§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ The Minister of Production (Mr. Lyttelton)
I reached this country from the- Middle East just three weeks ago yesterday, and I find that there is a certain similarity between the responsibilities which I have left behind and those which I now take up. Unfortunately, however, of those 21 days I have had to spend rather more than 10 in wrestling with the influenza germ rather than with the Production problem, and the House, I am sure, will be indulgent towards me if I deal with some matters only on broad lines, and if, upon some questions, I have to say that a final decision is deferred as some of the appointments which are necessary have not yet been made. But, in fact, after only 11 days' study of the very large problems involved, I feel that I ought to remain temporarily in a state of indecision rather than take steps which would subsequently have to be retraced. Nevertheless, if I may claim that amount of indulgence from the House for which I have asked, I greatly welcome the opportunity of opening this Debate. Not the least of the disabilities from which the Minister of State in the Middle East suffers is a lack of that contact with the House, without which responsibilities weigh so much more heavily. I welcome, therefore, the opportunity of finding myself once more in touch with the criticisms and opinions of the House upon the problem of Production which now looms so large in modern and total war.
I think it is the wish of the House that I should deal first with the powers that have been conferred upon me. I would like to make it clear that they are the powers for which I ask, and that, as far as I have been able to see during a short study of the problem, they are both adequate and precise. They have not been incorporated in a White Paper, and I am 1838 sure the House will agree upon two things. The first is that to work upon a charter over such an extremely wide and varied field would be extremely difficult and would involve a very long document of almost legal precision when something much more flexible is required. Secondly, I think it must be conceded that the actual control over certain vital supplies and services will count much more than any paper mandate. The reason why I think that the powers which have been conferred upon me are adequate to the task is because they involve actual control of the three ingredients of war production. These three ingredients are raw materials, machine tools and, in co-operation with the Ministry of Labour and National Service, the labour to use the tools and work up the raw materials. It appears to me that if I have effective control over these three ingredients, I am in a central position, and with this, coupled with the actual powers of decision which have been accorded to me over the field of Production, I think I can, within the limits of my capabilities, perform this task.
Let me discuss for a moment what I mean by the three ingredients of Production. First, raw materials. Under my powers I am charged with the import programme, the development of the raw material resources of the United Kingdom and of the Colonial Empire, and with the Empire clearing-house. I have the power to allocate, by a single decision, the whole of the raw materials which come into the possession of this country, whether by production or by purchase, from our Allies, or from abroad. It may be asked why the actual Raw Materials Department has not been transferred to my care. The reason is not far to seek. The dividing line to-day between raw materials and semi-manufactured articles cannot be closely defined. For instance, to-day the Non-Ferrous Metal Control, of which I have some special knowledge, carries its functions far beyond the supply of the raw metal and is actually engaged, in the brass industry, not only in the supply of copper and zinc, but in many of the processes which carry that copper and zinc as far as ammunition strip. I am convinced that it would not be in the interests of Production to tear the present organisation of raw materials from the Ministry of Supply.
1839 Under the proposed system the Minister of Supply will be responsible only for the administration of the Raw Material Controls and for that portion of their activities which is concerned with the preliminary processing of raw materials into semi-manufactured articles, such, for example, as the processing of copper and zinc into ammunition strip, which I have already mentioned. The other alternative would involve me in the whole apparatus of administration. It would oblige me to set up a large Department and to account for the financial expenditure involved. In a word, I should cease to be a member of the War Cabinet without Portfolio, and I know that the House sets great store upon War Cabinet Ministers not being overburdened with departmental duties. Nevertheless, I remain solely responsible for the planning and programme, solely responsible for what goes in at one end of the Raw Materials Department and solely responsible for allocating what comes out at the other end; and to those powers are added the control of the raw materials which are imported from abroad. The detailed work of allocation will continue to be carried out by the Materials Committee on my behalf, and it will henceforth be under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works and Buildings, who, as the House will be aware, has had wide experience of raw material controls at the Ministry of Supply. Lastly, I may conveniently mention, under the heading of raw materials, that I shall control the building programme and the materials used in it as far as war Production is concerned.
So much for the raw materials. The same general arrangements are in force over machine tools. The programme for the production and importation of machine tools, which, of course, is one of the vital matters in securing the correct balance and volume of production over the various fields, is in my control, and for this purpose the Machine Tool Controller, or an officer of similar status, will join my staff. The machine tools having been manufactured upon a programme controlled and laid down by me will, when they emerge from manufacture, be allotted upon my decision to the various sections of the manufacturing industry in accordance with our needs at the time when they are completed. On the other 1840 hand, the senior officers of the Machine Tool Control, who are engaged both in the manufacture and importation of machine tools, and have many other duties in regard to them, will remain under the Minister of Supply, in very much the same way as I have described for the Raw Materials Control. By this I do not mean that I shall take no further interest in the machines once they are allocated. I shall try to see that all the machines are used to the greatest advantage and to move them, if necessary, from one firm to another. I want again to stress that there is nothing but a slavish desire for tidiness which would seek to impose any other system or would seek to saddle me with the responsibility of accounting for the actual manufacture of machine tools.
I now turn to the last of the three ingredients of Production—Labour. Just as in military matters the High Command is particularly concerned with the boundaries between one command and another—the hinges, so to speak, of an Army—so I feel sure that the House will be particularly interested in the frontier, or frontier area, which lies between the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and myself. Nothing, however, is to be gained by attempting on paper to draw a fine and precise line when, in fact, no such precision can exist. Men and women in the munitions industries cannot be tossed about from one side of the country to another like raw materials. And I think it is abundantly clear that the functions of a Minister of Production can only be fulfilled first by close co-operation with the Minister who is charged with a special responsibility as regards the supply and use of labour and who must interest himself very closely in all the human elements in the labour problem, in the housing, transport, welfare conditions, and wages of the workpeople. He is also responsible for providing the Armed Force; with men and women and for maintaining reinforcements for them and for making good the wastage of war. No system which seeks to divide the actual allocation of labour judged from a productive point of view, and the provision and welfare of the labour itself, is more than lip service to a formula. Unless the two Ministers charged, on the one hand, with the production of inanimate objects like guns and tanks, and the Minister charged with the lives and hopes and comforts and wel- 1841 fare of human beings, on the other, work in close co-operation, nothing satisfactory can be achieved.
I cannot do more than assure the House that, on these matters, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and I feel perfectly convinced that we can work in harmony. The Prime Minister has said, on this subject, that we shall work together, but that my primary responsibility is for determining the relative importance of the various demands for labour, and his primary responsibility is for its provision. Before I leave the subject, may I say that even those two duties are inextricably interlocked? If I say that in the interests of Production labour is required in such and such a district, it is no use my asking the Minister of Labour to provide me with labour in an area where the workers cannot be housed or transported to their work. Nor is it any good for the Minister of Labour to say to me that labour must be used in certain places or in certain ways, unless these fit in with the requirements of the munitions programme. We must, in these matters, act together, and by so adjusting in concert the productive programme and the movements of labour, secure as nice a balance as the physical facts of the situation permit.
I have now dealt with the three ingredients of Production and the control which I exercise over them. I would, with great earnestness, ask the House to believe that these arrangements are not the result of a compromise, and I believe that they are far more practicable and definite than any arrangements which might look tidier on paper. We are not starting to-day to plan a. munitions programme like the Germans did in 1933. I find myself charged with the duty of supervising and concerting what has already reached very large proportions, and I have always found, in matters of organisation, that one must be slow to uproot something which has already grown for the sake of making nice-looking charts by which a cantilever system of responsibility is built up.
Before finally leaving the subject of my powers, I would again emphasise that they have not been incorporated in a White Paper, for the simple reason that it is intended to modify them as my knowledge of the task increases with experience. No one, I think, will expect 1842 me, after so short a study of so large a problem, to be sure that no advances, or indeed retreats, will be necessary in face of the actual problem. But I have been in touch with these matters long enough, and with my colleagues long enough, to know that any further extension of these powers which may be necessary will be accorded to me if it serves the common end.
I must now report to the House upon the nature of the organisation which I am in course of setting up in order to make use of these powers which I have just discussed. The Prime Minister has said that I shall have a Secretariat fully effective to its task. It is not the object of this Secretariat to do other people's work, to become engaged in any of the details of Production or factory management. It is their duty, under me, to secure a balance of Production between the Production Ministries and to achieve that even flow without which inefficiency and overheating of the bearings is bound to take place. The general conception underlying this organisation is that of a central Secretariat in its field rather like the Cabinet Secretariat, or indeed, like the Secretariat which I set up to help me in the Middle East. The most important part of this organisation will be that which I have designated the Joint War Production Staff.
If I may go back for a moment into the history of War Production, I would say that the immense complexity of modern weapons and modern equipment for war has imposed both in the field of Army requirements and aircraft production a division between the Services and those who supply them. I should doubt whether any other practical solution could be found. Nevertheless, we must recognise that such a system, and indeed all others, have certain organisational defects, and there is the ever-present danger that the touch between the makers of weapons and the users of weapons is not continuous enough and does not begin early enough. A great deal of thought has already been expended on this subject, and much has already been done. The House will know that the connections between the Naval Staff and the Controller's Department of the Admiralty, between the War Office and the Ministry of Supply, and between the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aircraft Production are most intimate. But in order to clamp together—the Prime 1843 Minister's own phrase—these arrangements, and to ensure that the picture is continuously studied for all three Services as a whole, the War Cabinet has approved the suggestion that I should set up a General Staff of Production. I aim to make this part of my organisation work in parallel with the main military organisation, and I use the term "military" in its broadest sense. This General Staff of War Production will be composed of my Chief Adviser on Programmes and Planning, Sir Walter Layton, the Assistant Chiefs of Staff of the three Services, together with the highest technical officers of the three Production Ministries. This General Staff will be the servant on War Production matters of the Defence Committee. The House should know that, being myself a member of the Defence Committee, I am in constant touch at the highest level with the strategic plans and developments and can thus help the Joint War Production Staff upon all the matters with which it has to deal.
The Joint War Production Staff in its turn, and again following in parallel with the military organisation, will be served by a Joint War Production Planning Group, and by planning I mean the planning of what is to be produced and not in this connection of how or where it is to be produced. This group will be composed of Navy, Army and Air Force officers and representatives of the Production Ministries working together in the same office. The Joint War Production Staff, with the Programmes and Planning Division, will work in close touch with, and supply the information required by, the combined Anglo-American organisation to which I shall refer in a moment. Arrangements are being made to include a study of the war production and requirements of the Empire, and the war production and requirements of Australia, which loom particularly large at this moment in the general picture. I shall ask Dominion Governments for the necessary liaison officers to enable this study to be comprehensive.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I think I have said enough to show that the object of the organisation which I am setting up is to ensure that Production is closely and con- 1844 tinuously related to strategical requirements, so that when the time comes for strategical plans to be carried out, we can have some certainty that they can be carried out with equipment which is suitable. Moreover, it is not only in the realm of strategy, but also in the realm of what I may call battle tactics that war Production must be continuously related to military thought. Many times the development, for instance, of tank warfare calls for modification, not only in the tactical use of weapons, but in actual modification in those weapons themselves, and it is essential that the Production Ministries should, from the very earliest beginning of any tactical idea or modification, be aware of the trend of military thought. It is equally essential that military thought should be influenced and guided by considerations of Production. This is provided for in the arrangement which I have just described.
The primary fact which emerges from the Production problem, and upon which so much has already been done, is that there must be a complete fusion between military plans and thought and Production plans and thought. This section, and it is, perhaps, the most important—the Joint War Production Staff—will be under the charge of Sir Walter Layton. When I arrived, I found that he had already put down on paper many of these considerations which I have just discussed, and I found they accorded in almost every aspect with the broad conclusions which I myself had reached. I do not propose to take up the time of the House in describing Sir Walter Layton's qualifications. He was, both in the last war at the Ministry of Munitions and in this war at the Ministry of Supply, engaged on these very problems, and I find myself fortunate at the outset of my task to have secured his services.
This division must, of course, have an intimate relation and connection with the combined problems which are set to the United Nations—I am now trying to deal with the international aspect of this subject. By far the most important and vital of these is, of course, the dovetailing of our own supply of raw materials and our own manufacture of munitions into the programme of the United States. This by itself is a vast and intricate problem, and the form of the necessary bodies, both in Washington and in London, to secure the best use of our resources and the proper 1845 concord between all our Production plans has not yet been completed, although very much has already been done. The broad foundations were laid by the Prime Minister and by Lord Beaverbrook during their visit to the United States, and no one, except the Prime Minister himself, has such an intimate knowledge of what is required to complete this organisation as Lord Beaverbrook. He is now in the United States to advise on these points, and I can imagine no single contribution in the field of production which is more valuable than this. I was in the closest touch with him before he left, and now that he is there I shall keep in continuous touch with him again, so that I may derive all the benefit of his advice upon the completion of this International organisation.
When the arrangements have been completed it is intended to send someone, perhaps of Ministerial rank, to preside over the various British bodies and to concert with our American Allies all the measures necessary. I could not leave this portion of the subject without referring to the great advantage which I have in the help of Mr. Averill Harriman in this country. I happen to have received my business education in his firm; I have known him for a great many years, and I shall have no difficulty in working very closely with him upon the solution of these matters. I must again stress that these matters are both vital and complex. They also involve the supply of our Allies, and, in particular, our combined efforts to assist Russia with munitions of war. I shall myself be the Chairman of those bodies which represent the British side of the organisation.
I must now retrace my steps for a moment to take up a point with which I have not yet dealt. Some attention has been directed to the reservations which cover the Board of Admiralty in the field of Production. The Prime Minister stated that the Board will continue to control the design, construction and armament of all naval vessels, and will remain responsible for the construction and defensive equipment of merchant vessels and for their repair in this country. But, as I have shown above, the Admiralty programme will be co-ordinated by the Joint War Production Staff into the general picture, and my powers in regard to the allocation of raw materials and machine tools, as well as my duties regarding labour, 1846 apply just as much to the Admiralty programmes as they apply to the others. The essential feature of the reservations respecting the Admiralty is that the Admiralty will control the allocation of shipyard capacity. The reason for this is not far to seek. It is because the Admiralty is the only user of shipyard capacity, since the Govt. have charged the Admiralty both with the naval and merchant shipping programmes. I control the allocation of capacity between the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and, indeed, of the general engineering capacity for the Admiralty, because these Ministries compete for the same capacity. But I do not control shipyard capacity, since there is no competition for it, because the Admiralty in that respect are the sole users.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is a very substantial point. Will my right hon. Friend be able to overrule the Board of Admiralty in relation to priorities in the shipyards? He says there is no competition for capacity, but shipyards use a great amount of raw materials which might be used elsewhere. Is there not an element of competition in that connection, and what are my right hon. Friend's powers?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I can allocate raw materials to the shipbuilding industry. If the Admiralty do not like that allocation, it is, of course, open to them to appeal, as any other Ministry can, to the War Cabinet for a final decision.
§ Mr. Alfred Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)
When the import of raw materials is essentially the Minister's responsibility, how can the Admiralty decide on merchant shipbuilding? Materials used for warships may be required for merchant ships.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
That is not a matter which I control. It is controlled by the War Cabinet.
The next section of my staff to which I must refer in passing is the Raw Materials Division. I have already largely dealt with the subject, but this section will deal on my behalf with the general policy on the development of raw materials, on the control of import of raw materials, the 1847 allocation and releases of stock of raw materials, with an Empire clearing house, and with the relations between our own Raw Materials Committee and the Committee in the United States which deals with the combined raw material requirements and supplies of the United Nations. This Division is to be intimately connected with and act under the general plan laid down by the Joint War Production Staff and by the Programme and Planning Division. The next section will be organised as a Production Division. I have not yet made the appointment of its head, but it will be a. small and entirely technical division, and I shall appoint an industrialist as its head with wide, general experience. To him will be attached a technical officer from each of the three Production Departments, so that the closest touch will exist between the Production Division and the Department. I must emphasise that this Division is not intended to be engaged upon the direct work of Production or on the details of the factory and works problem which will arise. Those matters are properly in the sphere of the Production Ministers. Its main function in the industrial field will be confined to those subjects which affect all three Production Ministries simultaneously, and there are many such.
I must here refer to one of the inherent difficulties of the war Production of munitions. We all know how important it is to have an uninterrupted flow and order book of standard types of manufacture. And yet war, changes in the enemy's strategy, changes in the geographical theatres of war, the accession of new Allies and the appearance of new enemies, the interruption of certain sources of raw materials, all these things oblige us to substitute one type of munition for another and, consequently, to interrupt the steady flow of production which is often attainable commercially. I shall address myself particularly to this problem and take, special measures to help the Production Ministries to change over their factories to meet these changes. I cannot yet discuss these measures in detail. They are only in embryo, and I have not yet had time for any lengthy conversations even with my colleagues on this point. I would only add that much of the idle time and alleged inefficiency which occur are due to these causes. One 1848 of the obvious ways to relieve the natural anxiety and uneasiness which assail the minds of workers when they find themselves with idle time on their hands is to tell them the reasons, and to that also I shall address myself.
The last section will be known as a Regional Division. The head officer will be responsible to me on all matters relating to the Regional organisation. I have now dealt on broad lines, although I am afraid with sufficient detail to weary the House, with both the powers which I wield and the organisation which I am setting up to make use of them. I have already dealt also with what I consider to be the most massive of 1he problems of Production in war-time, namely, the twofold problem of fusing our strategical and tactical plans with our Production plans and for combining them in harmony with the United States and with our other Allies.
I now turn to rather more domestic matters. If there is one thing about which I am sure a change is desirable, even after so short a study, I feel convinced that it is in the Regional organisation of Production. I think it is generally held, both in the House and in the country, that the contribution that can be made by a proper organisation is a great one, and the general feeling is that we have not achieved as much as we should in this field. The other day the Prime Minister described to me the gnat contribution which the Area Boards had made to this problem when he was Minister of Munitions in the last war. When I arrived back from the Middle East I found that Lord Beaverbrook had called together a committee under the chairmanship of my friend Sir Walter Citrine to look into the Regional organisation, but that the committee had not yet sat. I immediately asked Sir Walter to proceed with this work, and I have had several discussions with him upon the nature of the problem and the principles which should guide us in solving it. A day or two after I returned, before I saw Sir Walter, I had also a long discussion with the Minister of Labour, who had much to suggest and many ideas on the subject of devolution and local organisations, and his views accord very closely with my own. Sufficient time has not elapsed to enable me to deal with the subject in detail, but I think I can say that some broad prin- 1849 ciples have already emerged. They are, first, that the functions of local organisations must be broadened and their responsibilities increased. I have discussed, both with the Production Ministers and with Sir Walter Citrine and his committee, ideas for devolving powers on to local bodies. The line that is now being examined is that by an expansion upon uniform lines of the capacity clearing centres, which are in certain districts working very successfully, we should form groups of firms employing, let us say, 500 men or less. [Interruption.] I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has not been more persuasive.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is it not true that this proposal was suggested many times in all parts of the House?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The hon. Gentleman will have the satisfaction of seeing it put-into force. I do not wish the House to pin me down to an actual figure, but I give the figure of 500 as being the one which at the moment appears to meet the case. These firms would become attached to a local organisation, and the local organisation would only have such a number of firms attached to it as the staff of the organisation could readily visit personally. It is highly desirable to cut down the statistical information and paper work to a small volume and to substitute for it that personal contact without which the greatest effort cannot be secured. These local organisations would have as their main function that of exercising a general supervision of allocation of orders to firms so as to avoid overloading, wastage of capacity and things of that sort. The details—they are not by any means simple—are now being worked out by the Citrine Committee, and I shall further consult the Production Departments. I shall also bear in mind any suggestions which the authors of the scheme are about to give me or which may be made in the course of this Debate.
In order that the House may have some guidance as to the figures involved, I might say that in the engineering group of industries, including such undertakings as motor repair garages and a number of miscellaneous metal trades, out of a total of some 27,000 firms all but 1,000 are firms which employ 500 workpeople or less. About 63 per cent. of the total labour employed is in the 1,000 big firms. It is clear that if some system can be 1850 devised—and I again emphasise that it is not very simple—by which the 26,000 firms can be grouped, not only will a new order be established over the whole subcontracting field, but also the contribution which the small firms can make to our general production will I think be enormously enhanced. They are a very vital part, as the mere figures show, in the whole productive effort, and I would hope that by recognising in this simple manner the great part which they can play they will feel a new enthusiasm when this reorganisation has taken place. I found that Sir Walter Citrine has also been thinking on these lines, and consequently we have agreed that his committee should make an interim report upon this aspect of the problem at the earliest possible date. I shall make a statement in the House as soon as I am in possession of this report. The general lines of this proposal have also been agreed between myself and the Production Ministers.
All that I have said so far has concerned administration and future plans, but hon. Members know that administrative measures cannot cause immediate improvement; they will know that miracles cannot be worked in a night. I can assure the House that the relentless pressure of time and the sense of urgency are uppermost in my mind, and that for two reasons: first, that we are about to see a new campaign starting, and we must take our proper part in it; and, second, the people of this country have recently submitted to further sacrifices which I hope will stop short of actual hardship, and I feel that they are entitled to know and to be assured that these sacrifices are not dissipated in inefficiency and idleness but are made to contribute to the production of materials of war.
I would like to finish my speech by saying that I am sure this task is impossible without the help of hon. Members from all parts of the country. I do not wish to be any merchant of promises, but I do feel able to say that there are no criticisms or suggestions which the Production Ministers and I are not willing to examine. I believe that where there are wounds they can best be cured by opening them up and letting the air into them and irrigating them. I can promise that no defects will be glossed over and that where something is proved to have been 1851 wrong it shall be so said, and such measures as are within our power will be taken to put them right. Equally, there are no suggestions, however revolutionary in character, to which I will shut my mind. It is not possible for me, if I am to discharge my functions in the proper way, to become too much answerable for details of the many matters which are bound to go wrong, and which would go wrong even under better management, in the vast field which is covered by the word "Production." I will endeavour to discharge this duty of keeping an open mind and of examining any suggestions which may improve the flow, balance and volume of Production. I have been a Member of this House long enough to know that I can expect the same co-operation from Members in all parts of the House as they accorded me when I was President of the Board of Trade and had to introduce many measures which affected the vital industries of the country.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I am sure the House will wish me to express our pleasure at welcoming my right hon. Friend back to this country and to the House, and our hope that he has fully recovered from his illness. His appointment is, I imagine, really the direct result of public pressure which for some time now has been brought to bear. We have had some kaleidoscopic changes. First we had Lord Beaverbrook as Minister of Production, heralded by a White Paper, which my right hon. Friend has cast aside to-day. The remaining copies will, I imagine, contribute to the drive for waste paper. Now we have the second Minister, my right hon. Friend, who is, as he said, a Minister without Portfolio and, indeed, a Minister without a White Paper. To that extent he is not shackled by hard words. I was about to make a rather rude remark about a white sheet, and I hope that my right hon. friend will never have to appear in one. Perhaps it is less likely now that he has got rid of the White Paper. In all sincerity we wish the right Gentleman well in the gigantic task which we all realise lies ahead of him. We know that he possesses great energy and that his duties will call upon the full exercise of his interlectual abilities, his business experience and, a side of him of which we have had a glimpse to-day, his human understanding. Whatever military and 1852 material resources he may amass, it is human power alone which can use those resources effectively for victory.
There is a widespread view in the House, in the country and in all kinds of walks of life among people of varying experiences that all is net well with our war effort. That, I think, the right hon. Gentleman himself has recognised. We have in this country a very special and important part to play in the war effort. It was we alone at the outset who declared war and threw down the gauntlet, and although there are Allies now by our side, it does not permit is to rely upon them for the help which we ourselves ought to be able to provide. The widening of the area of belligerency has not in any sense reduced our difficulties. The feeling in the country, I think, is not that great progress has not been made—because obviously it has been, and the war output has enormously increased—but that it is not yet nearly 100 per cent. of what it ought to be. There is an extra x per cent. which we have not yet drawn out of our industrial organisation and out of our man- and woman-power. I suggest that that is really our essential problem. It is that of mobilising that extra x per cent. of production which, without assuming that we can reach the impossible, we know is within our power.
It is difficult for hon. Members, so close upon the speech of the Minister, to realise all the implications of the proposals and the organisation which have been put forward by him. There is a feeling that in the past the machine has been wrong somewhere. The right hon. Gentleman is making a valiant attempt to get a machine which will work. It will work, even a bad machine will work, provided the Ministers concerned act as a team. It is an open secret in this House that in the Production Departments there has not been in the past the full team-work and co-operative spirit without which our maximum effort is not possible, but my right hon. Friend spoke E.S one who does honestly intend to co-operate with his fellow Ministers in their great joint task.
