§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. James Stuart.]
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply (Mr. Assheton)
A number of points were raised during the course of yesterday's Debate which affected more particularly the Ministry of Supply, and it was thought it might be for the convenience of the House if a representative of the Ministry were to intervene in the Debate at this point. Hon. Members will understand that I am not going to attempt to reply fully to all the interesting speeches that were made yesterday, as the greater part of them followed directly on the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production, who is to wind up this Debate, and, therefore, he will have an opportunity of dealing with I hose matters on rather a broader basis. This intervention now is rather more in the nature of an interlude in a minor key. It is not many weeks since I was moved to the Ministry of Supply, and hon. Members will, I know, appreciate the difficulty of mastering the intricacies of that enormous Department. I think the size of it can best be indicated to the House when I tell them that the Ministry of Supply are now responsible for the expenditure of more money in a year than the whole annual expenditure of the State before the war. I have, however, been closely associated in one way or another with Production since the beginning of the war, and I rather think I am the only Minister who has spent the whole of the 2½ 2021 years of the war in one or other of the Departments most closely associated with Production.
I think it would be a great mistake if the House did not fully appreciate that our war Production in this country has risen to a very high level and that output continues to rise. It was, I think, in September of last year, or thereabouts, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour said that he hoped for a 40 per cent. increase in Production, and I have the satisfaction of being able to tell the House that not only has this 40 per cent. been achieved, but passed, and that as far as my Department is concerned, we already see our way clear to go far beyond this. Yesterday, hon. Members were good enough to appreciate this improvement. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) began his speech by telling the House not to forget this tremendous achievement, although there were moments in his speech when I wondered whether he had not perhaps forgotten the excellent advice which he offered to us, and my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) also admitted that Production was infinitely better that it was a year ago. But I do not wish the House to think for one moment that the Government will be satisfied with anything less than the very greatest volume of Production of which this country is capable. That, and that alone, is the target at which we are aiming.
Our present Production has been reached by a tremendous and extensive programme of converting and supplementing peace-time Production to make it suitable for war, and it has partly been achieved by a great programme of factories built, organised, and controlled by the Ministry of Supply. We now have over 40 Ordnance factories, which alone employ 300,000 workers, and it is not surprising that this expansion, involving as it does the employment of a very large number of people in each factory—as many as 20,000 or more in one place—has taxed our abilities of management to the utmost. For all this expansion there is, of course, no peace-time parallel, and in the 20 years before the war there was no single works in England which ever developed at anything like this pace. No manager of a factory in peace-time ever had to create such an organisation, helped 2022 only by a small staff of technical experts in the very complicated, processes which were to be undertaken. The picture, therefore, which I give the House is of an arms industry which has grown to great proportions. In the engineering trades alone over 1,000,000 workers are working for the Ministry of Supply. Our great period of physical expansion has, of course, now passed its peak, and our task is to make the fullest possible use of our capacity. A huge labour force has had to be created out of nothing, and it was necessary also to build up the personnel required for its management. As far as the filling factories are concerned, we have already nearly obtained our full requirements of labour in some of them, and we have been able in those cases to renounce our priority accordingly. In certain others we hope to be able to do the same before long. Although we need further workers for some of our factories, our main task during the current year will be to make the most efficient use of the workers we have got, and I should like, if I may, to touch on one or two of the ways in which we are trying to do this.
The task of the Production Departments and of the Ministry of Supply is really a twofold task. There is the human factor on the one side and the technical factor on the other. They are, as it were, the obverse and reverse of one coin. No amount of technical efficiency is of much avail unless there is proper management of labour, just as no amount of labour is of much use unless there is adequate technical direction. These problems of management are very great, but the whole time we are making substantial progress, and I should like here to pay a tribute to the tremendous efforts which have been made by the officers of the Department, and particularly the Director-General of Ordnance Factories and the Director-General of Filling Factories, both of whom are charged with very great responsibilities in this direction.
There is a number of ways in which the human side of this problem is being tackled. Both my right hon. Friend and I naturally receive information from Members of Parliament and others with regard to alleged faults of management in our factories, and I want to assure the House that we go to infinite pains to investigate every single case, and to take steps to set right, as far as we can, anything which 2023 we find to be wrong. Some hon. Members have spoken of the interruption of supplies, and we recognise, of course, that an even flow of materials and components is the secret of success. But the House knows the difficulties the Department have been up against. Not only are there the difficulties which we cannot control, such as the sinking of ships and the blitzing of factories, but also there are the difficulties which are inherent in the very size of the job which we are trying to do. When hon. Members realise, for example, that in one of the modern tanks there are as many as 40,000 different parts, and that the failure of any one part to appear at the right time and in the right place holds up the whole of the production, they will get some measure of the problems with which we are faced. Both Ministers and Members of Parliament are always having their attention drawn to failures and to inadequacies, and in consequence of this, I think we are all sometimes apt to get rather an unbalanced view of the whole.
§ Mr. Assheton
Forty thousand. There are at least 8,000 separate parts. Some of them are used more than once in a tank, but the total number of parts amounts to more than 40,000. When one hears of complaints and of difficulties I think the best cure for any depression, or any sense of frustration which one may feel, is to get out into the factories and workshops and to see things for oneself. I have just come back from a visit to some of our factories in the North of England, and I can assure the House that I was very much heartened by the Production which I saw there and by the spirit of enthusiasm and energy both of men and women which I found among workers and management alike. It is very easy, for example, to get a false view of absenteeism. This is one of the problems of industry which can be tackled only by full co-operation between both sides. There are, of course, a few bad cases of absenteeism, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will not hesitate to deal with them, but there are a great many less serious cases of absenteeism, and these can generally be reduced by careful thought on the part of the management.
2024 As far as the Ministry of Supply factories are concerned, there is nothing in this direction which we shall neglect. I know the House will agree that the vast majority of workers of every class are doing their job magnificently. Let us spur them on by encouragement and not depress their spirits by constant nagging. Let us find out, when they are absent, what is the cause of their absence and do our best to help them. Let us see that their hours are suitably arranged and are as short as is compatible with the greatest Production which we need. Let us see that their conditions of work are reasonable. A firm and sympathetic handling of the workers and especially of those who are new to factory life is essential, and I cannot overstress the importance which we attach to the training of good personnel managers and welfare workers, and we are making great 'efforts to this end. It is time that we did pay a tribute to the men and women in our factories, and we should remember that their jobs—in some cases making what are apparently insignificant components—may be often monotonous, frequently unpleasant and sometimes dangerous. We must remember that there are limits to moral resistance, just as there are limits to physical endurance, and that exhortations and slogans may turn out to be as useless as they are tactless. In our Ministry of Supply factories we are trying to sustain and encourage our workers, by letting them hear from men who are newly-returned from the field of battle of the part played in the battle by the equipment or weapons which they have helped to make.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) in his opening speech stressed the need for keeping the workers fully informed with regard to their work and many other hon. Members in all parts of the House took the same line. The workers to day have 50 years of public education behind them, and it is necessary to satisfy their minds as well as their physical needs. We expect them to be able to understand blue-prints and complicated instructions, and we must realise that they are anxious and entitled to know and to understand the importance of their work, and to be informed fully of reasons which interfere with its progress. From time to time, of course, there are changes brought about by the strategy of the war which make it necessary to change 2025 over from one type of Production to another, and though careful planning can very often avoid dislocation, it is not always possible. In those cases it is our policy to take the workers into our confidence. We must press this to the full.
It is for that reason that the Government have given a lead in setting up in the Royal Ordnance factories advisory Production committees, and it was one of my first duties at the Ministry of Supply to sign an agreement with the unions. The House has, I know, learned with pleasure that the Engineering Employers' Federation have recently come to a similar agreement with the unions. Now that those agreements have been reached, the Government are most anxious that they should be implemented with the least possible delay, and I know that the hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Higgs), the hon. Member for Peckham, the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar), and others who spoke yesterday on this subject will agree that, unless these committees have the blessings of both sides of the industry, they are not likely to be very effective. It is a great advance in our industrial history that such agreements have been reached, and we must take full advantage of it.
The House has been told before of the great progress we have made in the provision of hostels, canteens and medical services. I can never forget the enthusiasm with which my late chief at the Ministry of Labour faced this problem when he first became Minister. The hon. Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer) made some very valuable suggestions with regard to the medical services, and he also made some criticisms to which I would like to reply. Sir David Munro, the chief medical officer of the Ministry, is a very distinguished doctor, with wide contacts in the field of industrial medicine. Those contacts have been of great value to the Ministry, and it was thought that the Ministry should not lose advantage of those contacts. Consequently, Dr. Amor was appointed as his deputy, so that the increasing work of the medical services might be properly administered from headquarters.
Then the hon. Member made some charges with regard to the medical services at Woolwich and suggested that the doctor in charge was a man without 2026 previous knowledge of industrial medicine. That is not the case. Colonel Johnson has been medical officer in a number of factories. The hon. Member also asserted that there had been nine resignations and transfers from Woolwich during the past year. As a matter of fact, there has been one resignation, that of Dr. White, and Dr. White resigned because circumstances made it difficult for her to take night duty in rotation with the other members of the medical staff. There have been also six transfers of medical staff within the period, but all of these have been within the Ministry of Supply medical services, either to the Regions, or to our factories in the country, and the reason, of course, is that Woolwich has been used as a training ground and it is the normal thing for these people to go out from it. The hon. Member also referred to the incidence of dermatitis. I want to assure the House that we are not only fully aware of the danger to which he referred but are taking all possible measures, both curative and preventive, against it.
Several points were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas), and I am glad of an opportunity to reply to them. His first point was that the production of mortars and of the sights for mortars was in different departments of the Ministry. This is not the case at all, and we have no information, nor has the Army, that there has been any trouble in fitting sights to the mortars. Production of the two components was, at one time, out of balance, but I am glad to say that this balance has now been put right. That perhaps accounted for the difficulty which my hon. Friend experienced when he was in his officer's training unit.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
Is the hon. Gentleman not admitting what I said; and will he be good enough to give me an opportunity of going into the matter with him privately?
§ Mr. Assheton
I am giving a straight answer to my hon. Friend's question, and I hope he will appreciate it, but I shall be happy to go into it further with him. His second point was a suggestion that unnecessary changes had been made in the design of a particular shell. The shell in question was a new and very secret type, and it embodied entirely novel features in 2027 construction. In such a case Production must first be proved and modifications made to secure perfect ballistic performance. I want to assure the hon. Member that the only reason for the change was on these grounds, and not, as he seemed to think, on any fancy grounds. The box in which the shell is transported is the standard box, which takes also a large variety of other shells. It is quite true that 28,000 shells had to be slightly modified to fit into the standard boxes, but this represents only half a week's output. The alternative was to produce a new box, and, on the whole, we thought that to be the less desirable thing to do. His third case is very interesting, because it raises and illustrates the troubles which inevitably arise as the design of our equipment improves as a result of our battle experience in different parts of the world. All three weapons with which this firm is concerned are weapons for tanks. The reason why the particular firm changed was because it was thought advisable that, since they had not come into production on the small howitzer, they should change to the new and improved tank gun, rather than that a change should be made with a firm already in production on the howitzer. I admit that this was very unfortunate for the firm concerned, but in the view of the Ministry it was the best way to get satisfactory output of the guns concerned.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas
May I point out, in connection with the production of this shell that in this particular factory it represented not one week's output but about three?
§ Mr. Assheton
I fully appreciate the point. I did not wish to exaggerate it, but the difficulties which face us are familiar to the hon. Member, and I think he will accept my explanation of what took place. During the course of the Debate several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Spearman), whose maiden speech was so thoughtful and well-delivered, raised the question of the continuity of orders. I am happy to be able to tell the House that a further important step in that direction—in the direction which he desired—has now been taken and that a new form of contract has been produced in the Ministry and is now being put into use. It will provide a steady and assured flow of orders, 2028 whenever this is practical and desirable, and I think it will give general satisfaction in all quarters of the House. There are, of course, always difficulties due to changes in strategy which demand more of one type of weapon and less of another, but no amount of foresight could have overcome them.
§ Mr. Assheton
Naturally, that has to be considered in every particular case, but the object of the continuity of orders is to meet that sort of point. I think I have told the House enough for them to believe that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply is devoting all his energies to improving the management and efficiency of the huge business which he is charged to control. Looking at the picture as a whole, I am sure the House would be wrong to take a gloomy view of the future. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster spoke of the great production in Germany, and the way in which they were working there. He recognises I know, as he told us, that we also have great achievements to our credit and that the vast majority of workers and employers are putting their whole hearts into the war effort.
§ Mr. Assheton
This great crusade upon which we are engaged together will be brought to a victorious conclusion through the united work of all sections of the community, brought together by a common purpose, actuated by a high spiritual resolve, and consecrated by the sacrifices which we all must share.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
My hon. Friend referred earlier in his speech to an increase of 40 per cent. in Production. Upon what basis has that figure been arrived at? Is it upon money or weight?
§ Mr. Assheton
I was taking all-over figures. Naturally, in some cases it is considerably more, and in other cases it may be less. The only basis we were considering was the basis of output.
§ Mr. Shinwell (Seaham)
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Production enters upon his important task with the good will of every hon. Member, whatever 2029 views are held, and, in regard to the substance of his policy, he need entertain no suspicions about the desires of hon. Members in all quarters of the House to encourage him in the effort to expand Production and to meet the gigantic tasks which lie ahead of the nation. It is to be hoped that the Minister of Production is more fortunate than his predecessor, who, in spite of a White Paper sponsored by the Prime Minister, failed to survive. Now that the stormy petrel has vanished, at any rate from the immediate scene of operations, we may expect that the feathers of Cabinet Ministers will no longer be ruffled, and the turbulent waters will be stilled. At any rate, the disappearance of Lord Beaver-brook from the active sphere of Production removes the last excuse of failure to respond to the needs of the nation in the realm of Production. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said yesterday, all was not well inside. There was an absence of harmony, but now that harmony has been completely restored, consequently no personal difficulties stand in the way of the right hon. Gentleman.
It is not without significance that yesterday we had two pronouncements from members of the War Cabinet, one by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production, stating his policy for the future—and it may be that that policy is one of a long-term character—and the other by the Lord President of the Council, who announced the Government's plans in the event of invasion. Clearly, if the Government contemplate the possibility of invasion, not at some remote stage, but very soon, there is not much use talking about a long-term policy. Clearly there is no value in stating proposals and elaborating schemes which may take a long time to put into execution. Therefore the essence of the case, as I see it, is this. Is there reposed on the right hon. Gentleman a directing power which he can exercise irrespective of any personal or political consideration? In his admirable survey yesterday we heard a great deal about the mechanism of Production, about the creation of new committees, new staffs, and a Joint War Production Staff which is to relate Production with strategy. One might have supposed that it had engaged the attention of the Government, not in recent 2030 weeks, but ever since the beginning of hostilities, but the matter is now to be considered almost as an innovation, and we are now to have planning committees and programme committees.
But, apart from a few minor adjustments in the mechanism of Production, we did not hear a statement of policy which was unfamiliar to the House. Indeed, it was all machinery and precious little policy. It would seem that the right hon. Gentleman has not appreciated the intensity of feeling in the House during the last 12 months. Indeed it seemed to me that he had not read the speeches on the subject by the hon. Members for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith), Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and many others, including, if I might say so with characteristic modesty, the hon. Member for Seaham. Every one of the subjects which have been discussed in the course of this Debate has been debated over and over again in the past 18 months, and when the right hon. Gentleman claims the indulgence of the House, as it quite fitting in a Minister occupying a post for the first time, asks for suggestions and criticism, and indicates his readiness to respond even to revolutionary proposals, my answer is a ready and an obvious one. All the proposals, all the ideas, all the schemes, whether revolutionary or moderate in character, have been stated in the House during the last 18 months, and therefore there is nothing new to propose. There is not a single new idea that hon. Members can advance, apart from adjustments in the mechanisation of Production.
I direct the attention of hon. Members to what seems to me to be a very startling fact. In the third year of war, in spite of the demand for a sense of urgency in the nation and the utmost activity on the part of the Government, the Government present the right hon. Gentleman, the Minister of Production, with a power of single direction, with power to relate strategy with Production. But surely in the last two and a half years the Government have produced, indeed they have claimed to produce over and over again—the hon. Gentleman who spoke last claimed great achievements for the Government in the sphere of Production—in large measure what was necessary to enable them to take offensive action. If the Government 2031 have failed to produce the munitions of war to enable us to take such action, it is an indictment of the Government. I know they have excused themselves on the ground that vast resources were lost at Dunkirk. I do not know how many divisions were occupied in the Dunkirk affair, but surely what was lost in France preceding the Dunkirk withdrawal is not to be compared with the huge losses sustained by our Russian Ally on the Eastern Front, or even by the Nazis themselves. It is not good enough to say that because we sustained huge losses in material it has taken us a long time to make up the leeway. Moreover, can it be said that it is actually the volume of Production which is the real defect? May it not be that the real trouble lies in the fact that over and over again we have produced the wrong material? Let me furnish one example. It is now common knowledge that in the Libyan campaign our tanks were armed with guns of a calibre which was regarded subsequently as ineffective for the purpose. Lord Beaverbrook said we were now going to produce six-pounder guns, but after the mistake had been discovered.
§ The Minister of Production (Mr. Lyttelton)
Some stress has been laid on the fact that these tanks, though having a lighter gun, were very much faster than the opposition.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I have the utmost faith in the gallantry and valour of the Forces and the highest admiration for General Auchinleck and those with him in the Libyan campaign. We may have tanks which are fast, but they may run in quite a different direction from what is intended. The speed of a tank, however important it may be—I accept that at once—is of very little value if the guns mounted on it are ineffective for our purpose. At any rate, I am not responsible for this statement. It was made by Lord Beaverbrook. It must not be forgotten that he was in charge at that time and, therefore, may be regarded as an authority. Indeed, my right hon. Friend paid him a high tribute yesterday. Lord Beaverbrook declared that now we would proceed to produce the six-pounder gun. Moreover, there is abundant evidence that over and over again designs have been modified, that the wrong material has been produced and that all kinds of modifications have 2032 been resorted to, in consequence of which there has been a real delay in Production. What we want to know—and I think I reflect the opinion of the House—is whether, if the Government are satisfied that they have prepared the requisite machinery in order to produce the quantity of material, we can be assured that we have the machinery to ensure that the right quality of material will be forthcoming. Unless we have an assurance of that kind and an assurance that no further defects will be disclosed, I am afraid that all the elaborate machinery proposed by my right hon. Friend will be of very little use.
I want to come to what I regard as the real bottle-neck in Production. I repeat that everything I shall say will be familiar to the House. It has been said before, but it requires to be emphasised. Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, in an excellent speech, directed attention to the fact that self-interest is a necessary incentive in Production. It is very deplorable that self-interest should be regarded as more important than the desire to render service, particularly when the nation is in a crisis. Nevertheless, I am disposed to accept what my hon. Friend said, because it has a profound bearing on the question of Production. When we speak of self-interest, what do we really mean? Self-interest need not be expressed in terms of profits or high wages. When we speak of fighting for our very lives, that is the complete embodiment of self-interest. There are elements in the country on both sides who are not disposed to pull their full weight unless they are provided with a monetary incentive. How are we to overcome that obstacle?
