§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
I beg to move,That this House views with deep regret the conditions under which the people of Lancashire are now and have for long been living; deplores the wastage of natural resource, acquired skill, and human life that such conditions entail; declares that their continued existence is an indictment of statesmanship; and calls upon His Majesty's Government, whether or not such measures are within the limits of the existing social and economic order, to take such measures as may be necessary to secure to Lancashire's unemployed part-employed, and employed workers a standard of living commensurate with modern industrial potentialities.I have no desire at all to overdraw the picture or to represent Lancashire as being in any way down-and-out. Lancashire has great assets. I should like to quote from the contribution which the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. Chorlton) made to a Lancashire newspaper the other day, and would like, with respect, to adopt his tribute to Lancashire therein contained. He said:Here we have abundant labour, excellent transport, road, canal, and rail communications of the best, we are in the central focus of the May bury scheme for air routes organisation and we have the skilled heads available for just such an industrial unit as the Government seem to require. Further, and this is not the least important, Lancashire was first and foremost in the Industrial Revolution. Its people established a skill, a proficiency, and an aptitude for industrial pursuits which are unrivalled. It may be said that there is no population in the world which can turn over so readily from one skilled industry to another. There is one other point: technical skill in management and operation is available in Lancashire to an unequalled extent. Lancashire has also a capacity for cohesion and mutual assistance in the engineering trade which other parts of the country have not exhibited.That very eloquent catalogue of Lancashire's industrial and commercial assets is almost complete, but I would add to it one other asset which not all the indifference of His Majesty's Government to the tragic conditions under which the people of Lancashire are living, and not all the difficulties of the world situation can destroy, and that is, the courage and grit of the Lancashire worker which he still has and which, given suitable conditions, he may still use in order to create for Lancashire not merely a future happier than the present, but a future happier than the past.
What is the condition of this great potential unit so full of the natural re- 1684 sources, skilled labour, organisation, cohesion and all these other magnificent things? I have in the last few days asked various Government Departments for some figures, which they have been kind enough to supply, and to which I will draw the attention of the House. In Lancashire, including 17 county boroughs, there are in receipt of relief from public assistance authorities, including dependants—I quote the nearest round figure—220,000 people. There are in receipt of standard unemployment benefit 260,000, which figure was not supplied to me by the Department, because the figure supplied did not include the dependants, but a note indicated that I could make the adjustment for myself if I allowed 81 dependants for every 100 claims. I have made that adjustment to the best of my arithmetical ability, and I find that the figure is 260,000 people. Making the same adjustment, there are in receipt of payment from the Unemployment Assistance Board no fewer than 190,000. So that there are in this magnificent industrial community, so full of potentialities, in receipt of public relief in one form or another, 670,000 souls.
I will quote some further figures shortly about separate industries and areas, but are we not entitled—those of us who represent Lancashire in any quarter of this House—in face of these figures, to say that there should be some greater display of Government interest and assistance than we have seen so far? Reading these figures again this afternoon in preparation for this Debate and the Amendment which certain hon. Members have put upon the Order Paper, I was almost amazed at the courage of the Amendment. I do not mean that it will require so much courage in this House, because no doubt hon. Members who sit on that side will not fear occasionally to give the Government a gentle pat on the back and encourage them to go along the path which they have chosen. The courage that they will require in advocating the Amendment will be that which, I have no doubt, they will display when they come to explain the Amendment to their constituents in Lancashire. Not that I want for a moment to enter into the rather sad competition between area and area, and district and district, for the somewhat dubious glory of being catalogued by the Government as a Special Area. I may see reason later in the Parliamentary Session, I hope 1685 not too late to alter my view about that, but I am bound to say, with the candour which this House rightly expects from those who address it, that nothing I can see in the record of the Government with regard to these areas which they have already scheduled as "Special" encourages any other part of the country to press unduly for a share of those benefits.
I read, not merely with interest, but with the same alarm as was exhibited in many quarters of the House, the report of the late Commissioner for the Special Areas. I do not desire for a moment that this should become a mere debate about the Special Areas and their claims, but a specific debate. At the same time, there is the figure quoted by Sir Malcolm Stewart which shows that the rate of improvement and the revival in those parts of the country which were not scheduled as Special Areas was very much in advance, as a result of the special care which the Government have given to the Special Areas, of that in those Special Areas themselves. We all hope that, when the Government present to this House their second thoughts on the Special Areas Bill, when they tell us what new powers they are seeking from this House, and what new remedies they propose to apply, when they tell us that they are going to take powers to see that the advantages of employment are more fairly and more equitably spread as between the depressed and the non-depressed areas, then, perhaps we shall be entitled to say to the Government that Lancashire as a whole, or many parts of it, are as much entitled to the assistance that they will then be able to give as any other part of the country. Nor will the House expect that, speaking for Lancashire, we should regard it as any consolation in our sufferings that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be able to forecast for Birmingham and the Midlands during the next 12 months a period of prosperity such as that area has never known before, especially when that prosperity is achieved, not merely by the neglect of these areas, but largely at their expense.
I hardly think that anyone will venture to claim that the considered policy of the Government since 1931, whoever it may have been designed or calculated to benefit, could do any real service, or indeed, anything but harm to the export trades 1686 —the coal trade, the cotton trade and shipping—which are the three industries upon which Lancashire depends. Indeed, on this point I am able to cry in aid no less an advocate than the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, who warned the country in a speech the other day that the prosperity of which he boasted, and of which some parts of the country have undoubtedly seen the benefit, cannot be maintained, unless greater attention is paid to the export trade than has been paid in the past few years.
I have said something about the general conditions of Lancashire as a whole. The House may be interested to hear some figures with regard to the cotton trade. For all these figures, except one set of them, which I shall indicate later, I am indebted to Government Departments. Does the House realise how seriously the cotton trade has contracted during the last 10 years? I wonder how many Members of the House, how many Lancashire Members, realise the significance of the figures which were given to me, I think, yesterday. I will give round figures, in order not to weary the House. In 1925 there were employed in the cotton industry 473,000 adult persons, but in 1935 the figure stood at 325,000, a drop in 10 years of 30 per cent. In 1925 there were of the insured unemployed 47,000, and in 1935, 97,000—a rise of 110 per cent.
§ Mr. Silverman
I have not those figures. If hon. Members opposite think that the picture that I have drawn as representing the position between 1925 and 1935 is not correct, and if they have the figures for which I have now been asked, I should be grateful if they would give me those figures. I doubt very much whether those figures will do anything but emphasise in one way or another the general picture of decline and restriction in the cotton industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is true!"] One hon. Member says that the picture is true. If that be so, then perhaps the picture which I have drawn may be allowed to stand.
I have been dealing so far with the figures of insured workers, employed or unemployed, in the cotton trade in Lancashire up to and especially in the year 1935, but I have not dealt with a peculiar 1687 aspect of the cotton trade. I would especially draw attention to this aspect, and particularly would I direct the attention of those hon. Members in different quarters of the House who sometimes say that Lancashire is not really a depressed or Special Area or entitled to special treatment, because the figures are only this, that or the other percentage of unemployment. The aspect to which I would direct attention is this. The conditions in the cotton trade are such, the organisation is such, and the mode of payment of wages is such that nearly all those engaged in the weaving section of the industry are only part-employed, and their periods of unemployment, for which they can earn no wages, are spent on the employers' premises in the factories, standing idly by, so that while they are not qualified, according to the system of payment, to earn wages for that idle time, neither are they entitled to apply for unemployment benefit in respect of any portion of that time.
I understand that many months ago the Minister of Labour received a deputation on that subject, when the whole matter was explained to him, as I have no doubt it has been explained by the qualified officials in his own Department. I do not know whether any action is contemplated as a result of that interview, but I do know that no action has yet been taken. There have been very small increases of wages recently, which are not taken into account in the figures I have given, but, even if adjustments were made, they would not alter the general outline of the picture which I am drawing. I have not the slightest desire or need to overdraw the picture or deepen its shadows in any way.
I have taken results of a wages census in 16 of the chief weaving centres, and have added the totals and worked out the average as best I could, and I find that for those 16 representative centres of the weaving industry the average wage taken home by the weaver at the end of a full 48-hour week is £1 12s. 6d. I suppose that in no other part of the country can it be said with so much truth that it pays the head of a family, with dependants, to remain unemployed and rely upon what he can get under the various systems of public payment as the unemployed head of a household rather 1688 than to work 48 hours and to go home with the wages which he would earn.
§ Major Procter
Is the figure which the hon. Member has just given, £1 12s. 6d., the figure for adults, or is it the average figure for men, women and children?
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Member has devoted a keen and intelligent observation to this question and the result of his own investigations must lead him to realise that the figure I have quoted is the average wage of the adult weaver. Less than 10 per cent. of the weavers in Lancashire, the most highly skilled operatives in a highly technical trade, earn 50s. or more per week. At the other end of the scale, at the end of a 48-hour week weavers go home with earnings of 20s. or less. That is part of the general restriction and contraction of the trade that we have experienced in this generation. However much people may try to lay the blame for that contraction upon world conditions, which no one is able to control, it would be less than honest not to say that the major portion of the responsibility for the continuance of the contraction of the cotton industry and for the competitive conditions abroad, about which Lancashire manufacturers so bitterly and repeatedly complain, is due to conditions which they created themselves. Japan, China, India and other parts of the continent of Europe learned the cotton trade from Lancashire. Lancashire provided the training and the machinery which has created the competition from which they now seek to be protected.