I do not propose to say anything about the right hon. Gentleman's central organisation. I imagine that in the course of the Debate a number of questions will be raised and no doubt answered. I should like to say something about the necessity of effective Regional organisation, because 1853 in my view it is largely from this that the x percentage of production can be found. My own view, based on my experience, of the last war, has been that the mobilisation and organisation of the smaller units in industry through Regional bodies would be the vital factor in getting maximum production. Subject to the actual proposals, which will need to be examined when they come before us, I think the House will welcome the Minister's statement that there is to be Regional organisation, with greater powers and greater responsibility than hitherto. I believe it is the universal view, for I have never heard to the contrary, that we should so far as we can decentralise authority in industry. I do not propose to go into detailed criticisms, but the view is held by Members of the Select Committee on National Expenditure that the central and Supply Departments have become overloaded, choked and congested and that there may be a great bottle-neck which is impeding the output which is possible.
Willing minds and willing heads all over the provinces have, rightly or wrongly, come to look upon what they call "Whitehall" with the gravest misgivings because of an infinity of delays and so on. After all, not all the brains of the nation are to be found in Government Departments, nor is final wisdom found within the precincts of Whitehall, and it ought to be possible to give executive responsibility to men in the provinces, to men projected from the State Departments, employers and workers, who know where the capacity is, who know the possibilities of the turn-over of a factory from this purpose to that purpose, and would be only too glad to give of their wide experience of problems on the spot. Until we do that, I think it must be clear to all who have given consideration to these questions that we shall have idleness, idleness of plant here and there, idleness of labour here and there, limiting the war effort, and I am sure the House will look forward with interest to the more detailed statement which I understand the Minister hopes to make to the House with regard to the new Regional organisation.
Then there is another aspect of the problem to which I must refer, though my right hon. Friend did not specifically mention it. I was pleased with the arrangements made by the Royal 1854 Ordnance factories for the establishment of joint committees of management and workers. I welcome very much the agreement reached only a day or two ago between the Engineering Employers' Federation and the Amalgamated Engineering Union for the setting-up of these joint committees, and I hope that this movement will go forward under the inspiration and active encouragement of my right hon. Friend and that Members on all sides of the House will support him. There have been criticisms in this House of the idea of working men taking any part in discussions on industrial policy. I have never held the view that labour is a commodity to be bought and sold. Labour is human, and it has skill and experience which can be vital to our peace-time industries and even more so to our war-time industries. Engineers in the stokeholds of ships and railwaymen on the footplate have a contribution to make to the national effort as' vital as, say, shipowners or railway shareholders. The organised trades unions are determined to win this war. They asked to be allowed to bring their particular knowledge, skill and experience to bear in helping the war effort, and I hope that on the Government side all co-operation will be extended to the workers in their anxious desire to help to solve some of those problems on the spot, where they may so easily cause serious sores.
Quite apart from what may be done by the central organisation, Regional devolution and managerial and workers cooperation will, I think, go a long way to providing that extra which we know we can pull out of the bag. It has never yet been brought out of the bag. But, I would add, the State must not shirk its responsibilities. The right hon. Gentleman aroused me to a state of great intellectual excitement when he said that no proposals would be too revolutionary for him. That is a new attitude of mind, and I am wondering whether it means that we shall see my right hon. Friend getting to the stage when he is ready to sign on our dotted line. There is a view, which I do not think is confined to one side of the House, that while there has been an enormous invasion of personal rights, a tenderness has been shown towards property rights which is not fitting in time of war. I hope that whatever the war effort may bring in the way of drastic industrial reorganisation, however far-reaching it may 1855 be, my right hon. Friend will show great courage in dealing with these new proposals.
We all wish the right hon. Gentleman well. We all hope that he will quickly get on with his work and that in due course we can say to him, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." I am afraid there is rather an awful lot of people to satisfy on all occasions, and it may well be that there will be criticism from time to time. In what I thought was the true Parliamentary spirit the right hon. Gentleman said he would be prepared to listen to suggestions. In the course of a few days after this Debate he will hear both criticisms and suggestions. I think he will also hear the importance of getting down to the workshops enforced by other speakers, who will not be confined to the ranks of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. If he thinks sometimes that the House is unduly critical, let him remember that we are all as much concerned as he is with victory in this war, and if the House of Commons administers chastisement in the future, let him understand that it is for his own good. However hard our criticism may be in this Debate, or in the near future when he is fully in the saddle, let him remember that we want to share with him the glory of knowing that Britain's industrial effort is as near to 100 per cent. as we can obtain. All hon. Members are pledged in their constituencies and this Chamber to support and pursue every step which will get from our people, our machinery and our supplies the maximum effort for final victory.
§ Mr. Higgs (Birmingham, West)
I should like to congratulate the Minister on his admirable speech, which has to a large extent satisfied the critics. I was interested to hear the suggestions he made about the Regional organisations. These have a large personnel, and a lot of money has been spent on them, but I am convinced that the organisation is not being sufficiently used. It was interesting to hear that my right hon. Friend is proposing to combine firms employing fewer than 500 people. He will find difficulty in some respects. There are firms in the same district manufacturing the same product which, by combination, will be able to produce with greater efficiency, but there are also firms employing that number or 1856 fewer, which specialise in a particular commodity, and it will be difficult to combine them. They must be controlled by the central organisation. I have no doubt that the Minister has these points well in mind, but the operation of combining all the firms will not be quite so simple as he suggested.
We have all been looking forward to this Debate. Efficient production will largely decide the destiny of this nation during the next 12 months or two years. We have the man-power, and now we want the production. Russia and China are ready and willing to fight, and need more munitions and more equipment. Output is the important thing for this country. I have often wondered whether the balance is correctly kept between the Armed Forces and Production. When we look at the coal industry, which is a very vital part of our machinery, we see that it has been robbed for the Armed Forces. I know it is all very well to say that, in case of invasion, the Armed Forces will be necessary, but we must have our motive power. Man-power is useless today unless it is supplemented by mechanical power. Another factor of importance is the way in which our manpower is used. It sounds well to work night-shifts and three shifts a day, but when one investigates the night-shifts, one finds they usually have only 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. of the man-power they require. The factories satisfy the Ministry by saying that they are working, but unfortunately they are not producing in the quantities which are expected from a night-shift.
I wish to pay a tribute to the Minister of Labour, who has a really difficult job. He is dealing with the one factor that counts in industry, and that is humanity. It is all very well to set up a number of machines, but they are useless unless they are properly looked after, manned and oiled. You must have workers fitted for the jobs. We have heard considerable criticism of employers and workers, but we are putting up as good a show as most countries in the world. I would pay a tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for the working of the Essential Work Order. Conditions have been considerably improved since that Order was issued and applied. Absenteeism is not so bad, and the movement of labour is less. Everything is working in its favour. The labour turnover has been considerably reduced.
1857 I am rather disappointed that me Minister of Labour does not come under the Minister of Production. I know the difficulties in regard to that matter. The Prime Minister said that the Minister of Production and the Minister of Labour would work together, and the right hon. Gentleman indicated that attitude to-day from the very commencement of his speech until he sat down. I am sure that the House will appreciate that attitude, but I would compare the two positions of Minister of Production and Minister of Labour working parallel with conditions in the factory. If the managing director was in control of everything in the factory, but was not able to control labour, there would be a split right down the factory organisation. It would be impossible for the factory to work efficiently unless there were one head. If differences of opinion between the labour manager and the managing director had always to be referred to the directors, that state of affairs would not work satisfactorily. I have never seen it existing in a factory, and I am convinced that if the managing director had not control of labour, machinery and materials, there would not be efficient production. Of course, the miracle may occur with those two Ministers working together. Apparently they have the right intention, and I hope that it will be carried out, for the sake of efficient production.
With regard to production committees, I am convinced that they are good for large works in particular, where large numbers of people have been hurled together, without any tradition or background and often without common interest. Conditions in these factories are very different from those in old-established factories with a personnel accustomed for years and years to working as a team. I think co-operation will be increased by production committees, but the workers must not expect to get control of industry and production by this means. It is representatives of the workers who are wanted on these committees, not agitators. A good agitator is not a good worker. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sometimes they are."] A good agitator is not a good worker. [Interruption.] A good agitator, for the third time, is not a good worker, and a good worker is not a good agitator. It is representatives of the workers who are wanted on these committees, and I believe they will do good work. The old order, 1858 promotion on merit, cannot be surpassed. Promotion from the bench to the charge hand, from the charge hand to the foreman, from the foreman to the superintendent, and from the superintendent to the works manager; by those means, labour to-day is getting control of industry. You will find that the majority of works managers have risen in that manner. [Interruption.] That does not appeal to my hon. Friend opposite, I know, but for every 500 workers we have probably to have one manager, and he wants the 500 workers to be managers. That is where you fail. You must have promotion by merit.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have worked in factories and that on three occasions I was offered a foreman's job, but that the conditions attached to being a foreman were of such a character that I absolutely refused to take it? You had to become a mere tool of the bosses up above in order to carry through a job as foreman.
§ Mr. Higgs
Properly managed, production committees will no doubt be a war gain, but efficient management will not necessarily result from production committees. They will not be the cause of a major improvement in output, but I hope they will be encouraged, particularly in new firms without traditions.
I have referred briefly to night shifts. I am sure their value is over-stressed. We have worked them in peace-time, and those of us who have had experience in the shops on nights know that production is not as efficient as day production, and the reason for which I am suggesting that they should be reduced, except in exceptional circumstances, is the shortage of labour on day shifts. If our day shifts are fully maimed, I am convinced that we can get another 15 or 20 per cent. output with the plant we have got. It is a very serious state of affairs that we should be inefficiently using at night labour which could be more efficiently used during the day.
There is one other factor to which I want to refer which is affecting the efficiency of production. At the present 1859 moment we are suffering from the absence of competition. Competition is the backbone of industry. That being so, the Government have had to resort to artificial means for replacing the competition which does not exist, and one of the principle ones has been the costing system. The Government have indeed gone to the other extreme by over-emphasising it, and in my opinion too much costing is being done. There is costing by the firm, costing by Government accountants, and then a third costing by technical accountants. Simplification of these costings is very necessary. The cost-plus-profit system has practically disappeared in practice, but it is in the minds of the workers in the majority of factories that the managements are paid on cost-plus-profit. That is incorrect, and I hope that an effort will be made to inform the workers throughout the country that cost-plus-profit is not generally applied to-day. As much publicity should be given to that as has been given to the fact that contracts were placed on cost-plus-profit. Another difficulty arises, however, and that is costing during the process of manufacture. Contracts are placed without a price, and then the price is fixed during the process of manufacture. The result is that a higher price is often obtained than is necessary, and high prices do not contribute to efficiency. This is a very important point from the managerial point of view. A low price will encourage efficiency, a high price will not, and it is efficiency in production which is absolutely necessary today in order to obtain the maximum output.
The Minister has referred to idle time. It has always been a problem, and it always will be, and the method of overcoming it in peace-time is, of course, to suspend the operators. We cannot do that to-day, and it is probably not desirable that is should be done. Other means have to be invented to find employment during those times when we do not get a constant flow of production. There are two types of production. There is, for instance, the aircraft or tank which is assembled in its entirety in one factory. That type of product may be held up because free issues are not forthcoming or because supplies of components are difficult to obtain, and whatever man invents, he will experience the difficulty of idle time in production. There is another type 1860 of factory which manufactures for various Departments, and the difficulty of such a concern is that it has to keep sufficient orders on its books to keep all its people at work. On the other hand, it has to fulfil its obligations, and the problem of keeping a balance between the two is exceedingly difficult for the management. Idle time, I think, is often over-stressed. In peace-time we suspend the worker, and, of course, he goes on the dole. At the present moment we do not want idle labour, but the change-over has to take place, and it is that changeover, or the holding-up of components, which very often causes the idle time to which we are subject but whose importance is at times over-stressed.
I will conclude by again congratulating the Minister on his speech. I hope and trust that we really shall have co-operation between him and the Minister of Labour. For my part, I should have liked to have seen one Minister of Production, with the Minister of Labour working under him.
§ Mr. Messer (Tottenham, South)
There is very little in what the last speaker has said to which I want to refer, except perhaps his reference to a good worker never being an agitator. That seems to me to indicate that he does not know very much about good workers or agitators. If the hon. Member has never met a good worker who has been an agitator, I will introduce him to one who is a Member of Parliament.
§ Mr. Messer
I was very interested in the Minister's speech, and I think the House will agree that he is bringing to his task energy, which we know he possesses, an experience, and, I believe, a lack of prejudice which will be a good thing. It is clear that in the task which confronts him he will need to unlearn a lot of things. I do not quite know just in what way he is to work with the Minister of Labour. It appears to me that the Minister of Labour will occupy a pivotal part in production. Organisation is a good thing; you can get out your paper plan and your scheme, but if you have not got the man-power, these schemes are 1861 worthless, or, if the man-power is not being wisely used, if not worthless, they are at any rate not worth so much as they would otherwise be. I have heard nothing yet to indicate that many things which have been brought to attention of the Government are to receive attention, such as misplaced man-power. Quite recently I have had cases brought to my notice—within the last week. One of these concerns a girl who underwent training for the purpose of making teak ammunition boxes for submarines. She had become skilled when last week she was taken away from that job by the Ministry of Labour and put on coil winding. I am not sure whether she had ever been an experienced coil-winder. What I wonder is why the girl should have been trained in a particular type of work and should then have been taken away from that work.
I know it is not the job of the Minister of Production to deal with detail, but if he is to be successful, he will have to get very good heads of Departments. There is the waste of man-power by the use of skilled labour in work in which that skill is not finding full expression. There is another type of waste in man-power, that is, in the health of the workers. One hears reference to idle time. There is a type of idle time which the majority of employers fail to understand. It is when there is a workman or workwoman who is feeling, not ill enough to go to a doctor to get a medical certificate, but just so worked up as to take time off, it may be just a day, or maybe it would be half a day if it were possible for them to have half a day. They have arrived at a stage physically where it is necessary for there to be some break, and they have taken it. I have no doubt that there is a large amount of what is miscalled idle time due to the physical condition of the workers concerned. It may save time, because there are those who run beyond that danger point, in consequence of which there is a breakdown.
If there is one thing I have welcomed, it has been the introduction of the factory medical service, but I am not sure that we are making the best use of our opportunities there. It seems to be assumed by the managers of some factories that all that is required is some corner of the factory that shall be set aside for first-aid purposes to deal with cuts and minor in- 1862 juries that take place, and that if anything of a major character takes place, the workman is taken to the nearest hospital. Something more than that is required.
I shall now refer to the Royal Ordnance factories, which come directly under the Government. I think that there are somewhere about 40 Royal Ordnance factories in the country, which employ somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100 medical men. What is required first of all in regard to that service is the appointment of a suitable senior officer. At the moment the head of that service is Sir David Munro, who, in addition to that work, is Secretary of the Industrial Research Board and, I believe, does other things too. He really cannot do the necessary planning of that work if his interests are engaged in so many different ways. I know, because it has been said in answer to a Question I put down, that he has a good, very efficient deputy, who, in his absence, does his work. But I also know that in the absence of that deputy the executive work, in point of fact, is done by a woman who is not even a doctor, who, so far as I know, has no knowledge of industrial medicine. I want to urge this point, because I believe that if you do get an efficient medical staff attached to factories, especially Ordnance factories, they will be in a position to prevent much illness that results from the workers not being advised when they are just out of sorts. What is wanted is a proper medical bay, and it is not being done properly.
At Woolwich Arsenal you have in charge a colonel from the Army, a doctor, not a man who has had any previous knowledge at all of industrial medicine. The staff engaged there have naturally been selected because of their knowledge of industrial medicine, and what is bound to happen is friction between Colonel Johnson and his staff. The result is that there have been something like nine resignations and transfers from that important factory within 12 months, and the Government have lost the service of some very valuable people. There is a Dr. Hilda White, who is known in the medical profession for her research work and her practice and her knowledge of industrial medicine. It would be interesting if the Minister would call for the letter containing her resignation and see the reason. In point of fact, it may be said that the almost constant stream of eminent 1863 medical men who have gone into, and speedily left, Woolwich Arsenal will provide a revelation. I regard this as important, from the point of view not merely of production, but of the interest of the individual. You have people now going into our Ordnance factories who previously had no knowledge of the work. Many of them are brought into contact with chemicals of different sorts and would, if they had been experienced, have been able to take the necessary safeguards. I should like, if possible, to see a table showing the numbers of cases suffering, for instance, from dermatitis and how this increase in percentages and proportions results from the lack of knowledge of the people who have been called in to do work of which previously they had no experience. Anyone who knows anything about dermatitis knows how hard a job it is for a worker to be able to prove that it is industrial dermatitis. I am not concerned with workmen's compensation. I think we have perhaps played too large a part in trying to get people compensated for injuries rather than preventing the injuries from taking place. When a workman is suffering from some injury, for which he is getting compensation, his value is lost to the community. That is the important thing.
I do not know just how it is going to be possible for the Ministry of Production to get down to the details to which reference is bound to be made to-day, unless there is some kind of very close co-operation with the Ministry of Labour, not so much in a defining, as in a merging, of the functions of the two Ministries. If the Ministry of Labour is to provide the labour, and the Ministry of Production is to have labour which is not fit for its task, which is likely to be wasted, there will be trouble. Skilled labour is being put into unskilled jobs. If the Minister of Labour turns up his correspondence for the past week, he will find that I have submitted the case of a skilled bricklayer, who was told by the Ministry that he had to leave London and go North; that that was altered, and he was told that he had to remain in London, but that he could not go back to his employer, and had to be a labourer, although his employer wanted his services; and that, after many weeks, the Ministry of Labour permitted him to return to his previous employer, as a bricklayer. The people of this country 1864 who are hearing and experiencing that kind of thing do not understand the weakness from above. They face the fact that skilled people whose skill is needed are put into unskilled jobs. I hope that we shall be able to discover that the Government are aware of this weakness, and that they propose to take steps to deal with it.
§ Mr. Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
I know that it is the practice of this House to be very indulgent when a new Member is going to speak for the first time, and I hope that that indulgence will be shown to me on this occasion, as I am very conscious of my need for it. I should like to express my admiration for the very realistic statement of the Minister; he has one of the most arduous tasks that any Minister in this House has ever had. I happened to work for many years within 100 yards of his office, and from the very high opinion of his ability formed by his associates of those days I feel that, in spite of the warning given to us from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, there is reason to hope that we shall have far less opportunity in future for criticism of the organisation of production. Last week Lord Halifax gave us a most encouraging account of output, but what is quite certain is that production is not up to our requirements. I do not think any member of the Government would claim that it is so perfectly organised as to leave no room for improvement. Encouraged by what the Minister said, I should like to make certain suggestions, but I realize very clearly that it is far easier for the most obscure back-bencher to put forward criticisms than for the most brilliant Minister immediately to achieve results.
First, I would like to refer to the lack of continuity in giving orders. It is of immense importance that contractors should receive the largest possible orders and have the longest possible notice of them, so that they can make the most economic arrangements. I should like to mention the case of a fairly large firm who were making munitions. They were approaching the end of their contract, and they asked for a renewal, so that they might re-engage their staff and replace their machinery. They were told that they must wait for the completion of the contract. They took the matter up with the Ministry, and again they were told to wait, 1865 in spite of the obvious delay that would be caused in production. It was only because of the intervention of a Member of Parliament that they eventually got the contract renewed in time. That sort of thing is happening all over the country. A firm of manufacturers told me only last week that they actually have been almost fully occupied during the whole war, but only because they are making constant representations to the different Ministries. It seems to me that that should not be necessary at this time. I think that at present there is a good deal of ignorance about the capacity of the factories in the country. The manager of a factory in my constituency went to the head of the purchasing department for the West of England, and asked for work. He was told that his product was of no interest to that Department. He then went to the purchasing Department in the North of England, and was told the same thing. He finally went to Birmingham, where he was informed that there was over-production of his product. None of the three Government officials to whom this manager spoke said, "There is a regional inspector in your area, who will tell you what you ought to do." At this stage in the war, it should not be left to a manufacturer to go around the country looking for work. Surely he ought only to have to say that his factory space is so-and-so, and that his potential output is so-and-so, and then be either replaced—if he is inefficient—or allocated work.
A far more difficult problem, I think, is the lack of synchronisation in the production of component parts. I think that a tank has 10,000 spare parts. The manufacture may be held up for want of deliveries of certain parts which are necessary. That is a very difficult problem, but I do not think that a very thorough attempt has yet been made to solve it. I heard of an example the other day, of a very urgent order indeed, for which the manufacturer required very special nuts. He could not get these nuts for three or four months, owing to prior orders for them. On investigation, it turned out that those prior orders were for the Ordnance Services, for stores, and that there was, of course, no urgency about them whatever. I suggest that a very thorough overhaul of that system is required. There is still a great deal of uncoordinated competition between the Ser- 1866 vices. This means that priority is often decided, not on the degree of urgency, but is a question because of greater pressure brought to bear by one of the Departments, whose representative happens to be the keenest man. It should not be left to a factory manager to decide in that way which Department should receive preference merely on the evidence of relative loudness of the different shouts. At the beginning of the war, there was a scramble for work. Now, in many quarters, there is a double scramble, that of Departments to get priority. The Ministry of Supply alone have about 40 different ordering departments. It seems most essential that they should be co-ordinated. Under the present conditions very often firms have pressed upon them work for which they are not really suited. I know of instances where two factories are both fully employing their staffs and their machines, yet neither of them is producing as quickly as they would be if the work was interchanged.
I would also like to draw attention to the progressing organisation at the present time. The Ministry of Supply has about 12 different progressing organisations in the country, and there are progress departments connected with other Production Departments. That means that a factory might well be visited every day of the week by a different official. Consequently an awful lot of overlapping takes place, and time is wasted, both of Government officials and of the factories. Then—and this is a very difficult point indeed—there is practically no progressing at all of sub-contractors. The result is that a contractor who fails to fulfil his bargain at the time agreed upon puts forward the excuse that he has been let down by the sub-contractor. It is then perhaps found that that is due to a shortage of raw materials and the matter is eventually put right, but surely, that ought to be put right before the delay occurs. Often now the difficulties are only known because the contractor fails to deliver. I suggest that the fundamental cause of these failures up to now has been the lack of one co-ordinating control at the top and also the prevailing method of constant reference to committees, which saps the individual's power of decision and acceptance of responsibility. I am very thankful that we have now a Minister of Production and one who 1867 is particularly qualified for the job. As dictator of industry, I hope that he will adopt the example of that most successful of dictators, Kemal Ataturk, who concentrated his energy on finding other people to do the work for him. I am quite sure that he will not be guided by that unhappy autocrat, Signor Mussolini, who chooses to combine in his own person so many different offices with the results which we all confidently hope will continue.
But unified control alone will not deal with all these problems. I was therefore very delighted to hear the Minister refer to the importance of the Regional organisation, and that he is intending to regroup the small firms, but he has an extraordinarily ambitious task there if he is to effect an expeditious change quickly. In one area, which is responsible for a quarter of the engineering output of the whole country, there are over 2,000 firms with a staff of under five, and only 300 firths with a staff of over 200. That shows that there is an urgent need for Regional organisation. As Sir Walter Citrine and his committee are examining the whole question, it would be out of place for me now to give any ideas how these Regional boards should be organised, but I would like to suggest certain functions which I think they ought to perform. They should be searchers for capacity. At the present time there are in the field innumerable searchers for capacity of not only different ordering Departments but also of many of the main contractors, and that, surely, must lead to a great deal of uneconomic and unwise competition. Before the war it was relatively easy for any contractor to know where to place a sub-contract. He had his usual lines clearly laid down, but it is now extraordinarily difficult owing to the immensely increased complexity of industry. For example, I heard the other day of an instance where a contractor making bombs found that the best firm to supply him with certain parts were manufacturers of dominoes. This clearly was not a very obvious choice.
It is very important for there to be people in each area who know all the different firms and can suggest the best means of using them, also that they should supervise the placing of contracts. At the present time one often hears of contracts being placed at immense distances 1868 from each other, obviously increasing the difficulties of transport. For instance, a firm in Devonshire might send a contract to a firm in Northumberland. If all contracts, or at least all sub-contracts, were placed under the supervision of a regional board who really knew their job and knew completely the capacity of every manufacturer in their area, immense transport and other difficulties would be avoided. By supervising sub-contracts and the progressing of them they ought to be able to avoid many of the delays which up till now are only put right after they have occurred and only have been shown up by the failure to deliver. I hope that they will pay great attention to establishing capacity exchanges through which a factory which has a congestion of work can get into touch with another which has temporarily idle capacity. At the present time I believe that there ire only about 36 of these capacity exchanges in the country and that nearly a third of them are in one region. They are doing splendid work, but they are rather in the nature of a spasmodic effort on the part of certain people, and I hope that they will be organised very thoroughly throughout the whole country. The regional boards should not in any way interfere with the placing of principal contracts. They should not be omnipotent in any sense, but they should be completely omniscient of everything that goes on in their region.
