§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Dalton)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill is based upon the Government's White Paper on Employment Policy—paragraphs 20 to 30 of Chapter III of the White Paper—which hon. Members may care to keep under their eyes. This Measure is the first instalment of legislation to promote employment after the war within the bounds of the White Paper policy, and to promote a healthy and well-balanced industrial life in all parts of the country. This is a Bill to abolish distressed areas, and also to make a beginning with the carrying out of the principles of the Barlow Report, the report of the Royal Commission on the distribution of the industrial population. This Bill has also another aspect It is the first instalment of a debt of honour which we owe to some of the best and bravest of our fighting men, from Scotland, from Tyneside, from County Durham, from South Wales and from elsewhere, and to those gallant communities from which they went forth to battle, communities of gallant people who, in the inter-war years, suffered mass unemployment, cruel frustration and deep poverty through no fault of their own.
This, I repeat, is a first instalment of a debt of honour we owe to those men, to their dependants, and to those in the communities from which they come. Unless the Government obtain powers such as those indicated in this Bill, and use them 838 with determination and with wisdom, I must warn the House, in the light of careful studies which the Government have made into employment prospects in the different regions, that whatever success may attend our efforts over the country as a whole to achieve a high level of employment, based upon a high and steady level of purchasing power, it will be quite impossible to prevent a relapse, more or less grave, within the next few years, into severe and prolonged unemployment in certain localities. In these localities there is much still to do and there is not much time in which to do it. Hence the urgency of this Bill.
But this Bill does not deal only with the pre-war distressed areas. It has a wider scope. It has been described in a leading article in "The Times" of 23rd February as a "triumph for the principles of the Barlow Report." That Report is a great State paper, which will take its place in the history of such Reports in the years to come, and already I think it has had a considerable influence upon opinion in all political parties and in all sections of the public mind. I should like here to pay a personal tribute to Sir Montague Barlow and his colleagues for the work they did and to tell the House that Sir Montague Barlow himself, with whom I am frequently in touch, has kindly consented, at my invitation, to act as one of my advisers upon this whole complicated question, and to give me the benefit of his long study and his wide experience.
This Bill is not the last word in legislation on this subject. It puts first things first, and deals with the most urgent needs. It falls into two parts. The first seven Clauses deal with the Development Areas; the remainder of the Bill is more general and deals with the country at large. Some speakers—perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Sohuster), when he moves the Amendment which he has placed upon the Paper, will do so—speak in terms of master plans and blueprints for the country as a whole. But, whatever may be said of master plans and blueprints for the country as a whole, I make one simple preliminary statement. There can be no master plan worth having, and no blueprint worth making, which does not deal first and foremost with this problem of the old Special Areas, which now we call the Development Areas. Unless these 839 first are dealt with, the rest of the plan will miss its target. Here in these areas were the deepest pre-war economic wounds in our national body. The war has not finally healed those wounds. It has only covered them over temporarily with a growth of war-time skin. The causes of the wounds remain, and they will break out again when peace comes unless we apply strong remedies now, and these strong remedies are sought to be applied in the terms of this Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower (Penrith and Cockermouth)
May I ask why certain areas which in the Special Areas are areas of special distress have not been included in the Schedule?
§ Mr. Dalton
I will say something about the scheduling of areas in due course. I think it will be for the convenience of the House if I briefly run over the principal Clauses of the Bill and indicate their provisions. Clause 1 gives power to the Board of Trade to build in Development Areas factories and other ancillary buildings, including offices, canteens and—I emphasise this—houses for key workers. It gives the Board of Trade power to acquire land, compulsorily if necessary, or by agreement, and to prepare sites on which industrial buildings may be erected and to provide the necessary means of access to such buildings. The greatest need of the Development Areas is a very simple need—more industrial buildings, more and better modern factories. That is what they need above all in order that we may have sufficient industrial capacity in these areas to employ the industrial population resident there. That is a simple way of stating their fundamental needs. There must also be a greater variety of industry within these areas, and a better balance than before the war both of heavy and light industries, and there must be wider opportunities for employment for both men and women in those areas. In many of them there was small opportunity before the war for the employment of women.
I should like to emphasise the power under this Clause to build a limited number of houses for key workers. I believe that to be an important practical provision of the Bill. It has been impressed upon me by many people with local knowledge of these areas, and also by 840 industrialists who are desirous of going there, that without a certain number of houses for key workers these new developments cannot effectively succeed. Therefore, this power is taken, but f should like to make it clear that there is no intention to compete in the use of these powers with the operations of local authorities in their housing programmes or with other house-building agencies. The number of houses to be built for key workers will be limited, and will be purely subsidiary to other housing activities which may be undertaken by public or by private agencies.
Clause 2 gives power to the Board of Trade, with the consent of the Treasury, to make loans to non-profit making trading or industrial estate companies. In England and Wales we speak of trading estates, in Scotland of industrial estates, and, therefore, to bring the whole United Kingdom into harmony, we speak in this Bill of "trading or industrial estates." We have had some experience, under the old Special Areas regime, of such trading estates. At Hillington, Team Valley, Treforest and elsewhere they have had considerable success, although within narrow limits, in inducing new industries to set up in those areas. Those successful experiments must now be more widely extended, and plans are already on foot for further trading estates to be established in the Development Areas, suitably dispersed over the areas and not unduly centred at one or two points.
Clause 3 makes provision for any Minister of the Crown, who is concerned with any of the aspects of this matter, to make special grants or loans, with the consent of the Treasury, towards the cost of improving basic services serving Development Areas. "Basic services" are deliberately widely defined. They cover the provision of transport facilities, whether by rail, road or water, port and harbour improvements and so forth. They cover the provision of better facilities for power, lighting, and heating, for housing and for health and community services on which the development of the area in question, and in particular of the industrial establishments there to be set up, depends. This is a very necessary Clause, because before the war one of the handicaps from which many of those areas suffered in regard to industrial development was that in these basic services they often fell below the national standards 841 of the country as a whole. The purpose of this Clause is to remove that handicap, and to bring their basic services up to the national level, and to do that without imposing additional charges upon the local rates.
Clause 4 enables the Treasury, who for this purpose will set up a special Advisory Committee to advise them, in accordance with the recommendations of this Committee, to assist firms who are carrying on production in Development Areas to raise new capital. This assistance is to be afforded either by grants or by loans. This is not a new facility, because it is a substitute for the facilities that were afforded to the old Special Areas through the operations of the Special Areas Reconstruction Association, which used to be known as "Sara," and by the Nuffield Trust. Those funds are no longer available, and this power is taken to fill the gap which otherwise would be left by their cessation. But the assistance will only be given with discretion. It will only be given to firms which have good prospects of being able ultimately to carry on successfully without further assistance, and it will be given for a limited period of time only.
Clause 5 deals with derelict land in the Development Areas. It gives power to the Board of Trade to acquire such land either compulsorily or by agreement, to carry out work upon such land, to clean it up, to bring it into use or to improve the amenities of the neighbourhood, and with that end in view to make grants to any local authority in the area or to any nonprofit making company in order to recondition the cleared sites.
§ Mr. Dalton
I would rather my hon. Friend allowed me to go on, because I should like in the first instance to give the House a picture of the Bill. When we see in many of our industrial districts the scenes of man-made ugliness which have been left behind by enterprises now dead and past, we must often be reminded of the famous lines:The evil that men do lives after themThe good is oft interred with their bones.It is high time to clean up some of this evil, and I hope this Clause will assist to that end, and, therefore, provide a happier future for these areas.
I would ask the House to look with close attention at Clause 6, because it 842 answers in part a number of the points which will be put regarding the delimitation of the Development Areas. The Clause provides a much more flexible method for varying the Development Areas than we had under the old Special Areas legislation. Clause 6 should be read along with the first Schedule to the Bill, in which the Development Areas are set out. The Development Areas set out in the Schedule to the Bill are the four pre-war Special Areas, with certain local additions and very small local subtractions, to one of which my hon. and gallant Friend was referring just now. We have left out of the old pre-war Special Areas one or two very small isolated rural areas. He has in mind, perhaps, Haltwhistle or Alston, but I will deal with that later on. These are the sole omissions which have been made in the Schedule from the old Special Areas. The omissions are few in number, very small in population and essentially rural in character, I think we shall be able to give whatever assistance is required to these areas otherwise than through the forms of assistance to be given to Development Areas which are in the Schedule.
On the other hand, we have added to the pre-war Special Areas. We have made certain additions in three of the four regions—in the Scottish, North Eastern, and South Wales and Monmouthshire regions—with a view to getting a wide and continuous area in which industrial development can be planned as a whole. With that object we have brought in certain important enclaves which were left out of the old Special Areas, including in South Wales, Cardiff, Newport, Swansea, and Llanelly, and in the Scottish areas, bringing in the City of Glasgow and the City of Dundee and in the North Eastern Area, bringing in a stretch of country South of the Tees, Middlesbrough and Cleveland, and bringing in also certain areas previously excluded in the County of Durham and a certain portion of Northumberland, including Ashington. All these regions form part of the continuous industrial zone in the North-East, which it is necessary to treat as a whole in future industrial planning. Subject to those qualifications, the Development Areas in the Schedule are substantially the same as the old Special Areas. But the procedure for varying these Development Areas is very different—and I invite the attention of the House to this point— 843 from the procedure under the old legislation. Under the old legislation the Special Areas were frozen and fixed, except in so far as further legislation was introduced to vary them. This was an inelastic and rigid scheme.
Under Clause 6 it is possible for a new area to be added at any time after the passing of the Bill, and it is possible at any time after three years from the passing of the Bill for any area to be subtracted from the Schedule. We shall be able to watch the development of affairs from time to time in the different areas and we shall be able to add or subtract areas according to changes in economic conditions. That, in my opinion, is a great improvement from the administrative point of view, because I would say frankly to the House, that there are a number of areas not included within the Development Areas, on which it will be the duty of the Government to keep a watchful eye during the period of transition from war to peace. All the areas set in the first Schedule will need special measures of stimulation, as provided in the Bill. We are in no doubt about all the areas in the Schedule. On the other hand, there is a large number of other areas as to the future of which doubt may exist. We shall do our best and do what we can.
I think that in the great majority, if not all, of these other areas it will not be necessary to apply the special machinery provided in the Bill. But there is provision to do so, if, unfortunately, it should so turn out that some of these areas run into heavy weather, and if there is evidence that heavy and prolonged unemployment is likely to be their lot. This power is in the Bill. It will be the duty of myself, or my successors, to seek Parliamentary approval to include such areas, if experience, unhappily, should warrant it. We must not lightly add to the list of Development Areas. The powers proposed to be taken are strong and exceptional powers, but the more we disperse them the less effective they will be. Therefore we must deal first with those areas where the need is greatest, but we have provided here a flexible machinery, whereby additions may be made at any time.
§ Mr. Dalton
I would rather continue, if the hon. Member will allow me. I think that all these questions will elucidate themselves in due course. On the other hand, it will be a very happy duty for any of my successors to come to the House and say, "Certain areas included in the Schedule have now been fully developed and diversified. The fear of heavy unemployment has passed away from them in consequence of the action that has been taken. Then it will be possible to remove them, after three years or more, from the Schedule of the Act." I emphasise this elasticity in Clause 6 because it is of great importance, particularly regarding the doubtful areas whose future we cannot see with such clearness as we can that of those which are enumerated in the Schedule.
Clause 7 repeals the Special Areas Acts of 1934 and 1937. It provides for the winding up of the Special Areas fund and the transfer of the commitments entered into under the Special Areas legislation by the Commissioners to the appropriate Government Departments. In most cases the transfer will be to the Board of Trade but in some cases, for example, agricultural commitments, to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. The Commissioners for the Special Areas at this stage pass away, but I am sure that the House would wish me to pay a tribute to the work that they have done. It was a brave experiment. They did arduous voluntary work on behalf of these unhappy communities. The Commissioners had to face much discouragement—the House to-day is far more alive to this problem than it was in 1934 and 1937 when these Acts were passed—but in face of that they made valiant efforts to carry out their mandate. They succeeded in laying foundations on which to-day we are able to build, and they made many experiments from which we to-day can learn very valuable lessons. I would like to pay a tribute, above all, to Sir Malcolm Stewart. He was "a bonny fighter" for the people in the Special Areas. It was an outburst of his, in a moment of disappointment, which led to the setting up of the Barlow Commission. For this, then, he was in large measure responsible. And there were others also, his successor, the late Sir Georģe Gillett, who was a Member of this House, and Sir Arthur Rose, in Scotland. They also did valiant work in difficult times. The 845 present Commissioners, Sir James Price and Sir R. Price-Walker, have continued, though in a quieter fashion, during the war to carry out most useful cooperation with the various Government Departments. There were also the District Commissioners who in various areas rendered valuable services and I am sure that the House would wish me on their behalf to thank these men for what they have done. The Commissioners for the Special Areas worked under the general supervision of the Ministry of Labour, and in Scotland, of the Scottish Office, but they have a very large measure of discretion in matters of detail.
The Government of to-day have decided, as is explained in the White Paper, that in their view direct responsibility should rest upon Ministers answerable to this House, and I think that that is a right decision and that the House will welcome it. This Bill is an enabling Bill. It gives considerable powers. Except under Clauses 3 and 4, to which I already referred, where the Treasury, on the one hand, and Ministers responsible for various basic services on the other, come into the picture, the President of the Board of Trade is the Government's chosen instrument for exercising these powers. I am delighted to see my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning here, as I shall very soon make reference to him and his Department. I am very anxious that the House should understand just how this scheme is to be operated. If I may quote briefly from the White Paper, the intention of the Government is that the various Departments concerned should co-operate closely in carrying out this important branch of public policy. The White Paper says in paragraph 30:No single Department could conveniently undertake the responsibility for formulating and administering the policy for the distribution of industry outlined in the foregoing paragraphs. This is essentially a policy of the Government as a whole, and its application in practice will involve action by a number of different Departments, each of which will adapt its administration to conform with the general Government 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.Standing arrangements will be made "—they have been made since the White Paper was published— 846for supervising and controlling, under the Cabinet and as part of the central Government machinery, the development and execution of the policy as a whole. At the other end of the scale, there will be a Regional organization,"—there is now a regional organisation—which will bring together the representatives of the Departments concerned in the local application of these measures.It is necessary, however, that there should be a single channel through which Government policy on the distribution of industry can be expressed. It would not be satisfactory if the public were left to deal with a number of different Departments on different aspects of the same problem. The Government therefore propose that the channel for the expression of Government policy in this matter shall be the Board of Trade.I think it will be of interest if I give the House briefly a picture of how this policy indicated in the White Paper is carried out. No one Department, as has been said, can deal with this matter alone. All the Departments concerned must work, and they are already working closely together, as a team My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning and I are working very closely together on all these affairs, and our officials are likewise working closely together both in London and in the regions. I would like very briefly to describe the machinery which has been set.
It is in three tiers. First of all, there is the machinery in the regions. This machinery has been set up and greatly developed in the last few months. The word "planning" is sometimes very loosely used: Many people who speak much of planning do not know a bit of planning machinery when they see it, if I may be allowed this slight counterattack against some of the critics of this Measure. This planning machinery which has been set up and been working well for some time, will develop as the months and years go on. First, there is the machinery in the regions. In each region there is constant contact kept between the various Government Departments concerned through their regional representatives, and there is consultation in each region with the local authorities, with the representatives of employers and trade unions, and with various voluntary organisations which deal with such matters, such as the Development Associations. The Ministers who are particularly involved in this regional planning machinery at this moment are my right 847 hon. Friend the Minister of Production,—he will say something on this subject later on, as he has a very definite contribution to make on the matter—my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, myself, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning, and in Scotland, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, because there the writ of the Ministry of Town and County Planning does not run.
§ Mr. Dalton
No, Sir. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Production is the only other occupant of this Bench who is intending to speak in this Debate. I have given a short list of Ministers who are primarily concerned and who, through their representatives in the regions, are continually in touch with one another. In each region there is a Distribution of Industry Committee which is presided over by the Regional Controller of the Board of Trade. This is a committee of the Regional Board where the representative of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production, by reason of his particular interest in war production, takes the chair. In this way we are emphasising what has been explained already to the House, the way in which the war effort and our plans for war production is gradually passing over to a peace effort and to the economic conditions of the post-war world. So much for the regional organisation. It is working well, and I have had the advantage of visiting a number of these areas and meeting the regional representatives. I know that in fact they are co-operating together very harmoniously and are effectively in touch with the local authorities and other persons of importance and responsibility in their regions.
In addition to this, there is a regular contact maintained between responsible officials of these Government Departments in London. They also meet regularly and they clear a number of problems at what we call the official level. In the third place there is a constant contact maintained between the Ministers themselves and I would like to emphasise that, as was indicated in the White Paper, all these are standing committees, they are 848 not exceptional and intermittent arrangements; they are standing committees, and the persons concerned are constantly meeting together and working out the details of our policy.
If the House would bear with me, I would like to give one further illustration as to how this work proceeds in the regions, as I think it may be of interest, and how—and this is very important from the point of view of industrial development—a list of suitable sites for new industrial buildings in a Development Area is drawn up. I will take South Wales and Monmouthshire as an example, because I was there a few weeks ago and investigated the matter very closely. There the first step taken was to draw up a long list of possible sites for new industrial buildings. To this long list suggestions were invited, and were made by all the local authorities in the area, by voluntary organisations, development associations and the like, and by estate agents and anybody else who had ideas on the subject. This was a long list. All these sites were then surveyed by the Regional Officer of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning.
I am very anxious to emphasise this because some people have a quite false impression that a lot of this is being done without the knowledge of, or co-operation with, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and I would like to dissipate that entirely by this simple narrative. This long list of sites having been drawn up, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning Regional Officer then surveyed them all, and a large number were eliminated from the list on planning grounds, and were struck out. A number of other possibilities were struck out from the list to meet the views of other Departments; for example, the Ministry of Agriculture objected to some of these sites on the ground that good agricultural land was not too plentiful in this country. Therefore a number of these sites were quite properly struck out on the ground that they were better suited to agriculture than to new industry, and we shall be able, I hope, to avoid what it has not been altogether possible to avoid in the hurry of war, namely, the misuse of good agricultural land for industrial purposes.
Further, a number of other sites were eliminated because the Ministry of Health took the view that these sites were needed for housing schemes—again a very proper 849 act of departmental self-assertion. In consequence, the long list was shortened down to a sufficient, though very much shorter, list of sites to which no objection could be taken on any of these grounds and this, therefore, is the list on which we shall operate, whether for the purpose of building ourselves or for the purpose of—
§ Mr. Buchanan (Glasgow, Gorbals) rose—
§ Mr. Buchanan
I was only asking why the right hon. Gentleman had left out the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster?
§ Mr. Dalton
When we are discussing Lancashire, it will be very proper that the Chancellor of the Duchy should be consulted but Lancashire is not in question at this stage. I am anxious that the House should see this procedure. Having reduced the long list to a comparatively short list, to which no departmental objections can be taken, we are then able to use the sites on this short list either for direct action for Government building or through trading estate building, or we are able to indicate these sites to visiting industrialists who may be interested in starting up in the area. I have spoken of South Wales and Monmouthshire, because there I went into the matter myself, but I have since verified that broadly similar arrangements are in force in other areas.
Mr. John Dugģdale (West Bromwich)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question?
§ Mr. Dalton
Would my hon. Friend perhaps allow me to proceed? If I give way to him my speech may be unduly prolonged. I hope I have not gone into excessive details over this, because I have been very anxious to give the House an exact picture of this work of interdepartmental co-operation. There are some people who think that all Government Departments are the natural enemies one of the other. There may be occasions when there is an excess here or there of the spirit of departmental imperialism, but in this case we have succeeded in achieving already, before this Bill was introduced into the House, a very real measure of team work and of practical co-operation, and so I hope that this picture will not have been without interest to the House.
850 So far, I have been dealing with the Development Areas. Now I come to the part of the Bill which is of wider scope. Clause 8 relates to the whole country and requires industrialists to notify the Board of Trade of their intention to erect any new factory above a certain small size. This provision is intended to enable consultation to take place between the Board of Trade and industrialists before the latters' plans have taken final shape, and that is what is forecast in the White Paper. This Clause closely follows the White Paper. The House will notice that there is no power of compulsion as to the location of new industry under Clause 8. But I hope, on the other hand, that the habit of consultation between the Board of Trade and industrialists, which has grown very much during the war and which has borne considerable fruit in the last 12 months in regard to the location of new enterprises in Development Areas will remain, and will be a permanent feature of the post-war years. In fact, many industrialists, contrary to the theories entertained in some quarters, regard the Board of Trade as their friend—
§ Mr. Dalton
Well, they do. It is odd how some people do not realise that yet; there are some who are still lagging behind the times and behind modern thought on this subject. We have, in fact, many visits at the Board of Trade from industrialists, both large and small, who are delighted and, at first, surprised to find how much information of interest and value to them is available there. We have collected a great deal of information regarding the relative advantages of different sites in different parts of the country, and of the facilities available there with regard to local labour supply, housing accommodation, transport facilities, electricity, gas, water, drainage, and so on.
Here I am very much indebted to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production, because it was he who established early in 1943 what he first called a Location Planning Room in his Ministry. This has proved of very great value for war production, and we are going to carry it on for peace production. My right hon. Friend deserves the credit for instituting this arrangement, and its object when 851 he first instituted it was to inform the production directorates of the supply Departments and, through them, their contractors, of the most suitable locations for setting up new industrial capacity for war production. It was found that certain areas were getting terribly overcrowded and congested and my right hon. Friend therefore, with his overriding responsibility for war production, collected this information and built up a detailed picture for the whole country of facilities, and relative advantages and disadvantages, for the location of new industries.
As a result of that we are now able to offer to industrialists an information service regarding location which has never been available before, and they appreciate it. This Location Planning Room has now been physically transferred from the Ministry of Production to the Board of Trade as a joint responsibility of my Department and of the Ministry of Production, and the Board of Trade will continue to operate and develop this planning room and all that it stands for. I venture to think that this is a valuable experiment, which may be welcomed alike by Socialists and individualists.
§ Mr. Dalton
There is much advantage in facts being known and tabulated, and made available to all those whom they may concern. This is already a going concern and I commend it to the House as a very useful new departure. It will make Clause 8 an effective reality because, when we are notified of the intention of an industrialist to establish a new factory somewhere or other, perhaps when he comes and talks with us, he may be either strengthened in his view that he has chosen the right place, or we may be able to suggest to him other places that would be more suitable. This is all on the plane of consultation, however; there is no compulsion in it.
