Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [2nd December]:
That, in the opinion of this House, for the purpose of securing the maximum national effort in the conduct of the war and in production, the obligation for National Service should be extended to include the resources of woman-power and man-power still available; and that the necessary legislation should be brought in forthwith."—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Brooke (Lewisham)
At the time when the Debate was adjourned I was about to point out to the House that, although in July, 1940, we approved an Order setting up a constitutional procedure to deal with threatened strikes and thereby made strikes illegal, it is a fact that at the present time the loss of working days owing to stoppages is running at almost as high a rate as in the year before the war. That has, I think, a moral for this Motion before us. It shows us that if we approve the Motion, as I know we shall, and if we pass the necessary legislation, this is not the end. We also have to make sure that the administrative machinery of the Ministry of Labour is strong enough and smooth-working enough to bear the great additional load which will be cast upon it. Take, for instance, training. The need for training both in industry and in Government centres outside industry must grow. I read not so long ago that, comparaing Government training centres in each case, the number of instructors in Germany was as great as the number of trainees in this country. I hope sincerely that that is not true. When I put a Question to the Minister of Labour the other day about the number of places and the number 1154 of vacancies in Government training centres, he told me it was not in the public interest to give these figures. I submit that it is essential that the House should know these figures. There ought to be no vacancies at all. Has the Ministry of Labour really taken the strain in this matter of training?
I have in my hand the interim report of the Beveridge Committee on Skilled Men in the Services. It is an extremely important Committee. That interim report is dated 30th July. Has the Committee yet submitted its final report? If not, time is being seriously wasted. If it has submitted its report and if that report is now in the hands of the Government, surely it is treating the House less than fully fairly to call upon us to debate a Motion of this character when the highly important evidence—for I have no doubt it will be highly important—contained in the Beveridge Committee's findings is not yet available to us.
I was very glad indeed to hear what the Prime Minister had to say yesterday on the subject of boys and girls. The boys between 16 and 18 are, industrially as well as militarily, the most pliable part of our population. I was pleased to learn that it is proposed to act in this matter through the existing Youth services and under the auspices of the Board of Education. But may I express the hope that the matter will not stop there and that we shall not think only of part-time or leisure-time occupation for these boys in training of national importance, but that we shall go further and see that they are assisted to get out of useless occupations into full-time work of real national value? I am not at all sure that we shall not have to consider an extension of the control of advertising of vacancies for boys and girls and other categories not already covered by the Restriction of Engagement Order, because the smaller the free area of labour becomes, the smaller the uncontrolled field, the greater will be the temptation to attract that labour by artificially high wages and other inducements, not necessarily into those occupations which carry with them the greatest national advantage. I felt great sympathy yesterday with the hon. lady the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate) when she asked why registration was not being extended to the 14–15 age group. If it is not, we shall only push the evil back on to that group 1155 and we shall miss an immense chance of countering blind-alley work and the deterioration that it causes to the quality of the nation.
But, together with all this, more numbers are wanted in the Services and in industry. First of all I hope the Government will take note of the suggestion made yesterday by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) that the Civil Defence Services should be combed out for skilled men—but not in such a way that their efficiency will be weakened when the need for them again arises. We cannot afford at this moment to allow so much skill to be wasted. I was given a case the other day of an A.F.S. sub-station at which more than half of the 70 men engaged had industrial skill of national value. In one crew of six there was a skilled fitter, a carpenter and joiner, a Post-Office telegraphist and a builders' general foreman with supervisory experience. Some scheme needs to be devised so that the industrial services of these men can be enlisted in the national effort.
Now I turn to the women's side. Take the case of women in industry first. I have discussed this matter with the chairman of a well-known firm in productive industry, having branches in different parts of the country. He told me of half a dozen practical difficulties his firm experienced in the way of extending the employment of women. In certain places, in the Midlands particularly, there is a crying shortage of women for employment. In other places you get just the opposite, where there is still a reservoir of unskilled male labour available, and then you have the curious phenomenon that at some Employment Exchanges there is still a reluctance to send women forward for work when there are any unemployed men on the register. I am certain that is not Ministry of Labour policy at headquarters, but it illustrates how policy becomes watered down and amended between the centre and the periphery. Further, in certain places there have been objections on the part of local trade union branches to the employment of women by firms, so long as any of their members remain unemployed in the locality. Again, that is probably not authorised by trade union headquarters, but is the view taken by the men on the spot, and it is the views of the men on the spot in 1156 industry which count. Moreover, no responsible firm is prepared on its own initiative to dismiss large numbers of men in order to replace them with women unless there is an assurance that the men will quickly get other work. No firm can stand the kind of local reputation which that attitude would create.
On all these grounds, there seems to be urgent need for more sure and firm direction by the Ministry of Labour to the exchanges and to the firms which it is begging to assist it and to co-operate with it in its policy of bringing women into industry. On no point is there greater need for that direction than on the matter of women's wages. Every firm, as things are, has to make its own arrangements and carry on its own discussions as to suitable women's wage rates. The firm I spoke of had estimated that if they were to raise all their rates and bonuses for women to the men's standard, it would mean an addition to the wages bill of £250,000 a year—and that would come direct out of the Treasury. It would come out of the firm's excess profit payments. Yet as far as I know there has been no definite guidance either from the Minister of Labour or from the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to where a firm's duty lies in such a case.
Now look at it from the women's standpoint. All through this war there has been the complaint— I think the legitimate complaint—that the Ministry has started its publicity before it has perfected its plan and has therefore constantly created among women a sense of frustration. The Minister must not over-estimate the capacity of the individual exchanges to move into work the women who respond to these constant appeals for volunteers. I do not know how many hon. Members heard an extremely interesting broadcast on nth November last of a discussion between a representative of the Ministry of Labour and a woman critic. Many people have agreed with me that it was a very damaging broadcast, and that the only conclusion one could draw from it was that the Ministry had not yet worked out its plans in so masterly a fashion as to have really convincing answers to the legitimate questions which women might ask. One small point struck me. The representative of the Ministry was asked whether the Ministry could tell whether all the women who ought to register had registered.
1157 He said,These figures are certainly available. We have them in the Ministry of Labour, but I am afraid I am not allowed to give them.Sixteen days later, exactly the same question was put in the House to the Parliamentary Secretary, whether he could give the figures of the women who ought to have registered and those who did actually register, and the reply was that statistics of the numbers concerned were not available. We all say hard things about statistics, but they do not vanish. That quite small point sharpens in my mind the doubt whether the Ministry of Labour machine is yet really tuned up to the requisite degree of efficiency for the work required. In another of these broadcasts a spokesman of the Ministry said:No young woman who can leave home to go to a munitions area can be allowed to stay away.If it really means what it says, it means that young women at present working near their homes on work not of the highest importance must definitely leave their homes and go away to first-grade munitions work. That is not fully understood yet by the public. The Ministry of Labour has not yet been sufficiently definite on it and, if it is going to enforce that very drastic policy, it must prove that it is going to be equally efficient in its handling of all other woman-power available. It must make certain, for instance, that every Government Department employing women in clerical work is surveyed by experts to see that it is being run efficiently and not over-staffed. The Ministry must ensure that the exchanges arc better able than at present to deal rapidly with what I may call the semi-mobile woman, the woman wanting work who cannot go, for various reasons, hundreds of miles from home but can be employed up to 10 or 15 miles away—this is the important point—in a different exchange area. Hon. Ladies yesterday said all that needs to be said about the effect of the shortage of war-time nurseries. I would urge most strongly that the Ministry should now, instead of half-hearted and indefinite appeals, give a really powerful lead to industry to extend part-time work for married women on the greatest possible scale. And is it not right that the Ministry should now register women as rapidly as possible from 30 right up to 50, so as to make sure that that class—a small class, I know—of 1158 women between (say) 35 and 50 who are now doing virtually nothing towards winning the war are brought in and mobilised for work?
We all somewhat dislike the idea of conscription for women into the uniformed Services, but it is proved essential. The more the organisation can be perfected, the less will compulsion be necessary. I do not believe all the slanderous gossip about the state of things in the A.T.S., but, even so, it is a common and, I think, well-founded opinion that few branches connected in any way with the War Office are, on the administrative side, as efficiently run as they might be. A friend of mine, a young woman of 32 or 33 with certain special qualifications, applied to the A.T.S. the other day. She received a reply that vacancies for those with her special qualifications were already filled, but certain other vacancies might be available—would she consider them? Not unnaturally, as the letter came from the A.T.S. headquarters in London, she called there to obtain further particulars about the alternatives offered her. She found that it was impossible on calling there to obtain an interview with anyone who could help her and answer the questions in her mind. Surely the A.T.S. cannot afford, needing women so badly as it does, to neglect that small point of receiving properly those who apply to its headquarters for additional information. The Prime Minister spoke of the 100,000 women needed for Air Defence. I sometimes ask myself, however, whether the A.T.S. demands for women for other work, non-operational work, are fully genuine, and whether it is absolutely necessary to obtain all these women in uniform. The hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) suggested yesterday that it was time for an independent survey of the A.T.S. from inside to dispose of the slanders that are heard. My own belief is that what is most needed is an inquiry parallel to that which the Beveridge Committee have been conducting in the men's Armed Forces, to ascertain whether the uniformed Services for women are really using their available women aright, and are not in any respect wasting their woman-power in its quality or quantity.
The real conclusion that I am brought to is this. This legislation which is promised us is essential, but legislation is 1159 less important than lubrication—the lubrication of the whole machine so as to make sure that there are going to be no more of the jams at one point or another which have created among so many people a genuine, lamentable feeling of frustration. In that broadcast to which I have referred the representative of the Ministry said:To-day every man and every woman has to be mobilised for war service, and the parents of the country have just got to face it.The critic replied, I think rather cogently:It is not the parents who have to face it. It is your Ministry. You are not mobilising every woman for war service. That is our complaint.Hon. ladies here and elsewhere have said that a director of woman-power is needed. I am not going to make distinctions between the sexes. What I see needed most of all inside the Ministry of Labour are brilliant organising minds, ready to help the hard-worked staff already there to tune the great machine for organising our man-power and woman-power up to the highest speed. The highest speed is what the perils of our position necessitate.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
I have the privilege of speaking from this Box because I have obtained the confidence of many of my hon. Friends. I hope to prove worthy of that confidence. I came into the Labour party through the trade union, Co-operative and Labour movement, and this morning I speak from here on behalf of the millions of fellow trade unionists to whom I belong, on behalf of our party, and on behalf of the Cooperative movement which was built up by our class. I want to make our position clear on the issue that we are now considering. The Notice of Motion standing in the names of the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government is headed "Maximum National Effort." Our attitude to this Motion is that further measures for the organisation of manpower are inevitable, but that in order to secure a real maximum effort it is essential that, as a corollary, there should be a greater development in the direction of the control of industry and more efficient organisation of national activities. The conditions of those drafted into the Armed Forces and the auxiliary services should be examined and made as good as possible, and there should be a revision of the Royal Warrant and a substantial in- 1160 crease made in the payments to all dependants.
Our interpretation of maximum national effort is an all-inclusive national service. We have to consider to-day in the main the problem of production, and the Motion, according to our interpretation, means the maximum national production. We cannot obtain that unless we see that everything which impedes national output is dealt with. Had the Prime Minister been present—I am not complaining, because I know there is a Cabinet meeting —I should have made a special appeal to him, for he was one of the keenest advocates of a real Ministry of Supply. The German General Guderian, who is in the forefront of the attack upon our great Soviet Ally, wrote in 1932 words that ought to be impressed indelibly on the mind of every Member of the House and every responsible person outside. He wrote:Four weeks' drum fire, a four months pitched battle with 400,000 casualties gained for the British in 1916 a strip- of land nine miles by five miles. At Cambrai, with 400 tanks and a loss of less than 400 men, they attained the same result in 12 hours.I have just read Shirer's "Berlin Diary," and every Member should read it if he can borrow it from the Library. On page 289, he tells how he met some English boys like some of us were 22 years ago. These boys are now prisoners in German hands, and Shirer said:The English youngsters had fought as bravely as men can, but bravery is not enough in this machine age war. 'We didn't have a chance, said one; we were overwhelmed, especially by their dive bombers and tanks.' 'What about our tanks and bombers?' I asked. The answer was chorused by all the prisoners, 'We didn't see any.'Since then we have had the publication of Gort's Despatches. A Russian General in his despatch a few weeks ago wrote:The Germans have more tanks than we have. They are taking the utmost advantage of that fact. They are hurling their tanks against our defences everywhere along the whole front.Those three quotations assist the House to put the problem of production in its correct perspective. They help to emphasise the importance of accelerated output and of nothing being allowed to stand in the way of the successful prosecution of the war. May I say to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet that we ought not in this stage of the war measure our output by the standards of the last war? The Prime 1161 Minister said yesterday that the crisis of equipment is largely over. Are we sure of that? I ask. The Prime Minister said "Better be sure than sorry," and I want to repeat that as strongly as I can.