In conclusion, I would like to add my plea to the many others that have been made that the Government should recognise that in the total war which we are waging nothing matters except Production, neither shareholders' profits nor prospects, and upon any indication of half-hearted or inefficient efforts the management should be ruthlessly dismissed, and replaced. Neither shareholders' interests nor the wages of the workers nor the needs of consumers beyond what is absolutely necessary for survival should be allowed to interfere with maximum Production. I have sometimes felt that the vigour of the Government on the home front is not quite in proportion to their resolution. In 1940 one of the most serious hold-ups in Production was the shortage of raw materials. In 1941 that was immensely easier, but at the present time we all know that one of the most serious bottle-necks is shipping. Even if, as we hope, there is an immense improvement in the ship-building pro- 1869 gramme here and in America, we know that the strain caused by our commitments in the East is likely to affect the carrying power to this country. We know that in every quarter more people are going into engineering industries. It makes one wonder whether there is enough raw material coming into the country to occupy these workers in industry, and I urge upon the Government that they should make far more immediate and drastic reductions of all imports coming into this country other than materials for munitions. I suggest that they should completely cut out luxuries and even what we now look on as semi-necessities and concentrate upon the import of raw materials. They should ask themselves whether it would not be advisable to relieve the strain on imports coming into this country by increasing Production here, perhaps by directing more men to agriculture or more workers into the dockyards so that ships can be turned round more quickly. At any rate, somehow or other they must make sure that there are enough raw materials coming in to keep every worker in industry fully occupied.
I believe, judging from my own constituents, that this country is willing and, indeed, anxious to make far more sacrifices than it has yet been called upon to bear, providing that these sacrifices are not frittered away by Government waste, and it is of the utmost importance that there should not be the least justification for any such suspicion, and that they should know that the burden is being equally distributed on everyone as far as is conceivably possible. Providing that our people are given these two assurances I think the country is prepared to pay any price in order to be able to depend upon ultimate victory.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Clackmannan and Stirling, Eastern)
Having caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, it falls to me to offer the congratulations of the House to the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Spearman), who has just delivered his first speech here. I am young enough in the House to have recollections of the trepidation with which a Member faces that ordeal for the first time, but I can assure him that the House is sympathetic, especially to the type of speech which he has just made—a speech full of meat and material, which, I know, will be studied by the Minister with great interest.
1870 Some reference has been made to-day to the question of the relations of the Minister of Production with the Minister of Labour. I hope that the House will not agree that the Minister of Production should have entire control over the labour forces of this country, because the Minister of Labour is something more than just a controller of the labour which is engaged in Production. He is also arbiter between the Minister of Production, the Army, the Navy, Air Force and Civil Defence. He is, therefore, arbiter among many Departments and could not possibly be placed under one Department any more than the Prime Minister himself could be placed under a Department. It is true that the Minister of Labour and his officials work under many committees on the same lines as are proposed for the Minister of Production, and so far as my own knowledge goes, no difficulty has arisen at all in these relationships between the representatives of the Minister of Labour and other Production Departments. The Minister has adumbrated a form of extended Regional administration, but I hope it will not be regarded as a fetish and that there is not to be a sudden devolution of the executive power of the central authorities. That would make confusion worse confounded. There has to be vertical organisation as well as horizontal organisation. You may have horizontal organisation in a Region to carry out the idea of capacity exchange with great benefit, but if you have a number of firms scattered over the country which are making the same thing, it is much more important to bring them together than to have 20 different Regions all trying to deal with the same job.
I can give an example. To manufacture a certain product about 10 firms have been brought together. The technical managers concerned with this product sit round the table and discuss not only the best way of allocating their industrial capacity but the best way of making the product. They are able to exchange experience. A firm which has improved on one method is able to transfer its knowledge to other firms, and they, in turn, put the operation into force in their own factories and so raise the general standard of Production to a higher degree. If we are to say that these people must keep to their Regions and be organised there with other firms, we shall dissolve what is proving to be one of the most beneficial developments in Production. I hope, 1871 therefore, that the Minister of Supply and the Minister of Production will not agree merely on grounds of fetish to a devolution of executive powers to the Regions. I am sure contributions will be made during the Debate as to how Regions can be worked to combine both functions, but I wish to enter my own caveat now in saying that there is a danger, if large Regional Boards are established, of their becoming talking shops instead of executive bodies. I hope so far as is possible nothing will come between the man who is making the product and the man who wants it. When the Army, Navy or Air Force wants a gun or an operational instrument of war, the most intimate approach must be possible for the designer to come right down to the Production department of industry. If we are to interpose a whole series of steps and stairs, it will delay Production, not increase it.
I would like to raise one of the most fundamental points in regard to increased Production, and that is the efficient use of our existing capacity. By that, I mean both machine tools and men. I am quite certain, as the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs) has said, that the machine tools of this country are not being used to their full capacity. I entirely agree that night-shifts are uneconomical if you can get the work done in the day-time. You will never get anything like the proportionate increase in Production by employing people at night. Capacity to use machine tools by the elimination of night work is all right, but it is so much better if you can, in addition, utilise high efficiency machine tools for 24 hours of the day rather than use a mixture of efficient and inefficient tools.
I want to refer to another fallacy, namely, that there is something good in having people working for the sake of working. There are some people who seem to think it is better to have a person working 48 hours a week on an inefficient machine that produces half the quantity which the same person could produce working 24 hours a week on an efficient machine. The important question is, what achieves the maximum production? If the greatest quantity can be produced by utilising to the maximum the most efficient machinery, it is better to have out-of-date tools idle than to use them merely for the sake of keeping people at work. 1872 This matter is inherent in the idea that if small firms with out-of-date tools are not working to capacity, that is a sign of inefficiency. That may actually be a sign of efficiency. I should consider it as inefficient on the part of the Ministry if they were using out-of-date tools in preference to up-to-date ones.
I will give an example of this sort of thing. In the last war, when all the small firms were utilised, there were certain lathes on which shells were being turned; the lathes were not made for that purpose, but they were capable of being so used. It took approximately one and three-quarter hours to turn a certain type of shell. The machines that are being used in this war can turn the same sort of shell in less than two minutes. Would any sensible Minister of Production leave any of the up-to-date machines idle merely so that he could keep men watching out-of-date machines turning this shell at the rate of one in every one and three-quarter hours? Obviously not. But that sort of thing is still being done throughout the country. There ought to be greater concentration on the highest efficiency output. We shall have to be careful that the Regional bodies do not try to keep people occupied simply for the sake of keeping them occupied, instead of seeing that the maximum production is secured.
I come now to another point, which is really part of the last point, of maximum efficiency. It concerns the existence, still, of luxury specifications. I hope that the Minister of Production, as a result of his over-riding powers, will be able to bring one Department into harmony with the other in regard to economy in Production. For example, in certain of their armaments the Admiralty insist on extravagance which is not insisted upon by the Army. In the production of certain of their armaments they insist on double the time that is necessary for producing the same arms for the Army. I hope the Minister will establish some technical authority which can over-ride even the Admiralty if they waste labour in producing these high-falutin fittings that are not necessary. It is the number of arms, and efficiency, that is required, and not appearance. Any unnecessary gadgets should be cut off the guns, and any unnecessary guns should be cut out, in order that there may be concentration on the weapons actually required. I am informed by people whose technical 1873 ability, I am satisfied, is to be relied upon to the utmost, that a great deal of labour and high efficiency machinery could be saved if the Admiralty's specifications were reduced, in the matter of luxury, to the specifications that are now accepted by the Army for their products. I peace time they build everything on a Rolls-Royce standard, in peace time there is nothing for them to do except make perfect and beautiful weapons; but in time of war, a great deal of that must be sacrificed, and they must get on with the job of producing the maximum quantity of weapons.
The next point I want to make is that the Army, the Navy and the Air Force ought to define their needs further ahead than they do. Most people seem to think that if the Army suddenly desire a new weapon, it can be produced next week. But that is a physical impossibility. An entirely new weapon cannot possibly be produced in much less than two years, and a change of weapon will certainly take not less than about nine months, and if the change is an elaborate one and there have to be tests, it may take longer. Therefore, the Army cannot think of what they will want next week, but of what they will want next year and the year after, so that the production machine may have time to get on with the job. It is a physical impossibility to go through the necessary stages preliminary to production, and to carry them out efficiently and carefully, in much less time than I have mentioned.
Statements have been made that there is idle capacity in the country, and I can confirm those statements. I am told that all over Scotland there is capacity that is not being used. In the whole of the Clyde area, they say that their capacity has never been stretched, that nobody asks them to stretch themselves, and that there is any amount of skilled labour and managerial capacity that is not being fully utilised. The same thing applies in the East of Scotland. Every engineering person I have met, every worker I have met, agrees that the capacity of Scotland is not yet being called upon to play its full part in the war effort. This arouses resentment, particularly because thousands of girls are now being drafted South into industry, and it is well known that there is not the housing capacity for them. The girls are being taken in trains that 1874 pass factories having super-priorities which are waiting for girls. I suggest respectfully to the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Production that it is not an economy to move anybody from his home area if he can be utilised in making high-priority products in that area. There is no virtue in removal simply for the sake of removal. Some thought must be given to utilising the capacity in the areas where people live rather than in overloading capacity in the Midlands of England, and elsewhere, where, as we all know, there are difficulties about billeting and production and industry is already stretched to the utmost. It may be true that hostels are being built, that people are being cared for, and that the production there is necessary; if these things are unavoidable, everybody will accept them; but nobody will agree that it is necessary to transfer people when there is managerial capacity, skilled capacity and women's labour all waiting locally to do the job. Much of the industry could be distributed to Wales and Scotland and other places where labour already exists.
I want to make one reference to another factor which is not yet a handicap on Production, but which is causing great dissatisfaction and may become a very important handicap to Production; it is the question of deductions from Income Tax, which are now having their full effect. I have in my hand a pay-slip of a worker in an engineering works. Suggestions are frequently made in speeches in the House that engineers are drawing about £20 a week. Similar charges were made in the last war, and it may be true that here and there such things do take place. However, I want to remind the House that the most highly skilled engineer cannot work on piece rates. These men erect machines and do delicate operations that cannot possibly be put on piece rates. It is a curious paradox that the most highly skilled men get the least wages in the engineering industry.
This is a case of a worker in marine engineering. If my arithmetic is right, his total wages for the week amount to £4 4s. 4d. But all he takes home at the end of the week is £2 8s. 2d., because his Income Tax deductions amount to £1 15s. 6d., and certain other deductions have also been made. Theoretically it may be said that workers must pay a heavy contribution by way of Income Tax to meet the cost of the war, but I say that 1875 men are not being encouraged to put their backs into industry, and, if this Income Tax problem is not hindering industry, then it is a great tribute to their patriotism.
§ Colonel Arthur Evans (Cardiff, South)
The House will, I think, be led to believe by the figures which the hon. Member has just quoted, that Income Tax deductions from this man's wages amount to 25 per cent. of his earnings. Perhaps this is due to arrears of payments? Will the hon. Member develop the point further?
§ Mr. Woodburn
This is one of the real grievances, that the tax is not deducted from the wages when earned.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I am afraid that we are getting on to a very dangerous topic. This question involves legislation, which is out of Order on an Adjournment Debate.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
Is it not a fact that this question will hinder Production? It cuts a man on the raw. This matter has to be put across the Table, so that the Government may know about it.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The Rules of the House have to be obeyed. This is a matter which comes under the Finance Bill, and is not a matter for an Adjournment Debate.
§ Mr. Woodburn
May I point out, without suggesting any remedy, that this matter will have a deterrent effect on Production, even if it is not hindering Production? The Income Tax deduction is retrospective, and that is one of the questions which have to be overcome. As I say, it has not yet affected Production, but it is having an effect on the minds of the workers, and it strikes them as extremely unfair. With the present cost of living, it will not be possible for a man to keep himself fit for work if he is left with only £2 8s. 2d. to take home at the end of the week. I would lay it down as a principle that Production will be adversely affected if a man exhausts more energy at work than he can replace between his leaving work and the time of restarting next day. Even if you regard a man as a mere physical machine which 1876 one can exploit to the uttermost, you cannot get the best out of him unless you put the best into him. Therefore, the state of the mind of a worker, the food he obtains and the rest he takes are factors which must be looked into keeping in mind that satisfaction of his wife is important. A lot of a man's energies may be taken up arguing with his wife in trying to prove the reasonableness of his Income Tax deductions. If the argument develops into a curtain lecture which keeps him awake late at night, he will not be fresh for the next morning. These are points which must be looked into if we are to make the best use of our productive machine.
I am not a believer in committees being executive instruments. Committees can decide policy, but men must be made personally responsible to carry out that policy. Committees can suggest certain things and lay down proceedings, but the Government will obtain far more effective action if they tell a man he is responsible for a certain matter and will be held responsible for it. There ought to be that personal responsibility from top to bottom, which would put an end to passing the buck which takes place in industry. I can see one difficulty in connection with the new arrangement, and that is the dual responsibility of the Ministry of Production and the Ministry of Supply. I do not believe that two people can do one thing properly. I think, however, that the common sense of the Ministers involved will enable them to overcome this difficulty. I am sure that their ability and knowledge of the necessities of the time will enable them to harmonise their activities, so that the best will be got out of the new arrangement and nothing will stop us from going ahead to speedy victory.
§ Major Oscar Guest (Camberwell, North-West)
I should like to add my words of congratulation to the new Minister for the speech he has made to-day. I was very struck by the grasp he clearly has of the difficulties under which we are working in the munitions industry. I think that one general principle which should be laid down, and should not be confined to any one particular Department, is greater simplification on a good many subjects. For instance, let us take the question of air-raid precautions at factories. Is it necessary that this subject should be dealt with by all three Production Ministries, 1877 each having a staff to tackle the problem on slightly different lines? Would it not be possible for air-raid precautions in private and Government-owned factories to be dealt with by one Department? It seems to me that it would more properly come under the Ministry of Works and Buildings. Then there is the question of costing, to which reference has already been made. Costing is very important in the field of munitions. Surely we could have one costing system carried out by one central Department. At the present moment there is great confusion, and a great deal of extra work is involved, when factories have to deal with the costing departments of three ordering Departments, all of which work on different lines. Wherever prices are known the fixed-price system is the best method to employ. Then there is the field of inspection. We all know that the munition world suffers from a multiplication of inspection departments of all these Ministries. I know that there is a movement on foot to make one inspection for one factory, but I should like to see that carried a little further, so that there is one system of inspection for all munition production. The inspection methods of the three great ordering Ministries are totally different. We ought to be able to decide which is the most satisfactory, and then introduce one system.
The Minister referred to the question of machine tools, which subject he is particularly to take under his wing. On the whole, the allocation of machine tools has been well undertaken by the Ministry of Supply. The only improvement I should like to see is that where machine tools are placed in a factory they should be used for whatever munition work that factory is doing at the time. This jealousy with regard to machine tools which belong to the Air Ministry being used by the Admiralty or by the Ministry of Supply is surely foolish and uneconomic. I should like to see the direction of machine tools in such a way that, where they exist, and the workers exist, they can be used for whatever munition programme is suitable for that work. A smaller point that I should like to deal with is the question of gauges. It affects all three ordering Departments, and they all seem to have different methods. One Ministry issuing stores to five or six different factories also issues the 1878 necessary gauges. I should like to see that extended to all the three ordering Departments. We do not want to see gauges made in sets up and down the country if they can be made at one central place to supply the needs of stores throughout the country.
I think the main function of the new Minister is to give us in the munition world clear directions as to what we are to do. There has been a great deal of discussion and criticism in the Press and elsewhere of managements and of workers. It has been said that private managements are inclined only to be interested in what will happen after the war, it has been said that State managements are not always accessible in Royal Ordnance factories, and it has been said that the workers are showing a considerable amount of absenteeism. Of course, there is some truth in all these things, but my feeling, having worked in the industry since the war began day in and day out, is that, considering the length of time the war has gone on and the length of time workers and managements have been at this business, the attitude of all parties deserves great praise.
On this question of absenteeism, we ought to remember that the workers, men and women, throughout the country have been working perhaps 60 hours a week, and sometimes Saturdays and Sundays as well, for 2½ years, and they do not get the recognition which the soldier, the sailor and the airman do. I should like to see some national recognition for the work they are putting in. They do not even have a badge. What we need in the munitions industry is a clearer direction as to what we are to do. The main fault, it seems to me, is that we do not get our marching orders anti do not get them far enough ahead. The reason is that the Service chiefs will not make up their minds what stores they require and in what numbers they will require them. They will not nail their flag to the mast for any particular store. The production directorates in the Government Departments, the managements and the men are, after all, hanging on the orders that come from the great Service Departments.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister tell us that he is to have some co-ordinating board of Service chiefs to try and give us a more long-term programme. After all, the position is more 1879 urgent than in the early days of the war. Great plants have been set up to turn out various stores on mass-production methods. It is more and more important that we should know longer ahead how long these plants are going on turning out any particular store and what they are to do if we have enough of that store or want an alternative store. It is fair to say that a very large proportion of munition works have no idea what they are to do with their plants in, say, six months' time. That is why we get this lack of rhythm in production, this idle time, and this discontent among workers and managements, because we have not a long-term policy telling us what we are to do and exactly what is wanted. England has always had a great reputation as a great manufacturing country. It is on the success of its manufacturing that the greatness of England very largely depends. The workers and the managers know their job. If they are to use that to the fullesk, we must know well enough ahead what the Services require and what the industry is to do. The slogan was thrown out to the factory world some time ago, "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job." I should like, on behalf of the munition works of the country, to give back to the Ministry the slogan, "Give us a clear long-term programme," and I am convinced that we shall deliver the goods.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
I also should like to thank the Minister for his sympathetic approach to this problem. If I have any criticisms to make, I hope he will not take them as personal, and if I go into any of the difficulties of the past, it is only in order to make constructive suggestions for the future. It seems to me that there have been two main faults in the Ministry of Supply as hitherto constituted. The first is lack of co-ordination within the Ministry, and the second is lack of decentralisation outside it.
I will give a few examples of lack of co-ordination. The first concerns a trench mortar. I shall purposely be general about the weapons I mention, for obvious reasons, but if the Minister wishes more intimate details, I shall, of course, supply them to him. A firm required to make this particular trench mortar has had this experience. Contracts for the construction of sights are issued by one section of the 1880 Ministry, and contracts for the weapons are issued by another, and at one point the specification for the sight was changed. In consequence the sight would not fit the weapon. The firm made representations to the appropriate section in the Ministry of Supply, but was told that the weapon was the work of another section and they had not been officially informed. Nor apparently did they propose to take any steps to get themselves officially informed. The firm were told they would be paid for the work, and it was suggested to them that the armourers would succeed in fitting the sight to the weapon. Eighteen hundred of these trench mortars were made, although the manufacturers knew that the sights would not fit them when they were issued to the Army. I often wondered in my O.C.T.U. why we never had an opportunity of using a trench mortar with a sight and had to use an imaginary sight. Now I am beginning to understand some of the reasons.
My second example is that of a shell. It is a biggish shell and probably involves a good deal of money. The Ministry at one time altered the position of the copper band on the shell. At the same time some bright lad in the Ministry altered the shape of the base of the shell. As far as I can gather it was for purely artistic reasons and would not lead to any improvement or change in ballistics. In consequence the shells would not fit into the box which was designed for them. Another department, of course, was making the boxes from that which made the shell, and the man who looked after the boxes in the Ministry had not been told of the change by the other section. The firm made representations to the Ministry almost immediately. In fact, before 1,000 of these shells had been made the Ministry knew all about it, but no decision could be obtained. It was not until 28,000 of the shells had been made that word eventually came from the Ministry that the shape of the shell would be altered once more. The alteration of the 28,000 shells in order to make them fit into the boxes was carried out at the same works. Naturally the workmen were aware of what was going on, and the effect that this had on the morale of the people at the works can well be imagined. I would like to say in fairness to employers that they often get blamed for what is not their fault but the work of 1881 the Government Department behind them. Workmen naturally blame the people with whom they are in closest contact, but the employers cannot without breach of loyalty or confidence very well put the blame on the people who really ought to bear it.
I will give another example of the failure of the Ministry to reach a decision. A firm were asked to make the breech mechanism of a certain gun. The contract came in December, 1940. The jigs and tools for the work took several months to prepare. In March, 1941, the firm were told to stop work on this gun as they were to be transferred to a howitzer. They were told that they would be paid for what work they had done as though that were the primary consideration. It took six months to make all the jigs and gauges for the howitzer, and in the meantime important work on other armaments had to be held up. In the middle of December, 1941, they were ready for production, but they received a telephone message telling them to stop as they were going to be put on to yet another gun. In consequence 12 months have been wasted and a great deal of taxpayers' money had been spent on unnecessary work. It must be remembered that jigs and gauges are the bottleneck of the whole armament industry.
Here is another point. It has been represented to me that it is a common habit of some official from the Ministry to say, "We want the production of such-and-such item to be doubled." The employers will say, "Very good, we can do it, but it will mean that something else must be stopped. Can you tell us what?" The official says, "That is not my business; you must settle that for yourselves." It ought to be the business of somebody higher up to co-ordinate the various activities. I will no longer be captious. As one who has worked long and intimately with Sir Walter Layton, I welcome his appointment and congratulate the Minister on securing his services. I feel sure that much of what I have been complaining about will disappear.
My second main complaint about the Ministry of Supply in the past has been the lack of decentralisation. The Minister has already met to a great extent what I was going to say on that subject. I thank him for it and will make a few 1882 suggestions of ways in which his intention can be put into effect. There is no doubt that a great deal of engineering skill is still not mobilised for the war effort. I refer in particular to small firms employing fewer than 20 or even fewer than ten men. They are such firms as makers of laundry machines, makers and repairers of small textile machines and makers of small gas engines. It may be objected that these small firms cannot work to the high degree of precision required in modern armament work, but I know practical examples of such firms being trained to do this work. I know a firm of bird-cage makers which is doing armament work to a high order of tolerance. I am sure that this could be extended to other firms. This is not really a new idea for the Ministry. About a year ago they set up a machine-tool control for the repair of machine tools damaged in air raids. It was a progressive idea and has worked very well. The feature of it was that "leader firms" were selected in each district. Their job was to get together a group of firms, find out what machine tools had been damaged, pass on the orders for repair and see that the repaired tools got back to their original sites. I would suggest that this scheme might be extended to the whole field of armament production. "Leader firms" should be chosen in each district, and with their local knowledge, which the Ministry of Supply cannot possibly possess, they should rope in all the small firms for armament work. Perhaps some of my hon. Friends would like to think of these small firms as the minnows that would swim in the wake of the great sharks.
If the health of the Minister will allow him to undertake it, I suggest that conferences should be called in each of the great centres of the armament industry and that he should attend them. There should be Regional conferences at Cardiff, Birmingham, Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow, and representatives of the workers and of the chief manufacturing firms in those areas should be called together. At the conference the Minister should invite suggestions, and no one should be allowed to go away from the conference without having made some contribution. The Minister should say to them, "Speak now, or for ever hold your 1883 peace." He would find a great many constructive suggestions would be made to him by the people who are in closest touch with this work, and if he required them to speak their minds no one could go away and grumble afterwards and do so much harm to public morale as is done by irritating complaints.
I would like to make a suggestion about which I am in two minds. I do not want to be thought committed to it. It appears to me that the main problem of armament production is to keep the machines working 24 hours for seven days a week. The machine must necessarily govern production. I am well aware that night work is not so productive as day work, but taking it all round I should think it is almost axiomatic that if we could get machines working the whole time we should get more armaments than we should do otherwise. In one Royal Ordnance factory, and I believe in one only, a system has been adopted under which there are five shifts. Two of them are working in the day time, two at night and one is playing, as we say in Yorkshire, that is, is not working that day. Every fifth day the men and women get a day off. It is not the same fixed day every week. That causes some difficulty. Provision is also made for the whole works to close down from five to seven on a Saturday, so that the workpeople can do their shopping. It means a certain amount of disruption of old associations and old habits, and of course, the working man is conservative in these matters if in no other way, and I have heard a certain amount of criticism, but I would suggest to the Minister that he ought to inquire into this system and see whether it cannot be adopted over a wider field.
Finally, here is a brief suggestion which has been put to me. In some large towns, it is said, there are dances every night, and young girls working in armament factories there find the temptation to go to too many dances a week irresistible. I find it difficult to understand them, as I do not go to dances more often than I can help. The suggestion has been made that in such towns dances might be limited to two nights a week, and some persons, at least, believe that that would have a beneficial effect on production next day. I do not wish to commit myself upon the point, because I have not the necessary facts, but I think it might be looked into.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith)
The hon. Member has brought to the notice of the House a case concerning the manufacture of certain parts in which considerable muddle arose because their manufacture was continued after it was found they were no good. I think the House is entitled to have information on that question. Muddle of that kind should be stopped, and if the Minister is not in a position to inform the House who is responsible, I suggest that he should note the question and see whether the information is correct, so that the House may know.
§ Mr. Erskine-Hill (Edinburgh, North)
I am sure the whole House listened with great interest, as I did, to the speech of the Minister of Production. The words he used were inspiring words—"effective co-operation," "General Staff of Production," "the team spirit." Those are aims which will most certainly encourage the House if the machinery necessary to set up those reforms is not machinery which will further hamper Production, and I do not believe it will. I think the Minister will have all good wishes from this House in starting what I believe will be a most important turning point in this war. But what I know the House and the country will watch with the greatest interest is the line of approach of the Minister and his team. The question is, Will there be a ruthless determination to promote efficiency and a ruthless determination to get rid of inefficiency wherever it exists and to prevent inefficients from remaining as cogs in the machine?