I ask the House to notice that under this Clause there is consultation, but I must here testify that an ounce of experience is worth a ton of theory and the House must believe me when I say that large numbers of industrialists are quite disposed to listen with attention to what is said to them by my officers on these matters. Some of the most notable industrialists in the country have considerably altered their projects in the light of 852 the information we have been able to give them. This is evidence of the value of the provisions described in Clause 8. I want to emphasise that under Clause 8 it will be possible to steer.—"steer" is the word used in the White Paper—rather than to compel new industrial enterprises, not only towards the Development Areas in the First Schedule to the Bill, but also towards other areas not included in the First Schedule, in which it may appear from time to time, as economic conditions change, that there is real need for some additional employment or for some further diversification of industry in those areas. Therefore I ask all those who are concerned with areas other than those in the First Schedule to take note of the possibilities of assisting them under Clause 8.
Now I come to Clause 9, which is also in line both with the White Paper and the Barlow Report. The authors of the Barlow Report—writing before the war, let us remember—were very much impressed, even then, with the strategic as well as with the social and industrial dangers of an excessive concentration of industry in certain areas. They made strong reference to this in their Report. And how right they were to emphasise the strategic aspect. It can now be plainly stated—my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production has far more detailed knowledge of this than I—that, when the war broke out, some of the most essential elements of our war production were most perilously concentrated in highly vulnerable areas.
From the point of view of national defence it was a terrible act of folly to allow that. We shall be in general agreement that we must not run such risks again; we must plan for greater national security, based on the geographical dispersal of plants vital for defence. I hasten to add that we cannot expect private industrialists, without guidance from the Government, to make such arrangements—
§ Mr. Dalton
That is another point. What I am saying is that, if you take the view, as I do and as I think the House as a whole does, that it is very unwise in the national interest—because if the national interest goes down we are all involved in common ruin, irrespective of our political opinions—to leave the dis- 853 persal of defence installations to unguided and uninstructed chance, then such provisions as are contained in Clause 9 are required. One of the strongest arguments in favour of this Clause is the argument based on strategical safety for the future. Over and above that argument, I think all will agree, in principle, although they may differ in their practical applications of it, that there are serious economic and social objections to undue congestion of industry in certain districts. When we speak of "the proper distribution of industry" in this Clause that is intended to cover the social, economic and strategical requirements to which I have referred. In the view of the Government it is essential that there should be power to control new industrial development in any area where these considerations apply. It is essential that these powers should be in the hands of the Executive. I can assure the House that we shall not take slap-dash action—
Mr. McNeil (Greenock)
Will the Government take any?
§ Mr. Dalton
If my hon. Friend will contain his exuberant curiosity, I will tell him and the House what we have in mind to do. No action will be taken except as a deliberate decision of the Government as a whole. The White Paper lays it down that the Government as a whole are to be responsible for policy in this field. There will be a combined study by all the Ministers concerned—
§ Mr. Dalton
That will be for the future to decide. I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the provision in the Order proposed to be made requires an affirmative Resolution of both Houses, so that there will be plenty of scope for Debate. I want frankly to tell the House—I am anxious to be completely frank on all these matters, as I have been hitherto—that the Government have taker no decision on any particular area to which this Clause would be applied. Nor do I think that any such decision to make an Order under this Clause is likely to be taken for some time. Why do I think that? The reason is simple. War-time control is supported, for certain purposes, by all sections of the community. The co atinued control of building materials and building operations, for instance, is generally agreed to be indispensable. I do not 854 think any Member, whatever his views about controls, would demand that we should now have a "free for all" in the use of building materials, whether for houses or anything else. The control of building materials and operations must continue for some time to come. Further, it will be agreed that the claims of housing over the country as a whole are most pressing, and that those claims must absorb a greater amount of building labour in the coming years than the building of new factories. That being so, I do not think the use of this power, under Clause 9, will be necessary so long as these restrictions on power to build new factories continue. But we must have this power in reserve against the time when war-time powers of control pass away. Even if the Order under this Clause is applied to any area, it does not mean, as some suppose, the total prohibition of new industrial building in that area. It means that there must be approval, by the Board of Trade, for any new project in excess of a small minimum size. Therefore, the power in this case is hedged about with any safeguards and, I repeat, it is not the intention of the Government to make use of it without taking full account of all the relevant considerations that may arise.
I hope I have not detained the House too long in seeking to expound the provisions of this Bill. In the words of a letter written to "The Times" on 8th March by Sir Montague Barlow, this Bill is "a hopeful step in the right direction." I claim that much for it, and no more. This Bill represents the largest measure of agreement, on an urgent problem, in an all-party Government. War-time powers will soon pass, and peace-time powers are necessary. We cannot afford any delay in this matter. It would be a disaster if these powers were not taken, with the approval of this Parliament, before the General Election, and before our men begin to return home from the battlefields. There is, as I have said, much to do and not much time in which to do it, if we are to prevent a return of those deplorable and shocking conditions which, prevailed over a large part of the country in those ignominious inter-war years. Therefore, I urge speed and the largest possible measure of immediate agreement, and the postponing of further Debates on larger issues until a more appropriate season, perhaps in a new Parliament, 855 the character of which none of us can accurately foresee. As I have said, this Bill represents the largest common measure of agreement of those of us who are to-day associated in the Government, and I trust that the House will take the steps which are necessary now to prevent that relapse to which I have referred, and to lay the foundations of a properly planned, healthy and well balanced industry in all parts of the country.
We all owe a great debt to those whom I hope this Measure will benefit, to those men but for whose valour Britain, had things gone wrong, would have become a great Nazi slave camp and a great burial ground for our people. Before those men come home, let us hope that steps will be taken to make sure that they will not come home to the dole but will, as the Prime Minister said the other day, return to steady jobs. That cannot be assured without the powers contained in this Bill. Therefore I ask the House, by voting for the Second Reading of this Bill to-day, to pay a small instalment of our debt to those, but for whose blood and toil and tears and sweat we should all have gone down into the darkness.
§ Mr. Dalton
I do not think that is necessary. It is impossible to estimate the cost at this stage, because it depends upon what is done and how fast it is done.
Squadron-Leader Fleminģ (Manchester, Withington)
Would the Minister elucidate one point in regard to Clause 9? If a city like Manchester was affected by an Order would the local authority there be consulted before the Government came to any decision?
§ Mr. Dalton
I think my right hon. Friend the Minister of Production has that point in mind. We have discussed this matter together, and, I repeat, that there is no intention, on the part of the Government, of acting without due consideration of all the interests concerned.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade made his speech, quite rightly, as brief as possible by avoiding answering questions which 856 might otherwise have been shot at him across the Floor of the House. I am not quarrelling with that, and I realise the reasons for his doing so. There are many Members who desire to speak. He gave a lucid explanation of the Bill and its objects and possibly hastened the proceedings by taking that action. But I must say that I have never heard a speech made by a Minister on a Bill of this kind which could have been more often justly subject to interruption than the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made to-day. There are so many things he said with which, obviously, Members on all sides of the House would like him to deal with more fully. This Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, is a Bill to endeavour to assist the depressed areas, and to avoid them earning that title again by a repetition of the conditions of the past, in the years after the war. Every one of us will desire to assist in achieving that object; every one of us wants to try to ensure that our depressed areas will be depressed no longer, and that they will receive a sufficient and natural growth of successful industry in the years to come. That is the object which the right hon. Gentleman has said is to be served by this Bill.
The point we have to consider, however, is what action the Government can take to achieve that object, and whether this Bill and its operations are likely to achieve it. I desire to be brief, and to make my position perfectly clear. I am confident that all a Government can do to try and promote industry in a depressed area is, in consultation with the local authorities, to give every possible facility for the construction of new works and for the development of new enterprises. I am confident that no Government can dictate or decide where an industry should be placed. I am aware that certain hon. Members opposite completely disagree with the views I am expressing, but that is the object of our being here and I desire to express my view clearly. I want to repeat that no Government, however constituted, is in a position to assist industry by deciding where that industry should go.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
Any person desiring to found a new industry has to consider many questions regarding which this Government, or any Government, have no knowledge at all. I say it quite frankly—no knowledge at all. There are all sorts of conditions in the founding of a new industry which an industrialist has to take into consideration, such as water supply, labour supply, electricity, markets and climate. An interesting example of this last point is to remember the great changes which took place in this country centuries ago when industry changed from the East to the West Coast. The development of Lancashire is a definite example of the influence of climate upon the situation of industry. To my mind none of those things are matters on which the Government have full information, or upon which I, as an industrialist, would trust Government knowledge and opinion.
The description which my right hon. Friend gave of the excellent work of the Ministry of Production in war-time as a reason for continuing it in peace-time, was a little unfair. There is no comparison at all between the conditions which this country has tolerated—I use that word deliberately—from the Ministry of Production and other Government Departments for the purposes of the war, and the continuance of those conditions into peace. To use that as an illustration was, frankly, a little unfair. I want to make it clear to the House that, from my point of view, it is fundamentally wrong to try to bring about the objectives on which we are all in agreement by a Bill of this sort, which imposes restrictions in every direction, and will hamper industry all round. The President of the Board of Trade described at great length how he was acting in accordance with the White Paper on Employment and he read certain cogent and interesting extracts from the White Paper. He said that paragraph 30 showed quite clearly how the Board of Trade are going to consult with various Departments, becauseno single Department could conveniently undertake the responsibility for formulating and administering the policy for the distribution of industry.The White Paper goes on to describe the various Departments that will be consulted. Where is this in the Bill? There is not a word of this in the Bill. There 858 is nothing whatever to prevent the Board of Trade from telling any industrialist, "We will not have your factory, or you cannot build your extension," without consulting with anybody. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying to the House, "I am responsible for planning, I am working together with my dear friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning and my bosom friend the Minister of Production; we are working in the closest harmony and nothing is done without consultation." There is not a word to demand this consultation in the Bill and there is not the slightest reason why the right hon. Gentleman, or anybody who may be his successor in any future Government, should not absolutely veto any extension of an industry and thereby possibly even destroy it. There is in one Clause, a ridiculous provision, that nobody may build an extension to a factory over 3,000 square feet. This is control carried to a most absurd limit. If the House tolerates this kind of thing, it will be putting the industrialists entirely under the heel of the Board of Trade and nobody else.
The right hon. Gentleman devoted 16 minutes of his statement to a description of this wonderful scheme of co-operation and of the work that had taken place in the past and would take place in the future; but where does this appear in the Bill? In years to come people will not be concerned with what the right hon. Gentleman says; they will be concerned with what is in the Bill, and there is not a word in the Bill which stipulates that any other Department of Government shall be consulted. It is a most iniquitous suggestion that those who devote time and money and hope of the future to industry should be placed entirely under the thumb of the Board of Trade. Under Clause 13 the President of the Board of Trade can not only do all this himself but can appoint anybody to do it. The office boy can do it if he gets the mandate of the Board of Trade. I know as well as any hon. Member that that is not the way a Government Department is likely to work. We in this House are concerned with the welfare of the country as a whole. It is by our industry that we hope to prosper as a nation, and industry will not prosper under a system in which every movement that it makes and every change it requires is to be under the control of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) wants private enterprise.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
I understand the hon. Member's interruption; he realises that this is the very antithesis of private enterprise. This is bureaucracy and Socialism carried to the last limit. The right hon. Gentleman went on to quote from the White Paper the statement that there must be a single channel through which the Government's policy can be expressed, and that is to be the Board of Trade; but let hon. Members note that the White Paper adds:suitably strengthened to undertake the heavier responsibilities.There is not a word in the Bill about how the Board of Trade is to be strengthened. All these ideas about what the Government are going to do by way of consultation will mean nothing to the people who will have to act under this Bill if it becomes an Act of Parliament. It may be perfectly sound to exert pressure to induce new industries to go into the depressed areas, as we all desire, and I have not the slightest doubt that inducements can be given in consultation with the local authorities in those areas; but it is fantastic to believe that you will make prosperous industries in the depressed areas by putting all kinds of restrictions on industry as a whole. It is quite wrong to start a scheme of this kind on the basis of a system of pure restriction of industry throughout the country. The Bill provides for no necessary consultation between the Board of Trade and the local authorities in the various areas. That is another important point. To refer once again to the ridiculous restriction to 3,000 square feet of extensions, surely it is obvious that such a restriction will seriously affect the work of local authorities all over the country. The redevelopment and town-planning schemes of local authorities will be very seriously affected by that restriction. A further point I want to mention is that the blitzed areas will be placed at a great disadvantage under the Bill as compared with the development areas, because they will have heavy housing problems to tackle before labour can be provided for the necessary industrial development.
All of us wish to see new industries established where they will benefit the population and relieve possible distress, 860 but this Bill goes much too far. It places power in the hands of a Government Department in a very dangerous way, and it provides no safeguards that this power will be administered in the best interests of industry and the country as a whole. I think it is just possible to amend the Bill, and for that reason I did not put down an Amendment for its rejection, but if the House is going to give the Bill a Second Reading, I hope hon. Members will make it clear to the Government that a great many of the provisions will need to be changed, a great many of the restrictions removed and certain of the permitted operations put on a very extended basis. I hope the House will take this Bill very seriously. To my mind it is one of the most dangerous Bills that has ever been introduced during my time in the House, and if it is accepted I hope this will be on a clear understanding that there will be a very wide measure of change before the Bill becomes law.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) has spoken very frankly from his point of view, and I propose to speak equally frankly for those who have made this country great. Hon. Members on this side welcome the Bill as a limited contribution to prevent the return of the terrible conditions in the dark depressed areas of pre-war days. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said that this Bill represents the largest possible measure of agreement in the Government. I can clearly understand that after the speech of the hon. Member for Kidderminster. Our country has strained itself to an extent that very few people in the world realise. Our country has now assisted in the liberation of almost all Europe, and we are now beginning to assist in the liberation of the German people from the economic forces that gave rise to the Special Areas, to Fascism, and to war. We have assisted in the liberation of practically every country except our own. Every country an Europe is now busily liberating its people from the economic forces that gave rise to Special Areas, Fascism, and war. In our own country, after seven years of the greatest sacrifices ever made by any people in history, we are presented with a Bill of this sort, with the Foot proposals, and with a constant consolidation of vested interests.
861 Those of us who live in industrial areas can never forget how our people were treated and what they went through between the two wars. Those of us who took part in the pre-war Debates on unemployment, the Special Areas, and the mean means test, and those who took part in the all-night Sittings, because we were prevented from taking any other constitutional action, can never forget the attitude of hon. Members opposite and of their Government towards our people in those days. It is against this background that we approach this Bill. We support the Bill because it is the first positive step taken in this country to prevent a return of the dark pre-war conditions of the Special Areas, but let me make it quite clear—one can see the battle that will take place after the war—that not for one moment do I say that this Bill will avoid a return of the pre-war conditions. All that we say is that it is a positive step towards the prevention of those conditions.
There is one thing I want to say to the President of the Board of Trade and to the hon. Member for Kidderminster in particular. Some of us have been trained to work to plans; we have had to equip ourselves not only with practical knowledge but with correct theoretical knowledge in order to enable us to build the mighty power plants that this country has built. I can see new forces gathering strength, men who have been trained not only to think correctly theoretically, but also to plan in harmony with theory. They have stood too long for this country being controlled by the forces represented by the hon. Gentleman who as just spoken. As the result of our war experience, if it is right to plan and build as we have done in this war, it is right to plan and build in order that the country may become greater in peace. The outstanding lesson of the black, disastrous period between the two wars, and of our war experience of world development, is the need for national planning. The real industrialists, who are responsible for running industry, and have got to their position through merit and not by financial support like Members who come to the House and quibble over this and that, realise that our theory is the only one today for mankind. Nearly all students of affairs are beginning to admit that the only way for mankind to avoid the black period between the wars is real national 862 planning, for in modern industrial conditions you either plan or you have anarchy. You either have organisation or you have chaos.
The Royal Commission on the distribution of the population unanimously recommended a National Industrial Board, a central authority national in scope and national in character. This Coalition Bill is an evasion of the Royal Commission's Report. We are not surprised at that. For 26 years every Royal Commission's Report has been used for the purpose of evading public opinion—the Sankey Commission, the investigation into holidays with pay and accidents in mines. Some may think I am going too far but let anyone who doubts this turn to the Barlow Report. It is not a Socialist like myself putting this forward but a civil servant, who provided the Royal Commission with a Memorandum. In page after page in all the countries that were making progress between the two wars, you find that a policy of national planning was being pursued. In the years 1940 to 1943 Members of the Cabinet and Members of this House were constantly talking about national planning and the land for the people. Now that the world has been made safer we get a repudiation of national planning, a repudiation of the Uthwatt Report. In substitution we have speeches like that of to-day by the hon. Member for Kidderminster and that of the Prime Minister last week.
May I remind the Prime Minister that it was this party that brought him out of isolation and made him Prime Minister? May I remind him that for five years we on this side strained ourselves and humiliated ourselves to enable us to make a contribution to the maintenance of national unity? The people whom we represent and to whom we belong have strained themselves to an extent that very few people realise. Cynical, smiling Members opposite have no idea of the extent to which our people have strained themselves. After all that, we are presented with a Bill of this kind, and with a repudiation of the promises made to our people by the Prime Minister last week, and we have the hon. Member opposite with his blackmail speech to-day. We welcome the Bill within the limits under which it is presented. In the Memorandum we read:The purpose of the Bill is to enable the Government to secure a proper distribution 863 of industry over the country as a whole by stimulating the industrial and social development of areas in which there is a special danger of unemployment, described as development areas.In 1938 the percentage of unemployment in these areas, in spite of rearmament, was, in Cumberland 19.8, in Durham 25.7, Glamorganshire 25.9, Merthyr 38.8, and in Great Britain 12.9. It is because of our earnest desire to prevent those dark days ever returning to these Special Areas that, in spite of our criticism of the Bill, we propose to support the Second Reading and to do all we possibly can in Committee, to strengthen it and make it a better Bill.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
Does the hon. Member realise that the highest percentage of unemployment of all was in the agricultural county of Anglesey?
§ Mr. Smith
That applies to many others. I have never mentioned my own county. I was dealing with these relatively large Special Areas. I agree that there were local variations to the extent that the hon. and learned Gentleman has pointed out. If we are to avoid these Special Areas we need not only be concerned with this Bill. We have to be concerned also with Britain's industrial policy. If we are to organise it on the basis for which hon. Members opposite stand, I would not be very optimistic with regard to Britain's industrial policy, but I am optimistic, because I believe that the people of the country have so profited by their past experience that they 'will not stand for a narrow approach to the industrial policy such as we pursued in the past. The Memorandum goes on:and by controlling further industrial development in other areas where such control appears to be desirable for economic social or strategic reasons.This is now essential. In modern industrial conditions this has become part of the defence or our country. Just as it is necessary to have a Navy, an Air Force and an Army, so it is necessary to have Government control to this extent if we are to defend our country in the future, and the logical conclusion of the hon. Member's speech is that he is not prepared to agree to the necessary steps being taken to enable us to defend our country in the future should that be necessary.
§ Mr. Smith
Our records prove that we desire to defend our country and now, in the national interest, it is imperative that the Government should have power to direct industry into areas for economic and strategic reasons. The hon. Member opposite said, "Leave that to industry," and he was loudly cheered. Let us look at the record of industry when we left it to them before the war. On 7th June, 1944, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said:Our policy is not a coercive one.I understood the hon. Member to say that to-day in other words, and most Members opposite cheered him when he said it. The Parliamentary Secretary went on: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 he our bounden duty to render all the help we can to them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th June, 1944; Vol. 400, c. 1409.]The Barlow Report said of the years between 1932 and 1936:We find that these business men judged the needs of their country by locating five-sixths of the new factories in the area of the greatest congestion in the world and in strategic danger.A circular letter was sent out to these business men by the Board of Trade and 69 Associations were asked to supply addresses of their Members. Only 35 were prepared to supply them. 5,829 copies of a letter were sent to business men. [HON. MEMBERS: "What date?"] You will find it in Command Paper 5090, page 4, paragraph II.
Mr. Manninģham-Buller (Daventry)
On a point of Order. This may be interesting election propaganda but has it any relevance at all to the contents of the Bill? Is it in any way in Order on the Second Reading?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The widest possible scope is given in Second Reading discussions.
§ Mr. Smith
Hon. Members do not like this kind of information, but it is in Order 865 as sure as any words ever spoken in the House were in Order. I do not mind being charged, particularly by the hon. Member who has just made the charge, but if we are charged with making General Election speeches what was that made by the Prime Minister, and what is the game that is constantly played? We are beginning to see through it.
Squadron-Leader Fleminģ (Manchester, Withington)
Is the hon. Member in Order, on the Second Reading of the Bill, to make charges like this against the Prime Minister?
§ Mr. Smith
I am sorry for this diversion. I was saying that 5,829 copies of this letter were sent to business men, and only 1,313 gave unqualified negative replies, and 386 gave qualified negative replies. One of the questions asked in the circular was whether the firm were prepared to consider the choice of a site in a Special Area. Only 12 replied "Yes"; 1,751 replied "No." Clause a of the Bill empowers the Board of Trade, with the consent of the Treasury, to make loans to non-profit making trading or industrial estate companies to further the provision of industrial premises in Development Areas. This is a step in the right direction, but a very small step. We suggest that the House should consider this in its correct perspective. The largest trading estate, Trafford Park, contains 200 firms and employs about 60,000; Slough employs 30,000; Team Valley, set up in 1939, employs only 2,500; Treforest employs only 1,900; and Hillington, Scotland, employs only 1,500. Although we welcome this step forward, we ought to have these figures before us in order that we can consider it in its correct perspective.