A few weeks ago I had a wonderful experience with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. We spent the whole of a Sunday night going round a Royal Ordnance Factory. The training that I received to equip me to fulfil my employment made me a critical observer, but I was delighted with all that I saw in that factory. Knowing the game that often goes on, I wandered away from the official party and watched things from a distance. I talked to shop stewards and to as many ordinary men and women as I could. The only complaint I had to make as a result of that night's experience is that so far as that factory is concerned the workpeople's representatives are not consulted enough. I would have liked to develop that point further, because it is all too common, but I cannot do it within the limited time available. The lay-out, the organisation, the efficiency and output of that factory are remarkable achievements and reflect great credit on all concerned. Tears of joy came into my eyes when I thought of what we could do if we had that state of organisation throughout the country. We have not yet got it. We can get it. We must secure it.
The people of this country are worthy of a much better state of organisation than we have had up to the present. Everywhere one goes among the people one realises that with the spirit of the British people we could move mountains if we had the organisation to do it. The workpeople are sound. If anyone doubts that, let them go among the people as the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Supply and the Prime Minister constantly do. At the same time, no one should be allowed to take advantage of the spirit of the people. No one should be allowed to take advantage of their devotion and loyalty. Had there been time, I could have shown that welfare, transport, reorganisation of women and the welfare and care of children are a disgrace to every one of us in this House. The reasonable grievances of the people should be dealt with promptly. This is put in a better form than I can put it in the "Manchester Guardian" of 29th November, 1941, in a 1162 leading article written from an industrial centre where the writers know the conditions of our people, not written in Fleet Street:Much progress has been made, but we are still deplorably backward in our provision of canteens, hostels and works amenities, in the organisation of transport"—and what a sorry tale we could tell, if only there were more time, about people lining up in the pouring rain and the fog night after night after having done 10 or 12 hours' work—in meeting the special difficulties of the married women on whom we must mainly rely to staff many of our new munitions factories. Little encouragement is to be drawn from the records of Government departments in the provision of day nurseries or school feeding. Maximum national effort means not only a new phase of man-power policy but also a new phase on all sides of the home front.The Minister of Supply and the Parliamentary Secretary went to Manchester a few weeks ago to address a trade union conference composed of area officials, branch officials, shop stewards and men from the shops. I wish the Cabinet could have been present, as well as hon. and right hon. Members in this House. They would have seen that every penny spent upon education in this country has been well spent. The Minister of Supply was excellent. He did not take up the attitude "I am the Minister, I know it all,"—in the way that one or two hon. Gentlemen did who stretched their legs full length when they sat here and, when some of us walked by, never moved, and gave us a look that made us have the impression that they were thinking "What are you doing here?" That kind of attitude is all too prevalent in British public life. It is an attitude that is all too prevalent in the workshops. When shop stewards have been elected to represent the men, or when a man has been elected to represent the Parliamentary party here, that man is as good as any other man in this land. He is speaking on behalf of the people he is representing, and if democracy means anything he should be listened to in a way in which he is not listened to in many parts of the country. After the conference which the Minister of Supply addressed responsible men in industry said to me "He made us feel we want to do more." Here is one letter which I received:I had the honour to be present as a visitor at the conference of the trades councils which took place in Manchester, and I should like to 1163 congratulate you on such an extremely stimulating and inspiring conference.We ought to bring about that spirit throughout the country. It is not the managements who are to blame—in the main; it is certainly not the workpeople; and therefore there must be some other fundamental reason why we are not obtaining the maximum output. Let me make it clear that on the need for increasing production there was complete unanimity in that conference. The Minister saw how the workpeople felt about it. The Parliamentary Secretary will substantiate me when I say that the workpeople feel they are being held back, and I have no hesitation in saying that they are being held back, and I shall produce evidence to show that before I conclude. I have here a letter which anyone can examine on condition that he does not make use of it, because I have suffered from victimisation and know what it means. It is a letter from the works committee at one of the largest aircraft factories in the country, signed by the whole of the shop stewards. There is not a nom de plume on it, and it is not a round robin. They are men with the strength of character to sign their names. In this letter is evidence that we are as yet nowhere near fully organised to obtain the maximum output. Here is a report in the "Daily Herald" of 20th September, 1941:The discharge by an engineering firm in the north-west of a number of skilled fitters engaged in making tanks has occasioned surprise in the factory and district. When an official of the firm was approached he explained that there might be temporary trouble… At the very least, said the Amalgamated Engineering Union official, ' this is one more case in which there has been failure to take the men into the confidence of the firm about any real reason for a shortage of work.'How did the people react to this? Let me make it clear that I know the difficulties and make all reasonable allowances for them—new types requiring new jigs and tools, with all that that means, and questions of material and dispersal. That is the background. Let us see how it affects the men. Men have worked overtime and worked at week-ends for months and months, for years in some cases. They not only work overtime but they work quickly. Then they are suddenly discharged—two hours' notice for one 1164 man, perhaps a week's notice, at the very most, for another man. The man goes home and says to his wife, "I have been discharged." The wife cannot understand it. Government speakers go about making appeal after appeal, my hon. Friends appeal to their fellow trade unions to exert themselves to obtain the maximum production, they go to the pit-tops at the week-end and appeal to the miners, and then engineers go home and say to their wives, "We have been discharged." The wife cannot understand it, the children cannot understand it, it becomes the talk of the whole neighbourhood. Many of these mothers and fathers have sons and brothers, aye, even daughters, in the Navy, the Air Force and the Army. Just imagine the moral effect of a situation of that kind.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
The hon. Member says, to my great surprise, that he knows of skilled engineers who are out of work. Will he kindly send them to my works, because I can find them employment straight away?
§ Mr. Smith
We cannot measure the effect of the loss of good will, the effect on future production of a policy of that kind. The men are told, "You are redundant," and they ask indignantly, "How can we be redundant in a situation of this kind?" After two years and three months of war no man should be discharged through slackness at one factory. Transfers should be arranged. Changes should be explained to the men. I will guarantee that if explanations were made to the men they would be responsive to treatment of that kind. I have a report which reveals a shocking state of affairs in the third year of the war It is the report of a meeting that was held at the Central Library, Manchester, at the request of the Controller-General of Machine Tools. It states:Experiences show that while some firms have tools not in immediate requirement, other firms are in urgent need of them.That is the state of affairs after two years of war. I could give other extracts if there were time to do so. My point is that we must have complete re-organisation of the Regional areas. Decentralisation is vital. Executive authority must, within reason, be given to the Regional and Area Boards. In the main, the large-scale plants in this country are efficiently run, but the benefits of their 1165 advanced technique, process departments, research departments, micromotion study and scientific methods of production are retained for themselves. We cannot afford a policy of isolation in this matter.
On 12th November a letter in the "Manchester Guardian" said:We joke and complain about the forms that we fill up. We are accustomed to that, and accept it as part of the burden that must be borne. We take them lying down, like a patient camel awaiting the last straw. The matter is becoming serious …. We must wait while the machine functions in its own ponderous ways. Letters to M.P.'s, telegrams to Departments and telephone calls to personal friends in Whitehall are of no avail. We must win the war at Whitehall speed, and no faster. Can nothing be done about it?No one is to be blamed for that position. It is due to the superimposition of our war needs upon the pre-war Civil Service machine. There is the danger of Whitehall becoming top-heavy. All this is evidence of the need for a real planned economy in this country and for decentralisation, which involves regional autonomy and executive authority. The evidence which I have produced— and there is more I could produce if I had time—proves the need for a national planned policy. The handing-over or the transfer of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Dalmuir, and the rumours of more to come, have created concern throughout the country. As this question is to be raised upon the Adjournment, I do not intend to pursue it at this stage, but I hope that some definite statement will be made by the Government as soon as possible on this issue.
We in the trade union movement have given nearly our all in order to contribute towards the national effort. The Relaxation of Customs Agreement— hon. Members will realise what that means to the engineering industry—dilution with the maximum co-operation in training, the Essential Work Order, with the tying of men to their jobs, have meant a great deal to our people. They have given the maximum output and have worked not only overtime but at the week-end without any quibbling. Compare this record with what has happened under the Act, passed in May, 1940, which gave the Government power to deal with essential services, persons and property. We are entitled to ask why that Act has not been implemented. The test we apply to everything is whether it is essential for the efficient prosecution of 1166 the war. The Motion refers to the maximum national effort, and we want the maximum national effort. That means that all men, essential services and property should be put upon a national basis and upon National Service.
Up to now we have had a steady improvisation. Take the case of transport. Hon. Members from industrial centres are bound to be concerned about problems of transport. Just as health depends upon purity of the blood-stream, so our economic stability and our war effort depend upon the efficiency of the transport system, yet we continue to play about with it. To obtain results, we should organise industry on a more efficient and planned basis, and that can be done only by real State control and, where this is essential for the successful prosecution of the war, by State ownership as well. For months before the war I served upon a committee which contributed to one of the most constructive proposals ever formulated by our movement. It was entitled "Labour and Defence." It suggested that efficient machinery and real State control were essential.
The technical advantages of real State planning and control are not generally appreciated. If there were time, I could quote from a speech I made in this House on 21st September, 1939, dealing with the matter. Our experience in the last war proves, as does the report of the Royal Commission which investigated the private manufacture of armaments, that we have an unanswerable case this morning. Mr. L. M. Lloyd, a distinguished civil servant during the last war, wrote a book, as the result of his experiences, entitled "Experiments in State Control." He wrote:To wage war effectively involves replacing private enterprise by collective organisation.That is our case this morning. By the end of the last war, the Ministry of Munitions controlled practically the whole industrial life of our country. The nation concentrated all its great strength and skill on victory; we are not anywhere near to doing so yet in this war. We must do it. Our people are asking for it, and it is the intention of this Motion to press for the carrying out of that policy. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), from whom I differed at the time—I believe in giving credit where it is due —has constantly, since the beginning of 1167 the war, raised this issue. My hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has pointed the way. The other day he indicated the direction in which people want to go. The hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), speaking the other day, supported those two hon. Members, and said that he was speaking for a large number of hon. Members in this House. If that is so, let the House of Commons assert itself this day and say to the Government, "We will pass this Motion. Our interpretation of National Service is that it should be applied to all the resources of the country."
We are now in the third year of the war, but there is yet no real co-ordination of our industrial effort. I want everyone who takes part in this Debate, irrespective of his political opinions, to remember that we are calling for the efficient prosecution of the war, and I ask them to support our Motion on that ground. The basis for the glorious resistance of the heroic Russian people was laid by successive five-year plans. No nation can afford to muddle through in these days. No person who says, "We will muddle through" is aware of what we are up against. We cannot afford that state of mind; we cannot afford slipshod methods, and out-of-date ideas should be ruthlessly cut out. Hence the need for a plan. Here I have a plan, which I hope will be considered by the Government for it has been prepared for them. We have had conference after conference throughout the country. So far as the trades union movement is concerned, it has proved to be the core of the heroic resistance of the British people, and the trades union movement asks for an examination of that plan. Here it is in minature. In this we have the support of the Prime Minister. If anyone doubts that, let me draw his attention to the OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1939. I shall never forget that hon. Members used to flock into the House to hear the right hon. Gentleman speak, though in the main there were only a few great, noble and young men who stood by him. The Prime Minister said on that occasion:What is essential is that there should be one Minister able to give executive directions through the whole field of munitions production, or almost the whole field, because there is a special reservation to be made with regard to the warship building of the Admiralty… I believe that expert opinion is almost over- 1168 whelmingly in favour of one; man having the power of giving direction over this field, …"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1939; cols. 251–3, Vol. 344.]That is our case. There should be a real plan; there should be maximum output, which can be obtained only upon an efficient basis of production. There should be decentralisation throughout the country. More local autonomy should be given to the Regional and Area Boards. In that way we should obtain the maximum production. Seeing that our people are giving their all, and have thrown all into the melting pot, there ought at the same time to be real State control where it is essential for the efficient prosecution of the war. As in the case of transport, there ought to be no hesitation about effecting national ownership.