There never was a time even when Lancashire was most prosperous, even when Lancashire supplied the cotton needs of the world, when the Lancashire operative could get a square deal from the manufacturer. It was because of the frightful conditions created in Lancashire by the forbears of the present manufacturers that it was necessary to introduce Factory Acts by the Tory party in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Have the manufacturers learned their lesson yet? At the very moment when to-day they are complaining of the competition of Japan and other places, and of the unfair conditions in other places, which handicap them in competing, what is their attitude about the international regulation of these conditions? Let me read to the House an extract 1689 from a report made in the last few days to the Federation of Master Cotton Spinners by the secretary:This Association feels that the matter is one of greater importance than might appear at first sightThe matter is the seeking for regulation by international convention of a 40-hour week in the textile trade:It may be that the somewhat nebulous deliberations of international conferences seem unlikely ever to have any concrete effect upon the Lancashire textile industry, but that is not the case. The workers are unanimously striving to have a convention recorded by the International Labour Conference, and many foreign Governments, notably Italy, France and the United States of America, are favourably inclined towards the project. Unless the textile employers"—that means the British textile employers—take the opportunity of putting forward their opposition at every step, it is probable that the convention will be passed, and once it is in existence it will come more prominently into the arena of political controversy, pressure may be brought to bear upon His Majesty's Government to ratify it and thereby bring a 40-hour week into legal operation in this country.I understand that it is the policy of the Government to continue the contraction and restriction of the cotton industry. I asked the other day whether the principles of the Cotton Spinning Industry Act were being applied to the weaving sections of the industry, and the reply, to put it mildly, was non-committal. At any rate, there was no great enthusiasm on the part of the Government, in its wisdom, to say that the policy of restriction which they had applied to the spinning section had been so overwhelmingly successful that they were going to apply it to the weaving section of the industry at the earliest possible moment. They did not say that. It was made perfectly obvious by the President of the Board of Trade throughout the Debates on the Cotton Spinning Industry Act that the policy of restriction was being applied to the spinning section first and was intended to be continued, because, obviously, you cannot scrap 70,000 or 100,000 spindles as being redundant and maintain in existence the weaving looms which those spindles used to keep working. We have to contemplate that contraction and restriction of the cotton trade has now become a policy to be recommended and enforced. But what is going to happen to the people in Lancashire who 1690 will, ex hypothesi, become as redundant as the spindles, as redundant as the looms and as surplus to requirements as the machinery. If you contract still further the scope of the industry the figures of unemployment and part employment will not expand.
Take the shipping industry. There are many Liverpool hon. Members who are better qualified than I am to go into the details of this matter, but I have been for some years a member of the Liverpool City Council and I am at the moment a member of its finance committee. Everyone associated with the council on any side of politics knows what tremendous efforts have been made by Liverpool to persuade the Government to recognise the tragic situation in which Liverpool finds itself. Here again one or two figures may tell the story more eloquently and more significantly. Take the average number of unemployed, reckoned as a percentage of the number of insured between the ages of 16 and 64. In Liverpool it is 28.7 per cent. Compare it with one or two areas which I take out at random and which are accepted by the Government as being Special Areas and entitled to all the benefits which perchance they may derive from being included in that definition. In Newcastle it is 23.8 per cent., in Blaydon 27.5 per cent., Chester-le-Street 24 per cent., Consett 9 per cent., Houghton-le-Spring 26.6 per cent.
But take some other figures. Take this really shocking figure showing the number of persons per 10,000 of the population who are in receipt of Poor Law relief in January, 1936, over and above, be it remembered, the unemployment figures. In Liverpool the number in receipt of Poor Law relief per 10,000 of the population is 1,143, the highest in the country out of a list drawn up by the Ministry of Health, comprising 42 English county boroughs. Compare that with Gateshead 818; or with South Shields 450. What does this cost? For the year ended the 31st March, 1936, the amount expended on out-relief by the public assistance committee of the Liverpool Corporation was no less than £1,156,534. If hon. Members ask me for special figures for the years 1929, 1930 and 1931, let me give them the figures for Liverpool. These are the total number of persons in receipt of relief, excluding persons in receipt of domiciliary medical relief and excluding 1691 casuals, at the end of December for the years 1930 to 1934 and for part of the year 1935 ended in September. The number of persons in 1930 was 42,000; in 1931, 54,000; in 1932, 77,000; in 1933, 82,000; in 1934, 99,000; and for the part of the year ended September, 1935, 93,000. And that is in a period, as I am told, of rapidly advancing prosperity.
I should like to have said something about the third Lancashire trade, the coal trade, but I do not want to speak too long and I know there are other hon. Members well qualified to deal with it. Indeed, the story of the coal trade in Lancashire is exactly the story of the coal trade everywhere else, in South Wales and Durham, and it needs no further words from me to add to that tragic story. I shall be asked what remedies I advocate. I noticed that a very respectable newspaper this morning said that the Motion which I have the honour to be moving now is magnificent in its failure to make a single suggestion. I believe that to be right. As I conceive it, the purpose of a private Member's Motion is to call attention to grievances. If I am able to satisfy the House that the grievances which I have described are real and just grievances, it then becomes the duty of the Government of the day to remedy them, and not to call upon the individual private Member who directs the attention of the House to them for a policy which it is the very purpose of Government to formulate and execute.
However, perhaps I might be permitted to suggest the general direction in which remedies might be sought. It is not difficult. Nobody asks for very long how to cure the hunger of a starving man. Feed him. Nobody treats as a difficult problem requiring lengthy philosophic disquisition the question of how to remove the evils of an ill-clothed man. Clothe him, house him, treat his ills. There has been general talk of advancing prosperity in this country, and indeed there has been advancing prosperity. What has been the cause of it? Hon. Members opposite are fond of saying that it is all due to a return in confidence naturally inspired by the succession of the National Government to the disastrous Labour Government of 1929–1931. But is that so? The Budget to-day is unbalanced to a much greater extent than it was in 1931.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Member's Motion deals with Lancashire, and he had better keep to it.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am dealing with general remedies for a situation which depends upon unemployment, the suffering consequent upon unemployment and the standard of living. The argument which I propose to address to the House, with your leave, is that the same causes which have contributed to the raising of the standard of living in other places would equally apply to Lancashire. I will endeavour strictly to obey your Ruling and not go outside the terms of my Motion. The only point I wish to make is that the returning prosperity in other parts of the country has not been due to any psychological cause of that kind or to a balanced or unbalanced Budget, for they were equally unbalanced under both regimes. An unbalanced Budget is an unbalanced Budget; it cannot at one and the same time undermine confidence in 1931 and restore confidence in 1936.
What has really happened is that the expenditure on armaments has had the effect of pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into industry and into people's pockets, putting money into circulation and as a consequence setting the wheels going round everywhere. I do not say for one moment that the revival is confined to the armaments trade, but it began there and has spread to other industries as a natural consequence. Far be it from me to recommend that as a continual thing. To relieve unemployment by armaments is far too dangerous a device. It is rather like paying a man in the condemned cell wages for spinning the rope with which he is to be hanged. It is rather like burning a house in order to have the pleasure of spending the insurance money. The money has been spent on battleships, bombs, guns, tanks, and poison gases, which are dangerous things if one begins to play with them: the point, as far as my present argument is concerned, is that it would not matter in the least if one took the whole of those armaments out to sea and sank them. That would not end the boom and prosperity; it would increase prosperity, because the Government would start at once to replace the armaments.
From the point of view of my present argument, it would not matter if the money were spent on nothing; it would 1693 not matter if it were spent on roads, on bridges or on something else for which at any rate we would have something to show to posterity. The important thing is that purchasing power has been placed into people's pockets, and it is that which has caused the revival to the extent to which revival has taken place. I say that that remedy could also be applied elsewhere. I would like to draw the attention of the House to two statements made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer only the other day. He was referring to events abroad and said:That has necessitated our embarking upon by far the largest programme of Defence that has ever been undertaken …
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not intend for one moment to discuss the rights and wrongs of that policy. I am discussing its results upon questions of unemployment and trade generally and upon the standard of living.
§ Mr. Silverman
Of course, I accept your Ruling, but I submit that I would be entirely within my rights on this Motion if I attempted to deal with the methods whereby the standard of living in Lancashire might be raised. That is the only point I am endeavouring to make. The point of the quotation to which, if you permit me to proceed, I would like to draw the attention of the House is the amount of money that has been spent and the effects which it has had. If that is not in order, I will willingly leave it alone.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member must deal with the Motion. He has already occupied a very long time.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not wish to occupy an undue amount of time. I wanted to relate that matter expressly to Lancashire, but if it is of somewhat doubtful propriety, I will leave it alone. I would like to ask the House whether our whole attitude towards questions of unemployment is not completely misconceived. We are all wringing our hands in despair over what is, in effect, the very dividend of civilisation. What has civilisation been trying to do during the last 100 years?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member must restrict himself to Lancashire, or I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Silverman
I submit, with respect, that the relief of unemployment in Lancashire must be precisely the same as the relief of unemployment everywhere. Our attitude towards unemployment in Lancashire is misconceived. We are treating as a semi-penal or criminal thing the leisure which is the result of the mechanical genius applied in Lancashire, as everywhere else, during the last 100 years. The whole purpose of the machines which have been invented is to save labour and create leisure. Our modern method of crowding all that leisure at the bottom end of the scale and treating it as a semi-penal or semi-criminal thing, entitled to a lower standard of living than that enjoyed by the employed workers, is a complete misconception of the whole purpose of society. I can hardly think that that argument is not in order, because it goes to the very root of my Motion, which deals with the standard of living of the unemployed, the partly-employed and the employed workers. Instead of treating the unemployed and partly-employed as people who are only entitled to a lower standard of living, we ought to give them the opportunity of contributing of their best to the wealth of the country in so far as we are able to use their services, and when we are not able to use their services they ought not to suffer because of that fact. What have they done, these unemployed, part employed and lowly employed workers, that they should be on a lower standard of living than the rest of the community?
I say that if you abolished the means test, raised wages, kept children out of industry to a later age and paid them full maintenance, took the older people out of industry and gave them adequate pensions, so as to spread the amount of work available more equitably among those who are ready to do it, you would, in a very short time, raise the standard of living as we all think it ought to be raised in Lancashire and elsewhere. I may be told that it is impracticable for this, that or the other reason to do so. Well, I am ready to abandon this proposal in favour of any proposal from the Government which will relieve the injustice of that depressed and depraved standard of living here and now. Long 1695 ago, in the years just before the War, there was a gentleman writing poetry and prose with great acceptance, one G. K. Chesterton, who was never looked upon as being Socialist in his outlook. Writing at a time when no one thought of the imminence of the crash of the Russian Empire of those days he wrote these words which I strongly recommend to those on any side who desire to see justice done and peace preserved:It may be we shall rise the last, as Frenchmen rose the first,Our wrath come after Russia's wrath, and our wrath be the worst.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Henderson
I beg to second the Motion.
I believe there will be general agreement with the tribute which was paid by my hon. Friend the Mover of this Motion to the qualities of the Lancashire work-people, and this Motion is intended to indicate to the people of the country that the idea that Lancashire is a prosperous county is illusory. Hon. Members opposite may ask what remedies we have to propose. I do not want to enter into that question on a Private Member's Motion further than to say that the party which occupies these benches has proclaimed over and over again its policy with regard to two of the key industries of Lancashire. I know from experience in this House that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, at least those who sit on the Front Bench, are well primed as to the publications of the Labour party and that they readily, and, I suppose, legitimately, unearth pamphlets and policy reports, and quote speeches of eminent men in the Labour movement.