We think that, as a result of our war experiences, this nation desires to think big, to plan big and to build big. I rave seen the change from the small Colonel Cody aeroplane to the mighty Lancaster, and I have seen the speeds of tanks, which some of us drove three miles an hour, increased to 45 miles an hour. Just as we have made headway in production, so we have to make similar headway in industrial organisation in this country. Here is a note which I took from this morning's Press. Let us see how the United States are approaching this problem. We read:The dream of converting one-sixth of America's total land area—more of it is now 866 arid waste—into a blooming garden came a stage nearer reality to-day. President Roosevelt sent a special request to Congress to prepare plans for developing the Valley of the Missouri, America's second greatest river, in which there are more acres than in Britain and France together.America plans in this way. Then there is the Tennessee Valley, covering four-fifths of the size of England. Never will I forget the preface written to a book by John Winant, the worthy representative of the United States in this country, in which he said that during the days when President Roosevelt was pioneering the planning of Tennessee Valley, he had to fight with the vested interests of America. It is doubly evident that we are to have, in this House, the same fight after the war. We support this limited Bill, but the greatest contribution for the prevention of the pre-war special dark areas will be a modern industrial policy based upon national planning. I want to conclude by quoting from a speech made by the Prime Minister in Manchester in 1919. He was entertained to dinner there, and, in his reply, he said that he had not been quite convinced by his experience at the Ministry of Munitions that Socialism was possible, but he had been very nearly convinced. He was bound to say that he considered, on the whole, that the achievements of the Ministry of Munitions constituted the greatest argument for State Socialism ever produced. If that was right when it was said by the Prime Minister 26 years ago, how much more is it true in 1945.
§ 5.5 P.m.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House declines to proceed further with the Bill at present in view of the fact that, while its provisions would give the Board of Trade heavy responsibilities and formidable discriminatory powers which may affect not only particular localities but the general development of British industry, no steps have been taken for establishing a central independent tribunal to survey the whole national position as recommended in the Report of the Barlow Commission (Cmd. 6153, 194o); and that there has been no satisfactory implementation of the Government's intentions as indicated in paragraph 30 of Cmd. 6527 that the Board of Trade should be suitably strengthened for undertaking new responsibilities such as those proposed in the Bill.This is a reasoned Amendment, and the arguments that have induced some of us 867 to put it down are apparent from its terms. I would like to make quite clear at the outset that it is not moved as a hostile or political move. I myself shall be delighted to be proved to be wrong in my interpretation of the Bill or to see any improvement made in it. The Amendment is designed to ask the House to pause and reflect on the deeper significance of this Measure. I also want to emphasise that it is not put forward in any narrow sectional or parochial spirit. I feel most strongly that the national interest must be paramount. But I am entitled to urge that the Midlands area, with which I happen to be politically connected, is on the map of England and is an important part of the national interest. I must further make it clear that I am not one of those who seeks easy applause by condemning every form of national planning. I appreciate deeply that our tasks after the war will be so great and our resources so limited that we must have a broad national plan ensuring a right order of priorities. That brings me to the Amendment, which I hope may perhaps lift the Debate on to the broad national plane and get away from sectional rivalry between one area and another. I want to ask the House to consider whether the plan proposed is in the national interest; whether the Government have rightly appreciated our postwar needs; whether the Government have information on which to make an appreciation; and whether the Government have given the House that information. I want also to consider whether the machinery proposed is adequate.
I submit that this is a very serious Measure. It is our first practical step in a consciously planned economy. It gets beyond White Papers and general principles; it has got teeth. In effect, it says that priority in post-war industrial development is to be given to certain parts of the North-East Coast, West Cumberland, South Wales and Scotland. The erection of factories in these areas is to be encouraged—possibly by subsidies. Their erection in all other areas is to be subject to delaying scrutiny, and possibly to a complete ban by the Board of Trade. I am the last who would want to deprecate helping what were formerly the Depressed Areas. But the point I want to put is that we cannot favour certain areas without reactions on the country as a 868 whole. As I have already said, I have to accept the idea of planning—that we must have a broad national plan. I submit, however, that we have no evidence that the Government have made the surveys necessary to formulate a sound national plan. Nor have we any evidence —and I submit this with confidence—that the Board of Trade is qualified to exercise the discriminatory powers which they would get under this Bill. The Barlow Commission recommended a central authority which was to be independent of every political and sectional pressure and which was to review the position of the country as a whole and to make research into all those factories which affect the location of industry.
Now, I wish to make clear that I am not myself particularly in favour of the exact Barlow Commission plan. In fact, the Commission was divided and put up a number of different plans. I certainly do not want to speak as one who advocates setting up an independent authority with great powers outside the control of Parliament. But I do accept the Barlow Commission's recommendation to the extent that I want to see some body which stands outside the political field, which is capable of making an entirely independent and objective review of our position and to keep it under constant survey. I do not like leaving these matters solely in the hands of a Minister, nor do I think it is entirely suitable that they should be left to be debated in Parliament on the sort of evidence that comes up from particular sections. I want an independent tribunal which will keep the situation under review and on the basis of whose reports Parliament will be able to have informed discussions based on an impartial and objective review of the issues.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Will the hon. Gentleman care to explain what kind of tribunal he has in mind and how it would be constituted?
§ Sir G. Schuster
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue my speech. I have to be brief. I have some definite ideas on the subject, but I am afraid I shall not be able to expand them at length to-day.
A great deal of research and collection of factual data is necessary as a foundation for an effective national policy. The only discernible policy in the Bill is to 869 favour the formerly depressed areas. That, as I have said, cannot be carried out without reactions on the country as a whole. I want these reactions to be taken into account. But, even so far as concerns the favoured areas, there is no evidence that the help to be given is to be based upon a constructive plan taking into account all their natural resources and conditions and aiming at the widest use of scientific and technological development. How are we to re-establish prosperity to South Wales? What was the cause of the disasters and troubles in South Wales? It was the complete loss suddenly in conditions over which no one had any control of our export markets in coal. Are we going to solve that problem and get South Wales into the condition that all of us want to see—not merely those who represent South Wales but those who want to see South Wales as an important element in national prosperity—are we going to get that merely by inducing light industries to go there? I do not mind their going, but it will not solve the problem. Indeed the underlying conception of all the Government's approach to this matter seems to me to be one that merely looks back to pre-war experiences and that has nothing more constructive in it than the idea of shifting to the formerly Depressed areas industries which have found their natural homes elsewhere. That would not be a policy for increasing the total wealth of the country, which is what we want to do. No; it is, as I have said before, merely a policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
That leads me to make a further point, which is that we are beginning at the wrong end in discussing this matter as a problem of location. We ought to start by thinking of what is to be the nature of British industry and how we are to take the best advantage of our national resources. If we do that, we shall find that the location problem solves itself. To look at the matter simply from the location point of view, it implies a most pessimistic attitude. It implies the conception that we must have a certain amount of unemployment in this country, and that we are merely saying: "Let us spread that unemployment widely." I am not satisfied with that attitude, and I do not think the House will be satisfied with it. want something far bolder and more constructive.
§ Mr. David Grenfell (Gower)
Does the hon. Member realise that some of us come from what used to be the Special Areas? I saw no less than 430,000 people leave industrial areas for work elsewhere which could have been done, and done better, in their own areas. Is there any idea in the hon. Member's mind of supporting the departure of men from the places where they were brought up, to be sent away to make a new start in places which might be quite unsuitable?
§ Sir G. Schuster
I could not agree with anybody more wholeheartedly than I do with the hon. Member in his feeling of distress at that state of affairs. He knows, because we have often discussed this together, and because I have spoken on this matter to the House, that in my view the prosperity of South Wales must be linked with the development of the natural resources of South Wales—chiefly coal—so as to make it a centre of cheap power, a home for new electrometallurgical industries, or for using the derivatives of coal to start new chemical industries. That is the way in which to look for prosperity and the variety that South Wales needs. But we shall be encouraging its people to look for their salvation in wrong ways if we ask them to think merely in terms of attracting light industries from other parts of the country.
Corning to the actual proposals of the Bill, I would urge that there are very grave objections to the nature of the machinery which is proposed. As I have said, I recognise the need for Government direction in the conditions which lie ahead, but according to the Bill, the direction of the Government is to be exercised not in the farm of constructive, strategic guidance, with decentralised execution, which is what we need; but is to take the form of a hampering, centralised control. The main instrument provided in the Bill, apart from the permissive Clauses for the distressed areas, are powers for delaying or for saying "No." What worries me about that is that that is just the thing that Government officials and Government Departments can do supremely well. And from all that we have seen during the war in the exercise of powers of that kind, we know that they can have a most paralysing influence.
The whole conception is wrong. I have often referred in speeches to military methods, since I have a great admiration 871 for the soldiers' method of appreciating a situation, weighing up the resources, settling the objectives and working out a plan for reaching those objectives. I wonder what we would think of our military prospects on the Western Front if General Eisenhower, instead of completing an appreciation of the situation and settling general objectives for his Army Commanders, were to call them together and say: "Gentleman, I have no plan. It is up to you to make the necessary moves. But please understand this—that not one of you may move any body of troops larger than a platoon without getting my permission, and I shall require three months' notice in each case." That is not an unfair representation of the sort of procedure that is proposed in the Bill. It is the scheme of a weak man, of a weak authority, which because it has no plan, must keep a string on everybody.
Now I want to say a few words about particular Clauses. I submit that Clause 8 is a cock-eyed Clause. I really put this matter seriously to the Minister. We have already had references to the limitation of area—3,000 square feet—a building to take 10 to 15 men. That is a ridiculous limitation. Then there is the delay involved. Beyond this I submit that it weights the scales against all re-arrangements of congested areas or What I might call "industrial slums." If a man wants to re-build a factory on his existing site he can do so without asking permission under this Clause. It is only if he wants to do so as part of a general scheme of town planning, involving going into a different area that he has to get permission. Then, when one looks into the matter further one finds that the only deterrent is a fine of £100. I do not know whether that £100 would be looked upon as a legitimate expense for Income Tax purposes, in which case the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be paying the greater part of the money. But, seriously, I am left asking what this means. Are we to take this Clause seriously, or are we just being asked to waste our time in discussing it?
Then there is Clause g. That will be a terrific clause if it is used. I want to know how it is going to be used. I submit that before any prohibitive order becomes effective it should come before Parliament. It is entirely wrong that Orders should be made to come into effect before 872 the affirmative Resolution has been passed by Parliament.
Lastly, I want to say a word about how these things look to the people who are actually dealing with them in their day-to-day affairs. The President of the Board of Trade gave us a wonderful account of his regional organisation. It sounded extremely good and impressive, but it seemed to bear no relation to the sort of things I see when I go round my constituency. Everybody is being held up. Every town has a town planning scheme, has issued plans and scheduled certain areas as due to cease to be industrial areas. Wherever I go, I am asked by owners of factories: "What are we to do? We want to improve our plant. We are in an area which is now shown on this plan as a residential area; are we justified in spending money on this site?" Everybody is held up and nobody knows what to do. I do not in the least blame the local authorities, for they themselves are held up. This general hold-up and uncertainty everywhere is a most serious matter and I see grave dangers that we shall lose opportunities for starting right on the post-war conversion of industry. We cannot afford this kind of waste or delay. And this Bill will make it worse.
I turn now to the more difficult part of what I have to say. What do I propose? In the first place I want to see recognition that all areas deserve consideration as part of a national plan. All in a sense are development areas. We are living in a time of immense technological and scientific advance and we cannot afford to stand still in any place or in any section of industry. Even in Greater London if that is to be scheduled under Clause 9, we cannot afford to put a ban on people pulling down an old factory and building a new one. It would be disastrous for one of the most important industrial districts in the country to be frozen in its present condition, so far as industry is concerned. In the Midlands the case is even stronger. We must have scope for new enterprise. Old industries are going out and new ones must come in. If we put a ban on new building, some of those industrial areas will go down and will become distressed areas. In my own constituency which has been the victim of specially severe concentration of some of its industries we have special problems. Many of our local workers have 873 been sent to other parts of the country. They have all been promised that when the war is over they will get jobs near their homes. Are they to get jobs on their return? If so there must be places for new factories. We cannot afford to stand still. If building resources are short so that everybody cannot do what he wants there must be a rationing scheme. I accept that. But no one would suggest that there should be a rationing scheme which would cut out certain people altogether from supply. If there are certain invalid areas, let them have a bit extra. But I want to be assured that there will be a fair ration for every area.
As a second point, I want to urge the need for proper surveys in all regions. I want decentralised and continuous surveys—it can be done. The President of the Board of Trade spoke of me as a person who wants a blue-print or a master plan. That charge certainly does not apply to me. It is not possible to make such a plan for this country. But I do urge that we can survey and settle our broad objectives and first steps. As a matter of fact a great deal of work has been done of this kind in regional surveys, quite apart from the depressed area surveys. As the President of the Board of Trade knows, one very interesting survey was made in West Cumberland. Some extremely good work, too, has been done by the West Midland group, surveying the Midlands area. Then there was an interesting survey by a Thames-side group of industrialists. All these surveys were carried out in a decentralised way. Thirdly, I want to see some central authority which can fit the results of the regional surveys together into a national survey. Fourthly, I press for liberty to all regions to develop within certain broad limits, but at their own discretion as regards details. The President of the Board of Trade has made much of his regional offices, but they cannot perform these tasks. He cannot get people with sufficient experience to exercise those duties in the regions.
Finally, I want to see this work of survey and planning done in a spirit of co-operation between local authorities and industrialists. In spite of what has been said by the hon. Member who spoke last, I believe that industrialists will respond, if they are told what is wanted and what resources are available. I want the Government to take them into their confi- 874 dence in a practical way. But do not bombard them with wordy exhortations to do their job. They are getting fed up with that. It will be clear from what I have said that I do not exactly support the Barlow Commission's Report. Nor do I want an over-centralised machine under the Board of Trade. I want central guidance, and a spirit of co-operation between the Government and industry, with industry being given the information that it wants, so that it can respond intelligently.
If time were available I could develop my ideas on all these points, but I must conclude. But before I sit down I want to urge the Government to consider these great problems in a way which is worthy of the problems themselves. We are faced with tremendous tasks—they must be tackled with vision and courage. I look at this Bill and then I turn to think of the stories that have been told to us by the three Service Ministers during the past two weeks, stories of vast achievements of work and organisation which led up to D-Day, the construction of the Mulberry Harbours, and all the great enterprise of the past twelve months. And then I ask myself, "Are the men who did these things of the same race as the men who prepared this pettifogging Bill?" Of course they are. What is the answer? The secret of those great achievements was that there was a clear national purpose—decentralisation of execution, and mobilisation of all available talent. People were told what was wanted and given an opportunity to develop their best talents to their full capacity. This nation is capable of organisation and achievement on a reallyheroic scale. I believe we can do just as fine things when we come back to the tasks of peace if we tackle our tasks in the right spirit. I appeal to the Government to take the whole of the country much more into their confidence, as to the plans they have in mind—if they have any—and how they appreciate the tasks before us, and not to come and tell us that a little Measure like this is their great contribution towards achieving full employment.
I must make clear my own position. With some hon. Friends, I have put down this Amendment on the Order Paper. I have not myself reached any conclusion on whether I wish to press it to a Division. I want to follow this Debate and hear what is said. But speaking for myself, I wish to say quite clearly, that unless we 875 can get, in the later stages of the Bill, in addition to the constructive ideas which it contains, some modification of its restrictive Clauses, or unless I can be persuaded that my interpretation of them is wrong, I, for my own part, though that perhaps matters very little, will do my best to organise opposition to the passing of this Bill. The Amendment asks for time to prepare a better foundation for the Measure. I cannot understand what is the urgency. The President of the Board of Trade stressed this, but he was quite inconsistent in this matter. He said, in one breath, that he did not want these powers now because under the controls now in existence he has all the powers that he wants; but he had said a few sentences previously, that unless he got this Measure, the Government could do nothing to solve the employment problem. I submit that there is nothing in this Bill on which action can be taken, or would be needed, in the next two years. All the controls on building will go on at least two years. I urge therefore that before we take this first very important step, we should see that it is a proper step, a step which means something, and 'which Mil really put us on the way to prosperity.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I beg to second the Amendment.
In doing so, I wish to state my reasons. The first thing I wish to say is that I shall in the course of my remarks to-day say some things which will be unpalatable to the other side of the House, and I have no doubt I shall say some things which will be unpalatable on this side of the House. Indeed, if I fail to do both these things it will be evidence that my position in politics is wrong, which is a supposition which cannot be entertained. I hope that, whatever I may say which is not palatable, we shall not proceed on the assumption that everybody who supports this Bill is an arbitrary exponent of the extension of the shackles of the bureaucracy on the freedom of industry. Equally I hope we shall not regard every one who opposes this Bill as an opponent of a planned economy. At the outset I wish to make my position clear. I am in favour of planning, but on three conditions, all of them highly germane to this Bill. The first is that there should be a plan, the second is that it should be a 876 good plan, and the third is that the instrument for carrying that plan into effect should be adequate and appropriate. It is because I am satisfied that no one of these three conditions is satisfied that I oppose the Second Reading of this Bill.
When the Government sat down to make up their mind what sort of Bill they meant to bring to the House to-day, there were four conceivable lines they might have taken. There were four possible angles of approach to this problem. The first is the totalitarian line of approach. The second is the latitudinarian line of approach. The third is the conditional line of approach. And the fourth is the line contained in this Bill.
§ Mr. Brown
I am much obliged for the help I invariably get in delivering my speeches, but I prefer my own version. There are these four lines of approach and it is germane to look at our situation in the light of each of these angles of approach.
In the totalitarian approach to this problem the question of the location of industry is not dealt with separately from the problem of production itself. The classic case of a planned economy in modern times is, I suppose, Soviet Russia. What happens there is that the Government does not produce a Bill dealing with the location of industry, but produces a plan dealing with the productive process itself, and incidentally with the problem of the location of industry. That plan is argued about and discussed in innumerable conferences, a decision is taken, the plan is published, and then everybody knows the objectives to be sought in the next period of industrial development.
Whatever else this Bill may be it does not represent the totalitarian approach, for it rests on the assumption that production will continue to be a matter for private enterprise. That is implicit in every line of this Bill. All it proposes to do is to place certain restrictions on the location of industry, without interfering with the private ownership of the productive processes themselves. In short, this Bill is a negative Bill. It does not say that such and such goods shall be produced; it does not even say that such and such goods shall not be produced. What it says is: "You shan't do that 877 there 'ere!" You can produce whatever it is you want to produce but if the Board of Trade do not like it: "You shan't do that there 'ere!" That is the negative aspect of the Bill. [Interruption.] I seldom witness insolence so insufferable or so great as that which comes from the legal profession. I myself have observed there is a positive side to the Bill, and I beg the hon. Member to credit me with sufficient intelligence to be able to detect it when I read it.
§ Mr. Brown
Because if the hon. Member does not, he shows himself to be a poor judge of his fellow men, and a poor judge of his fellow men should never be a solicitor.
The second possible approach is what I might call the latitudinarian approach. In this approach the whole question of the location of industry, as well as the problem of the productive process itself, are left completely to the play of natural forces and to private enterprise—not only in production but in location. It rests on the assumption—I am not for a moment arguing whether this assumption is right or wrong—that, on the whole, the evils that follow from the totalitarian approach are greater than the advantages it confers, and that, on the whole, the best result for the community in general is attained by leaving the whole question of production, and the location of industry, to the play of natural economic forces. Plainly, that is not the basis of this Bill either, for it does not propose to leave the location of industry to the ordinary play of economic forces. It proposes to exercise two influences on those forces, a deterrent influence in some areas, and a stimulating influence in others. In other words this Bill is not based on the latitudinarian approach.
The third possible line is the conditional approach, which I thought might have emerged from this Government. What is implicit in that? It is implicit in the conditional approach, that while the Government continue to leave industry and the location of industry to the free play of economic forces, the State itself steps in where gaps are left as the result of leaving the thing to the operation of natural forces. For example, it is implicit in this idea, that if there is excessive unemployment in one part of the country the Government itself should 878 prevent unemployment. If Government money is to be used, why should it not be used on behalf of the community, instead of to subsidise private traders? It is implicit in that line of approach that if there is a deficiency of production of some kind within an industry the State goes in into that field and fills up the gap. This Bill does not even embody that line of approach. It makes no proposal that the State shall enter the vacant field, that the State shall provide employment in the distressed areas or make good deficiencies in the privately-owned productive processes in this country. This Bill is limited—forgive me if I over simplify it in order to state my argument —to two things, saying to one set of people: "You shan't do that there here," and saying to another set of people: "If you like to do that there there, there will he a bit of money from the Exchequer to help you out." I do not think that is an unfair description of this Bill.
In what circumstances is this to be done? Is it to be done in the implementation of a general plan for the benefit of British industry? I would be willing to subscribe to many unorthodox things, of which I, personally, did not approve, if I could be persuaded that they would serve the interests of British industry as a whole. What is the plan which this Bill is intended to serve? Truth breaks out, even against my will. The honest truth about this is: "There ain't no plan!" There has been no preliminary survey of the agricultural, mineral and labour resources of this country which must inevitably be done before we can make any kind of scheme. This Bill is like trying to determine the location of the chimney on the house before the site has even been bought! In effect it is saying where the chimney should be put in the structure, before we have bought the site, had the architect in, called the builders on the job and got the structure up. Not only is this true, but there is no Government plan for industry as a whole, nor for any one industry in Britain.
If anybody challenges me let me ask one or two questions. Take some of our great industries. What is the Government plan for the future of the coal industry? Do not all speak at once. What is the Government plan for agriculture? Let the rush still be restrained. For three years, to the knowledge of Members of this House I have been asking what is the 879 Government long-term policy for agriculture, and I have collected the most magnificent set of mono-syllabic negatives that has ever been uttered! "There ain't no policy" for agriculture. Is there a policy for the export trade? If there is it is a secret conspiracy. It has never come out. The only planning that has been done throughout the whole of our industrial field, internal and external, is the negative planning of the Department of Overseas Trade, which is really an organisation in restraint of trade. If anybody desires to trade with our Allies he is practically guilty of an offence under the Defence Regulations, and anybody who can get through the Department of Overseas Trade will be a brilliant success in any market in the world. His major difficulties will have been overcome.
I want to say how completely I agree with the speech of my Friend opposite when he says that the real effect of this Bill, if it has an effect at all, will be merely to spread the margarine a little more smoothly over the surface of the slice of bread. A lot of Members on the other side wonder why it should be spread at all. On this side of the House I would say: "Stop speaking about margarine and ask for a bit of butter," or, better still, "Ask for butter and jam," instead of the old, old promise of "Jam yesterday and jam to-morrow but never jam to-day." To Members of the Labour Party I would say: "For God's sake get out of the habit of claiming that since half a loaf is better than no bread, it is therefore better than a whole loaf"—a mentality which is becoming indigenous in the Labour movement. This Bill is about as relevant to our industrial situation as a sticking plaster on a wooden leg. From the point of view of the country as a whole there is nothing in this Bill.