For some time I have been visiting works; I have talked to men of all grades, including managerial people—big men, worthy of the times, not little men or quibblers, for these times demand real men—and I have observed and surveyed, and I am convinced of the need for a plan of this kind. That is the reason why I put this plan before the Government to-day. I have here a case of a man working in Lancashire for 96 hours without a stop. That is typical of the spirit and determination of our people. After Norway, with the coming-in of this new Government, life became dynamic in Britain. As you went about among the people you felt a great urge, a new hope, and when my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal introduced that Bill in May, 1940, at last the people of this country were convinced that the Government meant business. We want a repetition of that. Here we have an opportunity. This House will pass the Motion, but in addition to passing the Motion, we need to be worthy of the people. We can be worthy of the people only by bringing about a real state of National Service. The greater the danger, the greater the need for organisation; we cannot afford a screw loose. This war is a war of steel, mechanised, and of the application of scientific and engineering skill to all the resources we can get together.
For years before the war that bumptious bully Mussolini and that criminal Hitler poured scorn upon our democratic institutions. They said that our people were decadent. They got their answer from our Air Force; they have had their 1169 answer from the Navy, and they will get their answer yet from the Allied Armies of freedom if we will give them overwhelming superiority in equipment. For years before the war the Fascist reptiles poured poison into the veins of the people throughout the world. Some of that poison found its way. into the veins of people in London, through von Ribbentrop's wine, but the British people to whom we belong, the British people who are a virile and a great people, had been inoculated against that poison by centuries of struggle for freedom. It was the organised workers who proved to be the core of British stability. It was the organised workers who kept this country on the rails during the difficult period. Now, throughout the world, the democratic forces are gathering strength, led by our great and courageous Prime Minister. This strength is gathering momentum, and to-day our movement says that we must harness this growing strength. Let us have real National Service, applied not only to men and women but to industry and to all the essential services, on a planned scale, in order that we can provide the Allied Armies of freedom with overwhelming superiority.
§ Major Oscar Guest (Camberwell, North West)
In the very short time in which I shall occupy the attention of the House to-day I wish to say a few words from the point of view of one who has been working in production since the war began. The Motion which we are discussing concerns the ways in which we can most usefully employ further man-and woman-power. There are two points to which I should like to draw attention with regard to both man- and woman-power in munition factories. We work at the present time on what is called the Schedule of Reserved Occupations, and I very much hope that that will be considerably modified under the new scheme. I think the Schedule of Reserved Occupations works badly in both ways. The system on which it works takes the form of trying to save for munition work certain individuals whom we and the representatives of labour believe to be essential for work in munition factories. But it is also used as a means of sheltering a number of people who would not really answer to the Reserved Schedule in which they are graded and who would probably be much better in the Fighting Services.
1170 So I would like to suggest that representatives of the Ministry of Labour should visit the factories—as, of course, they already do—to consult with managements, both of private firms and of, ordnance factories, and discuss the merits of the workers, male and female, with a view to deciding whether they would be better employed in industry or in the Fighting Services. It is almost impossible to get the best distribution of man- and woman-power on a Schedule which alters year by year according to their ages. After all, every manager knows the workers in his factory. He can put forward to the Ministry of Labour representative his views as to who is useful in the factory and who he believes would be more useful in the Fighting Services. I see that the Prime Minister, in his speech yesterday, said that reservation would be on an individual basis. I had hoped that might be the intention of the Ministry of Labour, because I do not think that the Schedule has really worked well in the past, though, perhaps, it was necessary in the early days.
There is one other point to which I should like to draw attention, and that is the system of volunteering, which seems to cut right across the scheme of the Ministry of Labour. For certain Services men in certain professions may volunteer regardless of whether they are in a reserved occupation or not. I think that a number of people volunteer through enthusiasm and the best spirit. I know that a great many volunteer because they are afraid they will be called up later and would rather pick their Service occupation. Surely, it should be for the Ministry of Labour representative, after consulting the factory management, to decide whether a man is most usefully employed in the Services or the factory; for example, whether a man is better as a tool maker or an air mechanic. I hope that will be done in the future. We must all approve of the aim of this Motion, but I wonder whether it is not time for us to have some national register of all men from 16 up to whatever top age is considered right, and every woman too. Their occupation should be decided on some national system as to where they would be best employed.
The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has voiced the point of view of national ownership of factories, mines and railways. I do not profess to have a 1171 strong view on that. I am inclined to think, on that point, that the Ministries have enough to do to look after the ordnance factories they have set up all over the Kingdom, without taking further trouble on their backs at the present moment. It seems to me an issue which might be more wisely decided in the future. I did agree with what he said about our effort being a more national effort. I feel sure that workers of all grades, whether in munitions or the Services, would like to feel that they are equally vitally employed in winning the war. I suppose it is impossible for people in munitions to be given any form of uniform. Could they, by a badge, be given some status in that way? After all, when you join one of the three Fighting Services, you wear a uniform, you have a status, you are supposed to be doing the right thing for your country. If you work in a munitions factory, and the Government, or Ministry of Labour, decide where you work, I think those people deserve that status too. Just as in the Fighting Services not everyone is in the firing line, so in industry. Not everyone employed is working on a machine or at a bench. There must be direction, servicing and so on. I should like to feel that everyone in munitions, whatever their employment may be, is regarded as pulling his or her weight in the war just as much as those in the uniformed Services.
I believe it is only by some national register of the man- and woman-power of this country, and by the Ministry of Labour deciding where that power is best utilised, that we shall get this national effort mentioned by the previous speaker. We want a plan. From the point of view of continuity of work what the hon. Member said is very true, about men being stood off because work ceased through causes which are not the fault either of management or of the workers. We want a plan. That plan, to my mind, will not come through the owner of the factory or the mine. It has to come through the direction of the War Cabinet. As far as munitions production is concerned, which is the only facet I know anything about, if we could have our orders as to what we were to produce towards the war effort, say 18 months ahead, we could give better output. It is the short policy of war requirements which makes a difficulty. I know well that policy must be short some- 1172 times because the requirements of the Fighting Services change as the character of the war changes, but the more we can have a long-term policy of what we are intended to produce, the better the result we shall be able to give.
Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister, of Supply, has told us, I think on the wireless, that he wants 30,000 tanks and the guns and equipment to go with them, and the Prime Minister has told us that aeroplanes, and their guns and equipment, are wanted in ever-increasing numbers. It seems to me that the munition worker holds as important a position in this war, as vital a position, is doing as yeoman service, as any of his brothers, or now, his sisters, in the Fighting Services. I wish we could see some recognition of their work. I wish they could be recognised, whether by some badge, or some other way, so that the munition worker may feel that he has the approval, not only of the local management for whom he is working, but of the Government, through the Ministry of Labour, that he is pulling his weight in the right quarter. I welcome the Motion and the Bill which will follow. I hope very much that these two or three points I have tried to bring forward will be seriously considered.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I should like to begin by offering my congratulations to the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) upon his maiden speech from the Opposition Box. I fancy it must be somewhat of an ordeal, but the hon. Member may be assured that he has acquitted himself well. I think the whole House rejoices in his well-deserved promotion, and we all wish him well in the larger responsibilities he has now undertaken. Fortunately, this kind of maiden speech is one which permits me, without breaking the customs of the House, to reply to it, and say exactly what I think of its substance. I am sure that the hon. Member, having spoken officially for his party, and spoken plainly, will not resent an equally plain reply. With the early part of his speech I found myself in very general agreement, but with the underlying theme, the nationalisation—I quote the Amendment—of all industries vital to our war effort,which means practically all the industries of the nation, I must say that I was in complete disagreement with him. I want to say why, and I am sure that in doing 1173 so I shall represent the great body of opinion in this House. It appears, from the speech of the hon. Member—
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald (Ince)
On a point of Order. The hon. Member seems to be discussing an Amendment on the Order Paper which has not yet been called and which may not be called. Are we entitled to discuss an Amendment of that kind or not?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
So far, the hon. Member has not said anything out of Order. He is quite entitled, of course, to refer to anything on the Order Paper relating to this subject.
I was referring mostly to the speech of the hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) yesterday and the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke to-day. They made it perfectly clear what they wanted. The Labour party— I do not know whether officially or not— have new decided to launch a campaign for nothing short of "Socialism in our time." The fact that it is also war-time does not deter them; on the contrary, it affords them, as they think, a Heavensent opportunity to renew their party claims to bring about something for which in peace-time they have consistently failed to gain electoral approval. I do not doubt that the hon. Member for Stoke and the hon. Member for Llanelly believe sincerely in the wisdom of nationalising munition works, coalmining, transport, and the other great industries on which the British people have depended and will always depend for their livelihood and for national prosperity. We all know that hon. Members opposite regard Socialism as the ideal of political effort. But the great majority of this House, reflecting, I am sure, an equal majority outside, do not share that view. Their ideal and my ideal are exactly the opposite. I believe, with the same passionate conviction as they, that the life-spring of national prosperity and national progress lies not in State action, but in individual effort, individual enterprise, and individual initiative.
I am coming to that. That is my belief—that the life blood of national well-being is individual effort. In such an emergency as now exists, 1174 State control and direction are of course inevitable for the duration of the emergency; and the nation is ready to face that. I have always said that. I said it long before the war. In March, 1939, in the teeth of the Whips' opposition, I joined with the present Prime Minister and 32 other rebels on this side of the House in tabling a Motion to the following effect:In view of the grave dangers by which Great Britain and the Empire are now threatened … this House is of opinion that … a National Government should be formed on the widest possible basis, and that such a Government should be entrusted with full powers over the nation's industry, wealth and man-power, to enable this country to put forward its maximum military effort in the shortest time.I stand by that declaration to-day. But it is entirely different from what the hon. Member for Stoke is asking for—universal and permanent State ownership and control. The country, as I have said, is prepared to accept a large measure of State control of activities during the war; but just as the trade unions, as the hon. Member said, have agreed to abandon certain rights for the moment, on the clear understanding that these rights shall be restored when the war is over, so the nation as a whole, which has offered far greatersacrifices, expects that its traditional liberties and its freedom from the shackles of Whitehall will be returned to it in fullest measure when peace arrives. And that is a bond as solemn as—nay, infinitely more solemn, because it has not been made the subject of any precise guarantees—any made with the T.U.C. Still more it is in fact to restore and safeguard for ever those vital liberties that this war is being fought. What a mockery it would be if, after all the sacrifice and bloodshed, we were to succeed in defeating one form of tyranny merely to discover that we had set up another in our own country in its place. I do not wish to exacerbate feelings, but on an issue of this kind it is far better to make it plain where we stand. I say to the Labour party, this war is not being fought to establish Socialism in this, or, I hope, in any other, time, and any attempt to introduce it now, in the permanent form which hon. Members opposite clearly envisage, would be playing with fire. Any such attempt would split this country from top to bottom, destroy national unity, and thereby imperil the success of our great war effort. I offer that warning, 1175 politely but quite firmly, to hon. Members opposite, and I hope they will heed it. If the Labour party want to win this war in the quickest possible time, with the least possible sacrifice of life, let them put into cold storage, for the duration of the emergency, their own political panaceas. There will be plenty of opportunity to air them after the war. In the meantime, let them join with the rest of us in getting on with the job.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
The hon. Member has misrepresented our position. Our position is that, on the Motion in which the Government call for the maximum national' effort, we claim that the whole resources of the State should be put on the same basis of national service as that on which men and women are being put. That is quite a different position from that suggested by the hon. Member.
The hon. Member said, and the Amendment says, that the objective ispublic ownership and control.It says, "ownership."
The hon. Member for Llanelly, in my presence, and, no doubt, reflecting the views of his party, specifically mentioned the munitions industry, transport, and coalmining. There is not much left.
On the main issue with which we are now concerned, I think the country will acclaim the new measures announced by the Prime Minister. They are wide and drastic proposals, reflecting the immensity of the task confronting us. They will serve to demonstrate to the world, and particularly to our friends abroad, the seriousness with which the British nation girts itself for the third year of war. But these proposals will come as no surprise to our own people. The wonder will be not that such extended mobilisation is now required, but rather that it has taken so appallingly long for the Government to demand them. For here, as in so many other forms of national development, this Government, like its predecessor, is and has all along been far behind public opinion and public will. Its tardiness in recognising the peculiar character of this 1176 war and in realising the public will in these man-power matters has appeared to many of us, almost incredible. And the more so when we have seen, side by side with this timorousness on the part of the Administration as a whole, the magnificent example of duty and service performed daily since even he assumed office, by the Prime Minister himself. Surely if ever inspiration was offered for great deeds, it was offered here; for surely no national leader has, by his own bearing, ever presented a nobler incentive to a fighting people to give all and dare all in the national cause. Beyond all doubt the people have responded to that great example. They are ready and eager— they have always been—to give of their brains and of their hands whatever they could best serve the nation.
