a Special Area when they are going to have concessions not simply on rates but also on taxes, at any rate for a period of five years. That can become such a temptation for financiers and company promoters that they can go to one of these Special Areas, stay there for a period of five years, and by hypothecating accounts, by hidden reserves and other devices known to company promoters, at the end of the five years they may have so feathered their nests that, like the birds, they may migrate and the community may be left with a factory, because somebody has got to pay the rates for these people who come under this preferential treatment, and the community may be left, after having shouldered the burden for five years—and nationally there are the taxes—with the factory. I consider that that is a danger. It is a danger in another respect, because it is giving preferential treatment and actually subsidising an industry in an area, as laid down in Clause 3, at the expense of factories and similar businesses in other areas which may not be called Special Areas but are ordinary or distressed areas. I suggest to the Minister that there is distinctly a danger of taking the bread out of the mouths of persons in other areas by Clause 3 and by some of the other details in the Bill.

One of the things I do not like about the Bill is the competition of conflicting interests of Special Areas, distressed areas and ordinary areas. The policy of the Minister, and especially of the Government is such that in Clause 5 there is a small loophole by which other areas in the country may come in. The Minister is going to have people coming in like so many Lazaruses, displaying their poverty and their sores, at the gates of the Ministry of Labour to try to get benefits, because under the Bill he is actually penalising other districts and other sections of the community. In my own constituency the Minister of Labour has consistently refused—I hope that at any rate he will take note of this—to give the figures of unemployment and distress. Because it is not called a Special Area, and because its primary industry is, say, the manufacture of cement, the Ministry ordains that cement for the district of Yorkshire and also north of Yorkshire shall come from South Wales, because South Wales is a Special Area. I deplore this conflict of interests between these various communities, and that is another reason why I do not like the Bill. I believe Clause 4 mentions land drainage. In the East Riding there are thousands of acres under water. Clause 4 seemed to give a glimmer of hope that the Minister of Labour would come to the rescue of these places and help with land drainage loans and subsidies to try to recover and reclaim the land; but no, while in the East Riding a penny rate only produces a small sum, it is not a Special Area, and I cannot see where Clause 4 will enable the East Riding or other places to come in. Clause 5, I believe, also mentions the same thing.

In parting with this Bill, I certainly should not go into mourning if it were defeated in another place, which is inconceivable. I suggest this to the Minister. While, as I said, the player, a pianist perhaps, was not altogether bad or without competence to play upon his instrument, I congratulate him on being able to play on this instrument, but his script, I think, was wrong. It is a jangle of discords, and the instrument is also out of date. That is where we, on this side of the House, disagree fundamentally with the Minister and with those who support him. It is the instrument that is wrong, and we ask that this miserable script shall not be used. A soldier described it in rather more graphic terms in one word, which I will not use because, Sir, I do not 'wish to incur your displeasure.

We trust that this Bill is not going to be the last word. We want fundamental changes. We do not want this competition between one community, whether it be in South Wales or in Yorkshire, and another. We want to work together as a whole for the common prosperity of the whole country. That is one reason why, if there is a Division—I do not know whether or not there will be a Division—I shall have to vote against the right hon. Gentleman, though I am certain that he will be able to survive my voting in the opposite Lobby to himself.

6.52 p.m.

Miss Wilkinson

It seems as though the Debate this afternoon has been conducted largely in terms of resignation. We have got this thing; we cannot get anything else; no Amendments are allowed to be moved; and we have got to put up with it. Therefore, I think, at this late hour, we are justified in asking the Minister that at least if his Government will not allow him to do any better—and I cannot believe he is really very proud of them—is he going to put any drive behind what there is in the Bill? It seems to me that it is on that now that the whole thing depends. Anyone reading this Bill, who had not heard our Debates, would assume from the text that it was the manufacturers who were distressed and not the workers; but we realise that towns like Jarrow, which have gone on from year to year, and which have had so much kindness and sympathy and so many nice things said about them, just have not got any work. They have seen these airy castles being built up from the Ministerial Front Bench, and still they have not got any work. Now they have seen this Bill passed. It is all permissive, it is all "may," and "may," and "perhaps," and "if somebody is satisfied." Again the question is, Is there to be any work? There have been so many little schemes started, or going to be started, and there have been so many hints in the newspapers. I do say this about the newspapers on Tyneside. Whatever their politics, they have fought for the people in that area as hard as they can, and they have really tried to put the best face on things, but there is just no work in this particular part. I would ask the Minister, and I hope he will reply, what actual drive to get things done is there going to be?