Now I come to the machinery through which it is to be applied. The Minister this morning drew a lovely picture, oversimplified and highly-coloured, of about five Ministers indulging in harmony, bursting with harmony. The Ministers of Agriculture, Production, Fuel, and the rest of them. If there is any harmony at all it is a negative harmony, because there is no piano. Nobody has started to play a tune yet. There is not an agreed policy anywhere. In fact I agree with 880 the remarks of the preceding speaker that this Bill will be applied by civil servants. Let me make the position quite clear, because I do not wish to be misunderstood. Nobody in Great Britain has a greater admiration that I for the qualities of the public servants of this country. I have worked around them all my life and I have been the Civil Service advocate over a long period of years. I have nothing but admiration for the qualities, the abilities, the honesty, and the faithfulness to duty that that Service exhibits. But here let me say two things about it. The first is that the modern Civil Service was not recruited for this kind of job. In the main it is recruited from youngsters, round about 16 in the case of the secondary school and up to 24 in the case of the university class. They come directly into the public service from a scholastic, and not from a business, background. That is one thing. Another element is that our Civil Service is so constructed that it places a premium upon negation. It has given rise to the saying in the Civil Service: "When in doubt, say 'No'," and also to another one: "If you want to get promotion in !the Civil Service think three times before you do anything—and then don't do it." But apart from this, there is another element from which the Civil Service is no more exempt than anything else. That is that some people do desire to exercise power. Only the very best men do not desire to exercise power. That is why the only candidate to vote for at an election is the one who is not a candidate. The only man who should be a dictator is a man who does not want the job. Power breeds the desire to exercise power, and I do not suppose that a Civil Servant is any more exempt from that desire than anyone else.
The powers in this Bill, however, are largely negative ones. The exercise of power under the Bill would largely take the form of saying: "No, you can't do that there 'ere." I do not want to take up the time of the House any longer, but I can see in this Bill endless possibilities of delay, of references, and cross-references. Even if the answer is "Yes" to an application to build a factory, it will take months to get. It takes two months to get a passport out of the country. As I say, I envisage endless possibilities of delay, and where there is a negative there is no assurance that the man who has been refused permission to build is factory is 881 going to be willing to build it somewhere else where the Government may want it. He may even decide not to build it at all, in which case we shall have restrained a development in one place without creating it in another. The net result of the Bill is that, at an unspecified cost, for no man will even admit that he could estimate what the cost of the Bill would be, there will only be a little smoother spreading of margarine over the bread. We should be getting butter, or jam, or both.
Before I sit down I wish to direct a blinding shaft from the torch of truth on the dark designs of Dalton. The truth about this Bill is that it is a Bill to compel everybody to submit their purposeful productive proposals to the negative authority of the anonymous. I said I would describe it as putting a plaster on a wooden leg. I withdraw that. There "ain't no wooden leg." There is just the plaster. This Bill is a veneer for a vacuum. It is something which conceals an empty space, and it is typical of modem statesmanship in that it bears all the marks of its Coalition origin. It has been born in a state of coma. There is only one thing to do with this Bill, withdraw it. I take it that after listening to this devastating attack on it it will be withdrawn. However, if withdrawn it should be preserved as an everlasting example of what should be avoided, an example of the misbegotten births that come out of outworn Coalitions in their old age.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Colonel Greenwell (The Hartlepools)
I wish to oppose this Amendment and I would like to take the opportunity of congratulating the President of tie Board of Trade on having found it possible, at last, to introduce legislation which I think is going to be of very great benefit to millions of people in this country. In fact, I believe that in the future this Bill will be looked upon as the charter of industrial Britain. Judging from the speeches which have been made on this occasion it seems to me that the difference between us is not just the normal political rivalries but the difference that must exist between those who live in, work in and have to do with the Special Areas and those who do not. For the first time a plan has been made out which seems to me to try to tidy up the complex structure which has arisen in this country as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The Development Areas are essentially the sites 882 of heavy industry, and so far as my own observation goes they are full of work to-day but their workers are not working as hard as they can or as hard as they did, and I think we all ought to try to understand why that is. Most of the young men have gone out of the industry. They have been taken into the Forces, and it is only the older men who remain, and they are five years older than they were when war broke out. Those men are beginning to show signs of the strain that the war has put on them.
I do not think we ought to forget that the workpeople of this country have always responded to any calls that have been made, to the call that was made both in 1939 and in the Battle of Britain and ever since then, when they have clearly seen and understood the reason for a special effort. We must at this stage of the war expect to see some effects of that strain, but there is also an effect upon the minds of these people who work in Development Areas which I think wants assessing. That is the effect caused by the worry as to what is going to happen to them after the war. The question that they ask themselves is, Are things going to be allowed to drift back to the old days when work was so difficult to get and employment was only available in fits and starts? Is there going to be any outside opportunity for employment when heavy industry falls, as I am afraid it must from time to time do, into the doldrums? I think this Bill definitely lights a lamp of hope for the Development Areas, and I think it ought to be backed by all classes of the community as a genuine effort to meet a pressing need.
There are those, quite obviously, who think that the Bill goes much too far. There may be some of my hon. Friends on the other side who think it does not go far enough. But it does appear to me that it is a reasonable compromise to get something done, and I deplore the motives which activate the supporters of the Amendment, in that I feel it would only lead to postponement of something which it is vitally necessary to get on with right away. I would like to point out that things like the question of floor space, which determines the action that my right hon. Friend may take when the Bill becomes law, are surely Committee points. I am not for a moment saying that 3,000 square feet is exactly the right 883 dimension on which to assess this particular aspect of the matter, but I feel that it is not a point on which we ought to damn the Bill. There must be, if we are going to implement the objects of the Bill, some form of direction and some limitation as to future construction.
The first thing which I hope my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade appreciates is that, however sincere his intention may be, as exemplified in this Bill, he will never have any chance of achieving the object which he has set out to achieve unless he appreciates the prime necessity for doing something to encourage heavy industry itself. The depressed areas must stand or fall, ultimately, by the success of the efforts made to protect the heavy industries of the country, but I am not saying that methods such as this will not be of great assistance in helping us to achieve a more steady and balanced employment throughout these areas. It has not yet been brought out in the Debate, but I think it is an important point to be made, that, when this war is over, as I see it, the most important of the many tasks that will be facing us will be that of ensuring the future security of the country. We are all hoping to see a system of international security set up, but, in my opinion, it will be a good many years before that becomes possible. During those years of waiting to see it established, we shall have to rely on the strength of our own right arm and on our own Armed Forces, and our Armed Forces can never be satisfactorily placed unless they are solidly backed up by heavy industry.
It is a terrible thing to see a whole family unemployed. When a father and his son are out of work, it changes the whole mental outlook if another son or a couple of daughters have got steady jobs. I hope that this Bill will help to prevent what we all want to see prevented—mass unemployment in parts of the country where people have very little prospect of ever getting a worth-while job again. I have seen something of it in my own life. I know what it is to see 200 or 300 men waiting outside a works gate at 7.30 a.m. in the morning to see the foreman and to ask if he wants any men, and going away because there is no other industry to which they can turn. We want to see a better levelling-up of these things in these areas in future.
884 The second thing I want to impress upon the Minister is that I sincerely hope there will not be—and I am afraid there is a tendency in that direction—a parochial outlook in this matter. We want only a proportion, and not a very large proportion at that, of lighter industry within the Special Areas. We are not seeking to rob Peter to pay Paul. As I see it, a city like Newcastle-on-Tyne does not, in addition to its existing activities, expect or hope to become a second Coventry or Birmingham. But the prospects for carrying out these new proposals lead me to believe that there is already a tendency for a certain amount of "jockeying for position." Everybody wants to be first at the feast, and I think the President of the Board of Trade will have to be very careful to see that an even distribution is made of what is available.
I notice that, in Clause 4 of the Bill, the Treasury is empowered to give financial assistance to certain persons, under certain conditions, on the recommendation of an Advisory Committee. I think that hon. Members of this House are apt to be a little suspicious of Treasury committees set up from inside the Treasury, by the Treasury itself. They remind me very much of that electrical contrivance fitted on Tube trains known as the "dead man's handle." The moment the pressure of the control is removed, they pull up the whole works immediately. I do not think this is what we want to see as a result of certain provisions in this Bill. I hope the President will see that there is as little control by the Treasury over the appointment of this Committee as possible. It seems to me that the Advisory Committee on the financial side of the Bill ought to be a really independent body.
The second thing I want to say in this connection is that I feel that the right hon. Gentleman would be very much better off if he had an advisory committee—apart from a financial advisory committee, and composed of an equal number of industrialists and trade union leaders—to advise him about the distribution of industry in the country from time to time. I feel that it is most important and most urgent, and I trust that the President will consider the introduction of an appropriate Clause to that effect at a later stage of the Bill. The 885 right hon. Gentleman might well have, in such an advisory committee, a small dash of Parliamentary salt. I do not refer in this connection to the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Salt), who, I believe, is a party to the Amendment. There will be some difference of opinion, possibly, in regard to the payment of money to certain industrial concerns under the provisions of the Bill, but I trust that the House will unite on this issue and leave the discussion of who is ultimately to control industry to a later occasion so that we may now get on with the job.
I think it is appropriate to say here that, whereas my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle North (Sir C. Headlam) has stressed, again and again, the necessity of bringing the job to the worker and not taking the worker to the job—which means that there should be no mass transfers of labour up and down the country—it is yet right that we should regard a flexible system of transfer of labour within certain areas, not only as desirable but as actually necessary. I do not think workers mind travelling to their work, or even shifting their homes, if it means getting good jobs, and so long as it is within the area to which they have been accustomed by tradition and use. I do not think large bodies of them relish the idea of being moved right across the country, and this Bill will help to prevent that.
I must say I am delighted to see that within the First Schedule to the Bill, certain changes have been made with regard to the demarcation of the actual areas to which the Bill essentially applies. At long last, the President of the Board of Trade has recognised a point that some of us have been trying to make in and out of this House, for some time—that parts of the North Riding of Yorkshire, and the Tees Valley, are essentially and integrally part of the North-East coast. The right hon. Gentleman has included them in the North-East coast Development Area. For the life of me, although I listened with great attention to what the right hon. Gentleman had to say about some of these other areas, I cannot see why, having included in the First Schedule the area of the administrative county of Durham, he has not also included the administrative area of the county of Northumberland. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's words about Halt- 886 whistle, but he did not make it clear how he is going to overcome some of the difficulties that relate to such places, when he uses the powers of the Bill. He did not mention that there is a small coalfield in the North of Northumberland, around Scremerston, South of Berwick, where there has been a good deal of distress in the past. I believe that, at Haltwhistle, there was once 80 per cent. of the population unemployed, because they depend largely upon two small collieries. Now that there is a chance of establishing a small furniture industry for this district, he is not going to use the provisions of this Bill.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Dower
Before my hon. and gallant Friend leaves that point, may I remind him that at Alston, close to Haltwhistle, there is a place which was a Special Area, and which has been left out of this Bill, though Heaven knows why? If we are trying to improve this Bill, that area should be included.
§ Colonel Greenwell
I am very glad to find that the hon. and gallant Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) agrees with the line I am pursuing, and I trust that the President will take notice of it. It seems to me that, in the main, the proposals of his Bill are fair and reasonable, and are likely to do something tangible, definite and immediate to help a situation which we have all deplored in the past, and which we realise does need putting on a proper foundation in future. The Bill gives great powers to the President of the Board of Trade, but, if these powers are exercised with sympathy and good will, it seems to me that they ought to lead to a better distribuion of employment throughout the country and also lead to the gradual eradication of those areas. From that point of view, I must oppose the Amendment.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Anderson (Whitehaven)
I want to support the Measure, but I want to say, at the same time, that I would like to have seen more initiative in it for directing industry as a whole. This Bill to a very large extent leaves the private individual to take the initiative. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) mentioned various points concerning what the Bill did not do and what the Bill said it would not do. I wonder what the working people would say in the areas of West Cumberland where, prior to the 887 war, we had one man out of two unemployed. Would they say that industry should have freedom to move about just as it desired, or would they say that it should be directed, so as to prevent thousands of young men being transferred, as was the case before the war, from a district like West Cumberland to the South of England, leaving behind derelict areas? I think this Bill will help to solve some of the problems that areas like West Cumberland had to face prior to the war. It is a heavy industry area. Fortunately in the past there has been a survey of West Cumberland, and we must see that its minerals are developed to the fullest possible extent. I hope this Measure will assist the development of those very heavy minerals and also of allied industries. Before the war we had experience of certain minerals being produced and semi-finished, and then travelling from one point to another three or four times before the finished commodity reached the consumer. I hope that this Bill will prevent that happening again.
In some of the old Special Areas we have natural resources that must play a very important part in the development of industries. In our area water is a very important factor in some industries. It should be the Government's policy to direct industries which require great quantities of water to areas where the water happens to be. We had chemical industries established in some of our big cities where it was very costly to dispose of the effluents. I hope that arrangements will be made so that effluents can be thrown into the sea without great expense. Then there is the question of agriculture and industry being brought together. We have various light industries that require attention, and they should not be allowed to develop in the haphazard manner of the past. I think that this Bill will help some of those industries. Then there are the heavy industries. Iron ore is not found all over the country, but we still have a great quantity in the West Cumberland area. We should bring some of the industries which depend on iron ore and coal to areas where the natural mineral wealth is situated at present. I feel that this Bill will assist very much in bringing some of those industries, which in the past were allowed to develop wherever they pleased, to the places where 888 the mineral resources are. If we do that, allied industries will come.
In West Cumberland we shall have to find employment for at least 44,000 people. That may not seem a very big figure, but it is a great proportion of the total population of the area. I think that this Bill will help considerably to improve the position that we faced before the war through lack of industries in the area. I am glad that the Bill provides a possibility of financial assistance towards the removal of some of the slag heaps in heavy industrial areas. It is time something was done to remove those scars from the face of our beautiful countryside. I would like another point cleared up. When new industries are introduced into areas like West Cumberland, the housing question arises. Local authorities have to put people on a list, and those people have to take their turn according to circumstances. Will this Bill enable industrialists, when they come into an area, to provide houses for their key workers, or will these key workers have to take their turn in the ordinary way? It is no use asking for new industries for an area if key workers cannot be brought there to teach other people their jobs. Does the Bill cover any water supplies which are required? Gas, electricity, and other forms of power are mentioned, but water is not specifically mentioned. In our area water power is very important to industry.
Another problem that has to be faced is that of transport. In districts which were severely depressed before the war transport has not developed at a great pace. For the development of new industries we shall have to give adequate transport facilities. Will this Bill make grants for improving transport facilities, especially in districts like West Cumberland? I see the Minister nodding assent, but we should have it placed on record, because there is some doubt about it among people in West Cumberland. A great deal has been said in our district about the inequality of rates for rail and road transport. Will there be power to equalise rates, so that industries brought into the area can compete with industries in other parts of the country? In our district there are long roads leading to farms, and some of these roads are in such a bad state that the railway companies have refused to collect milk, and provender dealers have refused to deliver 889 provender. Can financial aid be given to put those roads into proper repair?
For some time we have had a large number of sub-standard men signing on as unemployed in West Cumberland. Some of them have not worked for many years. How far will this Bill provide suitable employment for those substandard men in the coal and iron cre districts? It is very serious to see those men walking about the streets, as they have been doing for many years, without suitable industries to occupy then. What can be done to provide some directing authority, so that in our heavy industrial districts suitable employment can be found for men suffering from silicosis? Some of these men could work on the surface of certain classes of mines, but I am told that because they have been discharged on account of silicosis they cannot get employment of that kind, although they are not drawing compensation. This Bill lacks initiative if it is not able to provide industries suitable for those sub-standard men. I hope that these points will be adequately cleared up in the Minister's reply.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Major Trevor Cox (Stalybridge and Hyde)
I welcome this Bill, as it is designed to bring about a more reasonable balance of industrial development in these islands. It is needed, and I believe it will be welcomed by the great majority of people to-day. The hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) and the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) both made energetic attacks on the Minister this afternoon. Neither of them had any practical alternative proposals to put forward; neither showed the least interest in the old Special Areas; nor did they seem to remember the terrible times of unemployment and suffering in those areas before the war. Had they supported the Minister, I think that it could have been said that they showed a real interest in reducing unemployment. This Bill shows that the Board of Trade, for the first time, takes on an entirely new commitment, a commitment which has been adopted by no Government previously, and' a commitment which may be a turning point in the future industrial development of the country. It is a weapon to reduce unemployment locally; and I think it should be welcomed for those reasons. The old 890 Special Areas have their individual problems, and it is only by direct intervention of this character that unemployment can be dealt with, and we may easily have to face up to that difficulty after the war. I hope that the employment factor will not overshadow the industrial and commercial considerations which are so important. I regard this as a sensible and practical advance towards the times of full employment.
The Minister made a number of interesting statements. He told us that he was going to set up a new plans room, and that a great deal of valuable information will be available to business men therein. I hope that business men throughout the country will take advantage of those facilities and will consult the Minister. The information should be of great assistance to them when they are looking for new factory sites. The Board of Trade will have a great deal of information which business men have not, and will certainly help them when they are in need of places in which to set up new industries. There are a number of important factors to be considered in choosing a factory site. The Minister gave some examples. It is often a very difficult and complex matter to choose a new factory site. The population to be served, if the home trade is of interest, has to be considered; local labour, whether skilled, unskilled or female; costs of distribution by road, rail and canal, and so on are other considerations, All this sort of points and many others which the Minister mentioned have to be considered, and the Board of Trade will have available much of this valuable information which will greatly assist business men. The trading estates were mentioned and I am glad to see that this policy will be continued. Trading estates like Treforest have been very successful in the past. Standardised, modern, well designed groups of factories will be extremely useful to business men who wish to set up new industries.
I would draw the attention of the Minister to the 1943 report of the Inspector of Factories, in which he makes another suggestion with regard to the building of small new factories which may be useful to business men. He suggests building blocks of well-designed rooms of convenient sizes, with good facilities for heating, ventilation, lighting, cleaning, maintenance and so on, which could be let off to the 891 smaller type of factory occupiers. In the past they have often been driven by economic necessity into the older and more dilapidated type of domestic property which was in many ways quite unsuitable for factory purposes. If some of the smaller industries, which, I hope, will be set up in the future, can take advantage of such factories, which could be built under the encouragement of the Government, either directly by the Government or by private enterprise, it would be very useful to the business men concerned. The new powers which the Minister will eventually be given will be extremely useful to Development Areas. There are many ways in which those areas can be assisted. There will be the placing of orders after the war. For the post-war re-armament programme substantial orders will have to be placed, and I hope they will be partly placed in these areas. The Minister will be able to direct new factories to these areas and to place Government contracts in these localities. This, with the trading estates, with the grants, loans and financial assistance, should be most useful in reducing unemployment and dealing with the unemployment problem. The vital consideration which must always be before us is, How can we generally assist British industry and help business men to lower their costs of production in industry and bring about the most efficient manufacturing organisation so that they can increase their exports and develop their businesses? We do not want to lay any more restrictions on them than are absolutely essential to the war effort.
I would touch upon one or two points in conclusion which specially affect the problem of North-East Cheshire. We have in the past been predominantly concerned with the cotton industry, the bulk of the people being employed in that industry, but in recent years new light industries have been developed, and large numbers of people have been employed as a result. Private enterprise has shown great initiative in this part of Cheshire and many new industries have been set up. There is a large body of skilled labour available locally and in the Manchester area; and I sincerely hope that no action will be taken in the future under these or other regulations which will in any way discourage the setting up of those new industries in this part of Cheshire. I welcome the Bill because it is a cour- 892 ageous effort to deal with the evil of unemployment before its re-appearance in our towns and cities after the war.
§ 6.37 p.m.
Mr. Daģģar (Abertillery)
I think that there is general agreement in this House that as the war with Germany approaches its end, it is natural that oar people should begin to think of the future. No subject will be considered of greater importance than that of continuous employment, especially by those who still possess a vivid memory of the inter-war period, when economy cuts in unemployment benefit and standing in queues at employment exchanges were the experience of many millions of our people. That was the period not only of wasted time, wasted plant and machinery, but of wasted human life. Those were the days of poor law relief, riots and demonstrations, as the experience of men who lived in drab, dreary and dull areas in this country. I hope that those conditions will never return, and it is our duty to see to it that they do not return. If they do, we shall have failed to discharge our obligations to those men and women who have protected us from Hitler's hordes. What is worse, but equally true, we shall have betrayed those who have given their lives on our behalf. Those of us who lived in the depressed areas, amongst the people who suffered and endured the tragedy of unemployment, will not find it easy to forget that period. It is difficult to understand or to believe that people could exist in such sad conditions. Memories of the past will be my defence of anything that I may say in criticism of this Bill and in criticism, paradoxical as it may seem, of those who have spoken against the Bill, and also the reason why I would like to have some additional explanation of some of its Clauses.
I do not propose to occupy the time of the House in dealing with the percentages of unemployment that existed in those days, but in order to be convinced that this Bill is necessary, the House should be reminded that the year ended December, 1932, was considered one of the worst periods of unemployment in this country. The percentage of unemployed persons in those days was not less than 21.5, but in Durham the average was 41.6 per cent.; in Dumbartonshire, 49.9 per cent.; Monmouthshire, 42.3 per cent., and Glamorganshire, 41.3 per cent. Those 893 figures do not give the complete picture because they are county figures, and if we took 24 of the distressed areas within those counties, the percentage of unemployed persons varied from 31 per cent., which is over the average for Great Britain, to no less than 77.7 per cent. In my own division we had a percentage of unemployed persons in excess of 93. I represent a division in which there are three local authorities, each of whose areas was scheduled as a depressed area, one of them having a percentage of unemployed persons in excess of 93 per cent. In another part of the adjoining county of Glamorganshire, in Taff's Well, there was a percentage of 91.3. These facts explain my interest in this Bill and are also a defence of what I propose to say.
I am precluded from discussing the White Paper upon which I assume this Bill is based. Therefore, I am not influenced by the observations of the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) in his criticism of the Bill. Even the introduction of light industries, such as the making of collar-studs, drugs and gramophone records, will not prevent a return of the Special Areas. And in addition to this Bill, it is imperative that the Government should make known their p tans for promoting the prosperity of the basic industries, such as coal, steel, engineering, and shipbuilding. I would remand the hon. Member, who affords me considerable pleasure when he is speaking, as much of what he says is of interest to the House, and who apparently derives pleasure from delivering lectures, that he does not want to tell us what we already know. The root of the unemployment problem will never be reached, unless the basic industries of this country are considered to be of sufficient importance to demand the introduction of a Bill.