But how poorly we have rewarded them. How miserably positive action— positive, organised calls upon their patriotism—and here I agree with the hon. Member—have lagged behind the first, fine enthusiasm that filled their hearts. And the tragedy is that I doubt whether my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister realises it. Can it be, I wonder, that the very greatness of his own stature prevents him appreciating the feelings of lesser men? The other day, for example, he delivered a moving address to the boys of Harrow. He said:We must thank God for allowing each of us to play a part in making these days so memorable in the history of our race.The same thought, no doubt his, appeared in the Gracious Speech:The fulfilment of the task to which we are committed will call for the unsparing effort of every one of us.Yes, Sir; but how comparatively few of us are given the opportunity to make that unsparing effort or play that memorable part. Hon Members who have spoken in this Debate have expressed similar sentiments. Despite all that has happened in the two long years of war—all the talk, all the bragging, all the bold assurances from the Government—yes, and all the varied, crying needs of the time—how many tens of thousands of our countrymen and women cry out to-day for the mere chance to serve but cry in vain? Lord Beaverbrook heard evidence at Manchester of willing labour turned away in that great centre of munitions work. The post-bag of every Member of Parlia- 1177 ment contains appeals from keen volunteers whom nobody seems to want. How many other tens of thousands are eating their hearts out in dead-end jobs which are entirely unsuited to their temperaments and abilities in Government Departments, in Royal Ordnance factories, in the Services, the Army and the Navy— I have been there and seen it—or in other national organisations of one kind or another? How many others—I believe they are legion—are standing idle or are only half employed in war factories this very day, when they want to work, on account of ill-direction, or, as the hon. Member said, more often through sheer mismanagement on the part of the State Departments?
The reports of the Select Committee are filled with cases of this kind, and Lord Beaverbrook heard of them as well. Did the Prime Minister but know of the despair and frustration that affect devoted men and women in every part of the country; did he but close his ears to the always glowing reports, and listen sometimes, and without prejudice, to those that do not seek his favour did he but appreciate the bad as well as the good—and there is much good—that marks our war effort at the point of human labour, he would understand why and to what dangerous extent the country falls short of that all-in inspired effort, of which he himself is the brave example, and for which he calls in every speech, and without which the end of this agonising, bloody business cannot be brought within sight, much less within our grasp. It is in the light of these considerations—the peculiar character of the war and the needs arising from it and the exceptional use to be made of manpower now and presently to be available that the country will, and, I submit, the House must, examine these new measures.
Consider this problem of modern war. It is unlike anything that has gone before. In the last conflict—and I was there like some of my hon. Friends—munitions were, of course, of enormous importance, but for the most part men marched and fought on their feet and relied upon their personal arms to defend themselves. For that reason the paramount consideration was combatant man-power, and in fact, the side won which placed the largest number of infantry divisions in the front line. Accordingly, Army conscription 1178 became inevitable, but industrial conscription was avoided. The Civil Lord of the Admiralty, whom we hear too seldom, put his finger on the heart of the difference in this war at the weekend when he referred to the failureto realise how greatly the machine has advanced in importance in comparison with the menand, he added, to his credit, thatthe Government itself had perhaps realised the significance of this rather late.Yes, rather late. I wonder how many precious lives have been lost in the last year, in the effective reign of this Government, on account of that tardiness to realise the esentials of modern warfare. Let us hope the Libyan campaign will hasten and complete that realisation, for Libya has proved, not only that machine-power predominates and determines the course of battle, but, much more significant, that with every advance in machine-power there is a wholly disproportionate increase in machine casualties.
The despatches of the last few weeks speak of battlefields strewn with broken tanks and shattered vehicles, and these despatches merely colour the plainer official statements that both sides have suffered serious losses in machines, as a result of which for many days the battle was brought to a virtual halt. What number of tanks have been destroyed we do not know, but the numbers destroyed in Russia are on record. I am informed that Russia's admitted losses—I am therefore taking the lowest estimate—in the first five months of war amounted to no less than 7,900 tanks and 6,400 aeroplanes. To make good those losses without any provision of reserves means an annual output from the factories of 19,000 tanks and almost 16,000 aeroplanes. That is for one front alone and, as I have said, makes no provision for reserves. These enormous figures offer some measure of our own responsibilities if we are to win decisive victory within a reasonable time. Lord Beaverbrook has declared a target during 1942 of 30,000 tanks. He has told us that his figure reflects his estimate of home production and imports. I hope that that is not the figure which the Government consider to be adequate for our needs. The grim truth is that it is not 30,000 but more nearly 300,000 tanks that the Allied Armies will require, and must produce, if Hitler is to be destroyed on all fronts, within any measurable time.
1179 It is against that massive, frightful but compelling need that we must view this new call upon the nation's man power. That it is right to summon all to the country's service goes without saying. There can be no question about granting the powers asked for. But it is not enough to seek powers. This House must have the assurance that the powers will be used—and used effectively. We cannot afford to waste another 18 months as we have wasted those since May of last year. Let me give a single example. One of the reasons why we have not yet come within sight of maximum production, or, to adopt Lord Beaverbrook's pregnant phrase, why we "have not yet got steam up," is that we have failed to make effective use of the smaller industrial establishments scattered in their thousands throughout the country. Here I think I shall have the support of my hon. Friend opposite. Most, if not all, of these establishments are of course doing some kind of war work. We know that most of them are now supplied with the requisite tools, and all of them are impatient to give of their best to the national production drive. But I have yet to hear of one of these smaller establishments that is working to full capacity. In Scotland— and I make this precise statement—I believe it is true to say that, taking these smaller establishment's as a whole, they are only working at about 60 per cent. of their possible output. Why is that? Recent Government statements would lead one to suppose that the chief cause was shortage of labour. This was in fact said in another place, but, as regards Scotland, that is not true. Generally speaking, there is no shortage of labour in these smaller establishments, at least in Scotland, and I have reason to understand that it is so in England as well. The reason why the night shifts of smaller concerns are employing only 25 per cent. of those engaged during the day, and why only one out of four machine tools is working at night, is not through lack of workers, but directly on account of lack of work and lack of materials. That is not my opinion; it is vouched for by leading industrialists and men holding official positions in Scotland, and can be checked by the Minister at any time. I would invite him to check it now.
This is a most serious situation, and it is the almost universal experience of these 1180 lesser—but in this war all-important— firms, employing as they do at least 50 per cent. of the total industrial workers in the country. This is the kind of thing which I should have thought the Minister of Labour would have leapt on. For was it not he who recently said in this House "there is only one way to keep up output and that is by keeping up the rhythm and timing and flow of materials"? Maybe he has protested. If so, I am sure the whole House will support him in making further attacks on the Departments concerned. For surely this is the kind of thing, affecting all the Supply Departments, which ought to be capable of remedy. The Minister of Supply told us recently that we have "plenty of raw materials"; indeed, he went so far as to say that "we have a surplus of supplies." We all know the insatiable demand for war products of one kind and another. Tank accessories, we are told are demanded from every establishment. Then why those repeated stoppages of supplies and cancellation of orders? I can well understand the case of aeroplane production where changes take place in the form of a job; but such things ought not to occur generally and upon such a scale, in such a war as this when we are supposed to be fighting for our very lives. Nor are these sudden stoppages of raw materials and supplies all the result of sinkings in the Atlantic. No. They arise chiefly because of thoroughly bad organisation on the part of Supply Departments; and that is something we can and must put right. I suggest that the best way to do this is to adopt the suggestion made by a number of hon. Members here—to decentralise the administration of this whole effort and give the regional boards, which are now, in the words of many industrialists in Scotland, a waste of time, real executive authority to plan and control the whole area under their charge. At least the chairman of these boards should have executive powers.
I am not able to estimate the amount of war production which has been forfeited through the defects I have mentioned, but I will give this sample figure of woman-power which has been lost to the State. I am informed on the best authority that, given suitable opportunities for work near their homes, there are no fewer than 20,000 immobile women in the east central 1181 area of Scotland who could be harnessed directly to the war effort, but who are now pulling very little weight. I make that statement after due consideration. I believe that with careful organisation the smaller industrial establishments in that area could be made to absorb nearly the whole of that great labour force. If that be true of one district, not excessively populated, what vast armies of new labour at present rendering practically no direct service to the State, because they are tied to their homes and there is no work for them, might not be added to our productive effort? I invite the Minister to consider these matters with the least possible delay, and in the same spirit of helpful suggestion I give him this useful tip. Let him read the history of the Ministry of Munitions in the last war and in particular the memorandum issued in August, 1917, by the then Minister of Munitions, who is now leading His Majesty's Government. To save his time, I will read a single extract from that memorandum which might have been written to-day, so closely does it correspond with present conditions. It is an extract from a Ministry of Munitions memorandum issued by Mr. Churchill in August, 1917, for the guidance of his Department, and says:In the fourth year of war we are no longer tapping the stored-up resources of national industry or mobilising them and applying them for the first time to war. The magnitude of the effort and achievement approximates continually to the limits of possibility. Already in many directions the frontiers are in sight. It is therefore necessary not simply to expand, but to go back over the ground already covered and by more economical processes, by closer organisation and by thrifty and harmonius methods, to glean and gather a further reinforcement of war power.That same instruction might again be issued to the Production Committee of the War Cabinet. There are countless exam-pies to be found where retrenchment is required, re-examination is demanded and better organisation is necessary. The whole nation is behind the Government in the new powers they ask for, but it demands and insists that these powers shall be used and that the labour at present available shall be employed to the fullest possible extent. It is not satisfied with the situation as it is now.
I am sorry to detain the House longer than I intended, but let me finish on this note. I was one of those who supported the Prime Minister at a moment when he 1182 had not many supporters in this House. I daresay he did not know of it, and my aid probably did not matter very much. I was unimportant and inconspicuous, but I supported him because I felt he was right. That being so, I feel I have the right to appeal to him to-day. If it was proper then to demand complete mobilisation of our powers and exercise those powers six months before this war started, is it not even more necessary to do so in the third year of this immense conflict? We placed our trust in the Prime Minister then, and we, with the whole nation, place our trust in him now. He occupies a position akin to that of the great Augustus of Rome. He enjoys an autoritas in greater measure than any man in our history, even including my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) during the last war. He has immense, almost unbridled, authority; the nation trusts him, but it demands that he, and especially his Ministers, shall use that trust in the fullest measure.
§ Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)
In the course of my remarks, I shall have occasion to refer to some of the things said by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), but I would like to begin by asking him a question. He attacked the policy of the party to which I belong, and I understood him to say that at the end of the war everything must go back to where it was, pure individualism. I would like to have that on record for the hon. Member's benefit and for ours. It is a very serious thing to suggest that, after pooling the best of our minds, parties and policies during the war, those who happen to have power when the war ends will insist on depriving us of all the benefits that have resulted from this pooling. Am I to understand that the hon. Member did not mean that?
§ Mr. Edwards
I thought so, too. I listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith). It was a magnificent speech, the first speech that he has made from the Front Bench. He was very serious and earnest in everything that he said, but, as he was speaking, I wondered whether all the things that he said so seriously, and to which the House listened with such attention, would receive 1183 the slightest attention from anybody hereafter. In some of the charges that I shall make, I shall be a little more specific. In the course of the Debate, the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), who is Chairman of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, on which I have had the privilege of serving for the last two years, was challenged because of something he said in his speech. My right hon Friend the Minister of Labour said, "I wish the hon. Member would give us details, because we would like to follow up these things." I want to tell the Parliamentary Secretary, who represents the most important Department about which I shall speak, that I shall make some serious statements, and I hope he will challenge me to give proof of any statements which he considers to be exaggerated. Naturally, the information that comes to those of us who sit on the Select Committee cannot be used freely in the House or in the country, but the general impression as to the efficiency of oar effort is a very important matter that ought to be, and must be, discussed in the House. I shall suggest in my remarks that if we do not face the difficulties confronting us at the present time we shall have some very serious setbacks.
I am told that an hon. Member has said during the Debate that in our production efforts we are now making orderly and majestic progress. To anybody who knows the facts, that is a complete distortion, for there is neither order nor really serious progress, and indeed, in many respects there is retrogression. In its 21st Report, the Select Committee had occasion to say thatthe science of production is not well known in the Production Departments.That is true. And not only is it not well known; I do not think it is much cared about, and I do not think anybody is very serious about the matter. If one talks about a system, a plan, or a method of production with permanent officials, they rather smile at one. On one occasion the Prime Minister said in the House that we should not be mealy-mouthed about these things when our lives and our future are at stake. That is so. For two years I have served on the Select Committee, and I imagine that I have visited as many factories and studied as many statistics as any hon. Member in an endeavour to find out what 1184 is wrong. I would like in future to spend a little of my time trying to get put right some of the things we have found to be wrong.
