§ Mr. Barnes (East Ham, South)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:But humbly regret the admission implicit in the Gracious Speech that Your Majesty's advisers have not yet reached definite decisions as to the nature of the legislative and administrative action which should be taken during the coming Session as part of the policy of post-war reconstruction, covering the control of land in the public interest, the provision of employment, social security as envisaged in the Report of Sir William Beveridge on Social Insurance and Allied Services, and the economic changes rendered necessary in the new conditions which will emerge with peace.I am sure hon. Members will join with me in expressing regret that indisposition prevents my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. A. Greenwood), in whose name this Amendment stands, from moving it in person. His life-long interest in social problems is known to us all. I cannot profess to have the experience or the arguments which I feel he could have advanced in support of the Amendment. I am confident that my right hon. Friend would have wished to associate himself and the party that he represents with the various acknowledgements that have been paid during the Debate to the courage and prowess of the troops and of people in munition plants and Civil Defence forces and, may I add, particularly at the present moment, to the Prime Minister, at another one of those remarkable conferences upon which he is engaged. They have now made the prospects of military victory certain, and it is due to those efforts and activities that the Government and Parliament are now enabled to commence to direct attention to the problems of peace and of post-war reconstruction.
The Amendment raises very definite issues, and I invite the House to realise that, although we follow the normal procedure on the King's Speech of raising certain subjects for the consideration of the House, I hope no one will look upon the issues raised as academic, or upon the fact that we do not intend to take this to a Division as meaning that one in any way under-estimates or minimises the importance that this side of the House and, we believe, the great mass of the people of the country place upon those issues. We invite His Majesty's Government and Parliament to say definitely whether they intend to grapple with the 802 aftermath of the war in a much more thorough, comprehensive and intelligent way than Parliament did after the 1914–18 war. Is Parliament going to do its job? We are free with our congratulations to the men in the Forces and are always ready to pat the workers on the back when we want an increased output of munitions, but the issues raised in the Amendment come down specifically to the responsibility of this House, and to the question whether we are going to do our job this Session, in preparing for the problems of reconstruction.
I want to begin my examination of those problems by referring to a sentence or two in the speech of the Lord President of the Council when he was winding-up the first day's Debate. He said:The war is not yet won, but as we draw nearer to victory, the minds of men and women turn more and more to the future and ask 'What will our position be when peace comes?' I can recall very well in 1918 in the trenches in France, asking that same question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th November, 1943; col. 48, Vol. 395.]So we have the Lord President of this war-time House of Commons, speaking as an accredited spokesman of a Coalition Government, recognising quite clearly that, not only throughout the Forces but throughout the length and breadth of this land, that query is at the back of the minds of those who are engaged, and are resolved to prosecute the war to a successful issue. It recalled to him his own thoughts in the trenches in France in 1918, but I suggest that he failed to draw the correct interpretation from his own language. He should have gone on to recall that, during the last war, those who sat on those Benches, speaking for the Government of the day, offered many rosy promises to our people, which can be summed up in the term, "Homes fit for heroes to live in." Now we get from spokesmen of the present Government phrases like "Food, work and homes for all," and at once those phrases present the question to all of us whether, on this occasion, we mean to give to the people food, work and homes.
The Lord President of the Council could have recalled that all those rosy promises ended in bitter disillusionment for the vast mass of the people, because Parliament either did not have the vision or lacked the will. It was unable to grapple with the post-war problems and to prevent world 803 causes and conditions completely destroying the possibility of prosperity following the last war. So, in the first year that the King's Speech denotes a shift of opinion to a recognition that we can now see the victorious end of this war, and brings us to consideration of post-war preparations, this party feel that we must confront the Government and Parliament with serious considerations of them. If I were asked to express an opinion on the Government of to-day, I should say that it is a very good war Government but I should also say that it is a very timid post-war reconstruction Government.
§ Mr. Barnes
I am glad to hear it. I have not always, I regret to say, seen that demonstrated when occasions have arisen when Parliament has sought—a Coalition Parliament—to grapple with a Coalition Executive. We have not always then seen the House of Commons play its proper part in a Coalition Parliament on these issues. That is the first point that I want to raise. This House of Commons has done its job as a war-time Parliament to a good war-time Government very well indeed, in my view. It has been a spur and an encouragement. It has been a dynamic and driving force. When the Government have shown slackness, timidity or hesitancy in the face of difficult problems, Members of this House have not hesitated to drive and urge them to prosecute the war with the full resources and resolve of our people.
When it comes to preparatory work for post-war conditions, in which, in my view, the responsibility of the average Member of Parliament is equally great—certainly we are better fitted to give a national contribution on these matters—it is unavoidable, because of military necessity, that a large amount of the data upon which one can form a proper and considered judgment is never within our possession. In the field that we are considering to-day the daily experience of Members of Parliament in all walks of life and in all spheres of national activity, enables us, individually and collectively, to bring sound and considered judgment to bear on the issues which confront us. Therefore, I invite the House of Commons to face the problem which I think emerges at the very commencement of this Session. 804 We have to-day a Government led by the Prime Minister, to whom every citizen and every section in this House and the country is prepared to pay tribute but we recognise that the Prime Minister is war Prime Minister, and that his job is to concentrate on the effective military prosecution of the war, and Parliament itself, if we are not to lose precious time, must confront that Parliamentary situation and find some way out of the difficulty.
I venture to submit that in its approach to the problem raised in the King's Speech, and to many other problems which are not in the King's Speech but which ought to be, this House of Commons must first develop method and courage in its desire to deal with these grave and far-reaching matters. I do not see why what we now know as Dunkirk courage should be reserved for times of national disaster in war. I see no reason why all those qualities which are called out in times of national crisis, should not be developed and should not find expression in grappling with economic, financial, political and social issues. Those issues very often have their origin in the war, and in their consequences, if not carefully handled, they may either present the possibility of another war in the future, or may react directly on the standard of living and prosperity of our people. In this Amendment we submit that on a number of very important issues, the question for the Government and for Parliament is whether Parliament is going to honour its obligations to the men in the Forces, the men and women in the Civil Defence services and the workers in the munition plants.
Let me give an illustration. The House will recall that in 1937, 1938 and 1939 we pursued a policy in international affairs which eventually became known as a policy of appeasement, towards Nazism and Fascism. As a result of that policy this country and the world had to pay a fearful price. In this field of economic, political, social and financial reconstruction, if a policy of appeasement is to be followed towards vested and sectional interests, then, I suggest that after the war we shall, in another direction, find ourselves called upon to pay an equally fearful price for our delay, our tardiness, our timidity.
The Amendment raises four main issues—post-war reconstruction, full employment, 805 social security and economic change. Those four subjects are interlocked. For instance, you cannot have social security unless you have full employment, and you cannot have full employment, unless you take into consideration the far-reaching changes in economic conditions which will inevitably be brought about by the war. No one can shape a post-war economic, financial, commercial or planning policy until he knows the main conditions and the framework on which the Government and Parliament are going to work and to which individual businesses or corporations or local authorities must adjust themselves. So these four problems are interlocking and interdependent. Now, I want to make a definite statement against the Government. Do not let anyone imagine that in this matter I place the whole responsibility on the Government. I think Parliament itself at this stage of the Session must take a very large share of the responsibility. But my contention is that Government indecision, the Government's delay in making up their minds on the main lines of development and in stating clearly their attitude and bringing it to Parliament for endorsement or modification, or whatever else Parliament may decide upon—it is that which is holding up a considerable proportion of the work that could, effectively and intelligently, be engaged in now. That is the position which we are in at the moment.
I ask hon. Members to look at one or two dates in order to fix the share of executive and Government responsibility for that position. Sir Montague Barlow presented his report in January, 1940. How can any commercial or business or any other form of interest plan large-scale industrial or productive development unless they know whether Parliament has a policy on the redistribution of industry or not. No one expects to be able to get to the details of planning at this stage. But for many years authoritative pronouncements have indicated that the trend of public policy is towards a more ordered development of our industrial and productive system. Whether that is good or bad or indifferent, whether you agree or disagree with that proposal, the point I am making is that no one can move on that issue until the Government come before the House of Commons and state their attitude on the question so that we can discuss it. There is no need for 806 anxiety about differences of opinion on these domestic and internal problems That is the life-blood of our Parliamentary system and our free democracy—to be able to know exactly where your Executive stands on a particular question, to express your agreement or disagreement, to bring all the power, all the experience, all the contributions that can be made from all the sections and interests involved, to work your way ultimately to the largest possible measure of agreement and to get on with the job. The alternative is to hang about, to miss the bus and to get up against the same kind of conditions as those which we had after the last war though I do not think that even if we have to face economic difficulties they can possibly become acute as suddenly as they did after the last war, for reasons which I will state later. I come to the Uthwatt Report as another example. The interim report was presented in July, 1941, and the final report in 1942. How can any local authority deal with the problem of rebuilding and especially of rebuilding blitzed areas in the present state of things.
Will Members of Parliament please try to appreciate the position of their colleagues who are on local authorities, parts of whose areas have been wiped out or have suffered extensive damage. I come from a representative constituency in the East End of London that has experienced it. There are other Members in the House who have experienced that situation. Because of war conditions people have been taken either into the Forces or into the munition plants and elsewhere, but there will be the natural disposition for them to come back to their own localities after the war. The Army is not a home or a place in which people in the Forces can express themselves. Because people have been moved from Scotland to the South or from the South to the North to work in some huge munition plant, that does not represent the natural roots in which their domestic life, happiness and cultural development will find expression. We have to face the fact in this House that directly we get an easement in the problem of the output of munitions, the change-over of the population will press very severely indeed upon us, and, if Parliament has not done its part of the work, we shall get social irritation. I say quite frankly that I am not 807 disposed to ask our people to exert excessive patience towards those in authority if those in authority do not discharge their obligations to the people whom they represent.
Here I am dealing with a procedure that should have given the maximum degree of support in the conditions of a Coalition Parliament, and I say the Government are creating a situation of unnecessary delay that I find it very difficult for them to defend. The Scott Committee reported in 1942, and Sir William Beveridge presented his Report on 1st December, 1942. I can conceive no procedure that was more sensible than to endeavour to remove in the initial stages of examination the interplay of party conflict in this procedure of selecting qualified persons to examine various phases that would present the foundations upon which we should build our post-war policy. Yet, despite this effort on the part of individual specialists to obtain impartial reform, we are facing a vital period this Session and the Government have been unable to determine definitely their attitude or to lay proposals before the House. I want to deal with the Beveridge Report as an example and to take this paragraph in the Gracious Speech which His Majesty's Ministers present to us:My Ministers will present to you their views and proposals regarding an enlarged and unified system of social insurance, a comprehensive health service and a new scheme of workmen's compensation, and they will decide, in the light of your discussions, what specific proposals for legislation on these matters can be brought forward at this stage.Now, that is very impressive language, but I venture to suggest that there is no guarantee in that. It brings us to this point; we have already passed through this stage—at least we have had one effort or one bite at this procedure in February last. That was supposed to be the Debate through which the Executive would ascertain the views of the House of Commons, but what happened? In the early stages of the Debate the Executive interposed their view upon the House of Commons and eventually got the Whips on, which prevented us from getting a true expression of the views of the Members of the House. So, in view of that language, I want to present this very definite question to whomsoever is replying for the Government. Are we to have legislation on the Barlow, Scott, Uthwatt 808 and Beveridge Reports this Session? I should like to have a specific reply to this inquiry. I think this House, before the Debate is finished, ought to insist that we have a clear reply to this question.
With regard to employment and economic changes, I have always held the view in my public life—and it has been confirmed by the experience of two great wars—that we should refuse to accept the position that we can only contemplate full employment and relative prosperity for the masses of the workers in these periods of war when we are living on our capital assets and piling up debts. That, in my view, is grotesque. It is ridiculous to think that in the lifetime of those of us taking part in this Debate, the only occasion on which our people have full employment and a relative measure of prosperity has been when the nation has been occupied in consuming its capital assets and piling up debts for the purpose of winning the war. We know we have to face those conditions, and we do not run away from them. We have achieved a measure of unity that probably no other country in the world has achieved, but I think we should ask ourselves whether we cannot do better next time.
In my view—and I do not speak without some knowledge of the ecomonic and financial problems involved here—I cannot see how the functioning of private enterprise by itself can possibly create a condition of full employment and an expanding standard of living for the masses of our people. Those Members who disagree with that ought to accept the responsibility of disproving it, but the fact remains that no example can be produced. We have cycles of employment and unemployment. Let us take the experience of 1920 to 1935 and consider, in the light of the knowledge gained from the repercussions of certain policies on industry generally, whether these economic blizzards could be avoided by an intelligently run community if public interests preceded private and vested interests—principally finance. There was no need for that sudden collapse of prices in the spring and summer of 1920. It was not because there was not a demand for goods; there was a demand for goods, and after this war we shall face probably two phases of a similar problem. If the European war were to end suddenly, then I should like to take the opportunity of 809 stating that there would be no difference of opinion in this country that we should have to honour the pledge of the Prime Minister on behalf of the whole of the British people to see the Pacific war to an equally Complete and successful issue. But it follows that if there is a different period of settlement of both wars, we are going to have a longer drawn-out period of demobilisation, and we shall be faced with an intricate problem as to how we can replenish the home market and, at the same time, again build up our export trade, and enable us to establish our export industry.
This country is facing a very serious problem if we do not take advantage of the interim period when there will be a slackening-off of the major aspects of war production. After the last war it was financial policy that destroyed economic and commercial policy. It was not a question of finance being an instrument of the economic policy of the State or of industry as a whole. Financial policy knocked the bottom out of prices, and if you knock the bottom out of prices, you are bound to move to widespread industrial chaos. If the markets can see that prices will in the next month or two months or next season drop by 25 per cent. or 50 per cent., they will not buy to build up stocks. Therefore, in my view, the first essential issue which this Parliament must face is that the Bank of England or financial control should become a public responsibility. After all, it is only a handful of persons who control and direct financial policy. The average industrialist and producer and the persons engaged in the daily life of the community are very often just as much at the mercy of financial manipulators as the person who is consuming a pound of butter or a loaf of bread.
The next point I want to emphasise is what I would term motive power in industry. Motive power like coal, electricity, gas, oil again provides one of those conditions which if they are not handled from a communal interest point of view upset and throw out of gear the whole superstructure of our economic life. Let us take coal and electricity and observe the experience we have had. For generations now there has been this open and deadly conflict between the mineowners and the miners. For the moment it is immaterial 810 who is responsible or who carries the larger measure of responsibility. What we have to face is the fact that over a long period this industry has been unable to develop those conditions, normal conditions, average conditions, of co-operation that enable industry to run along smoothly and give its maximum contribution. What is the average citizen to decide? If you take the war experience or experience at any time, the nation finds that at any time it can do without the mineowner, but we never find that we can do without the miner. During the war we have done to a very large extent without the mineowner, but we have not been able to do without the miner. Therefore my contention is that this ought to become the subject of open debate, argument, facts, not prejudices or private interests. Members who represent the nation in this House ought to be able to get on their feet and demonstrate whether the private ownership of the mines is a practical proposition in the economic life of Britain to-day. My contention is that the community should take the place of the mineowner.
My third point is electricity. I have watched electrical development in this country over a long period. I observed its periods of chaotic development under the motive power of private enterprise. I saw eventually where Parliament and the public had to step in to bring order out of chaos. What have I and other citizens observed? We have observed that to the extent that public interest has been imposed on the electricity industry both industry and the community have benefited. Public policy has produced the grid, and municipal policy in the field of electricity has developed cheap electricity for the homes of the people.
So I move this Amendment, believing and hoping that the Government will reply specifically to the points I have raised, that Members of Parliament will face up to the issues in this Address, and, finally, we request in this Amendment that these main lines of development for the nation should be settled. I sincerely trust that public opinion in no uncertain voice will declare for the public ownership of land, for the public direction of financial policy, for the public ownership of all forms of motive power and transport, because I consider that these are the basic conditions without which it is increasingly difficult to expand our industrial and economic 811 system. Given these basic conditions I see no insuperable difficulty, if Parliament does its preparatory work, in so assuring our people in fact, food, homes and work.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
The House has just heard a speech by the hon. Member far East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) with which I think, listening to the cheers which attended many of his observations, it is broadly in agreement It is true that in the later part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, when he came down to examine some of the specific questions in which reforms will be necessary after the war, I think I should be accurate in saying that some of my hon. Friends and myself would have been less likely to agree with him. For example, when he spoke of nationalising the Bank of England we feel that the Bank of England, although privately owned, is yet so closely related to the business of the State, and its operations are so closely regulated by the Treasury, that in fact nationalisation would serve no useful purpose and would hardly be worth the trouble of carrying out. Some of the other sentiments the hon. Member expressed I hope to refer to in the course of what I have to say.
A year ago, in the Debate on the Address, the Minister of Aircraft Production, then Leader of the House, in describing the atmosphere in which it was expected that we should be conducting our forthcoming Debates in the Session then beginning, used a form of words which I think found general acceptance in all quarters of the House. He said:We have now reached the stage at which it may be necessary for Parliament to consider legislation rising from or out of conditions created by the war on which there is a general measure of agreement.I think the pulses of hon. Members stirred slightly at the words because it seemed that we were due to advance from the position of being an audience for pronouncements of policy by the Executive and for grand reviews on strategy in the inimitable manner of the Prime Minister to something not less interesting perhaps but more absorbtive of our energies, more controversial and workaday. And for a few months which covered the Catering Bill and the Beveridge Report it seemed that Parliamentary talent and resource were really being harnessed to the service 812 of the Government. But as the Session wore on, except for a number of minor measures in themselves important which we were called upon to discuss and pass, the level of Parliament activity and interest fell, and the standard of debating with it until we were right back again, in the doldrums of the early years of the war. Concurrently with that, there has developed a strong note of criticism of the Government, both in Parliament and in the Press, at the lack of the kind of decisions which the hon. Member described—in housing, in health, town and country planning, agriculture, Imperial questions and many other matters. Wherever it looks over the broad field of administration public opinion, as expressed in the country, in the Press and in this House, is, I believe, convinced that the Government are behind the needs of the times. Into that situation the Prime Minister's speech in the coal Debate fell like a bombshell. After a year of unbroken successes, with victory, to use the Minister of Production's own phrase, "certain and indeed imminent" in circumstances when one would have expected the statement of the Leader of the House last year to have been expanded and elaborated, we get instead the depressing words "all necessary controversy for the war, none for the peace" and we get subsequently a King's Speech cleverly drafted to allay some fears but calculated to rouse few hopes and no enthusiasm.
I believe the Government have carried their anxieties to maintain the Coalition—a very proper objective in itself, which has my full support—too far and that thereby they are endangering not only the institution of Parliament but also the application and effectiveness in time of the post-war settlements which public opinion demands. As I see it, the Parliamentary situation is this: We do not want fierce party warfare here to play upon immediate post-war problems with the inevitable repercussion on national unity so far as the prosecution of the war is concerned, but neither do we want halfhearted programmes foisted on to Parliament by Government Departments after a nice internal balancing has taken place of the political pros and cons. Such programmes will do little to inspire the country and our troops serving abroad, who want not agreed Measures, shaped in secret by a bureaucracy and carried through a well-whipped and docile Parlia- 813 ment, but ideas and plans presented to this House by its leaders, on which full Parliamentary discussion can take place ab initio and public opinion from outside be brought to bear. The seeds of post-war reform must be tested by Parliament before germination. We are not here to pass approving comment on flowers in full bloom.
May I give two examples of what I mean? The other day we had a Workmen's Compensation Bill, and during the course of it there was some criticism of the action of the Home Secretary in tying up the issues so neatly with the great organisations outside, before coming to this House at all, that we were presented virtually with a fait accompli to acknowledge and applaud. The same kind of treatment was accorded to the White Paper on Educational Reconstruction. If the standard of the two days' Debate on that is any guide to what will happen when the Bill itself is introduced, I think the public will be at some loss to know whether education has been much reformed or little, so lacking in colour and in lustre will be their representatives' speeches.
I do not think it is the fault of this House. It is more the fault of the Government. Ministers must be prepared to come here with plans and Bills that arouse more than passing interest and gain more than lukewarm support. They must be prepared to come here and argue passionately for the causes in which they believe, and risk a strong minority vote against their Measures. In these days of coalition, which I hope will be perpetuated for the sake of the nation, the spur and stimulus which give life to Parliament cannot come from party strife in the House itself. I think they must be supplied instead by a deliberately contrived interplay between the Legislature and the Executive. The Government must trust Parliament not only to support it, but on frequent occasions, to react against it. It must be prepared to risk defeat in the division lobbies, and in that connection I think it is about time we abandoned the anachronistic doctrine that in defeating the Executive Parliament invariably seeks its dismissal. What is required in 99 cases out of 100 is a minor change in administrative method in some Department or other. I think we ought to establish that principle firmly. I would 814 not be unhappy if we made a start to-day by voting on this Amendment. If in the coming Session we can go some way towards setting up this new relation between Parliament and the Government, which arises naturally, it seems to me, in an epoch of National Governments, we shall be on a surer foundation for the advent of more controversial issues; and the sooner controversy returns to Parliament the better for the lifestream of this wonderful institution.
I am anxious only about the extent to which this House is equipped to indulge in controversy with right effect. Although in my short time here I have been frequently astonished by the diverse experiences enjoyed by hon. Members, which gives them the right to speak—and they do speak with great effect—on a wide variety of topics, yet by and large we lack the expert knowledge which is available to the Government. I think we should seriously consider co-opting on to our Committees upstairs scientists, industrialists, and professional men from the many great producer and distributor organisations which exist, to keep us informed of the actual state of affairs and the possible lines of action in the various fields in which we shall be Called upon to legislate. I do not intend—and indeed I should be out of Order—to develop this theme in detail, but it is my firm conviction that the complexity of modern life is so great that unless this House modifies its practice to some extent, there is a danger that Parliament will lose its position as the fulcrum of the nation simply through lack of knowledge and consequent incapacity to form a right judgment. The centre of political thought and activity would then be shifted elsewhere, and people would gradually waken up to the fact that government was not in the hands of their known tried and elected representatives but in the hands of a host of unknown and unnamed experts, planning in secret and devoid of public responsibilities. That is the danger against which we ought to be on our guard. Just as in war and in planning for war problems are solved in secret, by officials, so in peace and in planning for peace problems must be solved in public, by Parliament. For the first essential is to ensure that it is democracy, and not some other form of government, to which these great reconstruction issues are entrusted.