There are three principal spheres of action—(1) among the employers, (2) the workmen, and (3) the civil servants who are operating the machine. There are employers, as everyone would admit, who for one reason or another are not able to pull their full weight. I would ask the Minister to realise that he will have the whole support of this House in dealing with any inefficiency, in whatever quarter it may be, without fear and without favour. Similarly with the workers. I am certain hon. Members opposite will agree that we are fighting for our lives, and where steps have to be taken to get efficiency we should stick at nothing and allow no political considerations to divert our aim. We must get full efficiency by doing away with every inefficiency. As to the Civil Service, there are many most competent and able civil servants, but it 1885 would be idle for any honest man to deny that there have been delays between the parts of the machine in the country which is doing the work and the brain force of the machine which is in the Departments in London. It is essential that the Minister should be more ruthless with the administration because it is the brain which is directing the machine. No one will blame him for any action he may take to insist that decisions are arrived at more promptly and that the wheels of industry are encouraged to revolve, and his speech to-day has shown that he has every intention of seeing that that is done. Let him not stint himself, and he will have great reward from the country, which will support every activity necessary to bring Production to a point where the country is not only safe but sure of victory.
I should like to mention three short points which raise wider issues. As regards simplification, I was pleased to hear the Minister say he intended to give more powers to his deputies throughout the country. I think he ought also to consider giving greater power to some of the junior officials in his own Ministry, giving greater power of decision to those who ought to be able to make up their minds. If the result of giving that extra responsibility is to disclose a weak link in the chain, that weak link must be changed. It would make all the difference in the world if he had trained a substantial body of people, not all in the higher positions, upon whom he could rely to take decisions and thus save the passing of files between Department and Department, and the referring of matters from one person to another, each of whom, as a previous speaker said, is trying to "pass the buck." The second point is that those who are in charge of the products of our war factories and have to operate them, like the man who runs an armoured car and the officer who is in charge of a tank, should be consulted to a greater degree than in the past in regard to the making of the machines.
I remember when I was a small boy being one of a small party which included Sir William Arrol. He was discussing the building of the Forth Bridge and said, "Time after time, in spite of most-carefully-drawn-out specifications, there were moments when we did not know how the work could go on, and almost invariably the answer was supplied by one of the workmen who were building the bridge." 1886 It stands to reason that a person who has a clear mental picture of something in being is in a much stronger position than a person who is merely looking at drawings, which may convey much to him but do not convey all. As regards the important question of tank construction, I cannot help thinking that there are officers, in fact I know some, who have taken part in tank battles and are now either wounded or home on leave, whose services might be invaluable to his Ministry, or to the producing works throughout the country. So often there are things about which the man who works the machine can say, "This may seem all right, but it just won't work out in practice." We ought to make use wherever possible of the person who is really well versed in the working of particular machines. I believe that the Navy deals with problems of this sort in a very sensible way by getting the men who use the machines to go to the works for themselves and to help in the actual building of the boat, torpedo, or whatever it may be.
I know that the Minister will have in view the need to encourage young people, wherever they show that they are masters of any particular line. I do not mean that you must get rid of the older people. The measure of what a man can do is what he can do and is able to achieve, and not what others think he is able to do at a certain age. You must bear in mind the necessity of bringing on the young and of encouraging fresh minds. In this war, where there has been so much change, a man who is capable of grasping things quickly, without too many preconceived ideas, will achieve a very useful purpose. This the young can do more easily. I would beg of the Minister to bring forward the younger talent of this country.
I believe that the Minister has a good team. He has the confidence of this House. He has the greatest possible opportunity, and any decision which he makes which calls for sacrifice will be willingly carried out, if it is felt to be in the general interest of production as a whole. Luxuries—who cares for them nowadays? Things which we considered essential some years ago are considered non-essential now. We are willing to sacrifice everything for efficiency. If my right hon. Friend will lead the House and the country, he can be sure and certain of support. If he will go forward, and 1887 use the powers he says he has of still further extending his powers over the different Departments in order to get still further control and energy, he will receive the support of this House; but if he or any of his team is wavering, I would beg them to take heed of the fate of Lot's wife. In spite of good advice, she stopped, hesitated, looked back and perished. [HON. MEMBERS: "She was turned into a pillar of salt."] I can think of no more certain way of perishing than to be turned into salt. We want it to be understood, as I know my right hon. Friend understands, that the country is in no mood for a hesitating policy. We look to him for a lead and for action throughout his Ministry, to ensure that we have a thoroughly efficient machine which can produce the goods essential to victory.
§ Mr. Silkin (Peckham)
I think the House will give the Minister every support and encouragement, in view of the very disarming speech which he made to-day. Many of us were prepared to criticise the Production effort violently in a number of directions but, as the Minister developed his speech, we felt that he was fully conscious of many defects about which we were prepared to tell the House. We have every confidence that he will do his best to get rid of them. In spite of the defects, I think it is fair to say that, on the whole, Production is infinitely better to-day than it was a year ago. My right hon. Friend is fortunate in commencing his duties now instead of a year ago, or even six months ago. What is needed perhaps more than anything else to-day is a tightening-up of various loose ends of Production. Perhaps Production can be increased by 20 per cent. or 25 per cent., but I doubt whether it can be increased much more, even with all the efforts which my right hon. Friend will put into his work.
It was very gratifying to hear that we are at last to have an effort at planned Production. The problem in the past has been the lack of a balanced plan. Each Department has gone on with its own programme, very much, although I do not say entirely, without regard to the progress of other Departments. I do not believe there has been a balance between the needs of the Fighting Services and the needs of the civilian population. If, as I have every reason to believe, the Minister 1888 will now get balanced Production, under Sir Walter Layton, with the Fighting Services, civilian needs and Civil Defence, he will get over many of the difficulties from which we suffer to-day.
I hope that the Minister will give a good deal of attention to securing the right kind of weapons. At times we can all imagine that we are very busy producing something which might not be of very much value in the war effort. It is impossible to give the House specific examples in many cases, but it is well known that we suffered in Libya from our tanks being under-gunned as compared with those of the enemy. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that the effort put into the manufacture of those tanks which were out-gunned by the enemy was a waste of effort, and although men and women may have been busy day and night turning them out, they might have been equally effective if they had stayed at home and rested. There are large factories turning out various types of products to-day, employing thousands of people, yet, in my opinion, which I give for what it is worth—although it is corroborated by the opinion of skilled engineers—this represents a pure waste of effort. I do not want to discuss the matter more closely, but these factories have been engaged for a year and a half, or two years, turning out a war product which will not be of particular help in the war effort. I hope that the Minister will give the greatest care to the need for securing the right and most efficient type of weapon. There is to be a General Staff of War Production; I hope this question will be the first that it will consider.
A good deal of the present waste of effort would be saved if industry were consulted at the very earliest moment. At the present time the procedure is that the Service Departments formulate their requirements to the Production Departments. A good deal of time is taken in sorting out those requirements, which are sometimes unobtainable and have to be watered down. It is only after some agreement has been arrived at between the Service Departments and the Production Departments that industry is brought into the picture. I want to suggest that the industry in many cases can be brought into the very earliest discussions, particularly in the case of aeroplane production. There is a limited number of aeroplane 1889 manufacturers in this country, who have a very wide experience—a unique experience—and I would suggest that whenever any new type of aeroplane is being considered, they should be brought into the initial discussions, which they are not brought into to-day.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend, but indeed they are. The designers in the aircraft firms are the people who produce the designs for new aircraft.
§ Mr. Silkin
If that is so, it is an extraordinary thing that somè of the leaders of the aircraft industry are under the impression that they are not brought into the picture at the earliest moment, and I am sure my right hon. Friend would be rendering a service, if he would see to it that that impression is removed. It is no secret to say that my information is derived entirely from people of that class, and they are under the impression that they are brought into the picture at a stage when a good deal of waste of effort has already taken place.
I want now to turn for a moment to the question of change of design, which my right hon. Friend has described as an important factor in producing idle time. It is not, of course, the only factor, but it is an important one, and I believe there has been a tendency on the part of Departments to make changes in design merely for the sake of making changes in design. I know that in many cases a change of design has been rendered necessary owing to the course of the war. I quite realise that, and no complaint can be made in such cases when the change takes place, but I believe that in many cases there is not that justification. What happens is that some designer who is in seach of the unobtainable, 100 per cent. perfection, considers that he can make some slight improvement in the existing design, and very often the output of the existing weapon is interrupted until it is possible to start production of the new design. I would ask the Minister to look into this question. Where change is essential, of course let it take place, but where it is not essential let him consider on the one hand the gain that will result from the change in design and, on the other hand, the loss of production of something which may be a little less efficient but is at any rate rendering service while it is being produced.
1890 Another matter on which the Minister would have had some criticism to face, if he had not anticipated it, is the question of decentralisation. That is a matter on which there has been more criticism than anything else, and the Minister quite rightly was not able to tell the House how decentralisation will in fact take place, because I understand that he is anxious to hear the views of the Regional Committees before finally committing himself as to its form. I think, however, that there will be general agreement that what is needed is for the Regional organisation to be substantially strengthened. The chairman of a regional board should, in my view, be a full-time officer of the Ministry of Production instead of, as at present, being a part-time official who devotes such time as he can afford to his work. Here I want to pay a tribute to the chairmen of the Regional boards, who have given a good deal of their time to the work. But every one of them, without exception, will say that his work has been very much hampered by lack of power and lack of information.
In order to carry out their duties effectively, they must be aware of what is taking place in their Region, and they would all complain, to-day, that they are hampered by lack of this necessary information. If they had the information, they would not, as at present constituted, have the power to take effective action, and I hope that one of the forms which decentralisation will take will be to confer sufficient power on the Regional boards and to give them all the necessary information in connection with war Production in their area. To a lesser extent the same applies to the representatives of the various Production Departments. I know that there has been some improvement of late, but there is still the complaint that the Regional controllers or Regional representatives of the Production Departments are not fully informed of what is taking place and are not consulted on important matters. There are two separate points there, but, after all, the experience and information of the man on the spot ought to be used. In fact, at the present time, they are not used. I hope that that may be one of the forms which decentralisation will take.
I think everyone will agree with the necessity for grouping smaller firms. I think it is quite certain that they are not 1891 being used to the best advantage at present, and we shall welcome some form of grouping. I hope, however, that it will not be entirely geographical, but will be functional as well. There are cases where in a particular industry it is possible to group the firms scattered all over the country, so as to use the industry to the fullest possible extent in the war effort. I hope the Minister will take that into consideration. The Minister referred to the dangers of overloading and of wastage of capacity. In connection with the employment of these small firms, I would like to suggest to him that there is another danger, and that is that they may not be used in the manner for which they are most suited. A firm can be kept very busy on war work and yet be doing that work inefficiently and extravagantly because it is carrying out a contract for which its particular type of machinery is not quite suited. I have experience of a firm which was designed to turn out one particular product in peace-time, but which now does something like 50 different contracts of completely diverse forms, for which its machinery must be quite unsuited and which I am sure it must be carrying out in an extravagant manner, in order to keep its organisation going. There is a need for greater specialisation in the employment of these firms. Many firms complain that they are given too great a diversity of work to do, and if it were possible for the Minister to see to it that work is given to firms which have machinery most suited to it and that the number of contracts is limited, I think there would be a very great improvement in production.
Another thing of which firms are always complaining is that there is a lack of continuity of work. Obviously a firm which is engaged on a long-term contract gets into the flow of production and is able to turn out its work speedily and with greater efficiency, but it very often happens that as soon as a firm has reached its maximum output of a particular product it is taken off that work, even though the product is still being manufactured. If my right hon. Friend would give consideration to this question of continuity of orders, he would, I am sure, earn the gratitude of many of the firms.
I was very pleased—and many of my hon. Friends sitting on this side of the 1892 House will agree with me—by the reference to the need for informing the workers of the reasons for idle time. I think it is of vital importance that the workers should be so informed. The spirit of the workers in industry is of perhaps greater importance than anything else, and it is idle to deny that at present there is a sense of frustration among the workers where they have idle time amounting in one case I came across, to something like 25 per cent. That sense of frustration has got to be removed, and it is perhaps the greatest task of the right hon. Gentleman to remove it. Informing the workers is, of course, a very important method of doing it. It is one thing which the Select Committee recommended nearly a year ago, and there is still a need for it to-day. I think there ought to be some machinery in every factory whereby the workers can consult with the representatives of the employers, can put forward their difficulties as they see them—and that they see them very often with limited vision is inevitable—whereby the workers can put forward difficulties and suggestions—very often they can put forward invaluable suggestions—whereby employers could give explanations and receive the suggestions of the workers, and, I hope, take them into consideration in the same spirit as I know the right hon. Gentleman will take into account the criticisms and suggestions made in this House to-day.
I would not myself make it compulsory for these Production inquiry committees to be set up, because if you impose them upon an unwilling firm, they can easily nullify any value there might be in them. But I am quite sure that every possible encouragement should be given to the setting-up of these Production committees, so that workers and management may meet together and consult together on the common difficulties of the output of the firm. I believe that the Minister of Production is seized of many of the difficulties that have been outlined to him to-day. I believe, indeed I am sure, that he is going to approach the solution of these difficulties in an unbiased and impartial manner, and I have every hope that under the Minister of Production this margin of 25 per cent. of Production which has to be made up will be made up by him. Although he will, of course, reap the benefit of much of the good work that has been done in the past, I, for one, will not grudge him the credit for it, if he 1893 is able to increase Production by the amount that is required.
§ Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)
My right hon. Friend was quite certain of a very warm welcome when he returned to the House to-day in his new capacity as Minister of Production. Members of Parliament, indeed people all over the country, have been pressing for many months past that we should have at the head of this branch of our war effort one man to co-ordinate it—if possible, somebody who could take a very wide view of our requirements. I think the House is quite prepared to believe, as I certainly am, that in the right hon. Gentleman we have one of ourselves who is capable of taking that wide view. It is true that, for obvious reasons, we have not been told all the details of his activities in the Middle East, as he calls it, or the Near East as I prefer to call it, but I think we may assume that his actions there have been of great value in that sphere of operations. There is no doubt that my right hon. Friend is faced with a very heavy task, and to say that is not in any way to decry the tremendous achievement of this country already in the change-over industrially from peace to war. I do not think, when we are considering the necessity for a full 100 per cent. effort, as the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken described it, that we should forget what we have effected in the last 2½ years. The country has changed over industrially in the most remarkable way from peace to war, but it is true that to-day, or within the last few weeks, the Government have made a change which has been pressed for by people inside and outside the House for more than a year.
It is no use ignoring the fact—I am not, of course, in any way blaming my right hon. Friend for the delay—that the House has been hammering at this subject for a year and that only now have we achieved what we so long wanted, that is, a single directing mind. I do not think it unfair to say that it is a pity that the Government cannot move a little faster but must always appear to be so far behind public opinion both in this House and outside. It leads one to wonder whether in some other directions they are not lagging behind also, but I do not want to emphasise that point unduly today. When we are considering the task 1894 before the right hon. Gentleman now, we have to review not only what we have done, but the circumstances in which we have done it, for let us remember, quite apart from difficulties such as restriction of supplies, the black-out, breakdowns, temporary and otherwise, the country has had to face this change at a time when there has been a lack of Government advisory and administrative staff. There has been a large call-up of people who, ordinarily, could have been recruited if necessary to control industry in Government Departments. The Government have had to take into their various offices of State a large number of temporary civil servants who, naturally, have not had the training, the foundation and the knowledge, which those who have been engaged in Government supervision and administration for many years would have.
In that connection, I am bound to say it is surprising to me that, that being the case, and there being, as everybody realises, a shortage in the Government Departments of efficient administrators, there should be such a large number of men in this country aged 50 and over, with lifelong experience of business and administration, who can get no job of any kind. I cannot understand why the Government cannot make more use of these people. I am sure I am speaking for every Member when I say that they must know of dozens—without exaggeration I know of hundreds, certainly not less than one hundred—people who are efficient, who have had in many cases long training, not necessarily in business but also in administrative positions both here and overseas. One would have thought that in time of war use would have been made of these people, who are desperately anxious to help. It is true that the tremendous spurt in the industrial effort after Dunkirk, for which we owe so much to the present Prime Minister, has not been entirely maintained—we probably could not expect it would be—but certainly most people in industry are undoubtedly working well and most of them thoroughly realise the serious nature of the situation in which we find ourselves to-day, a situation which is probably the most serious which the country has ever faced in its history. But there is still a minority, small in number but dangerous in their influence, who are not pulling their weight and who have got to be dealt 1895 with. They are definitely a danger to the success of the Production effort. There are serious cases of mismanagement, both on the part of the Government Departments, and on the part of manufacturers themselves. There are also grave cases still of slackness and absenteeism in spite of what is said about these being exaggerated. All these things can be exaggerated if too much emphasis is put on them but they exist on both sides. There is no doubt that although any sweeping generalisations would present a wrong picture we must get these matters right if we are to achieve the full effort of which the country is capable.
There is one point in connection with Government control that I ought to mention. It is obvious that the ordinary training of a permanent Government servant does not put him in the best position to control industry—which is what he has to do, very largely, in present circumstances—and certainly not at the pressure which is necessary in time of war. There is one bugbear in front of every civil servant, which few of us in this House realise; and yet we are responsible for it. That is the Public Accounts Committee. I yield to no one in my admiration for the work of that Committee. It is a very valuable body: in time of peace, an essential body; but we should have abolished it at the beginning of the war. It is responsible for civil servants, who ought to be devoting every minute to active administration in the war effort, piling up documents about some trifling matter of which the Public Accounts Committee may demand an explanation years hence. To the managements of business itself the war has presented no easy task. First, there has been the constant interruption of supplies to factories. There have been continual changes in instructions. There has been a terrible lack of continuity of orders. That matter has been referred to already to-day and I do not want to go over it again. It would be difficult to give this House any idea of the number of cases which are brought before every member of the Select Committee on National Expenditure, of interruptions preventing management getting on with its job of producing the munitions which the country wants.
I think management has suffered also from the fact that what is called, so popu- 1896 larly, now, "taking the worker into confidence," is a new phase of our national life. I think it must be extended. I think it is very valuable; but its value can be exaggerated. Anxious as I am to see, both in peace and in war, the spread of this spirit of self sacrifice, of working not for self-interest, that idea of service, which is excellent, can be carried too far. We should make a very great mistake if we altogether ignored self-interest. Practically all men, and many women, working to-day have people dependent upon them. They have a right, and a duty, to see that they are working on terms which are satisfactory from their own point of view, and from the point of view of those who are dependent upon them. It is a mistaken idea that you can run even a war like this on the basis purely of service. Service is a thing which should be stressed: which should, and which I believe is, spreading; but "duty" is a word which I prefer to "service," because I want to see recognised the duty of every man and woman to give the fullest possible return for the recompense that he or she is earning. Self-interest, therefore, must not be ignored.
Let us consider the directions in which this self-interest has to be met. First, in connection with industry itself—that is on the side of the employer. Industry accepted the idea of a 100 per cent. Excess Profits Tax. Many of us, of all parties, in this House have spoken against the incidence of that tax. There is no doubt that the Government, for some time, have seen that those criticisms are right, and that we should have had a better result with a slightly less onerous tax. In fact, we should not have removed self-interest, as it were, altogether. I think that is the reason why the Government, some time ago, changed the basis to 80 per cent., providing that the remaining 20 per cent., less Income Tax, should be repaid after the war. The position regarding that 20 per cent. —or 10 per cent. on the present rate of Income Tax—is not at all clear. One of the first things my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production in consultation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer must do is to make it perfectly clear to industry to what extent this 20 per cent. less Income Tax can be depended upon. At present it is so hedged around—and I do not see that it can be otherwise, at the moment—with what the 1897 House of Commons of that day may say, that nobody is going to depend upon it very much. Then there are the anomalies of pre-war standards. I do not say that, on paper, the arrangements in connection with E.P.T. standards were unreasonable, but certain firms have suffered very badly. Those who went through a period of self-sacrifice in pre-war days have a very bad standard. One of my hon. Friends, who, I am sorry to say, is not here at the moment, spoke very fully on the question of costings. More than a year ago the Select Committee on National Expenditure issued a long report on costings. Although I certainly should not suggest that my right hon. Friend should spend a considerable period during the Recess in reading that report, which is very long, I say that costings have got completely out of hand. To begin with, if E.P.T. were a perfect system there would be no need for costings, while if costings were a perfect system there would be no need for E.P.T. The two things, at first sight, are inconsistent; but I agree that, in practice, both are required. We have got into a position however in which it does not pay the manufacturer to press Production.
Looking, as I want the House to, always on the background of self-interest, what is the use of putting the manufacturer in the position that if he strives hard, or, if I may use the expression, "busts himself," to get Production, he does not benefit in the least? Leaving aside E.P.T., the costings system will see to that. That situation is bad for Production. It is no use holding up our hands in horror, and saying "How unpatriotic; nobody should do such a thing!" The fact is that it is not only human effort which is necessary; extra Production needs a further strain upon machinery. Although in these days little or no consideration is given to the interests of shareholders, or what may be to their benefit, the machinery and the works do belong, after all, to the shareholders as a rule. We must consider the people who own the machines, and they should not be damaged by over-pressure when there is no likelihood of recompense, or, to put it more accurately, we should give those who suffer by the necessities of war in this way a fair deal also. Therefore, the question of the extent to which we have adopted the system of Government costings and the great trouble and expense caused thereby is a matter which my right hon. 1898 Friend the Minister of Production with the Chancellor of the Exchequer would do well to consider.
I now turn to the workers. The worker, again looking at it from the standpoint of his interest, is determined and rightly determined, that as the result of the war he should be no worse off, but, if possible, should be better off. I see nothing wrong in that. In fact, I think he expects a good deal more than this, and if I were concerned with the post-war situation, which I am not to-day, I would say that if the worker of this country, as a result of what is happening and of the sacrifices and the hardships of to-day, is not going to achieve a position after the war in which the bugbear of unemployment will be gone for ever, then, I for one will be very disappointed. I am concerned to-day, however, with the effect upon war Production and not with peace conditions and the worker is naturally entitled, surely, to be interested in what he is being paid. On the whole, he is being paid a good deal better than in pre-war days, but the value of those earnings would entirely depend upon our financial programme, and that again would entirely depend upon the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have read of Ministers, and particularly my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, making statements about not being concerned with the rate of wages paid if the results were obtained. Generally speaking, I think I agree provided that we do not, by payment of these wages, by high profits or in any other way, create or begin a spiral of inflation. If you did so, the effect upon the worker would be worse than upon anyone else, but, with that proviso, I think I rather agree with the statement.
It is actually not so much the rate of wages about which the worker is concerned. Machinery to fix or negotiate is already in existence. It is the inequality of wages. It is what he sees going on all around him. It is the waste of wages and people getting paid for not doing their full share, and, objectionable as it may be to quote it, one of the finest remarks made in this war has been altered and paraphrased by the workers themselves to suit the conditions they see around them. They have put it up in their own works, in one case, as follows: "Never has so much been paid to so many for so little." It is a terrible thing 1899 that that should be said, and it has been said by workers themselves. We are paying far too much attention to getting larger and larger numbers of people into industry and not nearly enough attention to making use of the people we have got there. That is one of our problems. But this inequality of wages is a matter which affects the wage-earners throughout the country. It rankles and raises resentment.
I feel fairly sure that I am not in any way betraying a confidence when I say that on one occasion about six months or more ago, when I was very worried about this aspect of the matter, I sought an interview with the Minister of Labour himself. I thought that perhaps I could have a little discussion with him. I went to his room at the time which he fixed, and I have no complaint to make of the fact that he was able to give me only a very few minutes, as there were, no doubt, far more important people for him to see. I was a little worried, however, by the fact that all I got from the right hon. Gentleman was a very interesting five-minute lecture on the fixing of wages, and not a word about the subject of inequality in which I was particularly interested. It may appear to be nothing to some hon. Members if you get an expert farm worker, a man who has been in work all his life earning, say, £3 a week, and his daughter of 18 who had never previously done a stroke of work in her life carrying a tea tray round a factory and receiving nearly double his wages. That sort of thing does harm. It is no use the Minister of Labour or anyone else saying that it is not true.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Ernest Bevin)
I would thank my hon. Friend if he would give me a case where girls are carrying tea trays round a factory and getting £6 a week.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
My right hon. Friend really must not object. The last time he asked for figures I gave him many of them, and I have not heard anything about them since. I am entitled to give these illustrations and—
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
If the hon. Member will allow me to finish my sen- 1900 tence, I will willingly give way to him—it is not the slightest use trying to pick holes in what I hope is a picturesque statement about a tea tray. What I am putting to the House—and everybody knows that it is true—is that there is a very large number of untrained people who are getting higher wages than trained men in industry. It is no use getting away from it. The other matter on the workers' side which is important is the question of Income Tax. The right hon. Gentleman does not like these statements, but they are true and I continue to make them.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly at liberty to deny them if he wishes, but I am making these statements because I know them to be true. The other point on the workers' side is the one that has been raised already. The question of workers' Income Tax must be simplified, whether it be by taking away half-a-crown in the £ over £3 to £5 a week, and 5s. over that to, say, £7 or £8, or whatever it may be. It must be taken week by week from the actual wages. It is difficult enough for anybody who has a large income to understand the Income Tax Acts. I am told that if you have a large enough income you have to employ people who understand what the Acts are about. How on earth the man engaged on manual work, or indeed any ordinary human being, can be expected to follow them, I do not understand.
