§ 9.53 P.m.
I want first of all to apologise to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department for talking about something which has no relation to his Department. I am not going to continue the discussion which was opened by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). I find myself in an extremely awkward position, because under war-time Parliamentary procedure it is almost impossible for a supporter of His Majesty's Government on the Government side of the House to raise any issue except on the Adjournment, and, of course, one feels that then one ought not to detain the House, its officials and staff longer than is necessary. As day after day, when Parliament meets, the two Oppositions have the right to raise what issues they like, supporters of His Majesty's Government always find themselves forced into the position of discussing the matters which are raised by the Opposition. To-night, I want to speak on a subject which has not been raised by the Opposition, and therefore, I have to take advantage of the Adjournment Debate to talk about something which is of vital interest to my part of the country, but has no relation to the departmental work of the Minister who is to reply, and as far as I know, there will be no reply on the matter I am about to raise. But I am not in the least deterred by that.
I want immediately to raise a matter which I have just discovered through making some inquiries on the North-East coast. I find that plans are being made all over the country for an increase in 718 the war effort as far as industrial production is concerned. I find that an official of the Ministry of Supply has visited the North-East coast and discussed sites available for Government factories. I have also ascertained that the North-East coast has been ruled out and that we are not to benefit in the future, at any rate on the first list, by the setting up of any Government factory for war production purposes. I understand also that this is due to what the Defence Ministers call our vulnerability. It is obvious that I am in no position to comment on the decision of the Service Departments but I must point out, in regard to the question of vulnerability, that it was decided that while Newcastle and Gateshead were to be scheduled as evacuable areas, the rest of Tyneside was scheduled as a neutral area.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must point out to the hon. Member that while I have no power to control the subjects of Debate on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House and while Members are entitled to raise any questions which they like on that Motion, it is, at the same time, usual and customary to give some notice to the appropriate Department of questions that are to be raised so that a Minister may be present to answer. It would seem that the hon. Lady will not receive any answer to the question which she is now raising.
I have given notice of my intention to raise this matter on the Motion for the Adjournment. I gave notice to the Minister of Labour and I had a note from him to say that the question of State factories on the North-East coast did not come within his responsibility and that my letter had been handed on to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Supply. The Parliamentary Secretary told me that he would be unable to be present to-night. I have already explained the unfortunate position in which supporters of the Government find themselves in this connection and I am quite prepared to receive no reply tonight. I informed the Ministry of Labour that I did not expect a reply to-night but this is a matter of such urgency in my own part of the world that I have to take any opportunity I can get of raising it. Last night we had a Debate on the black-out and on matters relating to the Ministry of Transport which I felt were of great interest to the House. I could not therefore raise this question last night. 719 To-morrow, there is to be a Debate on agriculture in which a large number of Members will wish to speak and I could not give notice to raise the matter on the adjournment following the Debate which is to be initiated by the Opposition Liberals. I have no idea of what the business of the House will be next week, but I do submit that the question of establishing factories for war production is of great importance. These plans are being made now; contracts for the leasing of land are being entered into, and unless the matter is raised now as one of urgency we shall be up against the proposition that decisions have already been made.
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot judge of the importance of these particular questions at this particular moment. All I have to do is to conduct the Debates of the House and I can only point out to the hon. Member that it is contrary to the custom and practice of the House that there should be no reply to questions raised on the Motion for the Adjournment.
I appreciate that I am acting contrary to custom and I regret it but I feel that this is a matter of great importance. I tried to raise it at Question Time and I have made representations to the Chief Whip to ask whether an opportunity will be given to supporters of the Government to raise questions occasionally.
I sincerely apologise to you, Sir, because I gather from your remarks that you do not favour the line of action which I am taking. That I very much regret, but at the same time I do consider that this is a matter of importance to my part of the world, and I see no other way of bringing it to the attention of the House, although I very much regret that I should act in any way contrary to your advice. I feel, however, on this occasion that I must try to sustain the position of the North-East Coast, and that to me is all-important. So long as I am not acting contrary to the rules of the House and although you say it is against the custom, I am afraid I must continue my speech and that I must take advan- 720 tage of the opportunity given to me. I have made every effort to try and raise this question affecting the North-East Coast. It does not only affect my constituency but the future of the whole of the North-East Coast. I feel it is an all-important question because I am sent to Parliament to represent that point of view and unless I am transgressing the rules of the House I must continue. I make every apology to my hon. Friend, but I am a spokesman of my part of the world and feel this matter very strongly. With very great apologies to him I must maintain my position.