815 I am glad that the Amendment which we are discussing speaks of the provision of employment, for it enables me to offer a few observations on what I regard as the most vital objective of all in our post-war society. The "Economist" newspaper has been for many years my political bible. With that journal, a copy of the "Republic," and a quick glance at the "Daily Express," one is equipped to begin to put down in a modest way a few simple Parliamentary Questions. Indeed, I think that if Socrates started teaching in the Strand to-day it would not be long before he was obliged to take offices in Brettenham House. About a year ago the "Economist" headed a series of remarkable articles with some very pregnant words:If one thing has been made abundantly clear, it is that the mass of people in every country rate Full Employment, and the individual security it brings, higher than almost any other political object. If liberal democracy is not compatible with full employment, then it is liberal democracy that will go; and plans for the future will have to be laid on the assumption that the principles of Fascism (or conceivably of authoritarian Communism) will win the peace, whoever wins the war.I believe that to be profoundly true. Full employment must be the prime objective of all policy—work for all except the young, the sick and the aged, and those in transition from one occupation to another. I believe that it will be necessary for democratic government to guarantee this situation, or it will be necessary for democratic government to go. The arrival of powerful authoritarian States in the modern world has made abundantly clear to all those with their eyes wide enough open to see what can be done in this scientific age to raise the standards of the people where the resources of the State, or the group of States, are properly organised, and how quickly it can be done. When this great cohesive power is directed to building up war potential or pursuing aggressive trading policies in other lands, it is short shrift for the nation which is not in a condition to stand the threat. We intend that this country shall remain strong after the war in a military sense; but we must be strong in other things as well, in industrial power, in our trading contacts abroad, streamlined in our internal economy, cutting out the waste of manpower which goes with the frills of the too elaborate life and goes 816 with social and other public services which are overlapping, redundant and competing. We must continue to build up the purchasing power of the working classes by guaranteeing minimum wages, by comprehensive social insurance, and by price control of articles for consumption.
The Ministry of Production, I understand, is steadily acquiring statistics of industrial firms of every sort and kind. These statistics will be invaluable after the war. I would advocate that the order book of every firm be open for inspection by the Government or by some agency which they designate for the purpose. Steps should be taken to ensure that every firm has at least two years' orders upon its books, Government, local authority and private orders being dovetailed, so that the resulting production is consonant with the public interest and the right balance is maintained between capital and consumption goods.
Believing, as I do, that full employment is the first objective, I am certain that this country is not going to tolerate trading or financial links that bind us to any State or group of States which is not equally successful in ensuring full employment and maintaining those controls which accompany it. The rumours that attended the recent financial negotiations in Washington are somewhat disquieting. Apart altogether from the doubtful wisdom of creating inter-State financial machinery before fundamental decisions have been made here at home on planning our internal post-war economy. Apart from that, it has been said that some of the tentative conclusions of the Conference attacked the cherished principle of Imperial preference, and one way and another there is what I might describe as a Free-Trade-19th-century-bankers'-deal atmosphere about the whole proceeding, which is very disagreeable. I am glad that the Chancellor is here and I am gladder still that the Government are shortly to face the House on this matter. But I do warn the Government that if any niggers of this sort emerge from the wood-pile they will be flayed alive.
The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), who I am pleased to see is in his place, in his most interesting speech last week, said that, if we attached ourselves to America in an economic sense, 817 we would be dangled at the end of a string. I agree with him entirely, although I think the word "dangle" is too dainty a word. At any rate we ought to have ready at hand a pair of shears to cut that string, if need be. In other words, plans ought to be prepared so that we can insulate ourselves from the American economy if that course should prove desirable. The hon. Member went on to develop some ideas on co-operation with the Western European democracies very similar to those advanced by General Smuts; again I agree with him, and I congratulate him that his thoughts should be so closely akin to those which came from that great Imperial mind. I think there is hope for the hon. Gentleman. If he is an Imperialist, then he can count on me to cheer him on. If he would like to go further and recommend enlarging the sterling area by the inclusion of these countries and create a powerful economic block of States more or less self-sufficient in foodstuffs and in raw materials, then I would support him in that. In these circumstances full employment in this country could be guaranteed and maintained. I think that all economists are agreed on that, but they would add that controls would be needed for the purpose, and in the matter of controls, I believe that our people have a choice before them, and it is of transcendent importance to the future of this country that they should express their preference clearly. The choice is full employment and the controls necessary to guarantee it and maintain it in perpetuity, or the old swing of the trade pendulum, a return to that kind of freedom which borders upon licence, the right to engage in hectic and unregulated activity which brings, maybe, a spasm of elation in prosperous times but leads directly to acute misery and distress in the ensuing years.
It is because I believe that our position in the world, alone and tied to the use of these out-moded instruments, is infinitely precarious and because I believe that our responsibilities to the world evolving from this war are vastly great, that I say we cannot afford to return to this kind of life. I hope therefore that the people of this country will be guided into a right judgment in these matters by sane counsel from hon. Members of all parties in this House.
§ Mr. Clynes (Manchester, Platting)
I do not intend to follow the noble Lord 818 very far on the line of the prior departments and reasons which have followed on his speech, but I beg leave to say that much of what the noble Lord has said will fail to win the approval of his Conservative elders and that probably they feel that he will have time to grow out of these revolutionary ideals. I may refresh the memory of the noble Lord on quite a little point at issue. I understand his view to be that, if defeated in the Lobbies, a Ministry need not necessarily be required to resign. Twice there was a Labour Government in office but never yet in power. We were at the mercy of a larger number, and I recall that in the beginning of our labours we were told expressly that, if we sought to put our principles into practice and even to attempt to legislate upon the lines of our national programmes, we would not only have to face a unity of parties against us, but, as was said expressly, "Out you go." That was the deterrent kept ready for a Labour Government, and I am rather glad to note that there has been some growth of opinion to the contrary since.
While I must confine myself in the main to the terms of the Amendment now before the House, I hope that that will not disable me from expressing in a phrase my full appreciation of the opening paragraph of the Gracious Speech from the Throne. In fitting terms it refers to the services of our Allies and particularly to the immense endeavour and success of the Russian Forces. Stalin and his country have won our admiration and our praise. They have won it by their deeds, and there is no line in the Gracious Speech which I welcome more than the statment:the massive and unrelenting advance of the Russian Armies, whose magnificent achievements we have watched with ever-deepening admiration.America and ourselves have supplied to Russia both munitions and machinery. We have aided her amazing efforts, but it is the skill, sacrifice and valour of Russia's fighting men and women which have conquered the mighty forces and have crippled the power of our principal enemy. We rejoice in the quality of our great Ally. She has startled her friends, and her critics even, and has confounded her foes by her victories.
On the other subjects in the Gracious Speech, those of us on these Benches take definitely a different view. Many of these subjects are shrouded in the most un- 819 certain terms. The language and the treatment of these subjects have aroused the fear that delay and not drive is the chosen method of the Government. If this is a groundless suspicion, I take leave to say to the Chancellor that there is an opportunity now to announce terms of different decisions and to say, even in this Sitting, what are the functions of the Government, what really is Ministerial and Cabinet policy on questions which have been before this House and the country for a very long time. We are not submitting any surprises. We are not asking for action without long warning. Let not this suspicion be dispelled and the uneasiness in the public mind removed by merely making declarations. We find for the first time that the Gracious Speech from the Throne is being used as a vehicle wherewith to cover actions. The Speech is an agency to get the views of the House, with, I suppose, some idea of further action or announcement in later years. I have been in this House for more than 30 years, and I do not recall any such excuse being afforded previously by any Government as that with which this Gracious Speech has been uttered to Members of Parliament.
What is it that our Amendment is asking? Summarised fairly, it is not anything for ourselves; it is rather to seek advancement not for those at home but for those men who are away, the men in the Forces in their various forms of foreign service, and we ask that we should do for them before they return not as little as we are compelled to do, but as much as we are able to do by the various decisions of this House. Members on this side have their duty to a Minister. If the Minister be so willing, and if the House is to shape the measures and shape the Speech into law, we as ordinary Members of Parliament must offer to the Government warm co-operation and not merely criticism, for even our silence would be of greater value to Ministers than our speeches in so far as reaching results are concerned. In most of these matters time is not on our side, and as far as we can see—indeed reference has been made to it publicly—this may be the last Session of this Parliament. I am certain that in this last Session there is a mass of willingness and eagerness even to translate many of the words in the Gracious Speech into Parliamentary result. The time of Private Mem- 820 bers has been admirably used in the last two or three years on the whole, and the House has frequently been seen at its best in moments of high national interest and of approaching crisis, when Members of all parties have united to deal, for instance, with the ruthless tyrants of our days. It is in that spirit that the House might be encouraged. If we had a definite assurance on these matters of Government policy, they could be invoked from all quarters to turn these words into definite results. Indeed the subject of the Speech affords opportunities both to the Minister and to Members. This indeed is a great chance for the Government to lead. They have led well in the sphere of fighting. They have a chance now to lead even as well in the sphere of home legislation. We have had nothing that I can recall since the Gracious Speech was first read but tardy and qualified pronouncements from Ministers, with nothing that tends to strengthen the hopes which national service in so many fields fully justifies.
In home policy I would summarise in just four words the purpose of the Amendment. Food, houses, work, security. We are asking for very little money from the Government. That ought to be a consolation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We are asking rather for action. How? In respect of food we say in effect that wages earned by labour will pay for the food that it consumes. As to houses, they are to be provided in exchange for rent, and rent will be paid. Subsidy there may be; subsidy there now is; subsidy there had to be after the last war. That is a matter of degree rather than any new doctrine. As to work, we whole-heartedly welcome the improving signs from Conservative quarters. On this subject of work we see the dawn of an understanding on those benches that actually work is an agency for wealth creation. So that in exchange for work we get wealth, and the nation is sustained. Work is not a gift to the man who receives it. It is an instrument for maintaining the very life of the nation. Given all these conditions in plenty, with the addition of content, food, houses and work, out of these we get security, and on those lines the Government would not have to pay a penny for the security which they rightly offer now to the masses of our people. So we plead that the Government should be as definite on these matters of home conditions and peace as they are in the sphere of war, for behind 821 the Government in matters of war the nation was united and behind the Government, with the right sort of policy in these home affairs, the unity of parties could be assured.
The Amendment speaks, and my hon. Friend who moved it spoke, on the theme of our land. I have been recently interested in a number of figures affecting a large block of land in Manchester. My interest is deepened for the reason that I happen to be the senior Member for Manchester, and lately the name of Sir Oswald Mosley has been in frequent use in our discussions. I find that in 1596 a Mr. Mosley bought Manchester land for £3,500, and in 1846 the Manchester Town Council, as it then was, paid the Mosley family £200,000 for certain land which was required for public use. The present Sir Oswald is the sixth baronet. He inherited a fortune of £247,000, and an adoring grandfather threw in as a little additional pocket money an extra £60,000. That is the way all over the country and throughout the years private ownership of land has travelled. It is a fine thing to have a land to fight for and die for, but it is a finer thing to possess the land at all, for it to be the property and in the gift of those who use it for the maintenance of the nation as a whole. We have seen through our history the doctrine expressed in that splendid bit of doggerel, as I think it to be:The good old rule, the simple planFor those to take who have the powerAnd those to keep who can.There have been recurring cases of disputes on the question of land ownership; but here, as in some other respects, we see some glimmer of the dawn, and now we are promised a little more in the way of land ownership for the masses of the people than hitherto we have seen.
I have to face with a feeling of considerable reluctance, indeed with regret, a subject not yet referred to in the course of this Debate. I have had a trade union card for nearly 60 years, since I was a working youth, a boy almost, in a Lancashire cotton factory, and I have passed through all the degrees of service in trade union duty until the age limit operated and my time in that regard came to an end. I want to say to the groups of workmen, relatively small when opposed to the millions of men who contentedly go on with their work, what an awful responsibility they have assumed in endangering 822 the prospects of our early victory over the hated foe. Even to delay the victory is too serious an offence for men to commit who might even be wrong in feeling that full justice is not being done to them. It is not, then, with any light heart that I touch this theme. It is not referred to in the Gracious Speech itself, and I view it as a gracious omission not to make any comment upon the object. Workmen may have been deceived by many cries uttered by national leaders, members of the Cabinet, who may be termed indeed statesmen but who are guilty of many misstatements. They mean well, but, as prophets, they are certainly not a national asset. They have declared that, though the war is not over, it is as good as won, and these sentiments have unhappily been echoed and repeated by certain sections of the Press. If it were true, it is indiscreet at this stage to say it. Let it be noted that these Ministers are not following their leader, for the Prime Minister has been cautious enough to avoid anything so foolish as a declaration that the war is as good as won. I do not offer this as any excuse for following a bad example on the part of the workmen that these exhortations, though they were designed to encourage, have led to a slackening of effort, and particularly to the misdeeds of those who have actually walked out of the workshop and declined even to listen to their leaders.
If I want to reinforce what I have said, I would first say that it is a solitary instance when we think and speak of coal. The Minister of Fuel, speaking recently at Preston, said that from the beginning of July this year we had lost 500,000 tons of coal through strikes. That is a very serious loss in the general output of the miners—half a million tons of coal in that very short period through strikes. He said he could only suppose that strikes of such a nature were taking place because there had been a loss in the sense of urgency about the prosecution of the war. We know from common knowledge, in the train and in the bus, in the street and in our homes, that people are congratulating themselves upon the imminence of the end of the war, and accordingly there is a very natural taking-it-easy and a slackness of effort and of purpose. It is, then, a most unwise thing to say that, though the war is 823 not over, it is as good as won. A workman serving as a soldier in uniform must face stern treatment if he deserts his post, or sleeps at his post. The workman in the factory ought not to walk out of it without warning or without authority based upon accepted arrangements. What would a workman say of any employer who without such authority closed his gates upon them to enforce some change for the worse? When friction arises in war-time, whatever the cause of it, it is better calmly to think it out and talk it out than to fight it out, for the wastage of such confidence in these days of urgency and at times of peril gives joy only to the enemy. Whatever be their grievances, there is at their disposal abundant machinery and provision of every sort, from the benches to the gates, for adjusting difficulties and settling points or differences as they arise.
I saw that one group of workmen blamed their leaders for being slow, for not grasping the point, for not giving them a lead. I say, as one who has been a leader, that I was always subject to appointment, indeed almost from year to year, for a long period by the members themselves, and those who appointed me could dismiss me. So, instead of groups of workmen who have a grievance against their leaders inflicting a penalty upon the nation, they ought to dismiss the leaders who are guilty of any wrongdoing. Time was when we used to blame the employers for not recognising the trade unions. It is the workmen now who do not recognise them. They fail to conform to the arrangements, treat their leaders at times with contempt, and hold up the very principle and ideal of the organisation, to the laughter of the community.
In the beginning of this war workmen bravely discharged their duties and accepted heavier conditions and long hours of exhaustive service, and did that as long as they could physically endure. Millions have helped to lend money to the State as part of the sinews of war, and I myself, at the head of a great trade union at that time, was able to share in lending the Government from our funds £250,000 without one penny of interest—a trade union example, by the way, which many wealthy employers have so far not followed. These acts of revolt have not even the merit of being successful, for in 824 the main, with only one or two exceptions, they have exhausted themselves, and in the end there has been a failure and the men have gone back to have their conditions and the difficulties settled after they have resumed work. Our workmen in uniform are beating the enemy splendidly in the air, on land and at sea. I would say to the men in the workshop and in the pit that they ought not to be behind in effective blows at the enemy as well. It is the duty of all of us, and especially of those creative forces, the workmen, to subordinate all else to early and complete victory. To those men who have struck I would finally add that by carrying on and doing their best until the flag of victory flies they will earn the enduring gratitude of a country which had its life at peril but which is now approaching the stage of triumph.
§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) is an old and highly respected Member of this House, and we are all glad whenever he is able to attend our assembly and still more privileged when he is able to address us. I listened with interest to the speech which he has just delivered. There have been occasions when I have listened to him when he has been equally forthright in directing his remarks to another section of society. I am sure that those who hear his words respect him for his courage and sincerity, and I trust that the speech which he has just delivered will be some contribution, as he would wish it to be, towards expediting our victory in this war. So far this Debate has mainly turned in two directions as regards reconstruction. A good deal has been said about the nationalisation of industry, and I do not propose to follow that question because I share, and I think most people share, completely and explicitly the views which were put forward by the Prime Minister in his speech on the Four-Year Plan which he broadcast to the nation. That was not a speech which barred the door to any changes which are necessary and desirable in our national economy.
The matter to which I want specially to draw attention is one which I regard as of absolutely the first importance and which I do not feel was adequately referred to in the King's Speech. I refer to the question of housing. It is true 825 that since the King's Speech was issued and since an Amendment appeared on the Paper in the names of some hon. Friends and myself, the Minister of Production has spoken and he has rightly put the question of housing in the forefront of post-war reconstruction. He gave the House some information on the subject which can be described as comforting, but I do not think it can be described as anything like completely satisfactory or satisfying. The first thing that worries me on this question is Ministerial responsibility. There seems to be a good deal of confusion in the minds of local authorities, and probably still in the minds of some Members of this House, as to whose is the real responsibility for post-war housing and where the direct responsibility actually lies. I put a Question to the Prime Minister a week or two ago and the reply I got was:The primary responsibility will continue to rest with the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Ministry of Works giving to these two Departments technical advice on design, methods of construction and building materials. The proposals for a post-war housing programme must, of course, be co-ordinated with the rest of the Government's plans for reconstruction in the years immediately following the end of the war, and this will be one of the duties of my noble Friend the Minister of Reconstruction."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1943: cols. 1444–5, Vol. 393.]I feel that post-war housing has to be divided into two sides. First, there is permanent post-war housing, which involves planning and all that which we desire for the general betterment of housing conditions and planning after the war. The other side is emergency, and, probably to a large extent temporary, housing which must be provided if we are to meet the immediate emergency which will arise as soon as peace has been declared. The Deputy Prime Minister's pronouncement as to responsibility might adequately meet the long-term planning except for one thing which I dislike. It involves three or four different Ministers, and although the answer said that the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland were primarily responsible, I do not think it actually makes them primarily responsible. I feel, and the people of the country feel, that just as we have a Minister of Food and know he is responsible for our food, we would like to have a Minister who is directly and mainly responsible for housing to whom we can 826 refer when we want to raise a question, whom we can praise when all goes well and whom we can blame when all goes badly.
Another thing which rather complicates the situation is that after that reply had been given the Minister of Production spoke and gave rather a different definition. He said:I must return to housing. The Government have felt that a new definition of responsibility and simplification was called for and this has been reached. The Ministry of Works will be the Government authority to which the Ministry of Health and the Scottish Office will look on all matters concerning—and I will read them out carefully:'Plans, designs, specifications, materials and the technique of construction and costs of houses.'The local authorities will, on the other side, have to look solely to the Ministry of Health and the Scottish Office."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1943; col. 313, Vol. 395.]The words "the Ministry of Works will be the Government authority," with the qualifications I read, still give me the impression that the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland will not be mainly and directly responsible for housing. That does not seem to me to be a satisfactory solution or the way in which we shall overcome what will be an extremely acute situation as soon as the war comes to an end. If I may refer again to the late Minister of Food, Lord Woolton, he has achieved a wonderful work and has received the praise of everybody in the country, and he has deserved it. After all, however, his Ministry could not achieve what it has done alone. He could not have fed this country during the war if he had not had the valuable help of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Minister of War Transport, the Navy and all those Ministries which were able to give the help that was necessary to his work. He was the designer of it and was mainly and directly responsible, and we recognise that he has made a good job of it.
I feel that in the question of housing we want something of the same kind. It is a major problem and is not to be mixed up with other things. It will be more important than any of the other problems when the war ends and men and women come back. Many of them have got married in the meantime. We have already got an enormous shortage of houses. There are the houses destroyed 827 by the enemy and there are many large houses whose former occupiers cannot afford to live in them any more and have moved to smaller houses which were occupied by less well-to-do people. In addition, there has been no construction during the war. The problem, therefore, will be far more acute than it was after the last war. None of the other things referred to in the King's Speech, none of the social advantages we look forward to after the war, will be of any avail if we cannot provide houses for the people. Therefore, I regard housing as coming before other problems and it is vital that we should have a responsible Minister, be it the Minister of Reconstruction or be it the Minister of Health. I do not think it should be the Minister of Works, but whoever he is let us have a Minister definitely responsible to the country and the House of Commons for housing. I said I do not think it should be the Minister of Works. I should like to modify that to this extent. Housing, as I have said, is of two kinds—permanent and temporary or emergency housing. For the permanent housing, which we want to get on with quickly, but which should not be rushed, the Minister of Health could perhaps be responsible. None of us want permanent housing rushed to such an extent that it would be as badly done as some of the housing was done last time and we do not want planning to be left out altogether. We want it done on a much better scale so that the whole outlook of the country is improved. Therefore, that side of housing wants cautious reviewing and no doubt the Minister of Planning must take this part.
There is, perhaps, something to be said for making the Minister of Health the responsible Minister. But when we come to temporary housing it is an entirely different proposition. I cannot see that the Ministry of Town and Country Planning can have much to do with that. The Ministry of Works can probably have a good deal to do with it. They are, for instance, now terminating a great many works all over the country upon which a large proportion of skilled building labour has been employed. That labour will be set free, and it appears to me that it could very well be used for putting up the temporary and emergency buildings 828 and housing which will have to be found at the end of the war. I believe the Ministry of Works have a considerable experience of pre-fabricated buildings and unit construction, and that would be of great assistance for this kind of work. Another thing required to deal with this temporary emergency is the expediting of the conversion of houses of a larger type whose former owners will probably be unable to reoccupy them for the simple reason that they will not be able to afford them nor get the servants necessary to run them. Something has to be done with that type of property, and it seems to me it is very suitable for converting for this emergency period. But first priority of all goes, without saying, to repairs, which are already being done to damaged property. With regard to temporary housing, one of the difficulties was pointed out to the Minister of Production when he spoke the other day. He was told there would be a danger of temporary housing becoming permanent. The Minister replied,I am aware of the pitfalls that may beset us in this, but we definitely must provide for some temporary scheme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1943; col. 316, Vol. 395.]I agree with that entirely, and I would offer this suggestion for avoiding this pitfall. Temporary housing should be pressed on as a first priority, and when the war is over and people are coming back and newly-married couples and displaced people are seeking accommodation they should first be moved into the temporary housing, having a priority claim for the permanent housing which is to be put up after the war. In that way we should get a constant flow. People would go into the temporary housing but would not stay there too long, probably not finding it all that they would wish for, although it may be made comfortable and adequate, and they would know that after they have been in the temporary housing for a comparatively short time theirs would be the first claim for the right to enter into some of the new permanent housing, which should be carefully and well designed. That plan would to a large extent overcome the danger that temporary housing should come to be regarded as permanent housing, I have another suggestion to put forward, although probably the Minister of Works has already had something of this 829 kind in view. We should like more information about it. The whole question is of vital interest, and we have been given little information by the Government. I am not sufficiently expert to be able to give the Government much advice, and the real purpose of my remarks is to make sure that the Government are acting, and acting energetically, and to obtain from them more specific information. What I want to know is whether any approach has been made to the aircraft and motor manufacturing industries to see what they can do in the matter of temporary and emergency housing after the war. Houses will be more urgently needed than motorcars, and there we should be tackling a source of labour outside the ordinary building industry and specially suitable to make its contribution in this emergency.
