Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a further sum, not exceeding £40, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the charges for the following services connected with the Location of Industry, for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1945, namely:
|Class VI, Vote 1, Board of Trade||£10|
|Class V, Vote 8, Ministry of Labour and National Service||£10|
|Class I, Vote 24, Ministry of Town and Country Planning||£10|
|Class I, Vote 25, Scottish Home Department||£10|
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Dalton)
We had a Debate on 8th December on the subject of the location of industry in connection with the Debate on the Address. That Debate was initiated by Amendments put on the Paper, it is interesting to note, by Conservative Members from Scotland, from the North-East coast and from South Wales. I replied on that occasion for the Government. I gave some indication of the Government's policy regarding the Development Areas, as they are now very generally and very properly called. I note the fact that Amendments were put down on that occasion by Conservative Members because that illustrates the fact that this is now an all-Party interest. It is no longer Members of the Labour Party only, as it tended to be in days gone by, who draw attention to the importance of this subject. [Interruption.] That is a historical fact which can be verified by reference to HANSARD. I welcome the fact that this is now an all-Party interest. [Interruption.] I was hoping to give the Debate a harmonious start. A fortnight ago or thereabouts the Government published a White Paper dealing with their employment policy. I hope it will not cause inharmonious cries if I say that this White Paper has been received with remarkable friendliness in the Press—I 1372 hope this will be allowed to pass as a matter of fact—ranging from the "Daily Herald" at one end to the "Daily Telegraph" at the other, with all intermediate shades of opinion echoing general approval for the Government's policy. That is very encouraging to those of us who had something to do with framing the policy in the White Paper. There is, I understand, very shortly to be a full Debate on the Employment White Paper and I hope that that Debate will extend over several days. Many of my colleagues will naturally take part, in so far as their departmental interests are concerned. But I think it is convenient—and I welcome the opportunity of saying something to-day—to gather opinion from various sections of the Committee on the particular question of the location of industry.
May I begin by clearing up with you, Mr. Williams, a question of procedure? We are on a Supply Day, and references to new legislation will be out of Order. On the other hand, although later on we shall no doubt need new legislation in order to implement a number of matters mentioned in Chapter III of the White Paper, "The balanced distribution of industry and, labour", yet I submit that there is no need for that reason to bar discussion on any of these proposals, because all the things proposed to be done can be done now under war-time powers and emergency legislation of one kind or another. Later on, when war-time powers will tend to lapse, it will be necessary to replace some of them by permanent legislation. As we now have the power to do these things, I submit that it is in Order for the Debate to range over the full field of this chapter in the White Paper without any limitation being imposed under the Rule governing the discussion of new legislation.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
This is obviously rather a difficult matter to decide now, and I think that I had better leave it to the general sense of the Committee. If on a Committee day such as this we allow any Member to bring up any details of legislation which he may wish to propose, the Rule about discussing legislation will become useless. I suggest that we should to-day discuss the White Paper with reasonable width of view, but that we should not go too far into what may be done after the 1373 war by legislation. Some things can be done now by means of Orders. They can be discussed, but I hope that we shall not have long statements on post-war legislation.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
While I entirely agree with your Ruling, may I point out the difficulty in which the Committee is placed and which I have pointed out before? It is a difficulty about which a Ruling from the Chair is really required. The Rule about discussing matters requiring legislation is now almost out of date because everything can be done under Defence Regulations. When the Rule was first introduced no provision was made for that. I submit that the Prime Minister or Mr. Speaker should come to a decision to have some alteration of the Rule for the purposes of the war in view of the fact that anything can be done under Regulations.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
No one realises that more than I do, but this is obviously not the occasion for me to give a definite Ruling on that matter.
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals)
The Minister says that the White Paper can be carried out by Defence Regulations, but I would remind him that any such action would have to be connected with war policy. The Government are not entitled to make general legislation under Defence Regulations, and the policy in the White Paper raises questions of general legislation. The proposals relating to the location of industry may include places like Jarrow, and they will require legislation in the future. We cannot discuss such legislation without the widest Ruling as to the scope of the Debate. I suggest that one way out of the difficulty will be for the Government to get their Supply Day and then to move the Adjournment of the House. Another way would be for the Government to get their Supply Day and then to move a Motion confirming the White Paper. Either of these ways would enable us to have a wide Debate. If we are confined to the Debate on Supply it will be artificially stifled.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I said a few minutes ago that it would seem to be wise to allow a reasonably wide discussion on the White Paper without tying ourselves down too closely to definite matters of legislation which will be bound to come on later. May I put it in this way? 1374 Would it not be possible for Members to give their ideas on the White Paper as to how it might be worked out without committing themselves too much to details of legislation? I appreciate the difficulty, but I suggest that we can probably get through the Debate in a fairly wide way in that manner.
§ Mr. J. J. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
It might be useful for the Committee and you, Mr. Williams, to remember that this matter applies to the Barlow Report as well as to the White Paper, because some sections of the Barlow Report deal with proposals for legislation to which we cannot refer unless we have the widest discussion.
§ Mr. Dalton
I made my appeal to you, Mr. Williams, with the object of getting a wide discussion. My whole purpose was to seek to ensure, by getting your view beforehand, that Members who desired to speak on matters relating to the location of industry section of the White Paper would not be unduly restricted. This is the section which I shall explain and defend on behalf of the Government. I think that we can let the Debate proceed freely, and if at any point difficulties of Order arise, you will, I am sure, keep an eye on us. I appreciate your desire that the Debate should move freely, and I think that hon. Members may be reassured in the light of what you have said. The general Debate on the White Paper is not to-day. This is a Debate on the location of industry, and any spokesman for the Government would desire to explain and secure the approval of the Committee for the proposals in the White Paper, and receive guidance, assistance and suggestions from the Committee.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Would it not suit the convenience of the Minister if he chose his own line in introducing the matter to the Committee without linking it up with any particular part of the White Paper or with the White Paper as a whole?
§ Mr. Dalton
I have said that we are not concerned to-day with the whole of the White Paper. I propose to speak about that section which begins in Chapter III on page 10, "The Balanced, Distribution of Industry and Labour," and the proposals of the Government which 1375 are set out in paragraphs 20–30. I propose to defend the proposals, for which I am jointly responsible with my colleagues. The principal proposals which t desire to submit to the Committee, and to get their views upon, are those for securing that the Special Areas, or the Distressed Areas as we called them before the war, shall in future be removed from the map, and that Development Areas, as I myself have christened them, are properly developed by industrial reinforcements and additional developments, and are duly diversified as regards their industrial composition, so that they are no longer left dependent, as they have been in the past, on one or two or a small number of industries, like coal, shipbuilding, iron and steel, and so on.
The Government's view is that in order to achieve full employment in these areas, as well as in the rest of the country, it is necessary to proceed along three lines of approach. The first is to do whatever we can to assist the basic prosperity and the full employment afforded by those industries on which these areas particularly depend. I do not speak of that today, because that is not the location of industry, but anything we can do to assist the coal, the shipbuilding, the iron and steel and other industries to achieve full employment, each in its own field, will help us in this problem. In the second place it is clear that the general policy of the Government to maintain the purchasing power of the community will have beneficial effects throughout the country, including these areas which we are considering; but that is general financial policy and I am not speaking of that today.
What I wish to direct attention to is the third line of attack, intended by the Government, and found in Paragraph 25 of the White Paper:By so influencing the location of new enterprises as to diversify the industrial composition of areas which are particularly vulnerable to unemployment.That is the essence of the whole matter, and it is upon that and upon the measures designed to achieve it, that I suggest the Committee should focus their attention. In Paragraph 26 are set out a number of separate proposals, and I will briefly summarise them and comment upon them. Here I may perhaps make a rather obvious point. When we talk 1376 about "the location of industry" unfortunately, for good or ill, most of our industry is located already. It is only in the field of the construction of new factories, or extensions to existing factories, that the Government can influence the location of industry at all. Existing buildings, until they either fall down or become obsolescent, must remain located where they are now. The power of influencing location is confined to new factories and extensions, and the Government in future will expect industrialists who have any important schemes in mind—I am not now talking of small extensions to factories, but of large extensions or the erection of new buildings—to let us know beforehand what they propose. I hasten to add that so far we have not been disappointed and that industrialists are accepting this new attitude of the Government. The Government will expect industrialists to come and discuss in a friendly way with them what they intend, and the Government will be able in many directions to offer advice, guidance and suggestions as to the future location of their industries.
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
Does not the White Paper go much farther than saying they expect industrialists to inform the Government when they intend to extend their factories? At the top of page 12 it says industrialists "will be required," and that means compelled.
§ Mr. Dalton
Yes. The Government will expect them to do it, and, if they do not do it, the Government will take other measures. I wanted to put it diplomatically. Industrialists will in future be required to tell the Government what they intend to do and to discuss it with them. What is stated in the White Paper can be read by any hon. Member. In the future the Government are going to take permanent power to prohibit the establishment of a new factory in any district where they consider that serious disadvantage would arise from further industrial development there. That power we have now. We have it under two heads: in regard to small areas we have it under the town and country planning powers, and particularly under the Act of 1943. In addition we have powers through industrial building permits, and of those I shall speak later. No industrialist can build a factory to-day, or make 1377 extensions, without getting an industrial building permit which is granted by the Ministry of Works on the advice of the Board of Trade. Therefore, we have now this power which the Barlow Report recommended we should take. I will say more on the Barlow Report in a moment, but that will come in more conveniently later. On the other hand, when industrialists consult in a friendly manner with the Government as to their future plans the Government will be able to use their influence, which is of many kinds, to steer new factory development into the areas where, on a broad view of the national interest, new industrial development should take place. That is a most essential power which, in the past, has been lacking.
Let me add this in relation to defence. In future we must never allow an area which is essential to the defence of the country to fall into a state of decay, misery and mass unemployment, an area on which we should depend in the event of further threats to our security. I refer to areas upon which we are dependent for shipbuilding, munition making, or iron and steel, or for coal, which is a fundamental munition both of peace and war. We must never allow such areas again to fall into a state of decay, unemployment and depression. It is stated in the White Paper that the Government, in deciding to which areas to steer new factory developments, will take account not only of industrial and social but also of strategic and defence considerations.
Let me now run over briefly the further means by which the Government intend to assist these Development Areas. It is the intention of the Government that factories engaged in arms production in the Development Areas, where this arms production will be required as part of the permanent defence arrangements of the country, shall, so far as that is practicable, continue to produce munitions after the war. Evidently how much can be done under this head will depend upon the total armaments programme which it is necessary in the circumstances at the end of the war to set on foot and to carry on as a permanent part of the defence of the country; but, so far as it is practicable, we shall keep arms factories now in the Development Areas working to full capacity. I am not talking of keeping them on a care and maintenance basis or 1378 of their working only to partial capacity, but, in so far as they can be kept working to full capacity as part of the permanent programme of arms production, a preference will be given by the Government to these areas in the planning of post-war arms production. Where, on the other hand—and this is important—it is clear that an arms factory in a Development Area will not be required as part of the post-war arms production programme, then the sooner it is released from arms production the better. The more quickly it can be turned over to production for civilian purposes, ahead of comparable arms factories in other areas, where the danger of unemployment is less the better it will be not merely for that Development Area but for the country as a whole.
Therefore, in summary, our policy with regard to arms factories in development areas, in so far as they can be embodied in the arms production programme, is to give a preference to those areas, and otherwise to give them the quickest possible release in order to enable them to switch over to production for civilian purposes.
§ Mr. Dalton
If there are none in Scotland then there is no problem, but as a matter of fact there are many there. For security reasons I shall not mention the names of factories in any particular places and I hope that hon. Members will recognise the wisdom of that. This is not the time when we should parade the names of factories, particularly of new buildings, which would be of as much interest to the enemy as to ourselves, and, therefore, I ask leave to be excused from saying anything about particular places. If my hon. Friend thinks there are not any in Scotland then his travels in Scotland have been limited in scope.
The next point to which I wish to direct attention concerns the industrial building permits. So far as new building is concerned,To the extent that existing factory buildings are insufficient to secure a proper balance of industry in the Development Areas the Government will give priority to these areas in the grant of licences for the building of new factories and extensions of existing factories.That will be found in Sub-section (c) of paragraph 26 on page 12 of the White 1379 Paper. I repeat what I said on 8th December, that this is the most powerful lever which the Government dispose of with regard to the future location of industry—that no new factory can be established without a licence from the Government. We have a proposal under (d) regarding factory premises for smaller firms. This relates to the trading estates. The Government will continue the policy of erecting in Development Areas factories in individual or collective units for sale or lease. The trading estates were one of the developments of the inter-war period. In my view they were never carried as far as they should have been, but they afford great advantages, particularly to small men who do not want to sink a large part of their capital in bricks and mortar. The Government have put up in different parts of the country trading estates of varying sizes in which standard factories, modern, well-designed, well-lighted, have been built, and into those factories a number of new businesses have gone, and it is our intention that there shall be more trading estates in those areas and more widely-scattered trading estates. So far the tendency has been to have one for each area, but we do not think that is enough, and we shall aim at a larger number and a wider dispersion of trading estates.
References are also made to the placing of Government contracts in those areas and to financial assistance for new businesses establishing themselves there. I need not dwell more on that at this stage. Detailed particulars of the financial assistance and the manner in which it will be furnished will be given to Parliament later. These are at present under discussion between my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and certain of my colleagues and myself. It would be premature at the moment to say anything further on this matter.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
I would ask my right hon. Friend to develop the phrase "positive side of the Government policy". If I were assured that the matter of finance was to be raised later, I would not raise any further question at the moment.
§ Sir Herbert Holdsworth (Bradford, South)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that, in giving this financial assistance to new firms just starting, he will also give countervailing assistance, by cheap loans, to businesses which are seriously menaced by these new competitors?
§ Mr. Dalton
That is entirely opposed to the expansionist policy of the Government, but this is getting on rather wider ground and perhaps that can be debated when we take the White Paper as a whole. But I would leave no doubt in my hon. Friend's mind that this is a specific proposal for Government assistance for firms which show good prospects on a commercial basis and are set up in Development Areas. That does not mean that they will be set up at the expense of other people, and no one would think that, unless a very old-fashioned, pessimistic and restrictionist view of the position were taken. We have all, I hope, gone beyond that now.
At this stage I wish to say a few words about the Barlow Commission's Report because they reported in the early days of this war, and there has been much discussion about their various proposals. I want to say, briefly, what the Government's attitude is towards the Barlow Report, but, first, I would like to pay my tribute to the work done by that Commission. They produced a great deal of very valuable statistical information and drew attention not merely to the narrow economic, but to the wider social and strategical, considerations in regard to the distribution of industry, and they made a valuable contribution to national thought on this matter. The Government accept—I use my words carefully here—the main ideas of the Barlow Report, but we shall apply these ideas rather differently from the manner suggested in that Report, for a very obvious reason. We are now dealing with quite different conditions from those which the Barlow Commission had to consider. They wrote their report in time of peace, although in the shadow of an impending war. We have now to act in time of war, though with a prospect of peace and post-war conditions. We have at our disposal to-day far more powerful weapons than the Barlow Commission could have contemplated would have been in the hands of the Government, for influencing industrial location. More than this, we are now working within a widely 1381 different industrial pattern from that which the Barlow Commission had before them, inasmuch as a large number of Government factories have been built in various parts of the country since they reported, and these factories have considerably altered the balance of industry in the different areas.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
Could I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Barlow Commission was not mainly concerned with the redistribution of industry, whether the main idea of the Barlow Commission was the restriction of industry in particular areas, and whether that idea is only so far accepted to assist the development of the backward areas?
§ Mr. Dalton
I will indicate to the Committee in a moment some of the ideas contained in the Barlow Report which the Government accept and intend to apply. I do not know how many of my hon. Friends have read the Barlow Report, but some, perhaps, read it some time ago and have not lately refreshed their minds with it. Others, no doubt, have read it more lately. The Barlow Report is not a unanimous Report. There was a majority Report by 10 of the members and a minority Report by three of the members. Of the majority of 10, three put in a separate note of reservation, and of the minority of three one put in a dissentient memorandum so that, in truth, it would be right to say that there is not one Barlow Report but four. The members were not unanimous, but none the less, there are certain matters on which they all agree.
First of all, none of them believed that we had now got the best distribution of industry and population in the country that was possible. None of them took so complacent a view as that. In the second place none of them thought that we could get the right distribution of industry in the country without continuous and well-directed Government intervention. There is no comfort in the Barlow Report—in any section of it—for anyone who thinks that, if you leave things alone, all will come out for the best. That is rejected by all of them unanimously, whatever their other differences. The minority Barlow Report asks for a new Government Department to be set up to look after the planning of these matters. The majority do not ask for a new Govern- 1382 ment Department; they ask only for the setting up of a Board. I think the minority were right and the majority wrong. [An HON. MEMBER: "More jobs."] This new Department has already been created. The Ministry of Town and Country Planning is a response to the proposal of the minority on that matter, and let me here say that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning and I, and our staffs—and I say this particularly to the right hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), who raised this point at Question Time the other day—work very closely together, and I do not think there is any ground of divergency between his Department and mine as to what is necessary to be done in this field.
The two main ideas in the Barlow Report were, first of all, what is sometimes called the "decongestion of congested areas"—the spreading out of those very congested areas over wider areas. The second main idea was the encouragement of a reasonable balance of industrial development as between the various regions in the country and the suitable diversification of industry within each region. These two ideas are accepted by the Government. The first is primarily a matter for the Minister of Town and Country Planning and he is dealing with it, and could give account to this Committee of what he is doing in the matter. But that is not primarily an industrial matter and, therefore, not primarily my concern. The second point is much more the concern of myself and some of my other right hon. Friends in the Government. It is the reasonable balance of industrial development in the country. How to establish industrial stability and steady employment is particularly the concern of the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Labour.
The Barlow Report also proposed the imposition of a ban in certain areas. I have already spoken of that. We have powers to enforce that ban now and we reserve the right to use those powers, after proper consultation, as I have already indicated, by declining to give industrial building permits in any particular areas. These industrial building permits must continue for some time to come. It is idle for anyone to think that this particular form of Government Regulation 1383 can be swept away over night, or can be swept away when we have merely got the surrender of Germany. It cannot, perhaps, be swept away even when we have the surrender of the Japanese enemy also. I would like, as clearly as I can, to put to the Committee why that must be so. For some time after the war building labour and materials will be in very short supply in relation to the immense demand there will be for new buildings of all kinds and, therefore, it is essential that we should have a national plan and be able to determine priorities in regard to the use of building labour and materials in the national interest. All over the country there will be an urgent need for new houses. That will be a predominant need in the minds of the soldiers returning from the war, and of their wives and relatives, and of many others, who have been living under cramped and miserable housing conditions for many years past. All over the country, in rural and urban areas, in Development Areas and other areas where industry is well diversified now, there will be an urgent need for new houses.