§ Mr. Henderson
Lancashire can claim to be the most intensely industrialised county in the Realm. It has a population of 5,040,000, an acreage of 1,201,966, a rateable value of £33,567,000 and it sends to this Mother of Parliaments 62 Members. It cannot, therefore, be flippantly ignored, and I believe that whatever else eventuates from this Debate, it will be made very clear in the end that there are patches of Lancashire which are in a more parlous state than some of the areas designated as distressed areas. I agree that there has been an 1696 improvement in certain branches of industry in Lancashire. My hon. Friend who preceded me has referred to the rearmament programme and that, I believe, has given an impetus to the engineering industry. But it is a very well-founded belief, and one stated by authoritative persons recently, that this is only a passing phase and that the so-called prosperity is artificial.
The products of Lancashire fall largely under the three heads of cotton, coal and engineering, and reference has also been made by my hon. Friend to shipping. With regard to cotton, I wish to go back a few years and to give a few figures which are necessary in order to clarify the position. In 1921, the Lancashire cotton industry had 592,974 employés, and in 1931 that figure had shrunk to 370,336. In 1924 there was exported from this country £153,000,000 worth of cotton piece-goods and 10 years later that figure had shrunk to £39,000,000. I do not emphasise the question of wages more than to say that, as one who is prominent in the trade union world, I have great difficulty in getting trade unionists in the transport industry to accept the incredibly low, the scandalously low wages paid to adult employés in the cotton industry, an industry which demands a high degree of technical skill. In order to indicate the deterioration in the cotton industry I propose to read one or two passages from a report on "Readjustment in Lancashire" by members of the Economic Research Section of the University of Manchester. This report which was published only last year contains the following illuminating passage:In some of the weaving towns many of the weavers registered as unemployed were unlikely ever to find employment in the cotton industry again because they had become unfitted to it. The kinds of cloth woven now are more intricate and difficult to weave … Older people particularly those who have been out of work for some time find it impossible to cope with these changes and they may remain unemployed, while the looms stand idle for lack of suitable operatives.They sum up:The standard treatment for unemployment, the transfer of workers to other districts and industries can touch only the smaller part of unemployment in Lancashire. In the first place there is a large group of older people who are no longer strictly in the field of employment. They constitute the social wreckage of the past decade, with its declining employment and its changes in technical methods. It should be seriously 1697 considered whether it is worth while to continue the pretence that they are fit to reenter industry, and that they should still be subject to all the elaborate safeguards set up to discourage malingering in the unemployed.In the second place, a large part of the female working population, anxious and able to work, cannot, for elementary social reasons, migrate. Work for them, if it is to exist at all, must be work in their own towns.In the third place, there are special difficulties in the transfer of the unemployed among the youngest group of industrial workers. They, in fact, should not be in the field of profitable employment either, but at school.That is not an ex parte statement, but is one made after the most searching investigation into the cotton industry, and it would take, on the part of anyone who tried to controvert it, a great deal of answering. It is notorious that in the cotton weaving areas people have had to have recourse to Poor Law relief, and I will quote a few figures in that connection. Taking the years 1931 and 1936, in Bolton, in a given week in 1931, 2,697 persons sought outdoor relief, and in 1936 5,629; in Oldham, 1,082 in 1931 and 5,115 in 1936; in Preston, 759 in 1931 and 2,665 in 1936; in Rochdale, which a lady of renown claims as her birthplace, 88o in 1931 and 2,740 in 1936; In Blackburn, 2,337 in 1931 and 4,293 in 1936; and in Burnley—I am informed that the Burnley team is going to win the Football Association Cup this year—1,794 in 1931 and 4,147 in 1936. I think that, in an abridged form, is rather indicative of the rapid deterioration of the cotton industry. I would have quoted, if I had had time, from the very excellent report of the Lancashire Industrial Development Council, but as many other hon. Members wish to speak, I will refrain from doing so.
In the mining industry in Lancashire and Cheshire in 1924 there were employed 105,575 persons, and in 1934 that number had shrunk to 62,327, a decrease in 10 years of 43,248. In 1924 there were produced 23,235,751 tons and in 1934 16,544,043 tons. In 1928 things were in such a distressed state in Lancashire, in the mining industry, that the average of unemployed miners was 19 per cent. At Hindley and Wigan the average was 23 per cent., whereas the national figure was 11 per cent.; and in that belt of townships including Aspull, Blackrod, Hindley and Westhoughton, with a population of 7,000, 1698 3,000, 22,000, and 16,000, respectively, 10 years ago there were 17 collieries, whereas to-day there are only two. The rateable value of Hindley in 1923 was £26,543, but in 1926 it had shrunk to £1,122. The infantile mortality rate in Hindley in 1935 was 85 per thousand, whereas the average for the country was 57. One can understand this alarming infantile mortality rate when one recognises the terrible housing conditions of some of the Lancashire people. I will illustrate that point from a report which appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" on 23rd October last year, and I do not think anyone will dispute that that is a very credible newspaper. This report was culled from some facts obtained by the Unemployment Assistance Board's officials, and I take it that that board is accepted as a non-partisan body. What are the very alarming disclosures that they gave? Here are some of the appalling conditions noted by the board in Lancashire:Man, wife, and seven children (1 to 13), another expected. Two-roomed house. All nine persons sleep in one room.Man, wife, and seven children (2 over 13). All sleep in one room—six daughters in one bed, son (15) in one bed, man and wife in another. House very damp; repairs badly needed.Man and two sons in single bed in one room; five children in large bed in second room; wife and infant in single bed and child in cot in third room.In one room man, wife, baby, and six daughters in two double beds, one single bed, and a cot; in another room … two sons sleep in single bed. House due for demolition; damp and filthy.Man, wife, and eight children. Man sleeps on couch in living room. In one bedroom wife, daughter, and baby in double bed, three daughters in single bed, daughter in cot; in other bedroom three sons in double bed. One boy (10) returned from sanatorium and attends tuberculosis clinic, which is also attended by boy of four. Daughter (11) with infantile paralysis and wears surgical boots. All children have had pneumonia and are in general bad health. House has to be sprayed daily with disinfectant. In atrocious condition; roof leaks; all rooms damp; plaster dropping off walls; bedroom floors falling in.That is a report, not of a Socialist, but of a very authoritative body, namely, the Unemployment Assistance Board, and when one reads a disclosure of that description one cannot help understanding this infantile mortality rate in Hindley in 1935, stupendous as it appears to be. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has given some figures for 1699 Liverpool, which I do not wish to repeat, but the Lancashire public assistance committee—this is in order to prove the poverty existing in that county in 1936–37—estimated that their expenditure would be the huge sum of £1,632,655, an increase on the preceding year of £56,588. In Wigan, in 1934–35, the public assistance committee, owing to the poverty that existed in the borough, overspent by £7,000 in out-relief, and the total expenditure for that year on public assistance was the huge sum, for a borough of that description, of £90,983, or, in other words, 33¼ per cent. of the total expenditure.
It is assumed that Manchester is, relatively speaking, in a prosperous condition. With a population of 766,000, the number of persons in a given week in June, 1930, that were on Poor Law relief was 22,736. In June, 1936, the number had increased to 43,641—and this in the midst of the era of prosperity, so-called. The outdoor relief expenditure for a given week in July, 1930, was £5,794, and for a week in January of this year £18,091—a tremendous increase. The public assistance committee of Manchester granted relief to outdoor poor on 16th January this year amounting to £18,694. The recipients—men, women and children—assumed the large total of 41,929, those receiving institutional relief numbering 5,289, making a grand total this year, after all the talk about prosperity and an admitted increase in the numbers employed in engineering trades, of 47,215 persons. The Manchester public assistance committee expended during 1935–36 a total of £1,545,000 for domiciliary relief, institutional relief and various incidental items. At the exchanges in Manchester on 14th December last year there were registered 37,982 persons as wholly unemployed. That is in addition to the 47,215 who were on outdoor relief.
I will take the division which I have the honour to represent, namely, Ardwick. I give the figure with reserve, for it cannot be accurately ascertained, but it is estimated that there are at least 7,000 unemployed in my division. I know men who have anxiously sought work but have been out of work for six or seven years. When I went there in 1930 these men were buoyed up and fortified by the knowledge that in the pre-war days the 1700 Unemployment Insurance Act envisaged simply a temporary lapse from employment, and that that condition would be perpetuated in the post-war years. As year by year goes by, however, hope gives way to despair, and I see these men with pinched faces, with the same clothes that they had four or five years ago, threadbare and heavily patched, and with footgear of a very slender character. I ask any hon. Member from Lancashire to picture their plight in the distressing weather of last week-end in circumstances of that sort. The womenfolk in the great division of Ardwick have year after year carried on a heroic struggle in terrible conditions. I defy refutation, and I do not think I am overstating the case when I say that if any hon. Member from the Government benches cared to traverse this division and went there with equanimity, they would soon be shaken out of it. In the Ancoats area the housing conditions are ghastly. The city council in embarrassing circumstances are making commendable efforts to do away with overcrowding and slums. That is instanced by the fact that in one ward alone, that of Ancoats, the city council has, as a commencement, scheduled houses to be demolished in order to rehouse 7,000 human beings. In St. Mark's Ward already 2,000 people are being rehoused.
When one realises the bad housing conditions in Ardwick and bears in mind that 75 per cent. of the time of a married workman's wife is spent inside her house, it will be agreed that it is not an extravagant thing to say the women are playing an heroic part in trying to keep the home together. Commendable as are the efforts of the city council, I find in my talks with people that the demolition of these homes is regarded with some concern. Many of the people have been out of work six or seven years, old men are without hope, and young men are in despair, and for them the rent factor is a material thing and the removal of their homes to some distance away will involve transport charges. One hears pitiable stories in this division. Let me instance a case in Shakespeare Street, Ardwick, of a man who has a wife of 26 suffering from diabetes. The public assistance committee of Manchester allowed them 12s. 6d. a week extra in order that special diet could be bought to keep the poor 1701 woman alive. On transfer to the Unemployment Assistance Board that amount was reduced to 6d. a week. After a protest to the relieving officer—not by a Labour councillor—the Board increased it to 2s. 6d., but even that was a decrease of 10s. I am assured that this gentleman is a badly crippled soldier and that the whole of his pension goes in buying special diet for his wife. I have seen the man, and I am sure that both he and his wife are of a good type, clean, neat and sober, and have a nice little home in which they take a pride.