The real difficulty is that in most cases the permanent officials do not pay the slightest attention to the Reports of the Select Committee, and I am not sure the House has done justice to those Reports. In two years there has not been a Debate on the work of the Select Committee, although it has been brought up incidentally in one or two Debates on Production. In the absence of full Estimates being presented to the House, the Select Committee' are responsible for supervising expenditure and reporting to the House on any extravagance. The Committee have had the greatest difficulty in convincing permanent officials that economy and efficiency are almost synonymous terms. I suppose we were expected to deal with a number of figures and to make suggestions for saving a few coppers here and there, but talk about waste of manpower, waste of material, and most important of all, waste of time, did not seem to come within the Committee's province. We had to establish that in our view economy meant efficiency, and in the end we were successful.
I should like to pay a tribute to the work of the Chairman of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Kidderminster. I have never known a man who was more devoted to his job than the hon. Member has been to his work. He has had a very heavy job. I have disagreed with him seriously on only one point. On one occasion, he told the House that the country was only 75 per cent. efficient. The Prime Minister challenged him, and believed that we were more than 75 per cent. efficient. I should sleep more comfortably to-night if I could believe that we had 75 per cent. of efficiency. The estimate of the hon. Member for Kidderminster was very flattering. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour have confirmed that view since then. The Minister of Supply asked the workers to double their September output in November. He could not have asked for that if we already had 75 per cent. efficiency. The Minister of Labour asked the workers to increase their output by 40 per cent., and said that it could be done. He would not have suggested that if we were 75 per cent. efficient. No, the estimate which the hon. Member for 1185 Kidderminster gave was a very flattering one. The Minister of Supply has told us that all our machine-tool troubles are at an end and that we have all that we require. It is splendid to hear that. There is an abundance of raw materials. Then, if our potential superiority is colossal, we have to ask what is the matter. Is production all that it should be, seeing that we have all those advantages? And let hon. Members never lose sight of the fact that we have in this country all the advantages of a dictatorship without any of its defects. With the backing which he has at the present time, the Prime Minister can do anything that a dictator can do. There is no limit. We have in this country all the advantages formerly attributed to dictatorships, together with the additional advantage of useful criticism.
What, then, is wrong? I and some others have said before what we believe to be wrong, but it is a most unpopular thing to say. What is wrong is the machine, the thing that we call the Civil Service. I do not mean the Civil servants; do not let anybody say that I am taking an advantage and criticising Civil servants who cannot reply. I have been in contact with Civil servants very closely in recent years. Some of the best minds and most efficient men in the country are to be found in the Civil Service. They carry a very grave responsibility. But with the machine under which they have to work, they simply cannot do what is required. Everything in this country has speeded up except the Civil Service, which is so constructed that it cannot speed up. There is a limit to the speed of any machine; there is a very low limit to the speed of that machine. I say to the House deliberately that we have created a veritable Frankenstein which will destroy us if we do not deal with it. That is no exaggeration, and it is something which has to be faced. You can get the best brains you like from all industries, but as long as they have to go at the speed of the permanent officials, production will not be speeded up. That machine destroys and frustrates every effort.
Wherever I have found delays I have discovered that they have been frequently due to the throttling hands of the Treasury. The officials, with the best will in the world, cannot get the machine speeded up. Someone else will have to 1186 do the work. I would like to take the House on a personally conducted tour of two or three Departments. I will tell the Parliamentary Secretary now that there is serious competition within his own Department, and not competition merely between his Department and another. It is a most serious matter indeed. Ministers know the conditions which exist better than anyone, because they are always having to fight with their Departments.
§ Mr. Simmonds (Birmingham, Duddeston)
Can the hon. Member tell the House why, if what he says is true, so many of his hon. Friends are anxious to extend State control?
§ Mr. Edwards
I cannot, but I have no doubt that the hon. Member has, since the war, modified many of his own views. I would tell the House frankly that Socialism does not even remotely mean the inefficiency I have seen. I discussed this question with a high official, whose name is available to anyone. He believed that something could be done about the matter and agreed that there should be a speeding up, but he said that something would have to be done about it after the war. His idea was to tackle the problem after the war, but we want the problem tackled now.
In the course of my speech I have referred to the Treasury. Let me give an example of what I mean. It is the case of someone who went to the Ministry of Supply at the time when we were faced with the Battle of the Atlantic, and when we were losing ships at such a rate that every Minister was disturbed. This man wanted to manufacture something in this country which he claimed would save three ships out of four. That may have been an exaggeration, but suppose it would have saved one out of four. The experts agreed that in the national interest there should be a trial. Without the slightest right, and without affecting their consciences in any way, the Treasury held the matter up for months. They made certain conditions, which subsequently were reversed. That is what I mean about the throttling hand of the Treasury. The Treasury have no right to step in and stop a thing of that kind, which is a matter entirely outside their control.
I should now like to say a word about the Reports of the Select Committee on 1187 National Expenditure. So far there have been 40 Reports. [Interruption.] Nothing I can say can be half so clever or biting as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's remarks when he used to attack these Departments before he was in office. It was a pleasure to listen to his speeches.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
I do not think I have ever attacked a civil servant in my life, although on many occasions I have had great pleasure in attacking Ministers in this House.
§ Mr. Edwards
I am not attacking civil servants. I am talking about the system and the machine. No one knows better than the Minister that what I am saying is true, because he experiences these things in his Department every day.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The hon. Member began by saying that he would make a series of specific charges. The first part of his speech he devoted to a series of generalisations, and so far he has mentioned only one case, about which he has given me no notice. I am not able to trace this case offhand, but perhaps he will give me the facts.
§ Mr. Edwards
I did not ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to reply. No doubt he will ride off on much easier things. As I say, the Committee on National Expenditure has issued 40 Reports. There has never been a reply to any one of these Reports in less than one month, and I find that on an average it takes four months to receive a reply. To be of value, these Reports must be acted upon at once, but that has never been the case. In one case it took no less than eight months to receive a reply, and in another case I believe that we had no reply at all, although we may have received one since I left the Committee. Let me give an example of what I think I must call studied insolence, because, let it be remembered, insolence to this Committee is insolence towards this House. This Committee is the only thing which stands between the House and this enormous expenditure. Taking the Fifteenth Report, published on 13th May, we find that the only response we got to it was on 10th October. This has not 1188 been published, so I will not read it to the House; but no serious attempt was made to go into the details of that Report. Then there is the Twenty-fifth Report, which has just come out. There is an attempt in this case to deal with the details. Actually reference is made to forms.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
The hon. Member is now going into a detailed examination of the treatment of the Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure. I cannot connect that with the subject of man-power, and I must rule it out of Order.
§ Mr. Edwards
Then I will give an instance of the wastage of man-power. This was a statement by the General Secretary of the Inland Revenue. He said:When the public learns what is going on, it will call a halt to muddle, duplication of forms and all the confusing paraphernalia of present methods. It is an antiquated system which imposes an intolerable burden in view of the millions of new Income Tax payers. These moth-eaten impediments in the smooth working of our machine have had no justification for 30 years. If only one of these processes could be eliminated, more than 10,000,000 entries a year would be saved.That would take some man-power. This question of forms is one of the most serious things which the House will have to consider. A business man in my constituency, in sending statements to one Department, was compelled to send six extra copies to London. He wondered what would happen if he did not send the extra copies, so in one case he did not send them. No one said anything about them. He suspected that no one ever looked at them. For months now he has been doing business with a single form, and no one has asked for the duplicates again. There again I shall be very glad to give particulars. The Minister asked for some details of wastage in his Department. In one case they insisted on putting in their own machines, which were objected to, and on work being done in a particular way, and it was estimated that that resulted in the loss to the nation of 800,000 machine shells. That is a very serious thing. I shall be glad to give particulars. One frequently came across cases where people could not get fresh orders for commodities until the old contract had run out, with the result that there was always a complete stoppage in the factory.
1189 There is a case where one factory had finished and a new factory has been started to do the same job, and the first factory has been put out of work. That is an instance of lack of planning in the Department. I was in a factory not long ago and saw a certain commodity being manufactured with 50 per cent. rejects. I am told of another place 95 per cent. of whose production was passed, but another Department came with a different gauge and rejected most of it. That is almost criminal. I could not put my finger on a single man who would be responsible. People do not do these things deliberately. There is no one who is visualising the whole machine. Anyone who has ever been in a control room in the Service will see a way out of the difficulty. It would not do for our fighting men not to have a picture of the whole. Ministers would learn a very important lesson if they could visualise their production in much the same way. It is more complicated, but it could be done in pretty much the same way. Can the Minister explain this? He knows that we have had very great difficulty in keeping up with our production of jigs. I was in a factory last week-end where the people were asked to make certain parts, and the Minister said, "How long will it take you to get into production?" They said they believed they could do it in a month, but they were told they could not get their jigs in less than six months. Probably they would have to wait six to nine months for jigs and gauges. [Interruption.] Of course, it depends on the type, but this particular type would take about six months. How is it that in the last few weeks there has been an advertisement in the "Times" asking for work to produce jigs?
When I was in America two years ago I had an opportunity of discussing with Mr. Purvis our methods of handling American production for this country. He warned me then, and I came back and saw the Minister of Supply and his officials and discussed with them Mr. Purvis's warning. Our method of handling was causing great disturbance in America, and they asked for more and more details of what we were doing. In one business that I am connected with we used to cable our orders and we had delivery in three weeks. As a result of the difference of method the comparison to-day is between 1190 three weeks and three months. Eighteen months ago we were using machines that had come from America, costing £6,000, to do a certain job. I was in a Government factory recently and made inquiries about that particular machine. I saw the type of work being done, and I saw four of these machines. If they had been destroyed by enemy action, we should have had to wait for fresh ones. We begged of them to let us instal little machines for £100 each, but the Department would not allow it. They said it could not be done. When I was trying to speed that up and get these little things into the factory, I was accused by the Minister of trying to get more petrol for the benefit of my colleagues and myself. The work is so important that in recent weeks the hon. Gentleman's Department has been bringing them over in bombers.
A man came to me last week and said there were 1,000,000 tons of petrol lying at a certain aerodrome where he was working to put up the tanks to receive it. He said that they were anxious to get it underground, but this man could not get his works and tools to the job because he could not get the petrol. This 1,000,000 tons of aviation spirit has been exposed for six weeks in great danger because this man could not finish the job owing to the fact that he could not get the petrol. If I were the officer on the job I would have taken some of the aviation petrol to see that the job was finished. What would the House think if some business man spent £12,000,000 on a factory, and because of the clumsy system the whole of that £12,000,000 and thousands of workpeople were held up because a little thing like, let us say, a sparking plug was wanted? I can quote such a case.
With regard to the regional control, the hon. Member for Stoke was a member of a committee with me that went to interview the Minister of Supply to discuss regional control. We had studied this matter at some length, and we asked the Minister whether he would agree to certain suggestions we had to make. We suggested that the industrialists in each district should be made responsible for the programme of production for that district. They were the men who had to make the things, and we asked that they should be allowed to form a committee and carry the whole thing out under their own organisation 1191 with the officials of the Ministry acting as liaison officers. The first Minister of Supply assured us that that was his plan. I wish Members could see the plan that operates in the regional control to-day. It must have been arranged by Heath Robinson. There is a committee of production and the Ministry of Supply organisation both fighting each other. The Department's officer used to come and place orders in the district without even informing the district control. The poor people did not know what orders had been placed. That has been remedied only recently. What the result of this competition between the production council and the Ministry is I do not know, but is a perfect scandal. If the hon. Gentleman is not familiar with it I shall be glad to tell him a great deal about it. The chairman of the committee, like so many other people, has far too many jobs. His secretary does all the work and the chairman never goes to the office.
May I say a word about tanks? I wonder whether it is an exaggeration to say that the reason we have the privilege of fighting for our freedom to-day is that we won the Battle of Britain. How did we win it? Because one man had the courage to break up the machine I have spoken about, cut the red tape, and get production of Spitfires and Hurricanes. He could not have done that by the ordinary method; he had to smash the machine and ruthlessly cut the red tape in order to get production. We got production and won the Battle of Britain, which enables us to fight a bigger battle to-day. Now we want tanks and the Minister is trying to get them in the same way. I am glad to hear that the tanks situation is improved, but what can you make of a system or Department that appoints Sir James Lithgow as chairman of the Tank Board? There was never a greater expert in disorganising the shipbuilding of this country and no greater genius for disorganisation in any industry. That is the gentleman chosen to get the immense output of tanks that is required. Some one must have gone to him and said, "Look here, Jim, old man, if you have a little time to spare look after the tanks," and then they made him chairman of the Tank Board.