There are certain other matters on which I want to touch. There is the question of decentralisation and the powers of the Regional Boards which have been mentioned already to-day. My right hon. Friend wisely took no very definite line in his speech regarding the changes that he will require to make. I do not think that the House would expect him to come to immediate decisions upon an important matter of this kind, but it is essential that the form which this decentralisation from Whitehall is to take should be decided as soon as possible. There is a difficulty at the present moment in understanding the Government plan. Is it to be a plan in which the Regional Board itself and its Chairman will have real authority or is it to remain largely an advisory body? These are matters about which the House is entitled to know as 1901 soon as possible. I am one of those who believe that a Minister of Production must have control of labour. I do not say that this system of working between the Minister of Production and the Minister of Labour will not achieve success. I hope that it will. I firmly believe that they are both men of good will who will endeavour to pull together, but the two things are inseparable. You cannot get Production without the fullest use of labour. I feel myself on the question of what you are going to do with the regions that both production and labour decisions made in the Regional Areas are vital at the present time. Personally, I would go further perhaps than most. My right hon. Friend should decentralise and give power definitely to the regions. The regions know of capacity and can put it into full use, and I believe myself that you could get men on both sides of the industry, who could, far better than at Whitehall, ensure that we got the best Production that any particular district could give us.
I am not going to press the matter because my right lion. Friend is only just beginning this very great task and I do not want to appear to expect immediate decisions. I, frankly, do not understand from his speech to-day exactly what the position is to be however, and I hope we shall be told as soon as he has had reasonable time to decide upon his plans. The point is, if I may repeat it, are the regions to have power or is it to be merely a continuation of the present advisory system, giving them perhaps a few more detailed functions than at present? Then, of course, my right hon. Friend has the difficulty which we have been told over and over again in this House has already been solved perfectly satisfactorily—without anything being done—namely, that of getting a proper priority system working down to the factory level. I do not think it is any good shutting our eyes to facts. The system in the past has not worked well and I hope now that my right hon. Friend is in the saddle we shall get better planning, a better priority system throughout the country and better knowledge of what the Government wants right down to the man at the bench.
There is another point which is, perhaps, outside the orbit of my right hon. Friend's activities alone, although he can do a good deal to help with it, and that 1902 is the absolute necessity of getting a new spirit not only into industry but into all the people of this country—a spirit of aggressiveness. That is what we want. The people of this country are tired and sick to death of being asked to do this or that; they want to be ordered. They are far ahead of the Government, and have been for a year past, in pressing that the country should be all out for victory. We are now at the stage in the war when it is most essential that the country should have an aggressive spirit, a war spirit, not only throughout industry but in the Fighting Services as well. In this very long series of withdrawals and defeats—and do not let us mince matters; they were defeats—Norway, Crete, Greece, Singapore and Burma, we have been told that they have all been due to lack of equipment. We were told that these battles were lost for want of Production. Well, we were unprepared; we all know that and we must take the blame for it. We are giving great help to Russia, and everybody realises that that is a great strain upon us, but surely, even so, after two and a half years of urgent rearmament, and before that, a year or more of so-called rearmament, we are in a position to make our strength and our force felt more definitely in this world struggle.
At present we seem always to be on the defensive. We appointed a Minister of Defence two and a half years ago. When are we to get a Minister of Attack? That is what the country wants. It would do a great deal to help the spirit in industry as well as the Fighting Forces if only the Government would give us a lead in that respect. Also, let us have no more in the future I beg of such rash statements as "Singapore will never fall" and "Libya will be a victory." We have had far too much of this sort of thing in the past. Even my right hon. Friend made what I hope was not a too optimistic statement, when he left Egypt, regarding our position there. We are terrified every time we hear such statements because they have so often been followed by disasters. I want to say a word or two about Singapore. I think the House is entitled to ask for an inquiry into that disaster. I am well aware that until further information arrives from Singapore, details regarding the actual surrender cannot be secured but there is a great deal we want to know apart from the evidence of the generals on the spot, whose statements 1903 are, unfortunately, not available. What we want to know are the conditions that led up to that disaster, what was the plan of defence and what were the orders given regarding the landing of troops? Is it true—I hope it is not—that troops were landed almost on the morning of surrender and marched almost straight into a prison camp? The House and the country are entitled to know whether that is true or not, and some of these things do not require the evidence of generals.
There is another reason why the House is entitled to ask for this inquiry. It is from the point of view of the Army itself. Aspersions are being cast upon the valour of our own soldiers. If, indeed, the disaster had nothing to do with the valour of our soldiers but was due to wrong orders, bad strategy or bad planning, then the Army is entitled to an inquiry. We have long under-estimated our enemies. One of the troubles in this war from the beginning has been our under-estimation of other people. One of the most fatal things ever said is that time is on our side. It has never been on our side. It is not on our side to-day. When I think of what Germany must have been doing in the last six months, of the tremendous activity not only in Germany itself but in the occupied countries of Europe, producing tanks and planes and shipping, I cannot understand how anybody can believe that time is on our side. It is not. There is danger to this country in that sort of idea being spread about, We have to move and we have to move now. I have not the slightest doubt that our Russian Allies, fighting splendidly as they are, will make a great change in the situation and I have not any doubt whatever that in the course of time—many months, perhaps years—the United States will produce enormous armaments. But are we to be allowed these years? The idea that any of these countries will win the war for us is all wrong. We have to win it ourselves and it will not be won by being always on the defensive.
I do not pretend to have any special knowledge or indeed to know anything at all about the Government's plans, but I hope and believe that they have a forward policy of which we shall see something in the next few weeks. If they have not, then God help us. We must have an aggressive spirit and it is wanted in industry as well as in the Fighting 1904 Services. I want to put it into the minds of not only every one in the Fighting Services but in industry as well that a man must not do something merely because it is in his own interest but because it is his duty. No man should feel proud because he is able to "get away with" something, whether he be a manufacturer making profits or a workman who is slacking. That should be something of which to be ashamed and to which a man dare not refer before his colleagues. If we can get that spirit of duty many of our troubles will be gone. That will give us the extra Production required and with it I hope we shall gain the aggressive spirit of superiority to our enemies which will end in victory. If the Government can make a forward move, the Fighting Services and men in industry will give them the, dividends they require.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The speech of the Minister of Production was disappointing in many respects. As one hon. Member after another has pointed out, the idea of a Minister of Production was not a new one. It did not occur within the last few weeks. It has been urged upon the Government for at least two years. Difficulties with regard to priorities have been mentioned in the House over the same length of time. It is not that some new light his dawned upon the country. What one feels is that at last, after pressure has been brought to bear, the Government have given way, and given way without very good grace. The main disappointment to me, however, is that there is, quite obviously, no change of policy, no change of outlook, and no new vision of what is in front of us. The war is still being conducted by the Government as though, in fact, war had not been declared. [Interruption] The right hon. Gentleman says "No," but the war is still being conducted upon lines which governed this country during peace-time, with a few changes here and there. There is still the same protection for private interests, still the same protection for privilege, with just a little patching here and there. The only difference is that, of course, men and women up to a certain age have to obey, they are taken willy-nilly; but the property owner is protected. They may die, but property and privilege must be preserved. That is why I point out that 1905 the policy, the vision, the outlook, are still the same as they were before war actually broke out. I can still see no change.
The more one watches the performance of the Government, which came in in May, 1940, with such high hopes, the more disappointed one is. The more it changes, the more it remains the same. There is a change perhaps of personnel. One man goes—not of necessity altogether, for he may be removed overseas—and another man comes in, but still the policy and the outlook remain the same. One man may be taken from one office and placed in another, but still the policy remains the same. The right hon. Gentleman himself reminded us that he has been removed from close contact with the House, but I would also remind him that throughout that period he was a Member of the War Cabinet and a Minister of State. These things should not be regarded as new to him since he arrived in this country within the last few weeks. Part of the War Cabinet's policy, surely, is that Members of the War Cabinet should know what the policy is, what is the outlook, and what they propose to do. Even if they. are in the Middle, Far, or Near East, they should at any rate be able to express their views as to what is taking place. Or are we to understand that the policy of the Government is decided by one, and one only, and that the others are simply expected to nod their heads without protest?
There are three things we have asked for all the time in regard to Production. One concerns raw materials. There have been certain committees dealing with raw materials. Now, at long last, after we have been urging the matter upon the Government, those priorities are to be decided by the right hon. Gentleman. He comes a little late in the day to decide what those priorities are to be. We are now reaching the position, surely, when the amount of raw materials coming into the country, instead of being on the upgrade, is on the down-grade. That is for several reasons. Several of the places from which hitherto we were able to get raw materials are no longer open to us, The amount of shipping that is required to bring in those raw materials is steadily, for the moment, at any rate, dwindling, and will continue apparently to dwindle until that great moment comes, which was referred to by the hon. Member for 1906 Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), when the full production of the United States can come forward, but at present, that is pretty far ahead. But it is something that priorities are now to be decided and settled. May I say again, however, what was so rightly said by the Prime Minister on another great occasion? Why is it that the Government refuse to take these steps until the pressure from the House, the country and the Press is such that it is quite obvious, even to the uninitiated and uninstructed, that they are steps that have got to be taken? Once again, I would point out that what is obvious in war is only too often obsolete. And this move comes at such a late stage in the history of the war—after 2½ years of war, after 3½ years of warning, of getting in our raw materials. The time has been wasted and lost, and now, when we have passed our peak period of imports, at last a Minister is appointed who will be in charge of priorities of raw materials.
Another matter which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned was machine tools. The right hon. Gentleman was not a colleague of ours in the House when we first raised the question of machine tools. The question of machine tools was raised as long ago as 1936 by the greatest authority on Production that the House has ever known, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), when we were first discussing Production. It was repeated by the Prime Minister himself when he was supporting others of us who were asking for a Minister of Supply. We have gone on steadily asking for special attention to be paid to the machine tools without which we cannot even get mass production. At last, towards the end of March, 1942, we are having the matter under consideration. [Interruption.] At last, we are to have it under consideration, afresh, if you like. It is not so long ago that a few of us were pointing out that there were some thousands of machine tools in this country not being fully used. The right hon. Gentleman perhaps does not even know that.
§ Mr. Davies
Only a few weeks ago some 80 per cent. of the machine tools used in this country were not doing more work than one shift. I cannot remember the 1907 exact figure, but I think I am not far wrong in saying that it was 80 per cent. Under 20 per cent. are doing more than one shift. That is my recollection of the figures given in the House. Now, at last, this matter is to receive consideration. Raw materials and machine tools are two things for Production, and the others are labour and management. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, I consider that labour should be under one Minister. The Minister for Production should have control of all things necessary for Production, beginning with labour. He should also have transport under him, so that he knows exactly how to move the raw materials and the finished products to wherever they are required.
§ Mr. Woodburn
If the Minister of Labour is put under the Minister of Production, how can the Minister of Labour arbitrate between the Minister of Production and the Army, Navy, Air Force and Civil Defence in regard to the distribution of man-power?
§ Mr. Davies
Why should there be need for any arbitration? If the hon. Member had only followed what I have been trying to tell the House throughout, he would see that there ought to be no quarrelling regarding these matters. I will come to that as I proceed to deal with the position. In order to produce your goods, you must have raw materials and factories, but, above all, you must have your labour and management and your power, whether it be coal, electricity or anything else. In order to see what your output is, you must have control over all these, and see how they operate. That has been the idea expressed time and again by Members of this House. We are not to have it; we are to have co-operation. Co-operation in what way? What is it to mean? Suppose that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour says that he cannot allow men to leave a certain place and go to another, and then my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production says that he wants them to go. Arbitration will then come in. As I understand it, the matter is then referred to the War Cabinet. But, both Ministers are members of the Cabinet, and, if that is so, what is the use of the two if they have no power of decision? Why make a Minister of Production if he has not the power and has to refer to someone else?
1908 I still wait to hear whether there is to be any change of policy in regard to management and labour, and whether there is to be any change of outlook in regard to them. We are still on the profit-motive basis, we are still on the wage-motive basis, we are still allowing quarrelling to take place as to costs, and we are still wondering whether profits shall be made and what Income Tax shall be paid upon them. We are still quarrelling about this man's wage and that man's wage. I quite agree that the things which dissatisfy most people are the inequalities to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster referred--that the skilled man in one trade is getting less than an unskilled man in another trade. He was quite right when he referred to agriculture. If my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour wants an instance, he can have it in my constituency. Some of the finest men who have ever worked on the land are earning £3 a week, while there are men leaving the village to go down to an aerodrome to push a wheelbarrow who are getting much more, bringing their money back to the village and practically taunting the agricultural labourer in regard to his small wage. That is the inequality, and it is no good my right hon. Friend denying it. These inequalities are still in existence.
It is no good talking about absenteeism—it does exist—and bad managements. Who is responsible for allowing this state of things? It is the Government itself. We have given it the fullest powers, and there ought not to be any bickering about this. But who very often is responsible for raising this question of bickering? It is the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. Time and time again he stands at that Box and condemns bad managements. Of course, there are bad managements, but it is within his power as a member of the War Cabinet to put a stop to bad managements. It is within their power to recommend and bring in a wage policy, a contracts policy and a price policy. We are still waiting for these.
§ Mr. Davies
I thought my hon. Friend was paying me the compliment of listening to my speech. I never said that this was causing it. I say that all these are matters which it is within the power of the Government to put an end to. And now what are we going to do? We are going to establish Regional boards, but what their powers are we do not know. Nor do we know whether it is the policy of the Government to pool industry and to direct industry for one common purpose. If they do that, then they will discover where are the good managements and where are the bad managements, and they can then bring in a labour policy, a wage policy and a price policy. I and other Members have been urging these things upon the Government month after month, without any hope of success. I cannot see any change of spirit, such as the hon. Member has just expressed the desire to see. The country is ready and willing for any sacrifice, but at the moment the people are in a sort of coma and bewilderment. They have seen disaster after disaster falling upon us, and they cannot understand it after the great boastings that all is well. We are still waiting for the new movement to come from the Government. I want that spirit not only in the country, but on the Front Bench. For the moment it is completely absent, and I am afraid it will not be present on that Bench until the personnel are completely removed.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
It is always very difficult when debating Production matters to steer the line between the alternatives of complacency on the one side and creating alarm and despondency on the other. Although I agree with much that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has just said, I think that the whole tone of his speech tended to take us far too much on the side of alarm and despondency. I yield to no one in my sense of the terrible urgency of the present situation, and I think the note that we all ought to strike—I think I heard that note in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production—is that we need bracing up; that there is urgent need for improvement, and that there is also an opportunity for it. But for Heaven's sake let us look forward to the future with hope and enthusiasm, and not try to see depressing things wherever we look. I must confess, when I listened to the speech 1910 of my right hon. Friend, I was filled with a considerable measure of hope. It is quite true that many of us for a very long time have been asking for a reorganisation of the direction of our production policy on the lines now being introduced. It is quite true that we may feel that it would have been very much better if this change had been made before. But now it has come, and now that we have had one of the most businesslike reviews of the Production problem which this House has ever had, we should, I think, make some acknowledgment of it, and look forward to the future with hope.
In that spirit I had intended to frame my remarks in the form of a number of hopes addressed to my right hon. Friend as to the way in which he might conceive his task, but many of these things have already been said, and in his own speech my right hon. Friend has on so many points given just that interpretation which I wanted to see that much of what I had intended to say needs a different emphasis. My first hope refers to the question of speeches, and the way in which the case is represented to the country. I want to say to my right hon. and gallant Friend that I hope he will use his influence with the Government to see that we do not any longer have any speeches of the kind that I might describe as "double the number you first thought of" speeches. We had one only this week-end from the Secretary of State for the Dominions. The country is not impressed by this kind of thing. It is no use telling us that we are doing better in the construction of merchant shipping than we did in the last war, although we have fewer yards employed. Our needs are quite different from what they were in the last war. Then we had the Japanese navy convoying our ships into the Red Sea, we controlled the Mediterranean with the Italian and French fleets on our side and we were not fighting a war in the Far East. Our needs to-day are something totally different. I am not impressed by speeches of that kind. I am much more impressed by the fact that there is room waiting in our merchant shipbuilding yards for employing thousands more men, and that if we could get the men there and our merchant shipbuilding equipment used with full employment, we should step up the output of merchant shipping by a very substantial percentage. We want to know that the urgency of that need is being 1911 recognised. We want much more realistic speeches, something which accords much better with the psychology of ordinary people.
In this connection, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend has read the broadcast about 10 days ago by his opposite number in the United States, Donald Nelson. I think that was more on the lines that we want to hear. There were two notes in that speech—first that workers everywhere of every kind and every grade must regard this war business as something in which we are all engaged as partners, and, secondly, that everyone must be given a definite target to work for. Every works must be given a definite target and have a blackboard and a score chalked up on it to see how near they get to the target. He plans to introduce the spirit of competition, to make men feel that they are engaged in the most gigantic competition the world has ever seen. He gave them some very specific figures. He told them that if what he called the "critical" machinery was being worked throughout the country for 24 hours a day-168 hours a week—the output would be doubled. He was more specific than that. He took the aeroplane building concerns, 31 of them, and told them that if the standard of all came up to the standard of the best three, production would be increased by 25 per cent. It seemed to me that those were the sort of figures that told us something. They went home and we want something of that kind. We want to know what the standards are and we want to feel that the laggards, if there are any, know just by how much they are lagging behind what they ought to do. I think specific statements of that kind would be much more effective and would make everyone realise that we are not to be satisfied with being a little better than the standards of 25 years ago, but that what we are aiming at is the "target of to-day."
Turning from speeches—and after all speeches are not all-important—we all want to see action more than speeches I was going to express the hope that my right hon. Friend would not be afraid to be called by that very unpopular name "planner." I am glad to learn from what he said to-day that he will not be afraid of that charge. He recognises only too well that in war you must plan ahead. 1912 He pointed out indeed how the whole programme may be upset by a new enemy coming in or a new Ally with new needs or interference with our shipping and so on. But many of these things ought to be foreseen as possible eventualities, and, in prudence, provision ought to be made for those eventualities beforehand, I hope he will not take it that he has satisfied his own obligations unless he looks ahead or that he may excuse himself afterwards by saying he was not quite sure that such things were going to happen. From his past record I am sure he will not say that. But improvement is needed in the Government organisation. He needs a well equipped intelligence blanch. I hope he will see that things are improved in that direction. I do not want to dwell on the past; but it would be an interesting question to ask, for example, exactly at what date some sufficiently responsible authority in the Government said "there is a chance that Japan will some into the war and therefore we must consider storing up things like rubber and providing for that eventuality." It would be interesting too to know when that realisation was first taken into account as a governing factor in our policies and at what date action was taken to deal with it. I should very much like to know. But that is a question of the past and I am now concerned with the future. As to that I should like to ask, "has the whole programme of Production, the whole balance according to which our available resources are allocated, been even ye re-adapted to the new situation that has teen created by the entry of Japan into the war and by the effect of her first successes?" That has a far-reaching effect on he whole foundations of our productive effort.
That brings me to the next hope that I intended to express. That is that my right hon. Friend in exercising his responsibility for planning Production, will consider first things first. The first things are the supply of raw materials—the produce of such raw materials as we can produce in this country, and the provision of means for bringing to this country those raw materials which we must get from overseas. I ask him in dealing with that question to take a broad view on the matter. I want him to put to himself as a fundamental question, "Are we in our present situation allocating enough of our national resources to merchant shipbuilding?" I should like to ask him to 1913 go over the allocation of steel. Let him find out what percentage of our total steel production was allocated to merchant shipbuilding in 1941 and what percentage to shells, and how much of what was, allocated to shells was actually fired off. I should like to ask him then whether he does not regard the figures as rather startling. Let him also take into account the urgent need, which was brought out in the Debate a few days ago, for increasing the production of coal, one of the things of which we ourselves are in command. Let him see that adequate labour and other resources are allocated to these purposes. Lastly on the question of "first things first," I hope he will regard agriculture as an important field of Production, even though it does not actually come under his own responsibility, for if it is made as productive as possible, it will affect shipping needs and give him more space for importing the things he needs.
My fourth hope was that, having made his plan and considered first things first, he would go to the other end and see that we get out at the other end the sort of things we really need, the right weapons at the right time. Mere volume of production is not enough. Nothing that my right hon. Friend said gave me more satisfaction than his obvious recognition of the importance of that point. If his idea of creating a Production general staff means that he will see that responsible authorities on the side of the fighting Forces are made to formulate their needs well in advance, decisively and with precision, and are made to understand what they mean in terms of Production—that if they have this they cannot have that, and so on—if it means all that and means also that they are made to feel they have responsibility and that their needs will govern Production plans, then he will have corrected one of the things in the past organisation which gave cause for the greatest concern.
I hope that in these and other ways the organisation for planning Production will be really successful. But it is a question not only of planning the programme but also of the methods of execution to be followed to improve Production. A good deal has been said on that subject and, therefore, I do not want to go into it in detail. I believe there is room, as has been said, for increasing Production by a quite reasonable percentage. I believe 1914 that, in terms of what goes on at the factory level, the methods of improvement can be seen mainly under three heads. The first is to simplify and standardise designs so as to make them good Production jobs. The second is to rearrange the placing of orders so that each manufacturer gets a bigger quantity of orders of things for which he is suited and that too many manufacturers are not asked to make too many different kinds of things. The third is to direct the work primarily to the best-equipped factories. I believe the time has come for a general overhaul of the existing position and I hope that my right hon. Friend will initiate it under those three heads. He cannot make the changes suddenly: they will have to be made gradually, but I believe that it will be well for him to see that an expert review is made.
Turning to the question of organisation for the execution of the plan, we come to the important point of decentralisation, of ridding the headquarters Departments of their present state of congestion. It is not possible in a short speech to go into that in detail. I only want to make a few observations on what seem to me to be the most important lines on which it could be worked out. I think that there has been a certain amount of misconception of what can be done by making greater use of the Regional Boards or Regional organisations of the Departments. I believe that they can and should be used much more but that their function lies in the field of executive supervision rather than actual execution. I want to see the Regional organisation used also along the lines of bringing in touch with manufacturers some official who can either give a decision himself or knows where he can get one quickly. Having said that, one has to emphasise, on the other side, limitations on anything to be done in the way of making greater use of the existing Regional Boards. We do not want to create huge new bureaucratic organisations in the Regions on the same lines as those at headquarters. There are only II Regions and they are large areas, and any centralised organisation in the Regions will have almost as great difficulty in getting into touch with all the manufacturers concerned as the headquarters of the Departments have. I rather gathered from what my right hon. Friend said that he was thinking of a different kind of decentralisa- 1915 tion, and I myself want to urge the importance of decentralisation in the form of making more use of industrial organisations, giving industry more of the tonic of responsibility, and giving industrial leaders more chance of working out themselves how they are going to deliver the goods that the Government want.
My right hon. Friend suggested the grouping of the smaller industries. That is an interesting idea and I hope that he will allow some of us who have had certain opportunities of going into conditions at factory level recently to talk over these things with him. This seems to me to be a development of the greatest possible importance not only for the sake of the war effort, but also for the sake of the form of things to which we are moving thereafter. In order to get the Government into gear with industry, as I have often said, you need to reduce the number of points of contact and encourage industrial groupings which will be formed, not for the purpose of protecting any sectional interest, but for the purpose of giving the Government means by which they can work through industry itself for the achievement of a public purpose. If my right hon. Friend starts seriously to study developments on those lines, he will be doing a great service to the country.
This is an issue of the greatest importance, because, somehow or other, we have to try to find a form of organisation which will make us effective enough to beat the totalitarian Powers and yet will not involve a sacrifice of that liberty which is really the thing for which we are fighting. We have to realise that mere liberty is not enough—that liberty, unless it is used in co-operation for a common purpose, is not only insecure but is not worth having. One of our great problems is to find a basis for fulfilling a collective purpose, while preserving individual liberty. And one of the fields in which it is most important to develop that idea is the field of industry. It is for that reason that I attach so much importance to the ideas which my right hon. Friend has thrown out, and I hope he will continue on those lines. But do let us be reasonable about this. There are people who have suggested to-day that unless he does something spectacular all at once, he deserves to share the fate of Lot's wife. I venture to say that this is a line of work which requires the most careful thought, and 1916 that the mere fact that the Government are thinking on these lines and are trying to work out plans on these lines will be a great encouragement to everybody.