I have tried to indicate how things are deteriorating in Manchester and in Lancashire as a whole, and I am supporting this Motion in order that something can be done by legislation or some other Measure that the Government may undertake in order to tackle this problem speedily. After all, to use a local phrase, these gradely folk of Lancashire, by their unexampled aptitude and unchallenged skill, have contributed much to this country's greatness and material wealth in years gone by. It is a sad commentary on things as they are that science has placed at our disposal the means for ensuring to all a high standard of life providing we have the intelligence to use them. I hope that something will ensue from this Debate that will give to these gradely people an opportunity to live the life that I am certain the great Divinity ordained that they ought to live.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Cary
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House recognises that employment in Lancashire and activity in the many industries of the county are of great importance to the country as a whole, notes with satisfaction that efforts made by the Government to promote these objects have already yielded results sufficient to show the value of a policy of active governmental support, and therefore urges the Government to give the fullest consideration to the needs of Lancashire industries in formulating their future course of action, more particularly in the matter of obtaining favourable and secure conditions in overseas markets.In moving the Amendment which stands in my name and in the name of some of my hon. Friends, I want to say that, while we on these benches are fully aware of the suffering in Lancashire in the immediate past, and the suffering 1702 which still exists and has got to be cured, and will be cured by this National Administration, so also we have in the past two years taken the trouble to examine the Government's proposals and to follow the work of the Government in so far as it has brought either direct or indirect benefit to Lancashire. I need hardly add that everyone on these benches would associate himself with the sentiments of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), who moved this Motion, that the skilled worker of Lancashire has suffered a lot, that he is an artisan of the highest skill and, given the chance, can turn out the greatest measure of perfected work. It is the intention of the Government to get that type of worker back into employment in Lancashire, and as far as possible to prevent him from being sucked away from the county to the South of England. But before I deal with that question I would turn to the Motion. To my mind it reads rather like a solicitor's letter. I have been reading it and listening to it as it was read out in the House, and I feel that if it had been possible to do it within the framework of Parliamentary procedure it ought to have been begun with the words "We are instructed" and to have been ended with the words "Unless we hear from you within seven days."
§ Mr. Cary
I find my version is this, that the Motion as it stands contains a tremendous lot of chaff and hardly any discernible wheat. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne opened the Debate on his Motion by talking of the inadequacy of this Amendment, and said that my hon. Friends here and I would have to return to our divisions one day and answer that Motion. What, may I ask, will my hon. Friend say in his division when everyone there has read this Motion?
§ Mr. Cary
There is one point, and a devastating point, with which I must deal at Once before coming to what I have to say. The hon. Member raised a point about the unemployed in the cotton trade. I had not the figures when he quoted them, but I took the trouble to get them. I am going to give figures, not for the years for which he gave them, but figures of those in the cotton trade out of work on 29th June, 1929, and those out of work in June, 1931. On 29th June, 1929, there were 70,000 out of employment—Labour Government in—and in June, 1931, there were 209,000 out of employment—Labour Government out. That shows a very substantial increase in unemployment in the cotton trade within the lifetime of a Labour Government in this House. I admit, in fairness to the hon. Member, that there were circumstances governing those figures over which the Government at that time had no control, but I would also remind him, if he now complains of the speed at which the National Government are carrying out the task of bringing back prosperity to Lancashire, that the National Government succeeded in 1931 to a difficult period. If he is going to apportion blame let him divide it evenly. If he charges the National Government with any lack of statesmanship may I ask him to turn to the leaders of his own party?
What are the true facts of the National Government's policy in relation to Lancashire? Since the hon. Member opposite opened with the cotton trade let me make a few observations about it. The figures given in this Debate have been rather free and frequent and I shall not weary the House with any long array, and shall put the position of the cotton trade only in quite general terms. Since the National Administration have been in power, that is, since 1931, no fewer than 180,000 workers have gone back into employment in Lancashire, and in the trade about which there has been so much complaint, the cotton trade, no fewer than 22,000 people have returned to employment.
§ Mr. Cary
I got these figures from the Ministry of Labour. If the cotton trade is to benefit in the future it must have the fullest possible help that it can get from overseas trading agreements, because we are within measurable distance, if not of reaching saturation in the home market, at least of meeting demands. Therefore, if we are to make any substantial increase in the figures of employment in the Lancashire trade we must help the Government as much as we can to get every possible advantage from overseas trade agreements.
Let me show the House the lamentable position of the Lancashire cotton trade to-day, although let hon. Members mark that it still has an export trade in manufactured goods amounting to 160,000,000, representing the greatest export industry in this country to-day. But 10 years ago that figure of £60,000,000 was no less than £200,000,000. In that time, the number has been reduced to almost one-quarter. Therefore, we cannot expect that during the next two or three years an enormous slice of that export trade can be won back to Lancashire through the agency of cotton. But is there any reason why it should not be got back through other industries, the heavier industries, or by tempting new industries to come to Lancashire?
In 1932, the Government introduced the Ottawa Agreements to the House. These were passed, and were accepted by every Parliament in the Empire. The South African one has brought the greatest measure of benefit to the country. In the case of the Indian Agreements, the position is not particularly happy, and the 5 per cent. benefit that was subsequently granted brought no direct benefit to the cotton industry. I would use the opportunity which I have in this Debate to beseech the Government to do all they can in the immediate future to help Lancashire in the direction of what I may call its Indian contracts.
Let me now turn to the question of alternative industries. What do I mean by alternative industries, apart from Defence, and the benefits that must have found their way into the country as a result of it? Would it not be possible to provide local authorities in the worst districts—such as Ashfield, Hindley, and Wigan—some form of monetary grant wherewith to prepare their sites, without 1705 necessarily the introduction of a special commission? At no very distant date we shall have to debate a new Special Areas Bill, and—but I have no authority for saying this—it is possible that certain areas of Lancashire may be included in it, and other areas of the country taken out. We are not unaware that districts such as those I have mentioned are in the most distressed condition. Therefore, if any scheme of Government work to aid the Special Areas is to be given to Lancashire, I suggest that it can best be given by allowing the local authorities to have direct access to the Ministry of Health and to the Ministries that are interested in their particular properties.
The Government are charged, in the Motion, with not bringing any direct and immediate benefit to the Lancashire people. May I point out to the hon. Gentlemen opposite that the establishment of the Chorley scheme, as well as the setting up of a gas mask factory at Blackburn and now the aircraft factory, snatched from Maidenhead to be placed upon a suitable site in Lancashire, are the latest and best gestures which His Majesty's Government have made to the Lancashire people? As an individual, I would like to see the factory site somewhere between Bolton and Wigan. I do not wish to see the benefit of Government contract work which is placed in Lancashire as a result of the Defence programme, go to what we may call the Metropolitan area of Manchester, or the fairly prosperous area by the Cheshire border. Let us push it farther up north, in case by any chance we can bring a direct measure of benefit to the Merseyside and to Liverpool. In the switching of the shipping of this country from eastern to western ports, there is a reasonable prospect that, in a fairly short time, Liverpool will gain a direct benefit from the work of the National Government. Everyone is aware of the vulnerable position of London. The imports into London amount to about 36 per cent. of the total imports of the country, and provision will obviously have to be made in the future for Liverpool to take some part of the cargoes.
When the hon. Gentleman taxes His Majesty's Government with lack of statesmanship and for upholding a system that can no longer benefit the skilled and partly skilled workers of Lancashire, I suggest that he is not only trying to mis- 1706 lead this House but is endeavouring to mislead his own constituents.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
We really have had very long speeches, and each interruption makes them longer. The hon. Member who is addressing the House must be allowed to make his own speech.
§ Mr. Cary
I would remind the House, in conclusion, that there was a recommendation in the Special Areas Report of Mr. Malcolm Stewart that the question of controlling the location of industry in and around London must be grappled with if the North of England is again to benefit from anything that the Government care to do. I would suggest, if London is to be controlled, that the Government introduce, some time in the future, a Measure whereby industry may be forcibly returned to the North of England. I would also make this last plea to the Government, that from now onward every effort should he made to prevent the skilled worker, of whom every Lancashire Member is so proud, being tempted away from Lancashire to the South of England.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Sutcliffe
I beg to second the Amendment.
We are indebted to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) for introducing the Motion. We cannot have too much Debate about the state of Lancashire and the industries of Lancashire, so serious is the position. It has been said that the Government are indifferent, but I hope to prove that the Government have been anything but indifferent, and to tell the House a few of the things which they have done. What has been said to-night by hon. Members opposite does not tally with what has been said by the President of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, who is in daily touch with trade, and who has stated that in many respects the outlook for Lancashire is brighter than for many years past. That is certainly true in my part of Lancashire, the spinning part, where there is a definite and growing shortage of juvenile labour and very few women are unemployed. 1707 But there are still the men, and in this connection I would like to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the fact that in Rochdale—I mention this because my constituents are partly governed by it—on 26th October last there were over 500 men between the ages of 21 and 64 who had been continuously unemployed for more than two years. That is what we are up against. They have worked in the cotton trade and have lost their skill through unemployment or age. There they are, anxious for any reasonable offer of employment, but unable to get it except under the Corporation. The Corporation has created quite a lot of employment, more than most places. Notwithstanding that, there is still this surplus. If we can, we must devise ways and means of engaging these men. There is the uncompleted arterial road between Liverpool and Hull. There is railway electrification, but at the present time I am afraid that the railways do not see eye to eye with us on that point. These two large pieces of work, if they could be put in hand, would engage a great deal of this labour, which is more or less of a labouring class.
Three or four years ago some of us used to complain that the Government had not done much at that time for the cotton trade. Things are considerably different now. Legislation was passed to give effect to the agreement in the weaving section of the industry. As soon as the employers had discovered among themselves what they wanted legislation was passed. On the other side of the industry the Cotton Spinning Industry Bill went through the House of Commons and the full results of that Bill have not yet been seen. But the main way in which any Government can encourage the cotton trade at the present time is by means of trade agreements to stimulate exports, because we are still the greatest exporting industry in this country. As a result of agreements which have been made under this Government the figures of exports of cotton piece-goods to the Dominions and the principal foreign countries with which agreements were made in 1933—the Argentine, Denmark, Norway and Sweden—have increased from 475,000,000 square yards in 1932 to 565,000,000 square yards in 1935, which is an increase of 19 per cent. and no 1708 small matter. Exports to Canada and South Africa have more than doubled as a result of tariff concessions.
