§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add:but humbly submit to your Majesty that, while your Ministers declare the urgent necessity of increased production, there are no practical proposals in the Gracious Speech calculated to unite Your Majesty's subjects in a free national effort to this end; but, on the contrary, Your Ministers, at this time, propose further measures of nationalisation which must confuse and retard the recovery of the nation.In rising to move this Amendment, I am deeply conscious of the importance and significance of this occasion. Its importance, of course, lies in the vital and compelling character of the main question which is to be discussed today. In the various phases of our long political and social history there seems to emerge, through each succeeding generation, one dominant theme on which are concentrated, for the time being, men's hopes and fears, satisfactions and disappointments, struggles, controversies, failures, triumphs. During all my political and business life—and I think this experience is shared by many of the older Members of this House—that is, during almost the whole period between the two wars, the question of unemployment has, in the field of home politics, played this major role. This problem of unemployment presented itself through all those years, to each succeeding Government, with baffling malignity. All attacked it with varying fortunes, none with complete success. To 865 some it was a constant running sore, others it completely overwhelmed, and to all it was the grim skeleton in the political cupboard.
I believe that in this period on which we are now embarking the problem of unemployment will be replaced by the problem of production—success or failure in raising production, in overcoming scarcity, in increasing both visible and invisible exports. This will be the test. By this measuring rod Governments will be judged; by this criterion they will stand or fall. One thing is certain; we must bring to this task fresh and open minds. Old catch words, obsolete slogans—"Socialism","private enterprise", "free trade"—will have to go. We shall need a new and more imaginative approach. If I may I should like to recall the words of the Prime Minister on Monday night to the effect that many people have a theory and then search for facts to support it. Let us beware of that. Nor, I think, can any fair-minded man or woman deny that Ministers taking office at such a time have a gigantic task. It is not possible to destroy Europe and half the world twice in a single generation, to inflict such hideous and gaping wounds upon the whole fabric of civilised life, and then expect, in a few months or even, perhaps, years, to re-establish and rebuild posterity. Ministers have handicapped themselves gravely, perhaps fatally, from the outset. I do not blame them because, in 18 short months, they have not solved all these tortuous problems. I do blame them because, 18 months ago, they led the people of this country to believe that easy solutions lay ready to hand.
§ Mr. Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
Has not the right hon. Gentleman read "Let us Face the Future"?
§ Mr. Macmillan
It was not in this mood or by such promises that we and they jointly undertook a much sterner enterprise six years ago. If, now, their exhortations meet with little response, it is they, and not the people, who are to blame. You cannot play fast and loose in this irresponsible way with the deep emotions of a great people. Eighteen months ago, Ministers issued to the electorate a fundamentally false prospectus, and they must pay the inevitable penalty today.
866 The substance of the Amendment is of great importance. I think its timing is of equal significance. Hon. Members may recall that, in the course of last autumn's Debates, particularly those in connection with the nationalisation Measures, the Leader of the House was pleased to be very facetious at the expense of the Opposition, and chaffed them very frequently on their failure to put down Amendments to the Address on that occasion, the opening of the first Session of this Parliament. With characteristic pettiness, he mistook courtesy for weakness. It was good manners and not a lack of vigour. However, I do not think that, in this second and perhaps final Session of this Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman need complain of a lack of vigorous opposition, from all quarters of the House. Sometimes he is assailed from his front, sometimes he is attacked from his flank, and sometimes he is stabbed in the back. It seems to be a sort of general melee. It is true that sometimes his candid friends are willing to wound but afraid to strike; at any rate, if their flesh is weak, their spirit is thoroughly disloyal. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, on this occasion at any rate, the Amendment will be pressed to a Division.
What a contrast between last year and this, between the opening of the first Session and the opening of the second Session of this Parliament. Then, Ministers and Ministerialists were a triumphant, confident, united band. Look at them now. We have had a real object lesson in the last two or three days. Ministers are querulous and anxious. The bold knights of debate are frequently deserted by their esquires. The great body of their supporters is divided into rival and clamantly argumentative groups, inside and outside the confines of this House. Only the semblance of discipline is with difficulty maintained. To the intoxication of electoral success has succeeded, all too soon, a great political hang-over.
We believe that the supreme internal issue of the day is the increase of production. From their recent pronouncements it would appear that Ministers share this view. It is true that their exhortations are in a very different mood and tone from the catchpenny nostrums by which they have won their way to Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and 867 Leamington (Mr. Eden) exposed that inconsistency once and for all, in the course of a brilliant speech earlier in this Debate. I assume that Ministers have seen the light. Some of them have seen the red light. In one short sentence of the King's Speech they have set out their objective accurately enough, but it is our contention that to the attainment of that purpose—the increase of production—the Measures foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech are, for the most part, utterly irrelevant, and that where they are not irrelevant, they are positively harmful.
Happily, we do not differ on the problem to be solved. That, at least, is an advance. We do however differ from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in the approach to the problem, both in principle and in emphasis. A successful industrial policy must depend upon Government and industry playing their appropriate roles in a healthy partnership. No Government, of whatever complexion, can dissociate itself from a large degree of intervention, and indeed management, in the economic life of the modern State. We can never return to the old, classical laissez faire. It is the Conservative Party, at any rate, which has opposed that doctrine for 100 years. The question is not, as I see it, whether the Government should play a part in the economic life of the nation. The question is by what means, at what level and for what purpose A compromise must be devised between the extreme individualism of the early 19th century and the totalitarian tendencies of modern Socialism. Such a compromise is, surely, in the British tradition, but if a right solution is to be found, it must be based upon the right division of functions. In a word, we have to evolve a system whereby public design by the Government is combined with private initiative, and whereby order and freedom can march together. The analogy of military operations has often been used, so let me adopt it now. A great commander plans the strategy of the campaign or the battle, but, if he is wise, he resists the temptation to interfere with the tactical direction of, the units under his command—the corps, division, brigade or battalion. In the same way, the Government must do its proper job in broad economic policy. It must not 868 undertake the operation or direction of particular industries or trades or commercial markets. The Government's functions are strategic; those of industry and commerce tactical. While the Government's concern is with such matters as finance, taxation policy, monetary policy, tariffs, and so forth, it must, at any rate in the immediate period of reconstruction following war, undertake the broad guidance of the appropriate balance of exports and imports, in order to solve the increasing difficulty of the balance of external payments—an embarrassing legacy of war which has changed Great Britain from a great creditor to a great debtor nation.
What are the chief obstacles to production? What are the chief things standing in the way of what we are all trying to achieve? No one can pretend that the ownership of industry is the major problem, and no one seriously argues—if they do, there are very sound Socialist opinions to contradict the assertion—that the setting-up of State capitalism in the place of private capitalism will help us from the psychological point of view. We have only to look at the mining industry. On the technical side, the Lord President of the Council himself admits that, to suit his own particular doctrines or dogmas, he will tip the argument either way. If the industry is alleged to be inefficient, it must be taken over, but if it is efficient, it is ripe for public ownership. It is, "Heads I win and tails you lose." Nor can anyone deny the immense technical dislocation involved in nationalisation. The Coal Board has before it at this moment an enormous, overwhelming task. It will take it a very long time, at the best, to sort it out.
§ Mr. Macmillan
The purchase of the stocks and shares of the railway companies—that has now been decided on—will give the Government no greater control of the railways than they have under the present rental agreement. This arrangement might well have been continued, at least during the present crisis and pending an independent and impartial inquiry. As it is, I know what will happen. The efforts of the skilled railway managements will largely be diverted from their proper work, to the immense complication of the technical and financial readjustments 869 which must follow. The road hauliers—masters and men alike—will put up a fierce resistance. No one can pretend that a better result can be achieved by seizing their businesses, than could be obtained by voluntary agreement for the coordination of road and rail. Nobody seriously believes that the present Government control of the electricity distributing industry is insufficient to preside over any developments that may be necessary. The assumption of ownership will do nothing but introduce delay. Nor can the inflationary effect of these nationalisation schemes be denied. Assets which are now largely sterilised are quickened and made liquid. This will happen in coal, but to a far more serious extent in electricity and transport. Not hundreds of millions but thousands of millions of pounds are involved. I should have thought there could be no worse moment in our history than this for turning fixed assets of all kinds into liquid purchasing power.
The true obstacles to further production are partly psychological and partly material. They are, in part, the inheritance of the past, and in part the legacy of war. It is upon these points that resolute action is required. As I have already observed, Governments between the two wars were dominated by the shadow of unemployment. The memory of those years has bitten deep into the hearts of the people. They fear above all things a return to those times—
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am trying to put this argument fairly. There are many parts of the country, such as South Wales and the North-East coast, where the workless 1920's and 1930's will be remembered with bitterness, just like "the hungry 'forties" of the previous century. Let us try to analyse this disease if we are to cure it. Throughout the economic system in Great Britain and the world, production during those years seemed always to be one step ahead of effective demand, and all effort during that time was directed to the solution of the apparent paradox of need in the midst of plenty. No party that held office during that period was able to find a satisfactory solution. The Labour Governments of 1923 and 1929 did not fail because they had not a majority in the House of Commons but because they did 870 not know the answer. Nor did we. That is true. Many admirable amelioratory plans were put forward—such as derating and the measures for the special areas—but the root of the problem' escaped analysis. Therefore the psychological legacy of the prewar generation remains with us, and one of the difficulties, it will be generally admitted, of increasing production at the present time lies in the memories among both workmen and industrialists, of those difficult deflationary years. A restriction of production was fostered by Governments of all parties to meet that prewar lack of balance between production and demand. On the employers' side, new entrants were discouraged and competition reduced. By internal selling arrangements, many methods tending towards monopoly or quasi monopoly were developed, and those were justifiable, given the conditions and knowledge of the time. They were supported by Conservative and Socialist Governments alike. In the same way, the restrictive practices of trade unions were developed in order to make the job last as long as possible, since there was a grave risk that when one job was finished it would not be followed by another.
All these practices on both sides, whatever may have been the necessity for them then, are surely unsuitable to a period when, it is agreed by all, production will for a long time be necessary at the highest possible level. Meanwhile, a new monetary policy has been devised. It holds the field. Associated primarily with the name of Lord Keynes, it was expanded and adopted by the general agreement of all parties in the last Coalition Government. It has not, I admit, been put to the test, but it is vital to strengthen and not to undermine the general belief in its efficacy. So huge is the need of the world for goods and services, so great the gap and void that war has made, that I do not see the prospect of over-production in relation to demand for many years to come. Of course, goods must be of the right quality. They must be sold at reasonable prices. But the difficulties that will arise will not be difficulties due to shortage of credit or to a lack of full order books. They will be due either to the monetary inflation in this country which cannot be stopped, or to a shortage of primary raw materials, more particularly fuel. There will not be 871 the old kind of unemployment due to lack of credit or orders but a new form of unemployment due to lack of the actual things, and of power to make the wheels of industry go round.
It is because I feel that it is so important to preserve the confidence in this high employment policy and the monetary plans to support it that I and my friends so gravely deplored the recent excursion into the subject by the Secretary for Overseas Trade. It is true that the hon. Gentleman is a professor, and since he has learnt much, much must be forgiven him. To speak of the inevitability of a slump still more to speak of its early arrival—
§ Mr. Macmillan
—comparing it to that of the year 1931, is I think a grave disservice to the nation at this time. These jeremiads, even upon the professorial level, are very dangerous. I have no doubt the Prime Minister has administered a proper castigation in private, and that the hon. Gentleman is nursing his grievance. I should have been more satisfied if the castigation had been administered in public.
Even the fear of shortages of raw materials may have a very depressing effect upon production. It was our well-known war experience that, when the shops were full and the flow constant, production rose immediately, because of the confidence that followed. If, on the other hand, there were hold-ups, if it got around, that there was a shortage of raw materials in the stores, production correspondingly fell. That is a natural human reaction. Moreover, I think that workmen very often blame managements for shortages which are beyond the management's control. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that these misunderstandings which tend to reduce confidence throughout industry, should be removed.
What are the reasons for possible raw material shortages? Of course there are world shortages, although those, I think, are often given rather as an excuse than as a reason. There is a much more serious shortage—that of dollars or other hard currencies required to buy-raw materials, and those currencies can 872 only be obtained by a rise in production. It is here that it is so easy to talk about substitutes. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade told us the other day how he had the wonderful idea of substituting steel for timber. But what is the good of substituting steel for timber, if the only result is a shortage of steel? Everybody knows "that timber is piling up on the Norwegian and Swedish coasts, and all that is necessary in order to get it, is to send the coal which the people in those countries want. This leads me to the whole dollar position, upon which I think the House and the country are entitled to more information than we have yet been given.
Ever since the confirmation of the American Loan by Congress we have been left in much mystery. I wish to put some questions to Ministers, and I hope that in the course of the Debate we may receive answers. How much of the American Loan or line of credit has been spent to date? [HON. MEMBERS: "That was answered yesterday."] No, not at all precisely. How long is it likely to last? What is the process of building up other dollar resources? Is the general dollar position, apart from the line of credit, better or worse than it was 18 months ago? Upon what is the loan being spent? What is the proportion between raw materials and food and capital goods and equipment? Without this information it is very hard for the country to see the picture aright. Many harsh restrictions will be justifiable if the position is deteriorating; many worse ones may have to be accepted. Are we drifting towards a siege economy in which we shall once more be bottled up in our own harbours, or are we sailing out into the open sea? On the answers to these questions must depend a sound policy for the nation to accept and to follow.
There is another form of shortage of raw materials which is really quite inexcusable. It may be the result of bad buying or of incompetent distribution. I am not so confident of the Government's capacity to buy in world markets in peace. conditions as the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends appear to be. In war conditions, under the arrangements which were made at Washington, it was much easier. First there was the great sanction or the navicert, and the command of all the shipping that could sail the seas. Those were formidable levers for 873 the direction of raw materials in order to follow the needs of the Allied command. The Government seem to be in two minds about this matter. On the one hand, they have returned the buying of rubber to the free market; on the other, they propose to continue and perpetuate by law the buying of cotton under Government management. I do not understand this conflicting policy. Of course they will argue that rubber is in good supply, and therefore can be left to private handling, while cotton is in short supply. If so, why introduce legislation, such as is foreshadowed in the King's Speech? All the powers to continue the cotton control exist, and have been carried on for five years, under the Transitional Powers Act, and it is not necessary, even if a temporary need is proved, to introduce a permanent statutory system from which nothing but harm can result.
Even when we have the raw materials, are we distributing them aright? Are the controls too rigid, too slow, too complicated, with too many forms and too many details? It was my duty, for a considerable period, to serve in the Ministry of Supply, and I was very conscious that in spite of every effort, those controls were exceedingly difficult to operate with smoothness. Of course, we had some advantages; over the whole field of production the Government was almost the only buyer and the only seller, and also had a very tight control on the censorship, so that complaints were easier to deal with! Under war conditions it may have been necessary. It was certainly very difficult, and so far as we succeeded at all, it was by taking industry and commerce into our confidence, by trying to use them as the very instruments of our machine, by having the best possible relations throughout. Now all that is changed; the bureaucracy, itself the greatest devourer of manpower in the country, has complete control, and the Government alternate between appeals to and abuse of the industrialists and commercialists of this country. I say that all these things are hindrances to production. The encouragement of fuller production, not the maintenance of scarcity; the waiving of restrictive practices by trade unions; measures to control and reduce monopolistic tendencies in industry; better supply and distribution of raw materials—those, indeed, would be constructive contributions to the solution of 874 the problem. To make a series of huge State monopolies is really not a cure for the drift towards monopoly. Indeed, that seems to be a kind of homeopathic economics on a fantastic scale.
There is a further point which I think in fairness ought to be mentioned. In all parties before the war our minds were concentrated upon the problem of unemployment. Perhaps we did not give enough attention to the problems which follow in the wake of full employment, because they are not inconsiderable. The old sanctions were bad, it is true; bad work was followed by dismissal, and dismissal was followed by terrible consequences for the man. But when all that is changed, we cannot close our eyes to the necessity for some form of voluntary self-discipline to replace the harsh and cruel discipline of the days of unemployment. I suggest that nationalisation is no reply. The reply lies much more in the intensive development of industrial relations in their widest sense, in a true partnership between all those engaged in industry, in full information consistently available to workers, in the development of the workers' councils and committees leaving disciplinary powers in the hands of workmen.
Nevertheless, with all these handicaps, I do not want to paint too dark a picture. The remarkable thing is that in many industries, in spite of these handicaps—psychological and material—to masters and men alike, very satisfactory improvements are being made. Nevertheless, the general need for stimulus remains, and in my view it cannot be exaggerated. As important as the removal of the psychology of the past, is the increase of incentive for the present, and for the future. Every great War imposes a vast expenditure and a corresponding staggering increase in taxation. The habits formed in war are very extravagant. The first essential is a drastic review of expenditure, both national and local. This is an essential preliminary to the reduction of taxation. No free society can tolerate taxation which in peacetime transfers so high a proportion from private to public spending. Expenditure was running in the first year after the war at the rate of £5,500,000,000, and the Estimates for this year, which is not yet completed, are at the rate of nearly £4,000,000,000 a year. This is a most formidable sum, and drastic steps should be taken to reduce it. Sooner or later, drastic measures will have to be taken 875 I think that far less harm would be done to the purposes we all have in mind, if those steps were taken now, in a sensible way, with plenty of thought, rather than left to some crisis when they will have to be taken in a mood of emergency. It would be far better to move for the reduction of taxation now and it can only be achieved as a result of reduction of expenditure.
In some way or other, we all admit, both hon. Members opposite and those behind me, that the increase of the incentive to the worker at all levels of industry, from the smaller to the larger incomes, must be made. The only way that can be done is by reduction of taxation. The vicious circle of scarcity and under-production must be stopped. Once we can turn it round, and get the reverse movement going, the whole scene will change with startlingly increased momentum. Less taxation will increase production, and production will make available more consumer goods. Thus, out of the increased production, exports can be raised, and the balance of international payments met in due course. Of course, I know that it is only after the Election that Ministers think exports to be at all important. Before the Election, the need for exports was described by the Minister of Health as:a twist of the Tory mind.Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will have a word with him afterwards. The Minister of Fuel told us before the Election:There was never a greater fallacy than the demand for increased exports.I am bound to say that he is one of the few Ministers who has conscientiously carried out his pledges.
To sum up, this Government of so called planners does not really plan at all. It just drifts aimlessly along. It may well be that at the present level of production, or any level of production we can reasonably hope for, we are attempting more than can be accomplished. We are trying to build millions of houses, schools, hospitals, clinics and training colleges. We are trying to put in terms of money, more important, in terms of labour and materials, huge amounts into the coal industry, £120,000,000 into transport, into the reconstruction of the steel industry and the cotton industry, and are 876 developing agriculture, water supplies, electricity and all the rest. We are trying, at the same time, to raise internal standards of living, and to develop social services. It is becoming more and more apparent that we have risked the chance of achieving anything effective by attempting too much. This was the precise situation in the early months of the war, when the claims of the chiefs of staff of the three Services, added together, made demands far more than the total resources of the nation could supply.