Further, as soon as the war is over we are likely to have a large surplus of steel. Are any arrangements being made to make use of that? I and some other Members who have been a long time in the House well remember the discussions over the Weir house after the last war. I saw one of the first to be erected, and I did not think it was a bad house. It was not the kind of house I should like to see put up after this war for permanent housing, but modified for temporary housing I think it would be suitable. I am told that some of the Weir houses in Scotland to-day have stood the test of time quite well. I believe the only reason we did not have more of them after the last war was that labour trouble was threatened if the building of them was continued. One last thing I want to ask the Government is whether they are satisfied with the position as regards research in building materials and related things? I understand that at present research is carried on at the expense of the producers, and, much as I am in favour of private enterprise, something is to be said for obtaining more impartial research by having research carried on for the Government at the Government expense. Research carried on solely by the producers may not always be as widely directed as it would be or could be under other circumstances.
I have covered most of the ground I wanted to cover. My main object has been to try to get further information and further details from the Government about their plans for post-war housing. 830 In finishing, I should only like to emphasise how convinced I am that housing has to be dealt with as two problems. Temporary housing will have to be expedited, and much could even be taken in hand now with any labour available. The permanent housing policy should not be too much rushed, because there we are aiming at housing which we want to last, which we can be proud of, and which will be worthy of that better world which we are so anxiously looking forward to after this war.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I rise to associate my hon. Friends and myself with the general terms of the Amendment. We had put one down in rather similar terms which I understand is not to be called, and I notice that Members in other parties have taken the opportunity of the Address to express their regret at the delay on the part of the Government in coming to decisions upon a number of important points arising out of Reports which have been before the country for a considerable time. There was a famous Roman general who was so successful in his delaying tactics in dealing with the enemy that he was known as Fabius Cunctator, and I cannot help thinking that there are some members of this Government to whom that proud title might be properly applied.
§ Mr. Mander
It is the usual practice in dealing with any problems before us first to have an inquiry. That stage we passed long ago. For more than a year the country has been waiting for the Government to make up their minds on four very important Reports—the Barlow, the Scott, the Uthwatt and the Beveridge Reports. We have certain information with regard to some of them, but many developments all over the country are being held up because local authorities and others are not able to make their arrangements for the future unless they know what the policy of the Government is to be on two well-known proposals—the Uthwatt proposals in regard to development rights and annual increment charges. As far as I can gather from the Gracious Speech, the Government propose to throw upon the House a responsibility which is really that of the Government's. I notice phrases such as: 831We will, in the light of your discussions, see what specific proposals for legislation can be brought forward at this stage.That is a very proper deference to the House of Commons, which I am sure is much appreciated, but I rather think it is more useful for the Government to make up their own minds and inform the House what their views are, and I think that is what the country wants. I hope the Government will not find it necessary to delay very much longer before coming to a conclusion on these matters. Everybody wants a decision to be arrived at. While it was perfectly correct at an earlier stage of the war to concentrate upon the war and nothing else, we have now reached a stage when we should see some prospect of the lie of the land in future, in the days of reconstruction after victory.
We have had certain information about the Beveridge Report. I think the attitude of the general public towards the Beveridge Report when it was published was, "This is too good to be true. They won't let us have it. It will never go through." Then the famous Debate took place here, and mismanaged though it was, it did show a tremendous feeling throughout the country, represented through the Members in this House, in favour of it. After that Debate the feeling of the public was, "Well, it will go through; nothing can stop it." As a result, interest fell off, because people felt the Report would go through all right. If there were doubt or hesitation about it, however, the feelings of the people would be roused once more. I am sure that one question which every candidate in the next General Election will be asked will be, "Are you in favour of putting in force the whole of the Beveridge Report at the earliest possible moment?" There will be very few candidates who will give a negative answer, and the electors will have to make up their minds from the records of these candidates, "Are they likely to carry out the promises they have given?" I should have thought the Prime Minister could take one action which would give profound satisfaction to all those interested in the Beveridge Report, and that would be, before we come to the General Election, to appoint as Minister of Social Security Sir William Beveridge himself, because that would give the feeling that there would be no doubt or hesitation, no two opinions about it.
832 Reference was made by the Noble Lord to another subject which is being inquired into at the present time, and it is unemployment. Sir William Beveridge is conducting an inquiry himself. He seems, in spite of his popularity, to be almost sent to Coventry. Vast numbers of people are not allowed to speak to him at all, so far as I can make out, and that seems a very odd and unwise procedure. Unemployment is a most difficult question, and surely we need all the information and advice we can get from persons of good will who we can find anywhere in the country. I believe that Sir William Beveridge is rendering very great service to the nation in devoting his very great talents to the profoundly difficult and novel problems of unemployment. We are used to questions of the social services, and we can deal with them easily and gradually, but if we are to conquer unemployment—and I am glad to see present my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who has made many proposals in the past and, I believe, would have achieved the result if proper support had been given him at the time—as we all desire and as can be done, new techniques will have to be introduced. Methods will have to be employed to which we in this country are not accustomed. The old methods used between the two wars obviously failed. If we simply rely upon what was done in those troublous years, we shall have mass unemployment once more.
We have to do better than that. We have to make a choice if we are to abolish unemployment. A certain number of controls will have to be kept permanently in operation. We cannot avoid that solution. If we are not prepared to have certain controls—the fewer the better—we shall have mass unemployment once more, and we might as well make up our minds to it. The Noble Lord also made reference to the question of free trade; surely we all desire to see as wide an area of the world as possible enjoy free exchange of goods with the minimum of restriction. Surely the British Commonwealth of Nations ought to use its enormous bargaining power to assist in removing those restrictions. I cannot see that that is a proposition which ought to be opposed by any party in this House. I rose to emphasise the vital importance of the Government making up their minds 833 on the four reforms as soon as possible and also on the question of unemployment, familiarising the country with the steps that will have to be taken if we are to put an end to unemployment after the war. I believe the country is in a mood to respond to bold leadership in industrial and economic affairs at home. Serving soldiers and war workers will be profoundly disappointed unless something worthy of all their sacrifice is built up. I urge the Government to have no hesitation in coming to bold decisions and making them known, in the knowledge that the country will respond to them and will back them up.
§ Mr. A. Edwards (Middlesbrough, East)
I agree with much of what was said by the last speaker, but on one point I rather disagree. I think it is all to the good that the Government should promise us that they will build their policy to a very large extent after having the matter thoroughly discussed by the House. That process, together with the issue of White Papers to get a thorough public discussion and consideration of matters before policies are made, has a great deal to commend it, and we ought as a result to get better legislation. An hon. Member, speaking about housing, raised one or two points about temporary housing. I want therefore to give a word of warning to the House. If temporary houses are to be put up for people, we must keep it in mind that there was a good deal of temporary housing after the last war and that people are still living in it. No doubt houses can be built by new methods that will last a long time, but I am amazed that the Hon. Member had a good word to say for steel houses. It is the first time I have ever heard anybody do so and certainly never anybody who has had to live in them, and those are the people who ought to be considered before all others.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
The present steel houses are a mile better than the terrible Glasgow slums that people have to live in now.
§ Mr. Edwards
I agree with that remark, and I am prepared to admit that we might have to give up a good deal in comfort and quality in order to get people housed very quickly and taken out of the slums. I am merely putting forward a word of warning to the House 834 that there are people still living in temporary houses 20 years later. We built some steel-framed houses in Middlesbrough with the aid of Messrs. Dorman Long. They cost more than £1,000 each, and they are terrible things. They have nearly all had to be rebuilt. I could take hon. Members round one estate and show them some of these houses on which £300 or £400 has had to be spent, in some cases putting bricks and cement on them. They are a horrible example, and I beg the House to see that, if we are to build temporary houses, they are good enough for people to live in, however temporary they are. The idea of temporary houses is sometimes just an excuse for shoddy work. When first I came to this House I was surprised to find scaffolding all over the building, and I commented upon it to the first policeman I spoke to. I said, "I see that the repairs are still going on." He replied, "Yes, Sir. The only men in London who have a permanent job are the men engaged on this temporary work." I offer that word of warning about temporary buildings.
One other question was raised by the hon. Member. He appealed to the Government to consider how far aeroplane manufacturers should go in for building prefabricated houses. I do not know how much there is in the point, and how far they could go, but we were told on very good authority that the present output of aeroplanes is about 15,000 per month. The greatest authorities tell us that the most efficient overseas system that we can hope for, on the largest scale and on all the routes we can think of, will require not more than 5,000 machines at any one time. If there is anything in that point, if aeroplane manufacturers get on to building houses and if they can build 15,000 houses per month, I commend the job to them. It will be valuable work and will be the biggest and most urgent job that there is to be done after the war.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes) had some hard words to address to the men who are striking at the present time. I do not detract from anything that he said to them. I think men ought not to strike. He said they should sack their leaders, but they cannot sack their leaders even when they are not satisfactory. In this House we cannot very easily sack our 835 leaders when they are not satisfactory. There is something inherent in this Coalition system to which I should like to draw attention. I think that the Coalition method has served its best use and its purpose, and that there are evil conditions inherent in this Coalition system to which the country and the House had better awaken before it is too late. There is too much shadow boxing going on. There is no sincerity. We say that there should be no political controversy, but we substitute political hyprocrisy. I do not like it. It is one of the most evil conditions that we shall have to face. The story is told of a schoolmaster who wanted to illustrate to his class the principle of strength in unity, so he endeavoured to lift a man who was lying on the platform Then he called another master, and together, in unity, they demonstrated their strength. They asked the students what principle it represented, expecting to hear the answer, "Unity is strength," but they were very surprised when the first answer they got was "Let sleeping dogs lie." The present attitude about strength in unity is just letting sleeping dogs lie, hoping that things will pass away. It is dangerous.
This day we have had a demonstration outside. Last week we had a discussion on this question of Mosley. The matter is not yet settled. In my constituency one day last week, a young airman came up to me. He was on leave. I have known the boy since he was a tiny tot, and he became a north of England second champion in sport. He was one of the grandest boys you could wish to see. He asked me, "What are you going to do about Mosley? My place is seething. The men wonder what it is all about." I do not want hon. Members to dismiss this lightly and to say that it is just Communist agitation. The Communists are in it—of course they are—but they are not the whole story. The boy said to me two days ago, "I went on my first operation over Berlin last night. It was a hell of a show. We got back, but 30 of our machines did not. The men are wondering what it is all about. Just as we are going to bomb them and catch these war criminals, if we can, and shoot them, the Quislings at home are being let loose." Before I left home last night, the boy's father spoke to me and said, "Jack was killed last night."
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
I have no objection to hon. Members using illustrations in their speeches, but I must remind the House that we cannot have another Mosley Debate now.
§ Mr. Edwards
I appreciate that warning. I wanted to make the point that these are the men who were being addressed by the right hon. Member for Platting. They have a deep-seated grievance. The men are dissatisfied; they are distrustful. They do not believe that we mean business. I think the time has come when the Government should consider whether they ought not to have had in the King's Speech a suggestion of some legislation which in future will take care of those people who use the liberty of the subject to preach the abolition of liberty. This is a very serious matter. The men who have come to the House to-day are not just sent here by the Communists. They are picked men from different factories.
I would like to touch on another point. General Smuts in his great speech has given us a new test, a new definition. It appears that the test of a great nation in the future is to be greatness. That is a new standard, and I want to ask the House just how they are measuring up to that and if there are not some steps we ought to take. Our right hon. Friend said not how little we can do for these men, but how much we can do for those who are going through this hell at the present moment.
We were reminded on the anniversary of the Battle of Britain of the heroism of the lads of the R.A.F. who made it possible for us to be sitting here at the present time. We were invited, and a tremendous number of people responded, to kneel in prayer and thank the Almighty, and at the end of the service a collection was taken in aid of the 25,000 dependants of our airmen who were in financial distress. Is that not something that everyone here is not thoroughly ashamed of—to kneel in prayer and thank God for their heroism and then take a collection in aid of their dependants? We will not come out as a great nation under such a test. It is a miserable standard. It may well be said of us, "This was their meanest hour." There are people who are telling the men that they will have 837 to come home and tighten their belts. Why? Here at least General Smuts was wrong. This nation will be immensely wealthier at the end of the war than it was at the beginning. A country cannot spend thousands of millions of pounds on productive capacity and not be potentially better off. The capacity of the factories to produce will still be there. There will be a period of transition, and we will have to make up our minds what we are going to do. We did not succeed very well after the last war. We are only going to get full employment by increasing production. I do wish hon. Members would think what happened in 1931 when they all went crazy and lost their heads.
§ Mr. Edwards
I will tell the hon. Lady why. It was because we were not able to balance our Budget and because there were millions of men for whom no jobs could be found. It took £2,000,000 a week to help these men to live and survive. Who went hungry because of that failure? It was the victims of unemployment who went hungry.
§ Viscountess Astor
May I remind the hon. Member that at that time Labour came in promising that the jobs were available and that they had a plan for employment? They said they had the plan, and all they wanted to do was to get in and put that plan into operation, but it was found that the plan would not work.
§ Mr. Edwards
Let me refresh the hon. Lady's memory. We had some plans, and arrangements were made for £80,000,000 to be spent on public works. The hon. Lady and her friends cancelled these plans at once. How did they expect money to get into people's pockets by stopping spending? What was the result? The work was there, but the money was never spent in carrying it out. As a result, unemployment increased at the rate of 10,000 a month until it reached the figure of 3,000,000. After that the hon. Lady and her friends began to spend again and asked the public authorities to consider plans. It was a ghastly mistake, arising from their ignorance. The Chancellor of the Exchequer of the future must contrive schemes for putting money into people's pockets, not taking it out, so that it can be spent on the commodities that are produced. When you take 838 money out of the people's pockets you stop that. Unemployment is cured by giving people jobs, and there is no other way.
Regarding Sir William Beveridge, it is a tragedy that any civil servant should have been ordered not to help him in his inquiries. The man has done a job, and he has—[Interruption.] If the hon. Lady would talk intelligently, I would not mind. She merely interrupts and makes no contribution to the subject. Sir William Beveridge did a magnificent job, for which the country is grateful. He is now making a study of full employment which the Government profess to welcome. They do not welcome it; they have not committed themselves to the extent of one penny piece. We have had four Reports before us, but not a single action has been taken.
I want to address one word to the young Tories who had an Amendment down but did not go into the Lobby and left some of us to support their Amendment when they wanted a Minister of Security appointed. What is so depressing about their encouraging speeches and their frequent promises, looking back on their history, is that they have the wrong outlook. They have two cardinal points—unearned income and Poor Law. The people do not want philanthropy or charity as such. The noblest charity is to enable a man to dispense with charity. I hope that the young men who have put up such a fight will say to the Government that they insist on implementation of these Reports as a first contribution. Give them some encouragement. Do not talk to these lads about coming home and tightening their belts. They have paid for the war. The Prime Minister said that the war can only be paid for with blood, sweat and toil, so, obviously, the war will have been paid for by these men, and they should not be told that they will have to tighten their belts. They should come home and enjoy a better standard of life than they knew before. I think that is the least we should promise these men who have made such sacrifices. Let us give them a message of encouragement and not tell them that they will have to tighten their belts.
§ Mrs. Wright (Bodmin)
I am delighted to be able to have an opportunity of taking part in this Debate, so that I can add 839 my voice to the many speakers speaking on the King's Speech who have begged the Government to move more speedily in producing their schemes for future development in this country. It makes it extremely difficult for hon. Members to take part in a Debate of this kind when we really have no indication at all as to the Government's attitude on many of the Reports which have been dangled in front of our eyes during the past few months. I want to raise a subject which I believe to be in need of immediate legislative action, but before I outline it briefly to the House I want to ask hon. Members whether they would agree with me that it is just conceivable that, although we are told in that speech which was referred to in Question time in the House to-day, which was so ably delivered by so great a mind, that the future of this country and of the post-war world demanded of each one of us fundamental thinking—I wonder whether we pay lip-service to fundamental thinking without actually doing it. It is a little brave of any Government Department to think really fundamentally about the future, because so often they are held back by what is a precedent. I beg the Government in looking ahead towards the future not to give the country one possible chance of saying that they are behind the times or behind the step of the fastest of the community.
The subject I want to raise has been discussed since 1847, and very little has been done. The legislation on water supply in this country weaves its leisurely pattern from the Waterworkers Clauses Acts of 1847 and 1863, to which have been added a long row of Acts such as the Public Health Act of 1875, when it became a statutory obligation on local authorities to see that the inhabitants in their district had an adequate water supply. If we proceed to more modem times, lacking any general legislation which is a feature of the water supply of this country, we find a spate of private Acts and Provisional Orders so that it is really impossible without a lifetime's research to know what the law is in any particular locality.
The House will recall the setting-up of the Regional Advisory Committees. That was a revolutionary step in the piping 840 days of 1934. Hon. Members will remember that the Joint Committee recommended in 1936 that these Committees should be made statutory bodies and report to a Central Co-ordinating Board instead of, as before, only reporting to their own constituents. In 1937 the Central Advisory Water Committee was appointed, but it was not constructed on the lines recommended by the Joint Committee. However, this Committee entered the arena with its first Report in 1938, when it, too, recommended that the Regional Advisory Committees should become statutory bodies and be reconstituted. In 1939 they made the recommendation that our laws needed clarification in this respect, which resulted in the Water Undertakings Bill of recent memory, which had a premature end, but in the course of its brief lifetime in Parliament it afforded ample opportunity for a long list of Amendments on the Order Paper and a fine quota of letters to "The Times." Still 3,432 parishes in this country are without piped water; and 865,000 of our people have no piped water supply.
One cannot touch upon this wealth of legislative activity without turning to the little question of sewerage, which is allied and which has an even more interesting history. I should be taxing the memories of hon. Members a little too far if I referred them to the Royal Commission set up in 1898 to, study this problem. This Commission sat for 17 long years, at the end of which time, probably due to the very natural boredom with the subject given to it, it reported that an authority should be set up to investigate the problem. They went on to say that it would need greater technical knowledge than they had. Inquiries ambled through the intervening years, until they finally fetched up with the Central Advisory Water Committee in 1937, but there are still 5,286 parishes in this country without sewerage.
However, it would be premature even to dwell on these two points or dispose of surplus water until we look for a moment at the potential supplies which exist, in this country. We do not know even now what these are, but in 1932 the British Association Research Committee decided that a survey was needed, and it tried to raise voluntary funds in conjunction with the Institute of Civil Engineering for this 841 purpose, but the Almighty intervened, and in 1933–34 we had a drought which hon. Members will remember with parched throats and, I think, with very deep pain when we think of the great loss sustained by the agricultural community. These two bodies sent a memorandum to the Minister of Health and also waited upon him with a deputation. On the strength of this, and the drought, the Government set up the Inland Water Survey Committee, who were to report annually. This they did until the war intervened, but this Committee, it is interesting to note, had neither the statutory power to incur expenses nor to demand information, so one gathers they are working under considerable difficulty.
I would like to say, however, that so far they have made a very valuable contribution to the information regarding water supplies in this country. The former Minister of Health told the House in September, 1943, that he hoped it would be possible to pursue this survey further. I, too, sincerely hope it will be possible. They have not even started in Cornwall, and our problem down there is very severe. I wonder whether the Minister of Health, on whose recent appointment I wish to add my warm congratulations with those of other hon. Members who have spoken in the Debate, will avail himself of the very valuable information in this connection which has been accumulated during this war by the Air Ministry and the War Department when they have used fresh country for aerodromes or sites for camps. The Air Ministry in particular has built up a pioneering organisation in the realm of geological survey which would indeed be useful to the Minister.
I do not intend to go on very much longer. I have taxed the patience of hon. Members in going over this old ground in order to prove conclusively, I hope, that the time is now really ripe for taking some drastic action and that it is for the Government to seek battle with these problems bravely and courageously. It is no use to say that no solution can be found because previous Water Bills had a difficult passage through this House, that is, if we are not to pay only lip service to good will but to bring it about. The country wants this good will in our post-war reconstruction, and with good will this can be done. There are seven and a half million people in England and Wales who 842 are not provided with water supplies by their local authorities, joint boards, or companies. Admittedly a proportion are supplied by private proprietors, of whom there are well over 1,000. But in Cornwall out of 177 villages 97 are without a piped water supply.
For a great deal of the information I have had to study in order to try to speak to the House to-day I want to thank the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), who has done a great service to this House by having made a survey of his own, lacking any other source of inquiry. I wish to ask the House whether they will consider why progress has been so desperately slow. I am quite willing to confess that there is a very real prejudice in the public mind especially in rural areas that water, like light and air, provided by the Almighty, should be provided free. But the same people who carry buckets of water in and out of their doors for most of the year suddenly find themselves having to pay 6d. a bucket during drought. If it was explained to them that co-operation between neighbour and neighbour and even between village and village represented the post-war Britain we hoped to see, if they were appealed to on these grounds and educated as to their local government, how it functions and its responsibility—it is partially our duty as Members of the House to explain these things to our constituents—I feel quite sure there would be far greater co-operation in future.
There are other areas—I have one in my own constituency—where people are paying a high water rate and not getting water. It is strange to me that these people are very often the last to clamour for water. There are some cases of lack of co-operation as between local authorities and the county councils. Very often the local authority is very jealous of its independence. I would say that this attitude is being fostered in the minds of local authorities as long as there is any doubt regarding the future of local government as opposed to regionalisation. Another thing not infrequently met but which can easily be explained is the view that local water should be for local people. But looming large is the finance of the necessary schemes. There are few, if any, parishes in this country where a water supply could not be made available but where the rateable value is more than a tiny fraction of the money required for 843 carrying out the scheme. Admittedly large sums have been granted by the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture even in war-time have encouraged certain schemes to be carried out.
But I want to look at the method whereby a local authority initiates a scheme. First, the district surveyor is called in to draw up the scheme. Here let us understand, once and for all, that the district surveyor, already an overworked individual, is possibly not the right person to carry out this highly scientific research into geological water conditions, for which he cannot have an ample training or knowledge. But you cannot get a recognised engineering surveyor to come in unless the scheme is a large one, and I am concerned, in my constituency, with small schemes, because the engineering surveyor gets 7½ per cent. of the cost of the scheme, and he would not think it worth while to lay out a scheme for a small district. Suppose the district surveyor has drawn up the scheme and it has been approved by his council and is taken to the county council and turned down by them. It is then brought to the Minister of Health, who then institutes an inquiry to see whether the scheme is necessary and also, at the same time, finds out whether the local authority will be able to pay the money back within the time limit. Would it not be far simpler if we had open to local authorities a proper survey of this country built up on the geological foundation which it is agreed it must be in order to be accurate, consulting engineers to whom local authorities can go in advance when initiating schemes of this kind, and this sort of guidance from the Ministry of Health which would stimulate greater activity locally in these highly technical matters?