The Argentine is now the most important foreign market for our cotton goods. Reductions in the duty over a wide field have been obtained there as a result of agreements. A large mass of frozen debts there has been liquidated and sterling exchange is available to anyone who wants it. We now have a 20 per cent. advantage in the Argentine over our chief competitor there, Japan. That again is no small matter. Nearly two years ago, in May, 1934, the imports of cotton and rayon goods from foreign countries into our Colonies were restricted. As a result our exports, which for the 12 months ended June 1934, amounted to 117,000,000 square yards, now in the 12 months just ended, June, 1936, amounted to 278,000,000 square yards. That increase has more than justified the Government's action in taking that course with our Colonies. Therefore to say that the Government are indifferent or have done nothing is completely and utterly untrue. But that does not mean that we can rest there and say that everything is all right and that we need not bother any more. In those markets where agreements were not made Japan has increased her penetration latterly. Whereas to China four years ago we exported 72,000,000 square yards, now we send only 4,000,000 square yards. That is a serious position.
There is plenty more to be done. There are plenty more trade agreements which one would like to see made. Our exports since 1932 have declined very considerably to a low figure, in spite of all we have tried to do. There is a wide field still open for trade agreements, and in those trade agreements cotton must come first. We Lancashire Members have tried to insist upon that, and we insist upon it, if we may use that word, more than ever to-night. We cannot afford to be left out in the cold. We Lancashire Members will back the President of the Board of Trade, or whoever is responsible for these agreements, to the best of our ability. We want fair treatment—that is all—for Lancashire. My hon. Friend has mentioned the question of India, where the new agreement which is shortly to be made will be so vital to our county's future trade. We want a fair rate of tariffs, bearing in mind all the time that 1709 we take a very great deal more of India's raw cotton than we used to take. That, in my view, should have some effect in getting better terms. We have to concentrate upon that during the next few months, and if we do so and get more satisfactory trade agreements which bring more trade, as has been the case with the other agreements that I have quoted, we shall, I am sure, forge ahead during the coming year. Let me close by quoting the chairman of Martins Bank in his recent review at the annual meeting of the bank. As hon. Members know, Martins Bank is intimately associated with the cotton trade. He said:While we are able to record some real improvement, we have yet to reap the full reward of much patient effort in many directions to bring about better conditions. The Cotton Spinning Industry Act, now formally in operation, the price maintenance scheme, which it is hoped will be consistently carried out, and other measures, may be expected to have their looked-for effect, but it is not unlikely that general trade recovery throughout this country and abroad will supply a natural demand for the output of Lancashire's main industry and render artificial measures unnecessary. Facts may be left to speak for themselves, and the increasing number of mill companies now making profits or cancelling out losses is eloquent. The recovery may be slow, but it is gathering strength.The Chairman of Martins Bank gives in that speech a very excellent reason why the Motion should be decisively rejected.
§ 9.40 p.m.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Lieut.-Colonel Muir-head)
In a Debate like this, with a decidedly local flavour about it, it is inevitable that a comparative foreigner like myself must occasionally find himself at a disadvantage. It is not for me, for instance, to follow the hon. Member for Ardwick (Mr. J. Henderson) in his prophecy that Burnley are going to win the Cup; and it is also not for me to say whether Rochdale ought to be the more famous for having given to the world of entertainment a lady of renown or for having given to us here the hon. Member whom we have in our midst. But I think that perhaps, on some of the wider questions, it might be helpful to the House if I intervene for a short time now in what has been a very interesting Debate. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), who moved this Motion, spoke of the conditions under which the people of Lancashire have for long been living, and he emphasised, quite rightly, 1710 the fact that the difficulties of Lancashire have extended over a long period—a long period covered by successive Governments, as he pointed out, of different political complexions. They have also been due, undoubtedly, to a considerable extent to world conditions. Although the hon. Member endeavoured to anchor world conditions on those who were running the cotton industry in dim and distant days, it is certain that, as regards cotton, world conditions have played a great part.
The hon. Members who moved and seconded the Motion and those who moved and seconded the Amendment were, I think, to a certain extent on common ground. They all agreed that there was much good in Lancashire; they agreed that that good was of great importance to the nation; they agreed that there should be, and might be, more prosperity; and they were hopeful that the Government in some way or other would give more assistance. After that, however, they seemed to diverge. The Amendment emphasises, quite rightly, the improvement in Lancashire's conditions which has taken place comparatively recently, and, when the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne uses in his Motion the words "continued existence" without any reference even to a temporary improvement, I do not think he is making the allowance that he should make for the improvement which has undoubtedly taken place. That some improvement has taken place is confirmed by a work which has already been quoted approvingly to-night, and which I also would like to quote approvingly—the book on "Readjustment in Lancashire" undertaken by the Economic Section of Manchester University. It draws attention to a certain measure of improvement, and that improvement is not what I might call a mere statistical improvement, but an improvement touching the whole basis of Lancashire's economic life. Everyone who has spoken so far has been studious to avoid giving the impression that Lancashire ought to be known as a depressed area, but I think that, unless some credit is given to the improvement which has taken place in Lancashire during the past few years, there is a great danger of giving the impression that Lancashire is a static area—that it has not had the enterprise to take advantage of some of that general im- 1711 provement which we have seen throughout the country as a whole. To be known as a static area, devoid of enterprise, would be almost as disastrous as to be known as a depressed area.
Having made these preliminary remarks, I should like to pass in review one or two of the industries and subjects to which allusion has been made. Before I refer to specific industries, I should like to say a word on the question of general industrial development and employment in Lancashire; and I want to speak of the figures of employment rather than the figures of unemployment, because the figures of unemployment, good though they may seem, very often have to be corrected by indicating that a considerable number of people have left the industry altogether. That is true of the cotton industry. If you take a certain period, for instance, from June, 1932, to June, 1936, one finds that the diminution in unemployment is more or less counterbalanced by a decrease in the number of insured persons in the industry. If you take a year earlier, the whole year 1931 and the whole year 1936, the figures of the hon. Member for Eccles (Mr. Cary) were quite correct, that is to say, between 1931 and 1936 the cotton industry regained to the extent of 22,000 employed operatives. The year 1931 was the trough of the depression as regards employment. Since then the total employed in all the industries in the North-Western Division, of which Lancashire forms a preponderating part, has risen by 187,000, or 11 per cent.
It is interesting to note that the total number employed in the industries of Lancashire is only 58,000 below the number employed in what we now look back to as the very good year of 1929, and that in spite of the fact that there has been a considerable fall since then in the industries of cotton and coal. How is it then that Lancashire has contrived to keep up so well in the figures of the total employed? It has undoubtedly been due to the fact that Lancashire has been both developing the large number of industries which she possessed already, and has now been receiving a large number of new industries which are coming to her for the first time. That again is emphasised very much in the book "Re-adjustment in Lancashire." Those new industries which have been developing coming 1712 from elsewhere have not simply been coming into those parts of Lancashire which have, perhaps, not been doing too badly already, but some have been coming into the hard-hit areas. Now we see among these new industries light engineering, clothing, foodstuffs and a very wide number of miscellaneous occupations, and I cannot help thinking—and for the good of Lancashire trade it ought to be emphasised—that there is in Lancashire what so many industries are looking for, a very large consuming population at its very door. I think that wants emphasising in a Debate like this. With regard to the diversity of industries, I cannot do better than quote from a recent article by the general manager of the Lancashire Industrial Development Council. He says:Former spinning mills in the Oldham District, for instance, have been occupied by firms making perambulators and toys, corkboard, spring interiors and clothing. Similar buildings in the Bolton, Hyde and Stalybridge District have been adapted to industries some of which are quite new to the particular locality, paper bag making, building materials, men's clothing, industrial starches, waterproof garments and brushes. In other districts weaving sheds have been found admirably suitable for new business beginning production of slippers (Blackburn), special cables (Rams-bottom), varnishes, paints and ancillary products (Hindley), metal stampings and turned parts (Atherton), leather goods (Blackburn), spring interiors (Walton-le-Dale). Some of these establishments it is to be borne in mind are either branch factories of firms in other parts of the country or represent transfers of businesses from the South of England or 'most satisfactory of all' have been set up by industrialists from the Continent.I think that makes a not unsatisfactory picture. The policy of the Government during the years it has been in office has been to stimulate the economic position of the country as a whole, but it is true that it has, in the course of doing that, tried in certain instances to direct certain industries to certain places. I know quite well that Lancashire does not in the least want to have the term "Special Area" or "depressed area" applied to it, though technically, of course, certain districts are depressed areas. The representations made by the recent Lancashire Parliamentary delegation which came to press that at all events in some measure some of the advantages that are given and may be given in the future to the Special Areas should be applied particularly to the districts of which Wigan 1713 and Blackburn are receiving very close attention. I do not want to appear to be lecturing Lancashire, but Lancashire is, of course, by its very nature and its past history what one might call "export-minded." Even perhaps though the cotton industry does not regain the peak of prosperity that it once had, I only hope that the prosperity which Lancashire cotton once had may be extended to some of the new industries that are springing up in its midst. Though they are largely devoted to supplying the home market at present, I only hope they may have a great export trade in front of them.
Naturally something should be said specifically on the subject of cotton. Exports of cotton yarn and manufactures have improved in the last two years. In 1934 the figures were £59,100,000, and in 1936, £61,500,000. The yarn exports rose from 130,000,000 lbs. in 1934 to 151,000,000 lbs. in 1936. It is true that the export of piece goods has declined, although the value is maintained, indeed has slightly increased, but think the most welcome sign is the retained imports of raw cotton, which is actually the highest figure since 1926. Further, in the first five months of the season 1936–37 the raw cotton delivered to spinners showed a distinct increase over the corresponding period of the previous season.
On the subject of wages in the cotton industry, I should like, first of all, to take up the point made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne when he deduced an average wage of 32s. 6d. Nothing is more insidious than an average wage, and that the impression should be created that perhaps the sole bread winner of a family gets 32s. 6d. for a full week's work, and that is all there is for the family to live on. One has to remember that in the weaving industry an enormous number of the operatives are women, and I think, when that fact is stated, the false deductions that might be drawn from an average wage of 32s. 6d. fall to the ground.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I am certain that the hon. Member will agree that the idea that the main breadwinner hardly gets 32s. 6d. on the average creates an entirely false impression.