What did my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition then do? He had to make a plan, a programme, an allocation, and provide a system of priorities and allocations. Of course it all took time, and many mistakes were made. But these are the functions of government. If the Government would concentrate on them, and leave these other matters alone, they would be more successful. Of course it is difficult. Many hon. Members will remember the great battle of priorities, and what catches, dangers, and pitfalls there were. This reminds me of a story I heard on my first visit to Russia, in 1929, when there were queues for everything. It was the first time I had seen such long queues, but I have become more accustomed to them since then. One of the stories going around was of a queue of immense length outside a shop. A man came up with a piece of paper on which was written, "Get out of my way. I have a special permit not to stand in the queue." People in the queue said to him, "You silly fool, this is the queue of people who have special permits not to stand in the queue." Such are the problems of priority.
It is really necessary to make a plan, a master plan. This is the acknowledged function of government, but the planners have failed, and all they can do is to trot out some old, out-moded Socialist ideas of nationalisation for setting up State monopolies in a few selected industries. What relation has this to the great problem of the day—"produce, or perish"? That is the problem which confronts us today. One is almost forced to the suspicion that they still hesitate to tell the people the truth. Ministers must know the magnitude of the dangers which approach us, but their pronouncements alter with irritating inconsistency, from the most pessimistic to the most rosy tints. It may be that they feel that only by obscuring 877 the truth and organising scarcity can they rivet these Victorian doctrines on the people. At all events, there can be no doubt of this, that the Measures proposed in the Gracious Speech to deal with the approaching crisis are puny and irrelevant. They are like the croaking of frogs in the treacherous calm, soon to be overwhelmed by the crashing thunder of the storm.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), in moving the Amendment of the official Opposition, has delivered a speech of a mixed variety. I think I can say for my hon. Friends, that there were substantial portions of and items in that speech which we welcome; I think we agree that there were also parts which we do not welcome, and which we do not think fit into the other observations which he made. We have been accustomed for a long time to being criticised and denounced by the Conservative Party for planning. There have been sneers at the planners, there has been deprecation of economic planning, there has been an assumption that economic planning, in itself, is unnecessary, objectionable and a meticulous and needless interference by the State with the activities of private industrial enterprise. But the right hon. Gentleman says "I do not complain that you are planning; I complain that you are not planning enough, we want more planning." Whether that observation is made authoritatively on behalf of the Conservative Party I do not know. It is like many more observations of the right hon. Gentleman, some of which are of a distinctly Socialistic flavour. During those observations of the right hon. Gentleman I was watching the faces of the hon. Members behind him. I am bound to say that they were somewhat mixed in expression. Some, I think-, wondered where he was getting to, and I thought, how long would the right hon. Gentleman be sitting there? But if it is any comfort to him, I will add that there were a few, quite a few—
§ Mr. Morrison
Not as many as that—who really did manifest some pleasure at the Socialistic observations which he was making.
878 I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the story of unemployment in relation to Governments and political parties in the past has not been a happy one. It befogged, bemused and made miserable during the years between the wars the lives of all of us in all political parties. He is quite right that the new state of mind must be, not so much that of finding work for the unemployed but rather that of facing the problem in the spirit of "How much can we produce," and, I would say, what he did not add, "How well, how equitably and how fairly can we distribute what we produce among the population of our country." But the right hon. Gentleman is right on the first point, that the problem is one of production, and it is necessary that all of us, whether politicians or employers or workpeople, must put behind ourselves the old scarcity economics.
In the years between the wars both capital and labour were afraid of production. Capital feared what was called "over-production," and, therefore, a collapse in prices, and labour feared that the job might come to an end. It will not be easy to get rid of this psychology, either on the part of employers or workpeople, but it must go, and we must substitute for the economics of scarcity, the economics of plenty. Far from being afraid to produce, we must go all out for production, realising that production is the essential foundation, not only of prosperity in the factory, but of prosperity in the social services and the development of the social life of our people. So we are replacing that old problem of finding work for the unemployed by the other problem of how best to use the total available force of manpower in the public interest. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right. We must face these problems with fresh and open minds, and I hope that his colleagues who sit with him, and those who act with the Conservative Party outside, will do their best. I know that it is a task and problem for them to face these problems with a fresh and open mind. How right the right hon. Gentleman is in saying that we must not develop a theory and try to make the facts fit it, but rather get the facts right and let the doctrine rest upon the facts. I couple that with another assertion which I will make-—but which he did not—a determination to try to alter facts that are wrong, bad and contrary to the public 879 interest. We agree that we must not be dominated by theory.
The right hon. Gentleman is also quite right in saying that Ministers are facing a gigantic task. We are, and we not only know now, but we knew before the General Election that whatever Government was in power would be facing most difficult and complex tasks. In fact, I remember a conversation with colleagues in the Coalition Government of the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Leader of the Opposition, in which some of us, who were gathered outside the Cabinet room waiting for the Cabinet meeting, were sympathising with each other. We happened to have a lot of headaches then, as we often had—very difficult problems to solve and it was not clear what to do about them. We were sympathising with each other, and feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. I said, "Cheer up. Whatever may be the headaches of this Government, they are nothing to the headaches that will confront the Government that faces the problems of economic transition, after the war, from war to peace." I added, "It may be—naughty thought though it is—that whoever is in the Government in that time, will wish to goodness that they were back running an honest war once more, without the complications of peacetime political life and the greater and wider demand of the public for things, which very naturally and properly the public was quite prepared to let go by in the dangers and stress of war." Therefore, these headaches and problems are no surprise. Any Government that exists at this time is bound to have a pretty busy and difficult life.
The right hon. Gentleman, like many of his friends, persists in saying that at the Election we put before the people the idea that everything would be easy, that all they had to do was to vote Labour, return a Socialist Government and everything else would be added unto them. That is quite wrong. I speak for myself, and I know that I speak for my hon. Friends, one of whom, the other week, quoted his own Election address. Such quotations destroy the idea that we led the country to believe that everything would be simple. Not only in my own constituency of East Lewisham, formerly a Conservative stronghold, but in other parts of the 880 country, Labour candidates painted a picture of difficulty, complications and grave problems, and said, "Make no mistake about it, this transition will not be easy, and we shall need all the efforts of the people successfully to get through.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am coming to that. I only mention this point because it is constantly being affirmed that we misled the country and it is the reverse of the truth. On Page 2 of "Let us Face the Future" this was said:The Labour Party makes no baseless promises. The future will not be easy.[Laughter.] This confutation of these repeated allegations may be inconvenient to hon. Members opposite, but it had better be put on the record. On page 3 it said:We need the spirit of Dunkirk and of the blitz sustained over a period of years.It went on to say:The Labour Party programme…calls' for hard work, energy, and sound sense.There was nothing in here which said, "All you need to do is to vote Labour, and everything will come all right." n fact, for myself, I have never advocated such a view at any Election because it is contrary to our conception of democracy. Democracy is not a matter merely of returning a Government, after which everybody can go slack. Democracy is a matter of national effort, national will, and cooperation between the people and the Government of the day if the Government are pursuing a progressive policy.
The right hon. Gentleman said that, as it is now 18 months after these events, the Amendment is well timed. Well, it is well timed, as far as we are concerned. When the Conservative Party candidate in a working-class constituency has just lost his deposit, I am not going to quarrel about the timing.
§ Mr. Morrison
I agree—wait until tomorrow. We shall see what happens. I have had enough election experience never to talk before the hour has struck, but I can speak about a case in which the hour has already struck with good effect. The right hon. Gentleman said the Government are being assaulted from all quarters, right, left and centre, and 881 from behind as well. He ought to know about stabbing a Government in the back. He ought to know—he used to sit over there below the Gangway and he did his share of making himself a nuisance to a Conservative Government and I know what some of the Ministers thought about him. They thought that that was "stabbing in the back." Was he not known as one of the prominent members of the "Y.M.C.A. group" of that time? I do not want to rub in the point, but some of the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite were members of that Government. The right hon. Gentleman therefore should not say these things because he has a very, very bad record in that respect.
I am making these observations before I come to the main part of my speech, which, I agree, ought to be expository of the situation and of Government policy, because I think we had better get these few pleasantries over first. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Why do you not get on with the work in hand and stop pursuing these ideas of the public ownership of the railways and inland transport?" He said, in relation to the railways, that we have got the war-time control powers, and asked why we did not continue them. I am bound to say that it is "a new one" from the Conservative Front Bench that we should continue the war-time powers of control. I think the war-time powers of control were necessary and right, but I do not believe that the use of them is the right way in which to run an industry, especially in times of peace. We want something more free, something more positive, and more responsible. But the right hon. Gentleman says, "Continue the war-time controls pending an inquiry." I will come to the question of an inquiry in a minute. It does not seem to be necessary in view of what the right hon. Gentleman himself has said in the past. He also says that we should not touch road haulage, that we should leave it alone. He says there is no need to socialise electricity, that it will cause difficulties of one sort or another, and he condemned with great vigour this series of State monopolies which he said cannot do any good.
This is where I cannot follow the right hon. Gentleman. He was Socialistic earlier on in his speech and again later on, but 882 at that point he became anti-Socialist. He says, "You ought not to establish these State monopolies." There was a book published years ago. I am not referring to the one which the right hon. Gentleman wrote alone. I have not got that by me. It will serve for another occasion. But there was a book called, "The Next Five Years." A number of people of various parties got together and produced an exceedingly interesting report of a possible programme in the national interest for the following five years. I was invited to join the group, but I never rush into coalitions if I can help it, and I kept out of this one.
§ Mr. Morrison
It was published in 1935. Perhaps because I was not a party to it, I can the more freely say there was a good deal of value in the book. The right hon. Gentleman was one of the leaders of the assembly of people who worked on that book. He was a signatory to the book. Indeed, he was a member of the inner Cabinet—of the drafting committee. Therefore, he was in on the ground floor. What did he say about these two industries which, as the Gracious Speech has announced, are going to be nationalised? He said, or the book said:The last group of industries is composed of those suitable for complete socialisation. We suggest that it should include such industries as transport, electricity supply, some forms of insurance"—Well, even we have not got that far yet—the manufacture of armaments, etc.It added:Transport is an obvious example. So far as the railways are concerned, socialisation would present few difficulties and few advantages.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am always delighted to hear the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg); he is such a delightful representative of the Oxford Union but he will barge in too quickly and too indiscreetly. I repeat the sentence in order that he may be merry again:So far as the railways are concerned, socialisation would present few difficulties and few advantages. But the time is fast approaching when the whole transport system needs coordinating.In its context we know what that meant.
883 It went on:Electricity is another case for early socialisation.This was in 1935. We are now in 1946.
§ Sir A. Salter
Yes. I too was a member of the Committee which drafted that book. I was also chairman of the Road-Rail Conference which made recommendations for assisting coordination. These were the subject of legislation and are now in operation, but they are a form of "coordination," not of nationalisation, of both sections of the transport system.
§ Mr. Morrison
I must leave it there. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman would wish to help a Conservative Front Bencher if he possibly could. He may be right. He should know better than I, because, as I say, I was not in the group. But if the idea was that there should be some bureaucratic tie-up between road and rail, and a system of State regulation superimposed upon them, I am bound to say that is the worst possible thing to do. Of course, I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says, but there is no doubt about the Socialistic character of this observation. He took the nationalisation of the railways in his stride. Then it went on:Electricity is another case for early socialisation. One large part…
§ Mr. Morrison
The railways. I proceed:Electricity is another case for early socialisation. One large part of the industry, the distribution of electrical energy from the generator to the Authorised Undertaker, is already socialised"—By the way, that was done by a Conservative Government in 1926—and the intervention of the State has greatly increased the technical efficiency of the industry. But the distributing side is still, in parts of the country, in a state of confusion comparable to that of the generating side before the advent of the grid.That was in 1935, and, indeed, it had to be done at an early date, but, according to the right hon. Gentleman, that date is 884 too early in the year 1946. I am bound to say that I do not follow the argument. But the right hon. Gentleman is not the only one. Let not his Conservative friends blame him for this lapse from grace because his own present leader—who has now left our deliberations in accordance with his usual practice—in November, 1918, said much the same thing. By 1918, he had covered what is now in the King's Speech in respect of socialisation. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in a very reputable organ of that time, the "Morning Post," now unhappily merged in the "Daily Telegraph," on 19th November, 1918, said this in opening his General Election campaign:As to the other aspects of the programme there are two main matters on which we must fix our eyes. The first is the revival of prosperity not only in manufacture, but in agriculture, and increasing the total productivity of the country, and a rapid increase must be effected unless all classes are to be condemned to privation and discontent.I think that is remarkably like the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley to-day, but the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition continued:'I agree with Mr. Barnes"—not my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, but an earlier Mr. Barnes—and other Labour men in thinking that a great measure of public control in regard to monopolies, especially the basic services of transport and power, must be an essential feature of our future action. Now is the time to house the nation as it should be housed. Now is the time to take every acre of land towards the general welfare.Transport and electricity were ripe in 1918 for public control, and yet, according to this Amendment, it is premature in the year 1946. I see the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition returning to his place. It is very sad, but it is too late. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bromley that the mood of restric-tionism must go, and the mood of economic expansion must come, and if he will confer with his right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) to get a little less restriction-ism in the eleotrical plant manufacturing industry, a little less price restriction, a little less of quotations of tenders at exactly the same price, it would be a good thing. I suggest that the right hon. Member for Aldershot should take what was 885 said by his right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley about restrictionism to his electrical friends with whom he is so happily and prosperously living at the present time—
§ Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)
If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to suggest that there is any restriction of production other than that imposed by the Government, I am afraid he is mistaken
§ Mr. Morrison
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to argue one of these days about restrictionism and price-fixing and cartel operations in the electrical lamp manufacturing and electrical plant manufacturing industries I am ready for him at any time I am already fully briefed, and I recommend the right hon. Gentleman to get briefed as soon as he can.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
It seems to me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that we are now thrown into a personal attack upon my right hon. Friend, with many insinuations and threats, and I submit to you that, if these personal matters and attacks on hon. Members and their personal conduct are to be introduced in a Debate on these large topics, the matter must be carried further. I do not consider—and I put it to you, Sir—that this sort of charge and insinuation should be flung out across the Table. even by one who, while leading the House, has never ceased to stoop to the lowest level—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Morrison
I am within the recollection of the House. I do not think that I made any personal attack upon any hon. Member, and I do not think that I would wish to do so. The right hon. Gentleman and I have had happy relations in, the past. I can only say that, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley condemns restrictionism in industry and the operations of cartels, I am entitled to invite him to reconcile that argument with the daily experience of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot. I was giving an illustration, and the Conservative Party and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, whom I am very glad to see back in his place, must not be too touchy He knocks other people about with great vigour.
§ Mr. Churchill
I really submit to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that I do not knock people about, concerning their personal private affairs, or attack their private 886 business. If that has to be done, it should be done in a formal manner, just as, when there is a difference with the Chair, there is a formal method by which that matter can be raised. There are no secrets in this House, and there ought not to be. I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House declare that he is fully armed with a brief which he will explode against my right hon. Friend. I think that, in making a statement of that kind, he should either stop short, or go much further.
§ Mr. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman comes in all of a sudden and before he has been here two minutes he must start this kind of thing, when he does not know what happened. I am concerned with public policy in industrial problems. I make no charge, and made no charge, of impropriety. [Interruption.] Well, is it a charge of impropriety that the right hon. Gentleman should be prosperous?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
We cannot have two right hon. Gentlemen on their feet talking at the same time.
§ Mr. Churchill
I want to raise this matter. I cannot say that it is a matter of Order, but it is a matter of procedure. It I am right—and I am in the recollection of the House—I distinctly heard the Leader of the House suggest that the right hon. Gentleman, in his private capacity, was engaged in an improper—[HON. MEMBERS:"NO."] On this point, which I submit to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I suggest that personal charges reflecting upon my right hon. Friends in their individual capacities should certainly not be excluded from our discussions, but should be made on the proper occasion, with proper notice and with all the formalities attaching to that class of attack.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
As far as I understand, the point submitted by the right hon. Gentleman is not a point of Order in itself. It is not for the Chair to curb the cut and thrust of debate. May I suggest that it would be to the advantage of all if we now proceeded with the Debate?
§ Mr. Lyttelton
May we come back to the facts for a moment? The insinuation which the right hon. Gentleman 887 made, and which I refuted, was that the electrical industry is engaged in a restriction of production. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If it is a matter of price, then the subject would be entirely irrelevant to this Debate. We are now talking about production. I think that the OFFICIAL REPORT will clear up the point. My recollection is clear; the insinuation which the right hon. Gentleman made was that I was engaged, in my private capacity,, in restricting production in order to keep up prices. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] All I can say is that I do not agree, and that we had better get the point explained accurately. There is no restriction of production in the electrical industry at all—we cannot produce enough.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think it would be to the advantage of the Debate if there are fewer comments addressed and all remarks should be addressed to the Chair.
§ Mr. Churchill
On a point of Order. Am I to gather from your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that general comments in Debate cannot be made, unless they are first put through the agency of the Chair?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
No. That was not the intention or purpose of my remark. The Debate is in danger of getting out of hand. It would be to the advantage of all if we now proceeded in the normal way.
§ Mr. Morrison
I was in process of saying that I was much obliged to the right hon. Member for Aldershot for bringing us back to the point of the controversy. I am sure that he will find he is mistaken in thinking that, in this connection, I was making the allegation that the electrical plant and lamp manufacturers were restricting production. What I was saying was that the electrical plant and lamp manufactur2rs had price agreements, and agreements about handling of tenders for public contracts, which I regard in the nature of a restrictionist practice. [An 888 HON. MEMBER: "Restriction of what?"] Price restrictions; minimum restrictions on prices. If it is agreed among the manufacturers that lamps shall not be sold by any manufacturer below a certain price, and if it is agreed that when they put in tenders for public contracts to the British Government, local authorities, or Dominion Governments, they will agree among themselves who shall put in the contract and that the price shall not be below a certain figure, that, in my judgment, is a restrictionist practice. The point that I was making in relation to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bromley, who had condemned all restrictionist practices, was that he had better reconcile himself with the right hon. Member for Aldershot. Any idea that I wanted to make a personal attack upon the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot is quite wrong, and he himself has brought us back to the real issue in dispute. If he wishes, he can take part in the Debate tomorrow when HANSARD is available.