The rural water supply position in this country is becoming more and more acute. Consumption is rising in all spheres. With the new housing programme which we have heard discussed in this House it will become an increasing problem. Yet, in many villages rain water in small tanks is the recognised water supply, and in many farms there is an even more primitive source in stagnant ponds or surface water pits, both recognised sources of pollution. Yet if it is expensive to supply villages, how much 844 more expensive it will be to provide farms with the necessary water. Yet farms are recognised to need water in far larger quantities than for domestic purposes. Farming is an industry, and it must have these modern conveniences in order efficiently to carry it out and the sooner it is recognised in this connection as on the basis of an industry, the better for all concerned. The Scott Report makes valuable suggestions in this connection, and it is obvious that the whole problem of supplying outlying districts can be greatly alleviated by the supply of electricity. It is far more economic to carry wires than pipes, and the farm will have the added benefit if it has installed electricity for pumping its water as well as being able to use it for lighting, for heating and cooking. This may seem revolutionary, but I can see no reason why these pumps should not be standardised and made available to farms in large quantities, to be serviced regularly by technicians who work in an area, the pumps to be obtainable on loan or bought outright.
To return to electricity, we find there are 600–700 non-statutory bodies with rates varying from a reasonable one to others which are prohibitive. We are told by the electrical industry that it is uneconomic for the county council or local authority to take over the distribution of electricity. Yet in the county of Dumfries the county council has taken electric wiring free to any dwelling house in the county where is is desired. This has not only been a physical benefit to the community, but it has proved economically sound.
As in the case of water, the whole business, as I said at the beginning, needs brave legislation to remove the very real penalty now existing for the rural as compared to the urban dweller. These things need to be done in relation one to another, not between one Ministry jealous of its rights and another down the road, between whom there is no communication except through this House and perhaps one or two back doors. While we discuss, debate, and set up Committees and Royal Commissions, and go on producing Bills and turning them down, the women in my constituency are carrying heavy buckets of water up and down hills, sometimes for a distance of a mile and a half; they are cooking on archaic little coal 845 grates, sometimes in dingy rooms lit by one kerosene lamp. Electricity and water should no longer be a luxury and the bubbling streams which run through Cornwall and electricity from the grids marching from one end of the county to the other should be made available at a price which people can afford. These are not luxuries; these are necessities. We have heard many Members refer in glowing terms to the Prime Minister's speech at Guildhall, where he made his plea for homes, work and food. He also went on to say that no vested interests should stand in the way of obtaining these three things. I suggest that we make those words come to life. Our people can be given work carrying out the schemes which I have suggested. They can produce more efficiently the food we consume in this way and homes of this country require and deserve these amenities.
§ Mr. Arthur Jenkins (Pontypool)
I think that every Member will be delighted with the speech we have just heard. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mrs. Wright) has put forward a very important point of view. Every Member will agree that the two vital necessities in the countryside are water supplies and electricity, and I hope that those services will be provided in the country districts speedily. Hitherto we have struggled with the problem very spasmodically. We should now create authorities which will provide those services to the whole of the people of the country: it matters not where people reside. Those services should be regarded as necessities. I want to refer to the Gracious Speech and the Amendment. The King's Speech says, rather hopefully, I think, that Ministers are resolved that, as far as the future can be foreseen, they shall be ready to meet the difficult tasks that await them when victory has been won. It is good that Ministers are so resolved; but is that quite enough? One can resolve to build a house, but that does not mean that the house is built. Far-sighted plans are needed. For the transition period, while we are changing from war to peace, we are promised food, homes and employment. Beyond that, the outlook becomes rather hazy.
This may well be the last opportunity of this House for debating the general and all-important issues of making plans to avoid the mistakes made at the end of 846 the 1914–18 war and to prepare to give effect to the desires of the vast majority of the people of this country, and, as I believe, of the world, to raise the standard of living so that it is commensurate with our productive capacity, and to provide for everyone a higher standard of economic, political and social liberty than has yet been experienced in any country. If that be a correct interpretation, we must make rapid progress with planning to be in time. The opportunity may never come again.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) has been telling us about the feeling of the people in the country; and there is a good deal of truth in what he said. I believe that there is a widespread feeling among the working people that people in privileged positions will hang on to their privleges, concede nothing, and take the first opportunity after the war to revert to the old conditions, under which the children of one class of parents will be certain to get costly education until they are 21 or 22 years of age, regardless of their capacity, while the children of working-class parents, with very few exceptions, will be doomed to unsuitable industries or even cul-de-sac jobs at the age of 14, that has involved the State in much waste, and has involved a good deal of injury to young persons. It is painful to children to be kept at school if they have not the capacity for study, even if the parents are rich enough to pay for them but it is much worse for children who have the capacity to benefit from education to be prevented from getting it by the poverty of their parents. It is time that poverty ceased to be a determining factor in a child's education. At least 80 per cent. of the people of this country would agree to that. I look forward to the Education Bill with a great deal of interest. I hope that it will be of such a character that the road will have been made wide open for any child, of rich or poor parents, to have the greatest possible opportunity to get education if he or she is capable of taking advantage of it.
The King's Speech accepts the responsibility of providing work, homes and food for all during the transition period from war to peace. That is a good deal, but the limit to the period is a little disturbing. Is it the Government's intention not to be committed to the provision of work, homes 847 and food beyond the transition period? If so, are we to assume that it is the intention to revert to the old pre-war conditions of lack of control over industry? If that be so, let us face the fact that the Government will have failed to interpret the spirit of this period and that the House of Commons will have failed to represent and give effect to the feelings of the people. It might mean that the politicians of today will have failed to understand the forces surrounding them, economic, political and social. That is what happened before. Professor G. M. Trevelyan said, in "British History in the Nineteenth Century":The disciples of Burke and Eldon, with unconscious irony, daily proclaimed their aversion to change of every sort. They failed to understand that they themselves were living in the midst of a revolution more profound than that which drew their thoughts across the Channel.Those words might equally be applied to the statesmen at the end of the war of 1914–18. That failure in Burke's time and that failure at the end of the 1914–18 war brought upon the heads of the people of this country many evils. It gave us unemployment, much poverty, and insecurity.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Winning the war is only half-doing the job. We have won the war, but we must win the peace. I say that the present condition of the world is due in a measure to the mistakes then made. Of course, other nations made similar mistakes; and they, with us, can be fairly saddled with a great measure of responsibility. Let us take care that we do not make the same mistakes again. The question now is quite definitely, are we prepared to make the necessary changes, far-reaching though they may be, to prevent anything of the kind happening again? So far, I do not think the answer has been definite. I have noticed cavilling about the continuance of controls. We have not said firmly that finance, industry and commerce must be made the servants of the people. Are we too timid to say those things? We have permitted monopolies to restrict production in order to keep up prices. Those things have been done in the name of liberty. That is not liberty! It is socially destructive. It is, in fact, licence in the very worst form. It is not restrictions 848 upon production which will be needed after the war, but rather urges to greater production. We want the greatest possible efficiency, with the best possible working conditions for our people.
That must be our aim, and I doubt whether anyone opposite would say that that ought not to be our aim. No one will deny that. But the corollary of that is that we have to have a high consumption. There must be a higher standard of living. Finance must be controlled to ensure sufficient purchasing power to buy back the products of our industry. I was rather surprised some time ago when someone said that the country must be poorer after the war is over. The country will be enabled by producing more to increase its capacity and the more production increases so the country must grow richer. There must be purchasing power to buy the things that are produced and to buy what we need from abroad. We shall have to sell abroad as much as we can and I hope that we shall also get from abroad the equivalent of what we sell. A two-way trade will always be better than a one-way trade and far better than a single-way trade. Our aim must be full employment. I give winning the war priority number one, but number two must be the provision of full employment and that is almost as important as number one. If we achieve it we shall provide our people with a higher standard of living and security. We shall provide full employment and wages. All these things would be possible. Poverty and financial insecurity would happen without full employment. Full employment means wealth, and less than full employment will mean poverty. There is a large body of opinion among the economists of this and other countries to-day who believe that with adequate controls full employment can be established. [Interruption.] Even under the capitalist system. Many say that it could be established—and this is important if the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) would rest for a moment.
§ Mr. A. Edwards
Is it in Order for an hon. Member to keep up a running commentary as several of us have had to contend with it?
§ Mr. Jenkins
The Noble Lady is being a little kinder to me than to previous speakers, but that may be due to exhaustion.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Many of these economists—and it is important that we should remember this—believe that it is doubtful whether Britain can remain a first-class nation unless the standards of her industry are on a higher level, with the highest possible standard of efficiency, and unless we employ the whole of our labour power. One has only to look round the world to see that with which we might be confronted. Our population is small compared with that of America and Russia, and it may be small compared with that of post-war Germany. Nobody knows yet what that may be, but it may be a small population. America has a national income of perhaps three times that of ours, and her capital resources are almost unlimited, and Russia has a system of society by which she can get almost as much capital as she needs for any form of industrial development. There are advantages which these countries have which must be faced. I do not want to see this country placed in a position of inequality with those other nations in the post-war period. My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) in a speech with some parts of which I agreed called attention to that. His speech was, I thought, effective. Friendship is much easier to maintain on grounds of equality than grounds of inferiority. Russia has a land system of ownership which does not gobble up its wealth. [Interruption.] Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I was saying that the land system of Russia is a great advantage to their own country. They have a single control. They are not burdened with heavy rent charges as we are in this country. Our land system for centuries has gobbled up amounts of wealth of the people of this country. Dictatorship is not good for people. I do not like it. I am opposed to it.
§ Mr. Jenkins
There is no dictatorship here; it is more on that side. Dictatorship is not good for people. But whether we are a dictatorship or a democracy, we must have an efficient industrial system. That is the thing which is vital. Are we doing all we can to make that possible? I do not think we are. Our industries are badly distributed, some are under-capitalised, some over-capitalised, some efficient, and some insufficient. The production of some is surplus to requirements, and of others it is less than society requires. That all comes from a lack of planning, and it all means poverty. In recent years we have had three, four or more distressed areas in this country. We had Scotland, the North East coast, the North West coast, South Wales and Monmouthshire, in each of which we had almost entirely the heavy industries. It was very foolish that we should get into that condition. We got into that condition believing that the whole of the people in a given community are suitable for heavy industries. They are not. The people in every community are very mixed; some are fit for light industries and some heavy industries. It is foolish to concentrate upon heavy or light industries in one area. When the slump came in steel and in coal we had to pay a heavy price. We are far from recovery in Wales and in the mining industry. The policy pursued was a wrong one in respect of that, and now we know it. I would like to see an efficient machine created for the planning of our industries. One might reasonably ask the Minister to tell us what is going to be done with the Barlow Report. Do the Government intend to implement its recommendations or produce other proposals? There are the Scott, the Uthwatt and the Beveridge Reports also. These recommendations provide some of the machinery for making the greatest possible use of our national resources. When are these machines going to start running? Perhaps the Government will tell us, when the right hon. Gentleman gets up.
I would stress the urgency of this matter. If it is left unplanned and un-provided for, let us make no mistake about it there is a serious risk of our being overwhelmed as we were at the end of the last war and everything possible should be done in order to avoid that. I will give the single instance of a district that I know very well. For 20 years before the commencement of the war there 851 was an average of 20 or 25 per cent. of unemployment there. The local authorities were unable to do things. Every institution became impoverished but since the war two huge Government factories have been erected one employing 10,000 and the other between 5,000 and 6,000 people on full-time employment. When the war stops they may stop. What then will happen to that district? Are there any plans to meet a situation such as that? Are these people to be taken from there and placed elsewhere in employment, or are they to be left without work? One man I know in that area observed the other day with rather a nasty expression, "I hope the war will continue for my lifetime." He was chastised about making such a statement but replied by saying he had been unemployed for 15 years before he got that job. What a commentary on those in control before the war!
We made mistakes at the end of the last war because of ignorance of economics, world trade and industry and of the psychology of the industry. All these things played an important part. The politicians made fulsome promises which were not kept. The Geddes axe and the May Committee and the restoration of the gold standard and many other equally foolish devices, were substituted for what was promised. That taught a lesson we should never forget. Between wars there is the rich period in lessons on the need to control finance, economics, industry, commerce and world trade generally. That is a very rich period, and I hope that we shall take full advantage of it and benefit from the experience. We used the Geddes axe and all the rest of the economising methods that we could adopt. We reduced wages. In the mining industry in 1921 we decontrolled the mines, and the owners at once set to work to bring about a reduction in wages. They locked out colliery workers for three months, and the miners were beaten. In South Wales by one fell swoop of 21st March to November of that year the average wage fell by £3 per week per person. The fall in the miners' wages took out of the purchasing power of the miners alone roughly £60,000,000 a year. That was the policy that was pursued. Purchasing power was greatly reduced. A terrific blunder was made. That went on until 1926, and we had a further seven months' 852 stoppage of the mining, all in pursuance of that policy. I beg of the House and of the Government not to let us have more of that chaotic and uncontrolled employers' go-as-you-please method. In its place let us have a well-ordered and well-planned community-conscious industry and organisation. I do not say that that involves State management, control and ownership over the whole field of industry, but I feel that land, mines, railways and certain other industries should come under public ownership. Not that it should be left to Whitehall, but that there should be responsibility to Parliament and perhaps Ministerial responsibility for determining high policy. The governing principle operated by the Minister concerned would be to best the interests of the community. There should be adequate capital resources to enable them to reach the highest standard of efficiency.
Industrial planning, as my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) said, is the key of our economic future, and without that key we are going to have difficulties of that there can be no doubt. Militarily we won the war of 1914–18 at the cost of nearly 1,000,000 of the best of our sons. We are well on the way, with our Allies, to winning the war 1939–40 something, whatever it is going to be. We lost the peace of the 1914–18 war. I hope we are not going to lose the peace this time. We shall not be ready to win it until we can provide every man and woman with a full time job if they want it, and we shall not have carried out the principles declared on our behalf in the Atlantic Charter.
That is the task as I see it that faces the Government and this Parliament. We can at least try our hardest to fulfil it, and I believe most Members will desire to do it. If we try our hardest, we shall not be fit subjects for a cartoon which I saw, I think in the New York "Herald Tribune," a very unpleasant one, but I think it is right to remind the House of it. It was a picture of a tomb, and on the tomb one sees "Here rests in honoured glory an American soldier. Known but to God." The skeleton of the soldier is pushing the cover up at the top of the tomb and says, "May God damn you if you lie to my son as you lied to me." I should not like to be a Member 853 of a House of Commons against which that charge could with any degree of accuracy be levelled. That is why I have spoken to-day—a rare occurrence for me now—but I feel that we all carry a tremendous responsibility in these difficult and wonderful days. Each of us must in this respect be the captain of our soul, as the Prime Minister might say. I think this might be the final chance that we shall have of making our post-war plans, or debating them. No one can definitely say it is so, but, whether it is true or otherwise, we ought not to take the risk of delaying longer. The Government have done a magnificent job. They are indeed the architects of the instrument that has saved our democracy, and indeed democracy through the world.
The Government did the planning, and our soldiers and workpeople carried those plans into action. For all that they are entitled to rich praise. They are entitled to our greatest gratitude. I beg the Government now to make every possible effor to bestow on their worthy partners in this mighty war-time effort a peacetime of full employment, of economic security and a higher standard of living, and thus prevent the American cartoonist from reproducing his drawing and directing it to a Government which has done so much to save our freedom from complete destruction at the hands of the Nazis and the Fascists.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Oldham)
I was interested in one point that the hon. Member made. He referred to the importance of education. I believe that two practical problems await us in the immediate post-war period in regard to education. The first is teachers and the second buildings. I have seen it stated somewhere that we shall require 60,000 new teachers if our new Education Bill goes through. I believe it is very important that we should, if possible, train potential teachers at present serving in the Forces, and in regard to buildings we should try to use prefabricated buildings and Nissen huts. That, I think, would be far preferable to waiting for many years for materials in urgent demand for the re-housing programme. I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes), who opened the Debate, doubly so because I had the privilege of being stationed in his constituency for the first part of the war. As 854 I listened to him I wondered, if I may borrow an Air Force phrase, where he was going to drop his target indicators, and which sector of the Front Bench he had decided to blitz. I came to the conclusion that he had rightly concentrated on the Beveridge, Barlow, Scott, Uthwatt sector. On the whole he struck me as being kind. He dropped only a few block busters, mixed with some admonitory pamphlets. Now I add my own modest incendiaries, in the hope that quick action may be taken by the Government.
To pass to another point with which he dealt, the problem of full employment after the war, he very rightly said that we must try to envisage the state of conditions which will exist in this country immediately after the war. I imagine that, should the good news come through that Germany had asked for an armistice, we should feel very much elated. There would be fairly obvious signs of peace. We should no longer have to grope our way through darkened streets with torches. But when we stop to consider the situation we should merely be enjoying bubbles without the champagne. There will be a long and hard path in front of us. We shall require a large Army of occupation in Europe, especially when we consider the devastated cities, the broken communications, and many starving inhabitants of countries recently occupied. We shall have to maintain a large Army, not only for the hostile countries, but for those recently evacuated by the Germans. Secondly, we have no illusions that the war against Japan will not be a long one. We are told that it will take many months to rebuild the Burma road. The fighting in the Pacific from island to island may last for three or four years. This vitally affects our problem of full employment, for it means that we shall not have available in the labour market large labour forces which might otherwise have turned their activities to peacetime production. We shall have to keep large forces in the field and, may be, many workers in war factories, who might otherwise have turned over to peace-time production, and to keep many men for the transport and shipping services supplying the Armies of occupation and the war in the Far East.
I believe the figures are secret, but I have tried to find out how many men are employed at present in the Services and 855 in industry. Let us imagine at the very best that at the conclusion of the war with Germany we could take 1,000,000 men out of the Forces and 1,000,000 out of war industry to return to peace production. Even then we shall have a greatly reduced labour force. It is important that we should take a look at the situation that we see looming up ahead of us. We are a small island of 42,000,000.
Compared with the 180,000,000 of Soviet Russia and the 130,000,000 of the United States, we shall have a reduced labour force at our disposal. Owing to the provisions of Lend-Lease we have largely surrendered our export trade. We shall find ourselves much poorer materially after the war. Before the war our exports amounted roughly to something like £500,000,000 a year. Our retained imports were £900,000,000. We bridged that gulf of £400,000,000 roughly by £200,000,000 derived from overseas investment, £100,000,000 from shipping, £50,000,000 from miscellaneous services and £50,000,000 from realising oversea assets. Do not let us delude ourselves. The first two of these items have literally been liquidated. In the first place, our oversea investments have gone, and now we see, a-way out on the Pacific Coast, Mr. Kaiser building a vast shipping fleet which will compete with ours after the war. Thus we shall have a greatly reduced national income. At the same time we shall have to face a much larger expenditure owing to the fact that we are carrying on the war with Japan. We shall have interest to pay on the National Debt, there will be war pensions and, apart from this, all the new social services that we hope to finance. So high an authority as Mr. Crump estimates that we shall have to consider an annual budget of something like £1,500,000,000 to £2,000,000,000 a year.
How can we face this problem? What are our assets? We have the asset of prestige—our record in the war. We have the potential asset of the wealth of the British Empire. We have a third asset, which is little realised up to now, that we have for the first time built up a machine tool industry. We shall not have to wait for the import of machine tools from abroad to turn over to new production. Lastly, we have, I believe, on the whole the most highly skilled industrial popula- 856 tion in the world. I was tremendously struck by the masterly article of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) in "The Times" on 24th June, in which he referred to the output per head of the population in three countries, the United States, Germany and Great Britain. Taking for this country the index figure of 100, Germany was 109 and the United States 224. That should give us serious cause for concern, and we should ask ourselves if our production methods are the best and the most up to date available.
After considering the short picture that I have tried to give of our economic position, we should study the two alternatives that face us. The first and most disagreeable one is to reduce our imports if we cannot earn them by our exports. When we look at the list of our imports and realise that they consist in the main of food and raw materials for our industry, that is a proposition that we should be very loth to consider. The second alternative is to expand our national income and to expand our exports. In order to do this one thing is absolutely essential. We must concentrate more and more upon quality of production and, if it is true that we have the most highly skilled industrial population in the world, it should also be true that we have the best equipped and most up-to-date industry. I therefore believe it to be vitally necessary that we should have a Government loan after the war to re-equip the plant and layout of our industry. I believe we should regard this as much as a measure of national security as the prosecution of the war against Japan. This refers in particular to the industry which most affects my own constituency of Oldham, the cotton industry. Let us imagine that Manchester could read the following news. It wakes up one morning and reads, "Last night Lancasters and Halifaxes of the Far Eastern Forces attacked Osaka, the centre of the Japanese cotton industry. Large fires were left burning. Photographic reconnaissance next day showed that no less than 60 per cent. of the mills had been destroyed."
Were such news to arrive in Manchester there would be great rejoicing. But I am afraid that the conquest of Japan does not solve the Japanese problem. Look at the Far East. In India the population is rising by 5,000,000 a year, in Japan 857 1,000,000, in China who knows by how much? How can we not believe that those great countries, in order to feed their populations, will not seek to industrialise themselves? Therefore more and more we shall have to depend for our markets on the fact that the quality of our goods is supreme. In the cotton industry we have been faced by a terrible slump in the past, which has forced a concentration of the industry, and many of the small mills are only subsisting on a levy collected from the operating mills. Unless they receive some Government assistance they might not be able to start up again, and enjoy their share of foreign markets.
I come to my last point. I believe it to be vitally important that this initial step for the re-equipment of our industries should be taken. I always like the story of the famous French wit, Madame de Deffand, who was told by a credulous cleric that after St. Denis was beheaded he put his head under his arm and walked six miles from Montmartre to the Church of St. Denis. She replied, "Monseigneur, in situations like that it is always the first step that counts." I believe that the first step to be taken after the war is the most important step. I would therefore like to suggest to the Government that we should conduct a survey of our national industrial potential. We should then try to form an estimate in our minds of the markets that are likely to be available to us, and on the basis of these facts place finance at the disposal of industry to enable it to re-equip itself for vital post-war tasks. An hon. Member referred to the fact that in 1940 we stood united. We stood united then because the enemy facing us was a tangible enemy. We saw him across the Channel and in the sky above our towns. For a time after the war our difficulties will be more intangible, and I am afraid that, having won the war, we shall slack off and cast away the fruits of victory. I know that there is a tremendous temptation for many of us to return to the old political strife after the crisis is over, but I believe that this great people has a tremendous part to play in the world and it can only play that part if all parties are united on essentials. If we approach this problem on the basis of the facts and not on slogans we shall have a chance of attaining that unity. Therefore, I would like to see an attitude of mind which approaches even the most 858 difficult problem with the question, Does it work? Nationalisation or private enterprise—which works best? The hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) made the point about the practical approach. Given that, I believe we shall come through the difficult years after the war with the credit and honour which we gained for ourselves in those long tragic summer days of 1940 on the beaches of Dunkirk. It has been said that adversity is hard to bear, but I do not believe that adversity is the best test of character. Far harder to bear are prosperity and success. If we can only bear that in mind and come united to the great problems of the future, I believe there is nothing impossible for this great country.