Let me depart from that, to come to the question of the Regional organisations which are to be established. For a long time we had two kinds of Regional organisations. We had one under the Ministry of Supply and one under the Production Executive. There was conflict between these two bodies, or, if not conflict, at any rate no real liaison. At no time was there any need for two organisations, for there was not only much competition but many conflicting interests. That was well known to members of the Government. Now my right hon. Friend proposes that there should be one united Regional organisation vested with full power—but 2033 full power for what? Here is the kernel of the problem. Unless the Regional organisation, deriving its authority from my right hon. Friend, who in turn derives his authority from his membership of the War Cabinet, within the limits of policy laid down by the Government, has the power not only to group firms irrespective of personal considerations, but to set firms aside and transfer labour and machinery from one factory to another, indeed, do everything that is necessary in order to increase the volume of Production, then all the machinery devised by my right hon. Friend will be of no value.
I return to the subject of self-interest. Here I am not stating a view that is of a purely personal character; I am stating what has been frequently referred to by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. It is alleged that there is inefficient management. My right hon. Friend said so in this House. If there is inefficient management, why is it inefficient? Is it because it is not ready to pull its full weight? If it is not ready to pull its full weight and there is inefficiency, what is the reason? Is it because the management are primarily concerned with the interests of the shareholders, with their own financial interests, and with post-war considerations? If my right hon. Friend proposes either nationally or regionally the grouping of firms in some kind of pooling system the question is bound to emerge whether the Government will satisfy the self-interest motives of the management and owners of the factories. Are they to satisfy those self-interest motives merely by setting them aside without any compensation, without safeguarding their capital assets, without paying a rent for their property, or will they meet them fairly and generously? I do not blame employers for trying to make profits. Why should they not? This is a capitalist system; it is a system of profit making and of competition. We expect owners of property to make profits. It is not worth owning property unless the owners are making something out of it.
We had better face the facts—and I am stating the matter quite objectively. Therefore, we must expect that the owners of property, if they are to be regrouped, set aside and thrown to the wall, if their businesses are to be liquidated because 2034 Government policy declares that they must be, will be properly treated. When my right hon. Friend was at the Board of Trade he dealt with the concentration of industry and did a very good job so far as theory was concerned, although unfortunately the execution of the proposals has been very tardy. I am not blaming him for that, except in so far as he is a member of the War Cabinet. That subject has a profound bearing on Production, and when it was discussed my right hon. Friend refused to accept a proposal to compensate firms. That was all wrong. So long as the system prevails, you have to respond to it. Take the workers' side. There have been allegations about absenteeism, and grave charges have been bandied about. We all know that they have been exaggerated, but there is a modicum of truth in them. We are not children. We need not pretend any longer. In many factories there is no positive enthusiasm for Production. There was an unprecedented enthusiasm when the Russians were wantonly attacked by the Nazis. The fact that Russia came into the war aroused the enthusiasm of hundreds of thousands of workers in this country. It was an inspiring idea, and sometimes ideas are more potent than monetary considerations. But is it to be denied that much of that enthusiasm has evaporated? It has.
There, again, we are faced with a problem of self-interest. The worker works because he wants wages. He must have wages to live and maintain his family. He wants the highest possible wages, and frequently he succumbs to the temptation to work overtime, not that overtime is really effective but he wants the extra remuneration. If the worker is satisfied that he is working for the State, that he must respond to the demand for service in the national interest, that we are fighting for our lives and that the owners of property are not making profits out of the production of the munitions of war, he will be more ready to respond.
There is another consideration, and a very important one. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply has just told us that in the State ordnance factories the Government have agreed to the setting up of production committees to iron out differences. It ought to have been done long before. We demanded it long ago. Sometimes there are differences on this side of the House. There was 2035 never any difference on that issue. There ought to be joint committees where the differences can be ironed out by consultation and effective co-operation. But let the House notice what the Parliamentary Secretary said. The Government had insisted on the creation of Production committees of a joint character in the State factories, and only now have they got the Engineering Employers' Federation to adopt a similar practice in privately-owned factories.
§ Mr. Assheton
The hon. Member says "only now." It was within a fortnight of the signature of the agreement with the trade unions respecting Royal Ordnance factories that the Engineering Employers' Federation came to a similar agreement.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I did not want to challenge by hon. Friend. Although I may speak a little vehemently, I am not in a mood to challenge, because I want to encourage my right hon. Friend. He has powers, and I want him to use them, and to use them ruthlessly, setting aside anybody who stands in the way. If he does so, he will have the backing of every hon. Member. But if he fails he might as well not have occupied his post. Therefore, I am not at all challenging, though sometimes I think it is very necessary to do so in this House. I would point out this in passing. The Parliamentary Secretary replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) and to my hon. Friend the Member for South Tottenham (Mr. Messer). Yesterday my right hon. Friend said, "Come along with your criticisms, even revolutionary criticisms." So my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, whom nobody could describe as revolutionary, offered some moderate criticisms, and the Parliamentary Secretary replied, "Of course it is wrong; it is not so." I have never heard any other reply from the Government bench. It causes irritation. You cannot take up the attitude that nothing is ever wrong, and, of course, we must not take up the attitude that nothing is ever right. I hope that is not wrongly construed, because if the Government mean by that that we should praise them for their achievements, my reply is that there are 90 members of the Government, and they are 2036 always talking about their achievements, and that makes it quite unnecessary for any of us to do so. My hon. Friend, in his reply to the hon. Member for Keighley, simply set aside his criticisms and said, "I can meet you later and discuss the matter." We hear that reply much too often in the House. There ought to be no antagonism about this. When we put up proposals give us the credit for sincerity, just as we are ready to give the Government credit for sincerity if they meet us in the proper spirit. That is the right kind of national unity.
I have a document sent in not by shop stewards but by a trade union. We had the shop steward movement in the last war, and it was very useful. Far be it from me to do anything that would interfere with the present functions of the trade union movement, but nevertheless shop stewards fulfil a proper function in a factory. I have no doubt there are black sheep among them, revolutionary characters among them—and, of course, that would appeal to my right hon. Friend opposite. There may be Communists among them, but Communists want to win the war, strange as it may seem, and anybody who wants to win the war ought to be gathered into the net. But this is a document sent to the Amalgamated Engineering Union, Birmingham district. It discloses a ghastly and appalling state of affairs. It is dated 21st March, so it is quite recent, and it covers the whole of the Birmingham area. It shows that there was an inquiry set up with reference to Production committees in most of the larger factories—the Austin Motor Company, the Rover Company, and others. [Interruption.] I am glad to see that the B.S.A., Smallheath, munitions firm, represented by certain hon.? Members of this House, took a quite different view and responded to the wishes of the men. But most of the larger firms replied in the most obstructive way. They wanted no interference in management. It is not a question of interference in management but of proper consultation.
There is a wealth of talent among the workers of this country which is not being properly used. They are of far more use to the country than some of the shareholders. The capacity of the men must be utilised. Take the mining industry. I am certain there are 2037 large numbers of miners who have got the mine manager's certificate or the under-manager's certificate and yet are working at the coal face or probably elsewhere in the mines. Their talent, their qualifications, their technical skill, their shrewdness, their knowledge of the pits ought to be utilised. It is not a question of interference in management, although personally I believe that the workers should share in the management of industry; but that is a matter for political consideration. All that has to be considered. I do not want to go through the list I have, and weary the House, but I assure Ministers that, in spite of declarations by certain employers' organisations—I do not say all employers; far from it; any more than one can say that all the workers are malcontents—many of the firms are not prepared to respond. The right hon. Gentleman must force them. I know "force" is a word that the Government do not like to use, and do not even like to hear, but after all, if the powers of the right hon. Gentleman are to be effective at all, ho must at some time or other be prepared to use force. I do not want to say any more about that matter at this stage.
I want to speak about the right hon. Gentleman's relations with the Minister of Labour. He said, no doubt with the utmost sincerity, that he was certain that his relations with the Minister of Labour would be harmonious. That is very satisfactory as far as it goes, but we shall await events. I express my own personal opinion in this matter, and am not speaking for this party, but I feel that the Minister of Production can never exercise his powers effectively unless he has direct control over labour supply, not in questions of health and welfare but in allocation and direction. If he has often to go to the Minister of Labour on questions of allocation and labour priorities, he will run up against very serious difficulties. I do not want to make too much of this matter. We have a scheme before us, and we do not want to try and force the issue at this stage. We have to make the best of the Government's proposals.
Notice how important this labour question is. I regard it as fundamental. A document came into my hands the other day reporting a statement by Admiral Land, of the United States Maritime Commission. Dealing with the prospects for shipbuilding in the United States, upon 2038 which we depend to a very large extent, he indicated that it was very unlikely that the full programme contemplated by the United States in respect of merchant shipbuilding would be carried out, even at the end of 1943. He said something more important still, that even if we got the ships, it was very doubtful whether there would be labour to man them. That is a very serious problem. The Government are aware—and I do not want to embark upon the subject of strategy—that we shall never be able to take the full offensive until we have a vast number of ships of the right kind, including vessels to transport troops and munitions to the scene of operations. We must take very great risks in doing so, because we shall lose a very large number of them. We shall also lose a very large number of men. Indeed, we have already. Therefore we must have labour. What steps are being taken to train seafaring labour to man the ships that we expect to receive from the United States of America? I believe—and no doubt I shall be corrected if I am wrong—that we are expecting 600 vessels from the United States before the end of 1943. We have not a vast reservoir of seafaring labour in this country to man those ships. Our efforts at training men have been almost futile.
Just now there is a surplus of deck labour but no surplus of engineers. There is only a surplus of deck labour, I believe, because for some political reason—I do not complain about it—we are manning some British ships under the ownership of the Ministry of War Transport with Danish and Allied labour. There are very good reasons for it, but it causes a little heart-burning among British seamen. It may seem irrelevant to the right hon. Gentleman but I shall show him that it is not. The right hon. Gentleman has to think in terms of ships. What is the good of guns and arms, except to resist invasion—although this is very important? But if we contemplate an offensive some day, what is the use, unless we can transport the troops? Therefore the right hon. Gentleman must think not merely in terms of tanks and guns, but in terms of ships. Unfortunately, neither the production of ships upon which he depends nor the seafaring labour are under his control. It is very important therefore to remember that the right hon. Gentleman may find that he 2039 does not possess the necessary powers. If he should make that discovery—if such a discovery is to be made, I hope he makes it soon—I beg that he will demand the necessary powers.
In the past two years we have had all kinds of Production methods. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield was Chairman of the Production Council. I said over and over again that he never possessed the powers necessary to enable him to undertake the task that was set. Then the task was vested in the Minister of Labour, as Chairman of the Production Executive. It did not seem to me that all the powers necessary then rested in the hands of the Minister of Labour. Lord Beaverbrook came along. He did not survive more than a short time. Now the right hon. Gentleman is called upon to undertake this burdensome and gigantic task. We wish him well; of that I can assure him with the utmost sincerity. Much more than personal considerations are involved in this matter. We have to win the war, and we cannot afford the luxury of defeat. The country must realise that. If we were discussing strategy, we should discover that. The way to find a satisfactory solution is not to make continual appeals to workers and employers, to complain about inefficient management or about absenteeism, slackers and the rest. The solution is: Take action.
I have several complaints. I mention only one. Many months ago I demanded, speaking at this Box, that the Government should adopt compulsion. My suggestion was not very popular. With many other hon. Members I demanded that the Government impose compulsion upon labour. That was a departure from the traditions of this party. I demanded also the quid pro quo, compulsion upon property; not equality, but equity, giving a sense of fairness to everybody in the country, all feeling that they were getting a square deal. That is mighty important. The Minister of Labour said across the Floor of the House that I was a dictator and he was a leader, but, step by step, the Government have been compelled, by the force of irresistible events, to adopt proposals that I have put forward. There has been a large measure of compulsion imposed on labour, but precious little compulsion on the employers, on managements and on property. My right hon. 2040 Friend asked for revolutionary proposals. I give him one: Take the steps that are necessary in the interests of the nation. If need be, ride rough-shod—I use the word advisedly. I do not mean in an undignified way, but in a manner compatible with the right hon. Gentleman's temperament—over every obstacle that comes your way, even if it be colleagues in the Government. If the right hon. Gentleman does that, he will not only have the support of this House, but the enthusiastic and unstinted support and admiration of the whole country. He will have rendered a great service, and, what is more, he will have made a vast contribution to victory.
§ Sir Jonah Walker-Smith (Barrow-in-Furness)
The hon. Gentleman who has just concluded his speech has expounded the views which he has been expressing in this House for the last 18 months, and to that extent they have the merit of consistency. Tempting though it is to traverse a number of the points he has made, I must refrain from doing so myself, being fully conscious of the fact that they will be dealt with—and, I have no doubt, dealt with quite effectively—in the closing speech from the Government Front Bench. In the very short time during which I hope to detain the House, I shall confine myself to an aspect of this problem of Production which lies within very narrow limits, one with which I am very familiar, and which I doubt very much will be presented from any other source. The Debate is quite naturally ranging over a very wide area. The subject lends itself to that, but I shall confine myself within very restricted limits.
In his opening statement, the Minister divided that which I think he termed his "ingredients of Production" into three categories—raw materials, machine tools and labour. It seemed from that that he had in mind very clearly the very great interest which he has in the products of the engineering industry, but I have no doubt that the principles which he will apply, the policy he will adopt and the means whereby he will deal with his various ingredients will be equally applicable to all other industries. I am quite conscious of the fact—and I am sure the Minister is also—that although he can divide his ingredients into those three categories, each one of them, more particularly raw materials and labour, must 2041 necessarily be divided into a number of much smaller divisions, and he, of course, will be perfectly familiar with the fact that there is a number of other matters to which he will need to devote his mind in the solution of this problem of Production, over and above those which are included in the three categories which he mentioned.
With respect, I would just refer to a few principles which I think he would do well to keep clearly in mind in the matter of the allocation of contracts, both in the engineering industry and no doubt in regard to other industries. I am sure that he will keep in mind the necessity of considering the available resources not only of machine tools but also of the plant, machinery and equipment generally which are available in the works or among the firms to which it is proposed to allocate contracts. That is quite obvious. Rather less obvious, but equally if not more important, is the desirability of keeping in mind the availability of managerial and supervisory resources. That, I fear, is an aspect of the problem of Production that is frequently disregarded or insufficiently regarded. It is no solution of the problem to expand firms very widely by causing to flow into them an enormous flood of labour if they have not the requisite amount of managerial and supervisory resources. If they have not those resources, a great deal of the labour will be most un-profitably used, and very largely wasted.
Further, I would like this principle also to be borne in mind, and this notwithstanding that the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) was inclined to disregard all questions of remuneration and profit. I would like it to be borne in mind that in the conditions of all contracts there should be provision to secure community of interest, whether for profit, for wages or whatever it may be. That community of interest should permeate the whole of the contractual arrangements. There should be community of interest between the contracting Departments and the contractors, between the contractors and the subcontractors, between the employers generally and their operatives, to secure the utmost possible Production and the most efficient output. It should be provided within the terms and conditions of the contract itself, and unless it permeates the whole of those conditions, output will not be what it should and Production will be no means at its optimum.
2042 Another principle which I should like to be borne clearly in mind is this: I think it is fairly clear in the engineering industry, but there may be no harm whatever in emphasising its importance. It is that great care should be taken in the preparation of designs for the purpose of simplification and standardisation of designs and specifications, in order that Production may proceed upon the basis of mass production and repetition work, with all the consequential advantages in output which they will ensure. Particularly as applied to the building and construction industry, I would urge that the Departments concerned should much more carefully prepare their plans, specifications and schemes before they go to contract. Hitherto there has been a regrettable and lamentable lack of preparation, with the result that those concerned have not been able to organise their work. They have not been able to prepare a time and progress schedule. For the purpose of some sort of dramatic demonstration enormous numbers of workmen have been sent to various places, but preparations have not been complete. Machinery has not been available, welfare accommodation has not been available, and so all has been in a hugger-mugger of confusion, to the great detriment of output. If these principles could be borne in mind by the Minister of Production I personally should be very grateful, as being closely concerned with the building and construction industry.
I am intimately concerned with the engineering industry also, but more particularly with the building and construction industry. Although I know that it is the policy of the Government, quite rightly and properly, to curtail the activities of the building and construction industry, they will, for the whole of the remainder of the war, necessarily be very considerable. It is a vast industry. At the beginning of the war no fewer than 1,500,000 men were engaged in it. Now that number has been reduced to about 1,000,000, but I am perfectly sure that the low water-mark will not fall below about 750,000 or 800,000. Therefore, I think it is quite right to remember that all that concerns the use of this industry should be continuously considered with very great care. I was greatly heartened—and it is for this reason and for this reason only that I intervene in the Debate to-day—when I heard the Minister say yesterday 2043 that he would be in control of building programmes. We are badly in need of more central control, and I was greatly heartened when he made that comment.
I think that all concerned will be very gratified that Production has been separated from the activities of the Ministry of Labour. Labour is an extremely important element in Production, but it is by no means the whole of Production, very far from it. Whatever success—and I am sure it has been considerable—may have been attained by the Minister of Labour in his activities as Minister of Labour and dealing with labour, his success was far less pronounced, not to stress the point too greatly, in his responsibility for Production as Chairman of the Production Executive of the Cabinet. I feel sure that there he was not entirely in his element. Many of us, of course, would subscribe to the view that it is an extremely good thing that he is now able to concentrate his talents on the work involved in the Ministry of Labour, and is no longer responsible for matters of Production. It is a very great satisfaction to us all to find that the responsibility for Production will be concentrated in one Minister. Even greater satisfaction is given to all of us, I hope, to find that the particular Minister in whom these great responsibilities are vested is one whose whole training and experience have been such as to qualify him to grasp this problem, which is of very great complexity.
I shall confine the remainder of my remarks to the building and civil engineering construction industry, and to a single phase of that, to narrow down the points upon which I wish to comment. I restriot my comments to the allocation of contracts and the economical use of labour in this particularly important industry. In the past it has been the practice of Government contracting Departments apparently to ignore the problem of Production. It has been their policy, knowing what their requirements are, to let contracts and to leave the question of Production to be settled by the various firms to whom they allocate their contracts, but they themselves have never troubled about the problems of Production. No particular harm arose from that indifference to that important question of Production so long as the demand which the Departments made upon the industries concerned was only about five 2044 per cent. as it formerly was. Now, when it is about 60 or 70 per cent. of the total production capacity of various industries, it is of far more importance that the means whereby Production is to be achieved should engage their much closer attention.
There have been demands upon the building industry for quite a number of Departments. I do not find myself that any are much better than others in their particular regard for this question of Production. There are the Ministry of Works and Buildings, the Ministry of Supply, the Air Ministry, the Ministry of Home Defence, the Admiralty and the War Office. I am bound to say that in my very intimate experience of all these Departments indenting upon the building and construction industry the particular Department, strange as it may be to some, which has shown the greatest interest in the problem of Production has been the War Office. It is no solution, in case a fleeting thought should pass through the mind of anyone, that all the Government buildings should vest in one particular Department. I greatly fear that this would not be a solution to the problem. Control is very largely a question of the proper allocation of contracts. It would be most advantageous, and the best possible Production would be obtained, and the best possible output obtained, if contracts were allocated proportionately to the productive resources of the various firms concerned. I know that various Government Departments give lip service to this very proper principle of allocation. They have agreed that local works shall be allocated to local builders and contractors, but that works of a larger nature shall be distributed upon a Regional basis, and that the very large works, involving heavy plant and large organisations, shall be allocated upon a national basis, because there are comparatively few firms who have the plant and organisation capable of dealing with them. That sounds all right, but there have been some incredible departures from that elementary and satisfactory principle.