I was in a factory where I saw tanks going out. I have been in factories where I have not seen them going out. I saw 1192 them going out with some sense of rhythm. The Tank Board had just gone, for Lord Beaverbrook had sacked the lot. I asked a man at the factory what he thought about the Tank Board and whether he did not think some of them ought not to be taken out and shot. This man replied, "It is difficult for me to express an unbiased opinion because I was a member of the Board." I am glad that Lord Beaverbrook sacked the Board. If the hon. Gentleman is not satisfied with the number of cases I have given him I can keep him busy for a quarter of an hour with specific cases.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan
The hon. Gentleman has not given me notice of any of his cases, according to the old practice of the House. He has not made them specific enough for me to recognise them. They are all of a very vague kind. Of course, I would be only too willing to receive particulars of cases and do my best to remedy them or answer them, but the House must admit that it is difficult, without notice and with the kind of statements the hon. Gentleman has made, even to recognise many of the cases he has brought forward.
§ Mr. Edwards
I cannot go into more details in the time at my disposal It is suggested by an hon. Member that Scotland Yard should make inquiries. I had a case where Scotland Yard nearly had to be brought in. In this case the Minister gave me full privilege to go into the matter with his chief inspector. It was a matter that was holding up production. The moment we found the culprits a permanent official came along and had an official inquiry. The matter was taken out of our hands because we were beginning to find things out. I want to mention another thing, which affects another Department. The Ministry of Transport has asked us to save all the haulage we can. There was an abundance of bricks on the Tyne and a shortage on the Tees, 40 miles away We could not move them by road or rail, but we were able to get them from the south of England, 220 miles away. There is a gross wastage of haulage. That is not a matter for the hon. Gentleman's Department, but if there is anybody present from the other Departments I hope that he will give a more satisfactory explanation. It has been said that such things will not be allowed in future without a 1193 special permit, and I hope we shall not hear again of supplies being transported 250 miles when others are available within 40 miles.
In conclusion, I hope the hon. Gentleman will not misinterpret the things which I have said. It is not easy to make it clear; I have tried very hard to pay a tribute to the permanent officials as efficient well-meaning men, but I have said that with the best brains and the best intentions in the world it is utterly impossible to make the machine as it exists reach the speed which is essential if we are to get the things we need. If we do not speed up the machine we shall not get 100 per cent. or even 75 per cent production.
§ Miss Lloyd George (Anglesey)
The House has listened to a startling speech from the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards), who in his capacity as a member of the Committee on National Expenditure has been in a special position to hear evidence which is not open to other back-bench Members. He told us that he disagreed with the estimate of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) who said yesterday that we are not yet up to 75 per cent. of our potential efficiency. In the hon. Member's opinion that is an under-estimate. In many speeches from different Ministers we have been told of the progress made in production. We have been told that we are making twice the number of this, four times the number of that, and even 10 times the number of the other as compared with the position three months ago, or six months ago, or a year ago. The Colonial Secretary told us that there were now twice as many workers in munitions as there were in the last year of the last war. In that year we won the war, which means that the number of workers in industry and the programme they carried out then must have been sufficient for the needs of that time. Otherwise we should not have won the war. No one, not even the Colonial Secretary, suggests that we are in that position to-day.
Perhaps the Minister of Supply has given a more accurate estimate of the situation. He ought to know—ho one is in a better position to know—and he said that we had not yet got steam up. That is the feeling which has been expressed by hon. Members in all quarters of the 1194 House, many of them Members who have been in close touch with industry and have had special opportunities for knowing as members of the Select Committee. The feeling is that the effort we are making, however much greater than it was, is not yet large enough. It is not on a big enough scale, it is not commensurate with our needs, and that, after all, is the only test you can possibly apply to our production programme. There is a sort of feeling that we are not yet in top gear, but are still only in second gear.
The hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. E. Smith) said that he and those for whom he spoke felt very doubtful whether the crises of equipment were over. The Prime Minister, in those days when he was in Opposition and made that series of prophetic speeches about rearmament, once said that it was no good expecting an 8-foot plank to bridge a 10-foot gap. Are we sure that the measurements of the plank are large enough even now? Are we sure that it will bridge the gap between British and American production on the one hand and German and Italian production—for what that is worth—on the other? We have been rather apt to under-estimate the strength of our opponents. We are in a far better position to judge now what is the enemy's full strength. We have seen it deployed in Russia. Are we planning so that we can meet on equal terms not only a German force such as is in Libya but a force of such numbers as the Russians have had to meet? That seems to me to be the only test that we can apply. It may be said that the answer to that is this Bill extending conscription. But is it? In itself, it is not an answer at all. Conscription is no substitute for organisation, and it is no use calling up additional man-power and additional woman-power unless we are making full use of the plant and the man-power and the woman-power already available.
During these Debates the opinion has been expressed that we are not making full use of our plants. A trained observed who was sent over here by President Roosevelt specially to study our war production efforts has given it as his opinion that we were not getting the full production of which the plants are capable. We have been told that these plants may be idle as the result of a change-over 1195 in types, and that that applies particularly to aircraft. Such changes in design may be vitally necessary if we are to maintain technical superiority, but it is equally true that we can never gain predominance in the air without mass production, and that will be quite impossible if we are to have constant and meticulous changes. When we are faced with an enemy who believes in mass production, that is an important consideration. Is it not possible to strike a happy medium in this respect? Even in cases where a change in design is necessary, is it also necessary that the plant which has been making the machine should lie idle for long periods of time? I was told the other day of a factory employing hundreds of workers which was making a particular aeroplane. It was decided to stop making that type, and since then that plant and those workers have been idle for weeks, running almost into months. I have particulars of the case and will gladly give them to whoever is going to reply. In cases of that kind is it not possible to see that the workers and the plant are used for other purposes? I believe that in some cases plant has been commandeered and has been used for other purposes. The power exists to-day, but it certainly has not been used to any considerable extent.
It is not only in aeroplanes that change of design holds up work. There are constant changes of design in regard to tank guns, anti-tank guns, field artillery and, above all, in the tanks themselves. Constant change of design in small particulars holds up production, not only here but in America. It is not only this kind of thing which is responsible for holding up production, but bottle-necks of all kinds. These exist not only between various industries and between one Department and another in industry, but actually in the same factory. One factory may be waiting for parts from another factory. The House has been told to-day of instances of workers idle in a number of factories and working short time. In one factory the walls were covered with slogans such as "Guns; more guns needed." In an aircraft factory the slogan was: "Buck up. You only can give them wings." Yet during most of the working hours the workers had been able to produce only an insignificant amount. The hon. Member for Stoke spoke of the need for decentral- 1196 isation. I suppose that the regional boards were first set up to deal with difficulties of the kind I have described as well as with bottle-necks in the Departments. As a matter of fact, they have no executive power. They have to refer back practically every particular to London. That means endless delay. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that decentralisation such as we had in the last war is essential. The boards were a very vital and important part of the production machine during the last war.
Perhaps I might now say a word or two about the calling up of women. We have been told that large numbers of women are to be called up. The hon. Member for Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) spoke of the lack of training facilities. Do we really consider that we are making the best use in the factories of the woman-power available now? I wish I could feel that the women were being utilised to the full. We are always talking about substituting women for men in the factories; has that substitution in fact taken place? Our need for skilled men is great and will increase. Unfortunately, we shall have to face casualties in men and materials in Libya and as the war progresses more skilled men will have to be called up. If the needs of the Armed Forces are to be met as they must be, more skilled labour will be needed in the factories. The substitutes ought to have been trained now. If they are not trained now, they ought to be in training at this moment.
Fully-trained women will not spring out of the brain of the Minister of Labour. Some preparation will have to be made. The fact is that such women are not being trained at the present time upon anything like a sufficient scale. I believe it is more than likely that there will be a very serious bottle-neck in a few months' time in regard to skilled personnel in the factories, and it will hold up production. If there is, the cause will be that we have not a co-ordinated plan to deal with training. Government training centres are nothing like full; their capacity in any case is very limited. Of course, when you get to the back of it, very little training indeed is going on there. One of the great obstacles is to be found in the employers themselves. In some cases, when women enter their factories, they give them the drudgery jobs or the repetition work. There are instances of girls who have been trained at Govern- 1197 ment centres going into factories after training and being put upon completely unskilled work. That is just waste. The other day I learnt that, in 1877, the Birmingham brass-workers, in one of the first trades entered by women, refused to recognise the presumptuous female who turned a lathe in Birmingham. The male workers went so far as to ask Parliament to restrict the women nail-makers to their own sizes of nail.
§ Miss Lloyd George
That story sounds as though it came from another age and another world. As a matter of fact, it does not. There are employers, even at this critical moment in our history, who still hold to these prejudices. Women are doing various types of work in industry to-day, from the simplest engineering operations to those involving the very greatest precision and skill. I believe the House will agree that such an attitude as I have referred to is indefensible. I do not see any prospect of these recalcitrant employers undertaking training upon their own initiative, but I hope that the Minister of Labour will put the screw on them. He has power enabling him to bring pressure upon employers. He has inspectors who can withhold labour from the factories if not satisfied that conditions are suitable. He also has powers over Government-controlled factories. If only he would exert those powers there might be a chance of training being undertaken upon an adequate scale.
A further point relates to married women. The Minister of Labour said that the country now needs 1,000,000 married women, and the Prime Minister said yesterday that it is in this class that the Government look for the greatest reserve, to be drawn upon to a larger extent than any other, yet there is to be no compulsion of any sort or kind on that class. If there is to be no compulsion, I hope that the Minister of Labour will use his powers of direction to direct those women into industry or on to the land, as the case may require. The Minister already possesses those powers, and I hope he will use them in cases of married women with no children and no domestic responsibility. To leave out that class of women would prove a very great irritant, and would make the other women, who are being called upon, feel that they are not being treated with justice.
1198 I do not believe that the Minister will get this number of married women unless drastic reorganisation takes place in many directions. I know that the Minister is as conscious as anybody of the difficulties. First of all, a very high percentage of these women have children. We have been told that the children are to be accommodated in nurseries. When we are told that, we might think that the nurseries are ready and waiting, but yesterday I saw it reported in the newspapers that many new nurseries are being provided in the industrial areas, that there are, at present, 172 nurseries, and that another 330 are in various stages of completion. It is hoped that they will be ready early in the New Year, and it is said that others are in preparation. I suppose that, on the average, these nurseries accommodate about 40 children. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has in mind a date by which he needs these women, but it will be a very long time hence indeed at this rate before the nurseries are available. The children will probably be grown up and have families of their own before then. If the women are urgently needed for war production, I suggest that the provision of nurseries is vital and urgent. I know quite well that a 100 per cent. grant has been given to the local authorities and that other measures have been taken, but I believe that, in this case, there must be unified control. One Minister must be responsible for the nurseries; whether it should be the Minister of Health or the President of the Board of Education I do not know, but, at any rate, I am certain that they must be in the hands of one central authority.
I think, too, that our planning must be on a larger scale in another direction, and that is the organisation of industries on a shift basis in order to fit in married women with domestic responsibilities. Wherever appeals have been made for married women to do shift work the response, I am sure the Minister would agree, has been overwhelming. They have been eager to go into the factories, but the shift system is not yet anything like properly organised to accommodate them. The Government are calling upon women to enter into a fuller partnership with men in this struggle. Women do not want special treatment; they do not expect it, but they do expect, and I believe they truly deserve, justice at the hands of the 1199 country and of the Government. I think they should have justice in the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Frome (Mrs. Tate), of compensation for civilian injuries. I think that proper provision should be made for them in the factories in the matter of canteens and in the provision of cloakroom accommodation, which in some cases is really scandalous. I also think that proper provision should be made for them in the matter of transport. I have heard of cases where workers have to travel for three hours in all to get to and from their work. You are certainly not going to get the best out of woman-power if you treat women in that way. The Prime Minister said, in his speech on the Address,Let it not be said that Parliamentary institutions are being maintained … in an … unreal manner."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1941; col. 33, Vol. 376.]After he had said that, he told us that we might have as many days as we wished to speak in this House on the Address, that we could move Amendments. Then, he ended his speech by saying that, in spite of anything that might be said in this House, the decision had been come to that there should be no change in the form of Government, no change in the organisation of Government, no change in the organisation of production. I do not know whether that is maintaining our Parliamentary institutions in a real manner. I cannot myself feel it is. We have been told that in this House, in the matter of criticism, we have to walk very delicately. I seem to remember that in the last war, for many, many months, pressure was brought upon the Government from all sources to alter the organisation of production. That pressure came from high officers serving with the Army, at that time in France, from Members of this House, and from the public outside. All was done in the most discreet, confidential manner. No one could possibly have said it was against the public interest in any way. The fact remains that as a result of these representations nothing was done, and it was only when public opinion became vocal, when Members of Parliament expressed their views in public, and when the Press spoke its mind, that anything was eventually done.