I was in my constituency when the last visit along Tyneside of the new Commissioners for Special Areas took place. I do not know whether to congratulate the Minister on his choice, but will say that in the two Commissioners he has had, Sir Malcolm Stewart and Sir George Gillett, he seems to have produced exceptionally truthful gentlemen who certainly have not wrapped up their opinions of their disability. Nobody could have gathered very much hope from the speeches which Sir George Gillett made, and which no doubt the Minister has had before him. Therefore it seems to me, from the statements of Sir George Gillett, that everything is thrown back on the amount of drive that the Minister and his Department are going to put behind him. If he is really anxious that something shall be done, and if he worries people until something is done, then something will be done. That, I admit, is optimistic. But, if the Minister says when this Bill is through the House, "Thank goodness that is over, I can turn to something else," and forgets all about it, then, when the time comes in due course for another resurrection of these eternal Debates, we shall still be in the position that Jarrow is without work, and is still being patted on the back and told how sorry everybody is. I know that the Minister is a busy man. If he cannot do this himself, let him make somebody responsible for getting this Bill working and seeing that something is done and that some of these people have some hope.

6.57 p.m.

Mr. R. Gibson

The hon. Lady will agree with me when I say that what Jarrow is to England, Greenock is to Scotland. I would ask the Minister of Labour when he replies to say what Greenock is entitled to expect from this Bill. The unemployed at the Employment Exchange at Greenock were greater in number at the end of March of this year than they were a year before. This year the total was 6,674, and on 31st March, 1936, they were 6,638, which shows an increase of 36. The ordinary poor in Greenock also show an increase. On 31st March last, the ordinary poor adults numbered 3,198, and their dependants 2,806, giving a total of 6,004. Taking those two figures together, the 6,674 and 6,004, we have 12,678, which does not include the dependants of the unemployed at the Employment Exchange. This is a very large figure out of a population of round about 78,000. Greenock, as I indicated on a former occasion, is the gateway to the Western Islands and the Highlands of Scotland, and the de-population of those areas re- sults in a progressive influx into Greenock of persons who swell the ranks of the unemployed there.

I have observed on other occasions that the Minister is inclined to hark back to the year 1924 when he is discussing or answering questions dealing with the cost of living; but in these Special Areas, and particularly in Greenock, the distress becomes accumulatively more acute. There is a distinction in principle between poor relief and unemployment benefit.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is going outside the scope of this Debate.

Mr. Gibson

I do not wish to extend the scope of the Debate, but I wish to impress hon. Members with the fact that the distress of the people who are distressed in these areas does become more acute. That is a matter of importance in the consideration of this Bill as it leaves this House, and the problem that lies before the Government in this Bill.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that the hon. Member has been very long in the House. The only thing that can be discussed on the Third Reading is what is actually in the Bill. He must not at this stage make proposals to put something into the Bill which is not already in it.

Mr. Gibson

I am not seeking to make proposals or to extend the ambit of the Bill. I am seeking to impress on the Minister that the problem which this Bill sets out to solve—because this Bill is a delaying Bill, and not a remedial Measure—is becoming more acute, and the longer the delay the more serious the distress becomes. The unemployment benefit or the poor assistance they get is not sufficient for maintenance. I see on the Treasury Bench the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary for Scotland. They will call to mind the evidence with regard to Greenock that was led at the inquiry some three years ago showing how acute the distress was as a result of the long continued depression. There is the call on savings to supplement what was given in unemployment relief. There is in addition to that a severe housing problem in Greenock, which results from time to time in a family going to a larger house. That, in itself, may give additional accommodation, but it increases distress in this way, that it diminishes the amount that is available for nourishment, and that reacts again on the ques- tion of the condition of the people in these distressed areas. In the case of a man who had a single apartment house at a rent of 5s. a week, removal to a larger house involved the rental going up to 8s. 5d., and for that house it was necessary to have an extra bag of coals at 1s.11d., extra light at Is., bus fares for the children at 1s.—

Mr. Speaker

I really do not think that this is suitable for a Third Reading debate. This particular Bill deals only in Clauses 5 and 6 with areas outside the Special Areas. What the hon. Member has said would be more suitable for the Second Reading.