§ Mr. Silverman
I readily grant that there may be in one household a number of people, each of whom earns that average wage, but that does not always apply. Suppose it should happen that a weaver employed in the industry has no other member of the family so employed, he, too, will be earning that average wage, and, therefore, I submit to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the point I made was a perfectly fair one.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
When one is dealing with the question of average wage you cannot always stretch the average wage to cover the individual as you would wish. I only want to emphasise to the House, what, I have no doubt it has seen already, that there is a great loophole in the argument on the question of the average wage, and having done that I will say no more on the subject. There are three points I would like to emphasise on the subject of wages. Recently there has been an increase of wages, which included an increase in the remuneration of the big and side piecers of 2s., which is over and above the 2s. a week granted in 1932. We have seen in operation—and I think that it is very significant—the Cotton Manufacturing Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1934, which, as the House knows, legalises voluntary agreements with regard to wages. It has done a great deal in connection with the prevention of undercutting in wages, and it has undoubtedly had a satisfactory effect upon the morale of the industry. It embodies very big and far-reaching principles, but to what extent it will be extended I am not here to prophesy. It is satisfactory to note that yesterday the period for raising objections to the second draft order incorporating the recent voluntary agreement expired, and there have been no objections to it at all. I think that that shows to a great extent the satisfactory working of this particular Act. In so far as there is under-employment in weaving—and undoubtedly it is a problem that we have to face—it is only fair to say that the question is receiving at the present moment, from all concerned, closer consideration than it has ever received before.
The hon. Member for Eccles and the hon. Member for Royton (Mr. Sutcliffe) covered the ground with regard to the question of foreign trade so well between them that there is really not very much 1715 left for me to say. They showed that we had gained distinct advantages from the operation of the Ottawa Agreements, and that in the 1933 Agreement with the Argentine, which dealt largely with the exchange position, we had now received a 20 per cent. preference in that market. We know, too, that within the limits of our Colonial Empire the present Government took considerable action in order to try to meet the danger to our cotton exports from Japanese sources. When one comes to the question of India, I would remind the House that in May, 1936, following a Tariff Board inquiry in India, the duty upon United Kingdom cotton piece-goods other than prints was reduced from 25 per cent. to 20 per cent. ad valorem. [Interruption.] I am aware that many hon. Members are not satisfied with its operation. With regard to the future of the Indian trade, I can only say that the revisions of the Ottawa Agreements are now under consideration, and in the revising of these agreements negotiations are in the preliminary stages. The Government will, naturally, have the closest regard to the whole of our export position, including that of the cotton industry.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
I had some remarks on the subject of coal, but it so happened that to-day the question of coal has hardly been raised at all, or, at any rate, not to a great extent. But I will, if the hon. Member wishes, say a word on coal. It is true that the coalfield of Lancashire is comparatively old, which means high cost of production relative to the rest of the country. These are, perhaps, difficulties which it is difficult to overcome. There is at the moment a slight favourable trend, and we ought not to neglect this trend even though the figures may not be impressive. The Lancashire and Cheshire coalfield, in 1935, showed an improvement of 400,000 tons over the previous year. In 1936 there was a further improvement of 500,000 tons, showing that Lancashire is not exactly lagging behind the rest of the country. At the present moment Lancashire has got back to 98 per cent. of her 1930 production as compared with a figure of 94 per cent. for the 1930 production of Great Britain as a whole. It is true that there are fewer people em- 1716 ployed in that coalfield now than there were in 1932, but, on the other hand, we have an average working year of 248 days as compared with an average working year of 206 days at that time. If one translates those two figures in terms of man-days worked there is a distinct improvement in the number of man-days worked in that coalfield.
The question of the effect of the rearmament programme has been touched upon. I do not want to stress it very much because people can always say that it is likely to be of temporary duration. The only point I want to make is that, when it is a question of what the Government are doing to help a district like Lancashire, I would emphasise not only the need for factories at Blackburn, Chorley and Bolton which have all been mentioned, but that another factor enters into the general policy of the Government, namely, that in considering the allocation of its contracts, a preference is given other things being equal to certain areas where the incidence of unemployment is heavy. A very large proportion of Lancashire is in a position to enjoy this preference. That is merely an instance of the fact that the Government have the situation of Lancashire particularly in mind. The Motion of the hon. Membercalls upon His Majesty's Government, whether or not such measures are within the limits of the existing social and economic order.I do not exactly know what he means by "the limits of the existing social and economic order." Certainly I cannot define it. The achievements of the present system have been sufficiently evidenced by the fact that there are more people in employment in the country now than there has ever been in our industrial history. The idea of trying to make out that you can lay down a hard and fast economic system, governed by a sort of set rules, and that you can play a particular game under one set of rules and another game under another set of rules, is something which does not exist in reality. The value of the present system lies in its elasticity of operation in comparison with that of one confined within narrow theoretical limits. What we have done in the realm of foreign trade, what we have done in transforming our tariff system in the last six years, in trying to direct certain industries to hard hit 1717 areas, what we have done in the cotton industry by the Temporary Provisions Bill is another side of our operations. Under our present system there is no limit to what can be done in the way of cooperation between a Government which inspires confidence, and industry which possesses resource.
I am very glad that hon. Member in his Motion mentions the "resource" of the people of Lancashire. He refers to "the wastage of natural resource." Resource is an immense asset in industry, but it requires a suitable field within which to operate, and I cannot think that Lancashire with the resource that it possesses and the great tradition of enterprise which lies in its past and also in its present, I cannot think that Lancashire and its people would be content within the rigid limits of a strict governmental control which I understand would be part and parcel of the system of pure Socialism as preached by its zealous adherents. The Government have given, are giving and will continue to give assistance to Lancashire not less than to the rest of the country, and I believe that Lancashire has before it just as glorious a future as it has behind it a glorious past.
§ 10.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Parkinson
I am rather surprised that the Minister said that coal has not been mentioned very much in the Debate. The Debate has ranged over a wide area, and it is impossible to touch production in every area. We must be satisfied to stress such points as we are able to deal with. I was very pleased to hear the Minister say that the present depression was something which touched the whole basis of the economic life of Lancashire. It certainly does. Later in his remarks he made a statement about the new industries which have come to Lancashire, but I would point out that those new industries have not come into the depressed areas of the county. I am not complaining that they have come to Lancashire or as to where they have been put, but there are certain districts in Lancashire which are absolutely starved. The Minister also said something about oil, paint and varnish works which have come to Hindley. There may be 12 people employed in that new paint works, but as against that, only last week a colliery closed down affecting 450 people, 1718 and this week at another colliery where many Hindley people work notices have been served affecting 1,300 people.
The Minister also said that Lancashire people were export-minded. That applies to the manufacturing side of the county, but it does not apply very extensively to the coal mining areas. He further stated that the greater production which had taken place in 1935 and 1936 was evidence of greater prosperity. I agree with that statement. He also said that the miners had worked more days during the last few years than for some considerable time, and that in 1936 compared with 1935 there had been an extra 42 working days. I agree that that is a very great improvement, because nearly all the collieries were working short time, but many of them to-day are not woring to full capacity. Is the Minister aware that in 1936 there were 10,000 fewer people employed in the mines of Lancashire than in 1931, and that the output increased by 100,000 tons? More machine mining is taking place. We are not grumbling. Machines have come to stay. Machine, mining has taken its place in the underground workings, and the inevitable trend will be for fewer people to be employed and for there to be a greater amount of output of the product. We cannot very much grumble about that except that when men are displaced by machinery there ought to be something to which they can turn as a second line of defence. Instead, they are simply cast on to the unemployment market, they get standard benefit for a certain number of weeks and then graduallly drift down until they become almost derelict.
One hon. Member spoke of 500 people in one area who had been unemployed for two years. In the Wigan district there are over 5,000 miners who have been unemployed for over five years and have never done a day's work. That is the kind of situation that we have to face. We want the Government if possible to do something to relieve this particular distressed area of South West Lancashire. It is, practically speaking, a self-contained area in a similar sense to Liverpool. The general manufacturing or the textile industries of the county are spread right through the county and not confined in the same area, as is the case with coal mining. I should like to refer to what was said by the hon. Member 1719 for Eccles (Mr. Cary). He said that the position of Lancashire could be cured by the National Government, and that it is their intention to get the unemployed into work in Lancashire. He referred to the Ottawa Trade Agreement, and said that the benefit Lancashire was receiving came from overseas trade. Is he not aware that not long ago Lancashire Members were blaming the Government for not doing what they ought to do to help the cotton industry, particularly in its export trade?
The hon. Member for Eccles also said that the Government ought to make money for a grant to districts like Hindley, Aspull and Wigan in order that they might clear their ground. What did he mean by clearing the ground? We have appealed to the Government from our area and appeals have been made from other areas for the last six years asking them to do something to help us to remedy the evil of the dumps, which are a great sore upon the land. He also said that the Government had done something in establishing a gas-mask factory in Blackburn. They have done something there,but it depends upon the number of people who will be employed in that factory whether or not it is going to relieve the position there. There has, of course, been soma talk about the factory which has been placed on the borders between Chorley and Leyland. It has taken hundreds of acres of our best land and spoilt one of our beauty spots. The Government have avoided placing it anywhere near a depressed area. The people in this particular area do not want it. In Chorley there is hardly any unemployed at all, and in Leyland there is not a single person unemployed. If it had been placed between Bolton and Wigan it would have tapped a large number of unemployed; whereas it has been taken to an area where they neither need it nor want it. In fact, Leyland is the most prosperous part of Lancashire to-day.
Something must be said about Wigan and the coal area. We have been constantly told of the prosperity which is coming to the county, but so far as the Wigan area is concerned it is as yet very small indeed. In December, 1935, there were 10,547 people on the register, that is taking the whole of the totally unemployed and the partly unemployed men 1720 and women; and in 1936 there were 10,099. That means that 34.8 per cent. of the population are unemployed. There is not much sign of prosperity there. In the whole of the last 12 months the conditions have improved to this extent, that 250 men and 190 women have gone off the register, a total of 448 people who have been found employment during the last 12 months. No one will say that this shows much improvement. Now another calamity has fallen on this particular area, Hindley, one of the most depressed areas of the county, with more than 60 per cent. of its people unemployed, as it was announced last week that the Strangeway Colliery, the last one in the township, would close down, affecting 450 workers. This makes a total of 19 collieries which have been closed down during the last 10 years. In addition to that, during the past week, the people employed at the Westleigh Colliery have been given notice to the number of 1,300, which means that in a fortnight about 1,750 people have been thrown out of employment by the closing down of two collieries.