I will give just two instances. It has been the custom of certain contracting authorities to allocate a considerable number of very large contracts, amounting to £300,000, £400,000 or £500,000, or sometimes £1,000,000, to a very large firm which can carry out these works 2045 expeditiously and with reasonable satisfaction. It comes as a very great disappointment to find that in the monthly returns that particular firm had allocated to it, certainly not by the same Department, but by the Ministry of Home Security, 14 or 15 contracts in one month for certain works, not one of them amounting to more than £5,000 or £6,000. That is an incredibly stupid thing to do, because that very large firm should have been reserved for the very large contracts, and these small works could very properly have been allocated to the local contractors with local facilities who could have done them much more expeditiously and satisfactorily and with a much greater economy in the use of labour. That is one instance. Another is where a firm of Midland joinery manufacturers was entrusted with an enormously large contract, which had very little to do with joinery manufacture, in the extreme North of Great Britain. Those are just two examples in which that principle has been so seriously departed from.
In his general review of the position, in his control of the building programme, I am hopeful that the Minister of Production will bring the whole programme under review and, if he should think fit, reallocate some of the work for the purpose of securing more rapid and expeditious Production and the more economical use of labour. He may require further consideration of the circumstances under which man-power is being reserved for various local authorities throughout the country for so-called maintenance arrangements. He may require the revision of the whole programme for the purpose of concentrating the building industry upon those works urgently needed for the war effort. Whatever he may do in the interests of increased Production, if he will accept the assistance of the large national organisations, both of employers and labour, they will most willingly collaborate to the utmost extent of their undoubted ability. In close collaboration they have presented joint submissions for the purpose of securing greater efficiency. They have submitted these to various Departments. They have deeply regretted that so little has resulted from them. In his consideration of this problem the Minister may take it as a fact that if ever they were particularly anxious about their own industrial interests, that has disappeared long ago and 2046 will certainly not recur during the war. If he finds that their assistance would be at all acceptable, I can pledge both the organised employers and the organised operatives to do anything they possibly can to assist him.
§ Mr. Horabin (Cornwall, Northern)
I agree with the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) that the Minister enters on his tremendous task with the genuine good will of every Member of this House. I want to say nothing that will hamper him in that task. My whole object is to assist him in his tremendous job. To me, the bright spot in the speech made by the Minister yesterday was his statement that he was prepared to consider any proposal, however revolutionary it might be. I find that, under the impact of war, I become more revolutionary every day; perhaps that is why I appreciate that remark. At any rate, it shows an attitude of mind that is fresh to the Treasury Bench. If that remark is to be taken literally, as I have no doubt it should be, I feel that the Minister has been very hard done by in being asked to address us and state his policies before he has had an opportunity of completely thinking them out. That is not the fault of the House, but the fault of the Government; I do not think there was any real demand for a debate on Production at the present time. But for a member of the War Cabinet to come forward at this late stage with incomplete policies, must add to the feeling of frustration which is so prevalent, both in this House and in the country.
I want to try to relate this Production problem with the changes that have taken place in the strategical situation since Russia started fighting her winter campaign. There is a large measure of agreement that during the next six months the final outcome of this war may well be decided. At any rate, both Stalin and Hitler have made up their minds to bring matters to an issue this year. I think there is no doubt about the outcome, because Russia has both the ability and the means to achieve, at any rate, what are said to be her minimum aims. But on the part that we are going to play in the next six months depends both the character of the victory and the character of any peace that may follow. I felt that in the Minister's speech yesterday there was no appreciation of the urgency and the gravity of this situation. It is true, as my 2047 hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) said, that the Minister unfolded a long-term plan which will bring increased Production, I think, in the next four or six months; but we want something far more urgently. What is needed above all at present is a short-term policy for Production, which will lead to an increase in Production to-morrow, and a tremendous increase in the next three or four weeks. How is this to be done? It is a hard task; but not an impossible task for a Minister who is prepared to consider revolutionary proposals. In order to do it, the Minister must take the widest possible view of his task.
It has been said in this Debate by, among others, my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), that morale in this country at present is not as good as it has been; and morale decides the Production battle, just as decisively as it does any military battle. Morale on the Production front has been declining, especially in the last few months. That is obvious to anyone who has close contact with industry, either with the workers or with the industrialists themselves. As a steelworker said to a friend of mine, "What is the use of working your guts out with long hours at the furnaces to produce equipment which is to be handed over to the enemy?" We have to restore morale; to restore that spirit which animated the country at the time of Dunkirk. It can be done if the Government show that they are abandoning their present defensive policy, and switching over to an offensive policy. There may be more defeats; but the British people can take them. They will take them willingly if they see the Government making a determined attempt to bring about a unified strategy with Russia for a second front, leading to victory in 1942. If that were the slogan of the Government, everyone in this country, no matter what his position in life, would be ready to make any sacrifice he was called upon to make and to work all out to bring the war to an end this year. There is another aspect of this matter. We have to be realistic. The morale of the Army also has declined in recent weeks. The Army is losing its self-confidence, not because of the rude remarks which have been made in the editorials of the "Daily Mirror," 2048 but because of the inescapable implications of recent military events.
§ Mr. Horabin
Because I have close contact with people in the Army. The men in the ranks of the citizen army are not fools. They are as capable of putting two and two together as any other members of the community, and they realise to the full that the tactics being employed at present in the British Army can never stand up to the revolutionary tactics of infiltration which are employed by the Germans, the Japanese, the Russians, and the Chinese. My second proposal to the Minister, not only as Production Minister, but as a member of the War Cabinet, and as a member of the Defence Committee, is that he should insist upon the General Staff evolving a correct tactical doctrine, with all the assistance we can get from the Russian Army and General Staff. We should immediately organise an army of invasion, under a general who grass these tactics. We should make full use of the aliens, particularly the Czechs, in this country who have a full understanding of these tactics.
§ Mr. Cyril Lloyd (Dudley)
Is the hon. Member in Order in discussing, on this question, the tactics to be employed in invasion?
§ Mr. Horabin
The question of tactics, at present, has a vital bearing on the kind of Production upon which the Minister of Production has to concentrate; and the Minister said so himself yesterday. Nobody, and nothing, should be allowed to stand in the way of the o training of this army. This brings me to my third revolutionary proposal. I suggest that the Minister of Production should concentrate now on the production of essential equipment for the army of invasion. He referred yesterday to three factors in Production labour, raw materials, and plant. There is a fourth factor, which is equally important. That is design. The army units responsible for design are, quite clearly, unaware of the latest developments in mass production technique. They are unaware of the latest developments in the industrial technique relating to the materials which they have to employ. The Minister of Production should do what was done in the last war. Designs should be 2049 taken very largely out of their hands and placed in the hands of a board under his own control, composed of men who have the latest technical knowledge in these matters. I am not going into any details because I do not think that it would be in the public interest to do so. But I shall be very happy to tell the Minister privately of the shocking story of the anti-tank mine, of the way in which we were using out-of-date formulae for some of our most important military explosives, and I would also be prepared to talk to him about the difficulties in the small arms ammunition situation through the same problem of design.
There is another point. The multiplicity of designs must be ruthlessly cut down. The Service officer who insists upon the production of another type of tommy-gun because he wants a bayonet attachment on it should be ruthlessly suppressed. To take up that attitude shows that the Service concerned does not understand the technical use of the tommy-gun. Such stupidity as that should not be allowed to stand in the way of getting quick production.
The fourth revolutionary proposal for the Minister to consider comes down again to the question of the use of the Regional boards which have been referred to by a number of hon. Members before me. In order to get this additional Production quickly for an Army of offensive, we must use the unutilised productive capacity which is to be found mainly in the small factories and workshops of the country, and the quick way to get at that productive capacity is through the area boards. But if the area boards are to do this job effectively, a full-time chairman who is a productive man and not a financial man, and one who knows his area intimately, and the area boards must have full powers over plant, management and labour in the areas. They must have power to send and transfer men and to shift plant here and there in order to get the necessary Production. I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham that there must be compensation, because we are still living in a capitalist State. The Minister of Production should do what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) did in the last war, with the help of Lord Aberconway, who told us in a room upstairs about these things on the outbreak of this war. These chairmen 2050 should be called to London and should be given a list of the equipment, that is urgently required and the quantity, and then they should be sent back to their respective areas, with instructions to return to London in a week saying exactly how much they could produce in their own areas. If that were done, there could be an immediate and a large increase in Production without interfering with the other lines that are in production at the present time. I believe that we are at the most critical stage of this war, and it lies in the hands of the Minister of Production more than in the hands of any other member of the Government to do these things which will enable us to avoid that spiritual and material bankruptcy of which we are in the gravest danger at the present moment.
§ Sir Charles Edwards (Bedwellty)
I think I am entitled to the indulgence of the House, because it is a long time since I have done any speaking here, but I am glad of the opportunity now. My hon. Friend the Member for Northern Cornwall (Mr. Horabin) talked about revolutionary suggestions, but I do not know that my suggestions will be very revolutionary. I suggest that we should leave people where they are at the moment until we have made sure that we have work for those who have already been taken and put into something else. About three weeks or a month ago I met a friend in my hotel, and I met him again last night. He is a man who is known to many here. He was telling me about a case—and we have heard of many similar cases before—of a certain woman who, as her family had grown up, was free and felt that she ought to be doing some work. She went after a job and was told to come in on the Monday morning and bring her knitting with her. She went to that work all the week and did not do a stroke the whole of that time. When she was telling my friend she said, "That is not the worst of it. There were 150 women in the same position as myself." When I saw my friend last night I asked him whether there was any truth in that, and he said, "Yes, but it was even worse than that. There were three weeks when all these people did not do a stroke of productive work." If that is so, then it is time that we stopped pushing other people away from their usual work and made sure that there was work to do for those who were already in productive work.
2051 I have never known any private company in my life employ people and be responsible for their wages if they had nothing for them to do. I wonder whether the system of payment which obtains at that factory is that which we have heard so much about, namely, cost plus 10 per cent.? If that system is in vogue to-day, then it is a scandal. There is no inducement to keep costs down but every inducement to make them as high as possible. This firm must have been guaranteed these wages before they would employ anybody else or before they would keep 150 women from doing anything for three weeks. This is a very serious matter. We hear very often about this sort of thing, and I have always endeavoured to explain it away, because the Minister of Labour cannot know everything. We are now engaged in bigger business than ever before in our lives, and if little things go wrong, we cannot help it. Things will go wrong in certain details in big business such as we are engaged in to-day. We ought to be sure that there is work for people to do before they are taken away from their usual methods of life and employment.
I will give one other case. It is the case of young men of about 17 who were required for work in radio research. The Government advertised, and certain young men answered the advertisement. I know one young man very well. These young men had to have certain educational certificates in mathematics and different things, and the boy I know got through all right. He had been for four years at a county school and for 12 months at a technical school, so that he was pretty well up, and if he had been left alone he would have obtained useful employment, which would have been a good thing for the boy and his parents after all the sacrifices they bad made as working people. He was accepted for this work and went to a technical college, where he remained for four months. He did not do a bit of electrical work there, and he was afterwards sent to another place where he has been for three or four weeks, and, in the boy's own words, not only he but others are "just messing about and doing nothing whatever." If that is so, why was not that boy left at home where he could have obtained useful employment? It has been said than another 1,000,000 women are 2052 wanted for industry. What for? It seems to me that we are pitting too much thought and attention into the question of shifting people about and not so much as we should to the question of whether there is anything for them to do in the new places to which they are sent. The whole thing should be slopped until there is work for the people who have been already moved from their homes. This, and the other points I have mentioned, I commend to the Minister of Labour.
§ Major Cazalet (Chippenham)
I am sure hon. Members would like me to say with what pleasure we heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards), whom I may call our old friend, breaking his long silence, and I know it is our wish that he should repeat that performance on many future occasions.
§ Major Cazalet
I listened with great attention to the speech made by the Minister yesterday in which his concluding sentences particularly appealed to many hon. Members. There seemed to be a real ring of sincerity about them when he said that he was not only prepared to listen to, but would welcome, criticisms, changes and suggestions even though they were of a revolutionary character. I was privileged to see a little of the very considerable contribution he made to the war effort in the Middle East and I am sure his contribution in this country will be just as successful. My only reason for making these few observations to-day is that for the last six weeks or two months I have visited about twenty factories in every part of the country. I had the opportunity of talking both to workers and managers, and I came away with certain impressions which may not be entirely without interest to those concerned with the need for increased production in the country to-day. The first thing I want to say is that, taking the country as a whole, I do not accept or believe that the general criticisms and indictments against our workers as a whole are either fair or correct. The great mass of our people are sensible, patriotic and hard-working. The machines are going, and the goods are being produced.
2053 In the Clyde district, against which many criticisms have been levelled, and which I recently visited, I was told that the schedule of shipping tonnage produced was up to expectations and in certain cases beyond it. I am not saying that it could not be more, but when we hear the constant criticisms against the shipbuilding industry in that part of the country, I think it is satisfactory to hear these facts. Just because certain factories temporarily have no material or because some men have been found playing cards is no reason for levelling an indictment against the workers of the country as a whole. An instance was given to me of 16 men out of 1,100 who were not at their jobs for 48 hours owing to the non-arrival of a particular piece of material. In about six hours the whole factory knew about it; in 24 hours the town was convinced that no one was doing any work in that factory, and by the time the news got to London there was the general idea that nobody in the town was working for more than a few hours every day. I do not believe this sort of thing does the country or our cause any good. I have no doubt also that the Germans are having their difficulties in production in these days, but they do not advertise them to the same extent. I know full well that if one is not a critic of the Government these days, one is apt almost immediately to be accused of complacency. I hasten to correct that impression. People talk rather glibly about what is called 100 per cent. capacity. I believe that is a misleading term. I do not think that either machines or individuals can work at 100 per cent. capacity.
In my view the people of this country are working somewhere between 80 and 85 per cent. capacity and that almost everywhere everyone could probably do 10 to 15 per cent. more. Which of us could not? It is impossible to give one reason why this extra 10 per cent. is not being worked, and it is extremely hard to offer one solution to inspire people to make this extra contribution. The reasons are different in almost every factory. Sometimes it is due to absenteeism, bad management, no hostels, lack of workers, insufficiency of skilled workers, lack of material or delay in taking a decision on certain financial matters. But there are just a few generalisations which I think could be applied to a good many 2054 cases in the country. The first is this: I found everywhere that workers were worried—and I use that word advisedly—about Income Tax. Many of us have had the great advantage, even though we did not like it, of paying Income Tax and knowing something about it in the past, and some even, although I cannot include myself, have actually had the unpleasant experience of suddenly finding his wife's income for last year added to his own. But for the majority of workers this is a completely new thing. Some of us have been paying Income Tax for 20 years and still do not understand it, and when the worker suddenly finds that in addition to his own tax he must pay 5s. a week extra for something which his wife has earned 12 months to 18 months earlier, and which he may have forgotten or may not have known about, that is something that wants explaining. Finally, when you get this deduction of 20 per cent. by the Government, which they say will be paid back in the future, although nobody knows whether it ever will be paid back, that only completes the confusion and raises a good deal of suspicion.
I have a criticism to offer. I do not believe the Government have taken nearly enough trouble to explain these facts to men in industry. There are opportunities during the canteen luncheon hour, and I think it would be of tremendous help both to the men and the Government if speakers were sent to the factories to explain not once but several times the incidence of Income Tax and why it is fairer in the long run to have it levied in the manner in which it is levied to-day. I do not believe that on the whole workers are unwilling to pay. But I believe that, like all British people, when they think they have a grievance or when there is an injustice which they do not understand, they become irritated, and appear to be more discontented than really they are. There are certain respects in which the incidence of the Income Tax ought to be changed. It is a hardship on a man in Winter, when he is working shorter hours, to have to pay a tax on something that he earned 18 months ago in Summer when he was working a considerable amount of overtime. I could give one or two similar illustrations of the hardships that are caused by the present incidence of Income Tax, and I think these should be looked into and, if possible, changed in the forthcoming Budget.
Mr. Deputy - Speaker (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I must remind the hon. and gallant Member, before he proceeds further, that he must not deal with legislation.
§ Major Cazalet
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I will leave that point. I would go a step further in trying to explain these things to the men and women. I would tell them quite frankly that, compared with men in the Services, they are very fortunate. After all, if a man from Mars came to the world and visited this country at the present time, and if after he had been here some time, one asked him what thing had amused him most, I believe he would say. "I found two men working on an aerodrome, one in brown corduroys and the other in khaki, and the one in khaki, if he were single, would be drawing about 3s. a day and the other might very easily be drawing a figure nearer to 30s." Or one might take the case of two sisters, one married to a soldier and the other married to a man working in a neighbouring factory.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Do not forget to bring in one who is married to a banker or to a company director.
Such an illustration might be perfectly apposite, and it might amaze a man from Mars just as much. I realise that I am not stating the whole problem, but for the moment I want to give only facts. The case to which I am referring is of two sisters, one married to a man in the Services and the other to a man working in a neighbouring factory; the wife of the soldier would be drawing 30s. or 40s. a week, and the other would be drawing two or three times what she drew before the war began. Let us remember that after the last war everyone, irrespective of politics, said again and again, "This shall never happen in future." I have made this point for another reason. When we see how little complaint and criticism there is from the families of serving men, I think that it shows what tolerance, decency, and patriotism there is in the community of this country. I was very glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply say that the Department intend to send an increasing number of speakers to the factories. From my own experi- 2056 ence, I know that they will find willing and attentive audiences eager to hear any facts relating to the war. I am glad the practice is to be extended.
There is a second generalisation I would like to make. Every factory ought to have—I do not know what hon. Members would prefer to call it—a labour administrator, with authority only next to the manager.
§ Major Cazalet
I have heard a variety of terms used, but as long as he has the authority and the position, I do not mind what he is called. He should be in supreme charge of all matters dealing with labour, pay, taxation, holidays, and so forth. He should be, a kind of super-welfare man. The works councils in certain factories supply this need, but only up to a point. Where there is any appreciable number of women there should be a woman to deal with the same matters concerning her own sex. I should like now to say a word or two about women. Not long ago I went to art ordnance factory in South Wales where 80 per cent. of the workers were women. Incidentally, it was one of the most superbly run factories in every way that I have ever visited. The manager told me that the women are just as good as, if not better than, the men, and much less trouble to look after. I know there has been considerable progress in the number of nursery and day schools that have been started, but until we get a greatly increased number I do not think we shall be able to get any large number of women who will be able to work part-time.