There is—and this has been revealed by the spokesman for the Opposition—no argument about the national need for increased production. This is a cause which unites all parties, not only in the object, but to an encouragingly large extent in the manner of its achievement. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said in this House:We will support the Government on what they have said and are doing with regard to the increased production drive, because we know it to be absolutely essential in our national interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Thursday, 14th November. 1946; Vol. 430, c. 255.]I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said and we welcome that observation. I think that it is for all parties and everybody in industry to further that point of view. But formal endorsements of the production drive are not enough. This is a battle which the nation has to win unless it is to go down. In such a battle, moral is all-important. Moral is not helped by defeatist utterances and articles. The output of misery does not need stepping up any further. If I may say so, there is, in a number of quarters, too much of the spread of depression and misery, whereas what the nation needs is encouragement to go all out in the production drive. By all means let us have hard criticism; 889 I only ask that it should be constructive. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington made a critical speech at Newcastle on Saturday, but a great deal of it was constructive criticism and I do not complain of it. But we have a right to expect that, while making their criticisms, as they have a right to do, the Opposition will also themselves help to speed up the production drive which they welcome. I am not always clear whether they are helping in the production drive or not.
The Government aim to arrange early next year a full-dress Debate in the House on the economic conditions and prospects of the country, and I think that that will be welcomed in all quarters. That Debate will be preceded by a White Paper, and will enable the House to take stock of the national position in the light of a more comprehensive economic survey than has hitherto been made available. I ask that all of us. in all parts of the House, should seek to make ourselves ready for this economic Debate which I hope will be a big occasion. It ought to be an economic inquest on the nation, and it should be an occasion on which all of us seek to make constructive suggestions and to propound constructive policies for the economic advantage of the nation as a whole.. Therefore, the Government look forward to it as an occasion on which the House can survey the whole economic field; our resources in manpower and production and the use of those resources, our balance of payments, our investment policy in relation to current consumption, and so forth. At the present stage, before we have either the completed figures for 1946 or the revised forecasts for 1947, it will be more profitable to concentrate on reviewing the problem of increased production and the methods by which the Government are assisting it.
When the war ended, the Government's first task in restoring the peace economy was to release from the Forces, by fair and efficient means, as many men as could be spared in the existing state of the world, and, at the same time, to return to civilian use requisitioned factories and other productive equipment. This process has almost reached a stage where no further substantial net additions to our productive resources can be looked for from it. Unfortunately, although inevitably, the workers released from the Forces 890 and from munitions have not all represented a net gain to civil production.
On the other side of the balance sheet, there have been heavy losses. Many elderly persons and women war workers have withdrawn from industry. The Armed Forces themselves, while they are giving many men back, are also taking a number of young men out who represent a toll on industry which is new since 1939. Next year there will be a further offset through the withdrawal of juveniles between 14 and 15 years old That, of course, is an investment for the future, but it all adds to the present difficulties of increasing production, which has been urged by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate.
However, very large numbers of men and women and factories and other premises have been returned to civil production. Some people still seem to imagine that the day after a man is demobilised we should expect to see in the shops some badly wanted article which he has made by some magic means without any allowance for demobilisation leave, recruitment into industry, and training or re-training, not to speak of all the long processes of rebuilding smooth working production teams, retooling factories, refilling pipelines from the works through the wholesaler to the shop counter, and above all re-starting the flow of raw materials from distant lands We must not overlook that although re-armament was reported by the then Government to be well advanced by the time war broke out in 1939, it was another four years before we attained the peak of our war production and for more than half of that period the flow of war output was very small indeed, as I found when I reached the Ministry of Supply in 1940.
So it is not surprising that even now, more than a year after V.J. Day, our productive machine is by no means fully run in to peacetime requirements Some people talk—unhelpfully, I think—as if things were going badly all along the line. That is not so. When I held a Press conference last month on the production drive, I gave many instances of civilian industries which are now producing at or above prewar levels. But, as one would expect, the performance is very uneven. Some industries, such as those producing hardware, hollow-ware and all kinds of electrical equipment. 891 were well placed for reconversion. They had not much retooling to do and they had their labour and materials all ready. They went to it most creditably—[Interruption]—I was not on that point.
§ Mr. Morrison
It is true. That does not divert me from the point I made about price control. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford will do me the honour of reading my speech tomorrow, he will in due course get the point I was making. As I was saying, they went to it most creditably, with the result that the ironmongers' and electricians' shops are well filled—[Interruption]—at a price. On the other hand, the textile industries had a totally different problem. Many of their mills had been requisitioned for other purposes. Their labour forces had been dissipated, and their equipment and labour conditions were badly out of date. Other industries again, such as furniture and motorcars have been badly held back by lack of raw materials. There is nothing peculiar to Britain in these conditions. The Russian building industry, in a land which contains a large part of the world's timber resources, is struggling with acute timber supply difficulties just as we are. The American motorcar industry is much worse hit than ours has been.
I would like to illustrate these problems by the worrying and anxious example of steel. There has been a good deal of criticism over the shortage of steel in this country. But that shortage in its present form is, of course, due to factors which neither the Government nor the British iron and steel industry can control. In all probability effective home demand alone—without taking exports into account at all—could be put at about 16 million ingot tons of steel a year. We have never used that much steel in any year either in war or peace. The production of sheet steel is actually at record prewar level. Total home steel production so far during 1946 has been running at about 12.7 million tons a year. We had planned to supplement this home production, as we did during the war. by substantial imports. We have been unable, however, to get more than half a million tons at the outside this year because, contrary to expectation, the huge American steel industry, which, unlike ours, was 892 greatly expanded during the war, is proving even more unequal than ours to coping with its home demand. The American automobile industry recently reported that it was obtaining only 50 per cent. of its requirements, and the United States Government had to reimpose their wartime Government priority system for steel from the beginning of October, and to limit exports. So, although the United States production is running at about 80 million tons a year compared with a maximum before the war of 51 million tons, we are unable to get effective help from them in bridging our gap.
I understand that one of the great Ford factories has had to close down for the time being. Australia and South Africa are going through much the same experience in relation to iron and steel, and much the same applies to Canada, where strikes have reduced production; while the difficulties of the European steel industries are well known.
The Government, in the circumstances, are doing all they can to help the industry by preferential treatment over coal, by subsidies for the use of marginal capacity and for abnormal transport movements to enable the fullest use to be made of productive capacity, and by other measures, such as assistance in manning up the under-manned sections of the industry, including iron foundries and the older sheet and tinplate mills.
As I explained, the disappointing quantity of steel supplies has been mainly due to imports not being available to us. The Government have machinery to ensure the fairest possible distribution of all available steel supplies in the best interests of the national economy, but this rationing is much more difficult than in war-time because of the great variety of industrial demand and the wide variety of kinds and forms of steel which play an essential part in the long range plans of so many different industries. Steel exports have been brought down to rock bottom.
The general rule applied is that no steel will be exported at present, except in cases where failure to export would injure the wider interests of the United Kingdom's economy. New steel-making capacity would be impoverished otherwise, as the House will understand. Complete new steel plants take, at least, from two to three years to build. It is 893 the duty of the newly established Iron and Steel Board to cope with developments, and the Government will give them all possible support in doing so. Many schemes have already been approved and are actually in execution, but the six-year gap in the development of the industry cannot be made good in a short time. There have, necessarily, been great dislocations and great time lags in getting the flow of goods through to the home consumers and to the export markets. These time lags, however, have been less than those experienced in turning over to war production, and the dislocations have been nothing like as severe as those being suffered by both Canada and the United States, for example.
Too little credit, I think, has been given for the pace which has been successfully maintained in the development of our industry. Too little credit has been given, perhaps, for the state of peace which has been maintained, as well as the pace, in British industry. Both sides are fully entitled to their share of credit for the high degree of peace which has been maintained in industry. It is true that there have been some annoying unofficial disputes, but taking our state of industry by and large, and the great transformations that have had to take place, it is an extraordinary tribute to the good sense of both employers and trade union leaders that there has been so little disturbance in the industrial world. Despite all these strains, peace has been achieved by the efforts of the trade unions and the employers, and of the Government themselves, including, if I may say so, the efforts and diplomacy of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.
While the war has destroyed or worn out so much of our capital at home, and taken from us so much of our wealth overseas, it has not left us with more modest demands on our more straitened circumstances. On the contrary, whether we think of our national requirements in terms of consumer demands or in terms of social services, health services, education, or new plant, and equipment for industry itself, not to speak of overseas relief and political and military commitments, we find that, wherever we look, our national expectations, and ideas of what we need, have expanded even more than our capacity to meet requirements has shrunk. It is, in a way, one of the inevitable conse- 894 quences of full employment that there should be expansion of demand, and it is welcome that there should be that expansion of effective demand; but, inevitably, the demands present us with headaches and problems in this period of stringency at the present time. It would be a big task merely to make good all the destruction and omissions of the war period, but that is only a small part of what the nation expects. What is expected is, that we should not only make up for the destruction and neglect of the war, but, also, that we should make good all that was not done during the inter-war period, and even the omissions of the years before 1914. If we take the Development Areas, for example, or the coalmining and cotton industries, everyone knows that the big deficiencies at these points are the results of not modernising, and of not investing new capital in the right way, for decades past. We are accumulating, in part, the results of decades of neglect and deterioration.
§ Mr. Morrison
And now we have to do it in double quick time, while overcoming the natural result—the bitterness and frustration due to chronic mass unemployment.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
The right hon. Gentleman is including the cotton industry in his line of argument. He cannot have looked at the working party's report on the cotton industry, for which he is partially responsible. It says:The trouble with the cotton industry in the inter-war years was primarily due to the impact of external shocks with which no industry, however efficient, by its own efforts could have coped.
§ Mr. Morrison
Credit should belong where it is due, and the credit for the appointment of the working party belongs entirely to my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Morrison
The working party writes its own report; and, certainly, among other things, one of the problems of the cotton industry, and of a number of other industries, is the problem of international competition. There have been, in fact, so many inquiries into the cotton industry 895 that we are all getting a bit weary of them; and that is why my right hon. and learned Friend is bringing in a Bill to enable that working party's report to be implemented, among others.
§ Mr. Morrison
But it is true that the equipment of the British cotton industry—and it is admitted by the industry itself, I think—is a very serious matter. It is not what they would like it to be; and the same is true of a number of other industries. Now, no peacetime Government of this country have ever before provided national machinery to help in increasing production. The Government are providing national machinery for assisting and increasing production. We have, as I have shown already, provided much of the necessary basis for increased production by the smooth and efficient demobilisation of the forces; by freeing factory space; by maintaining a stable cost of living; by making possible industrial peace; and by the utmost practical removal of economic controls, particularly in manpower, the export industries, and of those raw materials which are in adequate supply. We are also creating new constitutional administrative machinery to assist production.
I have already touched on the Government's economic survey and planning work, and the coming economic White Paper. In addition, the Minister- of Labour has reconstituted the National Joint Advisory Council. This body is showing very great promise. It includes representatives of the Employers' Confederation, and of the Trades Union Congress; and Ministers of the Crown regularly attend the meetings. We are conveying to the Council all the necessary information on economic facts and economic progress, and the result is that both the employers and the workpeople, in consultation with the Government, are increasingly getting economic knowledge and a background, which is of the utmost assistance to them in seeing to it that their own negotiations and relations are developed to the maximum degree in accordance with the national interest. We are making of this body an active and vital top-level body for consultation between organised labour, organised employers, and the Government, on all matters affect- 896 ing the economic background in the relations between employers and employed. We hope that, before long, this National Joint Advisory Council will be playing a decisive part in ensuring that the Government and both sides of industry march together in furthering clearly understood and agreed aims in the common interest of workers and employers.
Apart from the relations between employers and employed, there is a wide sphere of problems affecting managements and workers which is covered by the National Production Advisory Council on Industry, under my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade. This Council includes representatives of managements and workers, together with the chairmen of the regional boards for industry covering the whole country. Those regional boards have a big future before them, in our opinion; they are bodies which know the conditions and problems of industry in each region, and each represents both sides of industry and the Government in the regions under an independent chairman in each case. We are arranging to improve the two-way contact between the regions and the Government through the regional boards, and to give them the material assistance they need for the purposes of the production drive.
The production drive, as the House will recall, started with the Debate of 27th and 28th February last, and with a national broadcast by the Prime Minister on 3rd March. Its first phase consisted of a series of meetings between Ministers and representatives of both sides of industry, at which there was a valuable interchange of views, and the general proposition that standards of living depend on production, and that, therefore, production must be increased, was agreed all round. At the next stage, the message was broadcast more widely and in rather more concrete form, particularly through the posters which are now up all over the country and in factories, and also through the excellent short film from the Central Office of Information which is now being shown in cinemas. If desired, I will get this film, and other films of an economic character, shown to hon. Members of the House. There have also, of course, been many meetings, Press conferences, and so forth, and a leaflet has 897 been issued which has been circulated to all Members of the House and widespread throughout the country.
The Government regard what has so fax been done as merely the laying of the foundations for the more intensive production drive that is still to come. This further drive must be specific and concrete. It must deal with the problems of industry, industry by industry, and region by region. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power has already launched his publicity campaign. [Laughter] That laughter shows a spirit of scorn which is really not in the national interest. It is that spirit of scorn which almost expresses a hope that this production drive will fail. It is a manifestation of irresponsibility and is really to be deplored. [Interruption.] I say again that it is exactly that spirit to which I referred earlier when I said that it is not enough for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington to indicate the desirability of all parties helping in the production drive. It is important that they should do it, and not merely sit and sneer at the efforts which the production drive is seeking to make. I repeat that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power has already launched his publicity campaign for production in the coal mines, and the results, so far as can yet be seen, are encouraging.
The Government will increasingly assist industry in all appropriate ways to raise production, but do not let us forget that raising production is, primarily, a responsibility of both sides of industry itself, and that it is just as important for managers and workers to do their part as for the Government to do theirs. It is a poor service to democracy to talk in one breath about too much Government control and nationalisation and, in the next, to speak as if the Government were directly responsible for every shirt that is not produced. The Opposition Amendment suggests that nationalisation must confuse and retard recovery. Where is the evidence of this? No evidence has been produced; I have listened most carefully—and if I may say so, most courteously—to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley and he did not produce evidence that industry is being retarded by the socialisation of certain basic and key industries. Indeed, the Government themselves have taken the 898 greatest care to avoid giving any reasonable ground for confusion. It is not true to say that the Government are leaving industry in a state of confusion and uncertainty as to the industries which will be nationalised. In a statement made on 19th November, 1945, I indicated, on behalf of the Government, the scope of the nationalisation plans to be put into effect during the present Parliament. That was done for the precise purpose of removing any uncertainty in the industrial world.
§ Mr. Morrison
Most of the statements on steel have been made at the request of the Opposition. Transport and electricity, which were mentioned in the Gracious Speech, were included in the programme which I announced in November, 1945. That statement said that the position of the iron and steel industry was still under consideration, and when the Government had made up their minds as to the general lines and intentions about this, a statement was promptly made by the Minister of Supply, on 17th April, 1946. Now it is said that the details of the iron and steel proposals ought to be available. I made the statement of principle and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply made a statement in some degree of detail, but it is clearly not appropriate that further details should be given until the Bill is produced. It is extraordinary how many people, not only on the Right but some innccent people on the Left, are walking about assuming that there will not be a Bill for public ownership of the iron and steel industry. I would like to assure everybody, from the far Left to the far Right, that the Bill is coming all right. The iron and steel industry will be dealt with in accordance with the principles and the policy we set out in "Let us Face the Future" at the General Election. I say that, because it seems to me a great pity that some newspapers and politicians of the Right should be under the delusion that the Government have retreated from their position on iron and steel. We have not done so and we do not propose to do so. [An HON. MEMBER: "You have got the wind up."] We have not got the wind up; we are going on. It is the Opposition who have the wind up.
899 Where there has been any uncertainty as to the Government's intentions, wherever it manifested itself, specific statements have been made—as in the case of the cotton industry, which the President of the Board of Trade explained at the opening of the last Session, was not to be nationalised. My statement on 19th November, 1945, said specifically that it was not proposed to nationalise the shipping industry, and in reply to supplemen-taries I explained that it was not proposed to nationalise coastwise shipping. The Government have, therefore, done everything in their power to explain with precision the scope of their nationalisation proposals, and there is no justification for any allegation that the Government are leaving industry in a state of uncertainty on this score. Never were a Government more considerate, honest and forthright about their intentions in this sphere.
In coal, large-scale rationalisation of the mines was long overdue. Surely it must be admitted that nationalisation was the only practicable means of achieving it. Everything else had been tried; private enterprise, the State control of 1914–1918, the State control of the late war, and other efforts, and in the end you could not get technical consolidation and progress in that industry except by public enterprise and public ownership. Coalmining was the most conspicuous instance of the failure of management to keep the confidence of workers and to create a spirit of effective team work. The new Board is again the only practical approach. It is really visionary and dogmatic to imagine that the mine owners, in view of their past, could ever have done it, even if they had seriously wanted to do it.
In electricity, public ownership again is a question of practical commonsense. It is, in my judgment, the most simple, the most straightforward and complete case for public ownership. I cannot conceive that it will do other than improve the condition of that industry and the service to the nation. We ought to give a better electricity supply to the rural and sparsely populated areas, which either cannot get it, or in many cases have it at very great cost. The Conservatives were forced to set up the Central Electricity Board, and its grid, without which we might have lost the war. They did it because, in their judgment, they could not leave the generating side of the industry where it 900 was. I am perfectly certain that the Conservative Government would not have faced all the trouble they had to face, with the vested interests on the back benches and the opposition of reactionary and vested interests in the industry, had they not felt that they were forced to do it. They had a lot of trouble about it, so much so that the Minister of Transport of the day had to be supplemented by the then Attorney-General. If I may say so, the father of the hon. Member for Oxford conducted the Bill with very great ability.
In gas, the case for public ownership was made most effectively by a Committee on the reorganisation of the gas industry appointed by the Coalition, under the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George). The leading transport authorities agreed that we could not leave the transport industry where it was, and the only question which has ensued is whether the railway companies and the road haulage people shall come to an arrangement among themselves, which means agreement as to haulages and so on, and whether in fact there shall be a private monopoly, or whether, as was proposed in the Report, in five years the State should step in and do the job. We think that if there is to be a great monopoly, it is better to have a public than a private monopoly. As regards iron and steel, a large amount of capital must be spent on iron and steel, and it is important that it shall be economically raised. We believe that this industry has only been raised from its shocking state of inefficiency 15 years ago by repeated public assistance and favours in the forms of tariffs, and that when an industry gets into that state, and it is a basic industry like iron and steel, there is a great deal to be said for the State coming in and tidying it up.