§ Mr. Key (Bow and Bromley)
I yield to none in my eagerness to see us getting forward with schemes for the rebuilding of our world after the war. While we are doing that, however, I am particularly anxious that we should not overlook what I regard as a more serious and important aspect of this matter. It is all very well to have an elaborate planning organisation and to have great schemes for reconstruction in the decades following the war, but I believe that for this society the crucial time will be the immediate post-war months and years. If we fail as we failed in the years immediately following the last great war, discontent and disorder of a serious and widespread character will disturb and disrupt our social life. Many of my colleagues who served on local governing bodies in distressed and poverty-stricken areas after the last war were engaged in damping down a serious situation of social discontent. We struggled with Poor Law problems. We stretched to their limits our powers of giving relief, often in direct contravention of Poor Law statutes and suffering surcharges and imprisonment for our pains. We succeeded in preventing open disorder and in preserving some measure of political peace within our boundaries. If we are to be faced in the years immediately following the war with a similar condition, I am convinced that we shall have made a great mistake and have jeopardised considerably the conditions of the future welfare of this country. I am also convinced that the common people have in the last 25 years learned a serious lesson. They have learned among other things that patience 859 does not always pay and that pie in the [...]ky will no longer satisfy them.
Therefore, while it is important to make our long-period plans we have to be prepared with short-period reforms. I work in an area of mean, small houses, mainly of the two-up, two-down, four-roomed type, which were built in the early Victorian days and are now almost wholly worn out and decayed. There were before the war rather more than 20,000 of them inhabited by 150,000 people, or an average of seven people per house. What is the condition of that area now? Six thousand four hundred of those houses are gone, either destroyed or in course of demolition. Another 2,000 are beyond repair, and to the 14,000 left we have already made 47,000 first-aid repairs. In other words, we have repaired them on an average more than three times each. Yet, do what we will with them, very few are fit for habitation. As Deputy Mayor of the borough during the last three years, I have sat and adjudicated upon hundreds of applications for assistance from bombed-out evacuated families. They have written asking for help to buy boots, clothing and common necessities, but almost all of them, while lamenting their compulsory evacuation, have voiced their eager, longing anticipation of the day when the war will end and they can return—and return they will. What schemes are being made for houses for these people? It is no use to say you will begin to build when the war ends. It will take years to satisfy their needs. In the meantime, where are they to live? In street surface shelters? In trenches? In crypts? In basements? There is nowhere else. We may have elaborate schemes for building houses after the war, but I want to know what schemes we have for that immediate need. If we have none, no matter what paradise we may paint for the years that will follow the war, we shall be swept out of the way by a people impatient of policies void of actual performance.
Then with regard to schools. Already children in our East End areas have suffered an inestimable loss in education. For the generation in our schools to-day, whatever our future plans may be, nothing that we can do can recompense them for the losses which they have had to endure. It is all very well to have White Papers 860 with their dilatory and dawdling five to 10 year programmes after the war. What is to be done for immediate educational provision in the years following the war? In my borough every school has been damaged, a dozen seriously and half a dozen completely destroyed. The last two schools of which I had the honour to be, headmaster are no longer there. It is no use talking about the part-time education of the ever-growing number of children that will be there. It is bad enough to have to contemplate temporary buildings in this so vital a matter to the generality of the people. We cannot wait. We must not wait in this matter if we are really going to do the thing that ought to be done to try and make some sort of recompense to those children whose education has been so seriously interfered with.
Then again, provision for social services is equally pressing. Libraries, public baths, wash-houses and maternity and child welfare centres in my area are all damaged, and many of them are gone. Here again immediate preparations must be made for their replacement. I know I shall be told that much of the preparations for this work falls to be done by the local authorities in the areas. I agree. Their knowledge of the needs of the district, of the damage and destruction that have been done, the social service institutions that are lost and the repairs and reconstruction necessary for even a moderate resumption of normal life—that knowledge is essential for this job. If it is to be available local officials must be afforded more time and opportunity now to be doing the work of preparing schemes and plans. That is the last thing that the officials are able to do. The serious depletion in local government staffs, which has already taken place, and is even now going on, not merely makes that planning impossible but endangers the continuance of even restricted war-time social services. Yet never before in the history of our people has local government meant so much in their actual lives. Never before has the town hall been so appealed to, bullied and begged by people in distress and doubt asking for guidance and assistance. Never before has local government shown the same marked efficiency, high resolve and determined purpose as it has shown in the last three years. Our people, I know from what has happened in the East End of London, have been 861 remarkable. Not a little of their superb morale has been due to the local government service which they have learned so much to understand and trust.
I am convinced that if we are really to help them in their dire need we must see to it that the local government service can function in the preparation of the plans they operate in the months and years immediately following the war. Yet what has happened? Government Departments seem to vie with one another in placing ever new and onerous duties on local authorities. All that work involves competent direction and control. It is not merely a case of engaging more under-age girl typists and over-age men clerks. It has to be directed by officials competent to lead, and that becomes all the more important because the calibre of the people who can be taken on to do the minor jobs is falling, and falling seriously.
I will take one problem only to show how it is affecting the people in such localities as my own, and that is the question of housing. The Ministry of Health recently issued a Circular, No. 2778, calling upon local authorities to try to make provision for planning and housing in their areas. They were asked to formulate plans so as to be able to make a quick start immediately conditions permit, whether during or after the war. The Circular says:I am accordingly to ask the council, if they have not already done so, to review their housing needs, and that they should concentrate on the preliminary arrangements necessary as a practical measure to enable them to start on such part of the programme as would comprise one year's building work as soon as they are authorised to do so.The Circular goes on to talk of the completion of housing estates, of the existence in council ownership, of suitable building land, and of the purchase of vacant sites, all of which has little or nothing to do with the Metropolitan borough councils, whatever may be the position of more favourably-situated authorities. In the Metropolitan areas the first job that has to be done is the clearing of existing worn-out, bomb-damaged property, and that job cannot be tackled piece-meal, as in the case of rebuilding a seriously damaged single block. It must form part of a full re-development plan of the whole area, and a year's plan in this business is no good 862 at all. At least a five years' programme must be worked out. The first year's plan must have the whole scheme in mind. Public utilities such as gas, water and electricity must be devised to supply the general scheme, and more will have to be done about those things in the first year's preparations than will be necessary for the actual house-building in the first year.
Before local authorities can get down to this job the central Government must have made certain important decisions. The first decision is in regard to the staffs of local authorities. If they continue draining those staffs then the local authorties will never be able to cope with the job of planning this post-war development. Secondly, local authorities must be told how the work is to be financed. Housing is a national job; it cannot be left to local resources. It is all very well for the Minister to say, as he does in the Circular I have quoted from, that when he is satisfied that further land is necessary he is prepared to entertain applications for consent to borrow. What we want to know is who is to foot the bill. The local authorities cannot.
I would illustrate that, again, by a reference to my own area. We did a good deal of housing after the last war, and the contribution which our people are called upon to make to housing deficiencies in the area amounts, in the present year, to a rate of 1s. 8d. in the £. We cannot possibly afford to add to that, because already our rates are 18s. 6d. in the £, and in order to maintain them at that figure the Ministry of Health had, up to March of this year, given us £591,000 to meet deficiencies. The Minister has been so kind as to say that he will not expect repayment of more than 25 per cent. of that, but where does he expect that £148,000 to come from? In the present financial year the assistance that is being given to us is the equivalent of a rate of 5s. 5d. in the £, and where is it expected that we can get money to finance the housing programme that is necessary in such an area? Before local authorities can make any start at all upon this business they must be assured of the finances of the post-war housing policy of the Government.
The third thing is this: If anything is to be done about preparations now, then 863 the whole problem of the acquisition of sites must be tackled, and tackled now. If we have to depend upon existing powers and procedure, then in many of these areas nothing at all in the way of building will be done in that first year. In my own borough there is no vacant land. At the moment we have 13 sites scheduled for clearance and development. The most pressing consists of an area which, before the Huns started on it, had 8,600 houses. Many of them were scheduled before the war. The vast majority are worn out. Hundreds have been destroyed, hundreds more have been rendered uninhabitable, and still more hundreds have been inadequately patched-up, and I doubt whether, from end to end of that area, one could find a single house undamaged. In that area there are hundreds of separate interests to be dealt with. Hundreds of separate claims will have to be satisfied, and under existing conditions the last of those claims must have been settled before the local authority has the right of entry upon the land to do a single piece of clearing or to make preparations for putting one brick upon another. If we are not to be given the power to take over the area and start whilst the claims are being settled it will be 12 to 18 months before we can start upon the job at all. Our claim is that building must not be made to wait upon each and every owner getting his pound of flesh.
We in the local authorities, are very anxious to be getting forward with this job. It is necessary that the Government should do something. We want staff, we want money, we want power. What we get out of the Ministry of Health is talk and circulars and no end of sympathy, and it is not good enough. As I said just now, the Ministries are still going along the lines of depleting the powers of the local authorities, issuing to them meticulous instructions about details of administration for which the local authorities are the responsible authorities and, I claim, the authorities competent to do the job without central Government interference at all. At the same time they are busy taking away from local authorities the real power to carry out their business, because busy-body bureaucrat bosses in Whitehall are wanting to get more and more power into the hands of the central Departments.
§ Mr. Key
Our aim ought to be to strengthen the local authorities now in preparation for the job they have to do, because local authorities are going to be of greater importance in the years following the war than they were before, and I want to warn those concerned in framing the proposals for a post-war planning organisation that the one thing which the people of this country will not tolerate is that there should be bodies of Whitehall bureaucrats established throughout the country usurping the powers of local councils and claiming to direct and control local developments. Changes in our local government are undoubtedly necessary, but they must be changes which increase and not undermine its democratic character, changes which give more and not less power to local authorities.
Lastly, I want to say that the tasks confronting us in local government are endless, just as the tasks confronting us from a national point of view are countless too. The time for tackling those problems is here and now. If little or nothing is to be done about them because the Government fear controversy in this House I am certain that something more than trouble will result in the years after the war from the shivering expedients which will be all that we have to offer a people who have suffered a great deal more than mere verbal controversy in order to make our society safe from damnation. A little controversy in this House will not do any harm; it will do a lot of good, for it will revive the flagging faith of our people if Government speakers utter something more than mere windy words when they talk of the world that will be when this war is won. Of those who are living in the dark and dreary dwellings to which I would like to introduce many hon. Members in the blitzed and battered boroughs of East London—if we want to do anything for those people that will keep their will to win really strong, then this House, instead of debating Motions on votes of censure or of confidence in the Government, should get down to tackling the details of the real plans which will be necessary for immediate application so soon as this war ends. By doing that we shall revive the faith of the people, transforming a fading hope into a real certainty that, after all, the sacrifice has been well worth while.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
I think it is very well that we should be reminded, as we have been by the last speaker, of the urgency of these human demands, of which account will have to be taken after the war. But I want myself to ask the House to come back again to the economic foundation for every kind of policy and to remind hon. Members, as was well said by the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), that the whole conception of the social policy which we are discussing now is based on the assumption of a greatly increased national income. The question, then, is, How are we going to get that? We can get it in only one way, and that is by increased industrial production. That increase we have to achieve in circumstances of considerable difficulty. We were reminded of some of them by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr), who spoke just now. We were reminded too the other day by General Smuts that we were going to end up this war "glorious but poor."
In a sense that is an exaggeration, because I do not think we need be poor at all, but what we have to realise is that we shall have to live on our wits and our work and not to rely on accumulated wealth. That does not depress me. I think it is quite a cheerful prospect. But we shall have to work and we shall have to use our wits, and it is high time that we began to think about how we are to do it.
If we are to think on this matter in realistic terms, we have to consider the proper sequence of events. The first phase will be, as many speakers have recognised, those first four or five busy years during which there will be no difficulty about demand or jobs—when in fact there will be a shortage of everything. What I want to emphasise first of all is that it will be in that period that we shall have a chance of getting our organisation and our equipment right. We must not miss that chance. We must be prepared, when we enter the second phase of more or less normal times and when our difficulties will begin to press upon us. We must have our industries well equipped. We must have a good organisation of industry and good machinery of government. We must have our people working in the right spirit. I want to say a few words under those three heads. But before I do that, there is one point that I should like to 866 make. I feel that we have to visualise something much more than an "orderly transition from war to peace." I think that we need entirely new conceptions, something like a new birth, in this country, a British Renaissance. Getting back to peace is not enough if that means the peace of the 1930's. We have to look forward to a new era of the 1950's.
Taking the view which I have expressed of what we shall have to do in those years of transition, I must say that I am somewhat disquieted by what was said by the Minister of Production the other day. He said that we should be so busy meeting the three insistent demands—for consumer goods, housing and arrears of maintenance in industrial equipment—that we should not be able to support further substantial capital reconstruction. Of course, there will have to be a proper balance, but I urge strongly on the Government that capital reconstruction is vital. Their conception of what we have to do in this country under that heading must not be too narrow and must not be too late. There is no getting away from the fact that we had dropped behind in our industrial equipment before the war. I will not go again over the points that were made by the hon. Member for Oldham, but he did me the compliment of referring to some articles which I had written for "The Times." The figures which I quoted have often been disputed, and they are doubtless affected by many factors of inaccuracy. But I can say that every one whom I know with practical knowledge of industry in the United States and in this country, has confirmed the substantial accuracy of the broad picture drawn in those articles. In any case I would ask the Government, and particularly the new Minister of Reconstruction, to face this problem. Let them search out the truth. I beg them not to be put off by the ordinary excuses. It is so easy to say, "We cannot imitate American mass production," "Our market is too small," or "We are the jobbing shop of the world and therefore we cannot imitate the layout or mass production methods of America." There is, of cousre, a great deal of truth in all those remarks, but they do not represent the whole truth. Of course we need flexibility in our industries, and for this reason our smaller industries are of particular value. But we 867 cannot afford to let our big, basic industries drop behind the times. And when the smallness of our home market is put forward as an excuse we have to remember that it is not only the United States who have more efficient equipment than ours in the basic industry of iron and steel—but that Australia and India too have got much more up-to-date plants. They have not got big markets. Beyond this I suggest that much more than has been done should be done to study the output per head in various important industries. There may be excuses for these differences, but excuses will not help us to meet our needs, and they will be disastrous if they blind us to our opportunities—and I believe that we have great opportunities. Therefore I beg the Government to go into this matter and to ascertain the facts and let the country know what the truth is, so that it can face up to what must be done. That is my first demand.
Secondly, if it is established, as I think it will be, that we have fallen behind in our industrial equipment, I want the Government to investigate the causes. How far has that been due to our system of taxation? How far have backwardness and stagnation been allowed to creep in behind the wall of Protection? How far has it been due to unnecessary fragmentation or bad location of our main industries? How far—and this is a very important point—has it been due to the fact that a great portion of our industrial plant is worked for only eight hours out of the 24, so that people cannot afford expensive capital equipment? That is a vital factor. I particularly want to ask the Government to go into this matter and to consider how we compare, as regards shift working, with the United States. I wonder whether they know. I do not think we or they can truly understand our industrial position unless we know things like that.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a question before he leaves that point. I understand that I am going to follow him, so I want him to be clear. Is he making the statement that we are behind other countries in our equipment in industry?
§ Sir G. Schuster
That is the statement for which I think a prima facie case is 868 established. I am ready to be proved wrong, but on all the figures I feel there are strong grounds for saying that. What I mean is that the ordinary British worker in some industries at least is not being given the tools with which to develop his full earning power. I want to see that done.
The third point is that the Government must have bold plans. I believe we need certain structural changes in industry. I am unhappy about coal. Coal is our one great national resource. I do not think it is too much to say that the coalmining industry may need a surgical operation. I cannot feel entirely satisfied either about the iron and steel industry. These are cases where reconstruction of old industries may be necessary. I want also to put it that we need to have bold conceptions of new industries. I would ask my right hon. Friend and his Parliamentary Secretary, who I know must be interested in this matter, whether—I am merely putting it forward as an illustration—he has studied a scheme for the development of South Wales such as has been put up by Mr. Devereux and described in the August number of the industrial magazine "Scope"? I am not an expert on these matters. I do not know whether it is a good scheme or not. But what I do say is that we should be considering forward-looking bold schemes. And that is an illustration of the sort of scheme I have in mind. In broad outline the scheme is that the natural coal resources of South Wales should be consumed near the places where they are produced as a basis for cheap electrical power and that, on that foundation, you should build up a great modern electro-metallurgical industry in Wales. I know that South Wales is going to have some terrible problems when the war is over, and I say to the Government that I want to know whether they are considering bold plans of that kind.
I want to know, too, whether they have their eyes open, or are they going to allow this country to be faced with the sort of disaster that occurred in certain industries after the last war? Then any statesman with his eyes open could have seen, for example, that the Lancashire textile industry was hurtling to disaster—a disaster which meant putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work. I want to know whether the Government are so 869 organising their intelligence services and information that they can watch tendencies of this kind. It is the Government alone that can command all the information so as to complete a full conspectus of the national position in these matters. It needs a national outlook. The Government must have that outlook, the Government must prepare to meet such situations and must inform the public on all these matters. I say to the Government, "Don't be afraid of making mistakes." We can afford to make mistakes much better than we can afford to remain in the rut of old methods and under-employment. Even if there are mistakes they will teach us something. The man who makes no mistakes makes nothing.
Finally, I ask the Government particularly to survey the position in the small industries. We need their flexibility, and I want these industries to be helped to adapt themselves to new conditions. The Government ought to be thinking all these things now, and we ought to be ready with plans as soon as we enter upon the peace period. If we do not think of these things now, if we are not ready with plans, we shall lose our place in competitive export markets, and we shall lose that strength which we need to have if we are to sit as equals around the conference table of international discussions. More than that, we shall be unable to give our people the standard of life that they will demand. And that is going to mean trouble and will endanger the stability and co-operation which are absolutely vital if we are to get successfully through the problems which will face us. Looking ahead to all that will be needed for building up our industrial equipment I believe that it is vital that the allocation of national resources for this should be given due priority. The Government must have the courage to tell the people what is the position. I recognise the difficulty. But I believe it would be very much better for us to tighten our consumption belts for a few years after the war so as to make sure that when we get into difficult normal times we shall have our capital equipment right.
I should have liked to deal at some length with my two other points, namely, the need for good organisation and the question of the proper treatment of the human element; but the time is not avail- 870 able to do so. I only want to say this as regards organisation. I do hope that we shall not become involved in barren controversies between those who advocate controls for their own sake and those who want to be rid of controls because they regard them as necessarily evil. I hope too, we shall not get into barren controversies between those who believe in State ownership as something which is intrinsically good and those who dislike it as something which is intrinsically bad. All those controversies miss the real point. There is only one question that matters, and that is what arrangement in regard to any particular industry is going to help us best to mobilise the full national resources? In my own view it is clear that in the years that will follow the war we must have a synthesis between the organising power of the Government and the driving force of the individual. Let us not think in terms of spheres of activity, saying "this is the sphere of activity for the State and that is the sphere of activity for individual enterprise." We must think rather in terms of functions. There are certain functions in every sphere which the Government can perform, and there are certain functions for which individual enterprise is better adapted. The two will have to work together. Anyhow, as a hard fact, whatever we may think is right or wrong, that is the system which we shall have to work in the years after the war.
Therefore I ask the Government to do everything possible to ensure that the co-operation between the Government and private enterprise will work well. There must be a cross fertilisation of ideas. We must have an end of this "hush-hush" attitude. Beveridge may be sheer poison to some Government Departments but I must confess that when I read Sir Richard Hopkin's letter I was filled with a feeling of despair—despair that any official should write a letter of that kind in this year of grace, 1943. I want to put this particularly to my right hon. Friend because I know he feels the difficulty in all that is going on now. I feel we are not handling the matter of consultation between Government and industry in the right way. Some 53 questionnaires have gone out from the President of the Board of Trade to various associations but he is not getting any valuable information in answer to them. Business people—or the great bulk of them at any rate and I come 871 in touch with many different sections of them—do not really know what the Government want and they do not know what the conditions are likely to be. So when they are asked to fill in these questionnaires, they just fill them in as uninformatively as possible. We want to establish a much franker attitude. This problem has to be solved by the Government and private industry working together and I want the Government to take the lead now and to be bolder in telling industrial leaders what they want, and thus justifying their demand for frank replies. Then they will be able to put their heads together and work out the right solution.