Mr. Lawson

May I point out with deference to your Ruling that the Commissioner himself has continually drawn attention to the fact that this problem is progressively worse because of long-term unemployment? Would not my hon. Friend be within your Ruling if he is dealing with the question of the extra responsibilities which are placed on people in the distressed areas because of the long continued unemployment?

Mr. Speaker

I think that that would be much more suitable on Second Reading than Third.

Mr. Gibson

I shall not develop the matter, but it indicates that a sum of about 10s. is not now available which was previously available for food for the family as a result of the removal to the new house. At this time I do not want to prolong the discussion, but I ask the Minister if in his reply he can give some vestige of hope for Greenock arising out of this Bill. For myself I can find none, and Greenock has had a long spell of distress. We hear from the Treasury Bench from time to time, "What is your alternative?" We have a very clear alternative, which is contained in "Labour's Immediate Programme." We are proud of it. This delaying policy is not the way to tackle the question. The problem presented by these distressed areas is in the nature of a nettle, and I would remind the Minister of the aphorism:— Tender-handed stroke a nettle, And it stings you for your pains; Grasp it like a man of mettle, And it soft as silk remains.

7.6 p.m.

Mr. Tinker

I want to say a word on Clause 5, which seeks to extend the assist- ance under certain conditions. Those on the border of being Special Areas will welcome it, because it might be of some assistance if dealt with effectively. Clause 5 says that if— employment in the area is mainly dependent on one or more industries which are unable to provide sufficient employment by reason of general depression in those industries "— then certain things can apply. Regard ought to be given to the industries upon which a particular town is dependent. The division I represent is not for the time being a Special Area, or not very near it. But three months ago a colliery closed down and one can visualise that if another colliery follows that one we shall be coming very near to Special Area provisions. If certain industries get caught in a depression what can be done under Clause 5? Surely we ought to have some regard to the position before we arrive there, and not wait until these things happen. If the Minister could under this power do something to help before the climax is reached, it would be far better.

After all, this Bill is intended to try to relieve depression if at all possible after long experience of what is taking place in many areas. I hope that the Minister will follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) and put some drive behind it. We know his abilities; he has the driving power of stating a case very well and forcibly. If we had that drive behind the Commissioner, he would be able to get things moving much more rapidly. If Clause 5 is to be effective it will not have to be allowed to remain high and dry until it is too late to do anything. Although we condemn the Bill as a whole, it remains for the Minister to prove us in the wrong. If he can prove that our fears are based on false premises, it lies within his power to show us, both in the Special Areas and on the border line. He has a great opportunity, for the Bill will pass through the House, and it rests in his hands and those of the Commissioner to do something with it. I hope that my fears will be swept on one side, and that some good will come of the Bill. We do want some good to be done to the people who are feeling the depression through no fault of their own. Industry is in the hands of others, and it is these people who ought to be dealing with industry and making it revive. I hope that the Government will prove to us that our fears regarding the Bill are groundless.

7.10 p.m.