That part of the White Paper interests us very much. We know sufficient about the problem without being lectured by the hon. Gentleman. Taking a factory from South Wales to London does not solve the unemployment problem, it simply distributes the unemployed. We do not want to be told that on more than one occasion by a person who presumes an intellectual superiority because he happens to be a director of a butter or margarine company. Unless something is being done with those industries, the root of the problem remains untouched. How many times have we told the House that the solution 894 of every post-war problem leads back to coal? We cannot live for a very long time on these light industries. Essential as they might be to relieve the pressure of unemployment in our divisions, those light industries can only be a success in so far as we recognise that their prosperity is dependent upon a healthy basic industry, but we do not want to be reminded by these people as to what is the cause of unemployment.
I should also like to suggest to the hon. Gentleman that there is nothing in the party to which he belongs that will solve this problem of the trade cycles. Both political parties have tried to prevent their recurrence and, incidentally, in view of the propaganda speech delivered by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) we shall endeavour to see to it that the people who have not assisted the unemployed, other than by imposing that infamous means test, will not have another opportunity of being responsible for the administration of this country, and we shall endeavour to see that there will be an explanation of the fact that the mining industry which is the cause, as the hon. Member for Walsall pointed out, for the unemployed in South Wales is largely due to the ineptitude and incapacity of the people who own it to run it in the interests of the nation.
The need, in my opinion, for this Bill is simple and clear. It is to encourage a reasonable balance of industrial development, and is required because of what happened in the inter-war period, a reminder of which is to be found in the Report of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population, which was published as far back as 1939, and in so far as this Bill now embodies some of the suggestions and recommendations of the Barlow Commission, it is long overdue. In this Report, particulars are given of the number of factories opened, closed and extended from 1932 to 1937, a period of six years, with this summary:Of the net increase of 644 during the six years in question in the number of factories in Great Britain employing 25 or more persons, no less than 532 or five-sixths were located in Greater London. In addition, nearly one-third of the extensions to existing factories occurred in Greater London.This Bill, unconsciously perhaps, observes the importance of a sentence contained in what is known as the Uthwatt Report, namely: 895Similarly it may be in the national interest to prevent some of our existing large cities from expanding further.To the extent that the Bill provides for that, if nothing else, it gets my support. The reliability of the observation to be found in that Committee's report must be patent to every hon. Member who realises that in 1931, 120 of the towns and cities in Great Britain with a population of over 50,000 inhabitants had an aggregate population of over 22,000,000 people out of a total population in this country of no less than 45,000,000. We realise that the Bill embodies the proposals of the White Paper regarding the location of industry. Some of us are also aware of the changed name by which the areas are now to be known and which are to receive benefits under the Bill. They have had many names. They have been known as "derelict" areas—which was quite true of them at the time—"depressed," "distressed" and "Special Areas," and we hope that this Bill, with other Measures that will have to be introduced, will enable them to live up to the new description of "Development Areas," although up to now I am sorry to say that my division has shown no signs of development.
As a number of unemployed from divisions similar to my own are now engaged on war work in adjoining constituencies, the war has to some extent solved our problem, but with no new industries, the future is not very bright and unless more positive steps are taken to establish new undertakings, past conditions might reappear after the war comes to an end. I say that the problem has apparently been solved because of an observation made in "The Times" quite recently. In a leader it was pointed cut that:The Special Areas have not been disposed of by the war.… Indeed, it is likely that the unhappy potentialities of those areas have been aggravated by many of the industrial developments imposed by the war.We are afraid of a return of those conditions, and there is a lot to be said for the principle laid down in the leader to which I have referred. Before the war broke out, it was claimed that as more than £300,000,000 were spent on the Armed Forces every year, those millions could be used as a lever to control the location of industry. I think this suggestion was first made by the hon. Gentleman before he became the Member 896 for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir W. Beveridge), but during the war much of that has been changed, although the men and women now employed at these factories are anxious about the situation after the war ends. They ask whether their services will be required, or will they be obliged to return to the pre-war depressed areas of which it has been said thatthe curse of the depressed areas was their depression—a depression for which they were in no way responsible.While the existing Royal Ordnance factories have been erected near pools of unemployment, many of which have been drained, their location has violated, in my submission, the oft-repeated principle laid down in the Barlow Report, namely:That, so far as possible, where land is absorbed for industry or urban extensions, this should not be at the expense of areas of the highest fertility or unique natural beauty.Even if that cannot be corrected at the moment, we should nevertheless discontinue that policy, and I say that because it applies to the proposed new trading estates as well and I am convinced that instead of destroying first-class agricultural land, consideration should be given to the need for these trading estates being placed on derelict land, land which is no good for the production of food. We have had some difficulty in persuading the people responsible that there is room at the top of some of the Welsh valleys for the establishment of these trading estates. I want to make this observation again, that if, on the trading estates, you have a dozen or 24 separate producing units, it is possible to lift them from there, and bring them into the valleys where it is impossible to construct a trading estate.
I am convinced that a very strong case can be made out for that part of the Measure which provides for the control of industrial development in particular areas. Whatever hon. Members opposite may say, a proper distribution of industry is absolutely and utterly impossible unless there is a measure of control exercised either by the President of the Board of Trade or the Minister of another Department. I am not satisfied with the part of the Bill which simply provides for "steering," for "encouraging," for "stimulating," for "attracting" new industries into these Special Areas, because 897 no steps are provided in the Bill to insist that the owner of a factory should go in to a Special Area. All that is asked of him is that he shall establish his industry M one of the 120 if not 220 Special Areas in Great Britain. I have had the unhappy experience of a new industry coming to a part of the Division where there were no less than seven pits closed down in 1931 and not a single industry was to be found there. We had an owner who was prepared to put an industry there. He sent his representative there, looked at the site, made alterations and, simply because he found a better spot somewhere else, he lifted the whole show and went, and our people are still there without any sign that they are going to have an industry, in an area where there was 91.8 per cent. unemployed in the interwar period.
According to the First Schedule to the Bill, more than 120 Development Areas are mentioned, and the person who decides to occupy a building or erect a factory can place his plant in either of those areas, and to do so his industry is simply "steered" or "enticed" into either one of the areas to be found in the First Schedule. A manufacturer has an unlimited choice amongst so many, regardless of the needs of the people or the number of unemployed persons in any particular district. Men to-day are directed to jobs. After the war, if there is unemployment, the unemployed man will be directed to a job then. I see no difference in principle between directing a human being and directing the owner of a factory, no difference at all. I have heard a lot here about "Oh, you want a totalitarian State; you want to usher in a servile State" by the same people who never complain about the fact that 10,000,000 of our people have changed their jobs during this war. People who talk, as I have heard some of them talk to-day, ignore the fact that there is an Assistance Board with 7,000 individuals who do nothing but administer a Tory Means Test. There are another 10,000 officials at the employment exchanges. When they order our people about, no reference is made to the ushering in of a servile State, or regimenting the people of this country, or creating a system of totalitarianism.
We hear those things when it is a question of priority rights, but we never hear talk of it when it is a case of conscripting 898 individuals. While Members on the opposite side of the House have never hesitated to conscript men and women, there has not been a single instance where the principle of the private ownership of property has been interfered with during the whole of this war. [Laughter.] Why is the hon. and gallant Member laughing?
§ Captain Thorneycroft (Stafford)
The hon. Member said that in no single instance had private property been interfered with during the war. I should have said that he was putting that a little high.
I want to remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that he is not now in a court of law, where he can twist another person's words. As a good representative of the Tory glamour boys, I know that the hon. and gallant Member is capable of twisting. What I said was that there has never been any opposition from the benches opposite, to the conscription of human beings—
Not the hon. Gentleman as well, for goodness' sake. I do not mind dealing with the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Captain Thorneycroft) because he has a certain amount of common sense, and holds opinions which, to some extent, coincide with mine. What I am saying is that the crowd opposite have never hesitated to conscript individuals during the war, during which there has been no single instance of the principle of conscripting private property being conceded by the Government. There is opposition to this Bill merely because the partial control of industry is implied. It is because of that, that we have had opposition such as that which we have had to-day from the hon. Member for Kidderminster, and the pious, gracious, reverent, observations of the intelligent hon. Gentleman who happens to be the Member for Walsall. I propose to support the Bill, although it falls far short of what I want. I would like to see the Minister take power to ensure that an owner should not build or occupy a factory other than in the area where the factory is required. Notwithstanding its weaknesses, I shall, as I have said, support the Bill.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. John Maclay (Montrose)
I rise, I believe, with more than the normal 899 humility of one about to make his first speech in this House. I do so because I am very conscious that although I have been a Member of this House for almost five years I have remained silent for that period, not, may I assure you, Mr. Speaker, because of any lack of respect for you, nor because of any failure to realise my obligations to this House or to my constituents. The sole reason has been that certain war-time duties have kept me abroad for a number of years. May I hasten to assure you, Sir, that I do trot propose to attempt to make up this evening, at one fell swoop, for all the years I have lost?
This Bill we are discussing to-day is, I am convinced, of the greatest importance to the industrial development of our country and will, I believe, have a great influence on the lives of many of our citizens. The question of the location of industry has been one which has caused great concern to many of us for years past, and we have waited with the greatest interest to hear the proposals which the Minister explained so clearly to-day. For too long have We watched the drift of population from country districts and country towns into our great cities. We have seen also new industries not tied by their nature to any one locality starting in our great cities, first in the middle and then latterly grouping themselves around their outskirts to form great concentrations of building now described, I believe, by a lamentable word "conurbations." For too long we in Scotland have seen our population leaving the countryside and going to the great industrial belt and, what has been far worse for Scotland, going South.
Knowing well the evils which have resulted from this drift of population into our great cities, the overcrowding of housing and congestion of road and rail transport which have resulted from this concentration, we cannot but welcome a Bill of this description, hoping that by the time it is agreed by Parliament it will go far to check this tendency which we have so long deplored. But, Sir, there are a number of points arising out of the Bill as at present drafted which are causing great concern in the country. In principle one may welcome it; on the face of it it does not depart from the essential principles of free enterprise. It contains certain powers of negative control and 900 powers to offer inducements to industry to move to areas where there is need for diversification of industry. I am glad that the Bill does not, however, attempt to give powers of positive direction to industry, because to do so, I believe, would be disastrous, in the long run, to the Whole system of free enterprise which has served us so well in the past and which, I am convinced, we must rely upon if we are to regain and expand our position in the post-war years.
As I have said, there are points in the Bill which are causing great worry, and I trust that by the end of this Debate the fears which have been aroused in many quarters, and certainly in my own constituency, will have been removed. I propose to confine my remarks to-night to one class of town, the smaller country town, which is not in a Development Area and which, one must assume, will not be classed, under Clause 9, as one of the towns which are not suitable for further industrial development. I am thinking of towns such as make up my own constituency, whose populations range from a comparatively small number up to, say, 25,000 inhabitants. What I want to say applies equally to other towns and other areas in the country, but I am particularly anxious to clear up the position of the smaller country town. Development Areas, as such, are defined in this Bill. There are powers to add to, and after a period to subtract from, the list. The qualification for addition to the list is that an area is likely to be in special danger of unemployment. No one can reasonably challenge proposals which are aimed at giving some priority to the redistribution of industry into areas which require some diversification of industry because of being too liable to extreme fluctuations of employment. We are all anxious to see the diversification of industry in such areas.
We in Scotland are disturbed about the future of our great industrial belt. But, Sir, one cannot but feel that this Bill deals too exclusively with the Development Areas. That is the chief point I am anxious to make in my speech. Should we not be thinking on a larger scale about the industrial development of this country as a whole, rather than one section? Is not the Bill really a Distressed Areas Bill rather than a true Distribution of Industry Bill, such as we were hoping for? Take the smaller country towns which I have 901 been discussing. They do not at present qualify as Development Areas. I trust that as long as the qualification for becoming a Development Area is a high level of employment they never will. I think there are many towns in a similar position. What has happened to such towns over the past 40 years? Tao many of these towns have suffered from a steady decline of" population. In some ways that has been worse from the country's point of view than if they had suffered periodically from unemployment. Population has steadily declined owing to the fact, possibly, that some years ago these towns were too dependent on one type of industry, such as flax, jute or fishing.
They may have been small ports which have gone backwards but which now, during the war, have revived and are hoping for a future. What has happened to the population? The people of these towns have been too good to sit down at home and remain unemployed. They have left home and gone to seek work in the great cities and being what they are in many cases must have found it, but in doing so they have added to the problems of the great cities. I sincerely trust that nothing which this Bill does will add to this deplorable tendency. Surely the whole trend of recent thought, the gist of the Barlow Report, confirmed by the Scott Report, quite apart from strategic considerations, has been the desirability of encouraging the development of suitable industry in the smaller towns, industries employing anything from 50 to 60 people up to 400 or 500. All the requirements for a decent life, I believe, are there: fresh air, space and beautiful and healthy surroundings, together with excellent recreational facilities—an infinitely better life, I believe, than in the great cities. I think it is true to say that these country towns are more attractive now than ever before, because of the advent of radio, cinemas and easier means of transport and communication. I submit, Sir, that it must be in the best interests of the country as a whole to encourage the development of suitable industries in such towns by every means at our disposal, always consistent, I agree, with certain overriding claims of the Development Areas. I do not, however, want to see the claims of the Development Areas swamp the claims of the smaller towns.
902 But what is their position under this Bill? First, they are not eligible for any encouragement, none of the inducements are available to them. Is this right? Should it not be given the most careful reconsideration? But secondly, and even more important, is it going to be possible at all to build new factories in these small towns in the critical years after the war? I know 'that the Bill itself does not contain powers to forbid that, that only notification of intention to build is required. The Bill also permits the erection of a factory of less than 3,000 sq. feet without notification. But is this much help? Such a factory would employ, I am told, only 10 to 15 workers. But what happens after notification? What will happen if an industrialist comes along with a proposal to the Board of Trade? He has to wait three months. I assume—and this is bad enough—that he will be told the advantages of going elsewhere. But supposing he determines to stick to his original intention, and wishes to build in the town he originally selected, will he be allowed to do so in the very critical years immediately after the war? Are the powers of the Ministry of Labour to direct labour and of other Ministries to control materials to be used actually to prevent him from doing it? If so, the Bill takes on a new complexion and taken in conjunction with the other powers which the Government have, becomes a positive weapon in the hands of the Government to compel industries, if they wish to start at all, to go to certain places. I believe that to be very bad. I sincerely hope that this is not the case and that these powers will not be used to that end, but I assure my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that this matter is worrying many people in the country. My constituents are very concerned about it,
For some time past, local authorities, development committees and business clubs all over the country have been working hard on plans for the future. I have worked with local authorities and development committees in my own constituency on such plans. They have many good and constructive ideas and they are very active. They are determined that their young people, when they return from the Services, will find constructive employment and will not be forced once again to join the miserable trek to the great cities, forced to leave their native towns. I believe that in one or two cases 903 when inquiries have been made as to the possibilities of encouraging new industries in certain districts, it has become clear that unless existing factory space was available the prospect of getting any priority for labour or materials in the critical years immediately after the war were negligible. I hope that is wrong and that assurances will be given during this Debate which will encourage the local authorities and the business clubs to go on planning. How can a town council get on with this job in conditions such as I have described? It has to consider housing, ancillary services and all the amenities, and it has not the slightest idea whether to plan for an expansion of industry in its town or to plan on the basis of a static or a declining population.
I want to emphasise the critical importance of the years immediately after the close of the war in Europe. I realise that, under the Bill as it is now drafted, in time to come the industrialist who wants to build in a small town may be offered an inducement to go elsewhere but may decide to go to the small town, and labour and materials will be available; but what will be the position in the years immediately after the war? It is safe to say that if an industrialist contemplates what amounts to a new and somewhat risky venture, if he contemplates going away from the great concentrations of population, deliberately choosing to reverse the trend and start his business in a small country town, possibly with higher costs of transport in getting his merchandise to market, he will be much more encouraged to go to such areas if he can get his business started as quickly as possible after the war is over in Europe, when there will be a reasonable certainty of a maximum period of full employment and production. I know we hope there will be a long term of stable employment and production, but no one can be certain how long it will last, and I think the years immediately after the war will be very critical from the point of view of starting business in small towns. If industrialists are not able to do so in those years, the chances are that they will not consider doing so again.
Nothing that I have said in my speech implies that I ignore the claims of the Development Areas, but I trust that by the end of the Debate the doubts and fears 904 which are disturbing the town councils, the provosts and the far-seeing inhabitants who have been working on these problems in the country towns may be dispelled, that they may continue their planning, and that not only will the building of new factories not be made impossible in the years immediately after the war, but that the development of industries in these small towns, which I believe are ideal sites for certain types of light industry, will be actively encouraged.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Sloan (South Ayrshire)
I want to congratulate the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. John Maclay) on his maiden speech. The time that has elapsed between his election and this speech will not have made it any easier for him, but I assure him that he has made a very fine impression on the House. He has spoken with a degree of confidence and assurance and an amount of knowledge that bode well for his future, and I am sure the House will listen to him with interest on any future occasion when he is able to catch the eye of the occupant of the Chair.
I have listened to most of the Debate and it has had for me a sense of unreality. What we are really attempting to do is to fit a round peg into a square hole. It is impossible by Government grants, subsidies or assistance to maintain a system that has long since served its day and generation. This Bill is only the old Special Areas legislation brought up to date; it is the old untrusted and unsuccessful legislation which we thought had gone away unwept and unsung. It is unfortunate that the present Bill is so limited in its outlook. Certainly, it is necessary that those blighted areas of the past should not again undergo the paralysing experience of the 30's, but the post-war problem that we shall face will be bigger and more complex even than the problem of the past. If I were called upon to offer an opinion, I would say definitely and categorically that the proposals in this Bill are wholly inadequate. The Development Areas are insufficient to meet future requirements.
There is, of course, a proviso which may be important, in that the Board of Trade can add to this list of Development Areas as and when they consider it to be necessary. The Board of Trade are here assuming very extensive powers; let us 905 hope that when they are considering the poor, neglected areas that are left outside this compilation, those powers will not be used arbitrarily. The Minister is here taking on the power of life or death over localities. If he agrees to assist a locality, he can assist, in a way; if, on the other hand, he decides to be troublesome, he can blight the prospects of any area. There is nothing here that puts any compulsion on him. He will be able to distribute the largesse. Fortunate Members of Parliament who can get the ear of the Board of Trade will go home rejoicing, with a factory at their disposal, and a pipe band will meet them at the station to play "See the Conquering Hero Comes." I do not think that is at all a satisfactory method of legislating for the coming years. I want it to be understood that I do not disparage any good which there is in the Bill. If I can discover it, I will accept any good with alacrity, but I assure the Minister that most decidedly I ask for more than I can see in this Measure.
My chief reason for regret about the parsimony of the Measure is that nobody knows this question better than my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. In the 30's I met him when he made his tour of Scotland, when he took evidence from committees set up all over the country, and prepared his very important report. Scotland is not neglected because he does not know the position there. There is no excuse. He knows our country. He knows the remoteness of the areas bound up with the heavy industries, the bleakness of life in the mining and steel areas, the desperate housing position, the sparsity of social amenities, and all the evils that follow when an economic blitz strikes an area. Nobody knows these things better than the President of the Board of Trade, who unfortunately is not present to hear the very nice things I am saying about him. There is a feeling growing up that the people in these districts cannot condition themselves to change. They are mining areas and they must remain mining areas, they have heavy industries and they must continue to have heavy industries. The people are trained to work hard from the day they were born, and therefore they must work hard to the day they die. I am glad this is one of the illusions that has been destroyed during the war. Human beings are very adaptable, as 906 women in industry have proved, and it has been demonstrated time and again that workmen from the areas connected with heavy industries are very adaptable and very skilful when they are put on to something else. The employers know this. Courtaulds and Imperial Chemical Industries do not set up factories at Pontypool simply because they like the colour of the hair or eyes of the people there, but because they know that the people there will respond generously with their labour when they have an opportunity of doing so.
There are various points that arise in the Bill. Would it be permissible to inquire on what basis the factual survey was made that produced the list of Development Areas? I happen to be, for good or for ill, a Member of Parliament representing a very important constituency in a very important county in a very important country. I knew nothing whatever about this survey of Development Areas until they appeared in this Schedule, and when one takes a peep through the list, one cannot dissociate many of the districts mentioned from many so-called important Members of the House. I can, in some measure, understand the position with regard to the Clyde, the Tyne, South Wales and some of the other areas. We are entitled to know why some areas have been brought in and why some, with probably a much greater claim, should be left out. We should know on what basis the survey was made, and how this thing was compiled. It would be distressing to think that there was an unseemly wrangle about where new industries were to be planted, or who should get them. I notice that 19 factories are being turned over to peace-time production—not a bad list to begin with. We are told that 600 licences have been issued for production. Substantial changes are taking place before our very eyes. When things are being shared over your head, it makes you think twice. I have no idea of entering into competition with the places mentioned in the Schedule. I am prepared to rest my case on Clause 6 (3), which provides:Where at any time it appears to the Board that the distribution of industry is such that in any area not specified in the first Schedule there is likely to be a special danger of unemployment the Board may by order direct that the area should be added to the Schedule.907 I am not complaining, but I am asking that some areas in my constituency should be added to the Schedule. I am concerned about the position of Scotland. We have been concerned about the position of Scotland for the last 25 years. My hon. Friend's first speech in the House showed that he was concerned about what was termed the drift to the South—how industry moves South and the best of our population moves South behind them. Between 1932 and 1937 six more factories closed in Scotland than were opened. In the same period, England opened 648 more factories than she closed. So we are on the debit side to the number of six and our enemy, England, has on her credit side, 648. That reflects itself in the earning capacity of the people, because the revenue of Scotland in 1920–1 was £119,000,000 and in 1934–5 it had fallen to £67,000,000—cause and effect. Take away the earning capacity of your people, and your revenue is bound to fall. That is what is taking place in Scotland and, if we allow the opportunity to pass, it may be a very long time before we shall be able to adjust this drop. There was a Treaty of Union in 1707, unfortunately for Scotland, and there was a bargain on both sides, but it was not that Scotland was to be merely a county, or a colony, or a dependency of England. Scotland is suffering to-day. She is lamentably short of factory accommodation, and we should have thought, naturally, that here was a chance to improve the mal-adjustment when this scheme was being prepared for a bright new world.