But in many parts of the country there will be no such urgent need for new industrial development and the question we have to ask ourselves is, Where, in what parts of the country, can we justify the use of some of our scarce building labour and material for new industrial buildings? I think the answer to that is pretty clear. Generally speaking, we should, after the war, build new factories only in regions where they are not enough factories to furnish employment for the population. In those regions we should build factories as well as houses, but, elsewhere, where there is sufficient factory accommodation to furnish employment for the population, there, surely, we should concentrate on the building of houses and not factories. In those areas where there is sufficient factory accommodation to employ the population, the problem will be to secure, as munition work falls off, that in those factories already built and now existing, there shall be other work available. The problem there is not to build new factories, but to see that the existing factories are kept working at full capacity.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain his statement 1384 that there will be a shortage of building labour and materials after the war? Surely, he is speaking in terms of possible unemployment?
§ Mr. Dalton
No, I am thinking in terms of building factories and houses in the right places. There will be a great shortage of new houses and, in some areas, of new factories. That, surely, is clear. There will be a shortage in relation to the demand which will be urgent and nation-wide.
Sir Alfred Belt (St. Pancras, South-East)
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there will be enough factory space in London to employ its population. I rather understand there is a tendency to forbid further development in London.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am anxious not to get on to local instances, even in London, because that would incite all Members to rise and put questions. I have stated in connection with bans or restrictions on new factory development that that power would he used by the Government with great care and discretion. The Barlow Report recommended the prohibition of new factory development in London. We do not accept that as it stands. We shall consider each case on its merits, but I say, quite frankly, that London is not one of the areas where there is urgent need for factory development. The most urgent need is elsewhere. I would add that it is no solution merely to provide new houses for unemployed people. You must provide work for these people as well. Therefore, it would be wrong, in areas where there is need for factory development, to concentrate unduly on the building of houses and to ignore the need for new industrial buildings. I hope I have spent enough time on paragraph 26 of the White Paper—
§ Mr. Buchanan
Am I to take it that the housing policy is to be qualified by all sorts of limitations and linked with this and that other policy? [Interruption.] I do not know why people speak as if Ministers were people descended from the clouds. No matter how hellish housing conditions are, unless the policy to build new houses is linked up with other policies, there are to be no new houses. That is what the right hon. Gentleman did say—that it was no use building houses for unemployed people. He pro- 1385 ceeded to say that unless housing was linked up with employment, there would be no need for houses. The Government have clearly in their minds at what stage houses are to be built, but apart from whether they provide industries in the City of Glasgow, or not, I say that conditions there are so hellish that the Government must go on with housing.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am not in the least bit touchy where my hon. Friend is concerned, but he did not hear what I said.
§ Mr. Dalton
My hon. Friend did not hear what I said, and therefore, I will say it again. I said that there would be an urgent need for new houses, everywhere, all over the country, in urban and rural areas, in Development Areas and in developed areas. In Glasgow, therefore, among other places, there will be a need for new houses. I said it, and I meant it. But there will not be a need for new industrial buildings everywhere, and where there is not a need for new industrial buildings we can concentrate on houses. Where there is a need for new industrial buildings, we can build houses and also build new factories. I said that it is no solution of our problem to provide good houses for unemployed men. I repeat that. You want good houses, and employment for those who live in them.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I want good houses and I want employment, and I am not going to be fobbed off with housing being linked up with something else. The human demand for houses has to be solved and it must not be fobbed off for some other reasons.
§ Mr. Dalton
I have said my say, and the Committee either agree with it or not. Nothing is to be gained by saying it a third time. The hon. Member can read it to-morrow in HANSARD, and he will agree or disagree.
§ Captain Duncan (Kensington, North)
Will it be necessary to have a building licence, for an extension or an adaptation of a building?
§ Mr. Dalton
If the extension is large, "Yes." If it is small, "No." It is a matter of practical commonsense. Now may I say a word on paragraph 27?
§ Captain Strickland (Coventry)
Before the Minister leaves paragraph 26, will he 1386 say whether he has in mind the compulsory shifting of labour from place to place? Just as he proposes to compel the manufacturer to put up his factory in a certain place, is he also prepared to take power to shift men from one district to another?
§ Mr. J. J. Lawson
Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that the compulsory shifting of labour has taken place over long years, and that we know it very well, too?
§ Mr. Dalton
I am not discussing that matter to-day. We are talking about industrial location. Questions concerning labour come under the Department of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, who will, no doubt, take part in the Debate later. I am anxious not to stray beyond the subject of the location of industry.
I want to say a word about communications by road, rail and sea, to and through these Development Areas. Paragraph 27 is a useful one, to which I would direct the attention of hon. Members. Reference is made to many ways of stimulating development in those areas and of improving communications, including docks and harbours, as well as roads and railways. I myself, having studied those areas in the past in some detail, am convinced that one of the most necessary measures to be taken to get full employment and prosperity, in the areas of which we are speaking, is the improvement of communications by road, rail and sea, and through harbour development, and so on. I am in touch, particularly since this White Paper has come out, and I have had discussions with, my Noble Friend the Minister of War Transport, and I am asking him to give special consideration to these matters. He has promised to do so, and his officials and mine are in contact.
The new bridge across the Severn has already been announced as having a high priority in the Government's post-war road programme—the new road bridge to be constructed well below Gloucester. I think that will have very great importance for South Wales and it will be a big new inducement for industries to settle in South Wales. It will help to break down that isolation which has necessarily existed in the past, for geographical reasons, between South Wales and England. This is a very important step forward. I will 1387 give my Noble Friend my full support in pressing on that project. There are many other developments in communications, into which I will not go in detail, but I attach very great importance to them, and the Government will do their utmost to press them forward. There is also great need to improve communications between South Wales and the Midlands; there is too much isolation between them. I am not prepared to discuss the actual lines of roads and so on, but I am discussing with the Ministry of War Transport methods by which we can improve communications between South Wales and the Midlands and put each of them upon the other's map. I will not go further into the details beyond saying that each of the Development Areas has its own urgent problems for improving communications, and that this matter must be actively pursued.
§ Sir R. W. Smith (Aberdeen, Central)
The Minister said just now that he did not intend to deal with specific cases, but he has just referred to the specific case of South Wales. May I ask him what is to be the position about the proposed road bridge over the Forth?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The position is becoming a little difficult for the Minister. He said he was not going into details, but it is obvious that there are exceptions occasionally, in such matters as these. I suggest that it might be advisable now for the Minister to finish his speech and that hon. Members refrain from making interruptions with regard to their particular areas; otherwise, I am afraid we shall have very few speakers in the Debate.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I want to put a point, arising out of what you have just said, Mr. Williams. One of the most valuable things in a Debate like this is to be able to interrupt and cross-examine a Minister. That is frequently of great value because, in essence, it is not the particular speech which matters so much as what the Minister means by it. One of our most important functions is that of frequent interruption, because the explanations we get of points as the Minister goes along are most valuable.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That is why I allowed the hon. Member to make a fairly long series of interruptions just now. I intended to suggest that we should not 1388 have too many details of schemes affecting this or that area. The Minister has had a considerable number of interruptions, and I suggest, our time being limited, that it is a process which might go too far.
§ Mr. Dalton
It is difficult to steer a way between being quite general and getting bogged in a great mass of detail. I was endeavouring, in this particular case, to give an illustration of general policy. That illustration, moreover, was taken from a public announcement that has already been made, as to the intentions of the Government to get on with the Severn bridge. I will endeavour not to excite too much localised cross-examination by not referring to particular localities. I would now draw attention to paragraph 28.
§ Colonel Greenwell (The Hartlepools)
I hesitate to interrupt the Minister, but there is a very important point in paragraph 27 on which he has not touched, and upon which, I am certain, many of us would like further information. It is with regard to the improvement of dock and harbour installations. I would like to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that certain docks are in the hands of authorities of various kinds, or of railway companies, and to ask him whether the improvements proposed will take place only at the actual request of the authorities concerned. It has been the practice of railway companies and others to neglect certain forms of communication in which they were interested, if they felt so disposed, and that practice has acted inimically to the interests of the populations living in the areas concerned.
§ Mr. Dalton
That is, obviously, a matter of detail with which the Ministry of Transport is primarily concerned. I am merely concerned to improve communications to and through the areas in question. No doubt my Noble Friend will pay attention to what the hon. and gallant Member has just said. I was about to direct attention to paragraph 28, which indicates that the measures required in order to bring about full employment in the various areas concerned will vary, according to the character of the area, and from time to time. It is definitely stated here that there can be no final list of Development Areas, because areas which have regained their prosperity by the aid of the measures we are contemplating will 1389 be able to be removed from the list—and what a happy day that will be for all those concerned in those areas—while other areas which we have not thought of in the past, perhaps, as needing special stimulus and development, will come into the list for economic reasons, perhaps only for a short time, in order that a stimulus can be provided there. There can be no fixes and final list. The aim of the Government is to develop any of those Development Areas which, for the time being, is in need of additional stimulus. The test of the success of the Government's policy will be that unemployment in any particular area concerned shall be brought down to whatever is the national level for the time being, and that it shall not have abnormal unemployment, in excess of the national average, while that average must be reduced to the very lowest figure which the general policy of the Government can bring about. It is with this level that the Development Area will have its unemployment figures compared over a period of years.
I will now pass on to answer a question which is sometimes asked by some of my hon. Friends, that is whether the policy set out in the White Paper is new, and whether there is anything in this policy which is different from, and better than, the policy pursued in the Special Areas, which achieved not very much, as compared with our hopes, between the two wars. That question is often asked. There were, as Chief Commissioners in the Special Areas, several very able and devoted men. Sir Malcolm Stewart said many wise, true and forceful things, and later on Sir George Gillett did his best, in the years before the war. Those Commissioners made appeals to industrialists—"appeals" is the right word—but they were only able to offer inducements which, to be quite frank, were of no interest to large firms employing large numbers of people. The inducements they offered were of more interest to small concerns, particularly on trading estates. In those years before the war, industrialists used to be able to put up a new factory anywhere they liked—that is the plain truth—in spite of all the appeals made by the Commissioners and Ministers in this House.
§ Mr. Dalton
That is not the case to-day, and it will not be the case during the currency of the powers to which I have been referring. The situation, from that point of view, is completely changed. I would remind the Committee briefly of the trend of industrial development in those years during which Special Areas legislation was operative. I am quoting figures from the Board of Trade Annual Survey. In 1936, 551 new factories were built, of which only eight were in the four Special Areas, in spite of all the appeals that were made. In 1937, there were 541 new factories, only 17 of which were in the Special Areas, and there were 237 factory extensions in that year, of which only five were in the Special Areas.
§ Mr. MacLaren (Burslem)
Could the Minister correlate two matters, and say how many of those factories were attracted to the low rateable areas—because many of the factories escaped from high rateable areas?
§ Mr. Dalton
There are all sorts of reasons, but what I want to contrast is what was happening in the years before the war under the Special Areas legislation with what we are proposing should come about now, and are already bringing about now. I am quoting figures to show that, in fact, the vast majority of these new factories and extensions to existing factories were made outside the Special Areas, in spite of the inducements and in spite of the powers under the Special Areas Act. If I may quote from the Barlow Report a very striking figure, five-sixths of the new factories established between 1932 and 1936 were in Greater London.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am only giving the facts. We can all debate the reasons. But that was a very bad state of affairs and I am sure that no one will defend the facts which I am now summarising.
§ Sir John Jarvis (Guildford)
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the figures beyond 1937—say 1938 and 1939?
§ Mr. Dalton
No. I have not come prepared with any more of these statistics. There was a very slight improvement in later years, but the broad trend was for new factory development to by- 1391 pass the Special Areas altogether. There was a tendency for an enormous concentration of new development in the London area, so that, if there is even now a shortage of factory accommodation in London, that must be due to the unnecessary entry of new labour to London from Special Areas. There is a vast difference between the situation between the two wars and now, in two respects. First, the Government are committed, in this White Paper, to a new far-reaching policy designed to secure employment not only for the country as a whole but in these Development Areas also. No Government previously has committed itself along these lines. In the second place, although I am not going to mention names, new factories are to-day being built predominantly in the Development Areas. That is where new factory construction is taking place and will continue to take place predominantly.
We are seeking to weave all our new industrial development into a national pattern. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Production is here, and I wish to pay a tribute to him for the new policy he was responsible for instituting in 1942. He instituted it for war reasons, but it has great value also for peace purposes. My right hon. Friend found in his duties in connection with production for the war, that there was a very acute shortage of labour in a number of industrial areas in the Midlands, London and elsewhere, in spite of all the direction of labour that was taking place under the great powers of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. Certain areas were becoming congested with war production. There was an acute shortage of labour. On the other hand there were other areas—again substantially the old Special Areas, the Development Areas we are now speaking of—where there was labour available. Therefore my right hon. Friend gradually instituted a scheme whereby contracts, and such new industrial building as could be carried out at this time, should be steered towards these areas where there was, not a surplus, but a less acute shortage, of labour than in the older industrial regions.
§ Mr. Dalton
Yes, but the turning of the tide, the change from feeding the 1392 fat and starving the lean, began in 1942. It began for war reasons under the impulse of my right hon. Friend, and I am paying my tribute to him for that important turning point. We are now going further along the same road and are going to carry this policy on into the peace. We are going to continue to steer new factory construction into areas where it is necessary to furnish employment for the people in those areas. That is the whole essence of the policy I am defending to-day in the Committee.
Apart from the reasons you have given, Mr. Williams, for not mentioning particular places, there is another reason, that of security, why it is undesirable. I have a list here in order, to refresh my own mind, but it would be most undesirable for me to give names of places where new industrial development has been taking place under the scheme instituted by my right hon. Friend and myself, as that would be an indication of suitable targets for what is left of the Luftwaffe. But I will say this, and I say it with full knowledge of the facts, and with full knowledge of some facts which cannot be made public at present, that there is a steadily lengthening list of new standard factories, some of which have already been built and already in production, some of which are going up now on the sites, and others which have been quite definitely scheduled to go up on other sites. These standard factories are being built in accordance with the principles I have indicated to the Committee, of putting the factories in the places where it is most necessary to furnish a balanced and diversified employment after the war. This is where war interests and peace interests coincide. My right hon. Friend in the action he has taken in this matter was thinking of getting the maximum production of munitions in the shortest possible time, and getting the most effective use of available labour and productive capacity. The building of these new standard factories is part of our war effort. The location of these factories is part of our peace effort as well, and will have great importance in years to come.
I have no doubt that these modern factories will be fully used after the war. They are very much more attractive for the purposes of modern industries than a number of the older factories situated in 1393 some of the older industrial areas. I have no doubt they will be fully used by industrialists in the future. I shall be working, or anyone who subsequently holds my office as President of the Board of Trade will be working, in close association with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production, or any successor to him, and with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, or any successor to him, in the period when war production is tapering off, which will be a very delicate and difficult adjustment to make. The President of the Board of Trade will have to work very closely with the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Production, as I explained in the Debate on 8th December, in order to see that, when we get the releases of labour turning over from war production to peace production and of industrial capacity turning over from war production to peace production, we get those releases is those areas and trades which are most necessary in the national interests, having regard to employment as a whole, to civilian needs and to the needs of the export trade.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
In view of the necessity for making a very careful and accurate survey of the possibilities of converting munitions factories to commercial purposes, is any part of the machinery of the Board of Trade employed for that specific purpose?
§ Mr. Dalton
Yes, indeed, and not in isolation at the Board of Trade, but in close consultation with the Supply Departments, who have very special knowledge of these matters. Very active work is going on at this time on this question. It is a co-operative job between Ministers and their staffs. None of us are working in isolation, but we are playing for the team as a whole, and for the country as a whole, and not in any narrow Departmental spirit.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Are the principals in these big armament factories, some of whom are distinguished engineers and chemists, being consulted by the Department? I have reason for asking because I know that some of them are anxious to give their assistance and place their suggestions before the Department.
§ Mr. Dalton
Some have already expressed views which are very valuable. 1394 We shall be only too pleased to hear their views on any of these subjects. We invite the fullest consultation and the pooling of ideas so that we may put to the best postwar use these very fine additions to the industrial equipment of this country.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
To whom should Members of Parliament make representations on matters of this kind?
§ Mr. Dalton
To me. It is laid down in paragraph 30 of the White Paper:…There should be a single channel"—this is a rather painful passage, perhaps, looking forward to the future,—through which Government policy on the distribution of industry can be expressed.…The Government therefore propose that the channel for the expression of Government policy in this matter shall be the Board of Trade.…The President of the Board of Trade will be responsible to Parliament for all the general aspects of the policy; and, on these, inquiries and representations from interested sections of the public will be made through the Board of Trade.Therefore, that is part of my responsibility [Interruption]. No, I cannot give way again. My hon. Friend has had two very good innings.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way I am afraid that a question cannot be asked.
§ Mr. Dalton
If my hon. Friend has any suggestions to make or questions to put I will be delighted to receive or answer them.
§ Mr. Buchanan
I only intended to say, if the right hon. Gentleman had given way, that I have often made suggestions, and that there is never much attention paid to suggestions from Back Bench Members.
§ Mr. Dalton
My hon. Friend is mistaken and pessimistic. Many of my brightest thoughts have come from my colleagues. Perhaps I may in conclusion say why I am speaking to-day, and why the Board of Trade Vote was put down. I was appointed to speak for the Government when the question of the location of industry was raised in December last. Therefore, it was supposed, I imagine, that my Vote had best be put down 1395 to-day. It is clearly explained in paragraph 30 of the White Paper that no single Government Department can take full responsibility for this very complex and far-reaching policy. The main responsibility will rest with the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour and National Service, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and the Scottish Office. Members will know that the authority of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning extends only to the Tweed. It has no authority North of the Tweed. There it is the Secretary of State for Scotland [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Ministry of Agriculture?"]The main responsibility—I am quoting from the White Paper—will rest with the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour and National Service, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and the Scottish Office.I have also already indicated the great importance of the Ministry of Production in this connection, particularly in the switch-over from war to peace. But it is most desirable to limit the number of people who share the main responsibility, though a number of other Departments have lesser responsibilities.
§ Mr. MacLaren
This would be a relevant matter for the Ministry of Agriculture, because when we take new land and sites the Ministry of Agriculture always come into it.
§ Mr. Dalton
I have no doubt that the Ministry of Agriculture will not be backward in coming forward, when necessary. Although this responsibility is thus distributed, it has been laid down that it is the President of the Board of Trade who will deal with questions in Parliament on the general aspects of this policy. Therefore, it is right that I should to-day declare that I believe this policy can achieve its purpose. I have always believed that. When I spoke from that side of the House before the war on the depressed areas, I proclaimed my view that this was a soluble problem, given vigour, energy, and the national determination to solve it.
§ Mr. Dalton
And power. I believe that, with energy, intelligence and good will, we can wipe out this terrible reproach which rested on us before the war. If 1396 such a policy is pressed forward with vigour, on the lines indicated in the White Paper, in the transitional period I am certain that it will give us, in a comparatively short term of years, a well-balanced and diversified industry in each main region in the country; and that will be a sure foundation for the employment of our people in the years to come. I must apologise for having spoken at considerable length, but during part of the time my hon. Friends have been helping me with questions and suggestions. I hope I have given the Committee a broad statement of that part of the White Paper which deals with the location of industry. I am sure that, if the Committee will give the Government its support on this matter, it will result in a great advance on the lines which we hope to follow.