I come now to the third generalisation that I want to make. In many factories—I believe in most—there is a very small percentage, not more than 1 per cent. or 2 per cent., of individuals who are worthless people. It may not be their own fault, it may be that they have inherited their physique and character from bad conditions in the past; but they are there. They are not Communists; if they can be called anything, they are Anarchists. They are to be found in every organisation. They are not important in themselves, but they influence some 10 to 15 per cent. of weaker brethren who also exist in every organisa- 2057 tion. In the Services, and in business in peace time, one can deal with them. Under the Essential Work Order it is not easy to deal with them. The machinery is slow and cumbersome. I will give an illustration of a particular case. In a factory a man, during his night shift, laid down under the bench and slept. When he was reprimanded next day and told that the maximum penalty was that he was to be stood off for three days, as a punishment, he said, "What do I care? I have plenty of money." I do not suggest that there is any considerable number of such people, but what is to be done with them? A great many people say, "Do what you did in the last war-call them up to the Forces." Personally, I do not think that the Army should become a depository for the misfits of industry. But how are these people to be dealt with? I believe there has to be some kind of central tribunal which will deal with all cases of this sort on similar lines. The other day, in the Clyde district, certain malefactors who had been, under various Acts, brought before the magistrates were given sentences varying from 60 days to a very small fine.
§ Mr. J. J.. Davidson (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Will the hon. and gallant Member say whether any of those people had appeared before their local trade union committee or shop stewards' committees inside the workshops before the court decisions were arrived at?
§ Major Cazalet
In many cases the best way to deal with the matter would be through the shop stewards and the trade union committees on the spot, but in the cases that were brought to my notice, I believe that the shop stewards and the trade unions, the workers and the management, would be very grateful for some machinery which would deal with these very difficult, and I do not for one moment suggest very numerous, cases. If I am told that the machinery does exist through the National Service Officer, all I can say is that the general consensus of opinion is that it does not work. It may be possible to speed it up, it may be possible to do something else, but I believe this is a problem that could be dealt with, it may be, without legislation.
I do not myself hold much store by what I call cheap outbursts against dog-racing, horse-racing, boxing and football 2058 matches. I do not happen myself to spend my Saturdays or Sundays going to these entertainments, nor do I have any great knowledge of the lives of workers in factories and towns. I do know, however, that if a man works 50 or 60 hours a week, he is entitled to some recreation and amusement on Saturdays and Sundays. The lives of Members of Parliament are very varied, and even exciting—we never know what strange things may occur with 600 odd Members in the House; perhaps the variety of life is the charm of Westminster. If we stop dog-racing, horse-racing and football matches, we shall only send these people to the public houses, where they are provided with plenty of drink. I believe that the social problems caused by foolish restrictions on legitimate entertainments will be infinitely greater than the problems caused by absenteeism. The Germans go on with their football matches and ski-ing—they announce them over the radio—and in Russia they carry on with their theatres in every town. The Germans make most extensive efforts to amuse both the workers and the soldiers who happen to be on leave. Personally, I should like to see during this coming summer crowds of workers watching cricket matches on Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
What can we do to try and get this extra 10 per cent.? I have already outlined one or two definite suggestions. I think we are all agreed that we shall not get it by advertising exceptional and isolated cases of absenteeism or bad management. Of course, if you find a malefactor, hit him as hard as you like, but do not make the position out to be worse than it is. But, is there something more which can be done? The answer to this question can only be found in understanding what has happened in England during the last few months. The British people have suffered frightful reverses. We have had three terrific blows at our pride-the "Prince of Wales" and the "Repulse," Malaya and Rangoon, and the "Scharnhorst" and "Gncisenau." They do not understand it, and they cannot understand it. They will not accept the usual Government answer that everything was done for the best, that these were just chances of war and that as far as we know no one is to blame. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House told us the other day that during the extra long Recess Members would be 2059 able to go to their constituencies. I have been to my constituency and to other constituencies, and what do the people want to know? They want to know why these things have happened, what is the explanation, who is to be blamed, and what is being done to remedy the position. If the Government want Members to go to their constituents in order to animate support for themselves, this is not the moment to give that advice, unless they are prepared to give us more information.
Take the case of the Bucknill Report. I do not believe that the Government are going to get away with what they have told us up to the present. They give the impression that there are only a few small errors, which will be put right in the future, and that in any case it was rather a good thing it happened. If it was only a few small errors which allowed these ships to pass through the Channel, one wonders whether the same thing might not be repeated. I wonder sometimes whether Members of the Cabinet know—perhaps they are too busy—what people are saying about these events. The Government should promise a full inquiry on Singapore, maybe a Royal Commission, as soon as the appropriate time arrives, on similar lines to the Dardanelles inquiry, and also some definite and detailed information should be given on the Bucknill Report. I know that the Bucknill Report cannot be published, and I accept that.
All these things lead to frustration in people's minds. People believe they are not being told the truth. They know we are being hit, and that at this moment we do not seem to be able to hit back. It is quite true that we are fighting on a variety of fronts, but, except in individual cases in the air and on the sea, the war has lost the reality it had after Dunkirk and during the Battle of Britain. We in this country forget very quickly; we are very bad haters and absurdly tolerant. It is only in Russia that we feel a sense of reality about the war. We know that the tanks and guns which have gone to Russia have already taken part in the battle, and are taking their toll of the German army. Of course, one small victory, were it ours to command, would change the atmosphere very considerably; but we are going through a very bad time, both materially and psychologically. We feel that all our efforts are frustrated, and 2060 even useless, and for a free-thinking and free-speaking British public this is, perhaps, the hardest fight of all. Quite frankly, I doubt whether the Government can do very much, but they can refrain from saying and doing things which exacerbate and increase this frustration. Morale is not a question solely of wages, organisation or even victories; morale is a question of the spirit. This is a struggle which every free man and woman has to, fight within himself and herself, and it is just because we are free men and free women that I believe we shall defeat the enemy within as we shall defeat the enemy without.
§ Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)
I was very glad to hear the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Major Cazalet). The Minister referred to-day to slogans, and I am glad that the time has come when the Government realise how stupid some of these slogans are and how offensive they are to the workmen. They tell the men in the factories that they are stupid beings and that they do not understand things, and yet we continue to make these silly appeals. I wish the Minister could see some of the answers which have been written on these slogans in the factories, although I am afraid they could not find their way into Parliamentary reports. However, I hope that his nonsense has come to an end. The Minister said the time had come, not so much to increase man-power, but to make the best use of the man-power we have. I wonder whether he will take the trouble to read a statement made last week by the Assistant Secretary of the Civil Servants' Clerical Association. He states that there are hordes of people within the Civil Service looking for jobs, who have written and protested to the Government, and who have asked to be put to some useful war work.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
Has the hon. Member seen the reply which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave to a Question I put on that point?
§ Mr. Edwards
I do not remember the reply. The matter was so serious that I took an opportunity to discuss it with the gentleman himself. He assures me it is quite as serious as he made out. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bedwellty (Sir C. Edwards) stated from this 2061 Front Bench to-day that his people were doing some knitting, but the people for whom Mr. White speaks do not even have that opportunity. There is the matter of Overseas Trade where for a long time about 350 people were almost unemployed. Action due to pressure had to be taken in this case, and I believe it has been reduced to about 100, but I am told that the chief of the Civil Service sent instructions before this investigation that none of the higher officials had to be investigated, and I believe that a whole list of higher officials remain there with nothing to do. I wonder whether some of them could be transferred to useful war work. There is not much that is useful to be done by Overseas Trade at the moment, and they would take a little more pride if they were transferred to a Department where they could do some useful work. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into that matter.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Captain Crookshank)
Does the hon. Member mean the Department of Overseas Trade?
§ Captain Crookshank
No doubt he is aware that a committee sits under the chairmanship of Lord Kennet which is charged with investigating the whole question of the staffing and calling up of civil servants of both sexes.
§ Mr. Edwards
Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not gather what I said about that. The chief of the Civil Service had received instructions that the higher paid officials had not to be investigated.
§ Captain Crookshank
I do not suppose for a moment that that statement could be supported. I should like evidence to be produced for my information.
§ Mr. Edwards
I think I could refer the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to an actual document, and I shall be pleased to do so. No doubt he will remind me. I frequently have to remind him about certain things in his Department.
When the Minister referred to vast Ordnance factories employing 20,000 or 30,000 people, I wish he had taken the opportunity to say that it was a ghastly mistake on the part of his Department to 2062 have such factories. What I am concerned about sometimes in these Debates is that Ministers do not concern themselves about changing the mentality of their Departments. They were built without ever taking into consideration whether there would be living accommodation or transport accommodation, and it resulted in great difficulties for various Ministries—Transport and Labour. Later, hostels were provided, hastily and not very satisfactorily. The people who could devise a factory to employ 20,000 or 30,000 people and say the manager should not receive more than £1,000 salary and must be a trained chemist from Woolwich are almost criminals. I am concerned that time after time these things are mentioned, but the Department do not seem to remove any of the personnel who have been responsible for these stupid mistakes.
We have appointed a Select Committee on National Expenditure, which has published about 50 Reports, and very scant attention has been given to them either by the House or by the Departments. I am not offering the suggestion critically, but it would be a good investment if the Minister would have someone go thoroughly into those Reports—the Chairman of the Committee would co-operate to the fullest degree—and find out how many cases of negligence and wastefulness have been brought out and reported. I think he would find that there is scope there for an immense improvement in Production. I wonder if the Minister of Production would do this. Frequently, if we say that work is held up owing to the Treasury, we are told, "There is no hold-up. Things have been speeded up." I know that at this moment there are many vital jobs which should be going forward which are held up, not for weeks but for months, because the Treasury interfere where they have no right to interfere, and frequently cannot make their decisions even when they have spent several weeks considering them. If the Minister would ask the Departments how many jobs are held up owing to the Treasury, I think he would get something of a surprise.
§ Mr. Stokes
Does my hon. Friend mean held up by the Treasury or by Treasury officials attached to the particular Department?
§ Mr. Edwards
Frequently the Treasury have officials attached to the Department, and they have certain rules and instruc- 2063 tions to carry out. The whole question of Treasury control is obsolete. At any rate it is quite redundant in time of war. When it is a matter of money my hon. Friend can go any week-end and make up what would be lost in pounds, shillings and pence, but you only have a limited amount of man-power. Jobs are being held up, and I will quote cases. The whole of the documentary proof is available.
I should like to have said something about the Regional boards, but a good deal has been said, and the Engineering Industries Association have put into the Ministry a statement which I think is very well worth serious consideration. But I should like to ask the Minister of Production this: How will he act when the Admiralty wants exactly the same type of guns and the same type of shells that other Departments require? I quoted a case in the last Debate, though no one took any notice of it, where the same group of firms were working for the Admiralty and for the Ministry of Supply. One Department rejected 75 per cent. of the shells, and the other passed 95 per cent. It was exactly the same production and the same job, but they had different gauges. How is the Minister of Production going to deal with cases like that? There will be an awful conflict of interest. The result of that conflict of interest before was the total loss to this country of 800,000 finished shells—a very serious matter. A report on that was prepared for the Minister, who was the late Minister of Production. I was in his office not long ago, and when I referred to the report he said he had never seen it. It had been deliberately kept from him because it was such a shocking revelation. It ought to be impossible for such things to occur.
I notice that each time the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) speaks, the Minister of Labour always challenges him for proof. When I last spoke I asked someone to challenge me for proof, but nobody did. No one will challenge me for proof of anything I say to-day That rather suggests guilt. I received a postcard from one Department after the last Debate, when I pointed out that a £6,000 machine was doing the work of a £100 machine. On their promising to do something about it, I gave the particulars, but I never heard another word 2064 about it, not a word to say that they found I was right and would put a stop to it. They spend as much time as they can white-washing cases. Is that kind of thing in the interest of the country and of this House? Ministers ought to put themselves out either to challenge the Member who brings up these cases or to give an assurance that some attention is being given to them and that they will not occur again. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham said he did not think we could ever get 100 per cent. production. Of course we cannot. The highest we can ever get in any industry is 90 per cent. If you work out the capacity of an industry you know that you a can never reach 100 per cent. It is absurd to think you can. I am certain as I can be, however, speaking after careful deliberation and with inside knowledge, that with proper planning of the available labour and plant at our disposal, we could almost double our capacity.
I was shocked when the Minister rather sneered at people who have paper plans. It would be a terrible thing if our soldiers fighting abroad had no paper plans. The Minister of Production will not find his way through Production difficulties if he has no paper plans. I have never met anyone in his Department who could say what the state of Production of various things was at any stage. We are told that 40,000 items go into a tank. That seems rather a belated discovery. There are about 8,000 in some of the aeroplanes. If one item is held up at any stage that will account for men sitting down and playing cards in their factories. Nobody seems to realise in the Departments that it ought to be possible to know at any stage if anything is falling short or falling behind. I have not met a Minister yet who had this information at his disposal. I hope that my right hon. Friend has something more up to date, but he had not a short time ago when I was making inquiries of his Department. The Minister said yesterday:I have always found, in matters of organisation, that one must be slow to up-root something which has already grown for the sake of making nice looking charts by which a cantilever system of responsibility is built up."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1942; col. 1841, Vol. 378.]That sounds all right, but if he means that the rough and ready method of getting, our present peak of Production as he called it is not to be superseded, I am 2065 afraid it is a policy of despair. Something will have to be done in future if we are to increase our present capacity.
I would like to point out what I think is one of the major mistakes. At the time when we wanted the greatest output of ships, of tanks and of munitions from our ordnance factories, what did some previous Minister do? I do not know who was guilty, but it may have been the present Minister of Supply. The same man was asked to do all three jobs. We had a man responsible for the shipping programme—Sir James Lithgow—and he was made chairman of the Tank Board, and afterwards, when men went on strike, he was asked to take over an ordnance Factory. How can one man do all these jobs? If I understood him aright, the Minister said yesterday that he is going to make Lord Portal responsible for the allocation of raw materials. I had a good deal to do with that Department recently, and if that is not a full-time job I do not know what is. Is there not some one else in the country who could do it? Have we not some competent man who could undertake a job of that kind? One of the great mistakes of the Government is asking men to do two men's jobs. We have had men in the War Cabinet responsible for two Departments and they have not had time to think about special jobs.
Something was said during the Debate about the Departments consulting with the producers. That has been another major mistake and it still exists. People who want a special design will not consult, at least early enough, with the people who have to build the articles. We had a terrible hold-up of tanks because the Ministry of Supply knew far too much and did not appreciate how much the people in the workshops who had to build them knew. To illustrate what is typical of the permanent official, I will tell the Minister of one case. In a certain factory in Scotland which is producing guns the works manager suggested that if the people at Woolwich would allow him to modify the design very slightly, it would not make the slightest difference to the particular article, but he could produce four of them in a fortnight instead of two—just double the capacity. I decided to check up on this story and I put a telephone call through to the man in Scotland. I asked him if what he said was true, and he said, "Absolutely." My next step was to telephone to Woolwich 2066 and get the chief engineer who was responsible. I said, "Do you know about this?" "Oh," he said, "I have heard from some of these clever people who think they can teach us our job." That is the mentality of the permanent official. I will refer the Minister to the person concerned if he wishes it. I said to him, "What are you talking about? You are the customer. It is a matter of life and death, and we want output. Do you tell me that you remain at Woolwich and talk like this?" "Oh," he said, "we hear so much of these things." There is the mentality of the permanent official who resents any assistance from outside.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
My hon. Friend is perhaps not aware that so far as design is concerned the Ministry of Aircraft Production is entirely in the hands of the manufacturers, and they will bear out every criticism which my hon. Friend has made against Woolwich.
§ Mr. Edwards
Someone behind me who should know says that that is not correct. Within the last two weeks I have had occasion to take up a matter with the Ministry of Aircraft Production. Someone was producing something of which the country was in urgent need. Nobody else had attempted to design this thing, but these people designed it in a very short time and it was satisfactory, and they said "All right, we will go into production. Our production line is only 50 per cent. occupied and we want to get 100 per cent. if we can." What happened then? After a little consideration the Ministry said "Oh, we think somebody else should take it on now." These people wanted to produce the thing as quickly as possible, but the permanent official said, "Oh, no. It is somebody else's job." I have another case—it would probably be too long to quote it in full—where the Ministry uses the phrase—or at any rate the Ministry is made to use it—"I don't think we should take this job out of the ring." There are people outside the ring who can do mighty good work. If the Minister of Production will look into this matter I will give him some information. I should be very glad if after he were able to look into it he could get up in this House and say that the statement I had made was wrong, but I have never yet had the pleasure of hearing that.
§ Mr. Hopkinson
I think the hon. Member is getting mixed up between the actual manufacturer and the designer. The designing is, of course, in the ring, it has been so ever since the time of Lord Swinton, and that is really the basis of most of our lack of aircraft. As far as manufacture is concerned, the manufacture goes far outside the ring. The design is always kept closely within the ring.
§ Mr. Edwards
It is not the design that I referred to. This designer is not in the ring, and these people are producing them just as well as those who are in the ring.
I should like to say another word or two about planning. I wish the Minister of Production were here, because I could not impress upon him too strongly the fact that it is the lack of planning that is responsible for our present position. Many years before the war, when the previous Prime Minister said the one thing we in this country were going to have was an Air Force second to none, one of our best designers made it his business to draw up a scheme for the Government. He had access to all the factories in Germany and in America and knew all their methods of production. I never saw such a detailed report, such a plan of action, as that one. It was presented to the first Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence. You know what to expect, of course. It had taken me a week to go through the report, but after glancing at it the Minister said, "Oh, we could not go in for anything like that." It is not much wonder that we were not prepared. What that man had pointed out in that report is what has been brought out in this Debate, the sad lack of capacity for Production. He insisted that we should make all preparations. He said that if we were to catch up with the Germans, we should need to have all the technical colleges in the country teaching people who, in turn, would then be ready to train other people. That advice was not taken, and that was a great shortcoming.
I am glad to see that the Minister of Production has now returned. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will report to him what I have been saying. I have here the case of a factory which was blitzed. I shall not attempt to read it all, but it is at the disposal of the Minister if he cares to have it. He can have all the documentary evidence, from inside and 2068 outside the Department. Incidentally, I have just related to the House how a certain report was prepared for his predecessor, and when I was talking to his predecessor a few weeks ago I found that he had never seen that report. He asked me where he could get a copy of it, and I said that if I could get authority I would procure one for him. It was a case in which the Ministry of Supply was requiring the same factories as the Admiralty. In the result there was, a loss to this country of 80,000 shells. I hope he will keep that case in mind if other instances should arise of two Departments competing against one another, because I think he must have control where it is a case of shells and men. Haggling went on for eight months. In that case there was Treasury interference, I think. Trivial sums of money were involved, but months of time were wasted. That is a case which I shall be glad to give to the Minister.
Another case concerned a special device for firing guns, something which the Ministry wanted. They wanted maximum production in April. There was a conference in February. April is nearly here, and that matter is still held up, although the manufacturer is willing and anxious to get on with maximum production as soon as the Department will give him the word. There is another case to which I will refer briefly, where a certain design was drawn up and the originators of it built a prototype and brought it into production. After a while it was considered that improvements could be made, and they agreed but for their purpose they needed two of the originals, which are available. Four months have elapsed and they have not had the two originals put at their disposal. That is a case, like so many others, where I think attempts are being made to keep everything within the ring. I wish the Minister would give some attention to this question of the monopoly of the ring. Great difficulties are put in the way of people who are outside the ring but who can do just as good work and do it much more expeditiously.