Finally, turning from industry to the workers in industry, I was going to express the hope that my right hon. Friend would recognise how tremendously important it is to create a real feeling of partnership throughout the whole of our war effort. I am glad that he said a good deal to show that he is thinking on those lines. Many of us have been very glad recently to see that certain steps have been taken in the Royal Ordnance factories to start methods of consultation. I am also glad to see that between the engineering employers and the engineering trades unions, an agreement has just been made. Those are first steps. They require much wisdom in working out, and it would be unwise to be too optimistic about the first steps. But, at any rate, they are first steps in the right direction, and I, for one, feel that we shall never get that spirit which so many speakers have pleaded for unless we are, somehow or other, able to create among all grades of workers the feeling bat this is "our war," and that all workers in industry are working in partnership to win that war, and not for the benefit of any privileged classes.
For those who have had the opportunity of going round recently to see the workers' representatives nothing has been more impressive than the effect of the visit of the Russian Trade Union Delegation. Everyone will admit that that is one of the real factors which has gone home to everybody. I believe myself that the most important element in that effect was that those Russian representatives were able to get across to people on our side the sort of feeling that it is "our show," that we have been working to defend "our country" with "our own industries." That enthusiasm has, to some extent, been conveyed to our workers here. I believe there is no greater service which the present Minister of Production could give to the whole war effort than to use his own influence and guidance to spread what I have already called the tonic of responsibility as widely as possible through all grades and classes of workers in this country.
§ Mr. Ridley (Clay Cross)
I have been tempted to take part in this Debate by the 1917 very provocative invitation which the right hon. Gentleman himself offered to the House in his opening speech. He said that no suggestions, however revolutionary in character, would meet with a closed mind so far as he was concerned. I do not pretend that the suggestions I want to make are either revolutionary or novel, except in the sense that they do not concern themselves with the machinery of Production but with, if I may so describe them, the imponderables which stand behind the machinery. One or two references have been made to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is welcomed back to the House to-day after a long absence in another field of activity several thousand miles away, and it may well be the case that in his absence he has not been as well informed about some tendencies of opinion in this country and in this House as would otherwise have been the case. He may even feel that the matters to which I am about to refer are outside his field of authority, but I venture to think that they are not outside his field of interest. He may come to find that the closing of a luxury restaurant in the West End of London in order that miners in my constituency may be better fed for the purpose of producing coal will be within his field of interest if not within his field of authority.
I wish to refer to an aspect of the productive effort which has been previously referred to in these Debates by hon. Friends of mine. I wish to do so less from the economic than from the psychological point of view. I wish to suggest to my right hon. Friend that he may get all his scientific management and scientific layouts in the most perfect order, but if he ignores the fundamental human considerations, he will not achieve the optimum output which I take to be the target of his endeavour. In what I propose to say, I am not trying to use the war as an excuse for expanding the frontiers of my political philosophy. That would be wrong, as it is wrong to use it for the purpose of defending the frontiers of some other people's philosophies. In this event there must be change, and great change. Members of this House have watched with gratitude and admiration the courageous struggle of the Russian Army. They may well have wondered as to the sources from which that inspiration for courage has sprung. I do not think that the source is hard to find.
1918 The Russian soldier is as good a patriot as the soldier of any other country, but his patriotism is never conditioned by the fact that somebody is making a profit behind the lines, that there are malpractices being employed in order to evade Excess Profits Tax or that some directors have one eye on the war effort and the other eye on their private post-war prospects. This matter is felt deeply on this side of the House. Everybody knows that these harmful elements exist in the country, and our people cannot feel without qualification that they are working for the community. They feel that they are still working for the boss. Worse than that, they feel in many cases that they are working for a boss with whom they have never been and never will be on cordial terms.
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
Is the hon. Member not aware that in Russia there are hundreds of thousands of people working for profit, as capitalists?
§ Mr. Ridley
This is a serious argument. I want to take the example of the coal industry, and I make no excuse for referring to it now, because it is the basis of the right hon. Gentleman's Production problems. This industry is not only shockingly organised, from production to distribution, but it has a bitter history. Memories of strikes and lock-outs, fought with much bitterness, have been handed down from generation to generation. They were struggles which had their roots in the profit motive, and that motive is still there, tempered, but tempered only, by the Excess Profits Tax. I attach very great importance to the psychological consequences of the sort of allegation which I heard in a mining village the other day, that a colliery company had closed down for the time being a fine, remunerative seam of hard coal and had opened up a big seam of soft and worthless coal, saying that anything would fill a railway wagon now, and the hard coal could well wait until after the war, when people might be a little more discriminating. It would be an education to many hon. Members if they could hear these problems discussed in a miner's cottage or a miners' club. I impress this fact on my right hon. Friend. It poisons the whole atmosphere of Production, and I say with confidence that the transfer of 1919 the industry from private to public ownership in a way that will remove these improper temptations is imperative for the effective carrying-out of his task. The miner in those conditions would be working for the community, and would no longer be working for the boss. What matters to my right hon. Friend is this: Without the maximum production of coal he cannot have the maximum production of guns.
I must say a word now about an industry with which I am more familiar—rail transport. Rail transport is surely of the most considerable importance in my right hon. Friend's work, in the rapid and effective conveying of raw materials, and the rapid conveying and bringing together of spare parts for the assembly lines. Here is an industry which has been forced by this House into some sort of orderly and tidy organisation, but there are still four groups, four directorates, four separate financial structures, and four separate post-war ambitions, all breeding, in war circumstances, suspicions, jealousies and manoeuvrings. Moreover the railway employee knows that 1941, a war year, has been the most prosperous year the railway investor has known for the last four or five years. I suggest that here is a psychological element to which my right hon. Friend must give the most earnest consideration, in order that obstacles of that kind may be removed from his productive powers. I say moreover, with very deep feeling, that if these industries were handled in the fashion I have tried to indicate, millions of people in this country would feel that the Government were tackling their job with resolution and would in consequence be inspired to tackle their own in the same fashion.
My right hon. Friend came to this' House without, so far as I know, any pronounced political history. I hope, therefore, that in these matters he will be courageous enough and modest enough to see this problem of industrial Production realistically, and, as so many of my hon. Friends have so frequently urged him, that he will advance these objectives with courage, defying, if necessary, whatever organisation in this House try to obstruct his path.
§ Lieut.-Colonel H. Guest (Plymouth, Drake)
I want to say that a great deal of 1920 the arguments which we desired to bring up in this Debate have been largely anticipated in the right hon. Gentleman's opening speech, in particular when he spoke of the Joint General Staff of Industry, if we may call it that, in which he is going to bring together representatives of the Forces and of Production. Nothing is more difficult for a manufacturer than when changes of design are introduced. That point has been touched on by so many speakers to-day that it is unnecessary to go into it in greater detail, but I think we should be wise, when changes of design are imminent, at any rate to continue the production of the store we are producing until the changed design can be gradually brought into force and the new store can be manufactured.
The Minister spoke about the Regional boards which he proposes to set up. In some areas and in some businesses, as we well know, the tendency of us all is to apply to the central authority in Whitehall for decisions that we want made. That is because our instinct is that the area board and the area officers have not sufficient power to give a quick and immediate decision on the point raised. If we felt that they had that power, we should immediately apply to them, but it is because we feel that the power is not there that we flood Whitehall with our requests and ask them to solve our problems for us. May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that when he appoints his area officers he should appoint men who have had experience in the manufacturing world, who actually know the technical points on which decisions are so often required, such as the provision of special tools, or a special design, or a special steel that may be required, so that we are not dealing with an official, if I may use the word, but dealing with a practical industrialist who can give us an immediate reply, immediate guidance or immediate advice? We know that throughout industry there is a considerable number of men who are at present employed managing their own firms. I feel sure that arrangements could be come to with these firms to lend these practical men of great experience to administer these areas on behalf of the Ministry of Production, following the Ministry's policy in principle but utilising their own experience, knowledge and skill in giving the necessary decisions which they have to give.
1921 One further point I wish to raise is the question of dockyards. I was not quite happy at the exchange of views which took place across the Table as to what the policy is with regard to naval construction and the naval dockyards. With the greatest respect for the naval authorities, I do not think that they are quite so experienced in Production as is the industry as a whole. I am afraid that I have heard in the constituency which I represent considerable criticism about idle time in a dockyard. The men themselves have come to me and told me that there is a great deal of idle time. I have heard it also from various technical persons who are administering in the yard. Suggestions have been made to me that the interval of waiting time should be devoted either to making tanks, merchant ships or other things required by the State. I know that the Admiralty have to keep certain reserves of labour available in case of need, but I think that if the Minister of Production was to get into consultation with the naval authorities, he would find a big reservoir of potential power which could be brought into force in some of our Admiralty establishments.
The subject of a badge for munition workers has been raised in this House. I have come across it in the industries I have to deal with, in the dockyard situated in my constituency, and also among agricultural workers. Many of them are young men, and they have a feeling that, as they are not in the Services, if they could be scheduled or classified as workers for the State, either in industry, or shipbuilding, or agriculture, it would be a great advantage and a great pleasure to them in their work. With these few suggestions to my right hon. Friend, may I say how much I welcomed the statement he made in the House to-day?
§ Major Owen (Carnarvon)
I hope that I shall be able to follow the example of my immediate predecessor. I intend to be very brief. While having the greatest possible respect for the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Production, I feel sure that he himself does not expect any very great enthusiasm in the House about the programme which he has outlined to-day. Pressure was brought upon this Government and upon its predecessor to appoint a Minister of Production and to establish a Ministry of Supply. It seems 1922 to me that there was far too much delay in bringing that into operation; but I am sure all of us wish the Minister every success in his endeavour to reach 100 per cent. Production in all the industries which have to deal with our war effort.
I rise, particularly, to make two practical points. They affect mainly the aircraft industry. I have had an opportunity lately of visiting two aircraft factories; and what has. been brought to my notice in particular, by the management and by the people working in the factories, is the amount of time that is lost waiting for raw materials which are necessary for the completion of certain parts of aircraft. During a period of six months, 12 months ago, one factory which I have in mind lost only £48 owing to waiting time. Since then, things have deteriorated considerably. Recently, as much as £100 a week has been lost through waiting time. This factory has close on 2,000 people working in it. It was possible for that factory to reduce the waiting time at one period to 0.1 per cent., but during the last few months there has been a definite increase. I know of one factory where only about 150 people are employed. In one week they lost 1,600 hours, and in the previous week, 950 hours. What is the trouble? It is not that the main raw materials, are wanting, but that other small necessary things cannot be obtained from the main contractors. My attention was drawn particularly to forgings, castings, and excruciators. I saw certain parts of aircraft in that factory which had been completed and taken off the jigs, and were lying on the floor of the factory waiting for comparatively small castings and so on in order that the job might be completed.
The Minister has referred to the Regional boards, which he is going to bring up to a greater state of efficiency. He knows, as well as I do, that all over the country there are small foundries, run by men of intelligence. Why is it not possible for these small foundries to be adapted to do this work which is now in short production? I think it would be a very practical thing for the Minister immediately to take in hand. They may not be accustomed to dealing with light alloys; but the men in charge and the workpeople are intelligent people, and I think that, with very little adaptation, they would be 1923 able to produce all that is necessary in the way of forgings, castings and excruciators.
§ Major Owen
I agree. I cannot at the moment see any representative of the Ministry of Labour on the Front Bench, but this is a matter which affects Production and man-power. Under the new regulations certain ages have been de-reserved. Ever so often the management goes to the man-power board and asks for deferment. That is a legitimate thing to do. All managements do that. They get their decision from the man-power boards. In the meantime, because they know that these men are under consideration for deferment, the managements have to make arrangements for other people to take their places and these are women in a large number of cases. Would it not be possible for the Minister, in conjunction with the Minister of Labour and National Service, so to arrange that the moment that the man-power boards give their decision with regard to applications for deferment they should then give a definite date to the management, and say, "We will call your men up, say, on 1st June"? There would be no overlapping with regard to men waiting to be called up and women at the same time and not enough work for both the men and the women to do. That is very necessary, and it can be done by the simple process of administration.
The Minister is starting upon a new and very important task, and I ask him to take his courage in both hands and to tackle the task, which is the greatest with which he has ever been confronted, without fear or favour. To-day we stand in such a position in this country that if we do not make a 100 per cent. effort we may see the end of this country, which has led the way in civilisation for so long.
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
On the whole, the Minister of Production can congratulate himself that he has so far had a fairly easy passage. There was one point to which he referred which I think would meet with the concurrence of the House, and that is the encouragement to form Production committees in factories. I have had sufficient evidence brought before my notice in the past week to show how extraordinarily 1924 successful they are in their operation. I am glad that the old days have almost gone by when, if a man made a recommendation or suggestion to his firm, he was told to get on with his work and mind his own business. Years ago I used to come across that kind of thing in my own works, but I am glad to think that those days are now pretty well gone by. I remember some years ago being in Derby and the late Mr. Wormald, who for 20 or 30 years was manager and director of Rolls-Royce, showed me round the works. He said that I could go into any part of the works except one small building, and I inquired why I could not go into that building. He said that in that building they spent £100,000 a year on experimental work. I asked him, "How many winners do you get from your experimental work?" and he said it was not more than 5 per cent. at the most, but that it paid them and was very well worth it. That 5 per cent. result which Rolls-Royce obtained from their experimental work has done a great deal to make the Rolls-Royce engine what it is to-day, and so in these days of Production, 20 suggestions might be made to the employers of any organisation and only one might be of real advantage, but still it would be well worth while. I congratulate the new Minister of Production upon his intention to foster these committees.
The Deputy Prime Minister, speaking during the week-end and referring to Production, said that the production of warlike stores is 10 times as much as it was at the beginning of the war. Well, that might mean anything or nothing unless you knew what you starred with. To say that the increase in the production of tanks is 10 or 20 times more than it was does not mean a great deal if you did not produce many at the commencement. At the same time we should all recognise the fact that there ought to be this increase when there are millions more people working in munitions to-day than there were at the outbreak of the war. The question we should put to ourselves is the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood): Are we producing 100 per cent.? I am firmly of the opinion that the great majority of employers and employees in the country are pulling their weight. What we want to do is to get hold of the small percentage who are not pulling their 1925 weight. That is the job of the Minister of Production, who has a very difficult task in front of him.
It is common knowledge that there is much waste that could be avoided; there are many complaints and murmurings all over the country. The complaints I have heard in the West Riding of Yorkshire are sometimes almost unbelievable. It has been difficult sometimes to credit that they are accurate and true. If the House will bear with me for a moment or two, I will give one or two examples. I know of an aeroplane factory employing between 3,000 and 4,000 people, of whom between 2,000 and 3,000 are girls. They are supposed to have been on full production for a year, but so far they have produced only eight or nine aeroplanes. The factory has a standing order with the Ministry of Labour to supply 50 girls every week. These girls are trotting into the factory week after week, but when they arrive there, they find that there is no work for them to do. I know it is true, because some of these women have gone from my own works. A week or two ago one of them said, when asked by another girl how she had been getting on, "From Monday until Thursday I did not do anything except smoke and sit about." Yet these 50 girls are being sent to this factory every week. They are being taken from work which they ought to do until they are actually required. I do not mind girls going from my works to more important work. Men and women should go into an industry where their work is most vital for the war effort, but why take workers from my factory, or anyone else's factory, if, when you get them where you want them, you do not make use of them? One girl employed in a cafe in Leeds, earning 35s. a week, is now at this aeroplane works earning £7 a week. She has said that she is a pass-over, but that she has nothing to pass.
A gentleman who has an official Government position in Leeds to-day worked at this particular factory for over a year, at the end of which he was so disappointed because he was having so little work to do, and could see no results for his efforts, that he made application to be transferred from the factory. He was refused. He then threatened to write to the Ministry of Labour for a transfer, and on advising the firm of this fact he was released. This man has stated that 1926 if there ever was a monument of inefficiency, it is this aeroplane factory. Last Saturday I was speaking in my Division at a meeting in connection with Warship Week. A well-known gentleman came to me and told me that the day before he had been talking to a man who had been working for seven weeks in this same factory, and the man had said, "In the seven weeks I have not earned £1." I will also tell the House that a very important personage—I do not care to mention the name—wanted to look through this factory only three weeks ago. The manager of the factory asked, "When does the visitor want to come?" He was told, "Saturday morning, between 11.30 and 12." He replied, "No, will you try to arrange for the visitor to come not later than 11 a.m., because although we close the factory at 12.30 on Saturday, nothing is done after 12 o'clock. We want the visitor to come at 11, before the work tames off for the day. In any case, we always allow the girls to go at 20 minutes past 12." Ten minutes may not appear to be much, but 3,000 times 10 minutes is 500 working hours gone, and if they leave off at 12 o'clock, it is 1,500 working hours.
This kind of slackness is going on, and it is very difficult for hon. Members who have experienced that sort of thing to go into their Divisions, as I have recently, to make appeals during Warship Weeks. The workpeople in the districts repeatedly say, "Is it good enough, is it fair, when we are having to find the money, that we should hear of these things going on?" This sort of thing is not confined to this factory only. I apologise to the House for having taken up time in giving these examples, but I have done so only because they are indicative of scores of cases all over the country. It is the job of the Minister of Production to look into this matter and to stop it ruthlessly.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aircraft Production (Mr. Ben Smith)
Will the hon. Gentleman say where the factory is?
§ Sir G. Gibson
I will give the hon. Gentleman the name afterwards. I often hear in the House statements about people receiving £5, £6, £7 or £8 a week. I do not mind what they get if they produce the goods. These people have only their labour to sell, and no one can blame them if they sell it in the best market. In 1927 my opinion, the reason many of these high wages are paid where the work is not satisfactory is solely bad organisation and bad management. There is too much of one factory bidding against another for an employee and the wages going up, not because the man necessarily produces a greater amount of work. There is only one proper standard on which payment should be based, and that is the quantity and quality of the goods produced by the employee. In my opinion, whenever it is possible, and particularly in repetition work, there should be introduced a bonus or piece-work system. I do not care two straws what the unions think. As one who has been in industry for many years, my view is that the best man should be given the most money. The man who is prepared to put forth his utmost effort, the man who is the most highly skilled, should be given the reward for his work. The piece-work rate should be fixed according to what the day-work rate is throughout the industry, and if that were done, production would go up from 10 to 50 per cent.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that in many cases the highly skilled man does not do repetition work, but is kept on specialised work that does not carry with it a piece rate, and that, therefore, the highest skilled man is often the poorest-paid man in the factory?
§ Mr. Woods (Finsbury)
In the case which the hon. Member has mentioned the cause of slackness is not due to the employees, but to lack of administration. But, by his system, he would condemn the employees to be compulsorily employed on a piece-work basis.
§ Sir G. Gibson
I am not condemning anyone except bad managements. It is no use my criticising in this sphere unless I suggest to the House some improvements to deal with the situation. I quite agree with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). In my own works we have men whom we cannot make piece workers, although I am a red hot believer in that system. I would, however, point out that these men get higher rates of pay for time work. I have a number of men in my works, working in the same room, who can, on an average, earn between £5 and £6 per week. There are several men in the same room, working 1928 on the same job and at the same rate, who are earning £2 a week more. They are producing the goods, so why should they not have the money, if the quality is there? Therefore, I consider that this method should be introduced more fully into the national factories. You can spend millions of pounds on flew factories and equip them with the most perfect machinery, but, unless you have at the various departments heads and controllers with skill and experience, you cannot run them successfully.
My suggestion to the Minister of Supply and to the new Minister of Production is to bring some of these national factories under the wing of existing first-class firms. Controllers cannot be made in a day. The quality of management is more important than the quality of the factory, equipment and machinery. In my opinion, that is one of the reasons why we are suffering in our new Ordnance factories; it has not been humanly possible to train men as heads of departments, a job which can only be learned over years of experience. Control and organisation of a department can only come by the passing of time. I know of a munition factory in Yorkshire which has continuously been in difficulties. I have a friend who is a director of a very important engineering firm, employing between 3,000 £.nd 4,000 hands, which is also in the West Riding. The management of the first factory have repeatedly asked my friend to send up his best machine-tool men to set them on the right line, but my friend points out that they have their own business to look after, "but, if the Government—and there is no financial gain to us, because we already pay E.P.D.—said, 'Take these people under your wing,' we would send our best men and put them on the right lines and keep them there." I asked a previous Minister of Supply why they could not carry out this policy, a 5 was carried out in connection with Beardmore. His reply was that there were political considerations, and it was very difficult. There are no political considerations in this country which should enter into the minds of the Ministers of Supply and Production. Nothing matters except maximum production.
§ Sir G. Gibson
Yes, on both sides. One of my friends is the head of one of the best firms in the North of England, which 1929 employs from 2,000 to 3,000 people. It is recognised as one of the finest firms in the country. He told me, "God help my firm if it had to come under entire Government control." A short time ago 50 young men in the Army, tired of inaction, volunteered to go back into industry. A firm in Leeds applied to the Minister of Labour for 50 labourers, and these 50 young men, all of whom had passed through Government training centres, volunteered. They were sent to the firm. They lose their Army pay, but get so much a week lodging money, and they are working for a labourer's wage in the metal industry. The firm they went to are delighted with the way they are working. One of them desired to get into the aircraft industry and applied to the Ministry of Labour, but they said, "No, stay where you are." He cannot be put as a skilled man to do a skilled man's job in an aircraft factory, but must stay as a labourer in the metal factory. Why cannot that policy be adopted for other industries, of taking thousands of men out of the Army who are bored stiff with nothing to do and have learned all their military training?
Another point to which I should like to refer is with regard to fixing prices for contracts. I have time after time heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that the old system of fixing contracts on the basis of price plus profit has gone by the Board and the Government have adopted a policy of fixed prices. It is a most peculiar kind of fixed-price contract, because anyone who accepts a contract under Form U.L.I is subject to having his profits looked over at a later date. It is too silly for words. The price having been agreed, why should we be wasting the time of thousands of accountants and thousands of industrialists, with committee meetings and conferences without end? It is time a little common sense was introduced into the question. It is almost unbelievable, but I took the matter up with a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply, and I put it to him that it seemed absurd that the question of a contract should be reopened a year and a half later because the Department was under the impression that too much profit had been made. I asked, Why did they not stand by the agreed price, and, if it so happened that a man made a loss, let him suffer it, but if he was so efficient that he made a profit, let 1930 him keep it, because in all probability he would have to pay it back in Excess Profits Tax or Income Tax? I received the extraordinary reply that these prices are fixed so high in order that the less efficient firms might make a profit. Did one ever hear anything so absurd? I see an hon. Friend opposite shaking his head, but I will send him a copy of the letter, and he will see it in black and white.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. Assheton)
It was not from me, was it?
§ Sir G. Gibson
No, it was not. Efficient firms should not be penalised because they make bigger profits than the inefficient firms. They should receive the benefit of their shrewdness, their endeavour, their initiative, or whatever pep they put into their works, and those who cannot make profits should go down and should not be successful. Thousands of Government accountants are wasting their time and the time of industrialists all over the country. I hope that the Minister of Supply will pass on to the Minister of Production what I have said about this enormous waste of effort. In my industry alone there are scores of these men spending hour after hour going into our figures, even as far back as March, 1940. What does it matter to us? It only means we pay back to them instead of to the Chancellor. There is no benefit to the nation. That is why I cannot understand why these accountants are worrying industrialists to death when there is nothing at the end of it to help the country.
I hope that the poor little sub-contractors will be borne in mind. I have in mind a case which came to my notice a little time ago of a small engineering firm which could not get any orders from the Government. Since then they have, and they have proved themselves highly efficient. For a considerable time, however, they could not get orders because they were entirely under the control of chief contractors. If a chief contractor does not want a small contractor to get an order, the latter is left out in the cold and cannot get anything. I hope that the Minister of Production will see that the small contractors get a fair show. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that out of 27,000 firms only 1,000 employed more than 500 people. The report of the Chief Inspector of Factories for 1936 showed 1931 that 77 per cent. of the firms in the country employed fewer than 25, and 97 per cent. fewer than 250. Only 0.4 per cent. of the firms employed over 1,000. Sir William Beveridge said on the wireless the other night that the country was not fully organised for war and that the Government could do better. I hope the Minister of Production will take these few words to heart' and that he will forge ahead ruthlessly with all the force at his command, ignoring every political influence.
Mr. Lo—an (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
I have listened with pleasure to much of the speaking to-day about the problem that lies before the Minister. At my home I have three boys in engineering jobs, so that it can easily be understood that year in, year out for the last 25 years the scrubbing tub and engineering have been in my mind. I aim aware of many of the difficulties of employers of labour in a great city like Liverpool, which I take as typical, and I am also aware of the wonderful help that we in Liverpool have received from the Ministry of Labour in regard to finding labour. I must pay that tribute. I do not give many tributes. Out of what wag in many instances chaos we are getting a semblance of shape. But I am not satisfied, taking things as a whole, that we are working a full 24-hour day in industry in spite of the crisis through which we are passing. Looking round this assembly, and with my Celtic temperament, I should not call this a mass assembly. Members seem to have as much interest in Production as they have in their Parliamentary duties. We have many complaints of what is happening in the country. If we had as many complaints about Members of Parliament who are not looking after their duties, it would be much better for the country and all concerned. We have in this country workshops and valuable machines. Plant cannot be put up everywhere, and there ought to be no lathe or boring machine in any factory unless it is fully employed.