What is going to be done? Spread over the three districts of Hindley, Leigh, and Wigan, the December figures of unemployment are higher than they were 12 months ago. Really, it is no use talking about the prosperity which is coming to the county when we who live in these awfully depressed areas know that no new industries are coming along and that our people are feeling the conditions cruelly. The outdoor relief in Wigan from 1931 to 1935 has increased by £21,000, or a rate of 9.6d. in the £. The number of able-bodied men receiving relief in 1931–32 was 122, and to-day it is 330. In 1930 the cost of this relief was; £3,257, whereas to-day it is £13,468, which is equal to a 5d. rate. The local authorities cannot continue to raise rates out of unemployed people. Whatever they pay to these unemployed people in relief has to be recovered in rates levied upon the inhabitants of the town, and if the poor are to go on living on the poor, eventually the local authority will be in a calamitous position. The average amount of money spent on milk and food in schools in Wigan alone is over £4,000 a year. The number of children receiving milk at the moment is 930, and the number of those receiving meals is 400, making a total of 1,330. There are 1721 now 26 fewer industrial assessments in Wigan than in 1921, and the population has gone down by no less than 6,700.
I would like now to refer to the position in Aspull, which is in the Westhoughton division, to the east of Wigan. This has always been the poorest part of the whole area, and if the figures for this particular part could be separated from those of Wigan, they would prove that for years the district has had over 50 per cent. of unemployment, and sometimes as much as 65 or 70 per cent. The district is absolutely derelict. There is not a single works in it, and it is two or three miles away from any other employment. Only a short time ago the local authority advertised for three temporary employes, and there were 500 applicants. With regard to Hindley, in its annual report for the year ended July, 1935, the Juvenile Employment Bureau of the Hindley Education Committee stated that a total of 409 children left school during the year then closing, and thatefforts have been made to induce boys and girls to accept work in the Midlands and South, where the demand for juvenile labour is greater than the supply, but our efforts so far have not been very successful.There were 112 boys and 115 girls either totally or partially unemployed on the live register of the Bureau in July, 1935. The infantile mortality rate in Hindley, to which reference has already been made to-night, is much higher than the general average. The mean rate for Hindley for the five years 1930 to 1934 was 98; the average for 1934 was 71 and for 1935 it was 85. The average throughout the whole country for 1934 was 59.
The School Medical Officer reported that during 1935, approximately 1,305 school children out of an average attendance of 2,964 were supplied with one-third pint bottle of milk once, or in some cases twice, per day. The number of children receiving this free of charge was 364. The number of scarlet fever cases rose from 45 in 1934 to 51 in 1935, and measles from 45 to 255. Many statements have been made to-night about malnutrition and so on, but I want the House to try to visualise the conditions of the people in this particular area, where they have no opportunities of finding work. Practically speaking, a large proportion of the population go out by omnibus and train to find employment. Children, both from Wigan and other 1722 areas to which I have referred, have to go in trainloads as far as Bolton and Manchester in order to find employment.
It is time that something more was done, and while I do not propose to suggest to the Government how they ought to do it, I would point out that they had the opportunity of placing a great munition filling factory in the centre of this area which would have dealt with a large number of the unemployed. They have refused to do so, and there was also the opportunity of a new factory being built which would have supplied the demand on the other side of the depressed area. Why they should have neglected this opportunity I do not know. We find that in Westhoughton the number of free meals given to children attending elementary schools in 1935 averaged 321 per day, and the number of children under five years and expectant mothers to whom milk was supplied free for the year ended 31st March, 1936, averaged 279 per day. The number of maternity cases assisted was 32. This kind of thing must be taken into consideration. It is no use saying that all this is not having an effect upon the morale of the people. It is having a serious effect, as we know who go there practically every week-end. We find the conditions getting worse every time we go there. It is heartbreaking for us to go to these districts among people with whom we have been closely associated for the greater part of our lives and to find them in such a derelict condition and with no opportunity to work.
Enough has been said, I think, to cause the Minister and the Department some alarm. These children and young people will never forget the hardships through which they have passed in the last few years. The memory of these days will remain with them, just as a Sunday school education remains with many of us all our lives. The memory of their early hardships and experiences will remain with the young people and the bitterness of those memories will not lessen but will grow deeper, and will in many cases give way to the spirit of revolt. That is what we are going to have in the next generation—a spirit of revolt in the minds of all the people right through the industrial areas. The Amendment "notes with satisfaction the efforts made by the Government" I would like to ask the hon. Member for 1723 Eccles and the other signatories of this Amendment, where support has been given by the Government to the promotion of employment in Lancashire. Have the Government established factories or instituted any kind of work in any part of Lancashire with the exception of what has been done in the last six months?
The Government know the conditions which prevail as well as I know them. I was on a deputation to the Ministry of Labour years ago and we could make no headway then. We have derelict land and all kinds of things on which money could be spent with great benefit to the locality and the country while at the same time providing work for the unemployed. But we cannot get a move on with the Government however we try. We have made requests, we have submitted schemes, we have offered to put schemes into operation but nothing is done. As far as I am concerned I do not usually speak with bitterness, but at the moment I feel more bitter about this situation than I have ever felt about anything in the whole of my life. I think that the starvation, and it is nothing less, of the people in the South Lancashire central coal area is a deliberate thing of which the Government ought to be ashamed.
It certainly is the most distressed part of Lancashire, and if the Government could do anything in the way of helping the unemployed people in this area, they would get all the help and support possible from every one of the local authorities in it. Those authorities are willing to help the Government to do this work, but the Government do not come along. When you find people living in distressed conditions like these, when you know that they are called upon to live year after year under conditions of poverty, and when you bear in mind that they remember the prosperity of Lancashire in the past, when there were opportunities for work and everybody was working and living, if not in affluence, at least in a comfortable condition of life, all that I can say is that the present conditions in Lancashire are heartbreaking.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Sir Joseph Nall
In a Debate of this kind, although we express our formal opinion in words on the Paper which differ as between different parties, so far 1724 as the main theme of the Debate is concerned, there is a consensus of opinion which bears no relation to the ordinary political differences between the parties. When the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Parkinson) makes a speech such as he has just made, feeling as acutely as he does the conditions which exist in the Wigan area to-day, he can be assured that many of us on the other side of the House feel just as acutely on the matter as he does. Therefore, when we put on the Paper an Amendment in terms differing directly from those contained in the Motion proposed by the Labour party, we do so, not because we are not alive to the motives which inspired the original Motion, but because we believe that we must be constructive and must guide the Government in the way that they should go and, if necessary, indicate the way in which we would desire them to go.
In dealing with the industrial interests of one county, I ask the House to bear in mind that we are not dealing with some parochial concern in a small corner of the country. We are, in fact, when we talk about Lancashire, dealing with an area which, according to the census of 1931, contains one-eighth of the population of the country, concentrated in something less than one-thirtieth of the territorial area of this country. Its population is concerned with a wide variety of industries in addition to the principal industry, the textile industry. Reckoned in industries which employ more than 5,000 persons each, there are no fewer than 42 different industries located within the county, 22 of which are related to 20 per cent. or more of the total aggregate of persons employed in England and Wales, while in the remaining 20 of the 42 industries our percentage in the county has been between 10 and 20 per cent. These include such occupations as coal mining, which is considerable, printing, silk and artificial silk, constructional engineering, the making of electric cables, lamps, and wires, paint and varnish, artificial stones, concrete, furniture, and so on; and in these 42 industries, taken as a whole, our county contains 17 per cent. of all the workers who are employed in those industries in the whole of Great Britain.
It follows that we are not dealing with a parochial subject when we are dealing with the problem of Lancashire and its industries. We are dealing with some 42 1725 industries, of the workers in which some 17 per cent. are in the county. There is one point on which I differ from the hon. Member for Wigan. He said that there had been no indication from my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment that the Government have done anything to meet the situation. In the Ottawa Agreernents certain things were done, and my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment referred to them. I would like to give the House some indication of what can be done when trade agreements with foreign countries or agreements with our own Dominions and Colonies, such as the Ottawa Agreements, are really pursued to their logical conclusion from this country's point of view, and are not whittled away or allowed to go by the board on some half-baked and unfinished formula if the Department is not quite up to scratch on a particular occasion.
Let us take a case which illustrates the advantage of these agreements measured in terms of our principal exports, namely, cotton cloth. Comparing 1932—which was the last year before the Ottawa Agreements or the trade agreements were in operation—with 1936, the result is really striking. To the Union of South Africa in the last pre-agreement year we sold 51,000,000 square yards of cloth. Under the conditions prevailing in 1936 that had risen to 121,000,000. To Canada the 27,000,000 in 1932 increased to 73,000,000 in 1936. In regard to foreign countries, the 19,000,000 to Sweden in 1932 increased to 22,000,000 in 1936. To Norway the 17,000,000 went up to 20,000,000, and to Denmark the 34,000,000 rose to 52,000,000. These five examples are illustrative of what the Board of Trade can do when it really sets about it.
If we have a quarrel with a Government Department—not with the Department of my hon. and gallant Friend who replied, and who made a speech for which we are grateful—it is with the Board of Trade. While they have agreements with the five countries I have quoted, there is a very different story in some other quarters. India is the worst of those. India is important because negotiations for a new trade agreement are about to be undertaken, and I want to say here and now very emphatically that if our delegation cannot get an adequate and tolerably fair agreement with India, let India understand that we would 1726 rather not have an agreement at all. If she refuses to have an agreement on the lines of the Ottawa terms, let her be treated as a foreign country, and let her look to the value of those markets she enjoys in this country.
Let the House have a record of what the facts are in relation to this important question of our export to India. Speaking again in terms of cotton cloth by the square yard, our pre-war trade to India was about 2,000,000,000 per annum. In 1928, which was the best of the post-war years which I want to quote, it was 1,541,000,000 square yards. In 1929 it had begun to dwindle, and the figure was 1,374,000,000. I pause to mention, for the benefit of hon. Members of the Labour party, that 1929 was the last year before the Labour Government came into office. In 1931, when they went out of office, the 1,374,000,000 had fallen to 390,000,000, a most formidable reduction and a loss which we have never regained, although there has been an improvement here and there and ups and downs. [Interruption.] It was the year of the Indian boycott; that was 1931, when a Labour Government had been in office here for two years. There was a recovery after that, and in 1934 we got to the figure of 582,000,000, but that has dwindled again, notwithstanding the reduction of duty to which my hon. Friend refers. That reduction in duty, I want to emphasise, is utterly useless. The percentage of reduction was shown by the delegates at the time to be inadequate and the result has proved that it was, as is to be seen in the fact that last year the exports to India were 416,000,000 square yards.