§ Mr. Cyril Lloyd (Dudley)
Having listened to a number of Debates on this and kindred subjects, I am confirmed in a feeling that the atmosphere of the House on this great question of Production and, indeed, on the war as it affects 2069 and is affected by Production, is very different from that of the country, and the country does get a certain feeling of depression and perplexity from the reports of the Debates on Production in this House. The people get the impression of a tremendous disunity on vital subjects, and whereas those engaged in industry have a tremendous and real enthusiasm for getting on with the war, they feel that there is so much quibbling and disunity at headquarters that it must be a symptom of something bad in the system, and so they are discouraged in their efforts. I therefore welcome the appointment of the Minister. I hope he will help us to get over that difficulty.
There is also inherent in the Debates in this House a considerable misrepresentation of the organisation of the industry in this country as a whole. Industry, in its essential layout, consists of administration, management and operatives. It has been the fashion in the past to represent the administration or ownership as a grasping, greedy, self-seeking body, completely out of touch with the management and the operatives. Nothing could be more remote from the circumstances of the present day. Of course, there are great corporations which, by their very complexity, have a control which is remote from the individual worker, but the vast mass of industry to-day springs from, and consists of, the owner who is himself a manager and was very likely a workman, or is the immediate descendant of a workman who, by his own industry, has created a useful element in the industry of this country.
There is a far greater nexus between the various elements in industry than is often admitted in this House. Moreover, the management is, after all, developed from the operatve. There never was a time, I suppose, when there was better material available from the younger entrants, to be brought on to the higher grades of management. I hope that the Minister will let industry as a whole realise that he regards it as an organised corps. I welcome very much the suggestion for a Production Staff. The great thing that is necessary is that the participation of industry as a whole in the war should be recognised practically, as the equivalent of the Fighting Services. It is as important, and should occupy a parallel place.
2070 Let me consider the various elements in industry as I have indicated them, and endeavour to trace the troubles which are affecting Production. Let me take administration first. I agree very much with what has been said by several speakers that there has been a great deal of retarding in industry by Treasury action. I hope that the Minister will succeed in getting better support from the Treasury, which loads administration with difficulties and work which are beyond the capacity of particular staffs to handle. The true job of administration is to get on with Production, but administrations today have not only to teach individual officers of the various Ministries the job of management in the industries to which they have been drafted, but they have also to supply all the statistical information for the education of those officers. In addition, they have to attend and arrange for a great complication of audits and investigations, all designed by the Treasury to safeguard its own position.
The Treasury already has the Excess Profits Tax, which has long ago removed any profit incentive from the producer. The producer has a ceiling below his pre-war achievements, and he knows that he is stopped at that point. He is now subject to a barrage from the Treasury, aimed at driving his prices down to the level of other producers, perhaps, or in accordance with his turnover, to a point which definitely lands him into a state of anxiety and distress. Producers are not all rich. They know that there are great risks of over-trading, and when they are faced with the consequences of increasing their turnover by perhaps 20 or 100 times, and are told at the same time that they must produce on an infinitesimal profit on the turnover, they are landed into a state of such anxiety about their future that courage falters.
§ Mr. Lloyd
The Treasury might well stop at one particular form of taxation. If the Excess Profits Tax is not watertight and adequate, let us have it corrected; but the constant impact of one audit after another does interfere with Production and discourage the attack on the Production demand.
2071 Let me now pass to management. Management has been liquidated, has been watered down, to a very much reduced level of efficiency, because of the immense expansion of industry. It has had all sorts of new duties put upon it and is doing a magnificent job. I have sat in this House for hours, and very rarely, in fact hardly ever, have I heard a good word spoken for management from the Front Bench. But management, I think, needs encouragement, because it deserves it, but the tendency here has always been to blame management and praise the worker.
§ Mr. Lloyd
I am only speaking of my own experience, but I think that is also a very widely held view in the country. Finally, I would pass to the operatives themselves. I do not share in the attacks on them, because I think a wholly false impression has been given by the attacks on such subjects as absenteeism, which affect only a very minor part of the great body of workers. The great body of workers are doing their best to do a good job of work, and are doing it well, but there we come to the complexity of our modern labour lay-out and in particular to the three-shift day, which in itself is a great block in the way of spreading man-power and expanding Production. I was interested to see that that very subject is being taken up by our American friends. I have always held that the three-shift system, except in continuous processes, is probably unprofitable and psychologically wrong. Production in the dark hours, particularly from 12 till six, is not likely to be on the same level as at other hours, and to spread two shifts is far more easy than to spread three shifts, which, of course, cannot be expanded except by working on Sundays. I feel therefore that in many instances the experiment might well be made, with the good will of the trade unions, of trying two shifts instead of three, with an interval between them of only minor activity and repair. The figure that was mentioned in the House yesterday, of only 20 per cent. working more than one shift, could not, I think, be borne out by facts, and my own impression is that if we have a greater demand on labour, it would be far better to expand it by organising a 2072 strong two-shift system than a weak three-shift system.
As far as the great body of operatives is concerned, I feel that we are suffering a good deal from trade union tradition in this House. It has, of course, been the essential job of trade union representatives here for the last 20 years to argue mainly on hours and wages. They have made a great fight of it, and have achieved many notable successes, of which they are naturally very proud, but I think it is unfortunate that the Minister of Labour himself comes from that school and therefore has probably the same mentality. I do not think that the workers to-day are primarily looking for pit rider. They want to see a good, intelligent use made of their work, and the constant fight to safeguard established customs is preventing a more elastic use of the labour available than would otherwise be the case. I hope therefore that the Minister will be able to persuade the Minister of Labour to take a wider view of these subjects. In my view, workers in this country seem to fall roughly into two categories. There are the older men, and with them I should class the intelligent younger men, who are tremendously keen on their work and who are not so concerned about money as about the job of winning the war. Then there is unfortunately a younger category, who have not been fully trained or have been only hurriedly trained. They are very much lacking in discipline and are not being provided by the Ministry of Labour with any proper incentive to action, but rather with an excess of what I might call "dope." They are given undue praise and in some cases undue money, and nothing is more annoying to the older working man who has his proper job to do than to see these youngsters going about wholly undisciplined and overpaid, even making more money than the established men. To my mind, one of the great sources of difficulty at the moment is the fact that the highly trained man is getting less money than some of these trainees and beginners. Nothing can put that right when they are living together in the same houses.
Speaking of households brings me to the housekeeper, and I would beg the Minister to bear that factor in mind, because no man will work well unless his home circumstances are comfortable. The effort to make home circumstances comfortable is now a terrible job for the housewife at 2073 home. She may have six or eight men, all on different shifts, all needing food at different hours, and subject to an infinity of rationing provisions. There cannot be too much work put in on the simplification of life for the housekeeper who is looking after the working man.
I have reviewed the three elements of Production. Now the problem before the Minister, and I think it is one which calls for the heartfelt sympathy of the House, is to co-ordinate and control, if he can, the operations of what I might call the various Ministries contributing to Production. If he simply adds on the top of the existing organisations yet another organisation, I do not think we shall benefit very much. It has been our experience in the past that with each change of Ministers comes a change of organisation. That means that the previous Minister's organisation is to some extent dissipated, the statistics which have been collected for him are set aside and disregarded, and a new series compiled. But each Minister leaves behind him a trail of staff which is not entirely eliminated. The consequence has been the building-up of staffs through successive appointments, and certainly a considerable amount of overlapping.
There is room for co-ordination, and particularly co-ordination between Production and the Services, and I hope very much that the Minister will be able to bring some reasonable limitation to the Service demands on Production. It is, to my mind, a great mistake when you have high-speed Production in full flow, that that Production should be checked or stopped until the men and machines on that Production are entirely ready to be turned over to some new Production. But there have been cases, there are now cases, where some very slight modification is made of an important unit which is going forward in Production in large quantities. The immediate result is not only a stopping of the Production of that unit, but a decision to alter every one of that unit has been made right back to the earliest unit that was produced. That is a tremendous waste of labour and a tremendous check on Production. I am sure it would be better that machines or guns or tanks which, after all, arc useful, and which have been half or two-thirds made, are not stopped while some particular elemental alteration is made. There 2074 is no doubt it is right to keep in contact with the Services in the field to know where failings are and what improvements are necessary, but there must be acceptance by the Services of units which are in rapid production until an improved model can be adopted. I hope the same thing may be extended to the use of material. There is in Woolwich and elsewhere a constant tendency to seek out highly specialised material for very special jobs. It is all right up to a point, but it can be carried too far, and not only is an excess of that habit a great tax on the resources of the country, but it involves a very great reduction in the productive output of industry as a whole.
I have tried to put before the House one or two points which I have met with in my own experience, and I would finish with what is, after all, the main point in the whole matter, and which has been touched upon by other speakers to-day, that is, the spirit in which we go forward. If the Minister can get such a hold on industry as a whole that they feel a united body, animated by the spirit of fighting this war, then he will have achieved something great. The fighting spirit has been noticeably absent from many of our arguments in the past. The fighting spirit is so remote from much of what is put to the working man to-day. One meets again and again the argument that they do not know what they are fighting for, and the fact that they are fighting for their lives and for the level of civilisation which they have attained, and which will not be maintained in the future unless complete victory is won, does not seem to have got across to a great number of people.
I would also beg that what I call "dope" should not be one of the methods of approach to the working man. He does not want it; he is far too intelligent. The idea of telling him, for instance, that the moment the war stops a brilliant Utopia will burst upon him, is not only untrue and deceitful but is not necessary to energise the worker to fight for his country. I think that the truth could not be told too plainly that the future, whatever it is after the war, will involve an immense amount of unselfishness and self-sacrifice. I believe that everyone is prepared to give it to rehabilitate not only Britain but the world. The world will be in such a state of exhaustion that we cannot attend to ourselves 2075 alone after the war. One last word; I hope the Minister may, to same extent, restrain the idea of boasting about output. We have had a good deal in the past of speeches from Ministers stating that the production of this or that has been doubled or multiplied by so many times, and it goes down to men in the factory who possibly know that that particular article is in particularly bad supply at the moment. That sort of thing does a lot of harm. It would be a great stroke, in the interests of the spirit of the people, to stop this boasting and to reduce the number of Ministerial speeches. I hope the Minister will find his task agreeable; but, above all, I hope that he will brook no intervention, and that he will get full control of everything that comes within the ambit of his job.
§ Mr. Granville (Eye)
I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. C. Lloyd) that the House of Commons gives the country an impression of disunity in these Debates. Over a long series of Debates there has been a landslide of criticism on Production. If the House of Commons had exercised its authority a year ago, we might have had a Minister of Production, similar to the present Minister of Production, with full power. Everybody in this Debate has wished the right hon. Gentleman well, because our life depends on Production in 1942, and not on the Government's programme for 1943 and 1944. Once again it has been demonstrated that it is our old friend the march of events which has at last persuaded the Government to move. If the present industrial set-up can succeed in doing the job, I agree that the right hon. Gentleman is the best man that big business earl produce to do it. I am glad the Minister referred to Empire countries, and particularly Australia, a country which he knows very well. I would venture to suggest that he could do far worse than send to Australia Sir Clive Baillieu, someone whom we know well, someone with knowledge of production in Australia and in the United States.
I listened with interest when the right hon. Gentleman discussed the relation of Allied Production to strategy. I hope that, even at this late hour, he is going to tackle this question from the point of view of Empire defence. A Hurricane 2076 factory established a year or so ago in Australia might have saved thousands of tons of valuable shipping; it might have saved Java. A fighter and bomber factory established in India a year or so ago might have saved Singapore and Malaya. A tank factory established in Palestine might have saved Libya, which has occupied so much of the right hon. Gentleman's time in past months. A planned Empire Production, allied to a defensive Empire strategy, might have saved precious lives and shipping. I am getting rather tired of Ministers discussing this problem, in the country and at that Box, as though it were an entirely new problem, as though for the first time they were opening the Book of Revelations. We have been at this problem of Production in this House since 1936. [An HON. MEMBER: "With Sir John Simon."] No, not with Sir John Simon. We began with a £1,500,000,000 rearmament programme, and since then, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we have spent something like £9,500,000,000. In addition, you have the workshops of Great Britain, the United States, and the whole British Commonwealth of Nations open to you; and you have powers over industry and man-power. I think we are entitled, at this vital stage in the war, to ask the Government if we are last beginning to get quantities of vital armaments and Production.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, are we now getting the right tanks, and in sufficient quantities? Are we getting fast bombers, to do the strategical job, or are we tooled up, in this country and in America, on big bombers, for which we have inadequate airfields? I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, are we at last getting production of tank buster aircraft? I would reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) said: Are we getting enough of the right kind of ships? The Nazis plan their production for each campaign. We see all kinds of pictures in the Press of the equipment that the Nazis have left on the sides of the roads in Russia; but the Nazis plan their production for each campaign. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, have we at last a plan of production that can cope with that? Are we co-ordinating with the United States on types of aircraft and 2077 tanks that have been proved in operation? The right hon. Gentleman is tackling this great task at a very late hour. Is he satisfied that now we have a total war organisation in this country; or are we trying to win the war with a 1939 set-up of industry, plus a patched-up compromise with the Minister of Labour and the T.U.C., plus swollen Government Departments and Civil Service control? Is it that kind of animal, as a boneless wonder, that the right hon. Gentleman is going to try to get past the post? Do the Minister's powers include authority for probing each Supply Department as to why they fail on their set programmes, on which the strategy of this country is based? I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has the power, referred to by my hon. Friend, of examining the financial controls in each Department, and seeing whether they are holding up Production? Will he make absolutely certain that the Production side of the Supply Departments is in the strongest position, and is not being held up by the financial control?
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would examine the question of why, in some of the Supply Departments, factories are still producing with no agreements signed for a year or more? I would particularly like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would call attention to the fact that, under the present set-up, many vital Production executives on plants in this country spend 50 per cent. of their time with the Supply Departments negotiating price agreements and that sort of thing, instead of on Production. The right hon. Gentleman said he was not afraid of revolutionary proposals. Does that mean that he is prepared to take over factories and industry, if necessary, on Government account, and allow the existing executives to run the factories as Government agents? Does it mean that if the Minister of Labour's regulations interfere with factory organisation and the control of the organisation of Production, he will ask for powers on this side of his job; or have we still two Ministers of War Production? Above all, I ask the right hon. Gentleman, will he use on his staff, and among those who are advising him, production engineers and production planners, metallurgists, and research and scientific workers in industry; or is he going to take over the remains of the Min- 2078 ister of Labour's Advisory Council on Production? I appeal to him to look for new men, to look for new methods and new ideas in industry and to give merit and ability a chance in the management of industry. This is the third year of the war. Some time ago in this House the Prime Minister—I think it was the occasion when he said "Show me a superman"—when the House as usual had been pressing for a Minister of Production, said that the first year you get nothing, the second year you get a trickle, the third year you get a good flow, and the fourth year you get all you want. This is the third year of the war and the decisive year. The United States of America cannot reach the peak of its production this year. Hitler knows it, Japan knows it and Russia knows it. Do the United States of America and the right hon. Gentleman know it? We are going to fight great battles in Russia, in the Pacific and in the Middle East. It is impossible to have an offensive unless you can have your maximum production of industry accelerated to the autumn of this year. We have left the appointment of the Minister of Production rather late. I wish the right hon. Gentleman every success, because the future of this country depends very much upon what he can do in the next few months. In my judgment this is the last chance that this nation is going to give this Government. I sincerely hope that they will take it.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
This is one of the most serious Debates that we have had in this House since this war began. We approach the problem against the background of repeated attempts to get the Government adequately to mobilise our Production. Time and again in the Production Debates that we have had criticisms have been put forward and examples have been quoted, and I have not known at the end of those Debates any satisfactory answer coming from the Government Front Bench. I would like to make one or two preliminary remarks, in view of what we are told that things that are said in this House are misrepresented abroad. The preparedness to give of their best is present in the minds and hearts of the vast majority of the people of this nation. This country and the common people of this country have accomplished what appears to be almost a miraculous achievement. Alone this little Island has survived the greatest 2079 military onslaught that the world has ever seen. What other country in modern times would have attempted to survive the odds which this country has so far survived? People in other lands have seized upon our own internal criticisms in order to use them to our disadvantage, but let it be understood by those who stand on the pavements of the world to watch our contribution that the vast majority of the criticisms in this country and in this House are criticisms of our internal arrangements because of our basic loyalty to our land and to our cause. So much for those who in other lands use our criticisms to try and convince our friends that we are unworthy of help in this battle for freedom.
I come to the problem which is before the House in this Debate. Allied to the necessity of getting a vaster quantity of supplies there is now the new problem of relating our Production to that of our Allies and of the constituent parts of the Commonwealth. In his statement on 10th February the Prime Minister told us that the functions of a Minister of Production were in his mind during October, 1940, but that the health of one man stood in the way. Instead, he introduced the Production Executive in January, 1941, and in his statement in the early part of this year the Prime Minister went on to say that this system did not work badly. Apparently he was quite satisfied. What had happened to justify this dilly-dallying with the problem and apparent complacency as to the way in which our Production had been conducted? It will be well within the recollection of the House that, under the stimulation of the very grave danger that faced us, the then Lord Privy Seal presented, in May, 1940, a Bill to give the Government powers over persons and property. It was an enabling Bill, and under it the Government, by the issue of Orders, could completely mobilise the country against invasion. The then Lord Privy Seal said that the Government might even take over the banks and centralise the functioning of finance. They would set up a Production Council presided over by the then Minister without Portfolio. At last this House was convinced that this country was to be mobilised for total war. The Bill was carried through this House in all its stages in one day. Here were resolution and expectation. This was the leadership for 2080 which the country was waiting, and the country reacted to that spirit in a way that stimulated every one of us.
We have waited for the miracles, but in vain. It was not until the following August that the then Chairman of the Production Executive gave his report to this House. I do not want to exaggerate the effect of that report, except to say that his report of the functioning of the Production Executive was profoundly disappointing to the House. Then a remarkable thing happened. The Minister without Portfolio was relieved of his position. This task was given to the Minister of Labour, probably at that time the hardest worked member of the Cabinet and the man with the greatest number of distractions. This function of a Production Minister was one upon which the Prime Minister expressed himself in many speeches before the war. He then demanded, in speech after speech, that the Minister in charge of Production should be able to act at the job from day to day without any other distraction. In his speech on 17th November, 1938, delivered in this House he said heshould be able to sit at the job from day to day without any other distraction."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1938, col. 1143, Vol. 341.]And he gave the job to the Minister of Labour as a part-time occupation. During the fiercest war that we have ever known and had to face, and when we had the least friends in the world, the Prime Minister made this vital key position into a part-time job for the Minster of Labour. The Prime Minister has played with this problem. His handling of it has imperilled this country and postponed our victory. I think it is time that should be said in this House. The Prime Minister, in our darkest days, had the credit for saving this country, and he has no right to throw away that which he has saved. At that time, and under the inspiration of those dangerous hours, the then Lord Privy Seal introduced a Bill to control persons and property. I want to say, on behalf of many in this House and in industry, that we were deceived. Behind the undertaking that there should be control of persons and property, labour was tied down with the chains of control, but nothing at all has been done about property. And the deception, as if to make it more perfect, was a deception placed in the hands of the Leader of the Labour party, now Deputy Prime Minister. It may be felt 2081 by the Minister of Production that that is an exaggeration, but hundreds of orders have been issued under that Act to all sorts of industries, but not more than one Regulation has been issued to take over a factory. So I say that labour feels that it has been deceived. Labour has been shackled, and property has been left free.