§ Mr. Daggar (Abertillery)
My object is not to discuss the content of the White Paper—that will require two, if not three, days' discussion, in future—but I hope to make perfectly clear the extent to which I disagree and the extent to which I agree with the references made by the right hon. Gentleman to the White Paper. Were it considered necessary, we who raise this question of the location of industry would readily assure the Committee and the Government that we do so not to cause embarrassment or to create additional difficulties, but because we are convinced that there is a need for the Government to inform us of their policy on this important and urgent problem, not by a White Paper only, but in an Act of Parliament. No one, especially in view of what is now taking place on the Continent, could be actuated by any other motive. We are anxious to know what is proposed and what are the plans, if any. If there are none, when is it proposed to prepare them, and when can they be expected? We think that these questions are relevant and pertinent to the subject under discussion. They are the result of our anxiety, because of the experience that we had in the inter-war period. We put them to the Minister of Reconstruction and to the President of the Board of Trade, the former, in particular, because he appears to be experiencing much enjoyment—at least, we hope so—from over-indulgence in speeches, most, if not all, of which lack conviction and give no satisfaction. He himself would, in different circumstances, agree that talk is a 1397 poor substitute for action, and words a poor substitute for deeds. Neither is the recently-issued White Paper on Employment Policy a reply to those observations and questions, because that document is only a paper.
Members have been reminded by the right hon. Gentleman that this matter was raised on 8th December, in an Amendment to the King's Speech, and, if further justification for again raising the matter is necessary, it is to be found in the Government's reply, which was made on that day by the President of the Board of Trade. He said:I welcome the emotion and the interest which has been shown in the discussion of this subject, and I ask for the continued support and stimulus of all parties, so that we may find a worthy solution to this problem.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1943; Vol. 395, c. 1074.]I think that that was a very valuable suggestion, but it appears very strange that we should be asked to goad or excite the Government to action. It would be interesting to ascertain the limit to such goading. I suppose it would be said that we should set the limit at the entrance to the Division Lobby, because the question of a Vote of Confidence would then arise. In fact, we are asked not to employ censorious language in a Motion upon the Order Paper, because the Prime Minister has said that he would consider such a Motion a Vote of Censure. What can be done to excite vital action? We want a solution of the problem of the location of industry, in order to prevent the continuance of the Depressed Areas. That is our chief object.
All the required information is with the Government. There are seven official Reports. There are also the recommendations of the Barlow Commission, which have been in existence since 1940. Another Report has been issued recently by the Welsh Advisory Council. It is true that there is not much in it which is new, but it is an important document, demanding consideration by the appropriate Departments. Also, there is the experience which some of us have had in these areas for the last 25 years, excluding part of the war period. Some of us decline to enter into competition with the Minister without Portfolio, whose Department has been described as the "Ministry of Stimulation." We claim that it is incumbent upon those who seek 1398 to justify and perpetuate an economic arrangement which creates the problem to accept the responsibility for its solution. It is for those individuals who possess the power to remove the cause of these black spots in the country to take action, and not for them to ask other people to pursue a policy of goading or prodding the Government. In some respects the reports, the books, the pamphlets, the documents, and the discussions provided by those whose responsibility it is to discover a remedy for this admittedly serious social disorder have been too numerous. Lord Keynes once remarked that there is nothing that a Government hates more than to be well-informed, because it makes the process of arriving at decisions much more complicated and difficult. If that he true, knowledge appears to restrict and retard action rather than to release and accelerate it, which, unless it applies to the present office-holders only, I do not believe.
In the speech to which I have referred it was stated by the right hon. Gentleman that the term "Distressed Areas" had been banned and washed out of their vocabulary, and that the words "Development Areas" and "Defence Areas" had been substituted. I wish it were as easy to wash out these areas, but you cannot aid them by changing their name; you cannot prevent the return of these areas by improving your choice of language. The absence of any definite plan, in the form of an Act of Parliament, for the location of industry leads me to the impression that there exists an attitude of fatalism and of awaiting some automatic, but undefined, movement to attain the desired result. Even spectacular palliatives appear to be without attraction. Everything appears to be subordinated to an anticipated, unaided post-war general improvement in the trade of the country. That opinion of mine was, to some extent, held by the Minister in December, when he told the House:I say, with the utmost sincerity and conviction, that there must be, after this war, no more such impotence, and that in these distressed areas, as we used to call them, there must be, as in the rest of the country, food, work, and homes for all our people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1943; Vol. 395. c. 1065.]Many of us are still convinced that, unless steps are taken now to decide this 1399 issue, "Food, work, and homes" will remain a mere slogan, a repetition of words which brings no relief. Those of us who have lived in the areas once distressed appreciate the undertaking given by the right hon. Gentleman on 8th December, but some of them are qualified by the words, "If I am still at that time President of the Board of Trade." It is because that may not be his position after the war that we now press for some definite policy. We ought not to depend on who is occupying a particular office at a particular time. The question is, What are the present proposals of the Government for dealing with this problem?
Many Members are much concerned about this question from another point of view, its relation to town planning and housing, which again shows how extremely difficult it is to examine and discuss this question of location of industry in isolation. The Report issued by the Department of Health for Scotland, called Infant Mortality in Scotland, shows that, in the five years before this war commenced, Scotland had the highest mortality rate of 17 countries, and the Committee responsible for the Report desired, first, to record its conviction that the infant mortality rate in Scotland is high because a large part of the population, both in towns and rural areas, lives under poor housing conditions and in poverty, much of which was due to unemployment or was aggravated by unemployment. That, I submit, is ample justification, without any prodding or goading, of the demand we are making to-day.
Much dissatisfaction is felt, and much apprehension is shown, with the unnecessary dispersion of power regarding this question. Some of us think that there are too many Departments fiddling with this serious problem. It seems to be the business of every Ministry and yet the business of none. There are the Minister of Reconstruction, the Minister without Portfolio, the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Town and Country Planning, to mention four only. To expect coordination is utterly impossible. We think there should be, as the Barlow Commission Report recommends, the formation of a central authority to undertake this task. [An HON. MEMBER: "Superior to any Government Department?"] Oh, yes. 1400 Here I would like to emphasise again the three points I have already made. Firstly, the difficulty of dealing with this problem in isolation, apart from general questions of planning. The location of industry implies planning, and planning implies deciding where industries, especially new ones, shall be established. Secondly, the impossibility of co-ordinating the existing Ministries or State Departments. Thirdly, because of this impossibility, the creation, as recommended by the Barlow Commission, of a central planning authority.
During the right hon. Gentleman's speech no less than six questions were put to him affecting, to some extent, entirely different subjects. There was the question of housing, in which some hon. Members are interested, and the question of roads was brought up, as well as questions of bridges and even of docks. It shows how impossible it is for any effective action unless there is co-ordination amongst these Ministries or the creation of a central authority. I know I shall be told that it is possible for the existing three or four Ministries to undertake this task, but, to those who think so, let me commend this quotation from the "New Statesman" of 15th May of last year. It deserves a reply.To plan for the future of, say, South Wales, involves considering, inter alia, the use of land, the location of industry, the building of houses, schools and other community buildings, the development of transport, electricity, water supply and other public utility services, the place of agriculture in the corning economy, and the prospects of population and labour supply in both a quantitative and a qualitative sense. These matters belong to the spheres of at least nine Departments, not counting the Reconstruction Secretariat, whose province it defies human wit to get clear. Use of land involves the Ministry of Town and Country Planning—"—
§ Mr. Daggar
The quotation goes on:—location of industry the Board of trade, housing the Ministry of Health, school-building the Board of Education, transport the Ministry of Transport, electricity the Ministry of Fuel and Power, water supply the Ministry of Health and several others, agriculture the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, population the Registrar-General and labour supply the Minister of Labour.
§ Mr. Daggar
It does seem extremely difficult to ascertain to what extent the 1401 location of industry can be a success without involving the consideration by all, or by a majority, of these other Ministries. There is another phase of this subject about which we are entitled to know something, because it illustrates the point I have just made. It refers to the postwar use of Government factories. This property belongs to the nation. The persons engaged in these factories, or some of them, know what it is to live in Depressed Areas for six to 10 years without employment, and they desire to know what we propose to do with them after the war, and they want to know now. The cause of this inquiry is due to the nature of a reply recorded in HANSARD dated 23rd May. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) asked the President of the Board of Trade:What plans have been made for the utilisation of factories owned by the State?The right hon. Gentleman replied:It is not possible at present to say whether, or when, any of these factories will be available for transfer from war to peace-time production, but any firm desiring to apply for the use of any of them after the war should communicate with the Board of Trade."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May; Vol. 400, C. 561.]We have been told by no less an authority than Professor A. M. Low about the wonders that are being done in our factories through the introduction of new tools, new methods and new manufacturing technique. He has informed us to-day rifles are made more than a dozen times faster by unskilled labour than they were by skilled labour in 1939, and that a new method of manufacturing certain, shells has resulted in a saving of 18,000,000 man-hours. What we want to know is, Are the benefits of these improvements, some of which must accrue to those who, after the war, will produce peace-time articles, to be conferred upon private firms? That appears to be the policy of the Government. We consider this matter of considerable importance. The Secretary of State for Air on 29th February informed this House that no, less than 1,000,000 new buildings had been created and the Select Committee on National Expenditure, and the Minister of Production, have informed us of the enormous sum of public money spent upon factories, plants, etc., during this war. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Production stated on 18th May: 1402The total of approved expenditure from public funds on war factory buildings since the beginning of the rearmament period is about £30,000,000.That was part of a reply given to my. hon. Friend, the Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) who asked that this large outlay of public money should be utilised after the war in the best interests of the nation, on which the hon. Member for Swindon observed:Is not the best way to utilise private enterprise?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th May, 5944; Vol. 400, c. 337.]Some of us do not think so. What enterprise was it that gave us an average annual unemployed army of 1,500,000 for 18 years after the last war? The hon. Member again wants to give it another opportunity of creating these infernal Depressed Areas. It is true all parties are interested in this question of the location of industry, but where we disagree is that most hon. Members opposite seek to perpetuate the system which creates these areas, while we, on this side, seek to destroy the system which makes them possible. I have great respect for the lion. Member for Swindon, whom I look upon as an authority, at least on football. He is certainly qualified to speak with a degree of authority on chemistry, and I am informed that he also has a knowledge of herbs, but I refuse to accept him as an authority either on trade or industry. The sum of £830,000,000 is a large sum, and the interests of the people to whom it belongs should be protected. Moreover, it should be a factor in deciding the location of industry. Some of us on these benches dared to suggest to the Government that they should take over the mining industry, but we were soon told by the Prime Minister that that would require a mandate from the people of this country. There is no mandate suggested now regarding the handing back of this £830,000,000 worth of property to private individuals, and I contend that Parliament has no right to dispose of this property, paid for by public money, to private individuals without the observance of the same procedure as was suggested to us when we sought, by tabling a Motion, to take over the mines of this country.
On 8th December, the President of the Board of Trade stated, and he repeated it to-day and many of his statements are now embodied, to his credit, in the White Paper, that some Government factories, 1403 by reason of their lay-out, might be well adapted, with certain structural alterations, to be new centres of light industry, for the development of new processes and new materials in which, I hope, we shall take a definite lead after the war. I am not opposed to trading estates, but they are no solution to the unemployment problem in areas like my own. A trading estate in Pontypridd does not relieve unemployment in my division any more than an industry in London would relieve unemployment in Pontypridd. Is it possible to secure a number of small industries on a trading estate? In Heaven's name, what is there impossible about singling out a few small industries and bringing them into valleys similar to the one I have the honour to represent?
What is being done now? I have three local authorities in my division who submitted plans regarding vacant buildings. Sheets and sheets of paper containing information was sent to these Departments. As a result the owner of an undertaking came into my division and had the site examined, levels taken and plans agreed to. He was immediately informed that there was a better site in another part of Wales, and his firm went there and we have had nothing since. The right hon. Gentleman cannot be expected to see that these small undertakings go to particular areas, but there should be a measure of compulsion imposed upon them to go to areas which have had no benefit as the result of the war.
This brings me to my final point, and one which goes to the root of the problem of the location of industry—the question of offering inducements to those new undertakings as against a measure of compulsion. The method of discouraging the establishment of industries in particular parts of the country is being advocated, but I propose to ignore that method. To be effective, it must, to some extent, take the form of compulsion. In any event, we cannot afford to permit these industries to cluster and congest certain areas as we did after the last war. From 1932 to 1937 Greater London had no less than 1,400 of these new undertakings and the total number established in the seven other regions during that period was only 1,712, which included 125 for the whole of Scotland and 39 for Wales and Monmouthshire. The number of 1404 people provided with employment in these factories in Greater London was 111,700, against factories employing only 10,000 in the whole of England and a miserable 5,000 in Wales and Monmouthshire. General Ashmore informed us, through a letter he sent to "The Times" in 1937, that in London was centred at least a third of the total activities of England, and Sir William Beveridge also wrote a letter pointing out that the traffic round the docks was in an appalling and chronic state of congestion. In a peculiarly titled book, "Glass Houses and Modern War," the statement is to be found that:In the ten years alone between 1921 and 1931 London grew by nine per cent.; it is growing still. London is not only vast but thickly peopled; the City and Administrative County in 1931 held 58 people to the acre, against Birmingham's 19 and Cardiff's 20.I hope that I shall not be misunderstood and give the impression that I am arguing that it is preferable to have factories in Wales as against factories in London. After all, the most that is achieved is a distribution of employment and of the employed. Whether the factories are in London or Wales, or Scotland or in any other part of the country, it simply means that you do not solve the problem of employment but rather that you assist in the process of distributing the unemployed.
What about the inducement offered to the owners of these undertakings after the last war? We had the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, 1934, and the Special Areas Reconstruction (Agreement) Act, 1936, which were operated and provided special financial facilities for firms prepared to establish new industries in these special areas. Over £2,000,000 was spent on trading estates to house these undertakings, but not with the success that some of us anticipated. According to the Surveys of Industrial Development, issued by the Board of Trade annually before the war broke out, owners of these undertakings were asked to give their reasons for the erection of factories in particular regions, and in the course of the six years already mentioned the reason given in 51 cases was that the undertakings were in close proximity to the residences of the owners. I am anxious to know whether that is to be an excuse when this war comes to an end and the remedy is not to be found in additional inducements.
1405 If it is right to conscript men and women to defend life and property, it is equally right to compel people to maintain life by the erection of property in the form of factories in areas where such property is required. If it is right to direct labour to industries, it is also right and reasonable to expect that we should take powers to direct industry to where there are unemployed people. It is well known, or it should be, that in 1939 there were in existence in this country 300 factories set up by refugees. The Home Secretary stated in the House of Commons in December, 1938, that whereas 11,000 refugees had been admitted in recent years, it was known that refugee employers had given direct employment to no less than 15,000 British workers. That figure, it is claimed, is an under estimate because Sir John Hope Simpson has estimated the total of British workers employed by German refugees in the autumn of 1938 to be no less than 25,000. I am indebted to a little broadsheet entitled "Planning" for this information and it illustrates the point I want to make. It is issued, as most hon. Members know, by an organisation known as "Political and Economic Planning," and it is dated 14th January, 1944. It says:Britain benefited from the decline of Leipzig as an international fur market because refugees started as many as 50 new fur firms here with a capital of about £750,000 and an annual turnover of over £4,000,000.This is the question to which I want to ask Members to give consideration:About one-third of these factories were in the 'depressed areas,' particularly in the Treforest and Team Valley Trading Estates. The Government's schemes for relieving distress attracted relatively few British, but relatively many refugee industrialists.What a splendid appreciation for having provided a home for these hunted people, and what a commentary on those British capitalists who lose no opportunity of parading their patriotism. These men must have been the same kind of men whom Johnson had in mind when he described patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel.
It must be the policy of the Government not to increase the inducements to these people but to use a measure of compulsion. In view of what I have said, the latter method must be employed, unless the nation accepts responsibility for not only controlling the industries of this country but for owning them as well. 1406 Without that there can be no satisfactory and effective planning in this country. To refuse to solve this problem now will result in future mess, muddle and misery; it will cause disquiet, dissatisfaction and discontent. We need, as the right hon. Gentleman observed on 8th December, to be ashamed of what happened to the people of this country after the last war. If we fail our people again we deserve to be accused not only of cheating but of betraying all those who have died and whose sacrifice affords us an opportunity of doing the right thing, and that is, to take action now, not after the war, but long before this war comes to an end.
§ The Chairman (Major Milner)
I hope that the Committee will permit me to make an appeal. There are a great many Members, as on every recent similar occasion, who wish to take part in the Debate. As the Committee are aware, we have rather less than six hours' debating time and the Minister and the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) have taken nearly one-third of that time. Unless some little self-denial is exercised by hon. Members, I am afraid that a number will be disappointed. The length of the speeches is not primarily a matter for the Chair at all, but I would venture to remind hon. Members that we are in Committee and that therefore the normal course is that speeches should be of usual Committee length. If hon. Members would be good enough to indulge in as brief speeches as possible it would help the Chair and enable the Chair to call upon many more hon. Members than will otherwise be the case.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I can assure you, Major Milner, that I shall pay heed to your request and that my remarks will be very short. Any stranger from a less fortunate country than ours coming to this Committee today might be surprised that, at a moment such as this—one of the most critical moments in the war—we should be quietly discussing the location of industry after the war is over. Some people would consider this to be an example of British phlegm. I prefer to regard it as a sign of our supreme confidence in the result of the war that final victory will be ours and that we can plan for the future. I rather differed from the President of the Board of Trade when 1407 he said that no one from these Benches had hitherto taken much interest in the subject of the location of industry and that we should find this out if we looked into the pages of HANSARD. Let him look, and if he looks back he will find that for some years I, at any rate, have been talking about this subject for a considerable period of time and that other Conservative Members have been equally insistent. I am only one of many other Members of Parliament on this side of the Committee who have this matter at heart. No one who livid through the years after the last war in the North of England and saw the suffering that was entailed by the unemployment could not do all in his power to do what he could to prevent a similar state of things in the future. To bring new industries into the area is the most obvious thing to do. I am not going into facts and figures to-day, and certainly I am not going to quote "The New Statesman" or "Planning" or any other periodical that devotes itself to these matters. Anyone can read such papers for themselves and judge how good or how bad is their advice.
I am going to try to put the case shortly, as we view it, on the North-East coast. We suffered after the last war. Our basic industries failed. Our population was too large for the work that was available and the result was that we had heavy unemployment or that our working population drifted away. We learned in these hard times that unless we had subsidiary industries we could not hope to tide over bad times. We were then faced with the difficulty that factories were not available in our part of the world, that we had not gone in for the lighter branches of industry in. the past, and that, unless we could provide factories and sites for factories, we could not hope to induce industrialists to come and set up their industries in our part of the world. We have to compete with London, with the Home Counties, with the Midlands, and they have had a long start. Now we realise that unless we can make up the lost time, unless we can provide requisite factories and sites for factories, we are not likely in the future any more than in the past to attract new industries to our part of the world.