There was a fundamental error of judgment in the allocation of factories earlier in the war. That is where we have some cause for complaint. When you started the war, you required equipment. The factories were set down in England, and the Minister of Labour had a terrible job deporting our people across the Border. We are in this unfortunate position now that, as these factories will be released for peace production, the bulk of them being in England, we suffer at that end of the scale. Where does planning come in there? Do hon. Members think that we cannot produce? Do they think that Scottish workmen are defective workers and defective thinkers, that they are lacking in skill and ability? There are no workers in the world of the capacity of 908 the Scottish when they are put up against it. All that we were allocated was storage; it is a case of "manufacture the goods in England and store them in Scotland." Those in authority knew the integrity and honesty of the Scottish people—they knew the goods were safe—so we had millions of storage space where we ought to have factory space. We do not want to be caretakers for England, either in the form of a caretaker Government or as a caretaker of your goods. We want our own economy. We want to produce our own goods, with our own skill, and craft, and workmanship, and our own individuality expressed in it. We are not paupers and we want nothing from anyone South of the Border. We have lost our steel works from Lanarkshire and our jute from Dundee. We are only a dumping ground for England.
There was a project to build a bridge over the Zambesi, and the present Secretary of State for Scotland said that its purpose was to allow a Belgian company to exploit a coalfield in Portuguese territory, so that coal could be sent quickly into the market to help to break British coal prices. That was before my right hon. Friend was a Member of the Coalition Government. The West Lothian county council asked for an interview with the then Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, regarding the position of the shale industry, but the interview could not take place because Mr. MacDonald was going to Berlin. The Prime Minister was more interested in the Hochs of the Germans than in the wailings of his own people. We are in the same position now. In the midst of all this, the Lord President of the Council said that the transference of boys from Scotland on any large scale was not merely a matter of uprooting some individuals and some families. It meant that they were gravely jeopardising the national life of Scotland. This is still true, although my right hon. Friend is now a Member of a Coalition Government. It is as true now, as it was then.
I do not know who is responsible for the information in regard to this Schedule but it is of no use whatever for the development of Scottish industry. As a matter of fact there is no real plan for Scottish industry. There are plenty of plans on paper. We have papers of all the colours of the rainbow, but we have no scheme for Scottish industry and there is no scheme to put industry on its feet. We 909 only touch the crust of the Scottish problem in the Schedule. There is no attempt to develop Scotland, except the part round about Glasgow, Lanarkshire and Renfrew-shire, the merest corner, while hundreds of square miles are lying empty. We have passed a Hydro-Electric Bill, the purpose of which was to create industry in the Highlands. The great argument in favour of it that it would re-populate and rejuvenate the Highlands. There is not a single inch of the Highlands mentioned in this Schedule for the purposes of development. While I have no intention of voting against the Bill, I cannot see how it is going to have any effect whatever in developing Scottish industry and Scottish life. There is not the slightest possibility of any help for it and I hope that in Committee something will be done to help to put life and hope into the Scottish people, who have done so much during the war.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Bower (Harrow)
I do not share the apprehensions of those who have opposed this Bill or damned it with faint praise. It is true that it does not provide a grandiose plan for the whole of British industry, but a Bill of this sort can hardly be expected to do so; it does not come within the scope of the Bill. The Bill does, in my submission, however, make a substantial contribution in a limited field, and with all due respect to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) who seconded the Amendment, I would say that, without the powers which it contains, even when we get the butter, however much butter we get, we shall not be able to spread it fairly. I welcome the Bill wholeheartedly, and in saying that I think I can speak for all the members of the Tory Reform Committee. It follows fairly closely the principles of the Barlow Report, though certainly not in every detail, and it also follows those principles which, according to my recollection, were approved by the House during the Debate on the location of industry which took place in the middle of last year.
Those principles are: first, that the State must plan in the broadest sense the conditions under which private enterprise is to be carried on; second, if we are to have private enterprise—and I think we are all agreed, whether we like private enterprise or not, that we are going to have a good deal of it for a 910 long time to come—we cannot dictate to each individual industrialist exactly where he is to put his undertaking; third, we can, on the other hand, tell him where he is not to put it if any area is or is likely to become over-developed; fourth, in so far as we cannot compel an individual industrialist to go to any particular place, we can, by a process of elimination combined with various inducements and forms of assistance, such as are provided in Clause 4 of the Bill, do a great deal to guide industry into the most desirable channels. It is perhaps not always easy to say exactly where inducement ends and compulsion begins. In my view, those two elements are nicely blended in this Bill. I can see no threat to private enterprise whatever in the Bill, and it behoves those of us who wish to preserve private enterprise to see that it is not allowed to degenerate merely into private selfishness or vandalism.
I am a firm believer in private enterprise. If I were not, I would not be on these benches. But I can see no future for it unless it can learn to fit itself into and operate efficiently within the framework of the national economic plan for which the Government must make themselves responsible. We have learned a great deal during the last 20 years about the importance of taking certain positive steps to maintain industrial activity and full employment, and also about the sort of steps that we ought to take in order to achieve these things. In that respect, therefore, we are far better equipped than we were at the end of the last war. It is not only a question of maintaining full employment. What we also have to do is to provide a reasonable prospect of continuity of employment for people in the districts in which they live in order to avoid the continual up-rooting and transplantation of individuals and communities which bring so much hardship in their train. We certainly do not wish to do anything to discourage the spirit of enterprise and adventure. We do not wish to discourage people, if they wish to do so, from going away and breaking fresh ground. I feel that in the interest of social stability and security, in a world which is going to be very unstable for a long time to come after the war, it is essential that the industrial life of the country should be firmly based upon a rock, and not on shifting sands, or on a jagged hillside covered with rolling stones.
911 There are one or two points I would like to make in regard to the Bill. With regard to Clause 8, I imagine that one of its principal objects is not merely to achieve consolidation, but to enable the Board of Trade to keep a careful and continuous check on development which is taking place or is likely to take place in various areas, so that, if necessary, any particular area can subsequently be scheduled for special treatment under Clause 9. If that is the case, I hope this Clause will be administered efficiently and that the period which must elapse between notification and the time when building is allowed to commence will be cut down to the smallest possible extent, because we really do not want to impose any unnecessary obstacles and delays on industrialists at a very critical time when we are seeking to rehabilitate our industry after the war. With regard to Clause 9, I was glad to hear the President say that there was to be full and adequate consultation both with the Minister of Town and Country Planning and the other Departments concerned. It may be true, as the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) said, that there is nothing about that in the Bill, but I should have thought that that might possibly be a matter for Amendments later. The important point is that the proper distribution of industry should not be the sole criterion in determining whether the provision of further industrial premises in any area should be allowed or not. The proper use of land is equally important.
I will make one suggestion as to how I think the Bill ought to be strengthened, how even more teeth ought to be put into it. I think that Clause 9, Sub-section (2, b), ought to be omitted. One of the few things for which we have to be grateful to Hitler and the Germans is that they have given us the opportunity of replanning our towns and cities and redistributing our industry on a scale which we should probably never have contemplated had it not been for the destruction caused by enemy action. We ought to take full advantage of that opportunity. Therefore, while the fact that a hereditament has sustained damage by enemy action certainly ought to be taken into consideration in determining whether it should be allowed to be rebuilt, at the same time, it would be a mistake for the Board of Trade absolutely to debar itself 912 from prohibiting the rebuilding of any particular factory in an area, which possibly was previously very much developed, simply because the original building had been destroyed by war damage. It seems to me that a great deal, practically everything in fact, will depend on the way in which this Bill is administered. If it is administered in such a way as not to permit the mere stabilisation of existing conditions or to impede legitimate expansion, I feel confident that it will enlist the support of a great number of enlightened industrialists who realise that it is just as much in their interest as in the interests of the community as a whole that the policy embodied in this Bill should be carried out.
We do not want this policy to become a sort of contest or a tug-of-war between the Board of Trade and industry. That is the one thing we want to avoid. We want it to be a co-operative endeavour to secure the best possible distribution of industry throughout the country. Therefore, I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for The Hartlepools (Colonel Greenwell) that, just as the Treasury are to be assisted by an advisory committee in giving assistance to various undertakings under Clause 4 of the Bill, so the President of the Board of Trade should set up an advisory committee, composed of representatives of both sides of industry, to help him in the exercise of his powers of prohibition under Clause 9. I feel that that would really do a great deal to allay the suspicions of industrialists and secure the wholehearted co-operation of industry. Without it the policy laid down in this Bill can never be a real success. If the President and the Government would consider one or two Amendments to the Bill on the lines that I have adumbrated, I and my hon. Friends who agree with me will, I am sure, be able to support the Bill even more wholeheartedly than we do at present.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Burke (Burnley)
I cannot quite agree with the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. N. Bower) that this Bill follows the Barlow Report. If it does follow it, it is a long way behind. As a matter of fact, it is wrong to call this Bill the Distribution of Industry Bill, because it is nothing of the kind. It is a Special Areas Bill. It is simply a Bill to deal with the same Special Areas that we had before and to add one or two other places to 913 them, not, as the President of the Board of Trade says, because the other places really need to be added, but because it would be slightly tidier and the map line would be cleaner if these areas were put in. That kind of approach to the problem seems to me to be a long way from what the Barlow Report suggested. This Bill is a continuation of two previous Measures dealing with Special Areas in 1934 and 1937. Both Bills were opposed from this side of the House because they did not go far enough. That is what is wrong with this Bill. It does not go nearly far enough. If hon. Members on this side refrain from opposing the Bill, it is only because they think that, by letting it go through, it may be somewhat improved in Committee. As far as certain areas are concerned, it will need a great deal of improvement to make it acceptable. The measure is not by any means a national Bill. It is not a Bill for the whole of the country; it is just a Bill for special cases. Not being a national Bill, not being a Bill at which you can look from the point of view of the country as a whole, but being a Bill which discriminates, it is difficult to talk about it without talking in a discriminatory fashion. Therefore much as I deplore having to approach [...] Bill from the narrow angle of one particular part of the country, I cannot see that I can do anything else if I am to deal with it in the way that my constituents would expect me to deal with it, and the way which I believe is right in the circumstances.
The Bill does not locate industry. It does not deal with the balance of industry in any particular area. It does not deal with the great conurbation in London and the Midlands. It does not deal with the question of diversity of interests. It simply goes to those industries that have been helped before and seeks to give them a little more assistance with a bit more public finance. One reason why the Special Areas Act was introduced—in fact the main reason—was because it was discovered that those areas of the country that suffered unemployment most were those areas that were dependent upon the export trade. It is largely with the hope of helping those areas that these special Measures were passed.
The greatest export industry in this country, the cotton industry, is not touched by the Bill, nor was it touched 914 by either of the preceding Special Area Bills. Do the Government assume that after the war all is going to be right with the cotton industry, and that the industry will be able to find employment for the great masses of people for whom it could not find employment before the war? I do not want to go into detail about the figures. Everybody knows that the cotton Industry was our main exporting industry. For half a century it was top, but in the last two years before the war it had dropped to second place. The decline in cotton was most tragic and phenomenal. We produced 8,000,000,000 yards of cotton piece goods in Lancashire in 1913, but, in 1938, that figure had dropped to less than 2,000,000,000 yards, that is to say, it had declined by three-quarters. The number of looms or spindles had gone down in the same way. Take my own town. We had a population of roughly 100,000, who were kept by 100,000 looms. We used to reckon one loom per person. The position to-day is that we have, roughly, 100,000 people, but we have only 24,000 looms. We had 500,000 spindles. How many have we now? Only 8,000, which have to keep the population which was kept by 500,000.
The President of the Board of Trade said that Lancashire had had new industries. But not in the North-East. Our people are finding employment now by travelling miles to the R.A.F. factory at Chorley. When that factory is closed down, at the end of the war, a big problem will arise. The same will happen when the boys and girls come home from the Forces. The problem will became acute. Our problem in Lancashire has been that unemployment was acute. Why, therefore, were we not in the previous Bills? I would like to tell the House. The reason is peculiar to Lancashire. We had a system of under employment, which was never registered or shown in any employment exchange record. The men and women went to the mills for 48 hours, and were employed the whole of the time. Therefore, they could not sign on as half-timers at the exchange. Instead of running four looms or six, in most cases they were running three, two, or one. The average wage in the North-East of Lancashire-was £1 10s. per week. The workers were getting less than they would have got at the employment exchange, and they could not get public 915 assistance because the assistance authorities were not allowed to subsidise wages. All they could get was food tickets. The local authorities were put to an expenditure of thousands of pounds in special relief to people who were not working full time and yet were never registered as unemployed. Because of that pernicious system of under employment, North-East Lancashire was not able to come under either of the previous Bills.
To-day, the President of the Board of Trade said that the Bill allows him to bring in other areas, within one day after the passing of the Measure. He can, but the Bill does not say "may." The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in supposing that these areas could not have been brought under the previous Acts. Section 5 of the Act of 1937 allows Special Areas to get financial aid. North-East Lancashire made representations to the Minister of Labour, to be brought under that Section just prior to the war. To come under that Act you had to go through a very fine sieve. You had to prove long and continuous unemployment, that the unemployment was connected with one or two industries not likely to revive and that unless you got financial assistance the district was likely to go further down. All those three things were proved in the case of Burnley, and an Order was made for Burnley to be brought under the 1937 Act. If the war had not broken out, we should have been under that Act and would have got the benefit on our merits—or rather I should say on our demerits. I am now asking that the Schedule should either be wiped out altogether, and the Measure made applicable to the whole country if it is to be a Development Act, or if it is not to be a Development Act, but simply another Special Areas Act, then, in order to be perfectly fair to all the districts and to take into consideration all the factors other areas will have to be brought in. If the Government think that the people in North-East Lancashire are going to be solely dependent after the war upon cotton, they make a great mistake. Our young people will not be driven info cotton, and unless the cotton industry makes its conditions comparable with those of other industries, I would say to the young people of Burnley: "You should not go into the cotton industry," 916 and I should support them in refusing to be driven into it.
It may be said that I cannot include certain areas in Lancashire, because that would be including certain places in the Bill, but in the Schedule, particular places are mentioned. If the Schedule can mention Gosport and Whitley Bay, why can it not mention Burnley, Nelson and Colne and Wigan, in the coalmining area? We have coal in Lancashire. Why in the name of goodness should a place like Gosport be mentioned, and Burnley and Wigan left out? Nobody can really understand. I do not want Gosport out, but if it is to be in, what is the case for keeping the other places out? There are provisions in the Bill of very great value. For instance, there is the power to give financial assistance to local authorities in clearing up the areas. That is very important.
Does the hon. Member realise that in the Town and Country Planning Act there is a similar provision, enacted by Parliament in 1944?
§ Mr. Burke
This is particular finance, for the purpose of developing an area for industrial purposes. It has been pointed out that it can be applied to all kinds of services. Just imagine the taxation that is drawn from Burnley and Lancashire generally being used to shift the slag heaps from Durham, while we have to keep our own slag heaps. There is no defence for that. We have in North-East Lancashire the most wretched railway service imaginable. We have been asking that it should be electrified from Bury onwards. Nevertheless while our money is spent on other things in the North we have to carry on in the same old way.
Lancashire has been praised for its courage and pride. I remember in the last war that there was a great deal of talk that Lancashire had courage, and did not need the help of the Government. Lancashire went ahead, and in many places in my constituency and neighbouring constituencies, what did they do? They used some of their money to renovate old mills and to invite industrialists to come to those mills. What happened when they took their courage into their hands? They were hauled before the Ministry of Health and then the Treasury and threatened with a surcharge. I had the greatest diffi- 917 culty in getting the Government to call off the dogs. When war broke out these decent factories, on renovating which Lancashire people had spent their money, were taken by the Government. They came along and said: "Thank you very much, we will use these as store-houses." They took the best factories in which to store their goods, and left us with the worst in which to do our work. Now they come along and say. "There is nothing for you under this Bill."
I say that this is a very dangerous Measure so far as Lancashire is concerned. Not only do they not give us anything, but the President has powers to prevent industry from coming into Lancashire or expanding. He may say that he will not use them but he is using them now. I can give him the name of a firm which wanted to double its labour force in Lancashire. It is being induced to go to the North-East coast. I can tell him of another firm, a cotton firm whose name is a household word in the cotton areas of Lancashire, a respected firm whose men have been prominent in public service for the country as a whole, as well as for the county, which is very anxious to build a new mill in a Lancashire town. They are not allowed to do so, and the old mill will not do for their purpose. Are the Board of Trade going to drive even the bit there is of the cotton trade or the textile trade out of Lancashire? Some has already been carried down to South Wales and another firm went to North Wales years ago.
The position of the cotton industry in Lancashire in relation to this Bill is really deplorable. Years ago a Member of the Government wrote a book called "The Town that was Murdered." That referred to the North-East coast. I would like to write a book with the title, "The County that Died of Neglect." I could put into it a lot of bright phrases and encouraging words from past Presidents of the Board of Trade, but the general theme of the book would be from Clough's "Latest Decalogue":Thou shalt not kill; but need'st not strive Officiously to keep alive.That is what has been happening in Lancashire, and the cotton trade has been knocked about more than any other trade, the operatives have been driven out, called back, driven out, called back again. Will it go back after the war to the deplorable position it was in when hostilities 918 broke out? The Government say, "Because of our little formula you are 00006, or something like that, below the line, and nothing can be done about it." This Bill might be a good Bill if it were a real Distribution of Industries Bill for the whole country, by deleting the Schedule and making it sufficiently widespread. If the problem is not to be approached in that way, this Bill will discriminate unjustly, unnecessarily, and in a wicked way against a county that has done more, and whose people have done more, than any other to make this country the foremost industrial country in the world.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Hewlett (Manchester, Exchange)
I say to the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Ellis Smith) that I stand here as a Conservative and an industrialist and I resent his remarks about how bad are the Conservatives in the industrial areas of this country. I would like to associate myself completely with the remarks just made by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke). Lancashire is worried over this Bill. There is an organisation known as the Committee on Industrial Development of Lancashire, which comprises the Lancashire Industrial Development Council, the Lancashire County Council, Manchester Corporation, Liverpool Corporation, the County Boroughs, non-County Boroughs, Urban District Councils, Rural District Councils, the Lancashire Chambers of Commerce, the Trades Unions and Members of Parliament. There are two Members of Parliament on that Committee. One is my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley, and I have the honour to be the other. We are worried about the condition of Lancashire. Between 1934 and 1938 unemployment in Great Britain averaged about 14 per cent. In Lancashire it averaged about 18½ per cent. In Newton Heath, Manchester, in 1938 there were 5,500 people unemployed out of a total of 26,000, which equals 21.1 per cent. and unemployment in the South-East Lancashire area, comprising Ince, Hindley and Aspull was not less than 40 per cent.
The hon. Member for Burnley has spoken about the North-East part of Lancashire and I will not repeat what he said. But we are worried about Lancashire, and feel that the county should have more consideration than it has had up to date. The most difficult areas in 919 Lancashire are likely to be the South Lancashire coalfield of Wigan, St. Helens and the smaller towns in that district; Merseyside; the area South-East of Manchester comprising Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire, then the weaving area of Blackburn and Burnley in North-East Lancashire. Before the war Manchester could not be regarded as a prosperous industrial area. Like other parts of Lancashire it was greatly dependent on the cotton industry and there has been a decline in that cotton industry since the last war due for the main part, if not entirely, to the loss of overseas markets. At the present time Lancashire's factories are largely engaged in war production. It is by no means certain that after the war Lancashire's industries will be found to be in as flourishing a condition as they are to-day. It is to be hoped that Lancashire will regain its export trade, but this depends on many factors, such as the recovery of overseas markets, the state of international trade, and the practicability of the cotton industry producing goods at international competitive prices.
I am most anxious to call attention to Clause 5, Sub-section (3). I feel that this Clause should be amended so that, subject to the approval of the President of the Board of Trade, such grants should be applicable to any local authority, whether in the Development Areas or not. Similarly, the Government should provide for the cost of carrying out work in all areas which are derelict, for the purpose of enabling the land to be brought into use, or for improving the amenities of the neighbourhood. As an example, one of the largest slag-heaps in this country is located in the Wigan area of Lancashire. It would cost many thousands of pounds to reduce this to a level site, and to clear an adjacent derelict site. If this ground were levelled it could be used for industrial or other useful purpose. The slag-heap and the derelict site are actually in the areas of the urban councils of Ince, Hindley and Aspull, and as these are of course outside the Development Areas, the local authorities could receive no assistance from the Government. To find the necessary money would be impossible for these relatively small councils so, unless some grant is made, this large area looks like remaining derelict and an eyesore for all time. I said impossible, because a 920 penny rate in Aspull would produce only £65. In Ince it would produce £239 and about the same in Hindley. Therefore, I plead with the Government to bear the expense of levelling these sites and making them useful, whether they are inside a Development Area or outside it.
I want to raise a point on Clauses 8 and 9, relative to those not in a Development Area, who are not allowed to erect a building of more than 3,000 square feet floor space without special permission. Three thousand square feet is 333 square square yards, and 333 square yards represents, near enough, 22 yards by 15 yards. That means the length of a cricket pitch, and a width of three-quarters that length. To a decent organisation, a building of 3,000 square feet in area is nothing better than a rabbit hutch. The public and industrialists are tired of making application for these various forms, to get permission for this and permission for that. Let the Government be wise in their outlook, and increase this infinitesimal 3,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet, or, in my view, 20,000 square feet.
I want to emphasise that this Bill is worrying Lancashire, and worrying Manchester. I am going to take the liberty of reading out the views of the Manchester Corporation on some of these Clauses. These are the safeguards that they, as a large municipality, think should be given. First, before an Order is made by the Board of Trade, specifying an area for the control of industry, the local authority should be given an opportunity of making representations as to the likely effect of such a proposal on the local government and public utility services, with particular reference to the financial burdens falling on the local authority in relation to the provision and maintenance of such services. Second, the exemption for extensions of existing buildings not exceeding 3,000 square feet in floor area is not sufficient, and complete exemption should be given to the legitimate expansion of existing industries. Third, where, as part of the planned dispersal of industry under a planning scheme, the existing industry is to be located elsewhere, the consent of the Board should not be necessary. Provision on these lines is particularly necessary in the case of Manchester, where it is necessary to rehouse 150,000 of the present population outside the city. This could be achieved by the development of satellite towns, 921 such as Wythenshaw, and consent should not be necessary to such movement of existing industries in the city to satellite towns. Fourth, the President of the Board of Trade should freely permit the establishment of a new industry which is ancillary to an existing industry.
The hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Old-field) and I visited a large works in the Gorton division yesterday afternoon. This matter has been raised in Parliament, and I wrote to the President of the Board of Trade and gave him the information we had received—I took it upon myself to deliver that letter by hand, at 8.45 this morning. This factory cost £965,357. Later it was extended, for another purpose, by spending another £131,938. It was employing 1,000 workpeople. The number has now been reduced to 200. It is now suggested by Government Departments that this magnificent engineering shop should be used for storage purposes, after more than £1,000,000 has been spent during the war on the erection of the premises. It is scandalous to use these magnificent works, which are fitted completely for first-class modern engineering production, for storage purposes only. I know that I am taking up a fair amount of time, but I felt that I had to corroborate what my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) had to say with respect to that well-known county of Lancashire.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Murray (Spennymoor)
I was very disturbed by the speech of the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne). He said that this Bill was iniquitous. He did not like it because it had some measure of control in it. His speech reminded me of a little incident in Durham some years ago, because he did not mind control so long as it was not Government control. A certain bus company, which wanted a monopoly of the road, ran a bus service from Spennymoor into Durham city, six miles each way, for a penny. What a grand time the Spennymoor people had, taking advantage of a penny ride to Durham City and back. The normal charge for that bus service at the time was about sixpence. What happened? The bus company got what they wanted, monopoly control, at the price of running those small business men off the road. Surely that is not the control for which this House 922 stands. Men who had invested all their hard-earned savings in a little bus were run off the road by these people. Men in my own area were compelled, by fear of having their businesses wrecked, to sell out to the bus company. Surely Government control is a good deal better than control of that description.
I rise to support the Bill. It is not strange that I should do so, representing a county like Durham, and an area like the North-East coast. I want to compliment the Minister for introducing the Bill. For many years before the war the North-East coast, with its population of 2,500,000, suffered from the most acute unemployment problem ever known in this country. I have seen whole communities laid waste, as if by an economic earthquake. Men and women have become victims of unplanned capitalism, and wherever I have travelled in those vast areas I have seen-poverty, suffering, starvation, privation, and despair. Experience is a great teacher, they say. I am not an old man, by any means. My working life has not been very long. Yet, out of that working life, I have spent eight years unemployed in the county of Durham in the village of Meadowfield, where I now live, and 11 years of war; out of my short working life, I have had 19 years of unemployment and war, so that I have some idea of the financial worries, cares and anxieties that unemployment entails.
I realise that this Bill has its shortcomings. The President knows that as well as I do, and probably a good deal more, but I have also got enough common sense to know that this is a Coalition Bill, and that the possibilities are that, as long as we have a Coalition, there will have to be give and take on both sides of this House. I visit my division every week. Men and women in my division are fearful of what is going to happen when this war is over. I do not know whether it will surprise the House, but, since September, 1,200 men and women have been turned off at a factory not very far from where I live, and the House can imagine what the local feeling is in that particular area. If men and women are turned off now, when the war is at its peak, what is going to be the position when the demand falls short, as it surely will? If this Bill will help the people whom I represent, if it will help the 923 people of the North-East coast, and I think it will, I am prepared to give it all my support.
What has been our experience in Durham and Northumberland? When the coal industry goes down, then everybody goes down with it—miners, tradesmen of every description—yet, if the miner does well, everybody does well. One can ask any tradesman in the county of Durham on that question, and the answer will be in the affirmative, but the tragedy of our two counties, Durham and Northumberland, has been that we have had only one string to our bow. If coal has not been wanted, miners have not been wanted, and, if miners have not been wanted, wages have not been paid, and, as a result, purchasing power has fallen. Immediately, the cycle of unemployment has become rampant, and a slump is brought into operation. This Bill, as I understand it, is to stimulate the industrial and social development of areas like the North-East coast, Cumberland, South Wales and Monmouthshire, Scotland, and others. I wonder whether stimulation is sufficient. I must ask myself this question, as I ask the President of the Board of Trade: Is the Bill strong enough, is it powerful enough to bring the desired results? I must remind the right hon. Gentleman of the fact that, if it is proved that stimulation is not sufficient, we shall have a tragedy of the first order. If people in the North-East coast area are led to believe that salvation is here, we will lift them up on a pinnacle of hope, and they will be living in expectation, but all that will be dashed to the ground if stimulation is not enough.
I have read a report, and I think the President is well aware of it, which said that mere moral appeals to employers to go to trading estates, and minor financial inducements, are, by themselves, quite insufficient to attract any considerable volume of new industries within the next few years, but that it was vital and urgent to control the location of new industries. I have got just a little fear that stimulation is not good enough, and that if we, through these five years of war, could direct men and women all over the world, the time has now arrived when the Government should have direct control of industry. The industrialists have had their opportunity. They have gone where they 924 liked and have done what they liked, and with what result? I have heard certain figures quoted, but I am going to quote some figures myself. For brevity, I have collected the figures for the years 1935, 1936 and 1937 together. Of a total of 1,580 new factories—and a lot has been made of factories coming to England—in three years, 27 have gone to the Special Areas. I ask this House of what use are 27 factories in Special Areas, like the North-East coast, South Wales, West Cumberland, Scotland and Lancashire? Neither the President nor those who support this Bill with him, will be judged by stimulating phrases. They will be judged by the number of people for whom they are able to find employment, by the number of factories that they are able to establish in these particular areas, and, last but not least, by the number of men and women left unemployed.
I am also disturbed about the first five Clauses in the Bill. They disturb me even to distress. Nothing, it seems, can be done—though I was a little more confident when the right hon. Gentleman said that the powers were more or less going to be in the President's hands—without the consent of the Treasury. I should like to be corrected upon that if I am wrong, but I want to ask the President: Does that mean that he must go cap in hand to the Treasury? Has he to run to and fro, with very little authority, like an errand boy, or will he be hedged in by all manner of restrictions and be entangled in yards of red tape, and thwarted by the minute but obstructive Treasury control? Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us when he replies. If the Treasury tightens its grip, and refuses to give consent under this Bill, I ask the President: Can he do anything at all?
§ Mr. Murray
Would it not have been much better for the President to have had all the power and the finance at his disposal to complete this very important job of work? I feel that now is the time for pushing ahead, and that to wait will be dangerous. In Durham, Northumberland and Cleveland, 85,000 miners left the industry between 1924 and 1936. Six thousand left the iron and steel industry; 17,000 left the shipbuilding industry, and 3,000 left shipping on the 925 waterside services—a total of a ir,o0o men, who left these basic industries because there was no work for them to do. Between 1921 and 1935 no fewer than 218,000 people migrated from Durham, and 47,000 left Northumberland. I do not think I shall be giving away any secrets if I say that during all this time the Durham county council had to be a barrier between starvation and these poor people who could not find jobs. Some of them had been out of work for eight, nine or ten years. The county council determined that if men and women could not have food the children should, and during the time I was a Member of that council they provided 7,644,000 milk meals for the bairns of Durham. All those children were from necessitous families; they were children who were proved by medical evidence to be in need of food. I will support any Measure that will give to my people something different from what they had during the pre-war years. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) said that we would not be satisfied with half a loaf and a little bit of margarine. Some of our people in Durham had not even the half loaf, and they are afraid of meeting a situation like that again. In Bishop Auckland there were 39.5 per cent. Unemployed—
§ Mr. Murray
In Cockfield there were 37.1 per cent., in Crook 30.4 per cent. and in Spennymoor 24 per cent. As I have said, there were men who had not worked for to years. I hope this Bill will do something to take away from counties like Durham and Northumberland, and from the North-East coast generally, the fear of unemployment. Finally, I want to ask whether the workers in Durham, Northumberland and on the North-East coast are inferior to workers elsewhere? The answer is definitely in the negative. Recently, I had an opportunity of visiting a small factory, which has just started operations. There were about 50 boys and girls there, about 17 years of age, and I was told that they were adapting themselves splendidly to their work and that some girls, who had been there only a few weeks, were turning out eight or nine dozen pairs of stockings a day. I also want to point out that the regional officer told us a similar story about other factories which have been 926 established, and said that industrialists who had gone to the North-East coast were well satisfied with the labour which had been provided for them and that no industrialists need be afraid of going to Durham, Northumberland or the North-East coast.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Lloyd (Dudley)
I find myself largely in agreement with much of what was said by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke). I am only sorry that he did not wind up by saying, as I hoped he would, that he was speaking in support of the reasoned Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), because I think all his argument tended to support that Amendment, as I want to do to-night. This Bill, of course, is naturally welcome to those who represent Development Areas, and nobody wishes to detract from any effort which is made to help them in their difficulties. But many speakers have lost sight of the fact that anything that is added to a Development Area in the way of employment is liable to be subtracted from some other established area. Therefore, there is no substantial relief of unemployment inherent in this Bill. The point I wish to emphasise is that this Bill does less than justice to the old established areas. It is a wrong conception of these areas, at any rate the areas from which I and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall draw support, that they are static in types or sizes of industries. Any substantial industrial area must be constantly refreshed by the creation of new industries. Those industries often spring up in the same premises of the decaying industries which they replace.
Clause 9 of this Bill gives rise to the greatest anxiety in such areas, because it gives the Minister a most unreasonable power to put a brake on the development of industry in that established area. It is a wrong conception, also, that industries come along ready made. We are constantly speaking of new industries as if they suddenly appeared out of the sky, with complete trade attached to them, ready to be put down in any area. Industry springs from small beginnings, very often from a working man who has a good idea, who starts to manufacture in a small way with one or two colleagues, and makes a good show of it. It is that form of enterprise that we want to encourage. This Bill tends to dis- 927 courage enterprise in its earliest form at that point, because those men would know that as soon as they proposed to take an area of floor space described by one Member as "a cricket pitch by half a cricket pitch," they would have to go cap in hand to the President of the Board of Trade, who would tell them that they must go to some other area. That is an unreasonable power to put into the hands of any Minister. Those who have had experience of getting permits and authorities from the Board of Trade will, I think, join with me in saying that if this power is put into the hands of the Board of Trade without restraint it will prevent the encouragement of enterprise and the commencement of new industries. The power is altogether unreasonable, because there is no provision that I can see for a thorough collaboration with people who understand the conditions of the area themselves or with people who have knowledge of the industry.
I hope very much that the hon. Member for Walsall will, therefore, press his Amendment. It is useless really to begin collaboration or consideration or discussion with other Ministers. The Bill is bad because it puts into the hands of the Board of Trade powers which should be, as the hon. Member for Burnley said, powers of encouragement but which are really powers to restrict. I call the attention of the House to the title of Clause 9. It begins with the word "Restrictions." Restriction is the natural function of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade has always functioned in restraint of industry. It has always been the particular Ministry to put restraint on every kind of industry and it has never functioned to encourage enterprise or the construction of works in any way. Therefore I hope the House will not entrust to the Board of Trade such powers as are inherent in Clause 9.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
I am sincerely worried about this Bill. The President of the Board of Trade, in his opening speech, supplied the key which opened the door to the chamber where obviously this Bill was discussed and finally accepted for presentation to this House by saying that this was a Bill introduced by a Coalition Government con- 928 taining the greatest common measure of agreement. It is one of the worst instances of the work which is being done by the Coalition Government. I am certain that it is not the Bill that the President of the Board of Trade would have introduced, had he had the support of the Members sitting opposite him above the Gangway, at the moment when we all realise that the war is coming to an end, and that with it will come to an end a great number of war industries, and that a great number of men and women will find themselves without work in every part of the country.
I wish that the country could make up its mind what it wants. Does it want an unplanned system, leaving room again for private enterprise to carry it out as best it can, or does it want to try and deal with this situation with a planned system? It is almost impossible to go on with this sort of compromise, because what that compromise really means is, that those who do not want anything done or who want the least done, have the most influential voice. I am worried about this Bill because there is not one of us who would not do all he could to try to assist the people in the distressed areas—certainly not one of us who has had experience of the long period of unemployment which they suffered. I do not know whether this Bill, when it becomes an Act of Parliament, will bring them real and substantial assistance. If it does, so far so good. But the real trouble in many of those areas goes deeper than this Bill. The real trouble is the mess into which the basic industries have got.
There is another thing with regard to this Bill which worries me. Industries have been allowed to develop without any plan whatsoever. They were brought together in an almost chaotic state. The housing conditions are appalling. They were the houses which were provided for the workmen during that shocking i9th century. The hon. Member for Abertillery (Mr. Daggar) was right in describing their condition as drab and dreary. The part of those distressed areas that I know best is South Wales. What I fear and dread is, that the conditions which exist in South Wales will be made permanent; that the houses and the streets will continue drab, mean and dreary. If something could be done that would alter that situation and bring the people and children out into the open air and on to the 929 hills above those valleys so that they could enjoy healthy surroundings and the like, then one would encourage every kind of industry to go there.
The Bill as it is framed is designed to encourage, as the President of the Board of Trade has rightly said, industry to go there. There is to be wonderful help given to local authorities to improve transport, electric power, water supplies and even, I suppose, to improve the amenities and other conditions. How I wish that that help could be given to poor authorities, wherever they may be, where transport, water and electric power are deficient. Power is also being given—and this is very important—to lend money to industry to make a start. That is a very important matter and I hope that the Minister of Production will deal with it when he comes to reply. But when an industry has received help from the Government in the way of money with which to start the industry, then things have only just begun. The next thing will be raw material and labour. There will be competition for raw material and for labour. Will the fact that money has been lent to Company X to enable it to begin, induce whoever will have the authority over labour and raw materials to give priority to that company, in order that it may get going and thoroughly on to its feet as against other interests?
That is the help which is going to be given to these distressed areas. If we can help them, let us help them. But I would plead with hon. Members not to consider this merely from the point of view of their own particular constituents. We had a most eloquent speech from the hon. Member for Spennymoor (Mr. Murray, but he said, "I shall be satisfied if work is brought to these poor people of Durham and Cleveland and Northumberland." Do not let us have competition between one constituency and another.
§ Mr. Murray
I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will remember that I also said West Cumberland, South Wales and Monmouthshire, and Scotland—all Development Areas.
§ Mr. Davies
What I would really like to see would be a plan covering the whole country, considering every condition. Believe me, there is not an hon. Member of this House who is not worried about the condition of his own constituency. 930 The hon. Member gave an instance that had just come to his knowledge within his own constituency, of 1,500 people being thrown out of work a week or two ago. I know the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Kendall) has had a similar experience—a case in which men have been out of work six or eight weeks. So it happens all over the place. One would like to have seen a Bill bringing within its purview the whole situation throughout the country.
That brings me to the point which I rose to make. To-day, nobody has been called from North Wales. There are, in one sense, two divisions of Wales, not North and South, but industrial Wales, which is in Glamorgan and Monmouth, and rural Wales, which is in the other eleven counties. We in those rural areas are tremendously troubled about the situation that is bound to arise the moment this war is over. As in every other rural area, we have seen our boys and our girls going to the cities. Soon they will be coming home, and soon afterwards they will be asking us what there is for them to do within those areas. We would like to keep them in those areas. We would like them to continue the mode of life which we know in those areas, and we would like, therefore, to provide them with a means of earning their livelihood in those areas. For the last 100 years we have been bled white for the benefit of the industrial areas. The people have gone in their thousands, because of the conditions in the agricultural areas, down into the valleys of South Wales and elsewhere, and in the older days we used to see them come back broken. We had to see to it that some decency was provided for them for the few remaining days that they were with us.
I have often given the figures with regard to my own county and its position. I have told this House before that it is the only county in England and Wales with a smaller population than it had in 1800. Last night, however, I had occasion to look at the figures with regard to my neighbouring county of Cardiganshire, a delightful county, a county with very strong Welsh traditions, with a lovely seaboard. This is what I found. Between 1900 and 1945 they have lost 14 per cent. of their population but much more significant than that is what has happened with regard to their child population. In 1901 they had 11,300 children 931 in the elementary schools; last year they had 5,600, a drop of 50 per cent. in the child life of that county. That is the story of the rural areas. Why? Because we cannot provide the livelihood for our children in those areas. We are relying purely upon agriculture, and our young and vigorous people go out into these other places. Are you going to keep on asking for that stream to flow into these depressed areas?
§ Mr. Davies
That is the question I really want to put and I hope that the Minister of Production will give me the answer. We are not anxious to attract from the outside, we are only anxious to keep our own. We are not entering into competition, we are only anxious that our own boys and girls shall remain with us. There are certain areas in North Wales which have suffered just as deeply as the areas in South Wales. There is the area where the quarries are, and a finer set of men never walked in this country than the quarrymen of North Wales. For years now there has been unemployment. There is little hope of re-opening many of the quarries. I would like to see some new industry, or some new development occurring within that area which will provide work for those people.
May I sum up my questions to the Minister of Production? The first is: In the areas outside these scheduled areas, if there are already in existence buildings which are now being occupied by Government work for war purposes, will help be given, or an effort be made, to steer industries into those very buildings so that that work can continue in that area? The second is: If we are not allowed to erect any new buildings, shall we be allowed to utilise buildings and shells which are in existence to-day and are now being used for storage; and will they be released as soon as possible so that the men and women who are coming out of work in other areas, but who belong to our area, will find work there?
Finally, I do not think that we can ever, or even that we desire to, compete with the industrial areas. I do not want to see North Wales becoming a "black country," but I would like to see developed in there what I might call industries which are ancillary to the conditions which are aready in existence. Might I 932 mention one or two so as to convey to the right hon. Gentleman what is in my mind? Take agriculture. Could I develop there, with the assent of the Board of Trade and, if possible, the assistance of the Board of Trade, industries ancillary to agriculture, such as creameries, abattoirs, tanneries, etc. Might I have the attention of the President?
§ Mr. Davies
Could I also, with regard to forestry, encourage timber work there and have the timber dealt with upon the spot instead of being carried away somewhere else so that, if I want fencing, I have to bring it back again? Will industries which are natural to the surrounding area be encouraged? Dependent upon the answers to these questions will be the future of the people of the rural areas throughout the whole of North Wales. If these problems are met, we shall indeed be grateful and, so far as we can, assist those who are in the industrial areas and in the distressed areas.
§ 9.11 p.m.
Mr. Manninģham-Buller (Daventry)
I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), particularly when he dealt with the problem of full employment to which he specially referred, which he admitted was a great deal due to Liberal misgovernment in the 19th century. I think I have sat through the greater part of this Debate, and anyone who had just listened to it would, I think, find it very difficult to form a clear picture of what is or is not in the Bill. A great many Members seemed to think that the Bill guaranteed employment in all the distressed areas. I am of the opinion that it does no such thing. It merely provides an elementary piece of machinery, a necessary piece, because unless there are factory premises there cannot be machinery in them, and people cannot work in them.
In this Bill, however, there are some very significant provisions. The first thing one noticed in the opening speech of the President of the Board of Trade was the admission, which he dealt with rather delicately and which has since escaped general notice, that he wished to take powers to himself to build houses, so that in addition to the Minister of Works, the Minister of Health and the Minister of 933 Reconstruction we are now going to have the President of the Board of Trade responsible for building dwelling houses in various parts of the country. Perhaps this is only another illustration of this happy association which we heard about at such length in the President's speech. However, I hope that that power, at least, will not be given to the President of the Board of Trade. There seems to me to be no need for it at all. If his colleagues will not do their job, it is for him to press them and not for him to take separate powers which really conflict with his own duties. It seems to me that there is no need for him to desire this power. What the Bill intends to do is not quite clear. Is it going to attract newcomers into the Development Areas, and people from outside into those Development Areas for employment? If it is, I am definitely opposed to it, because one of the dangers of this Bill is that it can facilitate the development of an industry in a particular Development Area and so cause competition with an old-established industry in another area and, incidentally, create unemployment in that area. This, to me, is an entirely wrong principle. It is easy for industry to be dispersed, because we have electric power throughout the country, and as a general rule, in my view, the industry should be brought to the people and not the people to the industry.
Of course, there must be exceptions to that general rule. We ought to have our electric power stations close to the colleries and among the slag heaps, and not amid cathedral towns. This provision for building houses in the suggested Development Areas is, in my view, one of the pernicious parts of the Bill. I wish to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether under Clause 3 he intends to grant loans to railway companies, gas companies, electric companies, local authorities and also to B.O.A.C., because I would also like to know why, if such loans are to be granted, there is a distinction drawn in Clause 2 in respect of non-profit making companies?
I would like to say one word about Clause 5. It seems to me that the President of the Board of Trade must have been following the Debates on the Town and Country Planning Bill with some degree of interest. I think also he must have seen the Order Paper, but I do not think he can have considered the Act, 934 because this provision in Clause 5 which has been welcomed by the Members on the opposite side, is already in the Town and Country Planning Act, largely due to the work of the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown). I am glad to hear the chorus of approval with which that provision in this Bill has been met from hon. Members opposite, but I would like to know why it, is necessary to have these powers in addition to those which are given to the local planning authority. It seems to me it is an entirely unnecessary duplication.
I do not know whether the line which has been drawn round these Development Areas is the right one, but it is, of course, one of the dangers of this Bill as I see it, that in curing unemployment in one part of the country we create another lot of unemployment in another part. Before any business is set up in any Development Area, which is privileged in competition by being financed by the State, by being State-subsidised private enter-price, I should like to see the matter considered by an independent impartial tribunal, which would weigh up whether the good resulting from the starting up of a State-subsidised private enterprise in one part would over-balance and outweigh the damage in another area. Suppose a boot and shoe company is started in South Wales provided with loans from the President of the Board of Trade, with the consent of the Treasury, and enabled to carry on business in that way; it will be in a very favourable position to compete with an old established boot and shoe factory in Northampton. Unemployment in South Wales will go down but in Northampton it may go up. That is no real solution to the problem of giving full employment and it is not the way one would wish to see it solved. But there is no safeguard in this Bill to prevent that sort of thing happening, an industry being established on the North-East coast which will destroy an industry elsewhere. I do not think it right that a decision on that matter should be left to the President of the Board of Trade and the civil servants in his Department.