I conclude with some more words of the Prime Minister, this time from one of 1200 those famous speeches which he made years ago when he was urging the Government in this House to take certain action He said:Even now, I hope the Members of the House of Commons will rise above circumstances of Party discipline, and will insist upon knowing where we stand in a matter which affects our principles and our lives. I should have thought that the Government"—and this is the present Prime Minister still speaking—and, above all, the Prime Minister, whose load is so heavy, would have welcomed such a suggestion.What a difference it would have made if that advice had been taken at that time. I hope, even to-day, it is not too late. I hope that the House will follow the advice the Prime Minister gave us many years ago in the interests of the country and of the great cause which British men and women are pledged to serve in this hour of peril and challenge.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I think the women have not come off badly in this Debate, and I hope that the House will make a note of it. I think that the person who has really disappointed the House, who has certainly disappointed women more than anyone, is the Prime Minister in his speech. The Prime Minister is a famous speaker, and we are all grateful for his speeches, but I think that the whole womanhood not only of this country but of the Empire will be very disappointed with the speech he made yesterday. It is the first time he has ever had a real chance of making an inspiring speech about women, and he did not take it. All he did was to say that he was forced to compel women to come in and do their duty in the war. I know that the Prime Minister has, for a long time, had a blind eye about women. I do not blame him but I ask the House and the country who has more vision about women's citizenship—the women who fought, with blood and sweat, and died for their citizenship, or the Prime Minister who, even now, does not understand what it is all about? I do not expect the Prime Minister to understand everything. We ought to be very grateful for what he does understand. He has a war complex, and a war mentality—thank Heaven for that. Women have not always had such a mentality—perhaps that is why he does not understand women—but they have all that is needed for the good of the country. 1201 They do not want to be like the men— Heaven forbid that they should; we have enough men already. When they got the vote, they wanted to be something quite different, because they thought that the country needed the two points of view.
Since the war began, only one man, to whom the world listens, has made a speech worthy of the women of this country. That was Mr. Menzies. He made a speech which stirred the women, not only in this country, but in the Empire and in the United States. When the Government are so anxious about their propaganda, they could do a great deal more in letting the world know what the women of this country have done. It has surprised everybody. Mr. Menzies, who was here during a blitz, was astonished by the calm, cool courage of our women. That courage has surprised ourselves. We always knew that we had moral courage, and some, who have hunted and ridden motor bicycles and done things of that sort, knew that women had physical courage. But when the war came, we found that we stood the bombing better, in many instances, than the males did. I am sorry to say that, because we always liked to think that the males were superior in one respect. They have lost that reputation now.
I am not blaming this Government especially for its attitude towards women. It is 22 years last week since I first sat in this House, and during all that time I have watched the behaviour of Governments as far as women are concerned. The women's vote has secured social reforms; There are few people in this House, on either side, who are interested in social reform, but in the country the women wanted it. All Members know that women are probably the best workers in the constituencies. But what happens when they get into the House? It is true one Government made a woman a Minister—I refer to Miss Bondfield—but that was at the worst time in the history of this country. There was no man who could have done Miss Bondfield's job. Then, the next Government made the Duchess of Atholl Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education. She made a success of the job, but she was never offered another post. Men fail time after time, and back they come to the Front Bench. Suppose a woman had been made Minister of Information, and she had failed. 1202 Do you think that she would be brought back to the Front Bench, or that she would have been travelling around the Empire now? I say that no Government, and certainly not this Government, has ever understood, or trusted, or even tried to use, women.
There was one man before the war who really had some vision where women were concerned. That was our present Ambassador in Spain, the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare). He realised that if war were coming, we should have the women organised; and he got them organised, under a woman, in the W.V.S. There are plenty of women in the country doing good jobs, but there is no question of the Government getting them into harness. They do not think in those terms.
I heard the other day in a broadcast, a man say that the reason the women of the country did not join up in greater numbers was that they lacked imagination. I think the Minister of Labour himself said that he treated women as intelligent beings. Let us see whether both these things are true. What about lacking in imagination? The Government lacked imagination in reference to the A.T.S. After they started the A.T.S. in 1938, it took them 10 months to make up their minds what was to be the dependants' allowance. At that time the A.T.S. were organised, as far as the War Office are concerned, by junior officers. They asked for 40,000 and got 30,000. I went to the hon. Member and implored him to have a woman put in charge of this woman's organisation. There had been a woman in charge during the last war and we know that there were 100,000 women in the Services at the end of the last war and that there was no quarrel about them at all. The hon. Member said that some women did not want to join the A.T.S. Women are just like men. All women do not want the same service but we knew that the Government would have to get a woman as head of the A.T.S. She had to correct all the mistakes the men had made. She was a very able woman too. I believe that if that woman had been a man she would probably have been in the War Office now, and I am sorry that she is not. She was got out on the excuse of age. There is room for her and she is a good organiser.
1203 That is the sort of muddle men have made. You are giving the new woman a terrific job to do. This Bill is being brought in partly to deal with the A.T.S., but look at the propaganda. The whole of the recruiting for the A.T.S. is in the hands of a man. I have watched the result of it. It has been a complete failure. It is a very curious thing, but they do not ask some of us who are used to audiences of women—and they might particularly have approached some of the old suffragettes—to help them. They have done it all by themselves, bless their little hearts. Now what has happened? You have to bring in a Bill to compel women to join. It is outrageous that things should have got into this mess and I ask the House seriously to think about the position. You cannot go on treating women as though they are not intelligent human beings and have no ability, and leave the people who have made mistakes to go on making them.
I will take another case, that of the Ministry of Health. Some of us went to the Minister of Health and warned him before the war. We said, "If there is a war you will have to evacuate the children and you must have the whole plan right." We said that it would be difficult, in particular, for children under 5 and we gave him a complete plan. It was turned down entirely, and the same people are still doing the same sort of thing. They have not changed. Everybody has referred to the failure of the Ministry of Health. Is it to go on? Are we to keep on with the same people? You will never get the job done if that is the case. I appeal to the Minister of Labour not to leave the job to "grannies" and "minders," if he wants it done properly. For a Minister of Labour to come forward with the "minders" proposal is enough to make Labour women rise in arms, but they did not. In the counties where you have had "minders" there has been the highest rickets mortality in the whole country. I would have liked to have heard hon. Members from the other side if that had been done by a Tory Minister of Labour. They would have sounded like hounds gone away, yet they have sat down quietly under it. Like my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Minister of Labour has not had much vision about women. I collected together business and professional women of this country about 18 1204 months ago because we knew there would have to be more women in industry and because we wanted to get them trained by qualified women who knew how. We went in a deputation to the Minister who told us that as this would be a mechanised war, women would not be needed so much as in the last war.
§ Viscountess Astor
The Minister knows perfectly well that we pressed him again and again before we could get his Department to wake up to the fact that we would have to use women in thousands and would have to have them properly trained by women. I am not blaming the Minister of Labour; they are all alike on the Front Bench. I would not change the Minister of Labour. It is not because I dislike Ministers that I criticise them. It is the people who do not like them, who criticise behind their backs. One hon. Member spoke about trained women having to go into unskilled trades. I can give the House an instance of a highly skilled woman who is receiving less than her trainees.
§ Viscountess Astor
Of course, it happens all round. Who is responsible for this lack of imagination—women or men? It really is the men; but it is the fault of the House of Commons if it continues. Everybody knows that if we are to get the whole woman-power of the country we must make provision for all alike. I am told that the reason the Government will not conscript married women is because the men at the front do not want it. That may be, but the men at the front are not here at the back and do not know and cannot know what are the circumstances. I believe it would be far better if the Government brought in a Bill to conscript every man and woman and every child from the age of 14.
§ Viscountess Astor
Yes, and land if you want it. If children do not go to school or college—and I am not one who wants to stop them, because I think it is important for the country that some children should get secondary or even college education—it means that these children go into industry. We all know the 1205 scandal of children getting into industry and earning enormous wages. If you conscripted them they could go to training centres and be apprenticed to all sorts of trades. They would be far better doing that than they are now. By conscripting younger people you would release older people. I am sure it would be possible. Do not be frightened of the women. They are perfectly willing to do what is best for the country, only they want it done on just lines. With reference to the statement that married women are not to be called on, I know of cases in my constituency and elsewhere which are causing great discontent. You have a married woman without children getting a good allowance and probably living with her mother-in-law.
§ Viscountess Astor
That is more than maiden ladies get. Very often the married woman lives with her "in-laws," and has enough to keep herself very well without working, unless she wants to work. But the Government intend to conscript an unmarried woman who may be the sole support of a father or mother; she will have to go into the Army. It is very unfair in comparison with the married women. I do not believe the Government have thought this matter out. The Government talk as though, if married women were conscripted, it would break up homes. But the first thing that happens when war begins is that homes are broken up. There are many homes that are broken up now. Nobody in the world is more old fashioned than I am about women; I think that a woman's place is in the home, if she has children to look after. [Interruption.] Probably I do not spend any more time here than a great many Members' wives and others who have nothing to do except amuse themselves. I do not apologise for my home or public life. I ask the Government to think over their plans again. Their proposals are full of the most appalling anomalies. I have in mind the case of a man and wife 1206 and four children. These people are running a settlement, but they could not do that unless they had a maid to look after their children. They have a very skilled maid looking after their children, and the woman is doing far better work at the settlement than the maid would do if she were conscripted and sent somewhere else. I believe it would be much fairer if there were conscription of girls and women from the time they left school until 30 years of age, with generous exemptions.
There is one more thing I want to ask the Minister of Labour and the War Office concerning the A.T.S. Do they not think it would be a good thing if some time they talked about the wonderful work that is being done on the cooking and domestic side? [Interruption.] They may have talked about it, but let them talk about it more. I have in my hand a cutting from a newspaper, I think it is the "Evening Standard," about the Government and the drink scandal. There is a picture of A.T.S. members sitting in a bar. Do the Government think that will help recruiting? Does the Minister of Labour think that industrial canteens will help? With due respect to the Government, I think they have missed a certain spirit which there is in the country. They always talk down to the people. That applies also to the recruiting campaign for the A.T.S.—Come and have a good time, come and look smart, come and have an adventurous life. I do not believe people in any part of the country want that. Tell the women of the country, "We want you in the factories; it will be a hard job, but the country needs you." Tell the women, with regard to the A.T.S., the truth about things, and do not try to make out that it is something which it is not. I believe the Government have been behind the country from the start to the finish. When the Prime Minister first took office, he could have done anything he liked. There is too much concern about each party having a say. What we want is a lead. There is a spirit in the country, in men and women, that must not be ignored. It is not a spirit that is met by telling people about wet canteens and a good time. That only frightens the mothers. What the Government need to say to women is, "We are giving you the privilege of serving your country in the way 1207 that your husbands and sons serve it." It is not fair to bring forward these proposals and to pretend that the women have not come forward. They have come forward, and, considering what a muddle the men have made, I think it is perfectly astounding that the women have done so well.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Sir John Anderson)
The proposals before the House represent, not so much a request for additional powers, as a declaration of an intention to go further than ever before in the use of existing powers. As I see it, it is very largely a matter of dotting the i's and crossing the t's of legislation already in force. It is also partly a question of getting in clear terms powers that we thought we had already secured in the legislation passed in the middle of last year, in a time of great crisis, but in regard to which some doubts have since arisen. I propose to leave to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, who will be winding up the Debate on the next Sitting Day, all technical questions concerning the organisation and allocation of man-power. What I propose to do is to deal, in the time available, as far as I can with certain aspects of our production problem which are naturally and inevitably raised by the proposals before the House, and to which reference has been made by a number of speakers in the course of this Debate.
Before coming to details, I want to make, in relation to these production matters, three plain and unequivocal statements, so that the House may see clearly where the Government stand in the matter. The first thing I want to say is this. When the Government are planning to deal with men and women as they are now proposing, to put them into the Services and direct them into industry where they will have to give their labour in the manner considered by the Government to be most conducive to the successful development of our war effort, it is clearly incumbent upon the Government to see that everything possible is done to ensure the well-being of the men and women whose services are so directed.
The second matter to which I wish to refer touches a point which was stressed by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George). What a tremendous call, more insistent than ever before, 1208 is being made on the resources of manpower and woman-power still available in the country, it is incumbent upon the Government to see that the machine in which these men and women are to become cogs is made as efficient as is possible. We cannot fairly call upon men and women to make sacrifices, to leave their environment and their home surroundings and to take on new tasks, unless we are prepared to see that those men and women who are already there are put in a position to give service as efficient as they are capable of rendering.