In connection with this, there is another point which I want particularly to emphasise. At some stage or other and before any final plans are made this House and the public must be informed about any arrangements that are contemplated. The one thing we do not want to be confronted with is arrangements reached by a process of bargaining between a secretive bureaucracy and private sectional interests. We in this House must stand against anything of that kind and I believe that the time has come when the Government should be more frank with us. The Government now commands all the resources of the country. All the economists are in Government service so that private surveys are almost impossible; Government must by now have collected a vast amount of information. The time has come when they should start giving us the result of all the inquiries that they have been carrying out. Let them against that background let us know what they are planning. Let them plan the future of industry with courage and with boldness. And then we shall have a chance not only to keep our place in spite of increasing difficulties but to build up this country to a measure of employment, a standard of living, and a level of national income, which will support all our social programmes and give our people in the future chances such as they have never had before.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
The House will remember that I interrupted the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), and I did so in order to be clear in my mind exactly what he said in regard to industry in this country. The hon. Member in reply to me said that he meant that other countries—and I pre- 872 sume he meant America—were going ahead of us in industrial organisation. That may be so, as far as textiles are concerned, but—
§ Sir G. Schuster
I only interrupt the hon. Member because I wish to get this clear. The point I was making was that, so far as industrial equipment is concerned, American industry is so organised that each man working in industry can produce a much greater output than each man working in industry in this country. I did not say, and I do not want to be understood as saying, that American industry is in every way better organised. Mechanical efficiency is not the same thing as total efficiency, but total efficiency can certainly be improved if you improve mechanical efficiency.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
In reply to that, I would say that our information, as far as shipbuilding in this country is concerned, is the very opposite. We had, over in the West of Scotland recently, the mayor of an American town—Earl Riley—and there were with him some of the greatest shipbuilders in this country. A question was put to him about the great output that they had managed to achieve at Kaiser's and the conclusion was reached that, on the average, the British worker produced one-and-a-half times more than the American worker. I have heard this question discussed for many years, and I remember the same sort of spirit going abroad at a time when things were very bad, not only in our own country but throughout the whole of civilisation, and when the present Secretary of State for Air, then Secretary of State for Scotland, said at that Box that shipbuilding and engineering in this country were finished. Where would we be to-day if that had been the case? I do not know why hon. Members will harp on this idea that every other country is better equipped than ours. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, that is the meaning of what they say. We built the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth" against the views of all the experts and wise men in this country. On both sides of the House people went on predicting the end of the British Empire, because that was what it meant, but what country has produced ships like those? [HON. MEMBERS: "Or aeroplanes?"] What country is producing better engines for aeroplanes than 873 we are producing to-day? No country in the world. Why, then, should we be depressed?Why art thou cast down, O my soul?What should disquiet thee?Or why, with vexing thoughts, art thou disquieted in me?There is nothing that we have to fear as far as that is concerned. What we have to fear are the people here who will not see and who will not take sound advice. Self-interest is what dominates them, instead of a love of their native land.Where self the wavering balance shakes,It's rarely recht adjusted.But that is not what I rose to say. I did not rise to condemn what is in the Gracious Speech, but to draw attention to what ought to be in the Gracious Speech, and is not there. I agree that all our activities at this time have to be centred on winning the war. That is our chief end. As a child I was taught from the Catechism thatman's chief end was to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever.But that is not man's only end, and neither is the winning of the war our only end. We hear great talk about the strain on the people in Germany but we forget about the strain on our own folk here. We have appealed time and time again, for instance, about our old age pensions. I have been put out of this House for appealing on behalf of the old age pensioners. Think of what the present conditions mean for them. Sometimes I almost say to myself, "I am going to give it up; it is impossible." Like Pharaoh of old, this House hardens its heart, and even men who have been imbued with the same ideas as I have, when they cross the Floor of the House seem to forget those ideas and to become expert in explaining how the things which we want cannot be done. When I see that they generally succeed in convincing my colleagues, I sometimes feel that we had better just leave it alone. But we have put forward propositions. At a time when we are spending millions of pounds every day, we have asked for a few shillings for the veterans of industry.
In 1938, when I was put out of the House for raising this matter, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who afterwards became Prime Minister, said that the country could not afford to pay the 874 old age pensioners more than 10s. a week. I said then that if a war occurred, the country could spend millions on it, and to-day we have the proof of that. Millions for a war, but nothing for the people. All we ask is 30s. a week, and I put it to hon. Members whether there is any man in this House who thinks he could live on 30s. a week at the present time. I can just fancy some of the hon. Members over there trying to do it. You are asking the impossible, not of the Germans but of our own flesh and blood, of the men who won the last war; do not forget that. We are told that a Measure is shortly to be introduced and that disabled men are to be put into industry as a sort of charity. We are to appeal to employers to take them on, and that is supposed to be a brilliant idea which has dawned upon one of the greatest heads that the Labour movement ever produced. Then we talk about efficiency in industry. If we are to have efficiency in industry, we must have fit men in industry. We must not put any men on who are wounded and incapacitated. Let us deal in a friendly and kindly way with the men who have been wounded in war, not take advantage of their infirmities.
The next question I wish to raise is housing. The House has heard from my hon. Friend, who represents the same constituency as my great colleague George Lansbury, now dead, telling us about London. What about Clydebank? Practically wiped out—only five panes of glass in the entire town that were not damaged; 4,000 houses wiped out. How many lives were lost? The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked me not to mention that again. I raised it in the House before, and I will not do so now. It makes my case so difficult. This Government, with colleagues of my own in it, stopped house-building by a Cabinet decision. Before the war we had a shortage of houses, and then as the war goes on we have blitzes and houses are being wiped out and yet it has not dawned upon this all-wise Cabinet, headed by one who is supposed to be one of the greatest men in the universe at the moment, that the time has arisen now; now is the day and now is the hour to reverse that decision. Houses ought to be built now. Since the war, we have had 2,500,000 marriages and there are no homes for the new couples. Even supposing they have the money to buy a house, there are none. Here we are at 875 the turn of the year, when every animal in the world will be getting a home.The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.That can be said truly about this country of ours, and I never belittle my country, because our country is capable of meeting all these demands. If the Government have the will, there is a way, and if they have not the will, they will have to be removed.
It is too funny for words. Here are millions of our people crying for a home in our native land, with all the swagger about their ability that made the greatest shipbuilders in the world and the greatest engineers. We have the greatest soldiers, nobody denies that. What is the use of all this greatness unless we see some result for it? What is the use of all these sacrifices? Here I am, at the moment faced with I do not know how many men coming back from North Africa, blind, without legs, without arms, and with no home to come to. What was the use of their going and sacrificing everything? The wife comes to me and asks me, "Do something." "He is coming home," she says. "He has lost his right arm and his left leg, and I have not had a home yet. I have stayed with my mother for six years." Surely it is time that the Government reversed their decision. The idea of the House of Commons is that we should come and reason together. I will not go to my people and explain or apologise for the Government. I do not give a button who they are, unless they try to meet us here. Do you think our folk are going to allow this sort of thing to go on? Look at the misery, look at the degradation. I have boasted that it is the home life of our people that is the backbone of the British Empire. Yet they cannot have home life. I have come here and pleaded for any kind of house. My folk have said to me, "Get me a wee corner of my ain, a hut." Talk about pre-fabrication. All we have got from a benevolent Government is 200 houses, and we are desperate for 4,000.
Who is it I am appealing for just now? The greatest shipbuilders in the world, the men and women who are producing the finest aeroplanes that ever went into the air. We have these cursed references to striking and absenteeism. It is a wonder 876 to me there are not more strikes. It is a wonder to me that there is not more absenteeism, I have told the House before, because of the way men are treated. It is said it is the young men. Of course it is the young men who are absent, it is the young men who go on strike. It is because the young men are the type who win our battles. It is because they have not been crushed down like our old veterans of industry. We have heard of colliers working down below at nearly 70 years of age. Is that something to be proud of, we who are the heirs of the ages, we with all our great equipment? There is nothing to be proud about, seeing that the Government are not making any move. Have they tried to placate? Have we got anything since this Coalition Government went into power? Have our folk got an advance in any of the things we stood for? No. Here we are.
I wish to turn to a matter we have raised here several times, and I wish I could get the House to agree. This is not said in any flippant sense. We have what we call the Scottish Grand Committee. Since the war, that is another thing we have lost, with the result that we have a Scottish day here, and then the House is left to us. On the last Scottish day we had here, the miners had a very desperate item they wished to get through. The result was unpleasantness on these Benches because we were taking up an hour or two of their time that day. It we had a Scottish Grand Committee, that would not arise. At the moment, the reason we are so anxious is that our lassies are still being taken down into England. Think of it. Tens of thousands of Scottish girls have been transported—because that is the right term—down into England, and they are still coming down, and though the Minister of Labour from that Box two months ago said that it was stopped, it is not stopped yet.
We protested when they were putting down all the factories in the Midlands of England. We wanted factories in Scotland. Why, engineering is in the marrow of our bones. John Ruskin said of Lowland Scotland that it was the cradle of engineering. But no; again the powers that be that sat on that Bench at the time decided that industry ought to be concentrated down in England. They had not the labour, and they had 877 to steal our lasses. Of course they do not need to tell me that there are no better workers in the world. The finest raw material in the world is the Scottish working-class lassie. Down they come here. We want them back. We want them to stay at home. In all my activities I am telling my men that they must not stop work, and I do not mean simply that they have not to go on strike. I mean that they have to give a conscientious day's work when they are at work. I told those fellows who came here about Mosley—another bloomer on the part of this Government—but we will let that flea stick to the wa'.
What do we see in Scotland? We see the Highlands of Scotland, one of the greatest reservoirs that the British Empire had drained almost dry. We see in our generation the same policy in operation regarding Lowland Scotland as was followed before. You have to remember that in Scotland we got only a few factories compared to the factories that came to England. Yet those few factories are being shut down. I went right through the last war and made records as manager of my factory with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and McManus as convenors of shop stewards, one by night and the other by day. We broke all records in the manufacture of munitions. On Friday night I shall be addressing a meeting and I hope that the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) will put in an appearance. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is a member of the War Cabinet and a Scotsman and who has a warm side to him, as most Scotsmen have, will convey to the War Cabinet what I have been saying and see whether something cannot be done to allay the tremendous discontent.
I have had to go through one works after another to keep these people from stopping work. I have a letter from a certain Cabinet Minister thanking me for what I did in preventing a token strike. But it is difficult. We want to see some move on the part of the Government which will show that they realise the seriousness of the situation. The House will remember that only last week I put down a Question to the Secretary of State for Scotland on this very matter of bad housing. In my native city of Glasgow, where I was born and bred, and of which 878 I am a Justice of the Peace, the death rate among the children is one of the worst, if not the worst, of any city in the civilised world. I have received letters condemning me and letters congratulating me on the statement I made. Here is a letter:
§ "4th December, 1943.
§ My dear David,
§ I wish you to have my book 'When Sleeps the Tide.' You have been a champion for the freedoms we must never give up, and the new freedoms we must win. I see you have been speaking up on infant mortality. Kindly turn to page 45 and you will find 'Whose children,' and you will understand why I am writing you now to say 'Thank you, David Kirkwood.'
§ Yours faithfully,
§ EDWARD HUNTER,
§ Convenor of Public Health, City of Glasgow."
§ He also sends me his private card, on which is written "Thank you, David." There is no more proof needed. There is the convenor of Public Health for the City of Glasgow saying that my statement was no exaggeration. I would like to be in the proud position to boast of my native land, but in fact it is a death trap. Why do we flee from Scotland? We flee from the wrath to come. I want Scotland, heart and bosom of a world-wide influence, to establish itself once again as the source of a virile and honourable people, who in future may be able to give still more of their physique, character and skill to enrich and ennoble the earth.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), if he will allow me to say so without effusion, always has a very warm place personally in the heart of the House of Commons. Approval of what he said to-day proceeds from far more than the personal affection which we feel for him. He has, in my judgment, done a public service by calling attention to the really terrible condition of housing in this country. I hope I shall not be saying anything offensive if I say that I should not like to be in the position of the Minister without Portfolio, the Minister of Town and Country Planning, and the present and past Ministers of Health if it is true—I do not know whether it is or not—that no action they can take, even the threat of resignation, can get the houses which are urgently required in this country if the ordinary decencies of life are to be preserved. 879 Everywhere in this country people are living in conditions of extreme misery. Slums cannot be pulled down. There are thousands of acres of land owned by local authorities in respect of which the plans are out, foundations are started, and in some cases houses were half up at the beginning of the war. Yet we are told that this matter cannot be dealt with because, from the point of view of war, it is not a priority. That may be true; nobody can tell but the Government. But a terrible responsibility rests upon those Ministers in the Government if it is not true, because only by the action they can take with their colleagues, by constantly pressing this matter upon the War Cabinet and the Prime Minister, can they get redress. On both sides of this House, in the minds of hon. Members is this idea, that if there is one subject above all others causing discontent at present, it is not the black-out, it is not even, in spite of what my hon. Friend says, the question of direction—the one question in everybody's mind is this appalling question of the lack of housing accommodation and the fact that even now we have no clear indication from this swarm of Ministers—if I may use the term without offence—as to how this matter is to be dealt with, during the war or afterwards. As great a responsibility rests upon those Ministers as upon any Minister responsible for defence.
I would like to say something about the series of Debates on the Address, of which this is one. There has been a consensus of opinion, quite irrespective of party, in favour of decisions being taken by the Government in respect of things that matter. It started with the admirable speech, if I may say so, by my hon. Friend beside me; and it has continued throughout to-day's Debate. There has been an obvious determination on the part of every Member who has spoken, on either side, to avoid mere party controversy and to impress upon the Government the need for decisive action. From the point of view of morale, I do not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer would differ from me when I say there is nothing more important than to let the people of this country resolve their fears and feel that the War Cabinet and the Prime Minister himself are as much concerned with the reclamation and rehabili- 880 tation of this country, in an economic sense, as with winning the war itself. What would be the use of winning the war if we lost the peace? What would be the use of having defeated the Germans if after the war we found ourselves in an impossible position? In this Debate the speeches have obliterated and overflowed party boundaries. There has been a determination on the part of everybody to try to find a solution. I wish to say something more controversial. I would base what I am going to say on the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister of South Africa upstairs the other day. He used these words in a different connection from the one we are dealing with now. He said:When you are faced with a situation and problems such as we are faced with, you dare not over-simplify. In such circumstances you can only proceed towards a solution step by step, in the old British empirical way, because if you proceed to rationalise and theorise and simplify you are lost.Those words of my right hon. friend the Prime Minister of South Africa should be heeded alike by the advocates of unrestricted private enterprise and those of complete State Socialism. I must, at the risk of causing offence, with great respect, say a word of warning to the extreme advocates on both sides. I am glad to think that the majority of them are not to be found in this House. Speeches are made outside and articles written by persons of the type of Sir Ernest Benn, who may be said to be leader of individualists and incidentally is a pure exponent of the Cobden-Liberal gospel of laissez-faire—unrestricted competition, no safeguards, the devil take the hindmost. That is the individualism of Sir Ernest Benn. It was the theory of Liberalism that if you did away with all controls and left everything free, humanity would thereby benefit. To some extent that is true, but it is equally true to say that to some extent Cobden Liberalism was the cause of the appalling industrial slums of the '50's, and when agriculture was destroyed in two generations and thousands of people were driven overseas. I would say to the one representative of the Liberal Party present that it had its benefits, but its disadvantages were just as prominent.
I would ask the question of the House, and especially of my own party who may be inclined to give adherence to this doctrine, and I have marked it from their 881 speeches to some extent. We constantly hear speeches from some Conservative Members, and even from Tory members of the Government, to the effect that we must remove controls as soon as possible after the war. That is the burden of the speeches, in particular, of a distinguished representative of the Government in another place—Lord Croft. When I listen to the speeches of some of the members of the Government in another place—I am criticising them not as Members of another place but as members of the Government—I cannot help being reminded of the phrase that Disraeli once used. Speaking from this Box in the old House from the Front Opposition Bench, he said: "The Government is full of birds of noble plumage; some are stuffed, and some are alive."
It is very difficult to say into what category some of the speeches made by noble Lords in praise of the Government come, but they certainly have a very ancient plumage. I say, in all seriousness, to those who talk in these terms, what exactly do they mean? When they say all controls have to be taken off, do they visualise the conditions with which we shall be faced after the war, quite apart from any academic speculations as to whether they will produce another war? Do they realise that the whole of Europe may easily be one vast area of starving anarchy. Do they realise that we may, as the late Food Minister, the present Minister of Reconstruction, said, be sailing into a world food shortage in which we may have to cut down the meat ration in this country? Do they realise that after the last war, when some of the principles of which my friends of the Tory Party were in favour were applied and controls were taken off, it very soon resulted in grave injury to the prestige of any capitalist system? There was the gross gambling in cotton mills and that sort of thing, which was largely responsible for the slump which followed. I say with respect to hon. Friends, including members of the Government and of the Tory Party, when they say that all controls should be taken off as soon as possible, what do they mean by "as soon as possible"? I want, with some trepidation, to ask hon. Friends of the Socialist Party this question, in all friendliness. Running through many of the speeches, not heard in the House today, but outside and in the precincts of 882 their party, is the old idea upon which the party is founded and from which its name is derived, that we should have universal State ownership.
§ Earl Winterton
On all the more important things. I do not want to get into controversy about this matter. Hon. Friends are entitled to hold that view just as much as other of my hon. Friends hold their views about private enterprise. It is a political impossibility to expect that in the next generation or two State ownership of the kind that they advocate should be put into operation without the setting-up of machinery. It would be calamitous. Surely General Smuts' words, which I will requote, should be recognised and put into operation:You can only proceed towards a solution step by step in the old British empirical way because, if you begin to theorise and rationalise and simplify you are lost.If you say these things can only be done by private enterprise, and if you say on the other hand these things can only be done by State ownership, we shall get no solution at all. Is it really clear that there is a huge body of opinion in the country prepared to go to the death for private enterprise and, on the other hand, that there is a huge body of opinion prepared to make every sacrifice for State ownership? I should have thought that, quite apart from State ownership or private enterprise, they would require the things which the Prime Minister laid down as the first essentials of peace—work, homes and food.
§ Earl Winterton
That is where I think the hon. Member is wrong. I regard his interruption as irrelevant to this extent. I am a supporter of the Beveridge Report and was one who almost voted against the Government. But it is only a means to an end. The public is concerned with the end and not the means. One of the things which, in my opinion, did great evil to this country before the war was this: In former days, and as recently as 25 or 30 years ago, the questions which divided the parties in this House were matters like education, Home Rule for Ireland and things of that kind. For the last 20 years there has been a sort of cat-and-dog life between private ownership and State ownership. Industry can be 883 carried on by the people responsible without undue heed to the political controversies that went on above. But how could the artificers of industry in a State like this carry on efficiently if one set of politicians wished to reverse the engines and go backwards and the other wished to destroy them? How can you say there is any future for British industry if political parties as a whole have not some consensus of opinion as to how it should be conducted? That is why I deplore that the Home Secretary, though I am an admirer of his, in his speech at Wembley, while apparently inferentially supporting the co-operation of parties after the war, used the phrase that no Member or parties generally should be asked to give up their fundamental principles. If private ownership is favoured by one Minister and another Minister is in favour of State Socialism, how on earth can you get a solution?
You cannot get a better example than that of the mining industry. Here is a curious antithesis. Some three years ago the Prime Minister, presumably without consulting the War Cabinet and the House, gave away on a 99 years' lease to another country—the United States of America—a number of very important bases from a strategic point of view. He did it not for the years of the war but for 99 years, his argument presumably being that, in order to win the war; it was necessary to allow America to have the use of the bases for 99 years. He justified that on the ground that the term of the lease was necessary because of the war. Now we come to the antithesis, and it is necessary to deal with the mining industry, which is notoriously at sixes and sevens and which has a history of conflict between employers and employed. At every Debate it has its protagonists in the House, those who say that it is the mine-owners and those who say it is the miners. The Prime Minister cannot find some solution but it offends the Tory Party or the Socialist Party. It cannot be settled, because in order to do so he would be cutting across his party frontiers. That does not make sense. The Government have to face the position, and they cannot do anything else. They must face the position in which they must make decisions. They could decide that they could no longer support the Government or, on the other hand, which is just as 884 likely to happen, some hon. Friends, under the leadership, say, of my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams), might say it was a Socialist measure and they would not support it. Would it really be logical? Does anybody really agree that when 30 or 40 Socialist politicians cease to support the Government or when 30 or 40 Tories thinking about homes, work, food, must not ask for them because the Tories do not like what the Socialists are doing, that whether they are Tories or Socialists, they wish to place party interests higher than the interests of the general public? The country wants decisions.
Nothing I have said to the Chancellor is intended to be unfriendly, and I apologise for speaking at some length. I am not sure that he and other members of the Government yet realise the sharp impetus that is going on all over the country. I am sure the Prime Minister does not. For reasons which may be necessary he is still hesitant about forcing his Government to come to a decision, because he is afraid that in doing so some Tory or Socialist interests may be affected. You cannot do business on those lines. You will never get anything settled on those lines. Take all these questions—Uthwatt, Scott, Barlow and half-a-dozen others. Is there any clear-cut decision on them? Why not? Not because the Minister without Portfolio is incompetent. He is one of the ablest men I have ever seen in the House, but he is not allowed to take a decision. It is the same with the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The War Cabinet will not allow them to take decisions because they are terrified that they will do something which will upset the balance of the Government. It really is not true to say that the only possible combination of all parties to carry out a national policy is to be found in particular members of the present Government, though it is true that the leaders of it are essential. In the Government there are a great number of others who, if they felt that on grounds of party fidelity it would be better for them to seek the back benches, would not be doing a very great disservice to their country. The House has been very kind to me. I am frequently very offensive.
§ Earl Winterton
When the Noble Lady cheers that remark, let me tell her that 885 we have a common interest in that bad fault. I rather deprecate the habit which some Members on both sides of the House have got into when anyone goes outside party boundaries of chaffing him in a mild way and saying, "Come over here, you are a good Tory," or "You are a good Socialist." That is not the way to reach a solution. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) for his speech on the Address, and also to my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who has made a speech which many Tories would disagree with. I am grateful because they had the courage to say things outside the limit of party boundaries, but things that needed saying. I thought that the references of the hon. Member for Seaham to the United States and Russia were very valuable. I did not see the slightest disparagement of those two vast Empires with which we are in alliance. I do not think you could do greater ill service to this country than to suggest that our alliance with the United States was more important than our alliance with Russia or that our alliance with Russia was more important than our alliance with the United States. Both are equally important. Both are necessary for the future peace of the world. In fact, it is the only way that peace can be maintained.
What the hon. Gentleman said and what has been repeated to-day is this: Undoubtedly this little overcrowded Island, with 46,000,000 people, has resources which, though very great with immense productive capacity, cannot be compared with the undeveloped estates either of the United States or of Russia. How, then, can that alliance be anything but a one-sided one unless we on our side are entitled to regard the British Commonwealth, the Dominions at any rate, as much part and parcel of our entity as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is of Russia or as the States of the Union are of the United States? When Members of the Liberal Party bring into their speeches such statements as that we must have no return to Ottawa, I am horrified. Ottawa was intended to be an arrangement between members of the same State based upon the principles which have built up the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
In connection with the arrangements at Ottawa, on the one hand the productive capacity of Canada was allowed a free market here, and they imposed duties against us in Canada.
§ Earl Winterton
My hon. Friend is adopting rather a different line of argument. I say the instrument may not have been properly carried out, but the aim was the same as the aim of those who founded the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. If representatives of manufacturing interests in Canada or in this country, or in this House, began to criticise it in detail and said, "This or that is unfair," we should never get unity. That difficulty has been overcome in the States. In the early days it was not overcome. There was something like a tariff between the different States. What we aim at is building up our Empire on that basis. I would therefore plead for recognition of what was said by the hon. Gentleman and by Field-Marshal Smuts. The Colonies are in a different category from the Dominions. They must not be a closed market. There must be opportunities for other countries, but, as far as the Dominions and ourselves are concerned, I challenge anyone to deny, in the House or out of it, that, after the common sacrifice that they have made with us in 1940, we and they are not entitled to regard ourselves as as much an economic entity as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. To say that that is Imperialism is the greatest nonsense. You might as well say it is Imperialism to have one Socialist Republic in the Caucasus and one in the North of Russia, or to have Maine and California in the same organisation.