Therefore I welcome the White Paper, which shows that the Government realise 1408 our point of view. It might be criticised on the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar). There seems to be too much sub-divided authority. There are too many Departments concerned. One had rather hoped that when the war was over we should get rid of what some of us have suffered from during the war. We have had to trapes round from one Department to another, for an answer to the simplest possible question. We had hoped that at least some of the war-time Departments would disappear, and I personally had hoped that one of them would be that recently created Ministry of Town and Country Planning. I cannot see what it is going to do, or why it has been brought into existence. I should imagine that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, with the assistance of the Ministry of Labour, and utilising the local authorities to the best advantage, could perfectly well have looked after this matter of the location of industry without the assistance of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. His first task in the North-Eastern area, in my opinion, will be to see that a great many derelict spaces are cleared up. It is a matter of the utmost importance if we are to get new business men to come among us, and the local authorities cannot cope with it without assistance. While this clearing up process is going on I suppose my right hon. Friend will be busy negotiating with industrialists to bring new industries into our part of the world. If they all work happily together, if they do not try to do each other in—which is the habit of Departments—if they really sit down to the job, why then all may yet be well. However, I am, frankly, rather nervous of the plethora of Departments, and therefore I am glad to know that my right hon. Friend is to be the official channel of information. I trust that he will be an effective channel when the time comes.
I should like to ask what are the intentions of the Government with regard to the commitments which have already been made in certain areas, certainly in my own area, by the Special Commissioners. Who in the future is to be responsible for these commitments? I should like an answer to this question because it seems to me of real importance. Unless these various undertakings, for which the Commissioner has hitherto been responsible, are taken up by the Government, what is to happen? 1409 Another question which is of material interest on the North-East coast is whether the South Tees area is to be cut off from the rest of the area. Surely the South Tees area is an important and integral part of the North Eastern industrial area; to cut off the Cleveland iron industry and all the industrial work that goes on in the South Tees from the rest of the North Eastern area would be a grave mistake.
Then, although it is not directly concerned with the location of industry, I hope that the matter to which I am going to refer will be pardoned by the Committee. I want to draw attention to transference of industry. The White Paper seems to imply that there is to be a transference of industry as a normal process and as part and parcel of the Government's scheme. The taking away of people from their homes to work in other parts of the country, or because it is desired to develop industrially some particular area which has not been sufficiently developed before has been our experience in the North of England. Although, undoubtedly, it was necessary in the bad times that a certain amount of the population should drift away or be transferred to other parts of the country, it is not a practice which should be encouraged. Wherever you go in England one of the principal assets of our national system is the love of the people for their own parts of the country and I do not think that transference is likely to be popular or, indeed, politically possible. I hope, therefore, that a policy of moving great bodies of the population from one part of the country to another just to suit the economic conditions may be carefully reconsidered; that the Government will be careful to bear in mind the habits and inclinations of the people and be cautious in any action they may take.
We shall I think in the North, as elsewhere in the country, be fully employed until some years after the war. Industrialists in the North, both employers and employed, are now sitting down together and trying to devise plans for the future development of the industries of the North. That is a very hopeful sign. We shall be all right, let us say, for a few years while reconstruction and renovation are being carried on throughout the country; after that, our industrial future depends—as the White Paper truly says—upon the revival of our foreign trade. In future we must depend upon our 1410 foreign trade even more largely than we did in the past and we must be prepared to be faced with competition. Therefore it is essential that we should get going as soon as possible and that our people should realise that we cannot have social security of any sort, unless first we can assure full employment for the people. If we can all work together with that object in view, forgetting for the moment our particular political persuasions whatever they may be—
§ Sir C. Headlam
I am always endeavouring to do so; no man can do more than try. I have tried for 25 years of political life and I believe I have been more successful than most people, but that is by the way. We are now facing the real problem of the future, the revival of our industries and the successful negotiating of the period ahead. I welcome, therefore, the Government's White Paper and the speech made by the President of the Board of Trade to-day. I only hope that he and his successors will have the energy and courage to stand up to his task and that he will bear in mind, as a Member for a North Eastern Division himself, what we have suffered in the past and see to it that we do not suffer in the same way again.
§ Mr. Kirby (Liverpool, Everton)
Like the previous speaker I welcome this White Paper. On the other hand, I feel very doubtful whether we shall ever get a Government that will enforce the principles enunciated in it. It is quite true to say, I think, that the attention of all the various Government Departments at present is turned in the direction indicated in the Paper, but we have to remember that in the course of time the war will come to an end, the Coalition Government will cease to exist, and we shall, no doubt, revert to party Government. I can well understand that the vested interests on the other side of the Committee will make their presence felt here in such a way that it will be very difficult for any Government to force location of industry in the manner we should like to see it done. I am encouraged in that view by what was said by the right hon. Gentleman in his opening remarks, that industry was in fact already located, and, speaking on behalf 1411 of the Government, he would expect that the industrialists, in setting up new factories or bringing into being new industries, would expect the owners of these businesses to do this, that, or the other. I am satisfied myself that it is no good expecting people engaged in private enterprise, in free competition, to go exactly where the nation requires that their industry should go. They will only go where it pays them to go.
That brings me to the point mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) in regard to fetching industries to the people, where they are required. We find that in some places such as the Everton Division of Liverpool, which I represent, the local authority, being wide awake to the full implications of unemployment, and its effect upon the rates, have used every encouragement to induce employers of labour to bring their factories and industries to Merseyside. They have even supplied them with buildings at special rates and easy payments, and with special rating arrangements so that they have not felt the burden too heavily. In spite of all that, the industrialists who were invited to take an interest in Merseyside always came to the conclusion that our volume of unemployment was so heavy, the rates for the maintenance of the body of unemployed and the poor generally so high, that it was not a paying proposition to come. It seems to me that if the Government really intend to put into effect the principles embodied in this White Paper, it will be no good inviting industrialists to come to Merseyside or any formerly depressed area; they will have to be told they must go there and carry on their job in the interests of the nation as a whole.
I should like to remind the Committee of some of the things that happened before the war in the depressed areas. I have no doubt many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will refer to their particular areas, and I will refer to Liverpool. In Liverpool I think it is true to say we had the largest single body of unemployment of any part of Great Britain in one solid block. For 10, 12, or 14 years before the war we had anything from 60,000 to 80,000 registered unemployed. During that period we always had in receipt of public assistance some- 1412 where between 80,000 and 100,000 persons.
§ Sir G. Gibson
Was the figure of unemployment in Liverpool affected to any considerable extent by the movement of passenger liners from Liverpool to Southampton?
§ Mr. Kirby
Yes, that was so. I could give a long list of reasons why the volume of unemployment in Liverpool was so heavy and that was one of them—when it was decided to take a great portion of the passenger traffic of the Atlantic from Liverpool to Southampton. There were many others. In that connection perhaps I ought to say that in Liverpool we have had no great diversity of employment, so far as the spread-over of industries was concerned. We were mainly dependent upon our shipping, for both import and export trade, and with that was a small volume of passenger traffic. Arising from the shipping activity we had an extremely flourishing and large warehousing business, and general activities in regard to distribution which provided a good deal of employment in railway and road transport. In addition, we were the cotton market of the world. I would like to remind the President of the Board of Trade that the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, which has palatial offices, has been closed, and that there are now only one man and a boy there. So far as can be judged it seems that that situation will continue; that the control of cotton will continue after the war with the result that our Cotton Exchange will no longer employ many thousands of people.
This great volume of unemployment not only led to an increase in rates in respect of direct employment, but meant that people were badly fed, clothed and housed because the Corporation, in the main, were unable to look upon unemployed people, receiving public assistance, as suitable tenants. All this led to poor health and low morale, to a great increase in crime, especially in housebreaking and stealing, and an extremely high rate of 1413 juvenile delinquency. It was quite common in my division, where about half the people were unemployed, to learn of boys, whom I had met on leaving school, ultimately being married while receiving public assistance. They were in that state from the time they left school for about 10 years, until the war came and they were called up for the Services, where they finally found themselves to be real men, receiving a man's income. That sort of thing cannot be allowed to go on.
We must have direction in the location of industry done with a firm hand. For the reasons I have given, we cannot afford to leave it to private enterprise to handle the matter voluntarily. If we go on like we have done in the past then it is not worth while coming to this House to talk about the problem. The White Paper has been framed in the right lines. I want to stress the fact that we who were in the Distressed Areas before the war, and who are looking to brighter and a happier state of affairs in the future, expect the Government not merely to print White Papers, but sincerely and honestly to implement them, and carry them into actual effect as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Furness (Sunderland)
The President of the Board of Trade began his speech by making a little play with the fact that, before the war, it was hon. Members opposite who were interested in this question of the location of industry, and that, on the occasion of the Debate on the Address, it was hon. Members on this side. I think he was probably wrong in both cases. Members of all parties who have been associated with Special Areas, have always pressed for strong measures in regard to the direction and location of industry. That is something which goes back many years. However, I have really risen to say how glad I am that, at last, proposals of this kind have been made. So far as I have been able, in a humble way, to do so I have always urged this policy upon the Government. I have always regarded the direction and the location of industry as being the only policy that could really tackle the problem of the Distressed, Special, or Development Areas—call them what you will. These areas, through no fault of their own or of anybody in them, have not been capable of providing, in recent years, the necessary volume of employment for the people who live in them. 1414 As I read the White Paper, I found it a melancholy thought that it seems to take a war to drive Governments into taking effective action in these matters. It is a terrible thing that for so many years we had a great volume of unemployment in the country. In the Special Areas, there was a standing army of unemployed; the same people were out of work year after year, and we had not the wit, drive or energy to tackle the problem.
The President of the Board of Trade, who is not slow in chiding other Members, said that it was in 1942 that, under the lead of the Minister of Production, the turning-point was reached and that industries were then put in places where the people were, rather than in places to which they could be directed. Surely it is a melancholy thought that that change was not made until so late in the war as 1942. I do not want to plead to-day on behalf of the people in my own part of the world, or speak about the terrible time they went through in the years before the war, because they have no need to plead for justice or gratitude. There is one sentence in the White Paper which, I think, should be corrected. On page 13 it says:The Special Areas are not at present depressed, and experience during the war has shown that production there can be as efficient as in other parts of the country.There should never have been any doubt on that point. After all, in the shipbuilding industry alone 25 trades at least are engaged, skilled and highly technical trades. The people who can do work of that kind do not have to demonstrate their fitness to do other kinds of work. These people are not skilled labourers; they are people who have a long tradition, and in many cases a family tradition, of highly technical skill and training. The one fear of all the people who are working in the shipyards to-day is that when the war is over they will return to their previous state of unemployment. They say, "We are willing to do our best now, but do not let the Government forget us when the war is over." It may not be in our hands to keep up our shipbuilding at its present level, but if we cannot do that then we must provide alternative employment for the workers in the yards. We have tried other remedies without much success; now we are to try the remedy of saying that there shall be control over the 1415 places to which industry shall go, that so far as we can ensure it industry will go to the places where people are waiting, ready and willing, to receive it.
It is very short-sighted to imagine that this question is a matter which concerns only the Special Areas. It concerns everybody in the country, because there is no human activity which can be carried out without the use of land. If you use land for one purpose you prevent it from being used for another. Therefore, dwellers in the most picturesque parts of the country are concerned with the location of industry, just as much as those in the places to which industry is going. I consider, as every other Member must consider, that the White Paper is, as it were, an invitation to do business. By itself it can do nothing. It has to be carried into definite legislative action. Even when that is done it will be administration, the making of the actual decisions, which will count. I am glad that this matter has been put under the Board of Trade. Some people are always wanting a new Ministry, but when you create a new Ministry to deal with a special problem, you soon find that it impinges on the work of another Ministry. The right hon. Gentleman's Department has a great and high-sounding title. It has great knowledge on these matters, and I am glad that it is to expand itself, and take this question of the location of industry under its wing. I have sometimes criticised the Government about this matter and it is only right that I should now express my gratitude that, at last, there is, at least, the promise of action. We confidently expect that that promise will be fulfilled very shortly by being translated into definite action.
§ Mr. Norman Bower (Harrow)
There are one or two observations I should like to make about this vitally important subject. It seems to me that the need for the planning of the location of industry has became really urgent only in comparatively recent years. Up to 1914, or thereabouts, industry did, on the whole, go to the places where it ought to have gone, both from the point of view of industry itself and of the national interest. It would, therefore, be criminal folly to allow the vast amount of national capital thereby created to run to waste by allowing the old industrial areas to decay while 1416 new industries are allowed to wander all over the country at will.
Secondly, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that, whatever may have been the case in the past, this has now certainly become a question on which all parties are more or less in agreement. It seems to me that this problem emphasises the fact that the relationship, which should exist between the activities of the State and those of private enterprise, are really quite easy to define, and should be easy to agree upon, inasmuch as there is nothing contradictory about them. They are, rather, complementary to one another. As I see it, the actual executive function of running industry should be carried on for the most part by private enterprise. Whatever our political views on that subject may be, everyone would agree that, at any rate, that executive function is likely to be carried on, for the most part, by private enterprise for some considerable time to come, but the State must make itself responsible for an overall national plan. It must make itself responsible for deciding where industry is to be carried on, and to a considerable extent under what conditions it is to be carried on. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Everton (Mr. Kirby). It seems to me that, if industry is to be run by private enterprise at all, it is impossible for the State to dictate to it exactly where it is to go. There may be many good reasons why a particular industrialist does not wish to go to a particular area, and you must permit people a certain amount of freedom of choice, as to where they are going to build their new factories.
§ Mr. Bower
I am merely suggesting that you cannot apply that force. If industry is to be run by private enterprise, as for the most part it must be for a considerable number of years—because not even the Labour Party are proposing to nationalise every industry and factory immediately on coming into power—you cannot dictate to every individual industrialist exactly where he will put every new factory. All you can do is offer inducements to people to go to the right place.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
The hon. Member says we can offer inducements. On the other side, is it not possible to impose a certain number of restraints?
§ Mr. Bower
I was coming to that. I was dealing with the positive side and how far you can dictate where an industry is to go, and, in addition to inducements, have an authority responsible for planning the location of industry, which will make it its business to collect all relevant economic data and information and place them at the disposal of all industrialists. If, as a result, that authority enjoys the confidence of industry, it is unlikely that any intelligent and enlightened industrialist or business man—and there are quite a number of them about to-day—would be inclined to disregard that advice. I entirely agree with the hon. Member who interrupted me that, when you come to the negative aspect, of how far you can impose restrictions, you can and must definitely dictate to industries where they are not to go and, if they are not prepared to listen to the advice given them, an absolute prohibition can and must be imposed.
It seems to me that this policy of the location of industry is fundamental to the policy of food, work and homes, and I am very glad to see that that has been so handsomely recognised in the White Paper on Employment Policy. It has taken the Government a long time to make up their minds on this subject but, at any rate, they now seem to have accepted the main principles of the Barlow Report and they have swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. If the location of industry is unscientific, it means that the efficiency of industry will be less than it otherwise would be. If that be so, it is going to be difficult for us to export as much as we require to export, in order to be able to import the food that we require. Secondly, if there is insufficient diversification, and a lack of balance between industries in any area, if any area becomes too dependent on one or two, and too specialised, you will, again, have the same old problem of Special Areas and pools of long-term unemployment with which we are so well acquainted. Thirdly, until the question of the location of industry has been decided, it is impossible to know where to build the houses for the people to live in, because there must be 1418 some kind of planned relationship between where people work and where they live.
I agree with what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) said about the transference of population and I am very glad, as I understand the White Paper, that the Government say they do, not propose to indulge in wholesale transference of population. One of the great evils of the present day is that people are being compelled to move about much too much. If you want to give people an anchorage and the feeling of stability and security which it is essential they should have, it is vitally important that industry should be brought to the people and not the people to the industry except, as the White Paper says, in one or two small and isolated cases.
Another disadvantage of the rapid unplanned development and growth of industrial areas is that it brings in its train equally unplanned development of residential areas, which grow up around the industrial areas, and you get huge dormitories, with no kind of planning, and no facilities for social and recreational activities. There is a conspicuous example of that, in my constituency, at Greenford, where you have a community of some 80,000 people which has been called into unplanned existence by the phenomenal growth of industry in the outer Metropolis. That sort of growth militates against the development of any kind of civic spirit and, consequently, against the attainment of what we all desire to see, an intelligent and educated democracy. I am very glad that the Government have now recognised, as I think all parties recognise, that this is a problem which cannot be left to solve itself. I am glad the Government have decided to tackle it in earnest and I think the general measure of agreement which the Debate has so far revealed shows that there is a growing realisation that we are still moving steadily away from the laissez faire conception of economics, and in the direction of a more orderly and consciously planned organisation of our national assets.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
I want to thank the President of the Board of Trade for giving us this opportunity of discussing this very serious question at what I consider an opportune moment. I want to make a plea on behalf of my 1419 native land, though not with a view to any antagonism towards any other part of Britain, because I believe the British race within the last 100 years has been the greatest humanising force the world has ever seen. I say that, in order that I may not be misrepresented, as I have been many times all over Britain. The reason is that I speak for engineers all over Britain. Sir Walter Scott put into the mouth of an Englishman in "Marmion," the lines:Breathes there the man with soul so dead,Who never to himself hath said,'This is my own, my native land'?To-day we are dealing with work and not with the beauties of my native land, though it has a record which will at least compare favourably with the best parts of the British Isles. This is an engineering age, and engineering had its inception in my native land. John Ruskin said that Lowland Scotland was the cradle of this great engineering age. It was in Scotland that James Watt produced his separate condenser which made the steam engine of commercial value and which made this great engineering age possible. What happened to us after the last war? With all our great record in producing men and women to build up the British Empire, more so than any other part of Britain, the Highlands of my native land have been left derelict, and bonny Scotland is being depopulated. After the last war, after we had built the finest ships that ever sailed the Seven Seas, the place was left in wrack and ruin. There was no work and nothing to do. I stood up in the House of Commons and appealed for work. I saw men at that time, my own kith and kin, who would not go to the labour exchange and who considered it a disgrace to do so. I have since seen those men glad to go to the labour exchange, and I have seen men of my race reduced to the necessity of going to take public relief. That is what the Government of that day reduced my race to, a hardy intelligent race whose sires the Romans could never deface. But they were defaced then. As the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) reminds me, it was private enterprise that did it. The robber barons seized our land and they still have the land.
At that time when we were appealing for work and for ships I tried to point out to the best of my humble ability that, 1420 unless we had ships, we would lose the British Empire, because of the world-wide nature of the Empire. The then Secretary of State for Scotland, who is now Secretary of State for Air, said that shipbuilding and engineering were finished. I said in reply, and the House stood by me, that if shipbuilding and engineering were finished, the British Empire was finished, and that I did not believe it. Who are the folk for whom I am appealing? What is their record? We built the finest ships that sailed the seas. I had to fight all parties in this House in order to get the "Queen Mary" built. Where would we have been to-day if we had not had the "Queen Mary" and the "Queen Elizabeth?" All the great liners have been built on the Clyde, and yet individuals try to create an atmosphere all over the British Empire—and they are at it yet—belittling the Scottish workmen and workwomen and talking about the "Red Clyde" which, on the least pretext, was ready to lay down tools and stop work. That is untrue. We have had no major stoppages of work on the Clyde since the war began. The representatives of the Ministry of Labour on the Front Bench will support me, in saying that.Facts are chiels that winna' ding,An' downa' be disputed.When we appealed in this House at the beginning of hostilities for factories to be built in Scotland we got no support. The powers behind the Government at that time were determined to centralise industry, particularly in the Midlands of England. They then tore people from my native land, and tore the lassies away and brought them into England. What do the employers and managers now say about those girls? That no finer workers ever came into the factories and that they cannot get enough of them.