The Government nationalisation of industry is not an obstacle, or a source of confusion. There is no confusion in industry consequent upon this nationalisation policy. It is being carried through in an orderly and constructive manner, and with' remarkable smoothness, and that will be the spirit of the nationalisation policy. Our belief is that we can only get through this period of transition, if we have suitable economic controls, relaxing them as and when we can, if we stimulate production in cooperation with private enterprise and labour, if we assist in the better organisation of 901 private enterprise industry, as is being done by my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade, and if we couple with that the socialisation of industries which are basic, and which are essential for the well being of all other industries. Therefore, I submit to the House that the policy of the Government over the whole field, is a coordinated policy, a tidy policy and a constructive policy, which is in the interests of the nation, and that the Amendment ought to be rejected.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
I rise to support the Amendment so well proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), whose exposition of the subject will I hope, go down as the classical Conservative approach to the problems with which it is concerned. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat was a little over-anxious to disclaim the charge that the Labour Party had been guilty of offering the people Utopia. I thought that his selective readings from "Let Us Face The Future" were perhaps a little too carefully chosen. I do not happen to have my copy of "Let Us Face The Future" with me, although I do not usually go far without it. It so happens that I have in my hand a document, written by some relative of the Minister of Food as recently as 1944. I am glad to say that what he wrote there confirms to a great degree what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. I find that on page 77 of the booklet—[HON. MEMBERS: "What is the name?"]—It has the curious title of "Why you should be a Socialist," and the author is described—it is no doubt a pseudonym—as"John Strachey, "who I suppose is a distant relative of the present Minister of Food. On page 77, I read these words:Socialism is not Utopia. Socialism can only abolish poverty, war and insecurity from the face of the earth.Hon. Members are entitled to claim that they did not offer Utopia, but they might have a little sympathy with most of us who have some grounds for the assertion that they were promising a great deal more than any Government could reasonably expect to perform. The right hon. Gentleman next twitted my right hon. 902 Friend for what he claimed was an inconsistency in his public attitude. 1 do not myself attach the same great importance to literal consistency as some Members of this House, but I do ask, "Who is the right hon. Gentleman to claim consistency in politics?" I am compelled to say what I would not otherwise have said if it were not for the fact that the right hon. Gentleman threw out this taunt to my right hon. Friend. Who is he to talk about consistency, when during this week 53 members of his own party have complained because he has overcome his well-known long-felt and publicly proclaimed antipathy to compulsory military service, and has presided as a member of the inner council of a Government, which for the first time in peace has produced that principle? Who is the right hon. Gentleman to complain about consistency, when he has as his colleague the Minister of Supply, who launched his political career at East Fulham as the declared enemy of increased armaments when Hitler was in being, and now that Hitler is destroyed presides over a great supply Department of warlike production? Who is he to talk about consistency when we remember the quotation to which my right hon. Friend himself referred earlier in the Debate, from the Minister of Health, who, as recently as 1945, proclaimed that exports were "only a twist of the Tory mind"? The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health said:By some twist of the Tory mind it is good' trade to persuade someone in a remote part of the world to buy our goods, but ruinous to allow the same goods to be consumed by our own people.What is this talk of consistency from Members opposite? No one could be more sorry than myself to complain of the inconsistency of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, because "There is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repenteth than over all the legions of the blessed." I can only proclaim my sorrow that their Election prospectus, which dealt with foreign policy, friendship with Russia, a revolutionary change in our attitude to Greece, intervention in Spain, and restoration to the Jews of Palestine, did not survive the cold scrutiny of official responsibility. I rejoice that the party opposite, and the Leader of the House in particular, did not permit themselves to cling to their dangerous delusions 903 for one instant longer than was necessary to raise them to the pinnacle of power. If there be some—and they are already beginning to appear on the benches opposite—who are saying, in public, what they have long been proclaiming in the secret conclaves of their party, that this long series of abandonments of principle by the right hon. Gentleman, however powerful the public arguments and support which they may adduce—and powerful they are—that renders a Labour Government nothing more than organised hypocrisy. I have some sympathy for the error, and do not dissent from their conclusion.
This Amendment appears to me to illustrate the point as well as any other subject. The right hon. Gentleman did not complain that we concentrated on problems of production, because the economic difficulties of the country are among our most pressing problems. But where will that argument lead the party opposite? They have found that in the realms of foreign policy the cold facts of the situation demanded the same policy which had been put forward by a Conservative Government, and only too shortly will they find, indeed they are already beginning to discover, that problems of the home front, the home situation, are only patient of a Conservative interpretation. If we criticise the Government, as we do in this Amendment, it is not simply that we detest their principles, and that we have any doubt as to their administrative incompetence. It is because we believe that the party of which we on this side are Members have something better to offer, something which Members opposite are themselves striving for, but which, because of the idiosyncrasies and inhibitions by which they are befuddled, they are prevented from attaining. If there be any measure of agreement in the House at all I should have thought that it would have been summed up in three principles, all of which can be found in the Amendment, none of which, so far as I know, can be denied to be necessary, and for all of which support can be found in some of the speeches of the Government. I refer to the three principles of national unity, freedom, and production of abundance as a means of combating shortage. The right hon. Gentleman will not deny that these are among the established aims of His Majesty's Government, but they 904 are Conservative principles, and can be achieved only by a Conservative Administration.
Let me deal with these points in order. First, the principle of national unity. I do not claim, and, I hope, no one would claim, that any one party has a monopoly of public spirit in this country. That would be a false and unworthy doctrine, and I believe that no country could long survive in which such a monopoly was ever enjoyed by a single faction. But I claim with complete confidence that the principle of national unity is, and always has been, a distinctively Conservative political doctrine, and that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends, having broken that national unity, prior to the Election, now call pitifully, but in vain, for the spirit of Dunkirk which they themselves destroyed [An HON. MEMBER: "What is national unity?"] An hon. Gentleman asks me what is national unity, and I can tell him. I am not anxious to misrepresent or traduce the party opposite because if I did so I should fail in the purpose which I have. But I think the truth is this: All honourable parties—and Members opposite have every right to be as proud of theirs as I am of mine—have certain principles and outlook on which they seek to base their inspiration, and draw the programme which constitutes their policy I do not think I am unfair to the Labour Party when I say that the things on which they have based their inspiration and principles, on which they have stood as the basis of their policy, have been, on the whole, the differences and injustices which exist in society, and which have always existed. But the principle on which the Conservative Party has always been based, on which it has always stood to found its national policy, is the ultimate identity of interest of all classes among our fellow countrymen, their profound similarity of outlook, the common dangers and difficulties which they have shared, and with which they are still confronted, and the necessity of unity as a means of meeting them together. The nation, not the so-called class struggle, is therefore at the base of Conservative political thinking. Harmony, not conflict, is its ruling objective. The health, security and prosperity of all classes is its first guiding political principle. I hope that that answers the question I have been asked.
§ Mr. John Lewis (Bolton)
Why did not the hon. Gentleman's party apply that in the years between the wars?
§ Mr. Hogg
The country is getting a little "tired of the argument that two wrongs make a right. Hon. Gentlemen have subsisted for nearly 18 months by telling the country that it does not matter how big a muddle they are making of things now because, for 20 years, the Tories made a bigger muddle. The country is entitled to a better argument than" You're another"; it is entitled to demand that the Government should found their policy on principles and measures which will stand scrutiny on their own merits and should not seek to hide behind the real or supposed shortcomings of its opponents.
The General Election of 1945 was fought on the principle of whether national unity should be preserved. Our manifesto, which was based on the great series of White Papers produced by the Coalition Government formed a practical programme which would have filled Parliamentary time for the space of a full Parliament. Members opposite rejected that manifesto and programme. They held with persuasive reasoning, which could be powerfully put forward on the platform, that such a programme could not be carried into effect until fundamental disagreements, on which men of honour and principle are undoubtedly bound to differ at the present time, had been thrashed out, and the will of one imposed on the will of the other. They won the election and they are bound to carry that principle of national disunity and a party programme to its logical conclusion. That they are doing. But to win an election is not quite the same thing as being proved right. Everything which has happened in the history of our country since 1945 has been a mere commentary upon the proposition that the policy of the highest common factor of agreement was right, and the policy of the lowest common multiple of dissension was wrong.
I turn to the second of the principles—that of freedom. There are many Members on my side of the House who find it difficult to believe that a real love of freedom exists in the party opposite. But I prefer to take hon. Gentlemen opposite at their word and to believe that, although their policy is best calculated to suppress the liberties of this country, they sincerely 906 desire, none the less, to retain them. Therefore, I suggest that we should now consider which of the two parties is most likely to give us what we both deem to be good. Hon. Gentlemen have suggested that perhaps the definition of freedom was to blame. What is freedom? Philosophers and politicians may have their different definitions and, for all I know, they may be right, but to me the meaning of political freedom is nothing short of this—diffusion of political power. All power tends to corrupt, absolute power to corrupt absolutely, and it follows that if power is not to be abused it must be spread as widely as possible throughout the community. We, in Britain, have always believed in the strength of the Central Government and largely under the influence of Conservatives in the past have deemed that the rule of law shall prevail over self-interest. But it would be a very evil day for Britain and for democracy if all power in this country came to be concentrated in the hands of the political executive. Where you have diffusion of power, there you have freedom; where you have concentration of power in the hands of a single group, freedom is at an end. You need no Gestapo because you have achieved dictatorship.
There are some people who say—I believe that there was an interruption to that effect from below the gangway—that it is not enough to have political freedom; that you must have economic freedom. Economic democracy as well. I agree with that proposition, but what do we mean by economic democracy? I think that is not a difficult definition. If political freedom means the sharing and diffusion of political power, so economic freedom and economic democracy mean the sharing of economic power—that is of property—as widely as possible throughout the community. We desire to see political power and economic power properly shared throughout the community. That is the ideal of a property owning democracy put forward by my right hon. Friend in his speech at Black pool. We wish to see power shared by individuals, and we want to see it shared by groups. We are glad to see it shared by trade unions, so long as they are not subservient to the interests of a single political party or ambitious to control the whole machinery of the State. We wish to see it shared by traders, cooperatives, 907 and trading corporations. We wish to see it shared by local authorities. But above all we wish to see the family a centre of power enjoying its own franchises and prerogatives and occupying its own position as the foundation of civilised society. Here again, the party of which I am a member is at, variance with the Government. What is the policy of His Majesty's Government? Is it not simply this, that greater and greater concentration of power in fewer and still fewer hands, ultimately in the hands of that little band of men, whoever they may be, who manipulate the policy of the Labour Party, and through it the policy of the State? No one pretends that the present distribution of power in this country is perfect. It has never been perfect, perhaps it never will be, but it is our duty to try continually to improve it. The deliberate policy of concentrating more and more power into the hands of the executive of the State is a remedy far worse than the disease. I believe that I am right in saying that never since Cromwell or Henry the Eighth held in the hollow of their hands the whole power of Church and State has there been such a formidable concentration of power as there is in the Labour Government at the present moment. They enjoy a dominant, self satisfied and, at times, arrogant majority in this House, pursuing a policy which they have arrived at outside the House of Commons at their party conferences. The Labour Party now control the largest number of local councils and local authorities all working to do the will of the bureaucracy in Transport House. On the Trades Union Congress and the Cooperative Societies, a small well disciplined minority, dominate a large part of the industrial field. Their proclaimed political aim is to seek to capture one by one through legislative means the great trades and industries of this country. If there be one malady which has sent democracy to its ruin in one country after another, it is the power of an organised minority to dominate the unorganised majority. Let them remember that they still are a minority.
I turn now to the third of the three principles—production for abundance as the means of ending shortage. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of scarcity economics. Sir, Socialism is scarcity economics. Conservatism sees in 908 Socialism a squalid struggle for ever-diminishing shares of a rapidly disappearing cake. They believe that no good can come of such a struggle, and foresee for it nothing but disaster. at home, and weakness and dishonour abroad. We seek to make a determined cooperative effort to secure adequate shares for all in a constantly expanding economy. We condemn Socialism in peacetime for the same reason that we acquiesced in Socialist Measures in wartime. I think that my right hon. Friend proclaimed that the object in wartime is equal sharing of burdens, hardships and privations, but our first object in peace should be the abolition of hardship and privations by the provision of an opportunity of fair trading for all and of a fair standard of living for all. We believe that the only method of achieving this is the philosophy of expansion based on encouragement and incentive, and not the philosophy of restriction based on prohibition, punishment and control.
Some months ago the "Daily Herald" produced a cartoon and on it was the picture of the present Prime Minister nailing his colours to the mast of a raft. On that flag was inscribed the device "A fair share for all." A fair share for all is a fine slogan for shipwrecked mariners on a desert island, faced with ever-diminishing stores which it is beyond their capacity to replenish. But I can think of a better slogan for a proud industrial nation which, twice in a lifetime, has saved, by its effort and by its example, itself and the whole world from tyranny and disaster. Instead of "A fair share for all in a constantly diminishing economy," it is "An adequate share for all, enough for all, abundance for all, in a constantly expanding economy."
I had hoped to conclude what I had to say with a fairly careful summary of what I conceive would have been the policy of a Conservative Government during the last 18 months. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] Hon. Members ask me to go on; it is most kind of them, and perhaps I shall. It is, obviously, true that the policy of any Government faced with the situation with which this Government has been faced for the last 18 months would have contained certain broad similarities of principle. For instance, both great parties in the State were committed to a comprehensive Measure of national insurance, based on the Coalition Government's 909 White Paper, and drawing its inspiration ultimately from the Beveridge Report. But I do not think a Conservative Government would have prevented the friendly societies and other voluntary bodies from playing their part in the administration of the new scheme. It would have been perfectly possible, and a great convenience, to permit the citizen, if he so desired, to appoint someone else, be it trade union, friendly society, bank, solicitor or accountant to manage his case."
Secondly, both great parties were committed to a great Measure to replace the present panel system by a National Health Service designed to afford to all, irrespective of means, the best medical attention which could be provided. But I do not think that a Conservative Minister would have followed the example of the present Minister of Health in deliberately antagonising all the three main organisms through which such a scheme could be carried into effect, antagonising at the same time the medical profession, the great voluntary hospitals, and the local authorities. I think that. a Conservative scheme would have pursued much the same policy as was embodied in the Education Act of my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), using the existing machinery, leaving with local authorities a free responsibility and a great measure of freedom of policy, and welding the whole into a general plan in which general standards were enforced, but in which diversity and variety were retained.
Both great parties, of course, must have produced a policy for housing. No responsible statesman on either side of the House could fail to make housing one of the main planks in his programme. But we had before the war, and we have available now, two great organisations for the production of houses. It is not our case that one is much better than the other. They are both very good. Our case is that one is much bigger than the other. I do not think a Conservative Government would have followed the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health of trying to force the entire housing programme through the bottleneck of one of those organisations rather than the other. [HON. MEMBERS: "What is the other?"] It is private enterprise. There is private enterprise, and there are the local authorities. I thought I had made myself plain, but I am obliged to hon. 910 Gentlemen for giving me the opportunity to do so. There would have been a policy for trade and industry. Both parties must have had a policy for increased production.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain to the House how it is that private enterprise is not able to work in the building of houses under the Government's scheme? Is it not a fact that private enterprise is able to do so, provided it is prepared to build houses to let and not for sale?
I think that is a question which the hon. Member might put to his right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, but my answer is that the right hon. Gentleman will not let them. A Conservative Government would have had a policy for coal, inland transport, gas and electricity, and iron and steel, but the Conservative schemes would have been based primarily on technical rather than on political considerations. In the coal industry, for instance, a Conservative Government would have seen to it that, the recqmmendations of the Reid Report were carried out, which has not been done. For electricity there would have been a target for expansion, and for gas there would have been interconnection and standardisation. But in each case the emphasis would have been laid on production rather than on control, on policy rather than on structure and ownership, and on whether a particular industrial organisation worked, in the sense Of providing the public with adequate service rather than whether it embodied a particular set of political ideas.
Both Governments would have had to cope with shortages, and in the first place, of course, such shortages would have had to be dealt with by a Conservative Government, no less than by a Socialist Government, by more or less severe rationing and control, but in the case of a Conservative Government the main aim of policy would have been to end the shortages by increasing production, by encouraging production through offering adequate incentives, and not by decreasing consumption and by imposing punishments and restrictions.
I think I have said enough to show that the basis of criticism which we offer tonight is not simply a negative or destructive hatred of Socialist principle, although we do not pretend either to like 911 Socialist principle or to wish to retain it. Our duty is clear. It is to proclaim a return to a policy based on national unity, the highest common factor of agreement, and not the lowest common multiple of dissension, a policy based upon concentration on the many points on which men of good will in all parts of the country are agreed, and not upon concentration on the few points on which they must necessarily differ. It is to proclaim a return to common sense, a return to moderation as a political principle, and the abandonment of a policy based simply on ideological considerations. It is because of this that we believe that the ultimate message of Conservatism at the present time is one of hope.
For seven long years now our great people have undergone suffering, privation and danger. [interruption.] This is the Dunkirk spirit for which Government supporters ask. For seven years, now, our people have been undergoing these miseries, sometimes alone, sometimes in good company but always with good courage. Yet all the time, I believe, they have nurtured and nourished in their hearts the hope of something better coming after. Our condemnation of Socialism consists in this, that it sentences our valorous people to an indefinite continuance of their suffering. By our own policy, I believe we can point the way to something better to which we can win through together. And so it will be that the Conservative Party will face the future with high courage and a clear conscience, knowing that these are assets which cannot be wrested from the weakest of our number even by the most formidable of antagonists.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Major Cecil Poole (Lichfield)
I feel sure that the House will not expect me to rise to the amazing heights of the oratory to which we have listened for the last 40 minutes. I venture to suggest that' seldom has this House listened to such riotous, reckless ranting as that to which we have been treated. It now seems that we are also to be treated to the croaking of the noble Lord the 'Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). However irrelevant and imaginary and in many cases absurd were the suggestions of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), the House listened to what he had to say with very great pleasure.
§ Major Poole
The noble Lord asks me how many listened in silence. The answer is that he did not, because he was not in the Chamber. As I was saying, we listened to that speech with very great pleasure, but I doubt whether our pleasure, was anything compared with the personal joy of the hon. Member for Oxford in his own magnificent piece of oratory. Probably he got a great deal more pleasure out of it than the House did. I do not as I say intend to follow him, but he did ask one question, to which he ought to know the answer. He posed this question: What is this consistency of which the Leader of the House has 'been speaking? I think that after the dismal series of by-election losses culminating in the episode of yesterday, the Tory Party ought to know what consistency really is. They have consistently managed to lose every by-election since the General Election and they are, of course, going to lose the by-election which is being held today. In fact, I wondered if the hon. Member for Oxford had not made a mistake and got the notes which be had prepared for his Paddington by-election speech, mixed up with the notes for his speech here today.