I was just pointing out that when it came to the consideration of the scheduling of those areas which were neutral and those areas which were evacuable it was decided that Tyneside, with the exception of Newcastle and Gateshead, should be scheduled as neutral areas, whereas Birmingham, Glasgow and Liverpool are all scheduled as evacuable areas and are sharing in the war production at the present time. The North-East Coast is, as far as I understand it, completely ignored. The anomaly of the position is that if it is decided that there shall be an increase in the shipbuilding production one of the very few yards sterilised under National Shipbuilding Securities, Limited, which could be put into quick shipbuilding production again is on Tyneside. If the Government, therefore, decide that they want to increase shipbuilding production in this country, presumably the question of vulnerability will go by the board. Again so far as the production of one or two other things are concerned, then the Government will decide that it shall he done on the North-East Coast, but for the main part we are to be entirely and absolutely ignored.
I say to the members of His Majesty's Government that I want to know whether it is a Cabinet decision to repudiate all the work that has been done in connection with the Special Areas. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour tells me that he has no direct responsibility for the siting of factories. I am also told that the Special Commissioner who did very valuable work on the North-East Coast has now been made a regional representative for the Ministry of Information, and, therefore, we have had nobody to fight our case. I very much want to know whether it is a Cabinet 721 decision that all the programme for the increase of war production and the siting of factories is to be decided by the Defence Ministers without any reference to other considerations.
We have a considerable amount of unemployment owing to short-time working in the pits, but in the shipbuilding and some of the skilled trades all our workmen are employed. Beyond the level of those people who are normally on standard benefit, there is a large proportion of people who are still on the Unemployment Assistance Board's list. Unemployment among women is on the up-grade. We on the North-East coast would resent pressure being put on us to transfer our industrial population to other parts of the country. It is true that we are in a vulnerable area, but it is also true that our men have to go out to keep the seas free in order to let our ships in and to supply raw material and food at our ports to feed the rest of the country. It is equally true that the spirit of determination of our people to prosecute the war to a satisfactory conclusion is undaunted and unbroken. If, however, the Government are going to say to us in war time that we are to have no consideration whatever, that we must bear our war burdens along with the rest of the country, but that, in addition, we must bear the burden of carrying our unemployed without any relief and that we are to be completely ignored, the Government are asking a great deal. They are asking a great deal, particularly in view of the fact that we do not feel that consideration is being given to the problem of reconstruction after the war, when the North-East coast will be hit as it was after the last war. We have been fighting for years ever since to try and get employment re-established there. The Government have been very oncoming in asking private employers to start industries on the North-East coast, brat when they have an opportunity to do it themselves we are ignored.
We are in this war and we shall stand by our determination to win until victory is assured. We are fighting not for our generation, but for the generations to come, that they shall have peace and a measure of prosperity. I say "a measure of prosperity" because everyone recognises that it will be many years before prosperity can return to this country. All parts of the country, however, will have 722 to share in the victory. As I see it if the Government are making no plans for reconstruction after the war and are going to say to the North-East coast, "You are not going to share in war time employment," our future is a very black one. I, a supporter of the Government as I am, shall fight until I establish the principle that the Defence Departments, in their establishment of factories for war production, are instructed by the Cabinet to bear in mind our unemployment problem and our reconstruction problems after the war.
If I can have a satisfactory answer on that point I shall be content with my intervention to-night. If I cannot get any satisfaction I must take what other steps I can. I recognise that I am only one voice and am really of no account in the scheme of things, but, as far as I can, I shall fight to establish the principle that we have as much right to consideration as any one else. I hope, therefore, that, though it has been outside the custom, my intervention in the Debate tonight may bear fruit, and that the future will hold out some prospect to that part of the world which I have the honour to represent in this House.