I know something about interactions in the Tory Party. Let hon. Members beware that they do not lend themselves to supporting certain special business interests in this country, some of whom have been represented in the House, who do not want to see Imperial preference, because they think it will affect their interests. We who have been fighting for years for it believe that the benefits will be so enormous that they will justify any disadvantage. Let us visualise the future with a far greater equalisation of wealth and opportunity than we have had in the past. I was impressed by some words used by an hon. Member behind me. I 887 do not agree with his economic theories, but there is something wrong with a country when you see very great wealth on the one hand, as displayed in certain manifestations before the war, and old age pensioners living on 25s. a week. It is no part of support of the capitalist system to see that disequilibrium continue. There are countries, capitalist countries, like Sweden and Switzerland—
§ Mr. MacLaren
You only find that in countries where the land is privately owned. [Interruption.] I am making an observation of fact.
§ Earl Winterton
It may be so, but land is privately owned in Sweden and Switzerland and New Zealand, and there is not that disequilibrium. I would rather say to the hon. Member that he is not really doing the cause of social progress much good by concentrating so much on one aspect of it. He should rather have regard to this, that it is not so much a question of Socialism as a question of the people on the other side of the House who are determined to break loose from some terrible handicap under which we suffered before the war. He should try to apply it to something more approximating to the condition of affairs that is due to those who have fought.
§ Mr. Hannah (Bilston)
We all know that, if this Amendment was carried, the Government would fall. What I think is equally important is that if the Government ignored this Amendment it would be very nearly as dangerous to themselves, and I urge them to read, mark, learn, inwardly digest and act upon the Amendment. I think one has a certain advantage in coming late into a Debate of this kind in that one has only to say "Amen" to all that has been so well said about the housing position. Only yesterday I was visiting various constituents of mine who had written to me about their very bad housing conditions. I came across a family of five with only one bedroom, and they had a Tibetan missionary as guest. I had an extraordinarily interesting talk with the man, who lives on the borders of Yunnan and Tibet, and that in a place where I merely expected to find trouble of every sort. Long years ago, when this Parliament was comparatively young, I managed to get an American friend into the Ladies' Gallery. I expected that she 888 would be immensely impressed by the dignity of this House. She looked down for two or three hours on our proceedings and then gave me her conclusions in poetry:Conservatives chatter, Liberals patter, Socialists clatter,But nobody listens, so what does it matter?I think very much the same might have been said of the old Athenian assembly more than 2,000 years ago. It is characteristic to a very large extent of democracy. Two sister democracies entered this war. The Southern collapsed and the North stood firm, and, if we are asked for the essential difference between the collapse of our former Ally and Greece of old, we could say little more than that for the dying glories of France there was no Demosthenes to shed a last halo of splendour.
I welcome more than I can possibly say all the conciliatory things that have been said on both sides of the House, about the way in which we must act as a united nation. If we look into the future, I cannot see that there is any need whatever for a head-on collision between the different parties. On the great essentials we are agreed. Is not the problem of the future far too great for any party in the State—for any mere section? If anyone believes that a party can make peace with Germany and carry us through the terribly difficult reconstruction period better than a united nation, I can only say it seems to me that his place is in a museum. I am completely loyal to those who sent me to Parliament, but I feel more and more the tremendous need for holding out the right hand of fellowship to everybody who has similar ideas. I am appalled by the complexities and difficulties with which we are confronted.
Something like 300 years ago a remarkable record was made in this House. The shortest speech of all time was made. The orator was Oliver Cromwell. His subject was that Mace. The speech was, "Remove that bauble." I love this House. I have no sympathy whatever for Cromwell's point of view. So far as Parliament was concerned, he was no great improvement on Charles I, whom he displaced. At the same time, that speech does seem to me to have certain advantages, and I would commend it as a model to a large number of Members of this House, including even some on the 889 sacred Front Bench. First, it was brief; second, it was clear; third, I have never heard that it was not perfectly audible; and fourth, it was free from unnecessary repetition. Cromwell, however, is mainly concerned in our minds with the share that he had in the new model Army. The Romans used their army in a very special way. The legionary was a handyman doing work of all kinds that the State required. When Hadrian built the great wall across this land between the Solway and the Tyne military labour entirely was used, and inscriptions on the wall of Hadrian still give us information as to which cohort or other military unit built each particular section. Incidently, Hadrian was certainly a super-optimist, for he imagined that by building a wall it was possible to prevent my Scottish ancestors swarming over this country.
I want to ask whether it is possible for us to adopt something of the same general idea, using at the same time the best brains of the military, the trade unions, planners, architects, engineers—all people of that kind who can give us the best plans for houses—and the universities. Unfortunately, we shall be unable to demobilise on any large scale until some time after the war. We hate having to keep up a large Army, but it may be to a great extent essential. I hope that we can use our Army in those circumstances, especially for purposes of training. If we have to use forces on the Continent, it may be possible to give advantages to students who can benefit by studying foreign languages and the history of European lands. It may be possible in that way to make service in the Army serve a very necessary purpose. Here the trade unions come in. I do not make any suggestion, but merely ask whether it would be possible to use in part the inevitable leisure of soldiers in time of peace to provide those houses that we all desire so tremendously shall rise from the ground. Can we do anything along those lines? Obviously the trade unions must be consulted first of all. The military authorities must also make the necessary arrangements. If we were to use military labour on a considerable scale, it might help enormously, when the first traces of unemployment begin to appear, if the military labour could automatically be turned into other paths. Perhaps it is rather a desperate proposal, but the desperate housing situation requires a most desperate remedy. Time do slip. 890 My 10 minutes have gone, but my ideas have not yet come to an end. I will merely say, therefore, that I earnestly ask that in this House none shall be for a party but all shall be for the general principles set forth in this Amendment.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
I am privileged to speak to-day because of the illness of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I am sure that the whole House will join with me in expressing our desire that he will be restored to the best of health as soon as possible. We have had a good Debate to-day, and it is expected that the Government will consider the speeches which have been made and treat the matter as one of urgency. I am instructed to say that it is not our intention to press this Amendment to a Division. I am more optimistic in regard to the future of this country than my Noble Friend the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton). I am more optimistic, because I have lived with the people and worked with them, and because I am just an ordinary one of them, and I know what they are thinking and know their determination. My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment in a clear and able manner asked that the Government should prepare to grapple with the aftermath of this war. He stressed that we entered the war Coalition to defend our country—and may I emphasise "our country." Our party, which is a movement which has grown out of the aspirations of the common people, has made a mighty contribution in the defence of our country. We determined as soon as Fascism began to grow in Europe to make our contribution to maintain the democratic rights which had been won at such great sacrifices by our people. It was a decision of our movement that we became part of the war Coalition, and until that decision has been changed it is our duty in the House to interpret the policy as laid down by the conference of the party.
The Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) made an able speech which included some interesting observations. He said that during the Catering Bill Parliamentary talent was harnessed in a way that it had not been in this House during the whole of the war, and he pleaded for more of it. On this side we will join with him and 891 any other hon. Member in pleading for the Government to allow that to take place. He went on to say that the Prime Minister's speech in the coal Debate fell like a bombshell among the people. We also agree with him on that. The Noble Lord went on to say that we want more deliberate interplay between this House and the Executive. He should have carried that to its logical conclusion and said that we also want more interplay between the wide democratic forces in the country and the Members of this House. He pleaded with the Government seriously to consider the setting-up of Committees. We agree with him on that. Then he made a few observations about the future functions of Parliament. I would like the House to give attention to that matter, because I have never liked and could not again join in the pre-war Debates for ordinary Opposition purposes. I have been brought up in industry to get things done, and my understanding of political life is so to work and interpret our policy as to bring about real changes in life. I hope that more attention will be given to that request. In a reference to a speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) the Noble Lord said, "If he is an Imperialist, he can count on our cheering him on." We differ from him fundamentally on that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes), for whom we have such a great regard—what a change there would have been in our political history if he had had the position he deserved—and to whom my generation owes a great deal, made some observations on a previous speech of the Noble Lord and reminded us that twice we have had a Labour Government in this country but that it has never been a real Government. It has never had power; it was merely in office. My right hon. Friend, who chooses his words more carefully than any other public man I know, went on to say, "The doctrine of this House on that occasion was 'You go too far, and out you go'." That is the way we have been treated in this country throughout history, and that is the way we will be treated again should a similar situation arise. Therefore, some of us are determined to play our part, having regard to what we owe to previous generations, to see that never again are we put in a position of that character. The hon. Lady 892 the Member for Bodmin (Mrs. Wright), who made an able speech, told us of a large number of women in her constituency and other parts of Cornwall who still have to carry buckets of water for a mile and a half because there is no water supply to the houses. What an indictment against every one of us that in 1943 we have tolerated such a lack of development that still in one of the finest counties in this country women have to walk one and a half miles to draw water. That is typical in many respects of the backwardness of this country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. A. Jenkins) spoke in strong terms about the future. He provided some of the driving force behind this Amendment, and I want to provide more. My hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key) in a well-informed speech maintained the standard set by our late right hon. Friend who represented Bow and Bromley. He pleaded for plans for housing as soon as possible. He reminded me of my experience, and that is why some of us cannot row with people who throughout history have held us back. My experience after the last war was that my wife and I had to wait 10 years before we could get a house. That is typical of the position of many of my generation after the last war, and it must not happen again.
If it does happen again, there will be serious consequences that may bring about a situation which some of us are prepared to face but would prefer to avoid. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) supported my hon. Friend's plea to the Government to treat this as a matter of urgency. The hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) said, "We do not want to get involved in barren controversies." We agree; but much depends upon the interpretation of "barren." Let me assure him that there is a fundamental cleavage, and a growing cleavage, between us on the best form of an organised society, and the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs answered him in many respects. My hon. Friend the Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) made a speech with which in the main I was in complete agreement.
If I were asked to sum up this Debate in a few words, I would say that Members on all sides have joined together in 893 begging the Government to speed up post-war preparations in order to avoid what my generation went through after the last war. We have reached a stage in the war when we are justified in stating as definitely as possible the Labour Party's case. In the limited time available I propose to do that and to base it upon a quotation from the report of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party this year. It states:Throughout the present war the Labour Party has regarded, and still regards, the winning of complete victory as its supreme aim. It also holds that preparations for necessary social change is an essential part of the winning of the war. Military victory followed by failure in peace would be defeat. Post-war change is but the continuation of that great contemporary march of humanity of which the war itself is but one crucial phase.We heartily endorse that first extract which I have given, and I want to supplement it by saying that in the matter of our pre-war record with regard to facing up to the worsening international situation and with regard to our war attitude no one in this country can point a finger at the record of our people. Then the Report goes on:Just as the world issue in this war is between black reaction and the hope of progress, so the world issue in the peace may well be between vested interests and public welfare.It says further:The adjustment of industry to the needs of peace, the adoption of a policy of economic expansion at home and the organisation of our export trade, will call for wide measures of central regulation and control.… The Labour Party looks forward to early measures for securing public control and ownership of certain industries; namely, monopolies by nature or historic growth and industries which, because they render services necessary for the general public, must in the public interest be managed efficiently, though on principles sometimes far removed from those of conventional commercial practice.In conclusion it states:Capitalist enterprise has had its opportunity to build a society worthy of our people; this war is the decisive proof that it has failed. The Labour Party calls upon its fellow citizens, regardless of class or creed, to demand that the foundations be laid for the transition to the Socialist Commonwealth.That is our case, and upon that basis we are determined to go to our people in order to win power to build a Britain worthy of my generation and worthy of the generation now going through what some of us went through 20 years ago. The lives of my generation have been 894 spoiled. We have never known peace. It has either been war between countries or industrial war upon our people. Between 1920 and 1940 millions of people were unemployed, while millions went short of what the unemployed were eager to produce. The country required development, and yet men and machines stood idle, and in those great industrial centres from which wealth has been poured out for generations, like the Clyde; the North-East coast, Lancashire, Yorkshire, North Staffordshire and South Wales the cream of our manhood and womanhood were left to hang about, and nobody troubled very much about them. Thousands had no homes to live in, while others lived in poor homes the while builders were unemployed. Fruit was allowed to rot in the orchards. Tons of wheat and fish were thrown into the sea. Coffee and wheat were burnt. People were subsidised not to grow wheat or cotton, while millions of people went short.
We ask, Is that to happen again? We say it will happen again unless we adopt a policy which is fundamentally different from the one outlined by the Noble Lord who preceded me. In Lancashire we had the speculators to contend with. In 1920 the whole equilibrium of the industry was upset. Mill after mill was closed and never opened again. We had the machine-wrecking organisations of the monopolists, those like Shipbuilding Securities. Germany went through all this and ended with the Hitlerite régime. It is because we are determined to avoid a repetition of that that we want real power in this country, not necessarily in order to bring into office brilliant men, not necessarily in order to bring into office good speakers, but to bring into office men and women worthy of the tasks of this country, men and women worthy of its present greatness, with vision, courage and determination, in order that we may have a Government backed up by an overwhelming majority to enable this country to be worthy of the generation that is now making such great sacrifices. The "Observer" wrote on the 8th July, 1916:A grandeur of being beyond all that our country has known before is being purchased for those who live by those who die.The same sentiments are being expressed in the newspapers to-day, and are finding expression in many hon. Members' 895 speeches. But, then, on 29th January, 1922, the "Observer" wrote:The armies of Ypres and the Somme and the Hindenburg line are now an army besieging the labour exchange.My wife said to me the other day, "The first opportunity that you get to speak on that subject you speak as strongly as you possibly can, because every woman behind me in the shops that has a son or daughter serving in the Navy, the Army, the Air Force or the Mercantile Marine is asking whether the future after this war is to be the same as we passed through from 1920 to 1940." Read the letters sent home to their wives by our serving men, and listen to the conversations of our people, and it will be seen that they are all concerned about the lack of security, on account of their experiences in the last 20 years. It is the sons of those who are a little older than I am who are now serving in the Armed Forces, and it was their fathers who went through what we went through from 1919 to 1920.
It is the same in the big industries—in the mining industry, in the transport industry. Men are being engaged on the strict understanding that it is only on a temporary basis. They also are concerned, and hon. Members can understand our attitude now towards a question of the full implementation of the Beveridge plan. The wounds of war will have to be healed The economic life of this country has been shattered as a result of the war, and we want it rebuilt, and the historic role of all progressive mankind is to work for a way out and a way forward. The country will have to do that or we shall get involved in the most devastating economic crisis that has ever faced mankind.
We love our fellow men, and that is why we are determined to win power in order to avoid that occurring in this country. The war has taught us much. The British people have been great in this war. They have organised themselves as well as the limitations of the present social system allowed them, and as efficiently as the people in any other country in the world. We must retain as far as possible this efficient war-time organisation in order to build a Britain worthy of the British people for peace; build a Britain for plenty; give our people security and more real joy in life. We are no longer struggling blindly against injustices, 896 we are no longer, in speaking, "going off the deep end." We have social scientists. We have our compass, our plans. We see clearly the way forward, and we intend going along that road. British democracy has, for war purposes, become dynamic. One can feel the heartbeats of the people in their contribution to the war effort. I have never known that previously, and, realising this advance in our lives, we want to retain it in order to build a Britain worthy of our people. Therefore, we must retain this dynamic for rapid progress in peace-time. Let me give some extracts from a book written by one of the chief theoreticians of the Conservative Party, the Marquess of Salisbury. It is entitled "Post-war Conservative Policy." I will give one or two extracts, because they are another indication of how we can have no confidence whatever in the Conservative Party if this is their interpretation of the post-war system. He says:Planning then, in the form of the guidance of private enterprise, is calculated to be of cardinal service, though I need hardly say it must not be expected to solve all our problems—far from it.It goes on:Insecurity is unfortunately an essential condition of human life.Is there one hon. Member who really believes that? I will read it again:Insecurity is unfortunately an essential condition of human life. We cannot, I am afraid, altogether avoid it.Those are terrible words. It simply is not true. Therefore, we are bound to be concerned about parties or forces who are determining policy upon material of that kind. If that is true, how is it that the people in Russia are making the mighty effort that they are? If that is true, how is it our great men are flying over Germany night after night? If that is true, how is it the men serving in the Armed Forces and in the Merchant Navy are risking their all every day? It simply is not true. One knows that people will react to different treatment than that. You get far better out of them by not treating them in that way. I happened to sit in the house of a friend when the Prime Minister was making his speech at the Mansion House, London, on the subject of food, work and homes. I listened very carefully to that speech. When the Prime Minister referred to the great victories in Germany and Japan—he was right in so referring to them, because 897 they were great victories—there was loud applause and great enthusiasm, at the Mansion House, where, in the main, would be representatives of the City of London. When he referred to food, work and homes, there was complete silence. Therefore, how can we have confidence in—
§ Earl Winterton
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I was present at that meeting, and there were loud cheers from all those present when the Prime Minister referred to food, work and homes. I am sorry to contradict him.
§ Mr. Smith
The Noble Lord has the advantage of me, because I was not there. I was listening to the broadcast, and I have no hesitation in saying that when victory was mentioned there was great enthusiasm and cheering, but when the Prime Minister came to food, work and homes there was hardly a ripple of enthusiasm. I will take another instance. When the Foreign Secretary came back from the historic Moscow Conference, he gave, I thought, a very able report, as far as public interest would allow him to do so, and we were all pleased with it at the time. We cheered him, because we believed that we should show that we support men who have undertaken great responsibilities as he and the Prime Minister have recently done. When he was giving that report, there was hardly a cheer. I am a sufficient judge of the facial expression of people, as the result of an experience that I have gone through, to have no hesitation in saying that in many cases hon. Members opposite did not like the report that the Foreign Secretary was giving.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I really must protest very strongly against any such statement. For the hon. Member to say that he is such a judge of facial expression that he considers hon. Members on this side of the House were not pleased to hear a very satisfactory report upon the international Conference is very unfair. I really think it ought to be withdrawn.
§ Mr. Smith
I do not mind people having their own ideas and opinions, but, no matter what it means, that is not going to be withdrawn. I can also never forget the way hon. Gentlemen opposite treated the right hon. Member for Seaham at that 898 Box. If that happens to be doubted, it will be mentioned, because we saw a similar example last week when the Home Secretary was speaking from that Box. To resume my speech, I was saying that the Prime Minister went on to outline his proposals for dealing with food, work and homes.
§ Mr. Colegate (The Wrekin)
Would the hon. Member tell us exactly what his argument is in mentioning the right hon. Member for Seaham?
§ Mr. Smith
I was referring to the late Mr. Ramsay MacDonald when he was speaking from that Box. I can never forget the way hon. Members treated him on several occasions after that man had served their purpose. Do not carry that too far. Some of us have experience of people being used in the workshops in the same way that he was, and how they are always treated when they have served a certain purpose.
§ Mr. Smith
If people do their duty in our party, the party loyally stands by them. We have proved that, in spite of the persecution of some people who have made a great contribution in this Government. The Prime Minister went on to outline his proposals for providing food, work and homes. The Labour movement and progressively minded people in this country can hardly be satisfied with a policy of that kind. It means that we must simply mark time. The policy of food, work and homes should have been provided years ago, but the Government of the day were held back from providing them by the political make-up of this House from 1920 to 1940.
The war has unleashed vast energy by the application of science to our war needs. It has set forces in motion which will create a situation in the world, and not only in this country, justifying what Mr. Walace said in one of his speeches, which was that the future was going to be the time of the common man. In peace, mankind will be impotent in handling the forces that have now been developed unless we plan our way forward on the lines that I have been indicating. For that reason we say that there seems no sense of urgency in this Gracious Speech and there are no proposals for laying the 899 foundation of a new economic policy which would fit in with our war needs. We say that the only policy which will enable this country to hold its own in the future will be one based upon a collective Britain for the British people. The basis of our international policy must be economic co-operation.
In our view there are six essentials that will enable us to plan our way forward and bring about a new economic policy: First, social security to give people more confidence and to provide a contribution to our population problems; second, social ownership of the land; third, social ownership of essential industries and services; fourth, control of finance; fifth a planned economy; and sixth, a fair distribution of wealth. We say that the driving force behind that policy, and behind the Amendment, as well as the speeches made by my hon. and right hon. Friends, is the social philosophy that is being proved to be the only way out for humanity. We therefore have no hesitation in defining Socialism as we understand it. Our definition is based on six points, because these will be the issues of the future. Capitalism stands condemned, because it fails to provide for the needs of the common people of this country with whom we are concerned.
Therefore we say that behind a future policy in this country must be Socialism. As we understand it, it is the organisation of life for the benefit of the people; social ownership of the essential services, land and industry; the application of science to life with maximum efficiency, maximum production and maximum consumption; social security, a fair distribution of wealth and a rising standard of living; co-operation with other countries, working towards world brotherhood; and merit and character to determine standing and promotion and not social status as it has done up till now. It also includes development of a noble life and the enjoyment of life. We believe that the mighty countries of the future will be the Soviet Union, China, the United States of America and India—if we will allow this country to develop. We are optimistic—
§ Mr. Smith
I thought that was understood. We differ in regard to inter 900 pretation, because we say "The British Commonwealth of Nations." We invite the democratic countries to join with us in building up the British Commonwealth of Nations. I thank my hon. Friend for that interruption, because it has enabled me to make that point clear. Our case is so strong that we do not mind interruptions of that character, because they assist us to remove misunderstanding. Those countries are nearly all pro-British, and they are agreed to co-operate with us. It is because we realise that the bulk of our people depend for their living on the export trade and upon our key industries that we want to bring about the maximum of efficiency in this country to enable us to become greater in the future than ever we have been in the past and to take our part in the future in co-operation with other mighty countries.
§ The Minister without Portfolio (Sir William Jowitt)
I am glad that you have seen your way, Sir, to allow us to have a very wide range of discussion on this Amendment. The result is that we have had a series of most interesting speeches, many of which have raised different matters. We have discussed water, sewage, Mosley, education, housing, location of industry, old age pensions, the efficiency of our industrial system, foreign politics, domestic politics and various other matters, I hope I shall not be thought discourteous if I do not go through the various speeches, as I should be inclined to do if the hour had been rather earlier and if they had not dealt with such a wide range of topics. At the outset I want to say that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment in a most interesting and forceful speech and the hon. Member who has just concluded, both made it plain that it was not their intention to carry the Amendment to a Division. I want to assure them that we do not for that reason treat the various speeches that have been made any less seriously than we should have done otherwise. I give this assurance on behalf of the Government, that we will consider most carefully the various practical suggestions that have been made to see whether they will help us in our great and difficult task.