Mr. David Grenfell

May I very briefly express the disappointment of all on this side of the House that the Bill in its final form on Third Reading contains no concession? The Minister has withstood all suggestions from this side, but I cannot believe that he is very proud of this puny Measure, and, while we may admire his stone-walling, I am sure that he will have no great pleasure in taking in his bat at the end of the innings. Indeed, there is satisfaction in no part of the House, the kind of satisfaction which comes from the knowledge of work well done. It is true that this Bill was intended only to continue and amend slightly the principal Act of 1934, to give scant assistance and under almost impossible and unrealisable conditions to help certain other areas. One of the hon. Members for Middlesbrough in pointing out the defects as it affects his town, expressed views on other areas. I have not previously spoken on the Bill, but I view with terrible apprehension the result of the closing down of pits in my constituency. I have never complained before, because I knew that there were areas in the coalfields worse than my own. Now in this seeming time of prosperity I am contemplating a position developing in my own constituency which will render idle and derelict a community of 1,000 families, and I can see no hope for them in this Bill.

It has been the custom in this House to refer to the Special Areas Reconstruction Association in terms of a mythological female personage, but no female person could behave as niggardly as this S.A.R.A. does. She is most difficult to please. She spurns all industrial offers unless they come with proof of financial backing and pledges from wealthy friends. She will take no risk of having to stand surety for a hard-working class which needs help. In the earlier stages of this Bill we have endeavoured to show how much more is really needed. The White Paper professed to give a picture of what is described as a cumulative attack on the Special Areas. It is true that we have seen most elaborate machinery; we have seen few results. It is the most cumbersome, useless mass of machinery that this House has devised for a long time.

It is said that the Special Areas fund has been augmented to assist various forms of activity in those areas. We are also told with eloquent repetition, of the commitments of the fund—commitments here and commitments there, £1,900,000 for trading estates, and other large figures for afforestation and land settlement, and so on—but we have not yet seen the fruits of these large commitments in greater employment in the Special Areas, certainly not in the area in which I reside. I know something about the programme of afforestation. The Minister of Labour, of course, is not responsible for that, but we are now only at the point which we reached in 1931; we are not going forward in this matter. There is no effort at all in the Bill appreciably to reduce the volume of unemployment. There is no great appreciation in the help which is to be given to local authorities. Something much more than is contemplated in the Bill will have to be done for local authorities where there is still a mass of unemployment, which these authorities have sustained for so long and where the loss of earning capacity on the part of the people has been diminished beyond restoration and repair. I repeat that much more assistance must be provided than is contemplated by the Bill.

There is no reference to any schemes for training young men. I put down a question to-day on the matter, but I have had no opportunity of consulting the Minister. I should like to have a definite assurance that in the Special Areas, and particularly in South Wales, a training scheme will be set up which will enable youths to train hand and eye so that they may be able to follow useful and skilful employment. They should be trained to fit them for special employment in any new industries which may come to the Special Areas. It is hoped that these trading estates will bring prosperous employment. We want our young people to be able to take advantage of this employment, and get work at home instead of being transferred. We do not want our youths to be unskilled. We have seen unskilled people come into our industrial areas, large masses of the Irish population in the days of the potato famine. Their children are unskilled labourers, and their grandchildren are unskilled labourers, because they have had no opportunity of escaping from their conditions. Now it is the turn of our own people to move out from our industrial areas. Are they to be, generation after generation, regarded as outcasts, an inferior class, in the labour market? Are they to lose their self-respect and their skill because they have had no opportunity of training and qualifying themselves for skilled employment? I hope we shall get something definite on this point from the Government.

I am not quite sure that the Government even now see the problem as we do. We see swarms of young men and young women who belong to the industrial areas, who are needed there as consumers if not as producers, who are without employment. The problem of our deteriorating manhood and womanhood must be urgently tackled. Let the provisions of the Bill be expedited as much as possible. Let the Minister put as much drive as he can into the Bill, more drive than hitherto has been given. This is not the last word on this subject, and I hope that the Government will bring in a much more comprehensive and a much more fundamental Bill than the present Measure. We may then thank him, as we cannot do on this occasion.

7.21 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Wedderburn)

We are grateful to hon. Members opposite for the expedition with which they have put their case on the Third Reading of the Bill. The Bill has been so exhaustively discussed in all its stages that the present occasion does not provide much opportunity for a great deal more to be said, and in the very brief time I have to reply, I will do my best to avoid repetition, although that may not be very easy. The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street {Mr. Lawson) quite rightly pointed out that the real problem with which we are confronted is a much wider problem, of which the Special Areas are the most acute symptoms. He gave figures showing the reductions in the numbers of men employed, one-fourth in the coal industry, one-fourth in the iron industry, and two-fifths in shipbuilding. He will, of course, be aware that the total number of men employed in the country is very much higher than ever before. While there has been this reduction in these industries since 1924, there has been an increase of 60 per cent. in the manu- facturing industries as a whole and 8o per cent. in the building industry.