He spoke about three principles underlying the Amendment, and after dealing with these, I will leave his speech. One was with freedom, and he tried to show that the Tory Party had always been in the forefront in the application of freedom. Many of us remember that the only freedom the Tory Party conferred upon countless thousands in this country in the thirties was the freedom to starve. That was their contribution to the unity and good will of the people of this country. I will say this. I agree with him when he says that it is not good enough and it never will be good enough for this party to blame any of its failures on the fact that the Tory Party failed after the last war. [An HON. MEMBER: Get on with it."] 1 will get on with it in good time, and I will not take as much time as Members on the opposite side have taken. The Tory Party's claim falls into two categories. They say that in the Gracious Speech there are no practical proposals to unite His Majesty's subjects in a national effort for increased production; and, secondly, they say that the Govern- 913 ment propose on the contrary further measures of nationalisation which must confuse and retard the recovery of the nation. I should like to deal briefly with those two points, because they are very pleasant points for us on this side of the House to discuss. Here, again, I think we have complete evidence of the muddled thinking of the party which occupies the Opposition benches. It is this muddled thinking that has placed the Tory Party on the Opposition benches rather than on the Government benches. It is because of the inability of hon. Members opposite to understand the mentality of the people that they are where they are. The two proposals I have indicated are completely contradictory. It is because in the nationalisation proposals of the Government today, the people for the first time realise that they have a real share in industry, that they are united and going forward in a magnificent production effort If hon. Members opposite have any doubt about the unity of the people, may I point out to them that these people are continuously united enough to reject all the Tory quack remedies put before them during the last 18 months? How do they propose to unite the people of this country? What are their practical proposals? If we are to judge from their election propaganda, first they want the removal of most controls, and, secondly, the introduction of unrestricted private enterprise. We have seen the great virtues of this policy in the last few weeks in the United States of America, and if such a policy were brought to fruition here, the people would have the dubious pleasure of paying 7s. 6d. per pound for their butter and 6s. 6d. per pound for their beef. Do the Tory Party really think that that would unite the people of this country in a great effort for production?
I come to the second part of this Amendment, which refers to the fact that the Government have now brought further measures of nationalisation before the country. I want to say this. Every nationalisation proposal that the Government has brought forward up to date is is fully justified by the past record of the industry concerned.
§ Major Poole
I am amazed at the hon. and gallant Member's reference to civil 914 aviation. Does he not know of Imperial Airways and that Government subsidies of £1½ million to £3 million a year were given to that industry—
§ Major Poole
—in order that it might compete in the markets of the world, and were used instead to pay dividends, which it did not earn, and reduce the pay packets of the workers?
§ Major Poole
No. I do not want to trespass on the time of the House, but that is an obviously historical fact with which the hon. and gallant Member ought to have been acquainted, for I think he, has been in this House longer than I have. I return to this question of nationalisation from which I was side-tracked. Nationalisation of industry is only justifiable if it can be proved that, under nationalisation an industry can do a job better than it would do it if it were left under private ownership. I would be the last to support the nationalisation of any industry merely for the sake of nationalisation, but of all the proposals for nationalisation mat have been or ever will be brought before this House, I venture to suggest that transport and electricity are the best possible cases that can be provided.
The Lord President of the Council has mentioned electricity and I want to deal with it for a moment. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who moved this Amendment, said that no better results could be obtained under nationalisation, than would be obtained by leaving these things under their present ownership. Does he not know about the countryside and the rural areas of this country neglected for years and years and denied even the smallest of the amenities in this respect enjoyed by the town dweller? Does he know of the country housewife who has none of these facilities to lighten the daily toil of the home or of the farmer who has to go round his outbuildings with a hurricane lamp, and pump, by hand, the necessary water for domestic purposes and the feeding of his stock? That indicates some of the conditions which exist in the countryside today, simply because electricity has been left in the hands of private enterprise, which developed only those 915 areas which it was profitable to develop, and gave supplies only to those places where large profits could be made. Yet the right hon. Gentleman suggests that this thing would be better left in private hands. This, again, is evidence of that completely muddled thinking by the Tory Party which has placed them where they are, and where, I venture to suggest, they are likely to remain as long as I live and I do not hope to die for another 50 years. In the few places in the countryside, as the Lord President said, where electricity has penetrated a premium has been put on its use by very prohibitive charges, and I ask the House: Why should the rural dweller be penalised? Why put a premium on living in the country? We cannot expect to stop the drift from the land by permitting misery and drudgery among the people who live in the country. The only way in which we shall get electricity into the unprofitable areas, and into the single farm house, with its couple of cottages is under a nationalised system in which we shall be able to share the good areas with the bad.
If all this is true of electricity how much more is it true of transport generally, and of the railway industry in particular? While I have no vested interest to disclose to the House in this connection I have had 22 years in railway service, and 6½ years' experience of military movements during the war. It is only because of that experience that I venture to speak on this question of transport today. The latter experience in road, railway, sea, and river transport, both at home and abroad,' has shown me assuredly that the proposals for the nationalisation of transport are fundamentally sound, and that without them industry will be in a very difficult position. That experience did more—it showed me how appallingly defective is the present transport system of this country. The railway companies stand self condemned in almost every department. Go to any of the terminal stations in London; stand there in the gloom and see the lack of imagination in railway architecture. This has nothing to do with Socialism, but-represents the fruits of private enterprise, and the lack of foresight in planning and development. I wander if hon. Members would take a railway map of this great metropolis if they can find one—and look at the railway connections. It would 916 appal them, and I hope to deal with that later.
Evidence of the complete lack of imagination in the management of the railways is to be found in the fact that wagons individually owned by the various companies were back-hauled empty. That persisted for many years until, after a good deal of pressure, the common user system of railway wagons was introduced. Even under that pooling arrangement, on a given selected day each week a fixed quota of wagons belonging, for example, to the Great Western Railway, had to be put over at selected points on to that railway's system—never mind if they had to be brought from Aberdeen for the purpose. Such has been the railway companies intelligent approach to their own problems of management and development, and we still have the private ownership of railway wagons, which leads to their being hauled empty, up and down the line. Again, there was the senseless prewar competition between the rival railway groups, and the closing of the ranks to fight the new menace of the road operators. I am sorry that time does not permit me to sketch the full history of that. Today there is much to be done in the purely physical sense to put right our railway transport system in this country, and when I say "physical sense" I do not refer to the war damage, or even to the lack of maintenance caused by war conditions. So much requires to be done to make the railways efficient that it would not be possible while they remain under private ownership.
Let me return to the consideration of London. I am not a Londoner but I know something of the transport system in the capital. What did we find when we came to test the transport system of London? We found that the railway layout of London was completely incapable of handling the traffic which had to pass through. At every approach to London there are bottlenecks in which wagons are piled up. A classic example, I suppose, is Old Oak Common on the Great Western Railway, where traffic becomes hopelessly congested, until there can be no more physical movement. London is full of places like that. We have the docks of London served almost solely by the North London line. Can the House visualise the whole of the docks of this great river served by that one line? Some of us knew what it meant when we were trying to mount the invasion and—
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is busily abusing our railways, and I have no doubt that he played a very great part in mounting the invasion. But General Eisenhower, who played an even greater part in that invasion, afterwards paid a most glowing tribute to the British railways for their services in the war.
§ Major Poole
I am making no claim to have played any but the most minor part. I did what I was told, like everyone else who served in the Forces. I do not care what General Eisenhower says about our railways. He does not know as much about them as the most humble railway man serving in them. It is an absurd analogy, as I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise when he thinks the matter over. 1 was saying that the whole of the docks of London are served by one line, and across the river we have the Surrey Commercial Docks, which are not rail served at all. Can hon. Members imagine, in these enlightened days, docks which are not rail served? Yet that situation persists today.
There is, of course, one most serious objection here as far as the handling of traffic in this area is concerned. The only link between North and South of the river, unless one goes out as far as Reading in the West, is that narrow stretch, that ribbon, the West London line. Will hon. Members appreciate what that means strategically in time of war, what it means today, and what it may mean on some future occasion? Our invasion areas were Surrey, Sussex and Kent; yet it would have been possible with a few well-directed bombs once a week to deprive the defence forces of those areas of any rail service supplies in continuity. In fact the very measure of attention shown to Kensington, Hammersmith, and places like that was indicative of this. So intelligently were the railways planned that London has only one link for traffic from the North to be brought into the South.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
The hon. and gallant Member has forgotten that the Metropolitan Railway broadened the line from Fenchurch Street which is connected with the North.
§ Major Poole
I have not forgotten anything. I had to work traffic over all those lines and the hon. Gentleman will find that, in both these cases, extreme con- 918 gestion almost precluded military traffic from being worked over them. There is also the question of Woolwich Arsenal. Woolwich Arsenal assumed enormous importance in the war effort, yet every ounce of our heavy gun equipment has to be dribbled right along the Thames and, again, over this North London line into the docks on this side of the river, unless we are able to use the ferry. This system caused serious congestion and the blocking of vital exchange points, and the same situation is arising today. Hon. Members are continually asking why trains are late, and the answer is here. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) is repeatedly asking why railway wagons take 65 and 70 days to go from place to place. The answer is here in our antiquated railway system.' All round our coasts, ships which are urgently needed to export our goods are lying, waiting for material supplies which cannot be got to them because of bottle necks in our transportation system. Traders without goods to sell in their shops are waiting for them, and they are lying in railway yards up and down the country. Exports on the way to our ports are seriously delayed. If hon. Members are concerned with the revival of a prosperous industry in this country, here is the first prerequisite—a sound transport system. Without that, anything we try to do is completely bankrupt.
I have said all this in order to ask what we can do to overcome these extreme difficulties which arose in time of war. I do not argue that everything we had in time of war is of necessity desirable in time of peace, but I feel that we are here on perfectly safe and sure ground. People who knew at first-hand the demand which was arising, who knew the urgency of that demand, knew also the resources at their disposal, and the state of those resources. They had complete and plenary powers to decide how each commodity should move from point A to point B. I ask the House to note that. I ask hon. Members on the other side how it was possible to arrive at that position while the ownership of road undertakings was in the thousand-and-one hands that it is today, while railways had divided ownership and control, and while the docks, the craft that ply on the Thames and all the other transport undertakings, had fingers in the pie? How would they have been able to arrive at a knowledge of the urgent demands, of the 919 resources and of the state of those resources? During the war certain people had that authority, and could divert, select and use alternative means and methods, whether road, rail, inland water, or even air if it was necessary. 1 say advisedly, and I think it would be borne out by all those in high places who had to deal with the mounting of the invasion, that without that overriding authority the invasion of Normandy would never have been accomplished. I see the right hon Member who used to sit for Paddington but now represents Bournemouth—a much more respectable and much safer place, I may say—smiling at what I have said. He really shows appalling ignorance of the problem. Does he not know that for 10 weeks the whole of the West of England area occupied by the American Forces, the area from which their invasion was mounted, was completely closed to all railway traffic?
§ Mr. Bracken
Since the hon. and gallant Member asks me a question, perhaps he will allow me to answer it. Of course I know, but what I was smiling at was that I thought we had come to the days of peace, and that the hon. and gallant Gentleman did not believe in dictatorship. That is what he is apparently recommending now, for the unfortunate people of this country.
§ Major Poole
Again the right hon. Gentleman shows ignorance. What he does not know or realise now is that there is arising now, in the transport field, an even greater tonnage than arose in time of war If it was necessary to have control to carry that tonnage in time of war, how much more necessary it is to have some centralised control now.
§ Major Poole
Well, dictatorship if you like. At any rate, it will be dictatorship in the interests of the people of this country rather than in the interests of the people whom hon. Members opposite seem to desire to help. Few Members are aware of the extent to which Father Thames was used in the mounting of that invasion. Hundreds of thousands of tons of supplies were worked down this river. They were taken off or loaded at most unusual points up the river I would like to pay a very humble tribute here, one which has never 920 been paid in this House, to the bargees and lightermen for the work which they did, and to the dock labourers. One knows what was handled by those men after the fall of Pans, in an attempt to get food to the starving people there.
I pose this question to the House: Could all this have happened under a private competitive system? Do not vested interests always compete for every little bit of traffic that is available? It was always so in peacetime. Efficient transport is the lifeblood of the nation. It is certainly the lifeblood of industry and is one of the greatest assets that any nation can have. Such an efficiency cannot arise from the chaotic conditions of the present day, without a large expenditure of public money, and transport cannot be efficient without overriding direction and control, which the right hon. Gentleman calls dictatorship. The case to me seems unanswerable, but it may be that my assessment of the position is coloured by my upbringing, by my working life, and even by my political views. It may be that for that reason I have taken an extravagant view of the problem. Because of those possibilities I have thought that I ought to fortify myself with other opinions. I have tried to seek wisdom from those who might be expected to think differently. The Lord President of the Council made a reference to what was said away back in 1918. I have forgotten to whom the speech was attributed, whether it was to the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) or not. The quotation which he gave was not quite as good as it might have been. It did not make out the case half as well as a quotation I would like to make. I would quote now from "The Times" of 10th December, 1918, one of the memorable speeches made by the right hon. Member for Woodford in fighting the Election.
§ Major Poole
It may have been quite unusual, but he gave some good advice. It is a very great pity that hon Members opposite have turned their backs on the advice which their present leader was tendering to them 28 years ago. I knew that the Tory Party was a long way back in its thinking but I did not think it was as far back as 1918. Apparently 921 it is. This is what the present Leader of the Opposition said:We have to do something on a bigger scale than ever.Mark you, this was said immediately following the last war. He went on:The three great factors are: land, communications and power, and the three children: food, housing and manufacture.I see now where the Tory Party got its Election slogans from. This language shows a very great similarity. The quotation goes on:So long as the railways are in private hands they may be used for immediate profit. In the hands of the State, however, it might be wise or expedient to run them at a loss, if they developed industry, placed the trader in close contact with his market, and stimulated development. We cannot organise the great questions of land settlement, new industries and the extension of production, unless the State has control of the means of transportation.If I am erring tonight, I am erring in very good company—or in very bad company, but company more enlightened than that in which we are asked to err by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The right hon. Gentleman went further. It almost seems as if, with some foresight, he was able to see what hon. Gentlemen who now sit behind him are going to do tonight. He said:Next to railways comes power.So he, in 1918, 28 years ago, realised how necessary these things are. Some Members of the Opposition say, on this question of road transport—and the whole country is blazoned with placards about it—"Why not have a public inquiry into transport, before you nationalise?" The voice of the right hon. Member for Woodford echoes from the past to hon. Members opposite. He posed that very question. He was asked whether a national inquiry would be instituted before the railways were nationalised. I am again quoting from "The Times." He replied:I cannot say, but I think it highly improbable that action on this vital matter can be delayed until a Royal Commission has wandered about. A mass of information is already available.The situation in 1918 in regard to means of transport was such for the right hon. Member for Woodford, that he could not even wait for a public inquiry into the transport system. We have moved 28 years since then. The Tory Party now tells us first that we should not do this thing, but that if we must do it, we really 922 ought to have a committee of inquiry. I wonder where we are travelling. It was interesting to read the City Notes in "The Times" following the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman. In the issue of 9th December, 1918, that paper said:On the whole, we find railway stockholders view the prospect of Government purchase of their property with relief.There was a Tory Government, and they would have been pleased to be relieved of their stock. I do not know what is the answer of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I feel I have said quite enough. If more is needed, I advise hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to have a look at the Report of the Select Committee on Transport in 1918. That Select Committee took evidence from everyone and decided that State ownership of transport was eminently desirable. The Tory Party is still arguing about it and saying that it is not necessary. Those who support the claims of the road operators to be excluded from nationalisation should note the evidence given by the chairman of the Road Transport Board to that Select Committee. He said:It seems obvious that road transport must be regarded as an integral and effective portion of the whole transport organisation of this country and not as an isolated enterprise.The Government are doing that. They are doing what is right and in the best interests of the country. I am fortified by my own experience in peace and war and by the clearer thinking of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford in his more enlightened days, before he had become so deeply sullied by his association with the party opposite. If the Amendment is taken to a Division, I shall most certainly go into the Lobby against it.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Brigadier Mackeson (Hythe)
The hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield (Major Poole) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the somewhat secondhand strategical lecture he has given to hon. Members on this side of the House, many of whom have some slight knowledge also of troop movements and realise that any railway system is vulnerable to air bombardment. The movement of Allied and our own troops in this country during the war cannot be regarded as anything less than a first-class tribute to those like the hon. and gallant Member who worked 923 as staff officers and also to those who built those lines of communications in the past.
I want to bring the Debate back to the question of production and to the deployment of the available manpower at our disposal. Very recently the House voted on the question of conscription, but the House has not yet given the Government authority to impose conscription, and I believe that hon. Members on this side of the House will require very great evidence before they are convinced of the absolute necessity to enforce conscription before they give the Government those powers. From the facts at our disposal at the moment we believe it necessary and essential, but we have not yet been given in any way an Imperial Manpower budget.
It is not fair, right or democratic that this country should deny to the people of the Colonies the right to defend themselves which they have proved themselves most able to do all over the world during the war. Be that as it may, I am greatly alarmed now that conscription is coming that Service Ministers should be continually absent from this country, with the possible exception of the present Secretary of State for War, who has recently been appointed. A Minister at the head of a Service Department is essential if the Service Estimates and establishments are to be gone through and cut wherever possible. If that is not done, and Service Ministers spend their time abroad, the Government must not be surprised if we are very critical when we come to consider the Service Estimates. It is not, however, in connection with the Services that I wish to put forward a very pressing argument in support of this Amendment.
I am convinced that my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) when he mentioned the question of the non-industrial Civil Service was putting his foot right on the pedal which is braking this country at the moment. We simply cannot afford to keep 670,000 people in the non-industrial Civil Service whereas before the war we had only 375,000. Not only are these people not productively employed, but they are cluttering up the wheels of industry and agriculture. Forms, papers, interference and bureaucracy are one of 924 the courses which have descended on this country with socialism. I ask the right hon. Gentleman who will reply to the Debate how he intends to deploy our manpower. At the moment it is almost impossible to form any estimate of how many civil servants there are to be. The figure has risen to something like 1,750,000 in Government and local government employment. The country cannot afford to carry that as well as the vast numbers of men who will be required in the Armed Forces. Our standard of living will fall and our export trade will crash unless this manpower budget is put right. Another 9,000 people have recently been employed by the Ministry of Food in order not to give us food. There are another 2,000 in the Ministry of Labour and National Service. That may be necessary in view of the importance of resettling ex-Service men. There are another 1,400 in the Ministry of Work; but very little more material is coming out.