I do not know anything about the strategy of war, but I know how to run a workshop, I know how to use labour, and if I were paying for it, I should want some return for the money I was paying. I ask myself as an ordinary business man—not as a member of the Labour party— "What would you do in running a 1932 factory?" I do not know that a Labour man running a factory would be different from any other man. In the first place he would say, "If I am going to pay you, I shall want the job done." In the second place he would say, "If you don't turn up, you will have to go." And then, if he could not get things going, he would shut the whole show up and try something different. That is what we shall have to do. To-day we have dilution of labour. I remember it in the last war. I remember the engineer getting 38s. 6d. a week—and he was the cream among our workers in those days. After the dilution of labour he was paid less than the scavengers in the streets. Some people seem to think a solution of the present situation is to be found in training a person for about three months, putting him into an engineering shop and expecting him to be able to turn out guns and other mechanised things which are essential in war. It cannot be done. You cannot make engineers, any more than you can make miners, in a matter of three months. You cannot send them to night school or have lecturers to tell them how to do it.
We are having too many theorists and not enough practical men. We want, and the sooner we get it the better, practical men in the engineering shops to supervise the work. It is no use tolling me that we have not men who have come out of cafes superintending affairs in our workshops, because I know that we have. It is no use denying that thirty-bob-a-week girls in one place are going to another place and getting £4 a week, because they are—and, unfortunately, they are not doing any work. I have never been taught to be a flunkey, to put on a man's coat or dust his coat, and when I come to this House with a complaint, I come to it as a place where I can demand a reply from the Minister. If any Minister thinks I am coming along in a craven capacity because he has a higher post and a greater responsibility, he is making a big mistake about his humble servant. I am not inclined to go cap in hand to any Minister. I have seen so many of them come and go on that side of the House that I prefer my job to theirs. Therefore I may have a little more independence of character or a little more reliability in regard to salary and in regard to the job. I think the insurance that I am covering is much safer for me.
1933 A fortnight ago I had occasion to approach a Minister in this House. Corning forward to approach a Minister to ask him to spare a minute or two is a thing that ought not to be allowed in this House, considering that one may have spared hours in helping to get him his job or his seat—although sometimes it is a puzzle to me how some of them get there. It has been a greater puzzle to me how some of them get here. These problems are like the Sphinx or the Pyramids, and we are not able to solve them. We are talking about constructive ability. There are men on that side of the House who have had practical experience of labour problems. It is no use our closing our eyes to the fact that workpeople in our workshops have been grumbling because they have not been able to get the work to do—not because they are getting overpaid. Employers are saying that they are not able to disband the workers. When you have a good lot of tool-men and mechanics, as well as men able to handle lathes and borer machines, why should you get rid of them? You should do nothing of the kind; you should keep them together so that when the order comes you will be able to get the output. Such a staff takes some getting together, in the world of mechanics to-day, really good and honest men to work in your workshop.
That job ought to be the job of somebody, and I ask myself, "Whom should we listen to? To M.P.'s who know absolutely nothing about the job—and most of you do not—or should we listen to the practical men on the job?" You might give me a diamond ring, or a work of art, to look at, or a sapphire, and I could tell you its value, but if you asked me to bore out, to find the centre, to work to a "thou," as I hear them say, or "can you use a micrometer?" it would be jargon to me. It would be just like Greek, and I would have no knowledge of it whatever. This new Ministry is being set up to deal with the question of production, 2½ years after the war has started; in three months, other nations have ended. I want to know. What length of life do you think you have, to go on talking about reorganisation and organisation? Are you going on until you are as old as Methuselah? Or when do you think you are going to get on with the job? There were three Prime Ministers—three of 1934 them, and they all should have been hanged—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] In what order?
Three have gone, and we have been sending expeditions abroad without the goods to supply our men. We have sent from our own homes—two from mine at the present time, and from my street hundreds have gone—and they are lacking in the things that are essential to fight, not for victory, but even to protect their own lives. Yet we are asking to-day, after two and a half years of war, "Have we organised, what rate of pay are we getting, what Excess Profits Tax are we paying, have we worked this system of finance all right?" Anybody coming on to this planet, into this House of Commons, and listening to such twaddle at a time like this would think we had literally gone mad. [Interruption.] I am not touched, but I have a good idea of others when they are. We talk of liberty, we talk of protecting our people; how can we protect if we do not produce? How can we mind our families and those dependent upon us unless we have production? Are we to curtail the liberty of those who may be over us in production? Does the problem arise as to whether the Minister of Production will collaborate with the Minister of Labour, will there by a row with the Minister of Labour, will he agree with the Minister of Production? You talk like a lot of children, not like Members of Parliament. To read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT will make the people outside believe that we are not fit to rule, and that it is no wonder the country is in such a state.
I want to speak only to the responsible person, and that is the Minister, not to any office boy or to anybody who is running around thinking he is important. I want to speak to the Minister. I well remember that five or six years ago, sitting on that seat below the Gangway, the man who is now the Prime Minister was the greatest critic of the Government. He told the nation then of our wants, and he has told us now that we still require certain things. We do. We require guts. We require the closing of the eyes of some of the Ministers, and getting on with the job. We require them to take more initiative and more responsibility. I at 1935 least require them to have the guts to interfere with those who obstruct them in their job, and to come to this House and tell us, and the nation, that the puppets behind the scenes are not fit to govern and are obstructing them in their work. Either they are fit to govern or they are not. If this nation to-day cannot produce the goods, then we are decadent, and we should go. I believe that we are greater to-day than ever we were. I Relieve in the young men who have sacrificed their lives, and when I look on the courage of young Esmond, who went straight into death, and other men of his type giving all for the land, it sickens me, after two and a half years of war, to hear people here asking whether we shall now get on with the job and produce. We have been dreaming and sleeping. Rip van Winkle is awake. The crisis is at hand, and work, not play, ought to be the order of the day.
§ Mr. Levy (Elland)
A good deal of what the last speaker has said is perfectly true, and I agree with him, but in the few observations I wish to make I wish to be helpful and not carpingly critical. If we all agree that the basis of Production—and after all, this war will be won or lost by Production—is coal, why is it that a commodity with which this country has been endowed by nature in superabundance should be the shortest of the lot? My right hon. Friend will not be able to increase Production, or even to maintain Production, unless he endeavours to obtain an adequate coal supply. Let me give an instance, if I may. Let me assume that a factory or a mill requires 100 tons of coal per week and that mill is either arbitrarily reduced or asked to use less, and all it gets is 80 tons of coal per week. That mill or factory, with the best will in the world, is bound to balance its production to that 80 tons of coal per week, despite whatever may be on its order book. It is no use saying that because a number of men are put on short time it is bad management; it is no use saying that those men are not working to the utmost of their ability, because they cannot continue with the work owing to the lack of motor power produced by the lack of coal.
Therefore, it is quite obvious that what is fundamental for my right hon. Friend is to see to it that he gets an adequate 1936 coal supply. We all know that the target which was set was somewhere about 225,000,000 tons of coal. We are getting now only something like 207,000,000 of. 208,000,000. What would be the number of men required to make up the difference; shall we say, between 208,000,000 and 225,000,000? I am suggesting to my right hon. Friend that we require at least 30,000 or 40,000 men to be put back into the coal mines, which would probably provide some amount of-labour to make up for the wastage that is bound to happen. It is no use complaining that the mining output per man is less than it was, because the young men, or most of them, have been taken away, and an elderly man, with the best will in the world, cannot produce the same amount of output per man as a younger man. A great deal of this talk about men, not doing their bit and slacking is grossly exaggerated, and it is not fair.
I wish to call attention to what I would call the bottle-necks of administration, and if my right hon. Friend can clear some of them out of the way, he- will then have a clear path and be able to go ahead. The Minister of Labour says that no one shall be deferred for more than six months. It does not require a Sherlock Holmes to know that there is a glorious uncertainty in the mind, not only of the employer, but of the employee. It is no answer to say that the key men will not be taken away, because the Ministry of Labour have done so many stupid things, and industry knows that you cannot rely upon it. If we can give conscientious objectors conditional and unconditional deferment, why cannot we give to our skilled key men unconditional deferment for making a real productive effort, in their own capacity, to the national good?
I would like to follow one of my hon. Friends in some observations he made. I want to refer to costings. I am not going to argue the merits or demerits of the standard, but there is a standard. If that is right, what is the good of this expensive, elaborate system of costings? On every contract, from every Department to every industrialist in the country, there is a costing. It means thousands of accounts, it means experts, it occupies the time of a number of men in the Ministry, it occupies the time of the administrative and clerical staff of the factory, it is an administrative bottle-neck, and all these men are doing nothing productive. The 1937 Government themselves are paying twice over, because the cost of all this is added to the cost of the goods. What does it matter if there is some extra profit? E.P.T. takes it, anyhow; so why bother about this elaborate system, which is irritating to every employer, and which does no good? My right hon. Friend ought to do away with that. I do not say that there ought to be no costings system at all. If you suspect that there is a wangle with any particular firm, by all means put in the costings clause, but why put in the costings clause where there is a price fixed by the control for repetition work, where the same thing goes on day alter day, month after month? That is beyond my comprehension. Something must be done about the irritation and annoyance which are caused by this intolerable nonsense. It occurs to me that my right hon. Friend will have difficulty with his production unless he receives from the Services a comprehensive programme covering a long period, so that he can allocate the work.
The programme to-day seems to me to be made up of so much to be produced in this country, and then to rely on imports for the rest. I think we are laying too great a stress on the promises from America. I do not wish to be disrespectful of America, but we all know the difficulties that are being experienced there. If you want to find an optimist now, the definition is, "One who relies on the promises of America."
§ Mr. Levy
Yes, I am trying to be careful; but I want also to be helpful. We should produce all we can in this country, so as to be as independent as possible; and then everything that we get from America is all to the good. But to rely for material which can be produced in this country on what is coming from America would result, I think, in your waking up one fine day and finding yourself very short of that material.
Let me say something about a subject which seems to me to be important: the method of taxing the working man. It is important, because we do not expect the Treasury to take any interest in the psychological effect upon the working man. If a man was earning big money last year and small money this year, but is 1938 having deducted from his pay packet a large amount, probably very much greater than the amount being deducted from his fellow worker earning perhaps the same amount of money, all these high-sounding phrases and vital considerations of patriotism are somewhat obscured by the necessary problem of ways and means for that man when he takes his packet home. Therefore, although this has to do with the Treasury, it has a very major effect upon Production. The more a man works, the more he earns, but the more is taken away from him and the less is his reward, particularly if he is married and his wife goes to work as well. I came across a case only the day before yester day of a man and wife, the man earning £4 a week, and the wife, who had never been to work previously, earning £6. He picked up 30s. out of his £4 to take home, but his wife naturally had her £6. Fantastic and absurd as it may seem, the husband made the wife give up her job, and he kept on with his £4 a week job, You cannot get Production that way. If a man and woman work in their own spheres, and they are to be called upon to make a contribution—and I cannot defend any reason why they should not make their contribution—it has a great effect upon Production—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. Member has for some time been talking upon matters which cannot be dealt with without legislation, and he cannot discuss legislation on the Motion for the Adjournment.
§ Mr. G. Griffiths
On a point of Order. Cannot we talk about this from the standpoint of Production, because it affects Production? If it affects Production and we are not able to talk about it, then some of us will not have a chance later in the Debate.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
No doubt the hon. Member will manage to discover some method by which he can drag in his points without disobeying the Rules of Order.
§ Mr. Levy
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I think I have said enough, but perhaps I may be forgiven mentioning to my right hon. Friend that he ought to collaborate with the Treasury and endeavour to deal with this matter. I conclude as I started, because I would like to emphasise again to the utmost of my power the need for my right hon. Friend seeing to it that the Ministry of Labour take men away from the Army and put them into the coal mines so that we shall get an increased supply and a superabundance of coal, which is the basis of Production. All the talking in the world, all the good will and all the efforts that you are asking everybody to make will be unavailing unless you have the motive power to drive the machine, and that brings us back to coal.
§ Mr. Daggar (Abertillery)
In anticipation of being suspected of making an unhelpful speech let me say, on behalf of myself, and my colleagues who hold similar views, that we want to win this war. No sacrifice do we consider too great to achieve that object and unless we attain that object we cannot win the peace, which is an equally important consideration. I. hold the view that you cannot effectively prosecute total war upon the principle of the private or individual ownership of the means necessary to prosecute that war. To attempt to do so, I submit, means that you create—in fact, you have it at the moment—a clash or conflict between the interests of the individual and the interests of the nation. That opposition or antagonism should not be tolerated at a time when the country is fighting for its very existence. You cannot destroy that opposition between the two interests either by control, co-ordination or unreal co-operation, even if it takes the form of the appointment of a brand new Minister of State.
State ownership, in my opinion, is the only solution. I have previously expressed that view from these benches and I would now complete the quotation which was made in his speech by the hon. Member for Pudsey and Otley (Sir G. Gibson). It was from no less an authority than Sir William Beveridge who, if it is any satisfaction to members of the Government, has not sought permission to join the Socialist party. He says in an article in "The Times":We have carried on into the war with too little change the peace-time economic 1940 structure of the country and the system of economic reward.He also says:We have left vital production in the hands of individuals whose duty ii was to consider, not solely the needs of the ration in war, but the interests of shareholders and what would be the position of their businesses after the war.That, in much better language than I can command, sums up the case we have endeavoured to put from these benches whenever we have had the opportunity. The issue we are discussing in this Debate is of paramount importance. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Luton (Mr. Burgin) observed recently during a Debate, when you go from the rather unnatural atmosphere of this House to a big industrial centre, you find another change. You find a sense of threat, a sense of frustration and a sense of impediment. That feeling must have been felt by other Members of this House. To remove it is our responsibility. That feeling is due to the fact that not all is well with our war Production. Few persons, even members of the Government, are satisfied, I think, with the scale of present-day war Production. There is a growing feeling of dissatisfaction with the nation's productive effort. This feeling is not the monopoly of any one section of the British nation, although the dissatisfaction has been expressed to me by working people, those individuals who do the work, and who desire an opportunity to do more. Such an attitude on the part of the workpeople should be encouraged, and the demands that we make from time to time from these Benches ought not to be dismissed as another example of popular clamour. On 25th February, when the Lord Privy Seal made reference in the House to the proposed powers of the new Minister, he said:It is hoped that it will be unnecessary to define these powers with any greater degree of accuracy, because the less the definition, the wider the powers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1942; col. 320, Vol. 378.]I suppose that the latter phrase belongs to the new legal philisophy, probably the result of a fusion between a Left politician and a Tory diehard. But whatever may be the explanation, we can easily perceive the flagrant distinction once again between the attitude of the Government towards persons and their attitude towards property, the individuals who 1941 have economic and financial interests to preserve. When dealing with the conscription of labour, the Minister of Labour had his powers well defined, not only in Acts of Parliament, but also in Regulations. When asked what functions the new Minister would exercise as regards Production, the Lord Privy Seal told us that the new Minister would exercise supervision, co-ordination and the giving of a vigorous initiative over the whole field of Production. Does a single Member of the House feel convinced that so immense a task is possible of achievement, and by one new Minister? I do not. In my opinion, it cannot be done under the existing economic arrangements. It is a formidable undertaking even to supervise Production, not to mention either coordination or a vigorous initiative over the whole field of Production. Whatever is done, ineffectiveness will be the characteristic feature of any action taken by the new Minister, especially if the Minister is not given powers as drastic as those possessed by the Minister of Labour. Those powers may be in existence. What I am anxious to know is whether they will be given to the Minister, and, what is much more important, whether he will use those powers.
As an instance, an effort is being made in many parts of the country to set up Production committees in factories and industries generally, but this proposal is not meeting with the immediate success it deserves, because it is alleged by representatives of the financial interests in this country that it interferes with the function of management. It is claimed by no less an authority than the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) that it would be a grave day for industrial life, and for the relations of industry itself, if we transferred, either in whole or in part, any substantial share of the executive power of industry to bodies elected by workers. A conference of war workers was held in Birmingham, on 16th March, when a delegate stated that out of 52 attempts which were made by his union to set up Production committees, only 18 had been successful. I suppose that that statement to which I have referred is a new way of assisting the war effort, but such speeches as those made by the hon. Member for Moseley and the hon. and gallant Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes), whose prattling about slacking 1942 causes considerable annoyance, do more harm to the successful prosecution of this war than a dozen cartoons in the "Daily Mirror." Some men are anxious to die in harness; others should be relieved of that obligation, and should be made a charge upon the Members of Parliament Old Age Pension Fund. In my opinion these committees are necessary. Even a paper which has nothing in common with us has stated:In factories where they exist, these committees have proved of value as channels for suggestions from the workers, and also as a means of explaining to them the causes of inevitable hitches and delays. They have thus contributed to the maintenance of morale and often to an increase in output per man.If these committees are a success where they have been established, why is no power taken by the Government to enforce their establishment throughout the whole of industry? Are the Government afraid of the support that they are now receiving from the General Council of the Trades Union Congress, or are they timid of the opposition of the Federation of British Industries? I shall be interested in the powers exercised by the Minister in forcing the formation of these committees throughout industry. As I have already stated, it is proposed that the Minister shall, in addition to exercising powers of supervision over Production, co-ordinate and give vigorous initiative over the entire field of Production. Without the slightest desire to be presumptuous, I wonder whether the meaning of these words is clear, and whether we fully appreciate the existing conditions of Production. What are these conditions? I am indebted to be able to quote as an authority a person who broadcast on this subject quite recently. Part of his speech was published in the "Listener" on 24th September. This is what this authority—Harold Whltehead—states:The Government, through the various Supply Ministers, is actually the principal and in multitudes of cases the only customer industry has. Kick hard at ministerial mistakes by all means, but at the same time keep in mind the size of the job, and the fact that we are now entering the third year and producing quite a lot.These are the figures to which I wish to direct attention. He continues:One Ministry, the Ministry of Supply, has 12,000 main contractors, and these main contractors have thousands of sub-contractors. The output of this multitude of factories must fit together in the war effort like pieces in a jig-saw puzzle.1943 One Ministry, supplied by 12,000 undertakings with a host of sub-contractors in addition, will require an effort to supervise, co-ordinate and give initiative. This has become necessary because the Government were afraid to assume ownership of their undertakings. The jig-saw puzzle was created because the Government refused to deal with property, although they did not hesitate to deal with human beings. Now it is proposed to supervise and co-ordinate in addition to control. Our policy as Socialists is usually condemned because in the opinion of our opponents it would mean a form of bureaucracy. Under the new Minister, unless a miracle happens, there will be a few more officials appointed to undertake the task which has been set him. Last week I saw a list of the existing controllers and they number 36. One or two more will make very little difference. I imagine that the financial interests represented in the House need not be unduly disturbed, because all the controllers, 36 of them, are chairmen or managing directors of the largest capitalist combines in the industries concerned, and some of them who during the greater part of their lives have been engaged in restricting Production are now engaged in an attempt to expand Production in the interests of the nation.
No one envies the job of the new Minister. It is stated that he has well-established himself in the City. Heaven knows what that means, but is is hoped and expected that he will seek powers, and use them, to disestablish the interests of some people in industry who are more concerned about their post-war positions than about the prosecution of the war. It is time that the dead hand of the self-styled patriots was removed from industry. We have heard Members decrying the Excess Profits Tax. They are always clamouring for a reduction on the ground that the imposition of the tax removes from industry the motive of personal gain. The nation has always existed as a means to the satisfaction of their insatiable desire for profit, a desire which has not weakened during this struggle, and no sacrifice of other people's lives has any effect on them.
I feel that production for war should have commenced at the stage which we reached at the end of the last war, but a Tory Administration made that impos- 1944 sible. The influence of the industrial interests was too strong. When some Members on this side argued that position, we were accused of exploiting the war to further our own political programme and policy. Had it been true, it was no different from the attitude of our critics. Probably every Member of the House has received, in spite of the alleged paper shortage, a copy of a speech delivered by Mr. Philip Runciman, a name that is familiar to some of us, at a meeting of the Chamber of Shipping of the United Kingdom on 26th ult., in which he thanked one of his comrades, Lord Leathers, for his vigour, grasp of affairs, etc., and looked to him to steer British shipping clear of nationalisation, an appropriate remark from the representative of an industry which partly exists upon the use of public money. The new Minister will experience little difficulty in imposing a measure of control upon such individuals as long as he does not impair their rights of ownership. The appointment of a Minister of Production is the result of a re-shuffle, but it will not solve the problem of a satisfactory and effective war Production. It may be a step in the right direction, but certainly no more. The Minister may have great powers given him; he may possess the desire, the will, the drive and the energy required for such a task; but with all these qualities I fear we shall still have the position that was pointed out in an article in the "Times" of 3rd January, entitled "Brakes on Production." The article contained these words:There is no supreme informed body which plans and controls Production to the advantage of the war machine as a whole.In my submission, that control is completely impossible until we first own the industries necessary to prosecute the war to a successful issue.
§ Colonel Arthur Evans (Cardiff, South)
At this late hour I do not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman in his advocacy of nationalisation of the industries of this country in the midst of a war for life or death. Indeed, I think it would not be very helpful if we attempted to change horses in that vigorous style in the most dangerous part of the stream. As it is late I am not surprised that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Da vies) has temporarily left the Chamber, but I would like to say a few words about his speech. I 1945 noticed that when the hon. and learned Gentleman has addressed the House on recent occasions he has done so with considerable passion. That is a matter for regret, because it appears to me somewhat to cloud his judgment. He generally paints with a very heavy brush, and, in his speech to-day, I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that he grossly exaggerated the whole scene. In the first part of his speech he accused my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production of having no vision. He said that there was no alteration in his policy at all, but a few moments later he charged him with not having put this new policy into operation before. For my part I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on what I consider to be a very clear exposition of a complicated scheme of responsibility. It was certainly much clearer than the White Paper recently issued, when Lord Beaverbrook was going to be charged with this responsibility. What I liked most of all was the spirit of my right hon. Friend's speech. It struck me as being good, and in just the spirit required. He did not suggest in the way in which he presented his case that he anticipated any difficulties in the relations which he must of necessity have with the three other Ministers most concerned. I felt more encouraged by the method of approach of my right hon. Friend to this problem than I did by the somewhat complicated guidance published in the original White Paper.
I particularly welcome the decision of the Government to co-ordinate our Supply and Production services in the United States under an officer of Ministerial rank. That is extremely important, and while I would be the last man in any way to depreciate the value of the dynamic personality of the Noble Lord who is discharging these duties in the United States at present, I feel that when the initial stages have been passed it would be well if we were represented by a Minister in the United States with Parliamentary experience behind him and, above all, with a practical knowledge of the American people and their industrial system, so that he can co-ordinate our efforts in that country. Hon. Members who have spent some time in the United States will realise that their methods are different from ours, their attitude of mind and their approach to problems are different, and in order to discharge this 1946 job with efficiency, it is, I venture to suggest to the Government, absolutely essential that men of practical experience of the American methods of work should be sent to the United States.
I really rose to refer to the question of labour and man-hours available in the aircraft industry in this country. The House will recollect that last week I ventured to draw attention to an important instance of absenteeism in an aircraft factory near London. It was disclosed by the Minister who replied to my Question that upwards of 500 people, more than one-third of the personnel of the factory, absented themselves without leave in order to attend a sporting function of some kind. It must be obvious that particularly in the case of an aircraft factory engaged solely on assembly it is quite impossible for the works manager to make plans to produce an agreed number of planes if he cannot rely with any degree of certainly on the number of workers who will be at his disposal. The present system is, as I see it, as inefficient as it is indefensible. Let me say that, in common with most Members, I take the view that in the interests of the most efficient production, whether in the South Wales docks, in coal mines, steel works or factories producing aircraft, it is absolutely essential that the workers should have a minimum of at least one full day a week free and, when it is possible and practicable, a half-day in addition. The scheme which I propose to submit to the House will achieve that end, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, whom I see on the Treasury Bench, will consider my proposals.
The first essential for a high degree of Production is an assured amount of labour available to the works manager. I am sure that I shall carry my hon. Friends of the Labour Party above the Gangway with me when I say that to achieve this organised labour must accept the principle that all workers must attend punctually at their work and remain there for an agreed number of hours, whether the total hours of work are made up by so-called normal working hours plus overtime or not. In this particular factory the normal working hours are 60 a week. Their ordinary working hours are, however, only 47 a week, and that means that for 13 hours a week they attend that factory at their own will and discretion. During those 13 hours, if convenient to them, 1947 they can walk out without "by your leave," or not attend at all. Therefore it is impossible for any factory engaged on an assembly line to make plans to fit in with the minimum number of output units that are required.
I suggest that it is essential in the national interest that the Minister of Labour should, by regulation, amend the Essential Work Order, in order to give the works manager full control over workers' activities when they are in the factory, whether part of the time is overtime or not. In the case I have put before the House, several workers did not turn up at all, or they left the work' at midday without notifying the foreman. I can assure hon. Members that such behaviour was not in accordance with the views of the majority of the workers. It was contrary to their views; indeed, there was an angry feeling on the matter. They felt they were being let down by a minority of people who were taking advantage of their own patriotism in working the full hours per day.