That is the worst case, but it is not India alone with which we are concerned, because there are other countries with which we can do better deals with trade agreements, and I want the Parliamentary Secretary to pass these things on to the Board of Trade. Egypt, which supplied a large volume of cotton used in the cotton industry, was once a good market. In 1932 Egypt bought 82,000,000 square yards, and in 1936, 64,000,000 square yards. Morocco, a foreign market, took, in 1932, 52,000,000 square yards, and last year we sold Morocco 4,000,000. To Iraq we sold 39,000,000 square yards in 1932 and last year 5,000,000; to the Dutch East Indies 44,000,000 square 1727 yards in 1932 and the figure dropped to 27,000,000 in 1936. As to China and the Far East, that is an entirely different case. We cannot recover the ground merely by trade agreements. I quote the position there for the information of some of those who object to our restoration of armaments and our ability to maintain our position overseas. China, which was a market for 500,000,000 square yards in pre-war days, took 72,000,000 square yards in 1932, and last year took 4,000,000 square yards. [Interruption.] No, it was the lack of guns which lost us our prestige in the Far East.
I give one more instance of what can be done within the Empire. In our British Colonial markets the effect of Japanese competition is very considerable, but if there is really determined action something can be done. I give as a comparison a group of five countries, which are grouped not for any geographical reason but simply because the figures happen to be in that form. They are British West Africa, Malaya, Ceylon, the British West Indies, and British Guiana. In 1929, we sold to that group of countries 257,000,000 square yards. In 1931, the figure had dropped to 137,000,000. In 1934, although there had been a recovery in the meantime, the figure was down to 135,000,000. Last year, under the influence of arrangements which have been made through our Colonial Office and the Board of Trade—another example of what can be done when Departments put their backs into their jobs—we got up to 301,000,000 square yards.
The hon. Member for Wigan declared that the Government had done nothing. We all admit the legitimate grounds of complaint, but we can point to really established results which have accrued from other instances of Government action. When we come down to the hard facts of the case, this matter of the textile industry is the most urgent and is the field which might be most fruitful, if we got the requisite action for the restoration of our export trade. The Parliamentary Secretary read out the records which he had of mills which are now making toys or paints, and from the point of view of his Department, and also of those immediately concerned, I know it is very gratifying, but the sad and 1728 lamentable fact is that those premises and those people are no longer employed on the great staple export industry which did so much to build up the strength of the Empire.
We are asking the House to recognise that employment in Lancashire and the activities of many industries in the county are of great importance to the country as a whole. We believe that the House really appreciates that it is upon the maintenance of the aggregate volume of the export trade that the future development of this country and the solidarity of the Empire depend. It is upon the improvement or the restoration, partial, at least, of the volume of the export trade, that we look for the restoration of industry, which will not only restore employment and the prosperity of Lancashire but, in the long run, is the surest way of retaining the integrity of the Realm and of the Empire overseas.
§ 10.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Burke
We have other industries in Lancashire besides the cotton industry, but Lancashire is very largely a cotton county. Even her engineering organisation has been built up in close connection with the cotton trade. We have heard a lot of futile talk about the figures for 1929 and 1931, but what does that matter? Anybody who knows the cotton industry knows also that the real position is, and this is the problem of Lancashire, Labour Government or any other kind of Government—that the trade has been declining. A few years ago we exported 8,000 million square yards of cotton cloth. To-day it is clown to less than 2,000,000,000. We had 786,000 looms; to-day we have about half that number. We had about 61,000,000 spindles; now the total is down to 41,000,000. This has happened since the War, in an industry which has contracted because of world conditions. While we were fighting the War other people took our trade.
The question is—what has the Government done to replace that contracted industry and the other industries depending on it? Burnley, for instance, in addition to being the greatest weaving centre in the world was the greatest loom-making centre. The Government has done nothing in the bringing of factories into Lancashire. When local authorities 1729 have asked the Government to make grants in order that the towns might be put in a decent condition, sites cleared and towns made to look presentable, the Government has done nothing. In seven months the Government has given 4,000 contracts. How many of those contracts have gone into the area round Burnley, where 500,000 people are dependent on cotton? Precisely ten. The hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) has told the House that in Lancashire there is one-eighth of the population. They get 10 contracts out of 4,000. Yet hon. Members on the other side say, "We are satisfied with the record of the Government."
Overseas trade and agreements regarding it are vital to maintain what industry we have in Lancashire at present. What has the Government done about that? In 1933, and that is a long time after the Labour Government, Japan sent into this country 124,000 square yards of cotton cloth. In 1936 that had jumped up to 20,000,000 square yards—cloth that comes here in the unfinished state, is finished here and goes out as United Kingdom cloth. That is something the Government might tackle. I know that 20,000,000 square yards is not much compared with the whole cotton trade of Lancashire, but when it grows in that alarming way in three years surely a live Government would have done something to remedy it. There have been deputations from Chambers of Commerce to the Government, and we hope that a little pressure from Lancashire Members on their own side as well as on ours will induce the Government to take up that matter. I am sorry that all Lancashire Members were not backing one Motion to-night in order to bring united pressure to bear on the Government. It is true that a few of our people have drifted into new industries, but it is a small number. Before the War the cotton industry supported 600,000 operatives; there are now only 300,000. Something has got to be done to find work for those 300,000 people. You bring a paint factory into Hindley which employs 12—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead
That has been referred to three times. I do not know exactly how many it is employing at the moment, but it is expected that it will employ 200.
§ Mr. Burke
It may employ 200, and we do not object to small mercies, but, when the coal trade has lost thousands and the cotton trade has lost hundreds of thousands, to regard as a serious contribution the fact that it is going to employ 200 people seems to be entirely trifling. It has been said that employment has gone up and unemployment has gone down. It is perfectly true that short-time unemployment has moved a bit, but all the while you have not touched for 15 years the hard core of permanent unemployment in Lancashire. In the cotton trade there are 7,500 men and 6,500 women who have not done a day's work for 12 months or more; they have simply been resting all the while and cannot be touched. That is the kind of problem which the Government have to face, and it is a problem which a Government calling itself a National Government would tackle seriously. It is true that the question of Lancashire has been getting more attention in this House, but it is not getting sufficient attention, either from the House or from the Government. I hope they will take up the question of overseas agreements, and I hope they will not think that the few industries that have come into Lancashire because of the work that local authorities have done are by any means sufficient. Something bigger, something far more adequate than that, will have to be done. You will have to enter into a scheme of national planning to replace these contracted industries. We are planning at the present time in the Regency Bill; we are looking a long way ahead for contingencies that might arise. Cannot the Government plan the great industries of that county, which laid the foundation of our industrial and commercial supremacy?
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Major Procter
In the minute or two that remain I should like to emphasise one or two points. In the first place I should like to say how sorry we all were not to hear from the Mover of the original Motion any constructive ideas, particularly as to the cotton trade. The Means Test and the raising of the school age are simply Socialist propaganda. I would ask the Government whether, in their new scheme for attracting new factories, they could not make it possible for urban district councils to have the power to borrow money—
§ Mr. Silverman rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Major Procter
—to recondition the factories which are left. If they would do that, I am sure many urban district councils would take advantage of it. Boroughs have this power, but urban district councils have not. Will the Government kindly look into that matter?
§ Mr. Silverman
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. SPEAKER withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.10.59 p.m.
§ 10.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
There is still time to put a point in regard to Lancashire. The prosperity of Lancashire in the past has been entirely due to the brains, courage, enterprise and energy of the leaders of industry in Lancashire. If that courage, those brains, and that enterprise and energy have not revived in the leaders of industry in Lancashire, Lancashire had better shut up shop right away instead of sending Members to this House to squeal for assistance.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 92; Noes, 99.1733
|Division No. 68.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Harris, Sir P. A.||Potts, J.|
|Amman, C. G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Ridley, G.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Riley, B.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||dagger, J.||Ritson, J.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)|
|Barr, J.||John, W.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Batey, J.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jones, H- Haydn (Merioneth)||Rowson, G.|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Brooke, W.||Kelly, W. T.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Kirby, B. V.||Short, A.|
|Burke, W. A.||Lawson, J. J.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Chater, D.||Leach, W.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lee, F.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Day, H.||Leonard, W.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dobbie, W.||Leslie, J. R.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Logan, 0. G.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Ede, J. C.||Lunn, W.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Foot, D. M.||McEntee, V. La T.||Walkden, A. G.|
|Frankel, D.||MacLaren, A.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Gardner, B. W.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Garro Jones, G. M.||Marshall, F.||Whiteley, W.|
|Gibbins, J.||Mathers, G.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gibson, R. (Greenock)||Messer, F.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Milner, Major J.||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Montague, F.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Hackney,||S.) Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||[...]uff, G.|
|Groves, T. E.||Parker, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Parkinson, J. A.||Mr. Silverman and Mr. Joseph|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.||Henderson.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Cross, R. H.||Hope, Captain Hon. A. 0. J.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Davies, C. (Montgomery)||Hopkinson, A.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Dorman-Smith, Major R. H.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)|
|Assheton, R.||Eastwood, J. F.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. S.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||Keeling, E. H.|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Errington, E.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Fildes, Sir H.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)|
|Brass, Sir W.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fremantle, Sir F. E.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Browne, A. C. (Belfast, W.)||Furness, S. N.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Bull, B. B.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Lees-Jones, J.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Liddall, W. S.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Grimston, R. V.||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.|
|Channon, H.||Guy, J. C. M.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.|
|Cook, Sir T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Harbord, A.||M'Connell, Sir J.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Crooke, J. S.||Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton)||MoKie, J. H.|
|Hepworth, J.||Magnay, T.|
|Crookshank, Capt H, F. C.||Holmes, J. S.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Prooter, Major H. A.||Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.|
|Markham, S. F.||Radford, E. A.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Ramsbotham, H.||Touche, G. C.|
|Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)||Turton, R. H.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)||Wakefield, W. W.|
|Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Munro, P.||Rowlands, G.||Ward, Irene M, B. (Wallsand)|
|Nail, Sir J.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Neven-Spenoe, Major B. H. H.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Peake, O.||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Wright, Squadron-Leader J. A. C.|
|Penny, Sir G.||Spens. W. P.|
|Petherick, M.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.-|
|Porritt, R. W.||Storey, S.||Mr. Cary and Mr. Sutcliffe.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That the proposed words be there added."
§ Mr. McEntee rose—
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.