We hear a lot of talk about the Scottish workmen and women being difficult to handle. Of course they are difficult to handle. As the Committee knows, I am difficult to handle myself; but it is that very difficulty, that independent spirit, that will crush Hitler and company. That is what Hitler and company are up against at the moment, and not only they, but any set of individuals who try to crush down the ever-rising urge in the workers to be free. I could give innumerable instances of English owners and employers who have praised Scottish workmen and women, but I will quote one or two names. 1421 There was a noted shipbuilder on the Thames whose firm is now on the Clyde. The head of the firm is Sir Harold Yarrow, and he tells me that no finer workmen in the world, and none more amenable to reason, are to be found than his workers on the Clyde and in my constituency. An English firm put down and supervised an aircraft factory in Scotland. An Englishman is in charge. [Interruption.] All over England it is Scotsmen who are in charge of factories. We have produced the finest aeroplanes in the Air Force today. We had difficulties for a time because everything was new, but the management tell me that, properly handled, as far as being reasonable is concerned, the Scotsmen are as good as Englishmen, and that for adaptability and excellence of work we in Scotland excel those in the English factories.
I am saying all this to try to disabuse the minds of individuals who may not desire to set up factories in my native land. They can be assured of every facility in order to achieve success. I believe that Scottish workers, both men and women, are the finest raw material in the world. I hope that the House will deal more kindly with Scotland in the future than it has done in the past. Think of the tragedy of all these factories being erected in England and the workers in Scotland being brought down to them. We want all these workers back home in their native land. There are no braver fighters and no more patriotic race on earth than my race, and they expect when the war is over to get a fair crack of the whip. We do not ask any special concessions from anyone. We are prepared to stand on our merits and we are prepared to takethe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.We remember the conditions that appertained after the last war. Our people dread a return to them. They know the bitter experience they passed through then. I have done all I can to keep them from going on the street, even to the extent of making enemies, but I was never afraid to make an enemy when I thought I was in the right. My people know what happened after the last war, and they are terrified that the same fate will befall them after this war. We have, however, had no guarantee from the Government that those conditions will not be repeated. I want that guarantee and I will not be satisfied till I get it. I want a guarantee 1422 that, there will be no poverty and no starvation because I do not believe there will be any scarcity after the war.
I believe that we can make the period after the war an age of abundance, of super-abundance. If the same spirit is abroad after the war, that has existed during the war, in order to win the war—if that same spirit could permeate the whole of Britain to win peace and plenty, we can accomplish it. That is what I honestly believe, and I appeal again to the Committee to let it go forth to-day that we Members of Parliament are banding ourselves together to win peace and plenty, just as we banded ourselves together to abolish Nazism. That would be a great thing. Our people are waiting to get a lead. It is the Government's duty to give that lead.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
I always think it well, in discussions in this House, to get back occasionally to the subject under discussion, and I venture, with all diffidence, to suggest that we have been wandering to some little extent, during the last 20 minutes or so. The subject under discussion is whether the Government know better than people themselves what people want. There are two political principles; one is Liberalism, and the other Socialism—or you can call it Nazism or Communism because they are all the same. The Liberal supposition is that men and women know best what they want. We call that idea laissez faire, and we say it is entirely out of date, that Government officials know very much better what people want than people know themselves, and the proposals of the Government, as outlined by the President of the Board of Trade earlier to-day, show clearly how far we have slipped back from what used to be the opinion of the vast bulk of the people of this country. Possibly, if only they could make their will felt that would prove to be their opinion to-day. That is the one thing that is going to save this country from the totalitarian State which is being erected by the present Government. Every day we get a little closer to the position existing in Germany, the position existing in Italy, and the position existing in Russia, and adopt one after another the principles of the totalitarian States. I think historians will say, if we go on as we are going with our present policy, that the enemy, even if he is 1423 defeated in the field, will have won the war because he will have forced us to adopt all those principles of his against which we are supposed to be fighting.
Nor are we likely to succeed with such a policy. Dr. Schacht, a person of some prominence in Germany, was taken back into favour in the early part of 1940, and he remarked to a neutral in the spring of that year:Germany is going to win in the end. Bit by bit, the so-called democracies will be forced into adopting the totalitarian system which exists in Germany—the State control of every activity of human life. War conditions will push them deeper and deeper into the mire, and at the end of the war they will not be able to get out again, just as Germany cannot. But mark this distinction between Germany and the democracies. Germany will have had the advantage of having practised that system for years and of having gained that experience which the democracies lack. Therefore, the democracies, when they become totalitarian States, will be at a great disadvantage and will go under.That was the opinion of one of the cleverest intellects in Germany and I am not sure that he is not right.
These proposals, as they stand, are based upon the supposition that the State knows better what is good for the individual than the individual knows himself. That may be a perfectly sound and proper basis for the conduct of the Government of this country, but let the people of this country know what is being prepared for them, and, above all, let the Fighting Forces know what is being prepared for them.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
The theory is that the State can organise the resources of the country better than a series of individuals working against one another. That theory has been proved in the crisis of the war. Does the hon. Member suggest that the State should have no part in running the war?
§ Mr. Hopkinson
That cannot possibly be true in the present war, so long as Germany and Russia are on opposite sides because the two systems are exactly the same. Supposing Germany beats Russia, does that prove that the totalitarian system of Germany is something better than exactly the same system which exists in Russia, or, if Russia beats Germany, that her system is better than Germany's? That does not give you any useful information at all because, as 1424 both sides are based on exactly the same principles, there is nothing to show which one is the better.
Now let us get down to the practical part. [Interruption.] In considering these questions, despite the jeers from above the Gangway, surely it is only reasonable, first of all, to look at the principle of what we are doing and then see how that principle works out in practice. I venture to say that if the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) reads his speech and mine in HANSARD to-morrow, he will agree with me that my remarks probably contain a little more daylight than his do. Forty years ago I had to "locate" an industry. I was perfectly free to go anywhere in the country to set up my industry. And I think hon. Members above the Gangway, if they had been in a similar position, would have done what I did. My market was the collieries of Great Britain. I did the very thing that other Members would have done. I took a map of Great Britain and drew in the outline of all the coalfields. Then I made a calculation of the centre of gravity of the coalfields and thus found the most suitable spot from the point of view of my markets. On examining that spot, I found it was close to my birth place, a place I was very fond of. I knew the people and to some extent I think my family is favourably regarded there. In those days of local banking, if a young man was starting in business without any money, it was very desirable that he should start in his own district, because the bank there would not ask him for a lot of collateral security which he had not got. All they asked was whose son he was, and if the answer was all right, they said: "Give him a thousand pounds; he'll probably make good." That was a very good reason for starting up in one's own district. The area which I chose had, moreover, excellent transport facilities. Two main lines happened to cross there and made a junction where all the express trains stopped. It was an ideal situation for the industry.
The President of the Board of Trade would never have allowed that. It was one of those areas where unemployment in my own industry was not at all bad, because it was the best position for that industry to be located. It was where many generations of skilled engineers 1425 had been brought up. Engineering works had naturally collected around that spot. For that is the way in which industry locates itself. If the Board of Trade had come to me and said: "This is a very good scheme of yours, but we think your engineering works for producing coalmining machinery had better be located in Cornwall," would they have made themselves responsible for seeing that I did not go into bankruptcy, owing to my works being placed in the wrong situation?
Take another case. We have heard from the President of the Board of Trade about trading estates. Some years ago, owing to the extreme depression of the collieries in Durham, a great scheme was set up called the Team Valley Trading Estate where new workshops were established with every possible facility—at whose expense? Mine, and that of other industrialists in this country. One of the applicants for one of these new works happened to be the agent for a firm of German makers of the kind of machinery that I was selling. For many years he had been selling German machinery of this type in this country. When he saw these beautiful new works to be obtained at uneconomic prices, and with a hidden subsidy underlying them, he took some, to the great delight of the Government of the day. They said: "Here is a man who has taken one of our beautiful new works at the Team Valley estate in Durham's depressed area. He has put into employment 100 men." I suggested at that time in this House that he had, at the same time, put out of employment exactly 100 of my men. He was in competition with me, and all that the Government had done, by their marvellous expenditure of public money and of energy, had been to put 100 men out of employment in Lancashire, and put 100 men into employment in Durham. There is not a Member of this House who does not know that this is the only possible effect that can be produced by Government action in such matters.
I respect the character rather than the intellect of hon. Members above the Gangway who sincerely think that there will be a Utopia if Government offices manage industry. How they can continue to hold that opinion, after having had 4½ years' experience of it, I cannot understand. After all, hon. Members above the Gang- 1426 way know the public conduct of industry has been carried on for a long time without the profit-motive and on the basis of losing something like £2,500,000,000 per annum from its operations. As a commercial concern, the Government trading has not been a very great success. I think I have succeeded in bringing the Committee back to the consideration of the points which we are really discussing. The first point is—is the principle of Government interference in the placing of industries theoretically sound; secondly, how would it work out in practice? The flap-doodle and cant, which constitute what the Government call policy, is in this case of the location of industry, as one might have expected from its authorship, a perfect epitome.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) has brought us back to earth, and I feel that some of the practical examples which he gave in his speech were of great value and deserve the attention of hon. Members. At the same time I entirely disagree with the first part of his speech. I speak as a whole-hearted supporter of the general policy which is embodied in the White Paper on employment. That policy involves the idea that you shall have Government direction working together with free enterprise. I fully recognise the difficulties in working out such a policy but I believe that those are the lines on which we have to proceed. If, therefore, I say anything to-day which shows doubt about what has been said for the Government to-day, I want to make it clear that it is not because I disagree with the lines of this White-Paper.
I consider it unfortunate that we are discussing this matter to-day before we have had a general discussion on the Government's employment policy. It is in fact not realistic to discuss the location of industry until we have considered what is to be the nature of British industry. I may be told that we know its nature and indeed we were told by the President of the Board of Trade to-day that a great part of British industry has already been located. But to be told that is not good enough. I hope that is not the Government's view. We stand on the threshold of one of the greatest periods in technological and scientific development that the world has ever seen. We must keep our place in that development and see that the 1427 natural resources of this country are used in new ways, to keep our place in the march of the world. We cannot afford to consider the structure of British industry as fixed, so I should have liked to have heard a great deal more about the Government's view as to what are to be the main foundations of that structure before we discuss the location of industries. What, for example, is to be our programme for the utilisation of our coal resources, for the development of the iron and steel industries, for transport, and so forth?
§ Mr. Owen Evans (Cardigan)
Does the hon. Member mean the Government's programme, or the programme of industry itself?
§ Sir G. Schuster
I mean what is to be the British programme. And that I hope to see developed between the Government and industry—because I believe that we have to bring in the organising power of the community, working with and evoking the willing co-operation of all the skill that is available in private enterprise. Without that I do not think we shall achieve our best in this country. I said I would be very brief. I want to make only three points. That is the first one.
My second point is this: I agree it is a sensible, it is even an obvious, idea that no industrial district should be dependent on one single form of outlet—with all its eggs in one basket. But I do hope that that sensible idea will not be interpreted in what I regard as foolish ways. Take South Wales as an illustration. I do not think that it would be a sensible interpretation, if artificial encouragement should be given to force upon South Wales the manufacture of lace or vacuum cleaners, or lipstick or fancy leather goods, or other light industries of such kinds, which already have their natural homes. What then does a sensible interpretation mean? It means that we should seek out what are the great natural sources of strength of South Wales, and we should make the most of those natural resources, and we should build upon the coal resources of South Wales a great centre of power stations, a great chemical industry, a great electrometallurgical industry and so on. I venture to submit to the Committee that 1428 you can, in a district like South Wales, build up on its own natural foundations, a varied industry which will be proof against all the chances and changes of fortune, and be a much surer basis of prosperity than any attempt to add the frills of a few light industries, which will be merely robbing Peter to pay Paul—taking something from Walsall and putting it down in Swansea. That, I say, is no solution.
§ Mr. A. Hopkinson
Before the hon. Member leaves South Wales may I put this point? We have already been told by the Government that in order to encourage the coal industry of South Wales we are going to put up a Severn barrage, with a gigantic power scheme, right on the edge of South Wales itself.
§ Sir G. Schuster
I hope the hon. Member will allow me to make my own speech and not the Government's. I wish to make my third point, which is, that I do hope that the Government, and I believe, contrary to my hon. Friend, the Government with the sources of information at their disposal can take views which no private individual can take—
§ Mr. Gallacher
On a point of Order. Has an hon. Member who has just made his speech, the right to walk about the Committee talking to this one and that one, and trying to interrupt another hon. Member who is making a speech?
§ Mr. A. Hopkinson
I submit for your Ruling, Sir Adam Maitland, that a Member has a perfect right, having made his speech, to walk about and sit down anywhere he likes and, if he wishes, converse with other Members.
§ Mr. Leslie Boyce (Gloucester)
Is it not in the best tradition of this House that a Member should show ordinary courtesy and consideration to another Member?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Adam Maitland)
I think it is understood that so long as a Member does not interfere unduly with the Debate, he has perfect liberty to do as he likes.
§ Sir G. Schuster
These interruptions make me feel, if I may use the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), that my eloquence is sufferingthe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.1429 But I do not want to make an eloquent speech. I wish to conclude as quickly as possible.
My third point is that I hope that the Government in considering their programme and policy will take account of the Position of the country as a whole. And here I should like to pick up the point made by the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson). We must guard against offering artificial inducements which will merely have the result of taking an industry from its natural home to areas where it will be fostered by artificial encouragement. I did not intend to talk unduly about my own constituency, but I may be allowed to mention it as an illustration. Take a town like Walsall, which I represent. Fortunately, it has not been badly blitzed; fortunately, it never suffered as part of one of the Special Areas or Depressed Areas. But it is a very important centre, and I want to ensure that it is remembered. Now to-day I see signs of all kinds of artificial encouragement being prepared in other areas. The President of the Board of Trade told us to-day of the number of new factories that are being put up and that he intends to have used for peace purposes. I understand, for example, that some very large new buildings are being put up for the reconditioning of clothing in various centres and that these are being specially designed so as to be suitable for developing as trading estates after the war.
I ask myself, if, after the war, we find that priority is to be given to what were formerly Depressed Areas, and that priority is to be given to badly blitzed towns, if these new inducements are to be offered in other parts of the country, what is to happen to the ordinary, I might almost say the humdrum, districts of industrial England? Are they to find that all their people will be drawn away from them? If that is the result, I submit that the Government will not have achieved anything which is of benefit to the country as a whole. What I am asking then is that that point of view should be considered, and that in giving our attention to those things which have excited attention and popular imagination in the past, we should not forget the vast volume of ordinary business which has gone on in this country and which must be continued.
1430 I come to my final word. I have gained the impression in all this discussion that we have been saying to ourselves, "Look at what happened between the two wars. Let us avoid the repetition of such mistakes." Of course, we want to avoid those mistakes. But after this war, our vision must not be limited to looking backward on the past, merely thinking how we are to overcome those depressions in those areas which, incidentally, were due to very special causes, the loss for special reasons of export markets, and not to ordinary trade fluctuations. Rather must we cast our vision forward into the conditions of the new world, in which, as I said at the beginning, a whole new era of scientifical and technological advance is dawning, and in which this country has terrific tasks to accomplish. Of these not the least is somehow or other to achieve, as the Government admit, a 5o per cent. increase in the volume of our exports. If we do not take those things into account, if we do not fight our new war, if I might use that phrase, to make a success of our civilisation, after this real war is over, by methods and with conceptions different from anything we have conceived of in the past, then I think our country will be doomed to failure. I can see in this White Paper something to inspire a new hope—the hope that the Government are going to have the courage to be pioneers on a new course. But to be of real value they must convert their general ideas to practical plans as soon as possible.
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison. (Edinburgh, West)
This has been a very interesting, and at times lively, Debate. I am glad of the opportunity to take part in it because it is one which, as the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has said, has particular interest for us in Scotland. Before dealing with points affecting Scotland, I would like to refer to some of the general remarks which were made by the President of the Board of Trade in opening the Debate. I am sorry that he is not here, but I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will convey this point to him. I fear that the right hon. Gentleman is not up to date with the doctrine in which Members on this side of the Committee believe. I would like to commend to him the very able Report on the Future of British Industry, 1431 produced by the Conservative Party Committee presided over by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke), paragraph 97 of which begins as follows:In accordance with the Reports of the Barlow Commission and the Scott Committee, we consider that a practical measure of control over the location of new industrial undertakings in Britain is desirable as a permanent feature of the post-war world.That, I think, should demonstrate quite clearly that we in the Unionist Party are no believers in the policy of laissez faire, and that we never were.
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison
My hon. Friend the Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson), I thought, demonstrated that there were two schools of thought, one of laissez faire, or unrestricted private enterprise, and one of complete State control. But, as in most matters, there is a third course, the one believed in by the Unionist Party, who take up a position between these two extremes, which is in accordance with our national customs and traditions. One other point, of a general nature, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned was the fact that the Government of the day, in future, will require certain powers for the direction of industry. One must admit that there must be such powers in the hands of the State, but it is very important not to proceed in matters of this description with the mailed fist, but rather to proceed in a spirit of reasonableness. People in industry are only too anxious to be helpful to the Government of the clay, whatever its complexion may be, and it would be very unfortunate if it went forth that it was the intention of the Government to browbeat, or to interfere unduly with, the business community. The ordinary business man is anxious to do his best for the country, and he will respond in a very reasonable and helpful spirit if the Government will only meet him. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) put the case for Scotland with an eloquence which I, as a mere native of the East of Scotland, cannot attempt to follow.
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison
Edinburgh is a very important part of Scotland. Scotland, in industrial matters, has had a very chequered history, because, for a very long time, we have been dependent on the heavy industries, coal, iron and steel, shipbuilding, and so on, and these industries are very much bound up with our export trade, and subject to all the fluctuations that have taken place in world trade. They were particularly affected by the serious slump in our export trade in the years before the war. The White Paper on Unemployment Policy, very rightly, lays great stress on the necessity for our export trade being maintained, and, indeed, largely increased, but, as I understand that the White Paper is to be discussed in the very near future, I will not pursue that point now, beyond making the one remark that we in Scotland—and I think that this applies to the North East Coast and other places too—are all too conscious of the disadvantages of being dependent for our livelihood on any one group of industries, which may be subject to fluctuations in the international trade position. Therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman was right in laying great stress on paragraph 26 of the White Paper, which deals with the necessity for developing new factories in those particular areas where there is a need for further diversification, and it is those areas, which have been dependent upon the export industries, which are in the greatest need of such new development. Scotland is pre-eminently a member of that group. I hope that the Government will act upon this principle when legislation is drafted.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
Are we to understand that the hon. and gallant Member is of the opinion that in Scotland also the heavy industries are played out, and that there is no more scope in them for development? What exactly is the Conservative view on that matter?