The position could be met if, throughout the factories of the country, what is known as the rota system were put into operation; that is to say, one week a worker might have Sunday off, next week Monday, the following week Tuesday, and so on, as the case might be. With the restrictions which are in operation in some parts of the provinces it is not much fun for a worker to always have Sunday off, because there is very little for him to do, whether he wishes to rest or to indulge in a certain amount of recreation. On the rota system, if he had a weekday off, he could pass his time according to his own will, like any other person, irrespective of the work in which he might be engaged. I am confident that if that were common practice throughout the country, it would go a long way to overcome some of the present unrest.
What is galling to the average person is not that he is being compelled to do a certain thing by regulation or order, but the knowledge that his next-door neighbour or neighbour at the factory bench can please himself whether he honours his obligations like other people or not. I agree that we are fighting for freedom and that the proposal which I am making might seem contrary to that ideal, but if we are not prepared to put some part of 1948 our freedom into the ice-box until victory has been achieved, there will be little freedom left for any of us to enjoy after the war is over. I ask the Government to take an early opportunity of announcing their policy in this respect. Let them tell the country that, if it is necessary in the national interest to threaten a person with prison for destroying a bus ticket, it is of equal national importance to introduce a penal sanction for industrial absence without leave, as with military absence without leave.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman apply that penal sanction to compel workers to attend a factory when there was no work there for them to perform?
§ Colonel Evans
I think that, from the practical point of view, it is essential that they should attend, but if there are conditions outside the control of the management, if, for instance, the raw material is not there then rather than have them sitting about knitting or smoking as the case may be, the management should, if it cannot use their services in any other department, go along and frankly tell them so, and let them take the time off while the opportunity presents itself. I should not regard it as industrial efficiency to make a lot of people sit around in a factory with nothing to do, just because it is within certain hours. On the contrary, I share my hon. Friend's point of view. I would take the opportunity of telling them that they might have to work very hard to-morrow and the next day, but meantime they might take the time off while there was a chance.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman go one step further? An instance has been mentioned of 3,000 people engaged for 12 months producing planes, but in fact doing very little work. Would he apply the penal code to any of those workers during those 12 months?
§ Colonel Evans
I must have expressed myself badly, because my hon. Friend does not seem to have got the point. I heard that case referred to but before expressing a judgment, I should like to know more about it. What I would say in general is this: First, if it is necessary for people in a factory to be unemployed, even if only for a few hours, tell them 1949 why. Give them the reason, so that they can appreciate the position. If it so happens that the factory would be deprived of material for weeks and months, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Pudsey and Otley (Sir G. Gibson), then surely the Ministry of Labour is in a position to use the workers elsewhere. But when it is a question of an uncertainty as to when material will be available—it may be in a day or two—it is not practicable to transfer labour, and, in that case, let the management seize the opportunity and say to the workers that this is a chance which has presented itself, and that they should take a holiday and enjoy it while they may. I therefore hope that, before long, the Minister of Labour will find it possible to assist production in this country by amending the Essential Work Order by regulation, to make it lawful for the works manager to have full control over the workers employed in the factory during the normal hours of that factory, so that disorganised industrial absence without leave will be impossible.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
We have listened to a speech which expressed the type of mind that lost us Malaya and Singapore, and can destroy and ruin this country. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) touched the key to the whole problem when he said that the Government were treating this question of Production as though there were no war. He added that they were conducting it on the same lines now as they did in the days of peace. I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member fully grasped the idea which he was conveying. He dealt with profits and with wages, but these are not the essentials. The key is that Production is being run to-day on class lines as in the days before the war. In the speech we have just heard we were told that the manager should have control, and of these inferior beings against whom there must be penalties, but there was never a suggestion about a penalty against a manager or employer. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) in the course of his speech drew attention to the fact that no statement had been made of the reasons for the loss of Singapore, and said it was time we had some information about it. It may be true that soldiers were landed there just before the capitu- 1950 lation, but everybody knows, except the Tory Members of this House, why Singapore and Malaya were lost. The hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken does not understand why Singapore and Malaya have fallen. They were lost because the people were not brought forward. I heard—and this is very important for understanding the problem of Production—a speaker on the wireless saying that the Union Jack had flown over Singapore for 100 years, and that now, alas, it was down. He did not add that in that 100 years they had failed to interest the natives in keeping it up. In 100 years they did not bring the people forward.
What is the problem in Production? If you depend upon the small number of select beings at the top for your Production, you will not get Production. If you want to get Production, you have masses of people in industry, the greatest possible reservoir from which to draw for initiative. Are you going to inspire the people and bring them forward? You did not do it in Malaya and Singapore. Are you going to do it in this country? During the past few weeks there have been about 20 deputations of shop stewards down here. One hon. Member has told us about a factory which, in over a year, produced only eight aeroplanes. We had a deputation down here with facts and figures which the Ministry have. They have been working for a year, and they have not produced one. We had another deputation down here. They were working for over a year preparing a factory, getting the machinery in order, getting the skilled men to agree to unskilled men and women coming in and doing jobs, getting the necessary cooperation, and just when they had got to the stage where they were able to give maximum production, they were informed that they had to stop the job, that the machinery was to be lifted and transferred to a new factory in the Midlands, and that they would get something else to do. When I introduced them to one of the Members of the Select Committee, the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), and he spoke to them, he said, "It is not possible; I cannot believe it." They said, "Come with us, and you will see them beginning to unloosen the machinery."
There is a factory in the North, a very important factory, employing many thousands of men and women. The shop stewards are very active. The convener 1951 of shop stewards spends nights working out a schedule that will ensure the factory working every hour of the day and night every day in the week. He works out this schedule; he gets the shop stewards' committee to accept it. It is put before the workers, who agree to it. He gets the management to agree to it, and they go on to this schedule. The factory employs thousands of workers, working every hour of the week, with not an hour lost. All of a sudden, a representative of the Ministry of Labour goes there, and tells them that they have to stop. They were infringing some small sub-section of some section of some regulation. The management were in danger of being prosecuted. Shop stewards got in touch with the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirk-wood) and me. We got busy, and the objection was withdrawn. But the factory was faced with an ultimatum, and the whole concern was threatened with disorganisation, because of bureaucracy. I hope that hon. Members are not sceptical about it.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. McCorquodale)
We are wondering which of you was liable under the Act.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I did not catch that remark; but there is no question about the absolute correctness of my statement. The idea of Ministers, whether it is a case of deputations coming here or of the activities of shop stewards in the factories, is not to encourage, but to stifle, initiative. Deputations come here to see Ministers. They are told that they cannot see a Minister unless they have a national trade union official with them. They go to see the trade union officials, who say, "We will not come with you." They go back to the Minister, and they are told, "We cannot see you. That is the understanding we have with the trade unions." Perhaps the deputation have the most important material imaginable to put before the Minister. He says, "I refuse to look at it. There is a chalk line which I dare not cross."
There was a deputation here the other day from the constituency of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs. When I asked permission for it to meet the Director-General of the Department concerned, I was told," You cannot see him 1952 unless you have a national trade union official with you." I said I was speaking for the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs, and demanded to see the official. Surely a Member of Parliament has that right, I argued. They decided to consider the matter. Later on, they said, "We have agreed to see you arid shop stewards to-morrow; but, Mr. Gallacher, will you not try to bring a trace union official along? "Not that a trade union official would be of any particular use; it was just to keep up appearances. What way is this of facing such a grave situation? I believe in the trade unions, but I want to prevent them being used by Ministers to keep the masses of the people from coming forward.
I went to see the official, with the deputation, and, after much discussion, I said to him, "I propose that you go up and meet Mr. Kirkwood; and that you and he go to the factory and meet the management and the men, and work out a plan to meet the situation." He said, "That is a very good suggestion. I will be very happy to meet Mr. Kirkwood and to go to the factory, and I promise that, with the management, I will work out a plan for the factory." I said, "What about the men?" He said, "I cannot promise to see the men." I said, "Why not?" He said, "You know what the position is." I said," I am not interested in that; what I know is that it was that attitude which lost Malaya and Singapore—the white bosses up above, and the untouchables down below." He said, "I would not call the workers untouchables." I said, "No, but you treat them as untouchables." There is what is keeping back Production. The ruling class think of the mass of the people as subject people, and are determined that when the war is over they shall remain subject people. That day has gone for ever. The world that the Tories knew before the war is finished. The Empire that the Tories knew before the war is finished. There must be something better in the future. The superior white man in Malaya and Singapore has gone for ever. The big boss in industry must go too. Here is a great mass of skilled and semi-skilled men and women under the control and domination of the managements. Is that how to encourage them? You have to encourage them in future to express themselves, and the more you encourage them, the more they will feel that 1953 they are brought into the struggle, and the less you will hear of absenteeism or other similar complaints. The absenteeism that you get in the factories is nothing as compared with that at this institution here, and if you put penalties upon anybody, you should put penalties all the more on fellows here who are drawing money under false pretences.
There are many things I could report about, but I want the Minister and those concerned with Production to grasp the all-important fact that there must be a complete change in policy in relation to the masses of the people in industry. You should not stifle them and try to keep them down and put penalties upon them, although I admit that in certain cases penalties might have to be used, but mostly on the employers. You should riot try to get power over them, but you should endeavour to inspire them, get them to assert themselves and to feel that they themselves are a part of industry. They should be encouraged and helped, and if you can do that, you will have a great mass of people from whom you will be able to get the most tremendous assistance in this great field of Production. Every week-end I am speaking at great mass demonstrations. I spoke at Coventry last Sunday morning at 11 o'clock, when the biggest cinema in the place was packed. I spoke in Birmingham in the evening, when the hall was again packed, and crowds were listening to the microphone outside. I discussed the question of Production and its great importance, and at every such meeting where I speak I draw attention to the fact that, if the Government want to win the war, and the desire to win the war is not overshadowed by the fact that they want to keep the ruling class above and the masses below, they should lift the ban on the "Daily Worker." At every mass meeting of workers there is a great response and demand for this, and nothing would be of greater value from the point of view of inspiring the workers in the factories and encouraging, helping and strengthening them than to lift the ban and give us the opportunity of utilising that very valuable paper.
I ask the Minister to take a lesson from his predecessor, who was not very long in the job if he was in the job at all and who has gone to America. The Noble Lord was for lifting the ban on the 1954 "Daily Worker." I ask the Minister, with the knowledge that he has of industry, to place his faith in the masses of the people. Woe to the man who has no faith in the people. For such there is no light in the black night of war that surrounds us. Bring the people forward and they will respond. Give us the "Daily Worker," and we will see to it that you get an inspired and generous response to every demand you make for production in industry.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir William Allen (Armagh)
Englishmen have been addressing the House, and a Scotsman has just addressed it, so I suppose there is no harm in an Irishman saying a few words in connection with this very important matter. I was sorry I was too late to hear the Minister's speech, but he seems to have pleased the House, so far as it is possible for him to do so, in beginning his important task. When I listened to some of the speeches which have been made, I said to myself that the Minister is the last person I would choose to be a member of the Front Bench, if I were asked to choose, because he is in for some difficult times, judging by what we have heard. The contributions which have been made to the Debate have been different from that which I want to make. They have referred to factories in England, to works established by the Government and the work of those factories which have been established for many years and are now on the production of munitions. Complaints have been made about how little work is being done in certain factories. The hon. Member for Pudsey and Otley (Sir G. Gibson) referred to 50 girls being sent to a certain factory each week, for whom there was little or nothing to do. Well, we all recognise that there is something wrong about that, but my complaint is that no factory has yet been established in Northern Ireland.
I suppose it is 18 months ago since the Minister of Labour said he wanted 42 training centres and had only 19. I asked the Minister about a training centre for Northern Ireland, and he replied that if the Northern Ireland Government wished to establish training centres, he would be very happy to assist. But he did not seem to realise that the Northern Ireland Government have nothing to do with the prosecution of the war. The prosecution 1955 of the war is a Reserved Service. The Northern Ireland Government have nothing to do with the establishment of training centres. To this day we have "had no training centres. What are these centres for? They are to train men and women to go into factories which the Government have built. If the Minister says that the Government are not building factories in Northern Ireland and that they do not, therefore, require training centres, I would ask him why he is taking people from Northern Ireland instead of putting factories round about where they live. I have heard it said that workers go 10, 20 and even 30 miles by road or rail to the factories in this country. In Northern Ireland, we have sites, we have houses close to those sites, we have workpeople living in those houses, and yet we cannot get the Government here to do anything in the matter. Not long ago I spoke to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and he said, "I have done my utmost with the British Government to get works established over here, and I have failed." Only last week, the Minister responsible in the Northern Ireland Parliament came back from having visited eight Ministers in London. I hope that among them he visited the right hon. Gentleman who is now responsible for Production. In Northern Ireland we have the sites, the houses and the people; why not establish some of the factories over there?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer lately took the opportunity to pat the people of Belfast on the back for having contributed in a War Weapons Week over £5,500,000. All the towns in Northern Ireland have contributed their quota. We are applauded for what we can do in the way of contributing Income Tax, Excess Profits Tax, and other taxes that are demanded by the Government. Surely, we ought to be considered when it comes to the establishment of training centres and factories for the prosecution of the war. We are just as much allied to the success of British arms as any other part of the world is. We have shown it in every possible way. We do not consider that we are being treated very fairly. The right hon. Gentleman now has the opportunity to see that we get fair play in this connection. The workers are coming over from Northern Ireland. I do not want to be misunderstood. The Govern- 1956 ment are giving work to the engineering concerns, the shipbuilding concerns, and the aircraft factories already established. Yes, but they are doing the same here, and, in addition, they are building further factories. I ask them to come to Northern Ireland and build a factory, or two or three factories, there, where the people can have the work carried on within a few hundred yards of their own houses. It has taken the Government a long time to utilise the manhood and womanhood of Northern Ireland, who are just as eager as anyone in this country that the war shall be carried to a successful conclusion. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take these things very seriously into consideration.
I was born in a little town which now has 14,000 inhabitants. The women there are skilled women, and they have wonderful hands. In a very short time, under the tuition of those capable of giving tuition, they would be able to turn out the work required. But nothing has been done. I have made appeals to the Government for the past two years to give us our fair share of the work and our share of the opportunity. I hope my right hon. Friend will take these things into consideration when he is planning for Production, for that is what we are discussing in this Debate. Let us in this productive work help all we can for a successful conclusion of the war, and England will never regret what Northern Ireland has done.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I should like to make a short contribution to this Debate on Production while the opportunity presents, itself, and also to congratulate my right hon. Friend on his admirable exposition of the Government proposals, and to say that in my judgment they represent a very substantial advance on anything we have had in the past. No doubt they are not the last word. My right hon. Friend has not had much time to study the problem, but I hope he will find it possible in the future to go a good deal further in some directions. It has been asked why it is that these things were not done a year or two years ago when they were advocated in this House. It is not, however, the fault of my right hon. Friend, who has been doing admirable work elsewhere. Now that we have reached this new stage, which is a very important one, let us 1957 advance as rapidly as possible. To my mind, one of the main difficulties we have had in Production in factories has not been so much troubles with management and labour—no doubt there has been a certain amount of that—but lack of central planning and the lack of direction from on high by someone whose business it should have been to see what was happening in the different factories, co-relating them to ensure there were no gaps in Production, which we know have occurred and which have resulted in quite unnecessary idleness.
As I have mentioned idle time, I think it might be useful if I gave to the House some details which I gained from a visit I made the other day to an important aircraft factory. I was discussing this question of idle time, and they told me about their system. They have set up a board, and every time a man has ceased working on a particular job and has nothing to do, his name is put on it. Every quarter of an hour a messenger goes round and collects the names of the persons on the board, and takes them to the management. Immediate steps are taken then to provide work for those particular workers. I know that this system could not apply to factories where there are large numbers of people without work, but in other cases, where people may be idle through lack of managerial control, a system of this kind might be of great advantage.
I would call attention to another useful pioneer scheme, introduced in a certain important munition factory in the Midlands. The firm thought that a good deal might be done by way of part-time labour, and during the Christmas holidays they managed to secure the services of a number of schoolboys together with their masters. The schoolboys worked regular shifts and turned out excellent work. The whole thing was a very great success, with the result that the output of the factory was increased. The scheme was explained to the regular workers, the boys worked at trade union rates of pay, and no trouble of any kind occurred. When the Christmas holidays came to an end, the question arose how this work was to be carried on. An endeavour was made to get into touch with women, many of whom in the ordinary way do not come near the employment exchanges. When it was put to them they offered their services—about 1,000—and the work had 1958 been continued with great success ever since. Regular shifts are worked, and there is no slackness or trouble of any kind. One of the leading figures was a local county court judge, who set a fine example, and many professional men also played their part. I hope that schemes of that kind will be encouraged and developed and an entirely new source of labour provided in this way.
I had another little case the other day which goes even further. A manufacturer living 10 miles out in the country wondered whether something could not be done by setting up a satellite factory in his. billiard room; and he consulted the local inhabitants, who at once responded, and there it is, making an entirely fresh addition to the national output. I was glad that the Minister made reference to the Production committees that are going to be set up. I hope he will press forward with this with the utmost vigour. I have had many talks with the workers' representatives, and with those on the other side, about the great importance that they place upon being able to put forward their ideas, and the good results already obtained. But let the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this will not be a popular thing with some employers. There is a certain number who will strongly resist any suggestion that the workers should be associated with industry, and he will have to use all the powers that the Government possess to see that these rights for the workers are established by law. I hope he will not hesitate in taking any step that may be necessary.
I should like to direct his attention to the rate of remuneration given to superintendents in charge of Royal Ordance and other Government factories. You cannot expect to get first-rate men in charge of 10,000, 20,000 or 30,000 people unless you pay them the sort of sum that they would get if it was a private business. There has been some change, and the Treasury has relaxed the rule to some extent, but it is nothing like fair to the people placed in charge of these factories to have one standard in private practice and a very much lower one under the Government. That is a matter that wants to be put right. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, following on his statement, to march boldly forward in the direction indicated and make up for lost time.
§ Mr. David Adams (Consett)
I would not have troubled the House at this late hour, but my inquiries indicate that there is a possibility that the Rule may not be suspended on the next Sitting Day, and the opportunity for back benchers there fore is somewhat restricted. The House has looked forward to this day with considerable interest, but, much more than the House, the country has looked to see what Parliament proposes with respect to Production, particularly in the relatively depressed state in which the country un questionably was after certain international events. In my part of the world they were looking forward to some dramatic announcement that the dis abilities which have been so admirably advertised from the House and elsewhere under which the country has suffered in the matter of the Production of arms would perhaps be ended to-day. I am optimistic enough to believe that the Minister's statement will satisfy those who, having the country's interest most deeply at heart, are anxious for a dramatic change in the situation. The Minister's statement was very broad and well-informed and an admirable survey of the situation. His notion of a new General Staff for Production and the various details which he laid before the House would indicate that, if he will exhibit the same pertinacity, determination and resolution in the conduct of his new office as he has indicated to-day, the country, I think, may put behind it once and for all most of the disabilities under which it has suffered.
I recognise, as probably the whole House does, that in many respects the Government have been suffering through the disability of having to work at secondhand through private concerns, and it would seem a rational thing for the Government, just as they requisitioned shipping for war purposes, to have requisitioned the war industries. However, the powers and machinery that the Government now possess will, I think, fill in the necessary gaps which have been revealed in Production, and in that way there will be an intensified national effort that will bring us where we would desire to be. I was reading a technical book the other day upon the strength of glass, and was interested to notice that if you remove the crevises in a piece of glass, either plate or other, the glass has ten 1960 times the strength that it had before. Let us hope the new effort will have ten times the strength that it has had hitherto.
The question of audit has been mentioned and the objection taken that the Government audit certain accounts. I recently met a manufacturer who said, "I thank God that the Government audited my accounts, for I quoted a figure at which I find I was working at a loss." He was producing numerous articles, and he, said he would probably have gone on until the end of the war losing money on the transaction. It seems that in new work—and it applies, I understand, to certain machinery in shipyards and marine engineering works—when there are so many changes, the manufacturer is not able to quote a specific price, and he should be allowed to quote a price which ultimately will have to be re-examined. I cannot agree that the Government audit is a bad thing on the whole. It has been asked why there should be a Government audit with firms which have now reached their datum line, for the whole of their profits go to Excess Profits Tax. Who knows what will happen now or in the future to the Excess Profits Tax? The Chancellor may abolish it altogether, and then a new situation would be created upon which we could not rely. A Member had some objection to the Board of Admiralty having its hand over shipyard capacity and merchant tonnage, but from my inquiries there is a proper balance, and all is well in that respect.
The great disability—I do not know what powers the Minister may have to deal with it, but we hope he possesses them—is the lack of labour in our shipyards. At the moment they require 10,000 additional men and a certain number of boys. Has the Minister power to insist that private firms whose requirements are not too urgent shall be combed out for these men, and has he power over the Fighting Forces to declare that the national urgency is such that workers must be sent to our shipyards? The House is not fully apprised of the shipping position and in public session one cannot reveal it, but we do know that a large amount of tonnage, merchant tonnage particularly, is under repair, although owing to modern methods there may not be a great proportion of it entirely immobilised. But the lack of workers, even unskilled workers, in the 1961 shipyards prevents this tonnage from getting to sea, and in that way is impairing the national effort. We have the same story from our marine engine works. If they had additional workers better results would undoubtedly ensue.
We have had the singular position of the Minister of Agriculture telling the House that his danger point is the shortage of man-power for agricultural purposes, and we are told that as mining is the basic industry upon which all industries depend there ought to be some Ministerial authority which can declare to all concerned that the shortage of labour here must be made up. In County Durham alone there are eight first-class collieries which could produce not less than 5,000 tons each weekly of urgently required coal standing idle to-day for lack of labour, skilled or unskilled. The reflex of that position is that certain districts are materially short of coal. Does the House know that in a certain large centre of population the gas company is so short of coal that it cannot supply the necessary gas to munition factories, which are being driven to set up their own gas plants? How absurd! that they should have to use material and labour in providing additional gas plant while the local gas works cannot obtain sufficient coal to produce the required gas.
I hope that what I have termed a dramatic change is the dramatic change that has given to this Minister the power to say either to private enterprise or to the Forces of the Crown, "This labour is urgently required in the national interest and it must be produced, either temporarily or permanently." It is gratifying to know that regional boards are to have additional powers; they urgently need them. I know from my experience of engineering that if the powers which these boards should enjoy had been granted to them, interminable delays which, perhaps in the nature of things, arise from Whitehall could have been avoided. A great deal of unnecessary travelling and telephoning could be averted. Manufacturers on the North-East coast use nothing but the telephone and the railway train, because the Regional Board has not the necessary authority to settle matters of detail.
No doubt the Production committees will be set up not merely by agreement between employers and employed, but will 1962 be statutory. Otherwise, employers who are not in the employers' federation may disagree with the setting up of a Production committee. I know a very large factory which has no committee operating between the employees and the management. The idea was rather foreign to them. This factory does not even possess a welfare organisation. If that situation can occur the establishment of these committees ought to be made legislatively certain, so that the whole country can be brought into this admirable new system of co-operation among all those who are producing goods for the war. The Minister of Labour has advised employers to consult their workers. I noticed an announcement this week that in a certain factory where a committee has been operating with great good will, the workers were recommended to make proposals for the improvement of output. They made no less than 72 proposals in a short time, and the management have accepted 69 of them, to the general advantage of the factory. If such advantages can accrue in one factory, similar organisations in factories throughout the country would distribute those advantages.
We are told that it is intended to approach the problems of the Colonial Empire with a new mind, perhaps a more benevolent one. There has been great exploitation in the past, but that ought to disappear. There is a glorious opportunity now to obtain labour which cannot be obtained from the Armed Forces or from private enterprise organisations which are producing either for munitions or for the export trade. Here is a great source of admirable labour, and the principle of using it has already been adopted. There is in the country now, being trained in the munitions trade—and I am told they display very great skill, judgment and strength in dealing with the work to which they have been allocated—600 workmen from British Honduras and 200 from the West Indies. That is a very-small number of those who are available, and if they have been proved, with the voice of authority, to be admirable students in the production of munitions, why should they not be brought on to the land? Why should they not have an opportunity of descending our coal mines, as unskilled labour maybe to commence with, and why should they not have an opportunity of coming into our factories and shipyards? I think the Minister 1963 might well consider that aspect. It would give us a new fund of labour power, it would extinguish the colour bar said to prevail in certain directions, and I believe that it would give a greater stimulus to the war effort.
The Minister will find, as he surveys the position generally, that in certain great manufacturing concerns there is plenty of good will and all is well. He will find in others that there is a lack of good will, in many cases for small reasons. He will find that in certain areas there is a shortage of steel work which ought not to prevail, and we know a shortage of drop forgings and possibly of other goods. The Minister will look into these questions with enthusiasm and without delay, and will inquire into what we are told is a hold-up in the matter of Production. I look forward with assurance—I hope the country will too; certainly the House will—to seeing this Minister, who has probably one of the most important functions, second only to that of the Prime Minister, fulfil to the letter and even exceed the highest expectations we have 1964 formed of him, and in that way shatter once and for all those barriers to the maximum Production of which the country is capable.
§ Motion, "That this House do now adjourn," by leave, withdrawn.