I remember that when one Order was placed on the Table of this House there were murmurings by the 1922 Committee. It would be interesting to know what undertakings were given to that Committee about further Orders. Then we had a statement from the Prime Minister on 10th February in this House, when a White Paper was issued, and the office of Minister of Production was supposed to be created. This, again, was approached in a very queer way. It was not done at all in accord with the prewar views of the Prime Minister. In a speech in this House he put forward his reasons for the creation of that office. But what the Prime Minister was creating was not a Minister of Production at all; all he was doing was setting up Lord Beaverbrook as an international Production liaison officer. Most of his time, he said, would be spent abroad, and in a speech made in another place the Noble Lord made it quite clear that the major portion of his work would be outside, and not inside, this country. Many of us have felt that the Prime Minister attempted to placate the critics of our internal Production by creating an external Minister and calling him a Minister of Production. Now, at long last, in the appointment of the Minister of State as Minister of Production our internal industry will be looked after. The Prime Minister only now is prepared to accept proposals which the critics have advocated in this House for two years. How many thousands of lives of our men have been forfeited in foreign lands because of the stupid refusal of the Government adequately to organise our Production?
How the problem will be faced depends again on the Government's conception of its nature. The Prime Minister does not accept the view that there is too much misdirection. The Minister of Production may take the same line. He may refuse to believe the criticisms about waste, inefficiency, mismanagement and waste of time in industry which have been quoted in this House. What is the nature of the problem? It was the situation in the Far 2082 East which compelled the Government again to look at our supply position. Only after we have a tragedy do the Government look at this internal problem. After every tragedy we have had they have failed to produce a remedy, and I have great doubt as to whether they are producing a remedy in the present proposal. The situation in the Far East had been in the making for a long time. There was no element of surprise in the attack by Japan. We were informed some months ago that everything was prepared, that all was as well as could be expected, that even our naval forces were as conveniently disposed as possible, according to the Prime Minister, that Brooke-Popham was on the spot and that we need not expect any great tragedy. Then in the whirlwind which heralded the Japanese onslaught in the Far East our fighters went down like ninepins. Again, we were caught unprepared. Another chapter was added to the list of our defeats and misfortunes in this war. The monument to our lack of foresight was heaped higher with the corpses of our kith and kin.
I remember that during the Debate preceding our last Recess we had a report from the Deputy Prime Minister. It was the same old story. Indeed, had a curtain been drawn across that Front Bench, it would have seemed, from this side of the House, that it was Chamberlain describing our defeat in Norway, not the Deputy Prime Minister describing the events of Singapore. There was nothing wrong with the heroism and spirit of our Forces. They were up against an enemy with superior equipment and troops. It was the same story after Norway, Dunkirk, Greece, Crete and the first Libyan campaign. Since then Singapore has fallen, and I suppose we shall have the same story again. Is it not remarkable that in this war we have been led from defeat to defeat? Only the greater blunders of our enemies have saved us from destruction. We have never known the like of it in the history of Britain. On each occasion we are told that our troops fight with heroism against overwhelming odds. Every tragedy we have suffered abroad can be traced in its magnitude to incapacity at home. Time after time have the critics tried to force this basic lesson on the Government—that if our Production is in a muddled condition, we foredoom our Forces in the field to defeat. 2083 That is a lesson that the Government have failed to take into account.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), with all his great authority and experience, has declared that our Production is only 75 per cent. of what it could be. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) put the figure much lower. A very distinguished engineer, producing our chief fighter plane, said in the confines of this House some time ago that our fighter production was only 50 per cent. of its potential. But the Government go on without paying any regard to these charges, except to resent them or to call the critics croakers. That is the only answer they give, and thousands of young men die because of the incapacity of the Government machine. Not a single effort has been made to indicate the real policy which governs the production of weapons of war. The truth appears to be that there is no policy, there is no central direction, and no central planning. We potter along with purely negative controls, improvising here and patching there; Departments compete for capacity, they compete for labour, they compete for materials, even if they have no immediate use for them. The sacred rights of property have to be safeguarded, even though the heavens fall. Managements have been harassed and thwarted, workers have kicked their heels in idleness, and newly-conscripted women have been put to great hardship, only to find their time wasted because there was nothing to do. In every industry in every part of the country we get this story, and it is this which breeds that sense of frustration and futility which is too widespread for our safety.
What is wrong? Why do managements and workers complain? Why do even the scientists violently protest against Government Departments? Why has Sir William Beveridge added his voice to those of the critics? Will he be described as a croaker? Our Armed Forces complain that they cannot fight because we have not given them the tools. Industry complains because it is not allowed to produce the tools. The Prime Minister has been blind to all this. As recently as 2nd December, 1941, he made the following statement in the House:The crisis of equipment is largely over.… In the future our men will fight on equal terms in technical equipment, and a 2084 little later on they will fight on superior terms."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1941; cols. 1035–6; Vol. 376.]He made that statement in December of last year. Then came Russia and her great need. Japan swept us out of our Far Eastern bases. The need of China became our need. The United States entered the shooting match. Never in the history of the world has there been so great a demand for arms and armaments. Never has freedom been so endangered by the lack of the requisites for her defence. As if to mock the Prime Minister, we get the greatest crisis in Production that the world his ever known. Again our men have had lo face an enemy of overwhelming superiority, both in numbers and in equipment. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) made out the case for the complete mobilisation of our country's resources in the Amendment which he moved to the Armed Forces (No. 2) Bill. Some 39 of us went into the Lobby, because we saw that the rights of property were impeding the defence of the country. The House, Which has refused to accept the complete mobilisation of our resources, must accept a great measure of responsibility for many of the deaths in the Far East, because the House has not faced up to the problem. Attempts were then made to misrepresent the so-called rebels. Let those who now resist new and better methods of organisation and Production become aware of the growing feeling in the country that the representatives of big business would rather lose the war than one bit of their privileged position.
§ Mr. Magnay
The hon. Member has made a very serious state meat. I understood him to say, apparently after consideration, that no factories have been taken over by the Government. I will give him the names of a dozen factories in my constituency that have been taken over by the Government, and I have been complaining about it to different Departments.
§ Mr. Edwards
He has, and so, apparently, has the right hon. Gentleman. What I said was that one regulation, and one regulation only, has been issued under 2085 the Control of Persons and Property Act for the purpose of taking over one factory.
§ Mr. Edwards
Apparently the hon. Member does not see the point. I was talking about the regulations that were issued, and not about the action taken by the Department without the issue of regulations.
§ Mr. Assheton
Not more than one regulation is needed to give the Government power to take over factories.
§ Mr. Edwards
I quite appreciate that if the Government so desired, they could do it all by one regulation, but the one and only regulation placed on the Table of the House in this connection was for the purpose of taking over one factory.
§ Mr. Edwards
I have made a statement, and perhaps the Minister who is to reply will deal with the facts. Hundreds of regulations have been issued under the main Act for conscripting and directing labour. One regulation only has been placed on the Table of the House for the purpose of taking over one factory.
§ Mr. Davidson
Will the Minister state specifically now whether that one regulation governed all factories or whether it governed a single factory?
§ Mr. Edwards
The power to take over all factories, all property and all persons was contained in the main Act. Under that Act, Ministers of the various Departments could place regulations upon the Table of the House. In the direction and control of labour hundreds of such regulations have been placed upon the Table of the House. For the purpose of taking over factories, only one regulation has been tabled to take over one factory, a particular factory.
§ Mr. Edwards
It may be blunt, but apparently, even if it were sharp, it would have no effect on the hon. Member. What is happening is well known. Controls over the main war industries have been vested in the hands of the nominees of vested interests. The nominees of big business are getting a stranglehold on the life of the people of this country. This war has been used to entrench privilege, and the pursuit of private profit and the means of future private profit have been elevated above the security of our country. But all this political manipulation is failing to produce the equipment which is necessary for an early victory. The result is that Production falls ever far shorter of our needs, and men go into battle inadequately equipped. That has been the position. The Minister of Labour, speaking on the Armed Forces (No. 2) Bill, declared that the Cabinet would look at any proposals on their merits; the sole test to be applied was whether or not such proposals would assist the war effort. I ask the Minister of Production whether the Government accept the implications of that challenge, because, if they do, they should be told that the present ineffective method of running our war industries is helping to lose the war.
The result of the present policy is typified in very glaring examples which give, as it were, a good "shot" of the position. If one goes to any of the most expensive hotels in this city and examines the register, one finds a peculiar thing. These hotels are filled with directors of firms who are here in search of contracts for their factories. Here you can see desperate directors begging and scraping for sub-contracts from the chiefs of the big combines. Go around the Ministries and you will find their corridors haunted by these directors in search of work to keep their factories going. Outside the big combines there is this mad and chaotic scramble for sub-contracts. The funny part of it is that all these directors from the 6,000 small firms can spend their time in this big city hunting for contracts, and the cost of it all is, in the last analysis, borne by the Treasury. If one half of the evidence submitted to the Committee on National 2087 Expenditure had been disclosed to the country, it would have caused such a revulsion of feeling that, in spite of the prestige of the Prime Minister, this Government would have been swept out of existence long ago.
Apparently hon. Members on the other side of the House do not take this as representing the real position. Let me give two examples. On Friday last certain workers engaged on producing the big, beautiful bombs sent a deputation to see me. For eight weeks the whole of their output has had to be stored because of the lack of a small component. The secretary of the shop committee, who is also secretary of the N.U.R. branch, has contacted the responsible Department a number of times. He has now been told by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to keep his nose out of this, as this is a matter for the Ministry. He grew tired of this and got in touch with the Regional Production Board in Cardiff. They "passed the buck" back to the Department, and on Friday they were told there was no hope of getting this small component for some time to come. We have this situation. Men are told to work as hard as they can in order to give the troops the tools, but these men see the results of their production of these big beautiful bombs lying idle in their factory for the sake of one small component, and when they make inquiries they are told to keep their noses out of it.
Then there is the Civilian Maintenance Organisation racket of the Ministry of Aircraft Production. The Government provide the sites, build the factories, supply and fit the machines, and rent them to private firms for a rental of four per cent. per annum of capital cost. Skilled personnel are then released from the Royal Air Force, and the managing firm gets the work on a cost plus seven per cent. basis. The 10 per cent. basis has been done away with. They now get factories at preferential rentals with a cost plus seven per cent. for the managing of the works. The work was previously done by the Royal Air Force, and it is now farmed out to private contractors. The House is entitled to know why this has been done. We have to go back to the days of Queen Elizabeth to find anything equal to this farming out of public pur- 2088 poses to private interests. It sounds too much like the old monopolies, and public interests coming second to private profit, and the safety of the country being imperilled so that privilege may prevail.
This is the background. The Minister of State has now been appointed Minister of Production. He has invited the House to put forward revolutionary proposals. Does he think that we have forgotten the last coal Debate, in which he disclosed all the old inhibitions against workers having anything to do with the planning of industry? He comes with the blessing of the Federation of British Industries, and he comes with an outlook and prestige which rest not on expanding Production, but on contracting it. [Interruption.] Of course, he does. The right hon. Gentleman built up his reputation by getting rid of the glut on the market and restricting Production. He comes now as Minister of Production for the purpose of extending the production of war equipment. We wish him well. He has a very substantial job. He has erected a very nice superstructure to persuade us it is a Ministry of Production. If its basis were right, one could imagine it doing something really worth while. But what does he say? I have been looking at his speech. He first establishes a General Staff of War Production, then a Joint War Production Staff, then a Joint War Production Planning Group, and then a Regional Production Board which is under consideration by the Citrine Committee. But what does he say? He says that its main function in the industrial field will be confined to those subjects which affect all three Production Ministers simultaneously, and there are many such. He continues:I mean the planning of what is to be produced, and not in this connection of how or where it is to be produced." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 194: col. 1843, Vol.378]So this superstructure is imposed on the present control and organisation of industry. I have kept the House much too long. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Of course, I should be disappointed, if I had not heard that. But these things ought to be said in this House and I am satisfied that what I say is being felt by a substantial proportion of our population. I should like to conclude with putting three or four points before the House which summarise the position. On Tuesday, 3rd February, a group of Mem- 2089 bers of this House met the managing director of a firm which builds Spitfires. He told us that if he had had the orders, he could have produced in each year of the war 600 more Spitfires than he has produced. On the following day a group of aircraft workers from another firm producing Hurricanes met the then Minister of Aircraft Production and myself in the tearoom. They told us—and it was not challenged—that their firm could have produced too Hurricanes a month more than they had been producing for the last 20 months. On the same day in the "Evening Standard" there was a report of a workman employed at an aircraft factory who was paid £5 a week for doing nothing and who was summoned. He had four brothers in the Forces. He wanted work and asked for his release. He fought with a charge hand. Despite the fact that the firm and the Minister of Labour were prosecuting, the magistrates believed the man and he was bound over. On the same day in the "Evening Standard" we read:Over the low rise where the battle is raging I can see relay after relay of Japanese aeroplanes circling, then going into murderous dives on our soldiers, who are fighting back in the hell over which there is no protective screen of our own fighter aeroplanes. But the Japanese are not completely alone in the skies this morning, for I just saw two "Wild-beestes"—obsolete biplanes with an operating speed of about 100 miles an hour—fly low over Japanese positions and unload their bomb burden with a resounding crash. It makes me ashamed of myself sitting here with my heart beating faster than their old motors, when I think what chance those lads have of getting back in their antiquated machines. If ever brave men ever earned undying glory those R.A.F. pilots have this tragic morning.There is the problem of the Minister of Production. Organise Production to give those boys a fighting chance, to give them a chance to do the job for which they have gone there. If he will tackle that in a resolute Way, forget all old inhibitions and prejudices and mobilise everything, he will have the best wishes of the House and no one will be more pleased to pay him tribute for having done it, than some of those who have been his most severe critics to-day.
§ Squadron-Leader Errington (Bootle)
I hope the Minister of Production will pay considerable attention to what I should describe as the psychological aspect of Production. It seems to me to be of vital importance that the morale of our people 2090 should be kept up, particularly in regard to this matter. For some time it has been known to many that aircraft factories have not been working at full strength, that in many cases they have been working only up to 20 or 30 per cent. of capacity. It is always difficult to assign causes in matters of this kind, but there is a great necessity for continuity in Production as opposed to the sort of haphazard methods that have previously been followed. There was a tremendous rush for a particular type of plane, and no one seemed to consider what was to be done after the rush had come to an end. In other words, sufficient foresight, sufficient rhythm of production, had not been shown. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay particular attention to that, not only from the point of view of the actual Production machine but from the fact that both managements and workers feel frustrated and feel that they are not doing their job and in consequence are bound to feel affected in morale. Do let us have, now that the new Minister of Production is taking over, a real plan which will keep people occupied all the time in work. It is no good asking more people to register and come into war industries, if you are not able to keep them occupied. It makes the whole thing ridiculous, with disastrous results on the views that people hold.
I want to deal with the question of first things first. I am gravely concerned about a document which I do not believe represents at all the real feeling of the trade union movement but which some one in the Royal Air Force passed on to me asking, "Is this the spirit of the trade unions?" It is a letter dated 19th December, issued by the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives to their local branches and signed by the Secretary. I do not know whether it is representative or not, but it causes great unhappiness to the people in the Royal Air Force who know of it. It is as follows:Dear Sir, and Brother. As the result of information received from the regions in relation to the practical application of the Welfare Order, we are convinced that much requires to be done to implement its full terms, and it must be borne in mind that our success in compelling all firms, large and small alike, to how the knee will determine in great measure their outlook when peace comes. Re-read the Order, with its wealth of detail concerning the various items, accommodation for clothing, mess rooms, drinking water, sanitary conveniences, first aid, etc. Ask 2091 yourself on the jobs with which you are familiar, Are these all in operation? and, if not, use the power embodied in the Order to get them applied forthwith. When a job starts there is very often long delay in erecting mess rooms, while preference is given by firms' agents and resident engineers to their staff needs and to material and labour in getting on with the more direct side of the contract. This position should be reversed. The provisions of the Order are a first consideration and not a secondary one, and no one can say or instruct otherwise.I deprecate most strongly, when we are in a life-and-death struggle and are talking of first things first, the putting into operation of these things at the expense of the direct side of the contract. After all, the Army, Navy and Air Force have to put up with the best that people can give, but the first consideration is to use every effort to win the war and further the war effort. I do not believe that this document is representative of trade union opinion, but I must bring it to the notice of the House because I think it very important that it should be made quite clear that it does not represent trade union opinion and because of the very adverse effect which that sort of thing has on the people in the Services, who are doing day in and day out the best they can under conditions which are not as good as they might be.
§ Mr. Davidson
Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman realises that the trade union movement and Government spokesmen have all stated that the lack of these welfare facilities in the past has been a direct hindrance to Production.
§ Squadron-Leader Errington
I can well believe that, but I am pointing out that the danger in a document of this kind is that it has the effect on people of making them look to their comfort rather than to the winning of the war.
§ Mr. Gordon Macdonald (Ince)
I appreciate the hon. and gallant Gentleman's point, but he must also appreciate that the men working on these sites are many miles from home. They must be billeted somewhere, and all they ask is that billets should be provided as soon as possible. Otherwise they must travel to and from their work.
§ Squadron-Leader Errington
I appreciate what the hon. Member says and I know the difficulties, but things of this kind have come to my notice. The issue 2092 of sheets to a certain Air Force unit was cancelled, and the next thing we found was that certain people who were working for civilian contractors at the same place were issued with sheets. These are small things, but I am anxious to impress on the Minister of Production the necessity of watching them. I do not believe they represent the feeling of the trade unions or of the country, and it is important to keep up the morale of the people not only in industry, but in the Services. I wish the Minister of Production every good fortune. I believe that he has the ability and that the great majority of the public will give him 100 per cent support. He must, however, be prepared to act, and to act to the fulness of his powers, in order to keep Production flowing evenly and smoothly without interruption.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I join my hon. and gallant Friend in offering the Minister of Production our good wishes, and I want to add my congratulations on the nature and temper of his speech yesterday. We have been waiting a very long time to hear a member of the War Cabinet acknowledge, as he did, the deficiencies in tie central direction of Production and accept, as he accepted, and with such good grace, the repeated and precise demands of this House for major improvements. I am not prepared yet to throw my bonnet into the air over the various changes he announced. Our experience of past Ministerial undertakings of this kind has not been such as to encourage an ardent enthusiasm of that kind. But, at least, my right hon. Friend has shown a receptive mind, a fresh vigour and some approach to a realisation of the urgency of his task, which is exceedingly welcome. Those qualities have been so rare on the Front Bench that they come to us as a somewhat pleasant surprise. At long last, one dare hope, with some qualification, that some substantial advance in Production is about to be made. I express that hope with a good deal of diffidence. I am not in the least sure about it, but, in any case, my right hon. Friend made a good speech and we all wish him very well.