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison
I do not quite follow the hon. Member. I am heartily in favour of diversification of industries, because where a group of industries entirely dependent upon one form of trade, like exports, is concentrated in one area and that group is brought to a temporary standstill by a slump in trade there will be poverty and suffering in that area. There should be some light industries mingled with the heavy industries.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies
The Welsh case is not a Tory case at all, so do not confuse it with a Tory speech.
§ Lieut.-Commander Hutchison
I want to say a word about the development of industries in that part of Scotland from which I come. I do not want to take up time with what might seem a parochial matter, but my right hon. Friend said that new factories will be erected only where there is a surplus population to be employed. That seems to be taking a rather narrow view. I should have thought that other things should be considered, such as geological, geographical and transport considerations. I mention this point about the South East of Scotland particularly, because I understand that the coalfields in Lanark are in some danger of becoming played out in the not too distant future, whereas in the valley of the Esk there are large supplies of coal of very good quality, a continuation of the seam originating in Fife and passing under the Forth. It seems to me that when we are considering the development of industry, it is a very cardinal point that we should have our new industries somewhere near a good source of fuel. I would also point out, on behalf of the South Eastern area of Scotland, that we enjoy very good port facilities in the old-established and historic port of Leith, the management of which is very progressive and has schemes in hand for extensions and improvements, and that also we have a quite good secondary port in the smaller harbour of Granton, which is efficient and highly organised and of which increased use could be made after the war.
The President of the Board of Trade has referred to the question of surplus employable populations. Just as in other parts of Scotland, one of our troubles during this war has been that large numbers of people have had to be sent from Edinburgh to the Midlands of England and elsewhere, to staff factories. This has led to a certain amount of discontent locally. It does seem to me to be proved beyond all doubt that we have in the south-eastern area of Scotland a surplus labour force of high quality, and I hope that note will be taken of this point when this question of the location of industry is being further considered. We in Scot- 1434 land are people of independent spirit and we are individualists, and we are not just sitting back and waiting for the Government to do something for us. We have many active industrialists and public men in Scotland who are working on the problems of the future of industry, especially that body established by the Secretary of State, the Scottish Council of Industry, and all we are asking from the Government is not to hand out to us anything which should not be ours as of right or in any way to give us preferential treatment, but merely to try to hold the balance fairly which, I am afraid, has not been held so fairly in the past, owing to circumstances certainly outwith our control and perhaps also outwith that of the Government. We hope that there will be a better era in future, and we trust that the Government will play fair with us.
§ Mr. Owen Evans (Cardigan)
I think the Government may be well satisfied with the reception given to the White Paper, speaking generally, except in very narrow quarters, but we realise on this side of the Committee that it deals with the location of industry on the assumption of the continuation, at any rate for the near future and for some years to come, of what is generally referred to as private enterprise. We cannot deal with it on any other footing except by understanding that industry is to continue as it is now being conducted. How it is to be conducted in 10 or 20 years' time I do not know, but we must examine this document on the understanding that it is to be conducted from the private enterprise point of view.
§ Mr. Evans
There is a great deal of difference. My hon. Friend below me, who is extremely individualist, spoke of the industry which he started, I suppose about 40 years ago, in the place where he was living and where his family was known, and, where, obviously, he was geographically well placed for his market. I do not think that, even under this White Paper, if he started a new industry he would be called upon to do more than tell the Government that he proposed to establish an industry and build a factory, and place before the Government the considerations which justified him in putting it in a certain part of the country. I grant that this White Paper does not, in 1435 itself, increase the total amount of employment in the country, except in so far as it might increase the employment in a locality, and it may be that even the establishment of a new industry in another part of the country would employ precisely the same number of men as in a depressed area. All that will be done, as I understand it, is that an effort will be made to even out employment throughout the country so that we shall have no areas like South Wales between the two wars, where depression and a tremendous amount of unemployment prevailed.
I make no apology for following the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) in referring to the case of South Wales, and I agree that our memories, like the memory of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), may go back to the period between the two wars, and we know what happened then and of the enormous depression which prevailed. There were sad signs of that depression everywhere, and the consequences of it were seen in the people and were painful to witness. We remember the Welsh hymn-singers, cap in hand, in the streets of London, and passers-by, like the Levites, with their heads in the air, self-righteous, self-satisfied, living here in the lap of luxury, remarking, "What terrible people; why do they not turn to and earn their living?" The effect on the cultural life of Wales was something terrible. The South Wales collier and his family are keen on education, and I could give innumerable examples of scholars who came from humble homes, and of people who are fond of music, drama and art. There were the choirs of the great colleges of music, whom it was pathetic to see endeavouring to sing their way to joy in spite of adversity. We saw them with stark, staring hunger in their faces, their clothes worn out, suffering from a rationing of food and clothing due to compelling circumstances and not a Government scheme. Those were the conditions of that time and we do not want to see them return to South Wales.
There were attempts, however, even at that time to bring new industries to South Wales. I happened to be connected with one of them. New and progressive industries came to these areas, and the men were prosperously employed, but they grieved for their less fortunate country- 1436 men in the immediate vicinity. The tendency was not to improve either the temper of the men or to increase efficiency. I am glad to note that the Government have accepted responsibility in the words of the White Paper, and that itintends to check the development of localised unemployment in particular industries and areas.I trust that this is something more than a pious intention of the Government, that it means a determined resolution to act, and is not a mere flourish in the air. We want, in this particular case, a close connection between honesty of writing and speaking and vigour of action. How are the Government proposing to do it in the White Paper? I think it is right to give priority to basic industries—to coal and steel—and the White Paper says that the Government must help them towards the highest efficiency and to secure overseas markets. Those are the two things that are required for South Wales and its coal industry. The export trade has been going down for years—from 30,000,000 tons in 1929 to only 14,500,000 tons in 1938 of coal exported. The country should not forget that even 14,500,000 tons of coal is a substantial contribution to the export trade that we need to build up after the war. It is essential, we have been told, in order to pay for our imports of raw materials and food that we should increase the export trade by 50 per cent. There is a chance for the Government to assist the coal industry in South Wales to regain its export trade to the Continent and elsewhere. In the White Paper my right hon. Friend says that their aim is to help those industries towards the highest efficiency and to secure overseas markets, and I should like to know how the Government propose to implement that statement. How do they propose to help the basic industries in South Wales? May I ask for a little more information as to what the Government propose to do in order to carry out the declaration that they aim at securing higher efficiency in the coal trade in South Wales and to secure overseas markets? Coal is a wasting asset and that fact should not be forgotten. Where an area is dependent upon a wasting asset, there may have to be either a drastic removal of population or the old industry must be replaced by some new one. Which of the two alternatives is 1437 the policy of the Government? I refer again to the White Paper, paragraph 29 on page 13, where it says:But where a large industrial population is involved, the Government are not prepared either to compel its transfer to another area or to leave it to prolonged unemployment or demoralisation.Do the Government contemplate that in certain areas there may be a complete stoppage of industry owing to the exhaustion of wasting assets, and a considerable population to be dealt with, housing, amenities and services? How do the Government intend to deal with a problem of that kind if it should arise, and it is bound to arise in certain areas within the next few years. I do not believe that the Government could bring compulsion to bear upon industrialists to put their factories in a certain place. I rather agree with the declaration of Sir Malcolm Stewart, who was at that time Commissioner for the Special Area in South Wales, that economic considerations must in the main determine the location of industry. I accept that as a broad principle. In the main, I do not think that economic considerations have determined the location of industry in the past. Economic considerations alone certainly have not determined it. If one looks at the history of the industrial development of this country, one can only come to the conclusion that, in the bulk of cases, it happened to be mere chance. My hon. Friend has described the foundation of his own industry. He spoke of his old friendship with his banker, said the place was his home. Therefore, one of the most important reasons why he established his industry near Manchester lay in his local associations. That is often the reason. Personal preference and other reasons are the primary reasons; from the industrial point of view there is often no marked advantage in the London area over the South Wales area.
The onus should be put on industrialists to satisfy the Government that the site proposed by the Government would jeopardise the success of an industry, though we should not follow reliance on the Government too far. The Government ought to meet these industrialists, call them into counsel together, consult them, and draw their attention to the existence of specially designed factories in the country.
§ Mr. Evans
Not to the extent provided for in the White Paper. As regards South Wales, we should try to enlist the active support of leading industrialists who have established works in South Wales during the present war. It is a great advantage that we have had these new industries established there. The men in charge of them, the managers, the engineers and technicians have got into touch with the men and women working there and know their qualities. It is up to the people of South Wales, the municipalities and all the leading men in South Wales, to try to retain the industries that have been established there. I conclude by using the words of Rupert Brooke, who, speaking of young men fighting in the war, said they:gave up the years to beOf work and joy, and that unhoped serene,That men call age.We are to-day, in our work, our thoughts and our prayers as said last night by His Majesty the King—in close fellowship with hundreds of thousands of young men who are performing prodigious deeds of valour on the Continent. Many of them will not return, but let us do our best to see that those who do return find their work their joy and joy in their work.
§ Colonel Greenwell (The Hartlepools)
I gladly avail myself of the invitation extended to the Committee by your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Williams, and endeavour to make my remarks as short as possible. But I do not feel that I need apologise to the Committee because I have followed the habit contracted by my progenitors in getting myself born and brought up and having my being in one of those parts of the country euphemistically known as Depressed, Special or Development Areas.
Now, "What's in a name?" I will just say that if the Development Areas are ever again to become Depressed Areas, the rose will certainly smell no more fragrant for that reversion. Coming, therefore, from such an area I have good cause to welcome the provisions in the White Paper dealing with the location of industry as have all those with whom I am associated and those whom I represent. I rather imagine that I see something of the hand of the Minister without Portfolio in the concoction 1439 of this document, and he knows full well, being one of my predecessors in the constituency which I have the honour to represent, what being in a Depressed Area can be like. We have had in my constituency one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country—at one time running up to 46 per cent.
While, perhaps, the White Paper starts a little platitudinously and may end rather sententiously, it is like a sandwich in that it has a good deal of sound food in the middle. I am pleased to notice that it lays primary stress on the necessity for looking after the progress of the heavy industries in the future. I think the President of the Board of Trade may take to heart the fact, that he gives twice who gives quickly, and if he can give us some of the details of the way in which he proposes to look after heavy industry in future, it will be very much welcomed and appreciated in the parts of the country where that type of industry has flourished in the past.
I do not propose to give the Committee any historical review of the development of British industry, but it might be profitable to consider briefly one or two of the underlying facts which have made a small and in the main agricultural community become one the greatest industrial nations in the world. In the first place, the industrial revolution was due to the ingenuity of the people and, secondly, to the industry of the people; and the third, and perhaps inherently the most important, reason was that in this country we have abundant measures of coal and ironstone. Although we do not use the ironstone of this country to the extent we did and in ordinary times import most of it, coal is still a primary factor in the location of industry. I have no direct connection with the coal industry, but I have lived all my life in one of our great coalmining areas. Naturally I know intimately many workers and managers and owners engaged in that industry, and I realise the difficulties they have and what an arduous and unpleasant life it can be. I wish the mining community nothing but good, and the highest possible standards they can attain, but in the interests of the whole of the industry of the country, it must be borne in mind that coal has to sell at an economic price.
§ Colonel Greenwell
If the hon. Member will allow me to develop my remarks for a moment, perhaps he will hear. By an economic price I mean this. Liquid fuel is most certainly much handier to use, it is easier to transport and to burn in the furnaces of industry, and if coal can only be sold against it by putting a prohibitive tariff on imported oil or by subsidising coal, you are introducing an uneconomic state of affairs which cannot exist for ever. If it ever became possible to use oil fuel, instead of coal, in industry in Britain, it might change the whole lay-out of heavy industry in the country, and that must be borne in mind.
It is not unnatural that there are parts of the White Paper open to criticism, and there are some which seem to me to be contradictory. In the main, however, I am perfectly sure it will be widely welcomed up and down the country, and I hope its provisions will be studied and read by the widest possible number of people engaged in industry, workers as well as managers, because people should appreciate what the Government propose to do. In redressing the balance of industry in the future in those areas which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland (Mr. Furness) has stressed, only wars seem able to lift out of the slough of depression, everyone will hope that the necessity of leavening heavy industries with lighter industries will be effected by making the utmost use of the primary products of these areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) pointed out the other day very succinctly how important it was to use the primary products of an area in helping it out. Where we have a great coal industry, the best method of leavening up heavy industries is not, in my opinion, to introduce, say, clothing factories, although they may be very useful to the people there. It has already been pointed out that that is only robbing Peter to pay Paul. But, if you can develop the nylon industry, one of the coming new industries, it should be developed, not in London or Birmingham, but where the coal comes from. There we have a real solution of the problem.
I would suggest, too, for the attention of the President that, where timber is 1441 imported in large quantities industries relying on plywood, wood pulp and light joinery industries might be set up. There was a time in the past when development of this kind would certainly have been helpful. Where heavy steel is manufactured, I tentatively suggest—knowing little about the steel industry although there is one of the largest steel mills in my constituency—that it might be possible to develop a lighter side to it where press work and so on might be encouraged. As far as the shipbuilding industry is concerned—and I am engaged in it myself, so I know a little about it—I would point out that there is such a diversity of trades employed in the building of a ship that almost any industry of a light nature set up in a shipbuilding area will inevitably be assured of plenty of skilled labour of the kind it seeks.
In reading the White Paper carefully one appreciates that a certain amount of control and licensing will be necessary in the proper direction of industry after the war. It is quite obvious that the President will be unable to carry out his task without such control, but I beseech him to make that system of licensing, before factories can be developed or new ones built, as easy to work as possible and unlike what many of us have to suffer to-day. I will give, as briefly as possible, a small instance which came to my notice the other day. A firm, wanting to replace part of their buildings in a department of their plant which suffered damage from air attack, had to apply to the Admiralty for a recommendation before they could go to the Ministry of Works for a licence to put up the necessary building. The Admiralty official in London had to pass this on to an Admiralty official in Bath, and he, in turn, wanted information from a local man, who went to the firm and said, "Do you really want this?" It is going round in a vicious circle if you like, when it takes weeks and weeks to get away with that sort of thing. We shall have to get a move on in post-war development, and we shall not do it by having a licensing system which has to go from department to department and takes weeks to move.
Paragraphs 26 (a) and 61 made me think quite a lot and I would like to know what the Minister who will reply to this Debate has to say about them. There are certain provisions in this Paper in regard to the 1442 development of existing factories, and the laying down of new ones, which are rather vague and may play rather into the hands of big business in that it says that where serious disadvantage would arise from further industrial development in an area, the Minister could preclude development from taking place there. Who is to advise on this? Although I do not dispute the necessity for large firms in certain branches of industry, in the main it has been the moderate-sized firms which have always been the most efficient, because their managements have had intimate contact with, and control over, their workpeople in the day-to-day problems of the business. These firms have developed to the great industrial benefit of the country, and I trust that nothing the President may do in the future will be inimical to the interest of such firms.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
Surely the Minister will have power to restrict the extension of businesses?
§ Colonel Greenwell
I was quoting from the White Paper which says:Serious disadvantage would arise from further industrial development,and I wanted to know who would advise to that effect. Obviously, the President must get advice from somewhere as to whether such a state of things is likely to arise. If this advice is pressed on him by large industrial concerns, then difficulty will arise.
Some of the provisions of the White Paper deal with the possibility of the transference of labour from one part of the country to another. One of the proposals is that labour must be prepared to become more mobile in future, whereas in another part of the White Paper it suggests that the Government will not, under any conditions, transfer large sections of the people. That would hardly be possible, but it is difficult to know quite what is intended in the matter of the transfer of personnel. In the area I come from, the North-East coast—and I am speaking for this area rather than from the point of view of my own constituency—we consider, with justification I think, that we are an energetic and virile stock We have produced an exceptional degree of skill in our workers and in peace or war we give excellent service to the State. We have produced first-class fighting men, as 1443 the 50th Division has shown in this war and in the last, and we have done much to keep the country going by means of the heavy industries centred in our area.
No section of the population is more devoted to its own area than are the people in the part of the country from which I come. We give nothing away to Scotland in that respect. Our towns may be smoky and have other disadvantages, but we think that ours is a good part of the world and that it would be a disservice to the State if there were to be any attempts to get people to leave an area where facilities and communications exist to serve industry. We have roads, railways, housing, drainage and cheap power there, and we think it is far better to take the jobs to the workers than the workers to the jobs. But that does not mean that it might not be hi the best interests of all to have some redistribution within such areas. Over 2,500,000 people suffered in our area during the period of the last depression, and I imagine that with Clydeside and South Wales we must account for at least a quarter of the industrial population of the country. We have the services in these areas, and we want to see them put to the best use in the future. I want to ask the President to consider seriously the effect on the location of industry of the rates that are levied and of rateable values—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Charles Williams)
We have had a very wide Debate, but rateable values are certainly outside the Debate.
§ Colonel Greenwell
With great respect I suggest to you, Mr. Williams, that in the past the rates levied in an area were one of the most potent factors in the location of industry.
§ Colonel Greenwell
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Williams, and I will pass on to refer to freight rates for carrying goods from one part of the country to another. This is a point of importance in connection with the future location of industry, and a matter which might well be taken into account. I will not raise other controversial points which may come under your ban, Mr. Williams, because 1444 they may be better raised in another Debate on employment policy only. I would like to say, in closing, that everybody on this side of the Committee will have been delighted to notice the reference in the White Paper to the necessity for the continuation of personal enterprise in industry. The proposals of the White Paper can only be carried out and the aim achieved by the co-operation of all—the State, local authorities, employers and employed. A well thought out plan, if it is resolutely implemented by such cooperation, will be readily and enthusiastically welcomed. This country will be happy when it is content and will, I hope, become contented when employment ceases to be spasmodic and becomes regular. We are all eager to help along the road to that happy state of affairs and I am sure we all wish the President good will in carrying out his task.
§ Mr. W. A. Robinson (St. Helens)
I am glad to welcome the White Paper, because I know the difficulties which have faced the Government. While one could debate the White Paper page by page, or even item by item, the fact remains that here is an attempt to give the country a considered policy in regard to employment. I want to call attention to a remarkable thing that happened in my division a few years ago. I had to handle the case myself. The Minister approached me and noted the fact that, because of distress after the war, a new company was to be promoted, with the best German brains behind it, who knew the trade—there is no secret about it; it is glass—from A to Z. There exist in Threadneedle Street big people who subsidise new companies, and I could name some of the people responsible. This company was finding its capital in Threadneedle Street. They came to see me, and I did my best to thwart the efforts of these financial gangsters and I succeeded in stopping the exploitation of this new company, with German brains and Threadneedle Street finance. But I was told by my people in St. Helens to do no more, because the Government had insisted on stopping this adventure and intended to instal glass producing plant in Wales, and I was called off the hunt.