The third thing I wish to say by way of preliminary concerns a matter to which reference has been made in several speeches by hon. Members opposite. It is very far from being the case that the Government, in asking the House to assent to their exercising these wide and drastic powers which they propose to take in regard to the use of human material, are negligent, neglectful or half-hearted in the use of their powers over property. I want to put what I have to say into short and perfectly clear terms. In this matter, in regard both to the use of human material and to the use of private property, winning the war is the sole object. How to do it is the whole test. The Government will not be timid or half-hearted in taking control of any property or undertaking, to whatever extent may be found necessary, if by that means a fuller development of the war effort is realised. I hope to be able to give the House information showing how far we have already proceeded in accordance with that principle.
Coming more to detail, we agree fully that, taking control as we are doing of the lives of men and women, we must make ourselves responsible for their well-being. There are many matters which have had attention, and continue to have attention, but with regard to which further improvement is unquestionably necessary. There is the whole question of the transport of workers, who may have to be engaged far from home, to and from their work. There are serious difficulties because every new passenger transport vehicle that is produced is a competitor with some other form of mechanical transport. The distances that have to be covered and the conditions under which services have to be run also present practical difficulties, but the Minister of War Transport has for months past been study- 1209 ing the problem, particularly acute as it is in certain parts of the country. In South Wales, for example, it is particularly difficult, and I know that there is a great problem in the North-East. Everything that we can conceive of is being done in the way of adapting existing vehicles, bringing back vehicles which have been temporarily laid up, importing vehicles if possible from America and I hope that, in the course of the winter, it will also be possible to get some temporary assistance from the Army. All these matters are dealt with in certain passages in the Twenty-fifth Report of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, published the other day, giving replies to certain criticisms; and the extent to which it is hoped to give relief and to improve conditions of transport is set out there.
Then there is the whole question of feeding arrangements, in regard to which great improvements have certainly been made, but further improvement is still possible. There are the questions of housing, billeting and the provision of hostels. The construction of houses and hostels must inevitably compete with building labour required for other purposes, but still plans have been made and further provision is being rapidly brought into existence. Some of the existing hostels have not proved as popular as we hoped they would be, and we have to consider what can be done to improve matters in that respect. It is partly a question of management and partly a question of getting people to live under conditions with which they are unfamiliar. In regard to all these matters, and in regard to the provision of day-nurseries for the children when married women are called upon to give their service—and they will be required in enormous numbers, working in shifts in a manner which has been shown to be very practical and effective in certain parts of the country— all preparations must be pushed forward.
I pass to the question of planning. A great deal has been said in the course of to-day's Debate and on previous occasions in regard to the need for unified planning. There is a danger of oversimplifying this matter. Nothing is easier than to produce a paper plan, but one must be quite certain that it is not going to remain a paper plan. It is very likely to remain in that stage if you construct it on a priori principles, aiming at 1210 something which may be thought to be the ideal, without proper regard to the necessity for going step by step and building on what you find already in existence. You cannot cut adrift, especially in the middle of a war, and expect to be able to bring into existence something quite new into which everyone will fit readily and hope to get good results.
§ Sir J. Anderson
There have been a great many criticisms in regard to the state of our production. We have been told of cases where the flow of material has been interrupted and, as a result, workers have remained idle. I had occasion not long ago to investigate one such case. What I found was, I should think, typical of a good many instances. This was the case of a small factory somewhere in the South-East which was concerned with the production of finished shells. There had been a hold-up in the factory for a week or 10 days. The explanation was very simple. They were dependent in the factory upon a steady supply of fuses, and, owing to a period of very bad weather when the fuses could not be tested, there was a shortage. As a result, there was for the time being no work for a certain number of the operatives in the factory. I asked at once whether provision was not made in such cases for employing the operatives on something else. I was told that in normal circumstances that would be so. It happened, however, that in this factory, which was concerned in one process only, there was nothing else to which the workers could immediately be transferred. I then said, "Can you not make arrangements in such circumstances for employing operatives elsewhere?" I was told, "Yes, arrangements are in existence for transferring operatives in such a case, but we have not found it convenient or efficient to move them when the period of inactivity is unlikely to amount to more than a few days or a week." Then I asked, "Is there no way of anticipating such difficulties?" The only way, I was told, was by increasing the storage capacity available for the finished fuses, and that was being done.
That was an illustration—and I have no doubt that it could be multiplied—where, through unforeseen circumstances, work was temporarily held up. It was not due 1211 to slackness, inefficiency or lack of foresight, except that the factory had not been planned many months ago with additional storage capacity. With regard to that particular criticism about temporary hold-ups due to the failure of some component or some material to come along in steady flow, it is easy to maintain balanced production at a somewhat low level, but when you get to the point at which you are striving to get the maximum output or response from every factory, the risk of a temporary hold-up is very much greater.
I read with much interest a speech delivered in the course of the Debate on the Gracious Speech from the Throne by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), and I refer to it because what he said was very relevant to the matters with which I am dealing now. He spoke of the necessity for unified planning, and went on to stress the importance of getting out promptly what he called "operational orders." In that respect he was, I fear, rather oversimplifying things. I do not think that in the field of production one can picture a man of vision and strong resolution sitting down and mastering all the details of a problem in the course of a few hours and then delivering clear and concise instructions which every one concerned can carry out forthwith. Let me tell the House of my own experience in a matter which I have had to deal with recently. I had to consider the arrangements in connection with our programme for producing heavy and medium bombers. The matter was handled, I think, with reasonable promptitude, and it passed through various well-marked stages. In the first place, after a review of strategical considerations, a target was specified, a target which contemplated the production over a given period of so many machines and the attainment at the end of that period of a certain monthly output. The monthly output is very important, because upon that depends the number of machines that can be kept continuously in the air. After the target had been named various factors of production had to be examined in detail. Raw materials— what bottlenecks would be likely. Highly specialised plant—what additions were likely to be necessary. Machine tools— was the existing supply likely to be sufficient. Then there were questions of 1212 factory accommodation and finally of labour. When all these factors had been measured and assessed and a time-table had been drawn up, then that particular picture had to be looked at as part of the whole production picture of the country; and only at that stage, then and then only, after a great deal of necessarily detailed work had been carried out, was it possible to issue operational orders.
It is the same story all along the line. This unified planning, however necessary it may be—and I am not for a moment denying the necessity of it—can never be quite the simple business which one man of resolution and foresight can deal with in the course of a forenoon. Let me add that, even when you take every precaution to ensure that there shall be no breakdown anywhere, circumstances which were quite unforeseen may arise at any moment to necessitate a drastic remodelling of your plan, and therefore you must beware of making it too rigid. Events in Russia led to demands, which we met and shall continue to meet, but they have involved a very serious readjustment of our existing plans. I say these things to make it clear to the House that whatever view may be held about this business of production it cannot be reduced to very simple terms.
I am not for a moment going to suggest that everything is as it should be. I am not going to suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey is wrong in saying that we have not yet attained our maximum effort. Of course not. If we had, we should not be coming forward with these proposals. But, after all, what has been done, and a great deal has been done already, has been compressed into a comparatively short space of time as these things go. I say to the House quite frankly that I, in my limited experience —I am not an expert in these matters— can see various directions in which improvements have to be, and must be, made. References have been made to the Reports of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, which have rendered most useful service in calling attention to various matters of detail. These matters have had, as they deserved, the attention of the Departments, and that will, I know, continue.
I will admit at once that, for example, the distribution throughout industry of skilled labour is not yet what it should 1213 be. It is very unequal, but steps are being taken to make readjustments. That is something of which the need is fully realised. I am sure that the House will be glad of that assurance. It is undoubtedly the case that dilution has not been carried nearly as far as it must be, nor is it by any means uniform. We want all these additional women in industry, not only to meet the requirements of expanding industry, but to release men for work which only men can do. Then there is the matter of double and even treble shifts. There is room there for further progress. Another matter of the very greatest importance is delegation. We have Regional Boards, to which very wide powers were entrusted during the last war. I do not think we have gone as far this time in delegating powers to these Boards as we did during the last war. I want to see more effective power given to them, and as much delegation as may be found practicable.
I pass to another aspect of this subject, the question of the effectiveness of Government control of the various agencies called upon to collaborate in our production effort. Is this control by the Government as effective as it should be?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I wonder whether the House realises how far that control goes. Take raw materials; whatever they may be, the control of them is very thorough and complete. It covers production, distribution, prices and profits. I do not know how much further control can go. When you pass from raw materials to the finished article, of necessity the control cannot be so close, because it is not easy to standardise designs and specifications of complicated finished articles, but there again there is very close control. And in the end, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with all his machinery, comes into play to deal with any profits that may be made.
It is suggested that it is a weakness that these controls are exercised by men drawn from the industry concerned. I wonder whether that is really so. There is, in this country, a strong tradition of public service of which we cannot be too proud, It is part of our national life and of our heritage. It is something of which I, as 1214 an old Civil servant, am very proud. I have never found, in a long experience, that men drawn from private enterprise and given specific public responsibilities have failed to respond to the trust reposed in them. I think sometimes there is even a danger of their dealing rather too severely with the interests with which they have been connected.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
Does the right hon. Gentleman understand that they are sometimes paid by the firms?
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am speaking in general terms; I do not think it makes very much difference. In all my experience I have not found that such control is ineffective, and it has the great advantage that it makes use of resources which would otherwise be wasted. We cannot find Civil servants everywhere, even if a Civil Servant as such has had the necessary experience.
In the few minutes that remain to me I will turn to the third of the main points on which I made a declaration at the outset of my remarks. I am aware of the feeling that exists in certain quarters of this House and outside that the Government are more ready to take and to exercise powers to enable them to deal with human material than they are to exercise the powers they already possess to deal with property. I am not, as the House knows, a party politician. [An HON. MEMBER: "You picked a Tory seat."] I did not pick it. [Interruption.] I have, I confess, found it a little difficult, as an intellectual exercise, to follow all the arguments advanced on this subject. I can myself see no very close parallel, nor on the other hand any very clear antithesis, between what is called the conscription of labour and the conscription of wealth. It seems to me rather a false dichotomy. I do not think the categories are mutually exclusive. I find that in practice people who have wealth also have services to render, services that can be called upon. I find also that a considerable proportion—and I think it is a fortunate circumstance—of the people of this country who will be rendering services under the Bill which we propose to introduce will also be persons who have a certain amount of property at their disposal. Not all property is equally valuable for the purposes of the war 1215 effort. I do not think that things like "old masters," or even wine and cigars, should be objects of envy these days. As I have said, there is only one aim— to win the war; there is only one test— how are we to win it? The Government will not be half-hearted in taking control of any property or of any undertaking, to whatever extent may be found necessary, if by that means a fuller development of the war effort is realised.
§ Mr. MacLaren
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? You are conscripting the life and blood of this nation to defend the land of this nation. I want to ask the Government whether, when this war is over and we have defended this land against the encroaching hand of Hitler, this land is to go back to the private owners, or whether it is to become the property of those who have defended it?
§ Sir J. Anderson
That is a question which surely can be debated at any time. Let me tell the House in a few words what has already been done. Under the Defence Acts all persons may be required —I quote—to place their property at the disposal of His Majesty as may appear to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the Realm, the maintenance of public order, or the efficient prosecution of the war.Those kinds of property which we have required for the prosecution of the war, we have in fact taken under that Act and other emergency legislation. Privately-owned American and other securities have been vested in the State. The American viscose business of Courtaulds was taken in the same way. The American businesses owned and conducted by a large number of important British firms have been pledged as a security for a £100,000,000 loan which we have obtained from the United States to meet war commitments there. Similarly, we have vested Dominion and Indian (securities, the proceeds of which 1216 have been required to defray war expenditure. The State has exercised freely its power to requisition under these Acts any other kind of privately-owned property, land, plant, shops, goods in great variety. We have put whole sections out of business. The metal brokers for example, have nothing whatever to do. The Government have monopolised practically the whole business. And land, raw materials, food, practically everything, have been taken over by the Government, wherever necessary for war purposes, to the exclusion of private enterprise.
In addition, the income and profits of property, since liquid, are of more use to the State than the property itself, so that in many cases the Government have not taken the property but have dealt very drastically with the income. The result of all this is that those who derive their income from business profits have received treatment widely different from that of wage-earners. The earnings of the wage-earning community—I merely state it as a fact—have, during the war, gone up by something like 42 per cent. The returns of companies' earnings, on the other hand, show that business profits, after deduction of taxes, are, in terms of money, at least 20 per cent. less than before the war. These facts should be known. These facts go to prove my case that the Government have not hesitated. I think that should be borne in mind. Whatever other measures may be necessary in furtherance of the war effort will be taken, and taken without hesitation. In conclusion, may I say this? My hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey asked a simple question. She asked, "Are we planning to meet the enemy on equal terms?" My answer to that is this: We are: planning to use all our resources in men, women, materials and organisation to beat the common foe.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon the next Sitting Day.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.