The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) made a very interesting, if I may say so without disrespect—to use his phrase 901 —contribution to our Debate. He asked what was, to my mind, a fundamental question. He asked "Is it not just as important to make sure that we win the peace as that we win the war?" I am quoting him textually. He was pointing out that social matters arising after the war were just as important as winning the war. I entirely agree with the Noble Lord, of course, in that matter. It would indeed be a barren achievement if, having won the war, we, in the common phrase, lost the peace. The difficulty of the problem is that, with the resources which we have, we cannot devote ourselves at one and the same time to the problems of war and the problems of peace. You must, therefore, have some kind of priority. I will give a simple illustration. At the present time such building labour as we have available has to be devoted very largely to the services of the war and to the direct war effort in various ways. I do not go into details, but hon. Members themselves know that that is the case. The result is that building labour so long as it is employed for these war purposes is not available for peace purposes.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Is it not the case that all the factories have now been built and that although the factories were built houses were not built for the people in the factories? If you had been putting horses into the factories, you would have put in stables for them, but you built no houses for the workers. Now, since all the factories are built, is not all that labour free now to build houses?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
If it were, we could do much more to help the hon. Member, but, as he knows, there are barracks and hospitals and all sorts of establishments to be provided for the Americans at the present time.
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask a question on this matter, because I feel very strongly about it? Will it be made plain to the American Government that their troops coming here must put up with some discomfort and that our first duty is to house our own people?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
The Government are certainly doing all they can to avoid withdrawing any men from work which, if the Noble Lord will forgive me for saying so, I realise just as well as he does is of prime importance. But aerodromes must 902 be built—there is no getting away from that. What we have to do, therefore, is this: At the earliest possible moment we have to devote all the labour we can to what is, quite obviously, the fundamental matter of building homes for the people.
I had not proposed, however, to discuss to-day this question of building, because it was the subject of a discussion on Tuesday last, and the Minister of Production then dealt with it and told the House of the inter-Departmental arrangements that existed and also the broad objective of our plan. Further, it is not one of the matters specifically referred to in the reasoned Amendment which we are debating. For that reason I should like to discuss some rather more general matters raising the whole question of reconstruction, as I see it at the present time. I think it is worth while stopping to ask ourselves why it is that in a war, and only in a war, as in this war and the last war, you appoint a Minister to concern himself with reconstruction. Why is not such a thing done in peace-time? I suppose it is because in ordinary peacetime, what is called reconstruction is the main function of the ordinary Cabinet. Ministers in peace-time bring their various projects before the Cabinet, where they are discussed, and differences are hammered out and proposals are made and so forth. But, in war, the overriding necessity is as indicated in the Gracious Speech in the passage which states:The Government will continue to concentrate their powers and energies upon the prosecution of the war, and, until final victory is won, that will be their primary task.There is not one of us who would have it otherwise. That being their primary task, and His Majesty's Ministers having to give themselves to that immense task, it is necessary, is it not, that there should be some organisation to survey these peace problems, rather in the way perhaps that an ordinary peace-time Cabinet would survey them? I do not, of course, mean that the appointment of a Minister of Reconstruction in any way derogates from the supreme authority of the War Cabinet. Of course it does not. On the other hand, there you have a Minister who has to preside over a very powerful Committee of Ministers before whom all these various matters will be brought just as though 903 they were a peace-time Cabinet. By predigesting the material and coming to conclusions, they can save the War Cabinet a great deal of time and energy on these peace matters, and that, as I understand it, is the position which we have reached to-day.
§ Sir I. Albery
Can my right hon. and learned Friend go further and explain the difference between the position which has been reached to-day and the position which we had quite recently, when either the former Lord President of the Council or the former Lord Privy Seal was presiding over these same Committees?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
I was just coming to that point. I promise the hon. Member that I will deal with it. But I want to make it plain that the elaboration of a plan must be the concern of the particular Department, For instance, the Ministry of Health must deal with housing plans, and the Ministry of Labour with plans which are appropriate to that Department. There will, of course, be cases in which the plans of one Department will conflict or interfere with the plans of another Department. When that happens, it will be for the Minister of Reconstruction to see how he can harmonise those plans. It will be for him, surveying the plans as a whole, to see that there are no gaps. It will be for him to see whether all the field is adequately covered, and if it is not, he will call the attention of some Departmental Minister to the fact and ask that Minister to produce his plan to cover that gap. That is the scheme, and therefore it follows that my Noble Friend is not the head of a Ministry of Reconstruction but is Minister of Reconstruction. That is rather an important distinction, because he is relying on the various Departments to do the work which is appropriate to them while he himself is organising to see that the plans are presented as a comprehensive whole.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
What time lag is there between these Departmental inquiries and decisions and the decision of the Minister of Reconstruction himself?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
It is quite impossible to say if there is any sort of definite time lag. It would depend on the particular 904 case. One Minister might present plans, and those plans might pass through straight away. Another might present plans which, on being weighed in the balance, would be found wanting, and then there would have to be further consideration.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
Of course, the Minister of Reconstruction has only held office for a fortnight. The hon. Member is anticipating. I am certain I am right in saying that there will be continuous contact, daily contact, between the Minister of Reconstruction and the various Departmental Ministers. Now, I come to the question which I was asked by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery). May I first say a word about by own position? This House is always exceedingly fair, but I am bound to say that I think that in certain quarters I have had rather a rough deal in the last few months. I have been referred to as a "stooge," talking from a brief, I have been accused of lacking energy and drive, and I have been chaffed because I have so often had to say that this, that or the other plan was under consideration.
May I ask the House to consider with me what the position is? My work in the nature of things has been, first of all, work in which two or more Departments are concerned. Consequently it has always been preparatory work in this sense, that when the decision is finally announced, it is, of course, announced by the Departmental Minister primarily concerned. I am rather like the nursemaid in the song who looked after other people's babies and who had to leave them as soon as they were growing up to man's estate. Of course, it must be for the appropriate Minister to announce the plans. Will the House, then, realise that if a plan is finally approved, it will be announced by the appropriate Departmental Minister? I am not making the smallest complaint. This is inevitable. If, on the other hand, a plan concerns two Departments and is in the course of preparation, then it may fairly be the subject matter of speeches to me, and the result I am afraid is that I shall often have to say that a plan is under considera- 905 tion and the fact that I have not been able to announce decisions does not prove in any sense that I lack energy and drive. I may do, but I am not the person to give the decision. I have to do the preparatory work, to work out the pros and cons of various projects and to leave it to other and no doubt much wiser heads to decide whether or not any particular decision will be taken. I thought the House would not mind if I sounded that personal note, because for some time past I have thought there was, owing to a misunderstanding of what my office was, some kind of idea that I was neglecting my duties and not doing the best I could in what is an enormously important task and one to which every one of us, whether we sit on a Front Bench or a back bench, would like to make whatever contribution we can to the best of our ability.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will understand that the criticisms of which he complains are not intended to be criticisms of him. They are intended to be criticisms of the Government. The complaint is not that he does not announce decisions, but that no decisions are announced by anybody.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
If the hon. Member would read the complaints to which I refer—and, believe me, I have read them—he would see that his statement is entirely inaccurate.
§ Mr. Mander
Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough at this point to make clear how the position of the new Minister of Reconstruction differs or will differ from the position which he himself has been holding up to the present?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
I said a moment ago that I was going to do so. I started by stating what my position was, and I pass at once to the position of my Noble Friend.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Will it assist the right hon. and learned Gentleman if I assure him, as far as I can, that there is no unfriendliness towards him and that what concerns the House is that after all these reports from time to time of predigested and prefabricated proposals, designed and intended to be put together and to assume a certain shape, there should be all this delay in getting particular things done?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
I did not need the assurance of my hon. Friend of the friendly feeling which he, at any rate, and I believe many other hon. Members, have towards me personally, but may I pass to the position of the present Minister of Reconstruction? The difference in his position very largely springs from personal matters. First, he is a man who was known to all of us, even before this war, as a most able administrator. At the Ministry of Food he has won immense prestige, and it would be idle to deny—and a very fortunate thing it is—that he has got the public confidence to an extent to which very few other statesmen in this country have got it. Further, he has this great advantage. His whole tenure of office at the Ministry of Food shows the public that he never made any rash promises. He never promised what was going to be in the shops, unless he was certain he had the stuff there. The next point is that he is, of course, a member of the War Cabinet. He is a person who has no particular political affiliation, and I think this is some advantage for a Minister in charge of reconstruction. The public will feel that he approaches every subject with an open mind and not with a predilection one way or the other. Finally—this, I think, is the most important—the shape of things to come is now clear, and it is quite obvious the time has come, and this Debate shows it, when it is being widely felt that the time for decisions has come and the time for preparatory work is drawing to an end. That is in fact the position to-day, and that is what differentiates, to my mind, the position of to-day from the position as it was a year ago.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
We have not had an opportunity of discussing this new appointment at all in the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must be patient with us if we want to find out what new machinery is being constructed. We are not satisfied with a recital of the personal qualifications of the new Minister. We do not know whether they are to mislead us or a guarantee that something is to be done. We have had an example with the Ministry of Fuel and Power. To use a man with a good reputation as a shock absorber is a well known device.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
I do not see how you can have a guarantee that things are going to be done by the appointment of a Minister or the constitution of a 907 machine. What matters is what way the machine is to be used. [Interruption.] I do not think the hon. Member has been here very much to-day. I have to the best of my ability explained what the machine is. If the House would like it, I will repeat it.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I have heard every word of this Debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was describing the difference between his office and the new one. Would he say what is the staff the Noble Lord has or possibly intends to have to carry out these important functions? Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us that?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
Does the hon. Member mean names of personnel? [Interruption.] A dozen or so, a very small secretariat. I emphasise the fact that the Minister is not running a Ministry. He does not want to run a Ministry. He wants to have a highly hand-picked staff of very competent and experienced people, but it will be very small.
§ Mr. Lindsay
May I put this point? It is the first time we have had a chance to do so. I have a great deal of sympathy with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his position. I understand he had practically no staff, a very small number of staff himself. Is the new Minister to have sufficient staff to be able to deal with this very difficult problem, as has been said, of looking at plans from, say, the Ministry of Health, the Board of Education, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning? What precisely is his function?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
Certainly he is to have a staff sufficient to do that. He is going to have a small staff of about a dozen, but they will be very highly experienced. That is the task they are going to undertake. I do want to make this plain—I thought I had done so, but perhaps I had not—that the plans will be prepared by whatever Minister is concerned, plans for housing by the Minister of Health. As I said, these plans will then be passed round to other Departments to see whether they conflict with their wishes and so on, and then, if there are differences to get rid of, the Minister of Reconstruction will do that. If he thinks that plans are not com- 908 plete, he will say that this, that or the other is something you need to do. That is the scheme. [Interruption.] A co-ordinator, yes, but much more than a co-ordinator. He is also an initiator in the sense that he surveys the whole field and says, "You have not covered that. I want something there. How are you going to deal with this problem?"
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask one question about procedure? I admit the right hon. and learned Gentleman has been very much interrupted, but we are still in this difficult position. We do not know what the constitutional position is. The right hon. and learned Gentleman described at considerable length, but not too long, his own functions. I understand that these functions have now been taken over by the Minister of Reconstruction. What is his position? Do we address Questions to him, or to whom do we address them?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
I am working under and with the Minister of Reconstruction. I will represent his policy in this House, and if the Noble Lord will address any Questions he has to me, I will do my best to deal with them. [Interruption.] It is all very well to say, "Two instead of one doing the same job." It is a pretty difficult and big job to do, and, believe me, an immense amount of work has been done, and if by having two instead of one we can make some little contribution towards getting things better, then, for goodness sake, let us have two instead of one.
I have described as best I can the nature of the functions of the Minister of Reconstruction. May I say this? I am very glad to be working with him at the present time, because I have been accused of being the Minister of Pigeonholes. That is true in the sense that I have got a lot of pigeonholes filled with pigeons, and I want the Minister to call out which pigeon he wants. For instance, we have had a very interesting speech from the hon. Lady the Member for Bodmin (Mrs. Wright) on water. Another subject, I think raised by her, was electricity. She will find that that does not come as a new idea to us. A great deal of work has been done on these topics. If and when it is considered desirable that these topics should be dealt with, we have there a great deal of useful information on them. 909 I am quite certain he will regard it as an essential part of his task to put first things first. That is why the Prime Minister in his Mansion House speech referred to those three fundamental things of food, homes and employment, and I agree with what has been said throughout this Debate of the fundamental importance of these three—employment, food of course, and houses. It is said that we only say that we are doing this for the transition period, and what about the post-transition period? Obviously we want to do this and a good deal more for the post-transition period.
The Amendment for which I came prepared referred to three specific matters. May I say a word or two on these three? First of all was the use of land, the control of land in the public interest. May I remind hon. Members—the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Key) should have known—that we have already accepted the principle of a simpler and speedier method of acquisition of land, and the Minister of Town and Country Planning is, as the Gracious Speech showed, to introduce a Bill for that purpose? We have also said that we will confer far wider powers to purchase the areas needing reconstruction or which have become obsolete or out of date, to purchase them and deal with them as a whole. Finally, we have accepted the 1939 ceiling. I say quite frankly there is ground for other decisions to be made, and I suggest that we shall not be really able to make national planning a reality unless and until we have some control of development for a new purpose, whether in a built-up area or in the country areas. If you want to develop your land for an altogether new purpose, there is, I think, a strong case for saying that you ought to get consent.
Secondly, we must devise some basis of valuation which will give true, and not excessive, values. Thirdly, although I know it is always said, "This is a hare you always chase but never catch," we must, if we can, devise some system of securing betterment. On those matters a great deal of preliminary work has been done. I, for my part, frankly welcome the pressure which is being put on me, and I am sure that the Ministry of Town and Country Planning do, too. But the Uthwatt conclusions are exceedingly controversial. I have received as many 910 violent letters against them from the Labour benches as from the Conservative benches. They have friends in all parties, and enemies in all parties. It is an exceedingly debatable proposition, and it would be a great pity to be driven, just because we have had a good deal of time, to take a thoroughly bad and unwise decision. I am certain that the Minister of Reconstruction will use his powers to secure that the Bill promised for this Session shall be as wide and comprehensive as possible, and that the views of His Majesty's Government shall be put before the House as soon as may be.
I turn to the Beveridge Report. May I remind the House of these uncontroversial facts—if one can be uncontroversial in regard to Beveridge? Sir William Beveridge was charged in June, 1941, with the duty of reporting, and he finished his Report in December, 1942. He took a long time—18 months. He had the benefit of a lot of highly-skilled civil servants assisting him, but—I speak as one who has also prepared reports—he had the great advantage of not having to get their agreement in drafting his Report. It is far more than an outline Report. As he himself said:The many details are neither exhaustive nor final. They are put forward as a basis of discussion.He had the advantage of making three assumptions. He assumed full employment, he assumed a system of children's allowances, and he assumed a comprehensive medical service. Does the House say that the Government, just because Sir William Beveridge is a very eminent person, who knows a good deal about this and has given 18 months to it, should accept this Report, and say, "Sir William Beveridge says so; therefore, it must be all right"? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Nobody would say that. Therefore, we thought it right to go ourselves into his conclusions. Some of us—I speak for myself—do not think of ourselves as being anything like as skilled as Sir William Beveridge. However, we have investigated his conclusions, and I say frankly that often, having investigated a particular course, we have come to the conclusion that he was right; we have spent a great deal of time in proving that he was right. But we have to fill in the details, and we were not able to make assumptions. We have, for instance, to turn 911 that phrase "a comprehensive medical service" into a reality.
Since receiving the Report we have had a year. I think the House knows the system under which we worked. I think the House knows the small part I played in regard to that work, and I think the House knows that I expressed the hope that our White Paper would be ready at the end of this year. I think I shall miss my date! The little demon of the "flu" has been treating us very badly for the last fortnight or so. But I hope that early in the new year I shall be able to produce that White Paper. The House will see that we have covered a vast field of work. In many cases we confirm Beveridge's conclusions, but we do not slavishly copy them; in many cases we have reached our own conclusions, and I think they are better. But I beg those who have been talking glibly about our having murdered the Report, or buried, or mummified it, or who have been saying that our scheme was a thing of shreds and patches, to wait for the White Paper, because what they say simply is not true. Although they are impatient for the White Paper—not half so impatient as I am myself—they will not have to wait much longer, and I ask them to preserve a fair mind until it comes. Why have we thought it right to have a White Paper? First, because we promised it. Secondly, several Members to-day—the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) was one—have said that they wanted us to take the House more into our confidence. One of the few who disagreed with the proposal to issue a White Paper was the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), who thought it rather unorthodox. If the White Paper were a scheme, or a dodge, I should agree with him, but he will see that we are stating proposals to the House without having to state them in that technical jargon which unfortunately has to be used in every Bill, so that people will be able to see what our proposals are. We had a White Paper on the Education Bill, and the House will remember that in a week or so we are to have the Bill. So it will be seen that it does not mean that Members will have to wait a long time for the Bill.
§ Mr. Mander
Are there not to be two White Papers, one on the State medical service and one more general?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
Yes. In regard to the one I am concerned with, I have finished my job; about the others I do not know. The hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) said that he wanted an assurance from me that there would be legislation on these four Reports.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
The hon. Member will realise that it is quite impossible for me or any other Minister to say anything other than what is in the King's Speech. He knows that every word in the King's Speech is carefully thought out. I cannot give any promise. All I can say is that I hope it will be found possible to introduce legislation. I cannot undertake to do so, because that would be for me to take it upon myself to amend the King's Speech.
§ Mr. Barnes
I hope that there will be specific legislation for the purpose of clarifying this position, because unless we get legislation the White Paper becomes a delaying instrument for another Session.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
The King's Speech said that we would decide, in the light of discussions, what specific proposals for legislation can be brought forward at this stage. That is what the White Paper says, and the hon. Member will realise that I cannot possibly undertake further than that. It is exactly the same principle the hon. Member asked me regarding a White Paper dealing with a comprehensive medical service. There is an additional cause for a White Paper. It is a matter of intimate concern not only to hospitals and clinics and that sort of thing, but to the ordinary man and woman in the street—the little man who has so often no one to speak for him and no organisation he can approach. In that way you can begin to find out what he wants or what he is thinking by using the 913 non-technical language of the White Paper setting out your scheme and having a discussion in this House, this House representing everybody. The Minister of Health authorises me to say that the White Paper will be available shortly.
There is the final question of workmen's compensation. May I add a word or two on the question of employment?
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
A large number of us want to hear something about compensation, and cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman say a word about it?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
I must apologise for going on too long. The Minister of Health reminds me that he has recently succeeded to his office, and with characteristic energy he is not prepared to take on trust anything that anybody else has done, and the House will think it proper that he should go through all these matters himself and satisfy himself that all these conclusions are desirable. With regard to workmen's compensation, again we hope to have a White Paper. We desire to obtain the opinion of the House on what is going to be a new line of approach altogether. There are a certain number of proposals in the Beveridge Report which are admirable, and there are certain others which have given us a great deal of worry, for instance, the proposal that single men should, over a considerable initial period, receive a rate so much below the maximum at present available, the proposal that the industrial pensions should be related to the loss of earning capacity without regard to family responsibilities, the proposal to continue lump-sum payments in fatal cases, and special treatment of so-called hazardous trades. All this seemed to us, to put it mildly, a very disputable matter, and therefore we want to put forward a scheme and are anxious that the House should have an opportunity of considering, impartially and in a balanced way, the proposals as a whole. It is a very important matter, which vitally concerns the working people of this country, and I hope that when we bring this forward the House will give us the benefit of its adjudication in an impartial way.
§ Mr. Bevan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that we are to have three White Papers. There is an obvious reason for a separate White 914 Paper on the medical services, but the first White Paper on the general proposals of the Government concerning the Beveridge scheme and the third White Paper on workmen's compensation are so obviously interlocked that they might go together.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
It clearly does not matter very much, but I agree with the hon. Member that, whether they are within one cover or not, we should not consider one without considering details of the other. I had meant to deal with that and saw that time was getting on and that I had been too long. And now just a word about plans for employment, I do not believe that any Government in the world could make plans which would dispense with the necessity for the people of this country, employers and employed alike, showing initiative and enterprise in work. Do not let us think that anybody who may plan for us in this way will not be willing to contribute all this to the full. On the principle of taking first things first, let us consider the employment plans which will arise following upon the defeat of Germany. We cannot, of course, say what the position will be, but it seems reasonable to assume that there will be a continuation of hostilities against Japan. In that event we made it quite plain that we are going to bring to bear upon the Japanese war all the resources in men, material and production that we can. Nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of that primary obligation. Therefore, the task during the transition period, as far as employment is concerned, is to devote that surplus portion which cannot be utilised against Japan to peace-time activities and to see that the switch-over from war to peace activities to satisfy the needs of people in this country and abroad is carried out with as little disturbance as possible. That in the re-tooling of factories there will be some temporary dislocation I do not doubt, but the essence of good planning is that you make that temporary dislocation as little as possible. When we have finished that transitional period when we probably shall have to keep a considerable number of Armed Forces in Germany and on the Continent, and an Army fighting against Japan, and utilise in the way indicated our surplus production capacity, there will come a time when the Japanese war is ended, and then we shall get to the stage when, for 915 some years, there will be an immense demand for consumption goods and for capital goods such as houses. Then will come the question as to the permanent provision with regard to employment. There are so many factors at the present time which we do not know. We do not know what the international arrangements or the Dominion arrangements are likely to be.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
It obviously does not mean that you cannot have any planning. It is no good planning if you do not have some idea in mind of the circumstances of your planning. That is the whole trend of my argument, if the hon. Member had done me the courtesy to listen.
§ Sir W. Jowitt
In the transition period you can see and you can realise that that is your first task, and during that transition period all sorts of new details will arise; you will see through the glass, and it will be less dark than now, and you can make permanent plans. I hope we shall all of us, on all sides of the House, not think it necessary to sink back into a period of mass unemployment or regard workers as unemployable. We must all realise that we have to do the utmost we can to prevent such a thing happening again. Let us get out of the idea of the old technique when we used to say, "This was good enough for my father, and it is good enough for me." We have to be up and active and virile and face a new situation. If it is a fact that our machinery, our plant, or our organisation is inefficient or not up-to-date, we have to get it efficient and up-to-date. If, as has been said, our plant and technical efficiency are as good as anywhere in the world, lot us have unity of purpose and resolve so to work that efficient machinery and plant that we get over our difficulties. I will not believe that we need be even a poorer country after the war, but I do believe that we are bound to go through periods of great difficulty which will demand the help and support of men of good will from all sections and all parties.
§ Mr. Bowles
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said it had never been his job to announce decisions. Will he tell the House whether Lord Woolton will have the duty or the chance of announcing decisions?
§ Sir W. Jowitt
I should assume that my noble Friend, by arrangement with the various Departmental Ministers, will announce decisions. As far as machinery is concerned, he obviously will.
§ Mr. Barnes
The Amendment was put down to enable Members to state their views to the Government and for the Government to state their attitude. While certain aspects are not altogether satisfactory and we may have to return, in the meantime I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Ordered, "That the Debate be now adjourned.—[Mr. Boulton.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon the next Sitting Day.