When all is said and done, the firm at St. Helens had no need to go to Wales to produce glass. Their plant is the best in the world. It is not a new industry and 1445 it is not improving output. If you are going to provide financial assistance, for Heaven's sake do not go to firms like this in St. Helens and say, "You must move part of your work." It is not the right thing to do. On the whole I consider that the Government are doing their best. It is an onerous job and a very sorry job. I say to the President, "Beware of Threadneedle Street. Beware of the Gold Standard fellows. They are after your blood. They will transfer industry for you and they will take control. They are the men you want to watch. Do not bother about me. I do not count. They are the people who count." I look on the White Paper as a laudable attempt to reach a solution of the problem.
§ Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I feel very much with my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), that it would have been easier to discuss this question if we had had a Debate on the main White Paper and knew the Government solution of some of the other problems but, as we are taking this by itself, I should like to say that there is in it a considerable amount which I think will be helpful. I was one of those who gave evidence before the Barlow Commission some years ago and I agree with the President's summing up of the various majority and minority Reports, which agrees with the general view of the evidence which I heard at the time. He says that the Government's policy is to confer with industrialists before they start new enterprises and that the Government will steer industry into areas which need assistance, and today they have powers which they did not have in the years between the wars. They now have definite powers which will make more effective the expressions of good will which we used to get before the war, which did not take us very far. It will be possible to put a ban on congested areas instead of asking people to be good boys and keep away.
It seems to me that we are beginning to feel our way to a solution of the problem. I do not know that trading estates, though they make a contribution, can be said to solve it at all. There is one thing I am glad not to hear and that is any suggestion that we ought to have satellite towns. My idea is that we have enough towns now. We do not want to take more of the rural districts and estab- 1446 lish satellite towns. I should be glad if the Ministry of Town and Country Planning would bear in mind that there are enough towns. The idea is that there are areas where there is a greater amount of employment than in others and that, as we expand, we should expand to areas where there is labour available, and not create more towns. That will only make the problem worse. The President promised that discretion should be used. I want to urge that he should bear that in mind very seriously because, in stating his views, I think he tended rather to over-simplify the problem. It is difficult, when you are stating a case and are thoroughly satisfied with your arguments, not to tend to do that, but it is not quite as simple as appears on the surface. You can have your houses and your factories and your plant but there is always the question what you are going to make in the factories.
There is a common idea that industry is one of the forces in the world, that it exists and that people are going to cut the channels, and turn the taps on and off, and direct it. That is not a correct view of industry. Industry is a force which is created by personal endeavour every day, and if you leave it alone it will die. Therefore, a considerable amount of discretion is needed. I have had something to do with creating industries from the stage of the white-washed wall, and I know that it is a laborious process. If we look at the history of some of the mighty concerns of to-day, we find that they started in a very small way and were built up a brick at a time. Levers, for instance, started in a grocer's shop.
The way in which industry is built up has to be studied in order to understand what industry really is. The reason I mention that is because in analysing the problem I am not satisfied that it is sufficient simply to re-arrange existing industries and to put a little more industry in other places. We have to see whether an industry which is dying at one end will fit up with industries which are starting at the other end. You cannot always be certain which will be the winners, but that is a risk which we industrialists take and for which we are paid. We have had considerable experience and we know more of what can be done by transfer than we did before, but 1447 we have also found out some of the difficulties. For instance, the tempo is different in different parts of the country. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I could not put my factory workers on the land and expect them to make successful agricultural workers in a few months. The tempo of the industry is different, and it takes generations to make a good agricultural worker. You cannot put industries into an area that has a certain tempo and expect the workers in that area to jump to the new tempo straight away.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
Is it not a fact that war factories have been established in many places where there were no factories before the war, and that the workpeople who had no experience earned the greatest praise for the work they have done?
§ Sir P. Bennett
That is agreed, but if you went into the costs, which we have not done in war-time, you would find that in some of these cases the cost of producton was higher in the new areas than in the old. We have been grateful for what has been done by the people who have turned from one type of work to another, but I am certain that the Supply Ministries would say that very often they have had to pay more for an article produced in one district than for a similar article produced in another. They have been willing to do it because they have had to have the double supplies. In industry run on commercial lines, however, the manufacturer will not be willing to pay extra because an article is produced in a different district, for there can be only one price in one market unless there is extra quality to justify it. We have been grateful for the assistance we have had from the new factories, but we would not say that it has been as economical, looked at from a commercial point of view, as if the production had remained in the original areas. It would be a slight on our own workpeople to say it had been, for it takes years to build up the skill which we see in the older factories. That is why I say that discretion is needed and that this thing must be done carefully.
A great deal can be done, but it is not so easy 'as many people think, because industry is a delicate plant which grows by careful watering and attention. I 1448 admit that it is possible to take some big industries and have economical production in different districts, but when you come to some of the fabricated industries it is a difficult problem. We are often asked why the motor car industry is concentrated in one or two areas. In the early days, motor cars were manufactured all over the country, but, one by one, various concerns died out, because it was found that the most economical production was in certain areas. The industry settled down in those areas, and has remained there.
§ Sir P. Bennett
I was in the industry. Economics always finds its own level, and the motor car industry remained in certain areas because not only was the skill of the workpeople there, but they were surrounded by ancillary industries. A manufacturer with whom I was discussing the question last night said that the background was essential and that when he had gone to other parts of the country he had found it difficult to transfer the background and the experience of the work-people. He also said that surrounding him were a large number of ancillary industries, which made it so much easier for him to run his industry there than in another district where those industries did not exist.
I share the hope expressed by the President of the Board of Trade when he suggested that we must improve the transport between certain parts of the country. It will certainly make a great deal of difference if we can move our material and finished products about more quickly. We should not expect an industry to take the whole of a product and put it in one district; we should see whether we cannot arrange for certain parts, such as the machine work, to be done in one district, and allow the finishing to be done in the districts where the skill and experience in finishing have been developed. Much as I deplore the maldistribution of industry, there is one thing I should deplore more, and that would be its non-existence and if in our re-arrangements we lost something and found eventually that the country was worse off on the whole.
§ Mr. Silkin (Peckham)
Most of the speakers to-day have expressed satisfac- 1449 tion with the policy adumbrated by my right hon. Friend. I want to take a different line. If the policy of the Government on the Barlow Report is set out in paragraphs 20–30 of the White Paper on employment policy, I must express profound dissatisfaction. The policy as set out there is a very disappointing result of several years' thought on the Barlow Report. My right hon. Friend, in setting out the Government policy on the location of industry, said that while he thought you could exercise control over new industry, and over substantial extensions of existing industry, you could do nothing with existing industry, because there it was and you could not do very much about it. To exclude existing industries is to ignore the whole problem. I doubt whether you could achieve any substantial success in the policy of providing industry for the development areas merely by directing new industries to them.
The real problem after all, as the Barlow Committee discovered unanimously, was the over-developed conurbation in different parts of the country. If the policy of the Government is to leave that situation alone and merely to deal with new industries, they are, in my view, riding for a fall. When my right hon. Friend addressed the Committee I hoped that he was going to enunciate a policy for dealing with the very serious problem which the Barlow Report considered most urgent, of the large conurbations and particularly the London conurbation. No one was more eloquent than my right hon. Friend in the days before the war in deploring, particularly on strategic grounds, the failure to deal with that situation. I have taken the trouble to refresh my memory in regard to a speech which he made in 1936 or 1937, a most excellent speech, with which I agreed much more than I did with his speech to-day. Then he was really directing his mind to the problem, while to-day he seemed to regard it as relatively unimportant. I do not know how many new industries he expects will be created after the war, but I doubt whether the quantity will be sufficient to make a substantial difference to the Development Areas. Unless we can get a substantial amount of transfer of the Congested Areas to the Development Areas the whole policy will be a failure.
I agree with a great deal that was said by the hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir 1450 P. Bennett). I agree that you cannot deal with existing industries in the same way as you can with new industries. You have to deal with them by persuasion, by discussion and possibly by offering assistance to transfer. I agree also that you have to be extremely careful as to the type of industry that you transfer. There is industry with traditions, and if uprooted and put into fresh soil it might not flourish. At the same time, I should like to remind the hon. Member for Edgbaston of an experience which I had, in the course of my investigations for the Select Committee on National Expenditure. We were looking at certain armament factories and comparing their efficiency and costs. One was a private enterprise factory which had been in existence for many years. Another was a Royal Ordnance factory which also had been in existence for many years in an industrial area. The third was a Royal Ordnance factory newly created in Wales. Most of the women in the Welsh factory had been shop assistants or engaged in other forms of labour. If the Minister of Supply were here I think he would bear out what I say, which is that the most efficient of the three was the Welsh factory. It does not in the least follow that by transferring a factory from an established area to a new area, you necessarily lose in efficiency. It depends upon the area and upon the industry. I would like my right hon. Friend to tell the Committee of a policy which would have the effect of de-congesting the congested areas.
§ Mr. Dalton
I do not want to take up the time of the Committee, but I would like to tell my hon. Friend, who sits for a constituency which I once had the honour to represent, that if he will read carefully what I said, he will see that it does not bear quite the interpretation which he has put on it. I said that the Government accepted the principle of decongesting the congested areas, but I said that it fell partly within the field of town and country planning.
§ Mr. Silkin
I do not want to be unjust to my right hon. Friend, particularly as he is also my predecessor. I thought, however, he was not dealing with this matter as President of the Board of Trade but in order to explain the Government's policy about the location of industry. I felt that he dealt with it, I will not say in a half-hearted way, but in an incom- 1451 plete way, and merely to ride off on the subject of the decongesting of congested areas by saying that this is 'a matter for town and country planning—
§ Mr. Silkin
Primarily then—and to leave it at that, struck me as not an adequate method of dealing with the question. Again, I agree very much with the hon. Member for Edgbaston in saying when we come to deal with decongesting, "For goodness' sake do not let us have any more satellite towns, at any rate until there is no other method of dealing with the problem." The satellite town is one degree worse than the congested town. It is a less pleasant place to live in.
There was another part of my right hon. Friend's speech with which I do not altogether agree, and that was the method of dealing with new industries. As I understood him, he was going to discuss and persuade, and if necessary even use the big stick by the application of the building permit, to get industry to go to certain places. After all, he is not going to have that big stick for long. He may have it for five, six or seven years after the war, but it will not be in his hands indefinitely, and I can imagine a good deal of pressure upon him after the war in this House, particularly if he uses that big stick effectively, to get it taken out of his hands. As my right hon. Friend himself stated, this problem will be with us for a long time. There will come times When a Development Area will no longer be so classified, while other Development Areas will arise. There is no reason to suppose that in the modified and developed system of private enterprise, which we shall enjoy, we are told, for a long time after the war, the condition will not constantly recur of places becoming Development Areas.
My right hon. Friend will need some more effective power than that of the building licence. Moreover, I doubt very much whether he will find it possible to use the building licence as a means of forcing industry to go to certain areas. The purpose of the building licence is to ensure that priority is given to particular types of building construction. If a factory is needed it might be that the President of the Board of Trade, in his capacity as grantor of a building 1452 licence, could say where that factory ought to be built. Therefore I think that my right hon. Friend will have to face the question whether or not, in the last resort, industry is to be required or compelled to go to an area to which it should go in the national interest. After all, my right hon. Friend is only dodging the question. In fact he is getting the same result by another form of compulsion. To pretend that the use of the building licence is not compulsion is, of course, merely closing one's eyes or avoiding the use of an unpleasant word. It is compulsion, and I would not apologise for one moment for requiring new industries to go to areas where it is in the public interest they should go.
I want to face up to the argument that the civil servant or even the President of the Board of Trade may not be the most suitable person to decide what is the public interest. I would be quite prepared to accept the recommendation of the Barlow Report to set up a Development Committee which could be manned by people of experience both as employers and as employees and people of public experience, who could be trusted to consider the relative merits of any application for the location of a new industry. To understand the problem thoroughly would require a certain amount of research, which I understand is taking place at the present time, by the Board of Trade, to show what kind of industry a particular locality can best serve. I do not altogether agree with the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) that in Wales you can only have certain special industries connected with the coal industry. Research should be taking place now, and as soot), as possible a Development Committee should be created, with possibly regional committees who would be in closer touch with the needs of their area and could advise the central Development Committee.
This is a proposal which, as my right hon. Friend knows, is recommended by the Barlow Report, and I think that it would be much more satisfactory to set up a body of that sort than to put the responsibility directly on the President of the Board of Trade, although, of course, he would, in the last resort, have to be answerable for the actions of such a committee. I feel that unless something more 1453 is done along the lines I have suggested, the country will be doomed to disappointment; that the Development Areas will not be getting the industries which they need to give them full employment; that they will not get diversified industries; that, in short, matters will not proceed more satisfactorily than before the war. I strongly urge the Government to think again with a view to adopting a more courageous, more drastic and, shall I say, a more revolutionary policy over this matter.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Oscar Guest (Camberwell, North-West)
I wish to preface my few remarks by adding my meed of compliments regarding the White Paper we are discussing. I think it is a most remarkable piece of forward thinking in war-time. I am pleased to see that the Development Areas are to get their meed of priority in regard to planning. I would like to put forward this suggestion for the consideration of the Board of Trade. We have been told by the Ministry of Labour and several other Government Departments that we in these areas should try to help ourselves. In South Wales we have tried to put that into practice, and a very large proportion of the manufacturing industries there have formed themselves into an association with this object in view. We have, I think, the approval and blessing of the Area Board in what we are doing. We asked them to form in South Wales the opposite number in a triangle to tackle such a problem. If management and labour would put forward their local knowledge of a district such as South Wales for the help and assistance of the Government Departments concerned, it might be a solution of the difficulties which we face.
The Debate to-day has been on the question whether the location of industry will be of increased advantage to the country, and whether the Government taking a more direct hand in industry will have a bad effect or a good effect. As an industrialist I should have thought that the answer lay in the word "efficiency." If we have industry where workers are situated, and if the industry of the country is co-ordinated by means of Government co-ordination, I think that does spell efficiency, I think we shall see greater employment in the country after the war than before. It is a question of the extent to which we can be organised as a country to achieve it. I do feel that 1454 these schemes for the location of industry in this White Paper, and the method by which the various areas are to be dealt with, are the right way to deal with the problem. I do not think we shall have to compel either industrialists or workers to go where it is wise to work. I hope that no Government will have to come to those measures in respect of either side in industry. As far as industry in South Wales is concerned more people want to go there than the Government can provide factory space for and that is an interesting indication of whether industrialists are willing to come to a Development Area.
I would like, in conclusion, to say that the problems we are faced with are rather of a different nature. The question of factory space looms large in our part of the world. The difficulty is to know when we can get factory space, when munition factories will be freed for people to come there, in what order and in what time. Power is another big factor—the question of whether power rates are to be the same in one part of the country as those in another part. We need technical training in the new types of industrial development coming into an area which has been confined more to heavy industry. Above all, we need houses. We want more houses for the workers and we want them built where the factories are and not where factories are not. These are problems we as industrialists find ourselves faced with now in that particular area. If we can have some indication from the Government that what we are doing has their approval, and if we can have co-operation, as in South Wales, I believe a great deal can be done to overcome difficulties in that and other areas. I was glad to see that an area can cease to be a Special Area and become a healthy and ordinary area. If the three parties—the management, the men and the Government—work together I think we shall soon know the Depressed Area no longer.
§ Mr. Henry Brooke (Lewisham, West)
I welcome this White Paper and I am delighted that the Minister of Reconstruction has presented to Parliament a practical location of industry policy, which, in my opinion, is long overdue. My interest in this intensely important subject is certainly not of recent origin. If the Minister cared to look up in the Barlow Commission's Report the list of individuals who submitted evidence, he 1455 would discover the names of six past or present Members of this House, of whom four were Conservatives; so I hope we shall hear no more of the suggestion that his own party had, until recently, a monopoly of interest in this matter. If this Debate has served no other purpose it has, at least, proved that it is not only Members who represent areas which were hard hit by unemployment who are concerned over the problem with which we are dealing. One hot day recently when I was in an overcrowded London train in the rush hour, it struck me how fantastic it was that, in this modem civilisation, we accept as inevitable that people have to travel to and from their work in the traffic conditions which pervade all the big cities. That is connected with industrial congestion. I have a great deal of sympathy with my neighbour the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), in the remarks which he made about the Minister's lack of interest in the congestion side of things. The Barlow Commission stated that there should be three objects of national policy. The first was redevelopment, the second was dispersal of industry from over-congested areas, and the third was the attaining of a proper balance of industries. Paragraphs 20 to 20 of the White Paper are concerned almost exclusively with the third of those. The Minister's speech was confined to that.
The White Paper had to be confined to employment, because that was its subject, but one cannot restrict the importance of location of industry policy entirely within employment terms. One cannot neglect the permission that has hitherto been granted too freely to industry to spread over good, unspoiled agricultural land. It is not only the wicked industrialist, I would remind hon. Members opposite who has tended to do that in the past; it was only two or three years before the war, at the very time when the Ministry of Labour was doing all it could to attract work to the Special Areas, that the Air Ministry proposed to set up an aircraft factory in a place where there was no labour, in beautiful, unspoiled country near Maidenhead. All these matters have to be taken into account if our location of industry policy is to be comprehensive. London has been frequently mentioned to-day as the one and only sinner, but if hon. Members will look at the changes in the 1456 figures of insurable population in the years between the two wars, they will find that there was a growth of population in practically every large city. We heard the hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) mentioning the situation in his constituency, up the valleys. No wonder he did so; no one who was there between the two wars will be surprised at it; but all the time while the valleys of South Wales were being denuded of their people, Cardiff and Swansea, believe it or not, were growing. This magnetic tendency of the cities is another evil—at any rate, I think it is an evil—that has to be dealt with if the Government's location of industry policy is to be all-embracing.
That is why I ask for a complete policy, and not one which looks towards employment only. I agree that we must take measures to secure a better balance of industries throughout all regions of the country, not only for the more obvious cause that otherwise the industrial situation in many areas will be unstable, as it was tragically proved to be between the two wars, but also because, otherwise, any general measures taken by the Government to stimulate industry throughout the country will very likely not stimulate it in the right places. If we can achieve the better balance to which this White Paper looks forward, stimuli applied to the general level of employment and industry may have a roughly similar effect throughout the country, and not only in those areas which are favoured. The paragraphs in the White Paper suggest a three-fold policy. Industrialists will be required to notify their plans for the siting of new factories or extensions.
I agree with that. Secondly, there is to be some kind of prohibition on new factories or extensions of existing industries in certain overcrowded areas. I agree with that, and, frankly, I could not see the difference that the President of the Board of Trade suggested there was, as regards London, between the intentions of the White Paper and the policy recommended by the Barlow Commission on this point. Perhaps, if there is a difference, it could be explained to us. Thirdly, the positive part of the policy is this phrase, to which the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) called attention: "To steer new factory development." What exactly does that word "steer" 1457 mean? If you are going to steer, you must have two things: you must have a steering instrument, and you must also have a chart. I do not think we have heard enough about the kind of chart by which the steering is to be done. It is essential to have, and to have continuously brought up to date, an intelligent economic survey of the local changes that are going on, Survey and research are the key to this matter. That type of survey work will be fruitless if it is not done competently and objectively. At that stage transient political issues should be kept right in the background.