Can we have a clear statement by the Government of how our labour forces are to be deployed and how we are to get the maximum number of people productively employed and how we are to keep our Civil Service down? Somehow or other the Minister of Labour must get some grip on this appalling increase in the Civil Service and local government employ, which I regard as one of the more serious menaces facing this country.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the House will allow me, before I call on the next speaker I would point out that up to now—in three hours—we have managed five speakers, and in three hours more, at that rate, we shall only have had five more speakers. There are many who wish to be called, but it is quite impossible for me to call them. All I can say is that hon. Members should not blame the Chair.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
I listened with close attention to the opening remarks of the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who opened for the Opposition, and it seems to me that the Lord President dealt with those remarks most ably. I shall proceed to develop an argument on a subject on which the Lord President himself touched—the steel industry. The Recess announcement by the Ministry of Supply regarding the functions of the interim 925 steel board marked a radical departure from previously announced Government policy. The House will recall that that policy had been to develop the plans for nationalisation side by side with the plans for reconstruction. Announcing the policy, the Minister said thatwe are confident that the industry will not be so foolish or so unpatriotic as to refuse their advice on technical points."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th May, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 851.QFrom that moment I was an interested spectator of the struggle of wills between the Minister of Supply and Steel House, and, as I anticipated, there was quite a degree of difference between the parties as to what was meant by "foolish" and "unpatriotic." Personally, I never had any illusions about the Iron and Steel Federation and felt always that it was best to base our policies on the natural hostility of the industry to the Government's plan, a view which was amply vindicated by Mr. Ellis Hunter, President of the Iron and Steel Federation, in a letter to the Minister. I quote:'The industry cannot associate itself with members-hip of the proposed control board inasmuch as it would be part of the duties of industrial members of the board to give technical guidance and advice as individuals on issues arising in relation to nationalisation.There is no ambiguity about that, and I feel that we should be grateful—forewarned is forearmed. Speaking in the Debate to which I referred, I ventured the view that the Government should set up an advisory body drawn from the technical and managerial levels of the industry and that those men should be free from all other economic ties and offered employment within the framework of the machinery to be set up to run the nationalised industry. I regard this question of independent, unbiassed technical advice as one of profound importance. Acting collectively on behalf of the Government and tendering advice on all aspects of the steel industry, such a body as I envisaged would have been in a position to think and act independently of-ownership. They would have been enabled to think and act solely in terms of the national interest. As it is, we are dependent for this technical advice on precisely the same people who have allowed the industry to become hopelessly out of date in terms of world competitive force. There was at the time of appointment, and is now, no case at all for 926 depending on the word of steel monopolists who, for many years, have constituted a state within the State, meeting in secret and engaging in policies diametrically opposed to the best interests of the nation. About the secrecy: quite recently, a periodical, of international repute and circulation, wrote to Steel House asking for the names of the members of the General Council of the Iron and Steel Federation. The information was refused, and the letter concluded:It is not customary for the names to be divulged.Here we are in a democratic society, in which the members of the new Coal Board are known, the names of the members of the Labour Party Executive are known, the names of the General Council of the trades union movement are known, but we cannot have the names of the governing body of the Iron and Steel Federation. Why this Ku-Klux-Klan-like secrecy? Perhaps somebody on the benches opposite will tell me. We are about to set the pattern of a most important industry for a generation, and the importance of this matter cannot be exaggerated. Steel is the basic raw material of our vast engineering and shipbuilding enterprises, it is the basis of one-third of our exports. To build the ships, to make the machinery to cut the coal, to generate and utilise electricity, to manufacture the tools, cloth, and shoes, to till the land, to reap the corn, to bake the bread—for all those purposes, and many others, steel is essential. In those circumstances, the divorce of the plans for nationalisation from the plans for reconstruction is, in my opinion, a major blunder. The Iron and Steel Federation reconstruction proposals are at best a reflection of the degree of compromise which could be arrived at between the various powerful units which make up the industry. They do not reflect the national need, and until this barbed wire of sectarian interest is removed it is impossible to plan nationally.
From the point of view of the nation, the glaring weakness of the present interim board is the fact that the sole technical and managerial advice comes from the representative of that tainted institution Steel House. Here I come to a matter of some delicacy with regard to the two eminent trade unionists appointed. No one in this House has a higher regard for the magnificent services rendered to the nation in peace and war 927 by trade union general secretaries; they do a man-sized job, and they are, indeed, the most harassed of God's creatures. Yet here are two who are expected not only to discharge their responsibilities to their members, but to find time to play an effective part in the reconstruction of this vitally important industry, which in its initial stages will cost, as we know, £168,000,000. In the light of the magnitude of the task this does seem to be quite fantastic I have said, that I regard this question of independent, unbiassed, skilled managerial and technical advice as most important, and I do so for these among other reasons. When the national Coal Board wants machinery to mechanise and modernise the coal industry, it has to go to an outside agency, the steel industry. But when the steel industry reconstructs itself at a cost of £168,000,000, it allocates the contracts to itself. This, from the point of view of a Socialist Government, is a most dangerous situation, because with nationalisation in the offing and having regard to the record of the gentlemen concerned, what is likely to be their attitude? Will it not be one of getting what they can while they can? During the last iron and steel Debate, I asked the Minister what tenders had been received for the new Brabazon aircraft erection buildings at Filton, Bristol, and what variation there had been in prices, if any. No answer was received during the Debate—I make no complaint about that—but some time after a reply was received by post. Here is what the reply said:The five tenders received were for identical amounts.Identical amounts. Having regard to the vast expenditure on which we are now to embark, the House would do well to reflect upon the significance of that reply. Another example: A lively and progressive engineering concern of my acquaintance invited tenders for 25-ton steel castings required for the building of large presses of up to 1,000 tons. An American firm quoted £62, the English Steel Corporation quoted £95 and the Steel Company of Scotland £134 per ton. This is strictly relevant to the remarks of the Lord President of the Council in his little exchange with the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) this afternoon. Thereafter the English Steel Corporation informed our friends that, 928 although they would be very pleased to carry out this work for £95 per ton, the contract had now been allocated by the Iron and Steel Federation to the Scottish concern at the price of £134 per ton. The House must ask itself the question, if contracts covering reconstruction are to be allocated on this closed shop basis, what sort of fixed capital cost per ingot ton is the State going to inherit when it eventually takes over the industry? This industry could be so burdened with fixed capital costs that it could never be a force in terms of world competition. What would be said then by the enemies of Socialism about the efficiency of State enterprise?
This is a very pertinent question. It seems to me of paramount importance that Parliament should know just how this £168 million is made up. We must have a broken down analysis. We want to know how much is for sites, how much for foundations, how much for buildings, how much for equipment, and how the quoted prices compare with prewar prices, and with American prices. It is not sufficient to wave the hand and say that everybody knows that prices are ahead of prewar prices. We require to know how much each stage of production is increased. For example, the 1936 figure for steel buildings erected was £16 15s. per ton. What was the price per ton of steel, the number of man hours worked, the cost based on the then wage rates, and what are the current comparative figures? In the case of equipment, we require to know how much of the increased price is due to increased cost of metal, wage costs of moulders and fitters and others, how much the increased overheads are and by how much the profit is increased? We require to know, if the cost is up 80 per cent., whether the profits are to be up 80 per cent. Finally, we want to know how these costs compare with current U.S.A. costs for similar foundations, buildings and equipment. The point I wish to stress with all the emphasis at my command is that the State has a vital interest in the future competitive force of the steel industry. Because of this, we must carefully weigh the claims of low costs, at new sites, against the social burdens of changes in location. This Government will always weigh the social consequences of each and everyone of their Acts, but when setting the pattern of an industry so important as this for a generation, we cannot assess 929 social consequences in terms of of three or four years.
I commend the decision to proceed with the South Wales strip mills, but there are certain questions which have to be asked, and I hope there will be answers in the course of the Debate. As I understand it, the cost of the new South Wales mills is in the neighbourhood of £40 million. I trust that we shall have a broken down analysis. The cost of the Ebbw Vale strip mills was £5 million, the new coke ovens, blast furnaces, melting shop and power house cost another £5 million, in all £10 million. I am aware that the new mills have a larger capacity than had Ebbw Vale, but, even so, £40 million- seems a large sum to me, and grotesquely high compared with similar American plants. I have a suggestion to make in regard to the South Wales proposal to which I hope the Government will give close consideration. It is that the Government should immediately nationalise that section of the steel industry concerned with sheeet and tinplate. In all the circumstances, this seems the commonsense thing to do. Almost a quarter of the projected £168 million expenditure is centred on the South Wales proposals. A major operation has to be performed, and, large companies, notably Guest Keen, Richard Thomas, Briton Ferry, John Lysaght and Llanelly Steel have to be merged. Unification of financial, technical and administrative functions has to be arranged. Banks and, one assumes, the ubiquitous insurance companies, will have to be brought into the scheme of things, because of the large amount of capital required. If we marry to the companies I have named the Summers interests and the small, mainly obsolete, plants outside the big companies, the whole of the sheet and tin-plate industries are brought under one head. Having regard to the need for speed and efficiency and, above all, the desirability of eliminating paralysing uncertainty, would not the immediate nationalisation of this section of the industry be a cleaner, simpler, more straightforward job, than that which has been proposed?
Prewar production of sheet and tin-plate was approximately two million tons, equal to three million tons of ingots, roughly a quarter of our ingot steel production. Not less important, this part of the industry accounted for 50 per cent. of our direct steel exports. Except 930 to say that the acceptance of my suggestion would mean the speedier redemption of a political pledge, I do not want to touch upon the political aspects of steel tonight. But it must be understood that to all Socialists the political aspects of steel are at least as important as the economic—[Laughter.]—Hon. Members opposite may laugh: make no mistake, that is how we feel on these benches. It is obvious, even to the uninitiated, that just as our present living standards could not have been achieved without the great steel development of the last century, so a Socialist reorganisation of society depends upon a much more extensive use of steel. In these circumstances, I hope that the Government will give close consideration to the suggestion I have made in regard to South Wales.
§ Mr. Speaker
May I call attention to the remarks I made earlier, and also point out that it is much more interesting if we can have debating speeches, not written speeches?
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Colonel Lancaster (Fylde)
In further-ance of your admonition, Mr. Speaker, I will cut my speech very short. There are only two points I want to make. This is the second occasion in a fortnight upon which this matter of production has been discussed in the House. I have listened very carefully on both occasions, and, quite frankly, there have been only two speeches from the Government benches which seem to me to indicate anything other than complacency with the present position. I consider that note was struck the other day by speeches by the hon. Members for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) and Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). Both approached the problem from somewhat different angles, but it seemed in both cases that they were well aware of what lay ahead of us, and within the bounds of their party allegiance they indicated clearly the road towards which we are heading.
Hon. Members in all parts of the House probably remember the letter which appeared in "The Times" about three weeks ago written by Lord Brand. In that letter he indicated very clearly the situation with which we shall be faced, not this year, nor possibly next year, but within a measurable time. The time of strain will undoubtedly be when the 931 seller's market is coming to an end, and when the resources available under the loans from the United States and Canada are also reaching their completion. In the Government's approach to this problem of production two fundamental mistakes are appearing. I do not for a moment doubt the intentions of the Government Front Bench in regard to this problem, but I am extremely concerned with the actual position at this moment, and the direction in which we are heading. I had intended fortifying my remarks with figures, but in view of the shortness of the time at my disposal, I will indicate two general weaknesses which are showing themselves, and confine myself to that.
It seems to me that if the Government are logically to pursue this general policy of controls and priorities to its inevitable end, they will sooner or later be faced with the necessity for some control in the direction of labour. Bottlenecks are beginning to appear, caused by the inadequacy of labour at particular points. If the free play of supply and demand is not to take its place in this general structure, it is inevitable that the Government should reach a stage where they will have to contemplate that excessively difficult decision, because undoubtedly, from a political angle as well as any other angle, that decision will be most difficult. That is one of the difficulties. The other, to which I will refer briefly, is beginning to show itself in the structure of the only nationalised industry on which we can, even at this early stage, base any conclusions. After all, what have we to judge the Government by? So far as the nationalisation of the banks and communications and matters of that sort are concerned, nothing very much has occurred to enable us to draw any reasonable inferences.
Even in the question of the nationalisation of coal these are obviously early days to formulate conclusions. But certain things are beginning to show themselves. I will, for a few moments, describe them, because it seems to me that the pattern which has been set up in regard to that particular form of nationalisation may well be followed by variations, in other fields. We have recently heard a great deal about planning, as though it were something which had only recently been thought about. Actually it is not something which only occurs at one level; it 932 must occur at every level, every day, if it is to be effective. Planning is a function of administration. But let us look at the composition of the Coal Board. How is it composed? On it are eight or nine very eminent men, but at least six of these men are eminent in a particular technical direction. The only members of that Board who can lay claim to administrative ability on a high level are the chairman and vice-chairman, and, in another capacity, Lord Citrine.
On the shoulders of these three men has the whole administrative onus of directing the initial steps of this immense industry fallen, and with what result? It is now four or five months since the setting up of that Board. Not a single direction has been issued by that Board to the existing managements by which they can attune their present policy to enable that Board to take over effectively at the vesting date. What is the position today? On Monday, we had the announcement of the vesting date. Within 48 hours of that, the Board came to individual managements and said, "We admit that the position administratively is weak. Will you nominate individuals company by company to remain on and help us in that field?". We warned them that it was inevitable. Anybody who was aware of the administrative difficulties that lay ahead saw that they would come to that point. This situation has arisen because the planning department of the Government responsible for this Measure ignored the framework of their problem—administration.
It is difficult to develop a theme of this sort in a few sentences, but I have tried to indicate two directions in which the Government are deficient. One is shortage of materials at this moment. No doubt the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is only too well aware of this. Take the position, for example, in regard to electrical engines under 100 horse power. They are practically unobtainable. Take such materials as light rails, bent bars, mild steel plates and a host of requirements, without which we cannot get the industries of this country under way. The second aspect is this lack of planning in regard to what is actually required. I have tried to show, by the analogy of the Coal Board, that the main essential was ignored, and how the inevitability of 933 that position has thrust itself on the situation today. If we are to get anywhere, on the lines which the Government are trying to pursue, it can only be done if they see clearly how they wish to attain their objective. At the present moment it seems to me that they are ignoring this essential and without clear thinking and the recognition of the implications of their policy they are doomed to failure.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Hobson (Wembley, North)
I considered with great interest the terms of the Opposition Amendment to the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, and I noticed that in their condemnation of nationalisation there is no specific mention of electricity. Their friends the Liberal Nationals have been far more specific. They have stated in no uncertain terms that to nationalise electricity is contrary to the best interests of Britain. I think in this House, on many occasions, there have been proposals for the reorganisation of the electricity industry. When the party opposite were in power, they realised the necessity for setting up an inquiry. As a result, we had the McGowan Report, which was not implemented, largely because of the opposition put up by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council. Two forms of organisation were suggested there. They were monopoly and local authority. Also, the method of compensation to the local authorities was to be one merely of payment-of outstanding debts, whereas the private companies were to be compensated on the basis of future profit. We have had experience of that form of reorganisation and we have seen what that method of compensation has led to in the case of the London Passenger Transport Board.
To suggest that the nationalisation of electricity is a new idea, is to deny the facts. In the Electric Lighting Acts of 1882 and 1888, it was envisaged that, ultimately, electricity would become publicly owned. Local authorities can exercise their purchasing rights. At the moment we have a national technical direction of electricity in the form of the grid. I think that we can say that the grid has lowered considerably the cost of electrical current largely because of the saving of plant. It is no longer necessary to carry the number of spare turbo generators, which are exceedingly expensive, or the same number of boilers. We 934 have been able, also, to equalise the load factor which has resulted in a reduction of costs. Further, we have succeeded in bringing about a great measure of standardisation. Frequency has been standardised at 50 as a result of the introduction of the grid and the number of generating stations has been reduced from something like 500 to 187. The grid system came through the strain of war with flying colours, entirely because we were able to switch from one generating station to another. I admit that with the national technical direction which exists now there are great weaknesses, and it is because we want to eradicate them that we propose the public ownership of the electricity supply industry.
First among these weaknesses, I would put the fact that the technical staffs are compelled, by virtue of the organisation, to serve two masters. On one hand, they have to serve the C.E.B. control, and on the other, the power company or the local authority. I have had experience of the disadvantages of dual control. I was working in a power station not very far from here when the electricity supply was cut, yet we had boilers banked which were up to pressure and could have been put into use, and also we had spare turbo alternators available. I am convinced that if a full examination was made of the facts behind the cuts in electricity supply it would be found that a common cause is dual control. When new stations were built during the war I was surprised that they were not controlled by the Central Electricity Board. It seemed wrong that the Central Electricity Board should build a station at Early, Reading, and then hand it over immediately to Edmundsons. In future, I hope that we shall see that all stations come within the ambit of public control.
It is important that attention should be paid to the question of the siting of power stations. This has not been done in the past. I will give figures to illustrate my argument. Last year the cost of coal supplied to power stations in the northeastern area was 38s. a ton; in the London area it was 52s. a ton. That is equal to an increase of .1176 per unit generated and, when it is remembered that many million units are concerned, it will be realised that that is an important factor. It is only by public ownership of the industry that we shall be able to introduce a standard price for bulk electricity as 935 it is generated. That is not the position today but there is not the slightest reason why a standard price should not be introduced. With regard to costs I think it has been proved beyond peradventure that as between company undertakings and local authorities the companies are always the more expensive.
I give one or two examples. For in-stance, Kensington, Paddington, and Chelsea come within the orbit of the various supply companies. In my own borough of Willesden, the Harrow Road divides us from Paddington. In Willesden, under a publicly owned and controlled municipal undertaking, we pay ¾d. per unit for power. On the other side of the road, where the supply is controlled by a private company, the price is 1¾d., and yet the same generating station may be producing that electricity. The difference is due to the need for profit and the fact that many of these distributing companies are too much over capitalised. The same argument is true of the city of Glasgow. There is a nice little patch there which is under the control of the Clyde Valley Company. In the case of a two-apartment house, where the electricity is supplied by the Glasgow corporation, the cost per thousand units would be £2 12s. 6d. But in the same city, in the case of a two-apartment house consuming a thousand units supplied by the Clyde Valley Company, the cost would be £3 6s. 1d. That is an increase of 27 per cent.
If we take the figures for the country as a whole, we find that the supply from the local authorities is ½d. a unit cheaper than that supplied by the companies. Great play has been made—particularly by the associated electrical companies, upon whose policy I suspect Edmundsons have a good deal of influence—with the argument that the electricity companies are good employers. They are fairly good employers, but I would point out that in London there was only one power company, the North Metropolitan Electrical Supply Company, which belonged to the Whitley Council before the beginning of the war. Immediately it was obvious that war was about to start and that labour would be at a premium, the companies came rushing in to get the protection of the joint industrial council. So far as the Edmundson group is concerned, we of the Amalgamated Engineer- 936 ing Union have had great difficulty to get them to recognise the shop stewards, and I might pay my tribute to them and say that it was due to the loyalty of the lads on the job that there was not serious trouble during the war.
I am convinced that an examination of the costs, as between the local authority and the companies, will prove that, where the undertaking is publicly owned, it is to the advantage of the public. We have already got national technical direction so far as generation is concerned, and I think I have given sufficient evidence to prove that it has been of advantage to the community. I do not propose to deal with the question of distribution, but I hope to speak on that aspect of the problem when the Bill is presented. I hope, however, that there will be very serious consideration given, without party prejudice, to these matters, and I am convinced that, if that is done, hon. Members will support the legislation suggested in the Gracious Speech with regard to electricity.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
The agricultural industry is our greatest industry, as I think most people will agree, and there has scarcely been a time in our history when the nation as a whole, and particularly those who live in the towns have been more understanding of its difficulties and more proud of its achievements. Nevertheless, this industry, and all who work in it, are full of anxiety for the future, and why? Because the prosperity which they have enjoyed for the past few years followed upon a very long period of adversity, and it is known to all of them that the prosperity has been sustained by very large direct and indirect subsidies. I believe that the production of our agricultural industry, and the unity of purpose which is in it, will be gravely affected if this anxiety continues for long, and, particularly, if it continues right up to the edge of the next General Election. I submit that we do not want the long-term policy of our agricultural industry to become a matter for party recrimination and argument. If we could only capture something of the unity of spirit that there is about agriculture now, and put it into a long-term policy, it might produce something that would give some certainty to the landowner, to the farmer, to the farm worker and all those who live on and by the land, and they are many. Nearly everyone in the small towns of 937 England is indirectly concerned with the prosperity of agriculture, and, if we could only capture something of that unity now, and enshrine it in a policy that would survive electioneering, we would have done something of great service to agriculture.