This is the occasion not only to offer felicitations, but to say some plain, frank things to my right hon. Friend on his taking up his new duties. The plainer the 2093 better, for there has been far too much soft soap from too many parts of the House in the last few years. Now that it is rationed, we may have less of it. With one part of the review of my right hon. Friend, fortunately, all of us were in complete agreement, and it is well that this should be said for the world to hear. For however short of expectations and possibilities our present effort may be, the world should be made to know how much has been and is now being done in the way of war Production. The effort we have already made has been immense. Let us recognise it and tell the world about it. If it were to stop altogether to-morrow we might still claim to have achieved wonders to be proud of—wonders of organisation and management on the part of employers; wonders of hard and sustained labour on the part of millions of working men; wonders with which no other nation in the allied effort can compare. And in paying ourselves that tribute, let us not forget the excessive burden borne during the last two-and-a-half years by that comparatively small group of men, Cabinet Ministers, high civil servants and others, who have carried the main responsibility for the war. Their labours and anxieties must sometimes have been almost superhuman, and however we may judge the results, now or later, let it be put on record that the country owes these men a deep debt of gratitude for their devotion in a time of great crisis.
Lord Halifax was right, therefore, to tell the world the other day something of our record. It was a pity he did not do so long ago. And I mean no disrespect to our American Allies when I say that when they have an achievement to compare with it, then will be the time to start exchanging criticisms, and beating Hitler. That is the first feature of the landscape which my right hon. Friend will see when he looks out of his official window. It is greatly encouraging, because what we have already done well we can do again and do better. But there is another feature, equally massive and, if more unwelcome, equally designed I would hope to rouse our people to new and extended endeavours. Across the English Channel for months past a massive sinister machine of destruction has been turning. I feel it worth while reading the following report because I believe that it represents the facts: 2094From Germany comes the news of the most gigantic and the most concentrated winter of work that the world has ever known. The wheels in every factory of war are roaring day and night. Gangs of slaves from the conquered lands are being driven through the gates to the benches. Weapons of war, rolling off the production lines, are moving massively eastward, week after week. The country has been combed for men again and again. Civilian man-power is so scarce that middle-aged lawyers and business men are acting as tram-conductors and in similar capacities, to release stronger and more efficient men and women for the factories and the front. Every person in Germany who can work is working to-day.That immense effort is at the moment being directed chiefly to the Eastern Front, but there is no doubt of the other objects. The incalculable supply of guns, tanks, aeroplanes and armoured vehicles now massing in Germany are being held in preparation for new and unprecedented assaults in the East, the South-East, the South-West and the West of conquered Europe, and are aimed directly at this country and the lines of communication of the British Empire.
That brings us face to face with the third consideration which, I suggest, must weigh most heavily upon my right hon. Friend and his reaction to which in the weeks ahead will prove or disprove his mettle. Our past achievements are formidable, but the dangers confronting us to-day are greater than ever. There is need, therefore, nay urgent necessity, for a new drive in war Production, on a scale and of an intensity such as we have not yet envisaged, and such, I am afraid, as the bulk of our people have not yet recognised as the vital condition which it is, of national survival.
That lack of public appreciation of the stark realities of the situation and the resulting sluggishness of national spirit is the most disturbing feature of the present time, and accounts more than any other single factor, perhaps, for the admitted deficiency of munitions output. I confess that I am appalled by the temper of London and other cities which I have been visiting recently. Does the Government realise what has been happening during these last 12 months of immunity from air attack and of steadily mounting calamities abroad? This is what I find and hon. Members will tell me whether it is their experience too: The war, which in the Summer of 1940 shook the nation to its core, and roused men to fierce energy, 2095 has now become an everyday humdrum business, and not an unprosperous or particularly unpleasant one at that. Hundreds of thousands of men and women are earning more money than they ever enjoyed before. For some people—they say so—this is a grand war. As for the great mass of our people, they have adapted themselves fairly easily to such restrictions as exist; and as one of them said to me the other day, "We are getting on very nicely, thank you." The ebb and flow of battle in far off parts has become rather dull news to the people as a whole. Men have become inured even to the most painful defeats and losses. Such is the spirit which Government propaganda has allowed to develop in recent months that if Ceylon and Madagascar and even the Ganges Valley were now to fall under enemy hands I do not believe that more than a ripple would disturb the surface of public calm.
"We can take it" served as a slogan when London suffered. It served well. Too well. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench have never forgotten it, nor have they thought of another. I heard it repeated when Hong Kong and Singapore fell, and I have no doubt it will serve right hon. Gentlemen when the Empire itself totters. This is a shattering truth. The war with all its consequences has become a normality for the great British public, which they are settling down to accept for years. The sense of urgency has been lost and with it the desire to do and dare all for an early finish. It is a terrifying situation, because it is an atmosphere that breeds tragedy. I say again that the responsibility rests on the Treasury Bench.
Yet everywhere the passion to end it is not dead. Seventy thousand homes in this country seek vengeance at this time for sons and fathers lost or left at Singapore, and there are other thousands with the same feeling for menfolk lost at sea, in the air or in the much vaunted but disappointing campaigns in Libya. I wish I could take right hon. Gentlemen, who ooze self-satisfaction and schoolboy arithmetic on week-end platforms, to some of the homes in the East of Scotland where the breadwinner has paid the high penalty at sea. The Prime Minister would do well to instruct all his Ministers to visit each day a scene of mourning where 2096 some man has fallen. There they would see the harsh consequences of oratorical complacency and industrial easy-going. There, in the agony of bereavement, they might find the fierce incentive to take a new grip of war and war Production and drive it as it should and must be driven for early victory.
I do not ask for a seven-day week. It cannot be done. It has been proved a failure. I have many friends in war factories and one understands what is happening. I do not demand inordinate hours. The human frame cannot stand such a pace. Nor do I suggest a dull levelling down of wages, or harsh discipline of the Soviet pattern. Those things are impracticable and unnecessary in this country. But in the name of those millions of our fellow countrymen who are now in the fighting line on land, at sea and in the air, and who have given up all and, may be, will give life itself, I demand that the whole process of war Production shall now be put upon a new and sterner basis, commensurate with the sacrifices of these men aril the dire needs of-the time. However small the minority—in some cases it is not so small—it is surely intolerable that in such a crisis in the life of the nation, men, workers or managers, should be all awed to absent themselves unreasonably from war work or slack at their benches; or loaf in the dockyards, or in any hour of duty give less than their best to the nation. It is surely equally intolerable that, by the mere luck of birth or environment, one man living in the comfort of his own home working in munitions should draw twice, three times or five times the monetary reward enjoyed by another man performing infinitely more arduous duties in some other occupation or in the battle line.
To the great bulk of our citizens the appeal to fair play and honest labour is sufficient to bring forth high service, but there is a section in our country, as in every other, who are deaf to any such appeal and for the safety of the Realm—I speak of all classes—they must be treated with the same ruthlessness as they treat the public weal. Their numbers may be few, but the effects of their disloyalty upon the efficiency of the work on which they are engaged is often serious, and in many 2097 places undermines the good will and good work of neighbouring industries over a wide area.
§ Mr. Davidson
Does my hon. Friend suggest that in a shipyard, or an engineering works, or a factory, one or two individuals can so gain control over the majority that they are a hindrance to Production?
If my hon. Friend had waited a moment I was going to deal with that point. The truth of the remarks I have made have been accepted by many fair judges of the situation, including the Minister of Labour himself. It is not always the fault of the men concerned. Sometimes it is due to gross mismanagement on the part of public departments. I give the House a single example of many that might be quoted. For many months past I have received complaints from Fife of the misuse of civilian labour at the Admiralty shipyards at Rosyth and Cromb[...]e and its effect upon the morale of the miners and agricultural workers in the district. So serious were those charges that I felt compelled to ask an investigator of standing and experience to make a report. He has handed me the report, and I have passed it to the First Lord of the Admiralty. I need read only one or two extracts from it:Waste and misuse of civilian power at Rosyth Dockyard are causing much trouble in Fife, which recruits most of the dockyard labour. Owing to slack supervision, many labourers do little work, but, thanks to generous overtime, obtain wages far in excess of those enjoyed by skilled workers outside. Men rush to get into the Dockyard, though the coalfields are short of labour and farms have been combed out. Private employers cannot compete with the Admiralty in paying so much money for so little work, and hey ray that the tales told by the men outside have a disturbing effect upon other organisations.This investigator called upon the miners' trade union, the Ministry of Labour and many other officials in Fife. He continues:Cases have been substantiated of miners and other workers in the Dockyard making £7 per week for washing up dishes, heating up tea and sweeping up.Here are further facts:A miners' official from the West Fife coal fields went to Rosyth as a labourer. During the seven weeks that he was there, he said, all he did was to make tea and he got twice the farm worker's wages per week for doing it.2098 There follows a list of similar cases. I need not read them to the House.
I will read a report which I received at the same time from one of the leading industrialists in the East of Scotland. He says:Crossing the ferry at the Forth Bridge to-day I met an inspector employed at the works in Crombie. He resides in a hotel, not far from the works. Within the last two weeks he heard men employed at Crombie boasting of how little work they did, and how much money they got for it. Mr. M., the proprietor of the hotel, overheard the remarks and checked the men in question, saying that they should be ashamed to do such things and still more ashamed to mention them.This industrialist further says:Apart from the general objections to wastage, particularly of man-power, there are two additional points. Our staffs have been combed out, resulting in inconvenience and sometimes hardship, while at the same time waste of man-power is occurring in the neighbourhood. Secondly, the effect of men from certain establishments, boasting throughout the country of the large sums which they get and the little work they do is having a serious psychological effect upon the attitude of conscientious workers and upon the mining community in particular.When it is remembered that the scene of these absurd conditions is a prime example of industry under nationalisation, perhaps it will be understood why some of us are a little hesitant about accepting suggestions for the extension of this particular system to other war industries.
§ Mr. Davidson
Will the hon. Member say exactly how many hours the men worked and what their working week was?
It seems a ridiculous question. I have sent the whole of the facts to the First Lord of the Admiralty. I cannot see any particular point in the question.[An HON. MEMBER: "It is all-important."] What is important to me is that men are going round the pubs in Fife where farm workers and miners are gathered and saying: "You fools, working for £3 and £3 10s. a week. I am makings £7 and I do little or nothing 2099 in the week for it." Do not let hon. Members tell me that that is not upsetting the good will of farm workers and others in Fife and elsewhere. But it is not enough to deal only with the recalcitrants, few though they may be; the tempo of the whole body of war workers must be geared up. The all-in or all-out effort of which Ministers have spoken so much, must now be put into practice. It is now or never, for I agree with other hon. Members, who have said that in this year, 1942, the fate of Britain may well swing in the balance. You cannot drive the British working man, but you can lead him,—
—and the tragedy of the moment is that the home front, as far as the Government is concerned, is leaderless. There is no inspiration anywhere. The exhortations of Ministers responsible for the home front are, for the most part, collections of clichés which bore and exasperate by their feeble repetition. Somehow, by some means, a new fighting spirit must be engendered, so that the nation as a whole will be roused to a true sense of its duty.
I offer the Government one or two suggestions which I hope may commend themselves to all parts of the House. The first is: Give us a major success. One will do. Just one triumph for our Armies. And I would say to my right hon. Friend, do not, for goodness' sake, tell us anything about it beforehand. Do no tell us that the enemy is going to be destroyed, or that we have got equal strength. Tell us none of those things, but give our Army one real chance of winning a victory and holding it. That would be the best tonic of all.—[Interruption.] I say that with the greatest seriousness.
I would suggest to the hon. Member that the same view is held in the highest circles in the Government. So many of our campaigns have failed, and that is largely what is upsetting our people. If that cannot be done, then I say, tell our people the truth and the whole truth. Have done with the continuous glossing-over and belittlement of 2100 major disasters, and with the stupid boosting of minor skirmishes. Tell the people the true meaning of Singapore's capitulation, of Rangoon's fall, of Australia's peril. Tell them of the stakes in Egypt, in India, in the Caucasus and elsewhere. Tell them till it burns into their hearts. Tell the n what it may mean to them and to their families. Here alone is a task for a superman.
Here is a field of propaganda which, if it were exploited, might have a very remarkable effect upon the whole of the war effort. Thirdly, I would say, let us attempt to remove the sense of grievance under which, as is quite obvious from the speeches we have heard from the other side, organised workmen labour at the present time. I myself reject, and I hope the House will always reject, as a false and ineffectual solution, the suggested nationalisation of industries. But I recognise that all the views expressed by the Opposition do not come from purely party considerations. I have condemned the payment of excessive wages to certain workers, but I endorse, without qualification, the worker's condemnation of the excessive profits—however ultimately taxed—enjoyed by their employers. Like the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) who spoke in the coal Debate, I do not think that the fact that mines and other industries remain in private hands retards production by the men. He said so, and I think he was right, but I do recognise that the men would work with greater confidence, and with a sense of greater justice all round, if the principle of a fair fixed return which largely applies to them, were made to apply equally to directors' fees, to shareholders' returns, and so on.
For my own part, I would be ready to accept a proposal for fixing, during the war, all wages, salaries, directors' fees and dividends at a fair and reasonable level now, permitting an increase only where the cost of living justified such a course. Such a step is, I know, regarded by many of my hon. Friends as unwelcome. It may well incur the displeasure of official Labour, as of organised capital, but it would remove a sore which every day is evident. It would, for the first time, by Statute, place 2101 all men, whatever their station, upon an equal footing. The psychological effect upon millions now engaged in war Production might be very considerable. It might raise output over the country by five or ten per cent., and any such rise would be so welcome as to make the step worth taking.
Above all—and I have nearly finished—I would say: Give the British people some hope for the future. That is probably the most important thing the Government could do to bring about a better fighting spirit at this time. Let them see, at least, the rough design of the new and kinder world for which they are fighting. It should not be difficult to sketch the broad outline. All parties in the House are agreed upon the need for greater social security, for better ordered trade, for a wiser, wider, more courageous, participation by the State in the progress of man to fuller life. In any case, where are the fruits of the long labours of the Minister of Reconstruction? Can we not see them? Surely enough has been studied and accomplished, and enough good will ensured, to make known, at least the heads of the new British Charter. Why not do it now? Give the people, before another Spring has passed, a vision of the promised land of which they hear so much. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for Production. I am suggesting that, in addition to having his machines and organisation in order, if he could get a new spirit in his factories he would get a far greater output. We need to define now our war aims in this country.
Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with the British people at this time. Fundamentally, they are as sound to-day as ever in our long history, but as always in that saga of heroic achievement their hearts need warming, and their minds uplifting, to the high purpose of the hour and to the true character of their destiny. That is the task of leadership. Give them that leadership and they will surprise the world. The House will, I am sure, recall the words of Emerson 100 years ago, speaking of our race. He said:And so I feel in regard to this aged England … I see her not dispirited, not weak, but well remembering that she has seen dark days before indeed, with a kind of instinct that she sees a little better on a cloudy day, and that in storm of battle and calamity she has a secret vigour and a pulse like a cannon.2102 For the sake of all that is great and glorious in this, our native land release that brave spirit in our people. Lead them and we may, as I said, astonish the world.
§ Admiral of the Fleet Sir Roger Keyes (Portsmouth, North)
I would like to welcome the Minister of Production. I know that he is a fighter; I think he will have to fight with all his might to organise labour on a 100 per cent. basis, with equality of sacrifice without which we cannot really hope to win this war. We have heard a great deal about how much better we are doing now than we did in the last war, but we are repeating a great many of the ghastly things that happened in the last war, which caused so much disaffection and so much ill-feeling between the fighting men and the workers. My right hon. Friend fought in the trenches in the last war, shared the hazards and hardships of his men, and he must know what they felt about inequality of sacrifice. The Prime Minister fought for a short time in the trenches, lived with the men, and knew what they were thinking, and then he became Minister of Munitions. I remember so well, during that last great battle, I was with Lord Haig, at his battle headquarters, and I asked him if they had all they wanted in the way of shells and other munitions. He said, "We get everything we want; our Minister of Munitions is a marvel; all he wants is to be allowed to go into the front-line trenches, and see the munitions being used." There were a great many strikes in those days and the Minister of Munitions had to bribe to get his labour.
Some remarks which I made in this House recently, on the Navy Estimates, about slackness and absenteeism, brought me a flood of letters. When I repeated those remarks in the country, a few sentences, perhaps taken from their context, with a head line, brought me hundreds more letters. I am glad they did, because those letters showed me how splendid is the spirit of the British working-man, and how much decent working-men resent the slur that is cast upon them because of a certain percentage of slackers. They also gave me any amount of valuable constructive suggestions, which I have passed on to the Admiralty. I am certain that my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. George Hall)—whose reappearance at the Admiralty I welcome, because when he was there before I had a great deal to do with him, and I know that the 2103 Service respects and trusts him—will put many of those things right. I gave him particulars supplied by four men in Chatham Dockyard, who gave their names, and were prepared to give evidence of all sorts of things that ought to be stopped. I am sure he will do his best to put things right. Of course, I got other letters of a different kind—not more than a dozen, and nearly all anonymous.
I got letters from shop stewards in different places, who invited me to come down and see things for myself. At one place, they resented very much what I had said, and accused me of insulting the workmen. It happened that I knew of something which had occurred in their neighbourhood recently. I wrote and said I would gladly come, adding, "But what answer have you to this?" I told them of a yard which badly needed electric welders, and could not get them. The manager was told that he might have some young men, who had taken a three months' training course. He said that he would gladly take them; but the shop steward said, "I will not have those men in this yard." The shop steward won; and the yard is still without electric welders. I got an answer; and I will ask hon. Members on those Benches whether it is a good one! I gave another case, of o a man repairing the boiler of a ship, which had to put to sea early. The man was suddenly taken ill. As there was no other boilermaker to do the job, the assistant said that he would gladly do it; and he did. The ship put to sea. When the boilermaker returned he ran the assistant in for daring to interfere, and the man was fined two guineas and five guineas costs. I said, "If you can do such things, are you helping 100 per cent?" I received a letter from an association of shop stewards from a great Northern town, and they told me that I was being tactless, uninspiring, destructive and so forth, but they said, "Would I really like to help? If I would really like to help, would I back their scheme? They said they had an excellent scheme for putting all this right. I said that I certainly would if I thought it would solve the difficulty and avert the disasters into which we are drifting so rapidly. Their plan was seven days' full pay a week, for six days' labour. That is not going to solve the difficulty.
I said that I had another plan which I outlined in the House of Commons three 2104 years ago and again shortly after the outbreak of war. It was not very well received by some of my friends on the opposite Benches, and I remember that I was told by one hon. Member, whom I regard as a friend, that I was a good seaman, but I was always at sea. I said that when our country is in dire danger all work of national importance, while the war lasts, should be carried out under discipline, as it is in the Services, and that everyone engaged in it should be paid at the same rates and allowances as the Fighting Services, in grades according to skill and responsibilities, and, if desired, to be put into uniform as the men and women are in every other national service. We have an equivalent in the Marine Engineers Corps of which I am honorary Colonel Commandant. It works admirably. There are a lot of tradesmen there. They take pride in their work. They work hard and take pride in their uniform as Royal Marines. No one should be allowed to make profit out of war, whether they be owners, managers or workers.
Why should those who are in reserved occupations have advantages over their brothers and sisters in the Fighting Services who get no increases of wages and no extra pay for overtime on Saturdays and Sundays, but who sometimes have to fight and work the clock round in terrible conditions, especially at sea. Surely, such inequality of service to the State is thoroughly illogical. It is certainly bitterly resented by men in the Fighting Services and their families. I asked them, "Do you really think that your seven days with full pay for six days' work will improve matters?"
Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) mentioned cases of inequality of sacrifice, and the Minister of Labour asked for an example. I can give him scores of examples, but two will suffice. This is one, and it shows exactly how this inequality of sacrifice works. It concerns a boy of 19 who went to a grammar school and obtained scholarships. He was being trained as a chartered accountant. He volunteered and goes to sea as an ordinary telegraphist and receives about 25s. a week. He is in a trawler, continually engaged in coastal convoys, being frequently bombed and out in all weathers. He was in a shipyard while his sip was under repair. He said that he often gets 2105 ashore with one of the fitters, who is only two months older than he, and this fitter earns about £7 a week, which, he said, was not much for the men working there. He said:They earn £10 or more for doing the most trivial jobs and waste more time in a day than you would think possible. Every skilled man, like a fitter or joiner or rivetter, has a helper, who does the odd jobs like picking up tools, getting nails and making tea. Most of their time they spend with their work cards, which they have to fill up every day, thinking out what they should put down. They never earn less than £6 to £7 a week. Though the fault does lie to a certain extent with the men, it is the whole supervision and organisation, which often keeps them waiting, which is at faultThere is one other case I should like to quote, and it concerns a young fitter, a skilled workman, who telegraphed to me and asked to see me last night. He came to my house, and I was enormously impressed. He struck me as being like a Crusader, out to try and help in every possible way with the labour problem. He made a statement and gave his name and address, and I will hand a copy of this statement to my right hon. Friend. I have already promised a copy to the Minister of Aircraft Production, who says he will visit the factory and see the man. This statement explains how trade unionism and interference by trade unions is preventing output in the factory in which he is engaged. It is a factory which produces engines for our fighters. I asked him what wage he earned, and he said, "I work very hard. I got £19 10s. last week." I cannot help thinking of the artificer in a submarine lying at the bottom of the sea, with depth charges bursting around, or the artificer in one of our corvettes crossing the Atlantic in winter gales and seeing men drowning. He also said that many like himself were all out to put things right.
I have been called a leader of forlorn causes, and I want to appeal to the Minister—
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
May I interrupt? I am a skilled tradesman, but with Sunday work and bonuses I have yet to hear of anyone earning anything like £19 a week as a fitter in an ordinary aero-engine factory.
§ Sir R. Keyes
This man is a skilled man, and I do not doubt his word for a minute. He gave me his name and address and asked to be put into touch 2106 with the Ministers of Production and Labour. I have not the slightest doubt that he told the truth.
I want to make this appeal to the Minister of Labour. Think how enormously his prestige, and that of his trade union colleagues in the Government and out of it, would be raised in the country if he said he was out to stop all this inequality of sacrifice and trade union interference with Production. We are all out to win this war, and if he would do that, then after the war we might have a happy country. If we are to finish this war with bad feeling between our serving men and working men, then God help us.
§ Mr. George Griffiths (Hemsworh)
The speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes), to which we have just listened, instead of helping Production will frustrate it. When it gets out into the Press, especially in the North of England, it will cause very much discouragement. He has said that we must do all we can to keep trade unionism down. [HON MEMBERS: "No."] He has been trying to put across the House that the main fault is trade unionism.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The hon. and gallant Member has backed what I said, no matter what hon. Members opposite may say. He has also made the statement that when the Prime Minister was Minister of Munitions in the last war, to get Production he had to bribe the workers. I was a worker in the last war, and I say that we needed no bribes to get Production. I worked in the pit every day, with the exception of half a day, during the last war, and then I was brought out of it. I never lost a shift, and I was never bribed to do my best, and I say, as a British workman, that I resent that statement. I resent it on behalf of the men I represent. We are talking about Production. If we want Production, there has got to be less stone-throwing at the workers about absenteeism. I have come here direct from a council meeting held at Barnsley last Monday. What I am telling the House is not something that has been sent to me by letters. I was in that council meeting for five hours, and that meeting resented the attitude of certain Members in the House 2107 last week and the statements they made regarding absenteeism in mining. I have got the true facts. There was an hon. Member who stated that in Yorkshire there was 12 per cent. of avoidable absenteeism. The highest percentage of avoidable absenteeism in Yorkshire for the last six months, in some of the worst pits in the county, was nine per cent. I saw the figures signed by both the managers and the trade union secretaries, who are trying to work together. When statements like those made last week are put across the House, do hon. Members wonder that our people resent those statements?
§ Mr. Griffiths
If the hon. Member went down to the coal face in some of these pits, he would want to get away before the shift finished. We do not stand by avoidable absenteeism, but we say that if a statement is made, let it be a true statement. A statement was made last week about the Doncaster coalfield. I went and looked up the forms, and at one of the biggest pits, over a period of three months, there were only 53 persons, out of a total of 3,445 working there, who came in front of the absenteeism committee. That was an average of just over four a week out of 3,445 men. Do hon. Members think that a pit like that will stand for the kind of stuff that is put across the Floor of the House? All that a few hon. Members who have spoken to-day have talked about has been absenteeism on the part of the workman. I say to the Minister, you cannot have any production of anything unless you get the production of coal; coal builds ships, aeroplanes, tanks; and if you have not got the coal, you can talk about this, that and the other thing, but Production will fail. I ask the Minister to see to it that we get at least a fair crack of the whip as far as absenteeism is concerned. I could give the House some cases from the other side—I am not going to give them to-day—where Production has been impeded by managements, and by the way managements have tried to handle the men. However, I leave that where it is.
I hope somehow or other that in the near future Income Tax will be deducted from wages as they are earned. There is great resentment among industrial workers 2108 —I am speaking for my own men—when they have to pay big sums in respect of wages they earned weeks and months ago. I have a pay note with me. It was handed to me by my brother. He worked five and seven-eighth shifts this week He could work no more; his average has been seven and a half shifts during the last six weeks. The colliery company forgot to stop his Income Tax last week, and, when he drew his wages on Friday, 51s. 5d. was docked off. Does not the House think that that is enough to rub the raw of a man? He draws his pay from one window, and then a man standing at the other window gives him a slip asking him to join the National Savings Group. I am afraid if I had that slip handed to me, I should have eaten it. I tell the Minister that this is not the road to Production. It is stemming Production. The Yorkshire miners passed a resolution last Sunday pledging 150,000 workers to produce all the coal possible so that we can win the war. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to put this across, and I hope that the Minister will take note of what I have said.
§ The Minister of Production (Mr. Lyttelton)
I have listened with great attention to the Debate, and it is notable that speakers have confined themselves in the main to the broad principles of the subject. For this I am very grateful, because I think it is important that I should not be drawn into discussing details. If I am drawn into discussing details, it will be impossible for me to carry out, in a satisfactory way, the functions with which I have been charged. That does not mean that the details will not be gone into, and I trust hon. Members who have raised specific points will not consider me discourteous if I refer only to matters of principle, to which, as I say, most hon. Members have addressed themselves. I think I am right in saying that in the course of the Debate the greatest interest has been evinced in the subject of Regional devolution. As I have already said, this is not a matter upon which I am in a position to make a detailed statement.
The Citrine Committee is now trying to work out a scheme on the general lines that I indicated in my first statement. I fear, however, that through my fault there was some confusion between the subject of local organisations, such as 2109 Regional boards and their subsidiary bodies, and the matter of the Production committees. The two subjects are entirely separate. The Production committees, as I see it, would follow, perhaps voluntarily, on the lines of the agreement reached between the trade unions and the Employers' Federation on 18th March, but the subject which this agreement is intended to cover is different from Regional devolution. These joint Production advisory committees are intended to act as a clearing house, I think, principally for ideas in the works themselves, and I should be the first to hope that they will become universal and to see that a healthy competition is promoted between them to see who can produce fruitful suggestions, particularly for increasing Production without increasing plant or labour. I feel in doubt whether we should attempt to make these committees statutory, as the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) suggested. I still have an open mind, but I feel doubt. My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), in a speech which I followed with the greatest interest, took the contrary view. It is clear that a great deal more depends upon the spirit which animates the members of the committees than upon the mere fact of their existence.
Some American firms are said to have achieved great results from a system of bonuses for fruitful ideas, either for the conservation of raw material or for economies in Production. I do not think we require any bonuses in this country. The honour of having a suggestion adopted is quite enough. My hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey and Otley (Sir G. Gibson) particularly favours the system of Production committees, and, if I heard him aright, he also suggested that when a useful idea turns up and is adopted the fact should be circulated all over the country and credit given to its author. I think this is a very valuable suggestion, and I propose to adopt it. But this is a different subject from that of the devolution of powers to the Regional bodies and their subsidiaries.
I am also very grateful to those who have pointed out the pitfalls which we must avoid in bringing about this devolution. On the other hand, many Members have referred to the necessity for continuity of orders, especially among the smaller firms. We must devise some system of devolution which will 2110 enable local organisations to place contracts so that the capacity is allotted in a scientific way and orders which have been satisfactorily executed for a standard component are repeated, but at the same time—and this is where the difficulty lies—that the relations between the contractor and the sub-contractor are disturbed as little as possible where the present system is working smoothly. I am hopeful that the Citrine committee will be able to give us a solution of these matters. I readily accept the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), who hoped that he and others who have made a special study of the subject should have a meeting with me this week, and I hope that in the next few days others will adopt the suggestion and let me have their ideas, because in the desire to devolve responsibility on to local bodies we must not allow the machine to be slowed up.
The hon. Member for Seaham made an eloquent and brilliant speech, to which I listened with the greatest interest. It was a constructive speech. He complained that my own statement was largely concerned with machinery and the organisation I was setting up. That is true, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) said, we hear a lot of talk about absenteeism. Hon. Members will notice that I did not refer to that subject. I am at present engaged in trying to get an organisation together, and when it is perfect, or as near perfect as we can get it, we will look into the charges of bad management and unnecessary absenteeism. One of the causes of absenteeism is a certain overheating of the bearings which take place when peace-time industry is extended into a great war-time industry. You must have overheating. We will, however, try to put the organisation right before we start throwing stones at either the management or the workers.
The policy of Production, which the hon. Member for Seaham said I did not refer to, can, I think, be stated by everybody. We know what the policy is. It is to produce the maximum amount of the right weapons at the right time and strike a right balance between the production of munitions of war and the Armed Forces—not a very easy balance to maintain. The hon. Member complained that the Government have not acted on many of the suggestions which 2111 have been made in the House from time to time. That is no doubt true in some cases; I admit it. Where it has happened it is because in the early stages of our productive effort it is necessary to concentrate upon such things as building the actual factories, and anything which turns aside from that effort in the early stage probably derogates from Production. After we have the factories built we can afford to examine the provision of more hostels and nurseries in order that labour which can work for two or three hours a day can be harnessed to the whole effort. To turn aside in the early stages from the erection of great works in order to strive after this last 5 or 10 per cent. of effective labour would probably be a mistake.
My hon. Friend was, I think, on a false line when he talked about compensation in relation to the concentration of industry. The proposals which are now being examined by the Citrine committee are designed to harness the small firms who do the productive effort in the engineering industry, whereas the concentration of industry scheme which I introduced was to transfer to this very engineering industry the workpeople, plant and premises which the great reduction in the standard of life which we have imposed on the population, and to which they have readily submitted, have made available. Now we are discussing a different subject, which is the utilisation to the full of small firms inside the engineering industry and the transfer to that industry of some of these other factories. I doubt whether, if they can be mobilised properly, the matter of compensation will arise at all. I think that many of those firms who never heard of the tax before, will find themselves paying Excess Profits Tax, and I shall be very glad if that is so.
If it were not for the great courtesy with which I have always been treated by my hon. and learned Friend the Jeremiah from Montgomery (Mr. Clement Davies), I should hesitate before saying what I propose to say. I think the wit which he directed along the length of the Treasury Bench was of a very inclement nature. He said that the Government had never altered their attitude in this war, and that it remained the same as it was in peace; that they had not yet realised that the country is engaged in a life and death struggle; that property is protected and 2112 that although some grudging service was paid to the exigencies of the time by directing the workpeople of the country, the Government were careful to avoid any draught that might blow upon private capital or private interests. That sort of thing can only have been inspired by conditions which must be very favourable to my hon. and learned Friend. He has evidently been very fortunate with his food coupons and with his clothing coupons. He is evidently able to maintain the same standards in food and clothing as we had in peace-time. If so, he is luckier than I am. He said property was protected, was left immune from the changes and chances of war legislation. I was under the impression that securities and revenue from securities have been affected. I doubt whether my hon. and learned Friend pays less than 15s. in the £ upon every pound that he earns. Perhaps he has never heard of the concentration of industry. Is that an attribute of peace-time? But if I make play with his speech, I nevertheless wish to say seriously that in spite of his desire to serve the national interest, he has done great disservice to the cause which he honestly embraces. It is not good that an hon. and learned Member of his standing should cry stinking fish up and down the country.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I must intervene here. Fair retort is fair retort, and I should not have intervened but for that expression. I have never called stinking fish upon the people of this country and never shall.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I only said that the hon. and learned Member cried stinking fish up and down the country, and I repeat it. It is not a good thing, at a time when the Government and managements and workers all over the country are bending their best efforts towards Production. I particularly do not wish to give the House the impression that I feel that all is for the best in Production. We all know perfectly well that it is not But wild statements should not be made, or hon. Members allow themselves such licence as the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) allowed himself when he said 2113 that the gap between our Production and our need was steadily widening. When such irresponsible statements are made, can it be complained if Ministers of the Crown draw the attention of the House to the fact? I shall not go into a long series of statistics of war Production, but to-day well over 60 per cent. of the national effort is spent upon Government work, and for practical purposes we may regard 70 per cent. as very near the limit which is possible, as the remaining 30 or 35 per cent. has to be spent on keeping the people clothed, fed and housed, and transported to their work.
I see no call for complacency in the fact that we are spending something over 60 per cent. of our national income on Government purchases. We can get some idea about the field that is left if we put the figure somewhere between 60-plus per cent., and 70 per cent. I am not saying that, in terms of Production, the difference is only 10 per cent. There may be considerably more, but it shows what has been achieved up to date and what we may still expect to wring out of the war industries of the country. I would feel ashamed if I did not pay a tribute to what has already been done. Hon. Members are mistaken if they think I shall take credit for raising Production, as it may be raised, so that 70 per cent. of the national income is spent on Government purchases. I shall do nothing of the kind. It will never be known whether such a result is achieved as part of my effort or because of the solid foundation which has already been laid by my predecessors, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood).
I should like to take some other points, which referred to the general Production position. One which was referred to by several hon. Members is the method of collecting Income Tax from workers. I cannot make a statement on this subject to-day, but I certainly propose to discuss it with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Whatever system may be found most suitable for the collection of this tax, I agree that every step should be taken to explain its incidence and its working to those who are liable for it, especially as many of them have only recently become subject to Income Tax. I was interested to notice that hon. Members have started upon what I believe philosophers call an infinite grievance. Coal is a necessary ingredient 2114 in Production. Food to fill the stomachs of the people is a necessary ingredient of Production, and so are transport to carry the coal from mines to factories and the food to the workers, ships to bring the raw material from overseas, a sound Press, sound propaganda and sound ideals promulgated by reliable instruments. These are all essentials of Production. Supply of labour is also a necessary ingredient of Production. Hon. Members have said that if we are to achieve 100 per cent. productive effort, all these things, shipping, coal, agriculture, transport, Press and propaganda, and labour, should be placed under the sole direction of the Minister of Production. However, as in all other matters, there must be some limit to the burden—
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he should take the Press under control?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I think my hon. Friend rather misses the point of my observation. I was saying that there must be a limit to the burden that you ask any one Minister to bear or allow him to cover—or that he has time to cover. I was also interested to note that some hon. Members are shocked by the waste of public money which is involved in idle time and interruptions to Production. On the other hand, my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster would have us abolish all systems of costing and would draw his pen through the Public Accounts Committee.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
I dislike interrupting my hon. Friend, but I would ask him to refer to the OFFICIAL REPORT, when he will see that I said that Government costings and E.P.T. must both go on.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I accept the correction, but I do not feel that in those drastic measures the right balance, which my hon. Friend wishes to secure as much as I do, would be maintained between a waste of public funds and a niggling and obstructive check which can so easily interrupt Production. There is in this, and in many other things, a golden mean, and I promise that with the help of my right hon. Friend I will try to simplify financial control, while at the same time submitting to such a check upon expenditure as will avoid the scandals which are inherent in any system of complete laisser faire.
2115 Many hon. Members have addressed themselves to the subject of the frontier area, as I call it, which lies between my responsibility and that of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. Yet I do not think they have done justice to the excellent work of my right hon. Friend. The Minister of Labour has not only to provide labour for the munitions industry and for keeping up, on a much reduced scale, the necessities of life for the population, but he is also responsible for filling the ranks of the Armed Forces and maintaining reinforcements against the wastage of war. If the Minister of Labour was subordinated completely to the Minister of Production, it would be tantamount to saying that the interests of war Production, as such, are predominant over the needs of the civil population, and over the needs of the Armed Forces. Yet everyone knows that that is not so. And what we have to achieve is a balance between all these conflicting factors. Surely I am right when I say that a system which subordinates to one of its uses a supply of labour which is designed to serve three masters is not right. Am I right when I say that that cannot be so from the point of view of organisation? I think so. I am stating it quite clearly; there is nothing dialectical about it, but I think I am correct.
Then there was another point, which my hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) raised regarding Admiralty Production. I think, if I may say so, that he was wrong. I do not control the shipyard capacity. But the general Admiralty programme is welded into the Production scheme through the Joint War Production Staff, and I have a control, subject, of course, to the appeal which the Admiralty can make to the War Cabinet, over the amount of labour and materials which are diverted to shipbuilding, whether naval or merchant, and I think that that answers the main point.
§ Mr. A. Edwards
It was a question of whether the Admiralty were taking from some of the factories guns and shells 2116 which were exactly the same as were produced in their own departments.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
Guns and shells, and general engineering capacity other than shipyards, are under my control.
May I say that I am very grateful to the House for the way in which they have received the general proposal, which is largely a matter of organisation, which I put before them? Nobody realises more than I do that mere organisation goes a very little way towards achieving the result which we want. If, before another Debate on Production, the House is able to feel that these measures have done something effective, then I shall be willing to receive some congratulation, which I am not willing to receive to-day. I am grateful also for the suggestions which hon. Members have made. What has passed here has perhaps shown that the task is a very large one and without constructive criticism such as we have had, and without help from those who are in a position to give it, the task is impossible.
I must conclude by saying—and I do not want to say this in any complacent spirit—that the volume of Production, and the work being done all over the country, judged by any standard, is impressive, and I should be asha[...]ed not to pay a tribute to what has already been done. It is this remaining percentage which we have to harness. It is no good attempting to say that the dispersal of our industries and the improvisations which the enemy has imposed on us [...]ave not been a triumph of organisation. They have. The workers of this country should not be continually told that they are being led by largely incompetent people. They must realise—and many of them do—that they have taken part in a great achievement. We are now trying to carry that achievement as near perfection as human beings can, save for those intellectual disabilities which the hon. Member for Seaham is accustomed to emphasise, and the disabilities which the enemy imposes on a country at war.
§ Motion, "That this House do now adjourn." by leave, withdrawn.