When you have employment declining in certain trades and increasing in other trades, it is inevitable that there should be a certain amount of transference. The hon. Member said he did not disapprove of transference, and for my part I am not very keen on transference, but we must agree that it is a necessary element in dealing with this problem. But the hon. Member was not quite correct in saying that we are entirely relying on transference. Within the last two years, the numbers of men actually in work within the Special Areas has increased by 100,000. The hon. Member asked me particularly whether we would accept responsibility for draining pits in South-West Durham. I have not time to discuss the merits of that subject, and all I can say is that the report to which he refers is now being considered. He knows the arguments of both sides, which are set out in paragraph 186 of the Commissioner's report.

I hope I may be allowed to express the pleasure of the House at the return of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson) and to congratulate her on the exceedingly poor markmanship of the insurgent forces. She wanted to know whether the Minister was really going to put any drive behind the Bill. Whatever the faults of my right hon. Friend may be—and hon. Members are always anxious to detect them—I do not think it can be suggested that he lacks drive, and it certainly is his intention to put all the drive possible behind the Bill. The hon. Lady referred to the number of qualifications in the Bill, and said it was largely permissive. The reason for that is that we have to be careful in helping one area not to do injustice to some other areas whose needs may be equally great. That brings me to the point raised by nearly every hon. Member who has spoken. They have all expressed some apprehension that if an advantage is given to industry in one spot, it may prevent it going to a neighbouring spot whose need may be equally great—Tyneside instead of Middlesbrough or Treforest rather than Port Talbot.

Let me make two observations on that point. I suggest that if the attractions in the Bill are powerful enough to draw away industries from Middlesbrough to the Team Valley they may be powerful enough to draw industries away from Greater London to the Team Valley. If you establish successful trading estates, build up a large number of new industries, which would not otherwise have gone to these areas, at least you are doing positive good in the Team Valley, and it is not demonstrable that you are doing positive harm in Middlesbrough. It might mean that a few industries which are going to the Team' Valley might otherwise have gone to Middlesbrough. But if you have a large centre of industry in a place like the Team Valley it will alter the prospects of the whole surrounding district. If light industries are established successfully in such parts of the country it will benefit the whole area. The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffiths) quoted the Latin tag: "Sic vos non vobis." Perhaps I may supply the ending for which he vainly searched: "Mellificatis, apes." But once you establish a hive of bees you may have swarms all over the country.

The hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Cove) insistently challenged me to say how many men were going to be employed as a result of the Bill over the next five years. I think that challenge was fairly safe from the hon. Member's point of view. If I were to prophesy that 100,000 men or 200,000 were going to be employed within the next five years, and as a matter of fact that number were employed, the hon. Member would certainly say that it was not because of the provisions of the Bill. Indeed, I am almost sure he would say that it was in spite of the policy of the Government. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) and the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street dealt, as they always do, with great sincerity with the seriousness of the conditions in these areas. I do not think I am likely to disagree with what they said on that point. Since 1931 I have myself represented a Special Area, and although I do not claim to have any special knowledge of the problem, I am not perhaps without some understanding of its gravity. I have always said that it is the domestic problem which claims the greatest amount of Parliamentary attention. But I have always said that there is no quick and easy solution. I do not know whether hon. Members opposite have said the same thing—perhaps they have.

If hon. Members think that there is some rapid means of re-employing all the people in these areas, they are entitled to say so and to explain what Parliamentary action they think would achieve this result. To be quite frank, I think we have to choose between a variety of spectacular remedies, which are nearly always inconsistent with each other, and an industrial policy which is willing to learn from the mistakes of the past, but not to excite delusive hopes in the mind of the country.