I want to make a proposal to that end. I start by calling the attention of the House to these facts, which I believe are agreed and will not be contested. All the political parties have promised to bring water to many farms, and most candidates promised to bring it to all farms. All the political parties, and most of the candidates, promised to bring electricity to all parts of the country and to every farm. Most of us are committed to great schemes of drainage. It is agreed among all parties that there should be stable prices. Nobody has yet told us upon what these prices will be based or how they will be stable, but we talk about it and I think we understand what we are saying and that we are all agreed about it. But these policies are largely words, because none of us knows what are the facts of this problem. The nation does not know how much water has to be supplied, or what the cost will be. We do not know what will be the cost of providing electricity. We do not know the cost of these drainage schemes, except that it will be very great. A long-term plan is required in order to bring about these reforms which we have all promised. Let us, I beg, cease promising things the limits of which we do not understand, and the facts in regard to which are not known. Let us, instead, from all sides of the House, come together to find out what are the facts about our great industry.
We are cultivating a great deal of land which is known as marginal land, which must be cultivated in the dangerous times of war, but which costs a good deal to keep in cultivation in times of peace. It is not in the interests of agriculture as a whole, and of that part of agriculture which is best, that we should go on cultivating that part which is least economical. We shall have to do so for a year or two, perhaps for longer, but, in our long-term policy, we must reduce the size of our agricultural industry, because, clearly, we cannot afford it at its present size. May I give the House some necessary figures? In 1938, we had subsidies in agriculture of £15 million. They were the prewar subsidies, with which we are all familiar, on beet and a few other specialised products.
938 Then came the war, and, by 1940, the subsidies had risen to £70 million, including, of course, some part of the subsidies on the cost of living. I skip the intervening years, and we find that, by 1946, the Chancellor estimates that the amount of the subsidies is £369 million, and that is not all, because there are, in addition to that, the subsidies on school milk and vitamins and some other products which are related to agriculture. Perhaps the figure is as much as £400 million. Of these subsidies, that on overseas food is just about half, and that on home-grown food just about the other half.
If we take our minds back to the end of the first world war, we find that, over a period of about four years, this country was subsidising its agriculture to the extent of about £160 million, and, when that point was reached, the townsfolk turned against the agriculturists, the Government succumbed, the subsidies were taken away and agriculture went down. That was £160 million over four years, but now we are spending at the rate of about £400 million a year. I represent an agricultural constituency. Most of the workers in my constituency live on and by the land, and what, I think, they would wish for is the certainty that £400 million or £500 million was going to be granted in perpetuity to them by the people who live in our towns. But I fear that a great many intelligent farmers and farm workers today realise that this cannot be. If it cannot be, let us, at any rate, avoid political parties bargaining with each other in what they promise to do on the land—and inevitably fail to do.
Let us stop bargaining with each other and join in bringing our greatest industry on to an economic basis. Let us first limit the size of the agriculture of this country to what we can afford Let us determine whether it is our intention to carry on paying subsidies on imported food, or only on home-grown food. My own view is that we should be prepared to pay a subsidy on home-grown food, because this is our own and is better for us, and it sustains our own greatest industry, and gives us a change of life and work. I do not see why we should pay a subsidy on imported food. Indeed, I think that the hard economics of the situation which would arise if that subsidy were taken off, would be the only way of bringing us down to the basis of reality.
939 In my view, what is needed for prosperity in agriculture is, first, certainty about the future beyond the next few years. That certainty can only be given if those who own the land and the farms, those who lease the farms, who farm them and who work upon them, and all the others who are dependent on this industry, know what its future is going to be—a certainty arrived at in a non-political atmosphere. How can we attain that? I submit that we can attain that by setting up, forthwith, a Royal Commission which will bring together all the facts of this great industry so that we can study them dispassionately, and so that the best brains and intentions of men of all parties may be directed towards sustaining and strengthening our greatest and most important industry.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton (Sudbury)
It is a pleasure for me to follow the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) because, although I shall have to disagree with him on some points, his most genuine concern for agriculture is a sentiment which, I think, we can all most heartily share. But I cannot agree that questions of political economy do not come into the matter; I think that they come into it very considerably.
As I recall it, the state of agriculture just before World War II—and that was when I became intimately acquainted with my present Division in West Suffolk—was pretty lamentable. East Anglia is one of our great food producing areas, particularly adapted to arable farming, but, at that time, it was only partially farmed. I could show hon. Members large farms in my own Division which were hardly producing anything at all; I could show them one which was not being touched It was growing nothing but thistles and other weeds. As for the people who lived on the land, their position was also lamentable. The statutory wage in West Suffolk on which an agricultural worker had to bring up his family was 34s.—less than in some other counties, and they were low enough. All over England the agricultural worker seemed to be regarded as an inferior grade of individual who did not need the same standards of wages, housing or amenities as his brother in urban industry, in spite of the fact that he needed just as much skill and. 940 probably, on the average, a great deal more knowledge than the factory worker. As for the farmer, he was physically better off although, in most cases, he was in a state of constant mental anxiety. It was rare to find a cheerful farmer.
We on this side of the House had no doubt about the causes of that situation. It was due to the working of the system of unrestricted private enterprise, so dear to the hearts of hon. Members opposite, a system in which our whole economic field is a sort of bear garden in which a number of vested interests struggle with each other for the mastery. There was a time when agriculture was Vested Interest No. I, though it did not help the agricultural workers much. But those times are long since past. In the inter-war years, agriculture was much lower down the scale, and the farmer suffered in consequence. We, also, had no doubt about the remedy. As we see it, even one farmer could not make a success of his single farm if he did not plan and control it. How can we possibly hope to make a success of this tremendous enterprise of farming in Great Britain, and get the maximum amount of good food for our great population, unless it is planned and controlled?
But our sentiments fell on deal ears until World War II broke on us like a bomb-shell and changed everything. Then we had the ironical situation of a Government, predominantly Tory, being forced by the circumstances to adopt a programme, or three-quarters of it, which Labour had been preaching for many years past, and with most remarkable results. It was particularly brought home to me because I was away for five years during the war, and I came back to a very different Suffolk from the one I had left. The whole land was now being farmed—at least every acre of it which the Royal Air Force and the American Air Force left us to farm. Not only that but the people on the land were in an entirely different situation. Those derelict farms of which I spoke were now producing ample supplies of food and employing large numbers. of workers. Many factors were involved, but—and I know that the hon. Member for Lonsdale will agree with me—the outstanding one was the confidence engendered in the minds of the farmers because they knew that they would get a guaranteed market and a guaranteed price.
941 However, I cannot agree with the hon. Member on the subject of protection for farmers, because it seems to me that he shares the misconception, which I find very widely spread, that any protection to farmers is a kind of special favour given to them at the expense of the citizen consumer who has to pay much more for his food. I do not believe that that is actually the case; I think the facts are these. Farming is a long-term industry and, as we all know, the farmer is working now for results which will only come in one, two, three or four years' time. If he is at the mercy of international prices, which can go rocketing up and down in the most extraordinary way like the chart of a fever patient, he has not the least idea, when he comes to sell, whether he will make a profit or a loss. Under those circumstances, how can he make large-scale plans and launch out into schemes for developing his equipment and his land as freely as he would have to do if he is going to produce economically?
§ Sir I. Fraser
Since the hon. and gallant Member has mentioned what I said, perhaps he will allow me to interrupt him for one moment. I do not recall saying anything whatever about leaving the farmer open to the competition of international farmers or growers of food. I did not say that at all; at least, I do not remember saying it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton
I did not mean to imply that the hon. Member said that; what I meant to imply was that the hon. Member shared the misconception that the protecting of the farmer was done very much at the expense of the consumer. If I am wrong in that, I will withdraw it. I did not for a moment mean to suggest that the hon. Member did not want to protect the farmer. I know that he does, just as I do, but I do not believe that judicious protection for the farmer is necessarily going to make food more expensive. That is the difference between the hon. Member and myself and I would like to develop the argument a little further.
As I see it, the position is that we have just as good land as, if not better than, our competitors overseas; we have just as good weather for growing things, and we have just as good, if not better, men and farmers. Therefore, provided there is no cheating in the form of ruthless exploitation of land and labour overseas 942 or artificial subsidies from foreign Governments, there is no reason at all why our own farmers, if they are good—and if a farmer is not good he must make way for one who is—should not produce food just as economically as their overseas competitors. In fact, I think that they are probably doing that now.
It is very hard to get an exact comparison between home produced and foreign produced foods, because so many factors enter into it. There are the question of acreage payments, and the question of what, exactly, is the corresponding grade of food produced by both. However, by and large I suggest that there is very little difference, and I think the hon. Member's figures themselves show it. I was going to quote them too. We pay just about the same subsidy to home producers as we pay for foreign produced food—about £180 million or thereabouts in each case. That seems to me to show conclusively that this large subsidy, about £1,000,000 a day, on food is not, as so many people seem to think, a subsidy to agriculture at all: it is a subsidy to the consumer. Just as we think it worth while to put the whole cost of producing pure water on to rates and taxes in order that the consumer can get his pure water free, so we think it worth while to put a considerable part of the cost of food on to taxes in order that the consumer can get it at a very moderate price. But it is not a favour to the farmer, it is a favour to the consumer.
In no respect was there a greater change to be found than that in the people living on the land. The farm worker had been a somewhat downtrodden and ignorant individual, but the B.B.C. and war experiences had enlarged 'his mind, and put him in quite a different position. Now, when he is urged to think for himself and to stand on his own feet, he is only too ready to do so—indeed, that is why I am here today. Justice always demanded that the farm worker should get a fair deal, but now he demands it himself, very firmly; and if he does not get it he will not stay on the land. This point has been made by many speakers on both sides of the House, and I will not enlarge on it, except to say that I hope the Government will do everything they can to foster the interests of the farm worker in this great industry, and his feeling of responsibility for it. I am very glad that he is now represented on the county committees, and I would like 943 to see his representation equal to that of the farmers. Speaking for my own constituency, I know the farmers would have no objection to that.
In conclusion, may I say that we welcome criticisms from all quarters of the House, if, as the Lord President said, they are constructive. But I hope no one will forget the fundamental fact that under a Tory system agriculture languished. Under a system of planned Socialism it is going ahead, and will continue to go ahead. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) has his name down in support of this Amendment. Some days ago he made a speech in which he implied that there was competition between town and country, and that under a Socialist Government, drawn predominantly from the towns, agriculture would suffer. It just shows how difficult it is for hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to grasp the facts of Socialist planning. Why should there be any competition? If the right hon. Gentleman has a garden of his own, I wonder if he thinks that he must neglect his orchard in order to develop his kitchen garden? Because we want to develop our coal, our iron and steel, our textiles and everything else, is that any reason why we should not develop our land also? They are all complementary to each other. We want to see the people in the countryside drawing a good income, and buying freely the consumer goods and every sort of. farming equipment from the towns; and we want to see the townsfolk, in their turn, buying ample supplies of good, wholesome food from the agricultural community. They will prosper together, and I believe that under this Government we will get a countryside in which both sides of the House and everybody in the country can take a pride.
§ 7.55 P.m.
§ Mr. Baldwin (Leominster)
I congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Sudbury (Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton) on what he said with regard to the farm labourers. As a farmer I welcome those remarks. I hope both he and others who represent the farm workers will play with us and not against us, because I feel that in agriculture the interests of both are wrapped up one with the other. The farm worker cannot get the good wages to which he is entitled, nor can he get the amenities to which he is entitled, 944 unless the industry is a thriving one. I believe the hon. and gallant Gentleman compared the wages of the farm worker in 1939 with the wages today, and rather took credit to the Socialist Party for that large increase. I would remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman what the wages of the farm workers were in 1931, when the Socialist Party was in power.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I can only say that if the Socialist Party could make the big mess they did in those days when they were not in power, thank goodness they were not in power.
§ Mr. Baldwin
The farm workers cannot get those wages unless the goods they are helping to produce are selling at a reasonable price. The interests of the farm worker and of the farmer are wrapped up one with the other. I want to follow the line taken by the Leader of the House, when he suggested we should be constructive. I want to be constructive in the very few remarks I have to make. The Minister I want to help is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I realise that in fact, if not in name, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the Minister of Agriculture. One of the very big problems with which the Chancellor is faced is to close the gap between the cost of imports and the value of our exports. I believe that in the Budget statement the gap was put at something like £750 million, which is a very big sum. Our export trade has to reach a figure 175 per cent higher than prewar days before the gap can be closed. That is a big increase. One also has to remember that gradually the consumer demand of the world will tend to become competitive, and will probably tend to decrease. Therefore, I suggest to the Chancellor that the way to close the gap is to save a little bit of money on the imports to this country by producing a little bit more from the land of this country. I feel quite confident that the farming industry can increase the value of home production by at least 50 per cent. That 50 per cent. would help very substantially in decreasing the gap between imports and exports. During the war we increased our production by, I 945 think, something like 60 to 70 per cent., and that increased production was achieved with the help of casual and unskilled labour.
Today we are carrying on with slave labour, woman labour, child labour, and holiday workers. Unskilled labour of this sort cannot get full production. The farmers of this country do not want this slave labour. The hon. Member who represents the Agricultural Workers' Union in this House is reported to have said at a meeting the other day that he did not want to see Poles dumped on the land. Neither do the farmers of this country want to see Poles dumped on the land of this country. He asked when we were going to employ the British workers. There is nothing we want to do more than to employ the skilled British worker, but before we can employ the old-fashioned, steady farm labourers we must have houses for them. At the present time, in the remote districts, we could not employ any more regular labour than we are employing. We have not got the cottages, and I regret to say that there is no prospect of getting the cottages. In my constituency, there is no sign of any cottages being built in the quarters in which they are wanted, and I am told, on reliable authority, that the rural district councils have been instructed to stop the building of agricultural cottages. That information has been given me from several quarters which I look upon as reliable. If that is so, then, I think, the prospect of the farmers for the next harvest is a very lean one.
I want to say one other word about these cottages. The tendency is to build them in the villages. This means that those who have to go to work have three or four miles to walk or cycle in all weathers. I do not believe that the men and women of this country want to be herded together in villages. They want to have a home where they can have a garden, a bit of land to themselves, and where they can keep their poultry and pig, and feel that they are not being overlooked all the time.
§ Mr. Baldwin
No, Sir. I think there would be a good deal of trouble if the people, all herded together in a village, 946 started keeping pigs in their gardens. Why houses are grouped together is said to be because of the amenities, and because of the facilities for the women to go shopping. There is not the slightest reason why these amenities cannot be provided out in the lonely countryside. The farmer has to live in these remote districts in order to provide food. He wants running water and electricity. When he gets running water and electricity, the cottages can be provided at the same time. With regard to the shopping facilities, I agree that the women are entitled to reasonable shopping facilities. Therefore, I want to see the transport system improved so that the men and women—and the children going to school—can have the transport they want; and I have no doubt that in the new era which is coming along in transport, we shall see these facilities provided right throughout the country.
I want to say one or two words with regard to feeding stuffs. One of the great problems facing the industry today is the fact that it cannot get feeding stuffs with which to provide poultry, eggs, bacon and a sufficient quantity of milk. There seems to be some confusion as to the availability of feeding stuffs. During the Debate on 30th October on the Feeding Stuffs (Rationing) Order, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, when questioned about the necessity to reduce the feeding ration, said:When we are being allocated feeding stuffs, our available supplies are considered before the International Emergency Food Council makes an allocation.When asked a further question, she replied:The International Emergency Food Council allocates all grain and feeding stuffs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October, 1946; Vol. 428, c. 741 and 743.]I asked a Question of the Minister of Food in this House on Monday, in these terms:Whether he is satisfied that Great Britain is given a fair allocation of feeding stuffs by the International Emergency Food Council.The reply was:I am satisfied that we are getting a fair share of oil cake, which is the only kind of animal feeding stuff allocated by the International Emergency Food Council."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1046; Vol. 430, c. 500-501.]I want to know the truth. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food says the International Emergency 947 Food Council allocates all grain and feeding stuffs, but the Minister of Food says they only allocate oil cake. I think this is a serious matter. We should know what is the truth of the matter. 1 ask that question because we see other countries not only getting sufficient feeding stuffs to provide their own people with all the butter, eggs and bacon which they want, but also making substantial exports to this country—particularly Denmark. I want to know why is it possible for Denmark to obtain the feeding stuffs, whilst we in this country cannot get them? I give another instance. We hear harrowing tales about starvation in mid Europe. How is it possible, if there is such a shortage of food in Europe, that we are at this time importing eggs from Poland, and Turkeys from Hungary; and I saw in the paper this morning that Czechoslovakia proposes to export 2,500,000 gallons of beer, mainly to this country. I want to know why all these countries can get sufficient grains and feeding stuffs to do all this, whilst we in this country have our poultry-houses and pig-houses empty.
There is the question of foreign exchange. Instead of having to import manufactured articles from all these countries, we ought to have the raw materials so that our farmers can manufacture articles themselves. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Sudbury rightly said that the subsidy in the case of agriculture could not be said to be a subsidy to the farmer: it is a subsidy to the consumer. At the present time, I think, the subsidy is something like £369 million. It has risen since the Budget Debate from £355 million, and I think there is no doubt that, by next Spring, the subsidy will be £400 million. What I want to suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer is this: instead of having this uneconomic food subsidy, why not allow food prices to get somewhere on an economic level?
§ Mr. Gooch (Norfolk, Northern)
Why did not the hon. Member advocate that at the Election? Say it in the towns.
§ Mr. Baldwin
I did at the last Election, and I am quite prepared to say so at any meeting. The £400 million does not come out of a hole in the ground. It is collected from the taxpayers and the people of this country before it is passed over as a food subsidy. There is this to remember— 948 that by the time £400 million is paid for food subsidy, it has probably meant that £600 million has been collected and that £200 million has been lost on the roundabouts, before it is got back on to the swings.