With regard to the last part of the Bill, which I call the restraint upon industry, Clause 8 strikes me as a very bad Clause. It is putting another obstacle in the path of anyone who wants to create employment by starting an industry. He gives 935 three months' notice. He is asked by the Government to provide information about anything they might like to ask him. If he does not do so he commits an offence, but having given that information and the notice he can build as he likes. There is nothing to stop him. That seems to me to be another unnecessary spoke in the wheel to prevent him doing what he wants to do. Hon. Members opposite seem to believe that planning on top of planning will give employment. There is only one way of giving employment in this country, and that is by the development of our industries, and not by planning on top of planning. I did not want to take up too much time, and I will conclude my observations on this Bill by saying that I hope the President of the Board of Trade will agree to a lot of Amendments being made in Committee. There must be some safeguards in it. So far as the provision of factories is concerned in particular areas I cannot see any useful purpose being served by creating employment in one area merely to effect a transfer of employment from another part of the country.
§ 9.19 p.m.
Mr. Collindridģe (Barnsley)
I promised the President of the Board of Trade that if I spoke I would be very brief indeed. I have sat throughout the whole length of this Debate and I may say that I have never seen people move the rejection of a Bill of this description who were in so much difficulty. We had the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster), who moved the rejection because the powers were too great in the Bill, and we had the Motion for the rejection seconded by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) because the Bill did nothing and gave the Minister no power. The people in the district from which I come are very thankful that this Bill is going to do something. My district is a mining district where, as a result of there having been no planning whatever in the past and industry having been allowed to settle where it pleased, the people were in sore distress when this one industry of mining was depressed. One result of this was that we failed to give people the confidence that we would have liked them to have when we wished to harness them to the war effort. I believe that the planning proposed in this Bill will be all to the good, though I wish my own area were 936 listed among the Development Areas in the Schedule. In the Division which I represent, in the period between the two wars there were at one time 12,500 work-people unemployed or partly unemployed out of 21,000. I hope that consideration will be given to our district, particularly bearing in mind that the uncertainty in the mining industry is such that those conditions may recur.
Some hon. Members opposite who oppose the Bill, and others who have damned the Bill with faint praise, have said that it will not give work. What I want to point out is that in districts like my own, where there have been unemployment and under employment, if industry is settled there after the war, as it ought to have been between the two wars, the overhead costs of the social services necessary to meet the people's needs will be less, and this will be an advantage to the local community and to the nation. The opportunity which is now likely to be given for the proper planning of our economic effort will be a great advantage to all of us. In my own district, private enterprise in the past has had no regard for labour of a sort that could not be used in the mines, and there has been no opportunity of employment for female labour and disabled ex-Servicemen and others who could not meet the physical demands of mining. These people were often left by the wayside. If a man contracted an industrial disease in the mining industry and was unfitted to continue mining, he was unemployed and the rates had often to give him assistance. I suggest that this Bill will give the chance, for the first time, for industry to be settled in districts of that description. We do not ask for house or doorstep work, but we contend that when so much has been spent in these localities on social development, on roads, schools and social services, surely we should endeavour to see that in those districts there is an opportunity other than in the mining industry for female labour and the labour of disabled ex-Servicemen and those who are afflicted with industrial disease.
Even though my district is not included among the Special Areas, I think it may benefit from some of the facilities in the Bill, and I hope my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will listen to the appeal which undoubtedly my district will make to him that there should be settled in that locality some 937 other industries than the major industry of mining. It is a good thing that we should have some concern for the psychological side when a district has only one industry. The outlook of the people is influenced by the fact that there is only one industry, and it would be well not merely for the locality but for the nation if those localities could have other industries so that this outlook would no longer continue. In the depressed areas the position was extremely difficult for the trading communities between the two wars. The tradesmen, shopkeepers and others could have handled a greater spending power than the people had. Their establishments were fitted to deal with greater purchases by the public. Instead of helping those people by putting some other industries into the district, there was the unhappy situation in which the trading elements were faced not merely by people who were out of work and had no wages, but had to find out of their own rate levies the means of keeping those who were unemployed.
I hope this Measure will be accepted, although I can well believe that on the Committee stage we must endeavour to improve the Bill and make it a little more tidy. I join with other hon. Members who have supported the Bill in saying that there can be some improvement on the Committee stage. To those hon. Members who have said that we ought not to have a Bill of this description, I want to put this question: Can we go along in the old topsy-turvy way that we did between the two wars? I believe that the new standards of life that we visualise can only he brought into being as a consequence of a sensible expansionist economy. Social security will not come in the form of manna from heaven; it can come only as a result of a sensibly planned economy. I am sure that districts like my own will welcome this small step towards a planned system of production and ask for continued progress in this direction.
§ 9.29 p.m.
Mr. Hiģģs (Birmingham, West)
I have no doubt this Bill has been introduced with the best of intentions, but I rather fear it has been prepared by people who have little industrial experience. While I have very great sympathy with the scheduled areas, I very much doubt whether this Measure will be of great assistance to them. Another name that could be given to this Measure would be 938 the Distribution of Labour Bill. That Title would be as suitable as the present one. Had it been brought forward under that Title, I do not think the House would have had anything to do with it. Everybody knows that one has to sow the seed before one reaps the harvest. It is the same with industry. Damage the seed and you spoil the plant. The majority of industries start in a very small way. They start with men working overtime, men taking little shops, starting without capital, and probably it is the absence of capital which makes them successful. It makes them thrifty. When small industries are diverted they may cease to exist.
Industries are not self-contained. They depend upon one another, particularly those represented in the Midlands, and such industries as the jewellery, sporting guns and cycle trades. They went there because the district was particularly suitable for their development and growth. It is no accident that the cotton trade went to Manchester, and with the Midland industries, it took four or five generations to produce the skilled craftsmen who practise in them. Acts of Parliament cannot alter economic laws. We have recently had the experience of the aluminium industry being artificially diverted from the Midlands by the Board of Trade. It originally gravitated there because the machinery and the skill were there to produce what was wanted Diversion adds to the cost of production. We are told by Ministers of the necessity of developing our export trade on the one hand, and, on the other hand, by artificial means we are raising the cost of production. Firms are born, they live and they die. The natural life of a firm is something of the order of 50 or 60 years. The Bill may not have any detrimental effect immediately on such industries as we have in Birmingham and in the Midlands. That may come many years ahead. But we are probably sowing the seed for making them derelict areas in the future.
The President of the Board of Trade, in answer to a question on the subject of the Special Areas, told me that it was not the Government's intention to enforce upon industrialists any particular areas for the location of their enterprises, whether old or new. The Bill definitely contradicts that statement. The right hon. Gentleman gave me certain assurances, but of what value are they, if he reverses his opinion 939 in a few months? The most repugnant portion of the Bill is the limitation of the size of the factories to 3,000 square feet. That is three-quarters the size of this Chamber and, when office accommodation, passages and cloakrooms are taken off, you have a manufacturing space equal to half the size of this Chamber. Before we can expand our factories we have to wait so many months for a reply from the Board of Trade. But we can erect a factory in three months; competition makes it necessary for us to erect more expeditiously than the Government do. If you are going to handicap industry in this manner, there is a poor look-out for it. The Bill makes the redevelopment schemes impossible for such areas as Birmingham and the Midlands. Those redevelopment schemes provide for the re-siting of certain factories. The work on the town planning schemes is wasted. Clause 8 places an embargo on the work of the public works committees of the future.
With regard to Clause 9, I hope that the President will seriously consider the suggestion that he should withdraw it. A suggestion has been made that the area should be increased to 30,000 feet, and other suggestions have been put forward, but if the President would withdraw the Clause it would make the passage of the Bill much easier. If a factory is burnt clown, it cannot be replaced under Clause 9 as it stands. The orders are to be for a limited period, and if the Clause must stand the orders should be reviewed every three years. The President may say that an order does not become effective until it is confirmed by this House, but Parliament is concerned with policy which affects the whole of the country, and local problems receive little attention. The provisions of the Bill do not constitute sufficient safeguards, and if the President can see his way to withdraw Clause 9 I am sure it will give considerable satisfaction to a large number of Members.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ The Minister of Production (Mr. Lyttelton)
I must confess straight away that this Bill is a "middle-of-the-road" Measure, as the Americans say. It certainly does not hug the left kerb. It does not seek to seize industry by the nose, and put it just where the State would like to put it. In certain directions it seeks 940 delay during which the Government can influence the location of industry. On the other hand, it seeks to control, subject to important safeguards, what I may call the further industrialisation of certain areas. It does not arrest industrial development in those areas, but it says that it shall not take place without licence, with a small easement in regard to small extensions to existing factories.
The first question with which I ought to deal before I come to more detailed matters is whether the Bill is a sensible and practical approach to what every one in the House regards as one of the urgent and current problems of our day. Is it a compromise which will secure the objects which we all, in every part of the House, have in mind? Is it a compromise which will secure these objects without fettering and handcuffing industry at every turn, and that at a time when we look to industry to be lively and enterprising, seeking new markets and new products, and contributing to the new prosperity which we hope we shall secure after the war?
I do not think that I need trouble the House with very many arguments about the disadvantages of indefinite increase in the industrialisation of certain areas of the country. I do not propose to devote very much time to it; but there are three main aspects of the problem upon which I feel that I must touch. I think it is unnecessary to deploy very long arguments about the advantages of diversifying industry. It is a palliative even if it is not a cure, for unemployment, and, just in the same way as bankers like to spread their advances over a number of industries, so that if one is in a depressed state, the advances are carried by the prosperity of the others, so, in the field of employment, we wish to avoid districts being entirely dependent upon one industry, where conditions, such as the failure of crops in the primary producing countries, may produce abnormal depression. Nor do I think that, on the subject of amenities very much need be said. Nobody will dispute that it would be folly to allow industrial fumes to percolate through a housing estate. All these things are common ground. Nor—although this is an industrial subject, I must refer to this aspect—should we allow, if we are wise, our country-side, to which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) made some 941 reference, and which is an economic as well as an aesthetic asset, to be despoiled by an indefinite and uncontrolled industrialisation. This is the most beautiful country in the world. Why should it be spoiled if it can be preserved?
There are other points to which hon. Members have referred, but the one which I would like to stress still more is the matter of military security. Looking back to-day, I think, with an amazed smile, of some of the things which have happened, but those things at which we can now smile were at one time a source of gnawing anxiety and suspense. Would it surprise the House to know that in this country at a certain time there was only one drop hammer which could forge the Spitfire crankshaft? Now that is all over. I used to watch one or two black spots in our production which really, without exaggeration, kept me awake at night. If they had been knocked out, at the best our production would have been terribly retarded, and at the worst might have been stopped altogether until we had the opportunity of drawing from the production of other countries. I do suggest that, however much we believe in the success of the world security organisation, it is only the commonest of common sense to try to make our war potential—a horrible piece of modern jargon for our ability to make weapons of war and to sustain the civil population while we are at war—and to make those industries as invulnerable as possible.
We cannot do that without a certain measure of direction. Our military advisers are unanimous that dispersal is the first road to safety. I am afraid it is obvious that the modern weapons, of which we have had some taste in the last few months, are only in their infancy. That word carries no suggestion of innocence with it. We may be sure that all parts of the United Kingdom, every nook and cranny of the country, will be within range of those weapons, when they are more highly developed. And if they are all in range, it is necessary to disperse the vital parts of our war-making potential, as far as we can. I submit to the House that these three grounds; the balance of industry, which gives a certain insulation from unemployment in all parts of the country, amenity and military security, are in themselves overwhelming arguments, incontrovertible arguments, for the 942 need for some Measure or other. I think this Bill makes the right approach—perhaps not a final one but it goes a very long way—to solving these three questions.
The second subject with which I should like to deal is whether the Bill goes too far. Again, I must submit that the Bill is not a plan for passionate planners. I think it would be exaggerating to say that. But it does give power to the Government to deal with this problem under certain main headings. First, it gives the Government the right to build plants in Development Areas, and make them available, by sale or lease, to those who wish to establish industries in these Development Areas. Secondly, it gives financial help, first to local authorities and trading estates—companies not trading for profit—to improve the access, the rail and water communications, gas, or whatever it may be, in the Development Areas; and thirdly, it gives the individual companies annual grants in aid, and also loans to permit them to overcome the initial handicaps which there may he in establishing themselves in a Development Area.
Let me say that the Government regard the most desirable form of assistance in this matter as being the assistance to local authorities to improve the services in the Development Areas. If it is done in this way, there is no question of favouring one firm against another; no charges of favouritism to this or that industry can be levelled. It is only a public authority overcoming the handicaps to the establishment of a new industry which we all know to exist in some of these areas. When we come to the individual firms, it is very important to notice that the assistance is, in the first place, by annual grants. That entirely rules out the suggestion that part of the Government's plan is to subsidise for ever and a day an industry which cannot stand on its own feet. The financial provisions of the Bill are intended to overcome the initial handicap, to allow the Development Areas to rank on the same basis as other parts of the country, and the loans, if any are made to individual companies, will have to be repaid. So these financial provisions are designed not to favour indefinitely those companies that establish themselves in these areas, but merely to overcome the initial difficulties and handicaps which may be inherent in establishing themselves there.
943 The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Brown) in a delightful divertissement this afternoon—I am sorry he is not in his place—described the Bill, in a series of striking phrases, as a "veneer on a vacuum" and so on. His speech was very like a chocolate éclair: delicious to consume, but when one had eaten it there was extraordinarily little nutritive value, very few calories in it. At the end, I found little more than a flick of whipped cream on the moustache. It was a charming and interesting interlude, but the hon. Member was unfair when he said that the Bill was a negative approach to the subject. I do not want to over-simplify things or become unfair, but the facts spoil many of those epigrams. The Bill has two positive parts to its one neutral part and its one negative part. The positive parts are in those Clauses which I have already discussed. They are, first, the power to deal with the Development Areas, and, second, the power to provide financial assistance to local authorities to erect factories in those areas and to provide financial assistance for individual firms. Nothing could be more positive than those two. Are these the "veneer on a vacuum"? I have never found anyone to whom I lent money, describe it as a vacuum. There is one neutral power in the Bill—if it is a power—that is the power to call for a delay of three months in the establishment of a new industrial unit, to allow the influence of the Government to make itself felt; and there is one negative power in Clause 9, which is designed not to wrench existing industries out of areas and to put them into other areas, but to prevent the indefinite industrialisation of certain areas.
The Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) performs a useful service. My hon. Friend drew attention to the need for some large conspectus of our national industrial problems. I agree with him about that, but I find it difficult at this time, to go further than the Bill goes. We are still at war. It is very difficult to see how the industrial future of the country is going to develop. We must at all costs avoid getting into a stagnant frame of mind in dealing with the development of our natural resources, of which the principal is coal. The discovery of new metals, such as mag- 944 nesium, may make the industrial location which appears very desirable to-day undesirable in three or four years' time. But I would suggest to those hon. Members who moved and seconded the Amendment, that this plan is sufficiently flexible to make us able to fit these new developments into our general pattern. The independent tribunal mentioned in the Amendment does not commend itself to His Majesty's Government. A tribunal of this kind, on a matter of Government policy, would be a mere evasion of Government responsibility. An independent tribunal cannot be responsible to a Minister. If it is responsible to a Minister it is not independent. I am sure this House would not wish to see its powers on so vital a matter, weakened by the setting up of an independent tribunal, which cannot be under the same Parliamentary control and under the same Parliamentary scrutiny as a Minister, who has to stand at this Box day by day, and answer questions and justify his policy.
I would like to revert to the four points which I mentioned earlier. First there is the power to build plant in the development areas. Again, I think that some remarks of hon. Members have got a little out of balance on this matter. There is no suggestion of pulling into these development Areas work from other areas, or that they should be artificially raised above what is desirable, or above a certain target. But in these Development Areas you have what is called the social capital; there are the schools, the roads, the power, the light and what you will. There is the population, housed very often we must admit, in conditions which require improvement and which we shall seek to improve by other Measures. But the fact remains that the work that is available to that population and to that social capital, is not enough to maintain the population which is there. All we seek to do is to bring work into those areas, so that we do not waste the social capital, and the housing facilities, but try to bring them into balance. It is not the idea to wrench industries out of existing areas, and to create exotic industries in their place. The idea, to put it at the lowest and for the sake of mere economy, is to secure that this social capital, these installations and this housing, are brought into balance with the work which we can bring to the areas.
945 The second thing is finance, on which I have already touched. This provision derives to some extent from the Special Areas legislation, and it is of the two kinds that I have described. I think I left out the matter of the derelict sites which it covers. I want to say again that its object is to aid the local authorities to improve the general basic services. I think, as a rule, that Government help should be given, but not so much by means of loans or annual grants to individual companies, because, in the latter case, questions of favouring one competitor or another, become difficult to decide. I do not know if this is the moment to state very clearly an important matter of policy in regard to these affairs. It is not, I repeat, at all the intention, that we are to develop industries in the Development Areas at the expense of existing industry. As a matter of fact, industry to-day is in a very fluid condition. For six years, I would remind hon. Members, all forms of expansion of industry for peace production have been arrested by the needs of the war. There are, on the books and in the offices of companies, tens of millions of pounds worth of plans for the expansion of peace-time industry. This sort of occasion occurs very rarely—perhaps only after a great war. We all know how difficult it is in peace time, when industry is more or less static, to try to re-arrange the pattern, in a way which we should like, but that is not the condition to-day. The condition is highly fluid, and we can influence it a great deal in the direction of solving the problem with which we are faced.
§ Sir Joseph Nall (Manchester, Hulme)
Is there not already a large surplus of factory accommodation over pre-war years?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
There is not a large satisfactory capacity for post-war industry. If you look at it merely as a matter of accommodation there certainly is, but there are not enough factories to carry on the peace-time industry which we are planning.
§ Mr. Woodburn (Stirling and Clackmannan, Eastern)
Is it the case that some hundreds of thousands of superficial square-feet of storage will be required during the next few years—during the time the Bill is to be operative?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am afraid that I did not hear all the hon. Member's interjection. I must get on. I want to turn to Clause 8, which has been described by some hon. Members as imposing a delay which is going to hamper industry. I believe that argument to be entirely false. To plan the industrial location of a new factory requires a very long period of research. The matter of electric and gas supplies, perhaps, the water access, the nature of the skill of the labour which is found near the plant, and sometimes even the sunlight which is going to be diffused over the plant—a subject which arises in this country—all these things have to be determined before any location can be settled. Not only will this three months' notice in my opinion compass no delay where we are going to plan new industrial units, but the Location Room to which the President of the Board of Trade has referred will, I think, enable industrialists to avoid a very large part of the primary work which they would otherwise have to undertake. This Location Room does not provide any final solution of the problem of location. It merely means that the industrial research becomes much more manageable. I can think of no instance in my own experience where less than three months' study has been necessary before settling industrial location. When it comes to extensions of existing plant upon land which has already been acquired, then my right hon. Friend and I consider that any notice to the Board of Trade might by hampering to industry. In this case, where it is a matter of extension, the research which is necessary into industrial location or establishing a new plant has already been done, and many plants can be extended on a decision of the board of directors at 24 hours' notice. Therefore, in this matter no notice is required.
Again about Clause 8 there has been some suggestion that it is to be used to direct industry, or to "influence" indus- 947 try, which I think is the correct word, into Development Areas. Nothing of the kind. These are the points which they, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. John Maclay)—the latter in a very instructive and interesting maiden speech—raised. I would like to say about the hon. Member for Montrose that the fact that he has been a Member of this House a long time and has only made his maiden speech now, is due to the very great service he has rendered to His Majesty's Government abroad. The contribution which he has made to-day makes us all hope that we shall hear much more of him. I would like to say on the points to which I was referring previously that Clause 8 is not designed to influence industry only in the Development Areas. It covers a much wider field. Those industries which should be established in small towns come under this Clause, and the President intends to use the information which he gets through the operation of this three months' delay, not only to build new industries in existing industrial areas, to steer diverse industries into Development Areas, but also to influence industries into these very small towns which were mentioned. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery talked about creameries, and things like that, in agricultural areas. This Clause is designed to help those. It is not a distressed areas general Clause, it seeks to make the Government influence felt.
I must say, speaking from the experience of the last six months, there is every sign that industrialists are most anxious to help in solving the problem which is in the minds of everyone here tonight. Indeed, putting it at the very lowest, he would be a very foolish man who located a plant in an area which the Government advised was a bad area, rather than in an area which the Government liked, provided always that the balance of industrial advantage was the same. Again, I say that industry is in such a fluid condition that, again and again, we have found that we can influence, without powers of direction, industrial location. An instance occurred the other day of a manufacturer of textile machinery who intended to increase and expand his industry after the war. He had two or three plants in a certain town in England, and proposed to put another 948 one down in the same place. The Board of Trade and my Ministry considered that it would be very difficult to find the extra labour in that particular town to man the new plant which he proposed to put there. He was approached, and he said "As far as I am concerned, anywhere in England will be the same"—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or Wales?"]Or Wales, undoubtedly.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I beg their pardon—in the United Kingdom or Scotland. And he has in fact planned that plant in another town about 25 miles away, where we feel that there will be difficulty in absorbing the labour which has been directed into that area owing to war conditions, and which will, to some extent, become redundant unless we can place a new industry there. This new arrangement has done a double thing: first, we have prevented an over-load taking place in the town where he planned his plant; secondly, we have secured the absorption of the redundant labour in the other town.
Now I come to the last point, which is Clause 9. I thought very deeply about this Clause and I am certain in my own mind that it is necessary. This is not a Clause which, by itself, proposes to make industries for the Development Areas; its object is much simpler. It is to prevent the indefinite industrialisation of certain areas of the country. I quite admit that this Clause has to be used with the greatest circumspection.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am about to give the hon. Member some hope in this matter. I cannot see how the Parliamentary control which this Clause confers can be increased, but I think from representations that have been made, we could improve the safeguards by putting in the Bill the obligation to consult the local authorities concerned before the Order is made. I can give a pledge on behalf of the Government that between now and the Committee stage we will introduce an Amendment to this Clause which will make it obligatory to consult local authorities before the Orders are made.
I think I have covered in a rather hurried way the main parts of this Bill, which, I believe, is not an unworthy compromise. There is one more thing I must add and it 949 is that the Government certainly have a plan. It is not a plan to say what industry shall make and where it shall make it; it is a plan aimed at, first, the balance and diversification of industry, second, the preservation of amenities of our country and, third, at military security. These are the three touchstones by which we shall judge the location of industry and I ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading in the firm belief that it makes a thoroughly constructive approach to a subject which is very dear to the heart of every hon. Member of this House.
Could the Minister say why it is sought, in Clause 5, to take the powers of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning?
§ Sir G. Schuster
In view of the fact that the Debate has brought out the need for substantial Amendment of the Bill,I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.