That is why I have some regret that the proposals do not include the setting up of what I might call a permanent Industrial Development Commission, though the name does not matter; the Barlow Commission recommended something they called a National Industrial Board. I want an impartial body studying the country, nationally and objectively, that should present to Parliament and the Government the essential facts. I know that hon. Members say that there have been enough reports already, but most of these reports have been documents indicating what has happened in the past. Where we have failed is in neglect of preventive measures against evils that could have been foreseen, and that we ought to have foreseen. The kind I have in mind is that, wherever you have an occupation based upon an extractive industry, there is a wasting asset there, and the mineral will one day be all extracted; sooner or later, you are going to have your special area problem there.
After that objective survey has been carried out—and I visualise it as a continuing process—then comes the time for the Departments to make up their minds what action should be taken or recommended to Parliament, and there, it seems to me, the Board of Trade is as good an instrument to take the lead as any other. If that survey was properly done, there would be available to industrialists a more accurate picture, a more complete statement of all the considerations that should be prevalent in their minds when choosing sites. Though, on the whole, there have not been many cases of grossly misplaced industries, from the individual point of view, it has not been easy enough in the past for the industrialist, when considering the site 1458 for a new factory, to get a complete picture, because it is only the Government which has that picture. To provide that is the sort of service which the Government can render.
We are relying, I should say, rather too much, when we come to action in the White Paper, on the power of a licensing system. Everyone knows that licensing has got to continue for a time after the war, but I have considerable sympathy with what the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) was saying when he asked what is to happen to a constituency like his. It is not a development area; it is just an ordinary sort of place. Is it going to be left out of all these special plans and considerations? What strikes me as a practical, permanent method to aim at is that the national body, whatever it is, taking stock of the industrial situation throughout all the regions of the country, will make up its mind that rapid development is required in certain regions in order to create proper industrial balance—little further development, or none at all, in others. That should be translated into terms of industrial zones and of industrial sites in the areas concerned, with the ultimate result that, in each area of the country, there would be sites, not necessarily trading estates, but authorised sites, to which I should like it to be possible for any industrialist to go freely without having to go through the rigmarole of a licensing system which, as the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Colonel Greenwell) said, sometimes takes far too long and which, in any case, may impose on the licensing authorities the almost impossible task of deciding whether refusal of a licence will so put up the costs of an industry, because it has to go elsewhere, that it will not be able to compete in export markets. I would like to try a system of authorised sites throughout the country. With that we might manage to build up a freer system of influencing the future location of industry.
My last word is this. For years and years past, every Minister concerned with defence has had to keep in his mind's eye a map of the world-wide commitments of this nation and Empire. I want to see the production and maintenance of a similar economic map of the problem areas of this country, from which a loca- 1459 tion of industry policy could emerge in the same practical way as diplomatic and military policy ought to emerge from our world-wide responsibilities.
§ Mr. J. J. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
There was some doubt in the minds of many hon. Members whether this Debate should have been held to-day, in view of the fact that we have the prospect of longer Debates on the White Paper on Employment Policy. I think that those who have heard this Debate will agree that the course of the Debate has shown the extreme necessity of taking these subjects separately, because the Debate has dealt largely with the planning of industry, which is a different matter from the question of full employment. It seems to me that some of the criticisms of the White Paper, in so far as it deals with this subject, are rather well merited when compared with the recommendations of the Barlow Commission, but I want to say, quite frankly, that, even now, I am very pleased that, on the whole, the Government are taking what steps they can to direct industry now, and giving what promises they can, immediately, to direct industry into those parts which are what we call unbalanced.
I make no apology for that. As a matter of fact—and I wish the hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson) had been here, because he spoke about the artificial direction of industry and the damage it would do—the war itself has, actually, for many reasons, increased the lack of balance in industry in those particular areas that suffered before the war. Strangely enough, Scotland and the North, and I think it would be true of Wales, are actually worse off now, for diversified industry, by comparison with the rest of the country, than they were before. Anybody who wants to know how bad that was should read the Barlow Report. I took a lot of pains to read most of the evidence on which this Report was based, and I think that, if full value is not given to that Report, it will turn out to be one of the great tragedies of this country.
In that Report, you have an inquest on the industrial and commercial life of this country, and it reveals a state of things which was really menacing to the country as a whole. If it had not been for the 1460 revelations of this Report, and the apprehensions which led to the Commission, this country was going towards a state of things which would have led, I think myself, to its physical and moral degradation.
Of course, the authors of the Report draw attention to a good many things. They had to deal with the matter on which the Scott Report is based, for instance. If I may say so, I do not know who wrote the Scott Report, but, for a change, I should like to compliment them on understanding human conditions, on their style, and on their appreciation of those natural surroundings, which play as definite a part in moulding citizenship as even industry itself. But it revealed a very sad state of things indeed. The White Paper uses the word "conurbations." I hope we shall use a fresh word. It is a nasty word and it is not good enough. Let them use an old Yorkshire phrase, in the dialect of some of my friends and, in referring to a place which is not a village, nor a town, nor a city say, as the Yorkshireman says, "It is neither nowt nor summat." It has no social sense. A great city has a social sense. A town has a social sense. I do not know what kind of civilisation there would be if there were many conurbations in Europe.
The hon. Member for Mossley talked about trying to drive these industries into threatened Depressed Areas by what he called artificial means. I wish as I say he had been here at the moment, but according to the principles he laid down, there would be no factory legislation or anything else. He wants industrialists to go just where they like, and to do what they like, just as industrial leaders took children of six into factories and workshops in the earlier industrial era. Areas in the North of England—and the same applies to Scotland—were declared to be vulnerable areas and because of that fact these light industries were prohibited from going into such areas. Is not that an artificial cause? The Government, however, discovered that they were wrong because of the course the war took, but in the meantime, even after the blitz, the Greater London area was being packed with factories. I wish I could tell the Committee some of the things I have heard from people in those areas which are now packed with factories, on the assumption, apparently, that there would be no further 1461 bombing. More factories have been established in Greater London, to say nothing of Coventry and other places, since the blitz in 1941, than there have been established in the North and. in Scotland put together. That is a very serious state of things.
My right hon. Friend is dealing with the matter direct, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) that that is not sufficient. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade may not be in his office some years hence. The war might end and the Government of the day might forget all about this sort of thing. I am gratified that the Government have at last faced this problem ill a direct way and I do not want to under-value what they have done. There are the proposals of the Commission. They unanimously came to the conclusion that, in view of the nature and urgency of the problem, national action is necessary, and for this purpose a central authority, national in scope and character, is required. They go on to say that the activities of the authorities should be extended beyond the powers of any existing Government Department, and they say that there should be re-development and a lot of things of that description. The case is very strong for seriously considering, if not the shifting of some of these industries from the congestion, at least the closing of some of these factories in congested areas. Industrial planning should have some relation to town and country planning, and even inside some of the Depressed Areas there is need for considering the question of congestion.
I take the Team Valley as an example. It has (lone very well on the whole, considering: all the circumstances, but I do not want to see it destroyed. It has natural beauties. It has North and South roads and the sea, and is a first-class place. I do not want to see indiscriminate development of that area without regard to its natural beauties. I want to see natural beauty preserved, and, above all, I want to see consideration given to the planning of communities so that they shall have a social sense rather than that there should be an indiscriminate state of things in which you have a feeling that nobody has any relation to anybody.
1462 I want the Government to consider the establishment of a separate authority. The Board of Trade, I understand from the White Paper, is to have prior consideration in this matter and is to be the effective executive for the purpose of directing industry. That is good as far as it goes, but the Board of Trade has so many departments, and it is very wide in its range. I believe that this is too big a job for the Board of Trade. It may be able to do something in the meantime, during the war, but if the matter is to be considered from the point of view of legislation, ultimately there will be the question of the setting-up of a fresh Department. I think this is a subject which needs a separate Department, and not merely because of the growth of industry. I do not think there is any difficulty in directing industry into these areas. I think that some industries are special to particular areas but there is no particular reason why the engineering industry generally need be in a particular place and I do not think, on the whole, it will be difficult to direct it in accordance with the industrial planning which the Government have in mind.
One thing is good to know. Some of the so-called reasons for industry going to certain parts in the last few years will not operate in the future, and I advise the Board of Trade—though I need not tell my right hon. Friend to—to watch these so-called reasons. For instance, why could Sir Malcolm Stewart hardly get a reply from thousands of employers when he sent out notices asking whether they would go to the Special Areas? They did not put the replies down on paper, but those who were responsible for leadership in Special Areas will tell you what some of those people said. Some of the reasons why they came to London were because their wives wanted to be next door to Oxford Street, because some wanted good golf courses, or because they wanted to be at Wimbledon. They came for the same reason that individuals have always given—as has been pointed out in this Report—and anybody who knows anything about human history knows that it is true. They came to suit their own convenience, and that is not good for any nation. For my own part, I hope the Government will not be altogether satisfied by the tentative proposals as they are set out in the White Paper. I hope, 1463 with all due respect to many great industrial leaders, that they are going to take industry generally by the scruff of the neck and say, "You have to go where we want you to go, for the benefit and the convenience of this community which has served you well."
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Captain Waterhouse)
I have been interested to see that the first note I made to-day on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) was that there were too many Departments concerned in this particular matter. Therefore, I was a little surprised, as well as interested, to find that my hon. Friend opposite, speaking from the same Box, almost ended a most interesting speech by saying that he would like another authority or, possibly, even a new Department to deal with this particular matter. It just shows what a very healthy difference of opinion one can have on a subject as wide and as important as this.
The Debate has been an extremely interesting and instructive one. It will be quite impossible for me to deal with more than a comparatively few of the points, which have been raised in a very large number of speeches, but I can assure the hon. Members who have spoken, that the various points they have raised will be considered. I would remind the Committee that this is a White Paper, and that the purpose of a White Paper is to make people think, and express their thoughts aloud. So, we are grateful for the expressions of opinion that have been given us to-day. It has been suggested from several quarters that it would have been better if the general Debate on the White Paper had preceded this particular Debate on location. I do not know whether that is so, or not, but, at any rate, it is not the Government who are to blame, because the Committee well knows that is a matter entirely in the hands of the House. Supply Days, and the subjects discussed on them, are decided, by ancient custom, by a certain rota of the parties, and in this case I think it was the Labour Party who, very properly, suggested that we should have a discussion on the location of industry to-day. There have been certain points raised, as there must be, which are outside the particular limit of the location. For example, one 1464 or two hon. Members spoke of the movement of population, and I was asked a question on the measures which would be taken for the rehabilitation of the heavy industries, which is mentioned in a particular section of the White Paper, it is true, but is really a matter which falls outside this precise subject.
It is a happy thing to me and to my right hon. Friend that in this Debate we have left that purely restrictive war era, which none of us have much enjoyed at the Board of Trade and many of those in industry have not liked at all—but an era which the country has borne with extreme patience. It has been necessary to cabin and confine industry in every direction, to pile orders, regulations, directions one on top of another, and the way industry has responded to our requests is the best indication of their whole-hearted determination to follow this Government in whatever line they thought proper to bring victory to us at last. We are to-day in an era of scheming and planning. We are determined, when the war is over, to do our utmost to fit this country to live through the difficulties which must arise after five, six or seven years—whatever it may be, by the time we have finished it—of production merely for destructive purposes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walsail (Sir G. Schuster) spoke of the great impetus which has been given to invention and to scientific development. That is, happily, one of the good results of almost all major wars—they stir things up and, as a rule, one finds great social and industrial developments after a war. I have no doubt at all that history will repeat itself in this particular case. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Sir C. Headlam) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North-West Camberwell (Lieut.-Colonel Guest), who spoke a few moments ago, both stressed the importance of obtaining the highest industrial efficiency, and said that our duty was to re-equip the nation at home and, more especially, to get our export trade started abroad; unless we can get industry really moving in this country by one means or another, all the plans which we have formed for a better England are of no value at all. That is the formidable task which faces British industry and I agree completely with my hon. Friend the Member for 1465 Mossley (Mr. A. Hopkinson)—who puts things with great clarity, considerable violence and a great deal of humour—and with my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) when they said that no Government can solve these problems. Their solution must depend in the future as in the past, on the courage, the initiative, the genius, and the skill of every man and woman engaged in British industry. However, it is the responsibility of the Board of trade to do what we can so to till the ground that the seed of industry may prosper after the war.
In the early stages of industrial development, we had no experience to guide us in the location of industry. We had, obviously, to learn by experience, and during the industrial development of the last century we have learned much. For instance, we have our code of factory laws, our rules for health and sanitation, and now we are taking a step in the same general direction, in the direction of indicating the location of industries in the future. I am not prepared to admit that the set-up of industry over the last century has been bad. Hon. Members have suggested that industries arose in a haphazard fashion; the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Owen Evans) suggested that economic development in the last century came about by mere chance. I really do not think anyone could possibly support such a theory. To take extreme cases, it is not by mere chance that ships have been built on our seaboards, that steel works have been set up near coalfields, that cotton and wool have been centred in Lancashire and Yorkshire, where there is a humid atmosphere and water power, or that small industries have centred themselves among great populations. They are the effects of economic factors and when we are entering a period of control we have to realise that we are endeavouring to control economic factors, and not merely to control chance arisings of the past century.
I think the Committee will agree that it would be impossible to attain a general level of prosperity throughout the country. All trades fluctuate from time to time; they all wax and wane over long periods, but we are now endeavouring to take steps to prevent the full weight of these changes falling on comparatively small and restricted areas of the country. I would like to remind the Committee, 1466 very briefly, of the general outline of the White Paper before I deal with the various points which have been raised. They are: First, the compulsory notification of all building. That is compulsory and must be done. Second, the grant of building priorities more freely in some areas than others. Third, the retention of munition factories in areas where their presence would be the greatest value. Factory erecting, where necessary, factory premises for prospective tenants. Fifth, placing Government contracts with an eye to the district in which they will be fulfilled. Sixth, adequate facilities for obtaining finance in proper cases and, last, the prohibition of the erection of factories in certain districts under certain conditions. That, I suggest, forms a well-rounded policy, and while it is possible to criticise it in one direction or another, I think the Committee will agree that, considered as a whole, it will prove a useful means of progress.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Newcastle-on-Tyne asked what would be done about the commitments made by the Special Commissioners before this war. I cannot tell him exactly what the machinery will be, but I can give him the general assurance that these commitments will be worked into the new scheme and not be thrown over and disregarded. As always, in these Debates, Scotland has figured boldly. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for West Edinburgh (Lieut.-Commander Hutchison), in very different ways, both put very strong pleas for their native land and I can assure them—if any assurance is necessary— that Scotland is not likely to be forgotten, at least so long as they are in the House.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
What will be the result of the speeches which have been made today? What will Scotland get out of this Debate? I am all right; I want nothing for myself.
§ Captain Waterhouse
Scotland will get the consideration which is her due, and I am sure that the hon. Member will be one of those who will put her due high. Scotland has one of the Depressed Areas. In the past, she has been in grave difficulties and anything that can be done for any part of the British Isles, will be done for Scotland under this policy.
§ Captain Waterhouse
My hon. Friend the Member for Mossley, who is not in his place, made a very sweeping attack on the whole of this policy, but I did not feel that his attack was as well-reasoned as many I have heard him make. He asked what was the good of setting up a factory in a depressed area, because if this was done and 100 men were employed, it would mean that another 100 men would be put out of employment in another area, say, Manchester. That argument is completely fallacious. When my hon. Friend first started his factory for producing coal machinery, did he put two or three hundred men out of employment somewhere else? Of course not; he was producing new machines which were in general demand, and by that means was increasing the general prosperity of the country and was tending to increase, not decrease, employment in other parts of the country as a whole.
§ Mr. MacLaren
In fairness to the hon. Member I must point out that he observed that the demand must be present, before one started the supply.
§ Captain Waterhouse
We are not suggesting that the Government will force people to set up factories. When anyone wants to set up a factory we will ask him to go to a certain place and we can take it for granted that he will not want to set up a factory unless the demand is already there.
§ Captain Waterhouse
If the hon. Member will look at the White Paper he will see that the word used is "steer." That rather depends on the length of the rudder and how strong is the wind. We certainly intend to do more asking than forcing. Our experience during the war leads us to think that industry will probably respond better to that treatment than to coercive treatment. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall raised two or three points, one of which was that we must choose industries to fit districts. We will certainly do that. We have taken a good deal of trouble to get the services of busness men in different parts of the 1468 country and, when industries suggest themselves for location, their adaptability for any particular district will most carefully be considered. My hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston asked that we should use great discretion in any use of the ban. I can assure him that discretion will be used. We realise the importance of this innovation in our policy and I am sure my right hon. Friend will not use the ban without taking the fullest advice not only of the Government Department concerned but of all interests which he thinks it proper and useful to consult.
§ Captain Waterhouse
Remembering all relevant factors. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) made some interesting points. I thought he was rather pessimistic. He said he was afraid there were going to be so few new industries after the war that there might be nothing to locate at all.
§ Captain Waterhouse
I got the impression that that is the tendency the hon. Member fears. If it is true the chances of all the better things that we are hoping for are slender indeed. The hon. Member made another interesting point about satellite towns. He told us how averse he was to them, and I made a special note of that, knowing that he would be speaking with the full weight of his authority as chairman of the Planning Committee of the London County Council, and would be representing their views with accuracy. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Brooke) asked exactly how one can steer industry. He said one needed, first, the instrument and then one needed a chart. The instrument, of course, is that in the White Paper. The chart is a matter of greater difficulty. My hon. Friend asked that a chart should be made out, that an inquiry should take place, and that we should set up a Committee to go into the various needs of industry in various directions. I do not think it necessary to have a separate Committee, but inquiries have been, are being and will be made into these matters in so far as appears to be necessary to disclose the various factors which should be considered.
§ Captain Waterhouse
No. The development areas must be first considered, and in those areas more detailed inquiries have been made, but throughout the whole country we have an organisation with an expert in every region, practical business men who know both the industries and the district itself, and it is they who are giving the Board the local advice. At headquarters we are fortunate in having Sir Philip Warter, a man of wide business experience, who has done great service during the war, both at the Ministry of Food and the Board of Trade, and we may be confident that the organisation will work with the diligence for which the Board of Trade by now is so well noted. We have invited industrialists who might be able to set up in any district after the war, to get into touch with us, and we have on our list now, a large variety of possible enterprises—synthetic textiles, building materials, food containers, textile machinery, clothing, radios, batteries, plastics, domestic appliances, toys, motor tyres, hosiery and the like.
In a few of these cases sites have already been bought. In others options have been taken. In many, surveys are being made by the prospective buyer of sites in the various areas. Our policy is not a coercive policy. We are prepared to use power, when and where necessary, but we believe that we can proceed by a policy of persuasion, and that that will be infinitely better than any policy of coercion. We are confident that the business men of the country are best able to judge the business needs of the country and we feel it to be our bounden duty to render all the help we can to them. After the last war, there were those who said our task was to make a home fit for heroes to live in. After this war I suggest that we should be well satisfied indeed if we could say we have reconstructed a land fit for a gallant people to work in.
That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—[Captain McEwen.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.