I suggest that the right way of dealing with that position is to let the money remain in the pockets of the people, and let them spend it in their own way. I know that if I advocated this before a body of consumers, the first thing that would be said would be, "What about the poor people?" I am not advocating a rise in the price of food to touch the poor people of this country. Out of a figure of £600 million I think I could satisfy the poorer consumers of this country. I think I could spare sufficient of that money to put them in quite a happy state. For instance, I would not collect any Income Tax from any taxpayer with an income of £400 or less. I would leave that in their pockets, and let them spend it. I would increase the old age pensions, and any other pensions, sufficiently to see that the pensioners did not suffer from a rise in the price of food. I would let the rest of us pay an economic price for our food and, if I spent £100 million in satisfying that part of the community, I should have saved the Chancellor of the Exchequer £500 million, and he could then take off that pernicious tax, the Purchase Tax; he could reduce Income Tax, and he could reduce Customs and Excise duties. Before this country carries on much longer, I think it will be found necessary to reduce all these taxes.
I remember a very good speech from the other side of the House in the Budget Debate as to the amount any country can stand in the way of taxation. My recollection is that the speaker said that the taxation figure at this time was something like 50 per cent. to 60 per cent., and he added that no country could stand more than 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. The suggestion I have made to the Chancellor of the Exchequer would enable him to get down to something like the figure mentioned.
I want to say one word about another matter which is exercising the minds of many hon. Members on both sides of this House. That is the question of the large area of land requisitioned for training purposes. We know well that it was necessary during the war but we feel— 949 and I think I shall have the approval of some hon Members opposite—that to keep these large areas for training purposes, thereby reducing the land available for agriculture, will have a very damaging effect on this country. I suggest to the Government that, instead of using these large areas of land in this country, it would be a better proposition to do the training in the wide open spaces of the Empire. I have recently had a few weeks in East Africa, where there is a lot of undeveloped and undevelopable land, excellent for training purposes. There is a very nice climate, and it is a part of the world to which I am perfectly certain our young trainees would love to go for their training. I suggest to the Government that they might give these young men a chance of seeing another part of the world, and doing their training at the same time.
Before resuming my seat, I want to make one last appeal to the Government to recognise this great industry of agriculture with a little more sympathy. I am fully aware that the Minister of Agriculture cannot enter into negotiations with representatives of the farming industry with a free hand. He has always to keep in mind that he has the Chancellor of the Exchequer looking over his shoulder. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give him a fairly free hand, remembering that it is the largest single industry in this country, and is the only industry producing real wealth, and also that it employs more men and women than any other industry. I know that I am up against the export trade. I do not think there is anything very clever in an export trade, in which, as before the war, coal, our only raw material of any value, had to be subsidised to bring back butter, eggs and poultry from Denmark. My suggestion is that these commodities should be produced in this country and coal should remain for manufacturing purposes. I know that the slogan today is "Export or die," but if we do not go in for full production in the countryside, it will be "Produce or perish."
§ 8.16 p.m.
Mr. Scott-Elliot (Accrington)
The Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) alleges that the Gracious Speech contains no practical proposals for increasing production. That seems to me to be a very questionable statement. There 950 are two ways to get increased production. Firstly, we can increase production by the means of greater efficiency from those already working in industry, and secondly, we can try to secure an increased input of the manpower which is not already being used in some parts of the country, namely the development areas. The Gracious Speech makes a specific statement about development areas, and the Government are doing everything in their power to help. I want to say a word on distribution of industry about which comparatively little has been said. I want to show that there are large numbers of people who can be brought into production in the development areas. The latest Ministry of Labour unemployment figures indicate that the total number unemployed in this country is something like 365,000. My estimate is that the six development areas contain at the present time something like 165,000 unemployed persons. In other words, there is a very large surplus of labour which can be brought into production if only these areas have a better distribution of industry.
For the benefit of hon. Members who may not be familiar with this subject may I say what constitutes a good distribution of industry? To have a good distribution of industry an area must have sufficient, but not more than sufficient, industrial capacity—I use those words in the widest possible extent, covering workshops, factories and offices—to employ the total population. Moreover, it must not depend on any one particular form of production, and there must be a proper balance in the amount of employment available for men and women. I do not want to take up the time of the House, but I should like to give two examples. During the war it was necessary for the purposes of production to put into an area which already had a good deal of production in it further munition capacity, with a result that it became hopelessly congested and suffers today from a chronic shortage of labour. Such an area is Leicester. On the other hand, there are the areas like the development areas which depend to a great extent on one particular form of industry and which' have far too little industrial capacity.
Apart from the difficulty of finding the right jobs for those released from the Forces and munitions, the unemployment problem in the development areas falls, broadly speaking, under three headings. 951 Firstly, there is short-term unemployment due to the delay in reconversion of existing factories from war production to peacetime production. However vexatious and frustrating that may seem, and it will seem frustrating and vexatious, we have to make the best of it and recognise that there must be some hiatus in production. Then there is the medium-term problem of unemployment due to the delay in the building of trading estates and factories for which building licences have been granted by the Board of Trade to individual firms. Thirdly, and by far the most serious, is the long-term unemployment problem, due to the overall insufficiency of productive capacity in a development area to provide work for the total working population. It might be said: How comes it about that the war did not cure this development area problem? I admit that a great deal of munitions capacity was put into these areas, but far too much of it was in the shape of royal ordnance factories. They were efficacious in employing people during the war because they worked the three shift system, and employed many thousands of people, but when it comes to reversion to peace they will employ many fewer people, on the one shift basis, than they employed during the war.
But this is not all. As one who took a humble part in trying to mobilise men and women workers during the war, I can testify to the fact that at the height of our mobilisation of man and woman power in 1943, when we were seeking every means to bring more people into production, there were tens of thousands of workers, mainly women, in the development areas, anxious to take their part in the war effort but unable to do so for lack of factories. That was due to the difficulty we had of persuading contractors, working for the Supply Departments, to go to these areas. When planning for the postwar period began my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when President of the Board of Trade, in the Coalition Government, found himself faced in a development area with a serious shortage of industrial capacity. He decided that there must be a large extension of the existing trading estates, which had been functioning in a small way previously, also to give building licences to firms who were willing to set up in the development areas. If these two things had not been done, and done 952 betimes—and they were started at the beginning of 1944, before we had set foot in France—the problem of the development areas would today be a most serious one, and we might have an additional quarter of a million people unemployed. In other words, this policy of trading estates and individual building licences has been the salvation of the development areas.
I would like to say a word about how much has so far been achieved. It is all very well to have the thing on paper, but it does not always work out so well in practice. My right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade has been to development areas, and has probably seen much more than I have seen. He knows that the most vital need is to build factories as quickly as possible. Moreover, he knows that there is a serious shortage of certain raw materials. There is a shortage of steel in Scotland, as I saw when I was there. I am also told that there is a shortage of lead developing at the present time. Moreover there is a direct conflict between the factory and house building programmes. I believe that at present an equal degree of priority can be given on a regional level to factory building, to put it on, a par with house building, but unless we can do more than that unemployment will drag on in these areas for too long a time. I therefore think that in appropriate cases some degree of overriding priority ought to be given at the regional level for those focal points, Which badly need development, if the people in those areas are to find employment.
Then again, despite all that has been done—and I speak as one convinced that the back of the problem in the bulk of the development areas has been broken—there is still a problem in Scotland, a very serious problem, due to this lack of industrial capacity to which I have referred. On the facts and figures which I have, but which I do not propose to quote to the House, I believe that not a great deal more than half of the problem has yet been definitely solved. I recognise that with the development areas of the North East coast and South Wales becoming more stabilised, that it is reasonable to suppose that more industrialists will go to Scotland. Inquiries have been coming forward from substantial firms during the last few months, but I do not believe, unless something special is done, 953 that we shall succeed in solving this problem. There are 16 trading estates, I believe, built or building, but more are needed. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should make an approach to some of the big industrialists, who are, he knows, willing to expand, and tell them that the Board of Trade would build for them factories of 100,000 or 200,000 square feet at specially selected spots in the Lanarkshire development area if they would go there, and give a firm undertaking to take over those factories when they are built. This problem has to be solved quickly. At the present time industrialists are willing to go to the development areas because they know that those are the only places Where they can get labour and factories. But this state of affairs is not likely to obtain very long. In the event of a trade recession in the United States industrialists might be very much less willing to go to the development areas than they are today.
I feel that I have told a short story, but a story which is a practical one as opposed, if I may say so, to the rather theoretical lines of approach taken by the Opposition this afternoon. Let us recognise that the people in these areas have suffered much. Before the war they suffered from heavy unemployment and dire poverty. During the war they suffered by seeing the flower of their young men and young women taken away and drafted into the Forces or directed into the congested areas to work on munitions. I make no complaint about that. As one who took some part in it, I recognise that it was necessary. Today, however, they look for a new deal. They look for the return of their sons and daughters. They look for a chance to work within reasonable travelling distance of their homes. It is for us in this House to see that they are given a new deal and an opportunity to live fuller and therefore brighter and happier lives in the days that are to come.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Heathcoat Amory (Tiverton)
All of us, I am glad to say, accept the truth that the supreme need is greater production per head. What we have as a nation to do now is to face up to the implications of this without any reservations whatever. The greatest danger is complacency—I suppose that is our besetting national sin. Whichever way you look today, there are surely no grounds for complacency. In 954 a very few minutes I want to try to deal with four points.
The first is relations in industry. It is true, I think, today to think of industry as consisting of three partners—the employer, the employed and the Government. We talk about a partnership, but is there really an effective working partnership today? Are these partners really pulling in the same direction? I feel that too often' one or other partner is neutral and passive when his active cooperation is so essential.
I am speaking this evening as a manufacturer. I feel that all three partners need an entirely new outlook. Do not let us think too much of the past. We have all made mistakes, and missed opportunities, in the past, but I suggest that at the present time there is an absolutely unequalled opportunity for making a fresh start and working together on more sensible lines. Now when the whole of industry is replanning its system of production it seems to me to afford a splendid opportunity for doing something better in the future than we have done in the past.
I suggest that those of us who are employers would do well to regard relations with those whom we employ as by far and away the most important side of our business. I suggest to the employed, and particularly to the trade unions, that now is the time to take rather a wider view of their responsibilities and really to come in keenly at all levels in joint enterprises. I do not want to talk about strikes, but I feel there is this to be said about "go slow" methods, that they are something which is not very honest. If a person strikes, he withdraws his labour, and he is not paid, but if he goes slow, in a great many cases he receives full pay for doing only part of a job. To the Government representatives, in their relations with industry, I suggest that their attitude should be, "How can we help these chaps to get on with their job?" instead of that one meets with occasionally, which is a sort of attitude of, "We warn you that anything you will do will be taken down and used in evidence against you." I suggest to Government speakers at weekends that it really does not help much to abuse those who are responsible for running the present system. Let' them by all means abuse the system, if they like, but to concentrate abuse upon those who, under great difficulties, are trying 955 to keep the present system working in face of the unprecedented difficulties that exist today does not. help cooperation.
All those things are very obvious, but I mention them because I believe that if we can get the right attitude to each other among the three partners, many of our difficulties will disappear. I hope we shall, all of us, support wholeheartedly the system of joint consultation and planning at all levels—the factory, industry, and the nation. I believe it is the soundest and most promising way of getting better cooperation within industry. Unfortunately, it has not gone very far yet, but I hope we shall have an extension at all levels—in the workshop and in the factory, because there the foundations are laid for true cooperation, at the level of the industry, because then we may carry on the work of the working parties and enable the fruit of their work to be reaped. And at the national level, is there not a case for extending the scope of the National Joint Advisory Council? I do not know. I only suggest that.
About a week ago I had the privilege of taking the chair at the monthly production committee meeting of a factory with which I am closely associated. We are getting on very well, and the great thing is that by our contacts we are with each other learning a great deal which will, I think, make a tremendous difference to production. I am reminded of an experience I had during the war when, for a time, I was a very humble member of a joint planning staff—joint in the sense of being inter-Service, and also being Anglo-American. I remember that when we started, all sorts of tiny differences of outlook had a way, in some extraordinary fashion, of becoming exaggerated into immense obstacles which absolutely blocked progress.
Then, as time went on and we got to know one another's outlooks better, and with the display of almost superhuman patience, the thing began to work, and, eventually, in the course of time, the technique of true cooperation was evolved and practised. I believe that the same thing applies in industry. The absolutely essential thing is that those concerned should show that they really believe in this system and mean to make it work. If they do that it will work, but not otherwise.
956 The second point with which I want to deal very briefly is that of incentive. I believe that if incentives are right the effort will be made and the battle will be won. But incentives are not right today, and anyone who looks round objectively must agree that that is so. I am not one of those who believes that material reward is the only or even the best incentive, but there is no doubt that it is a very powerful one, and I suggest that it is madness not to make the most of it. I want to be selective this evening in the bricks I cast at the Government, but I charge them very definitely with dangerous neglect of this powerful motive today. Almost everything they have done since they have been in power has tended to eliminate reward for a more than average achievement and, on the contrary, to encourage a desperately low average performance. I am certain that the Government will, sooner or later, be forced to do two things—first, encourage payment by results in every possible way and without any regard to how far that carries them, and, secondly, revise the system of direct taxation so that its predominating principle will be the encouragement of effort.
My third point concerns controls. I only want to say from the manufacturers' point of view that I have no doubt whatever that the most frustrating feature of controls at present is the delays in obtaining day to day decisions. The cumulative effect of these delays, which are perhaps not unreasonable considered individually, is absolutely devastating to sensible planning in industry. The numberless consultations and cross-references that have to take place before the green fight can be given for the simplest executive action inevitably bring the enthusiasm, drive, and momentum for any improvement in service or increase in production to an absolute stop. Worst of all is when anything involved in building is concerned, because then one has to get into touch with five or six different authorities, and the result of all this delay is that one is driven in almost every case to improvise some alternative solution so that when the final decision comes it is too late. I ask the Government to realise that speed of decision is absolutely vital to industry. Its veins and arteries are designed for a very brisk rate of blood flow, and if that rate is slowed down one is bound to get growing inefficiency. We 957 would rather risk having a wrong decision occasionally that have to wait weeks and even months for a decision which, when it does come, is in the nature of things not infallible. I suggest that Government administrators should do four things.
First, simplify the present channels; secondly, cut out those irritating low level controls which clog the machine itself and do not really achieve-a great deal of fundamental importance; thirdly, give their subordinates wider powers of decision—I believe the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has already done something in that direction—and, lastly, try to adapt their procedure to the tempo of efficient industry. And that brings me to my last point—Manpower.
In no field of activity is it more important that the Government should show a faultless example than in manpower. The Prime Minister recently urged us to economise in manpower. He has pointed out that there are many things that we should like for which we cannot afford the manpower. That is very true, but it is the practical example set by the Government in this field that is perplexing the man-in-the-street. The Government appear to be attracting people at a terrific rate from, production into their ever-expanding offices. The man-in-the-street knows Bill or Mabel who were working in a cotton factory and have now transferred themselves to the less exacting atmosphere of, say, the regional petrol coupon office. The man-in-the-street who understands the need for priorities simply cannot reconcile a transfer of this kind which appears to be directly sponsored and encouraged by the Government, with their public exhortations. I urge the Government to remember that they are directly responsible today for a very large industry indeed. I suppose that their staffs and those of local government and the Services amount to well over three million. It simply does not make sense for them to ration everybody else except themselves. I want to say one word about foreign workers and I hope that one of my hon. Friends will develop this matter further. It seems madness in our present predicament not to take advantage of all suitable immigrants who are prepared to come to this country and help us with their work. The attitude we are adopt- 958 ing, in the case of the Poles, for instance, is not only ungenerous but surely stupid from our own point of view.
I will now sum up in four sentences what I have tried to say. First of all, I hope we shall back the system of joint consultation and planning wholeheartedly at every level. Secondly, I hope the Government will remember that success in this campaign depends on providing every possible incentive and that they will come up against failure if they neglect that truth. Thirdly, I believe that of all the features of the controls we have today, the delays are far and away the most harmful to industry. Lastly, in its allotment of manpower priorities and its use the example of the Government today is bad and is doing much harm. I hope that all hon. Members of whatever party will try to take a big view of this production question because without any doubt the penalty for failure is economic calamity for our nation.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
All hon. Members on this side of the House have looked upon the attempt made by the Opposition today in their Amendment as absolutely pathetic. The case put forward by the Opposition Amendment was that no practical proposals for unified free national effort to increase production were to be seen in the Gracious Speech and that further—this appeared to be the pivotal point—the further measures of nationalisation were calculated to confuse and retard recovery. In other words, that was saying that nationalisation was no good at all and that the panacea for national recovery was private or free enterprise. The one thing that the Opposition has evaded this afternoon is any attempt to justify the strengthening of the system of free enterprise to which the Amendment refers. There can be no doubt about that, and it is far better to face it, although some attempt has been made by the Opposition to cover it up. What they are asking this House and the country to accept is, simply and plainly, free enterprise as against any form of nationalisation whatsoever. They have said nothing about the past experience the country has had in connection with free enterprise. After all, there is some history connected with it—some very disastrous history—but they have naturally glossed that over. It is very difficult: to 959 see how they can dream for a moment that anybody with any sense left at all is ever going to re-adopt the calamitous system of free enterprise that prevailed before the war. Every by-election since the General Election has endorsed its rejection.
The Amendment says nothing about past nationalisation. There have already been measures of nationalisation. It merely refers to "further measures of nationalisation." Is it suggested by the Opposition that the nationalisation of the Bank of England has confused or retarded recovery? As far as I can see the nationalisation of the Bank of England has made the nation master of its own finance, and has laid it down that no longer will a small body of influential financiers and capitalists be allowed to hold either the Government or the people to ransom. The second instance of nationalisation which we have already had is that of coal. The Opposition cannot draw any solace from the transfer of the coal industry to the nation. Under free enterprise, the coal industry was in a state of constant crisis. That industry was a vital source of our trade but, notwithstanding that, there was constantly gross neglect. It was an example of how far the utter selfishness of free enterprise can be pushed Even at a time when serious competition was forming from abroad, the coalowners took no 'steps whatever to meet that, or to do anything about it. At a time when the coal industry was vital to the trade of this country, no steps whatever were taken to reorganise it when its reorganisation was absolutely indispensable, and the ill-effects from that neglect are not only being felt today but will go on being felt for a very long time.
I have always understood that among the qualities that free enterprise was supposed to possess was, first, that it created competition, and that competition was good for business. The second was that free enterprise was separate and free from State aid and State interference. We shall see how this has worked out. The next was that there was initiative and incentive because there was profit. Another one was that private enterprise kept prices low. The last one, and I think the most significant, was that it got rid of monopoly. Not a single one of those points could be made good today. Let us look at them and firstly, at the 960 position of competition and monopoly. Before the war—is there any doubt about it in anybody's mind?—the whole trend of industry was towards amalgamation, trustification and rationalisation, in all the greater industries and services. Where there were smaller businesses, there was consolidation with larger businesses, and groups of businesses were combining with other groups. In addition to that, was that most evil thing, which the Lord President of the Council mentioned before, the practice of price-maintenance agreements. That trend and those methods were applied in the most important industries in the country, such as banks, railways, road transport, shipbuilding, entertainment and food. As far as the smaller man was concerned, for whom, during General Elections, the Opposition always stand as champions, he was slowly and surely disappearing from the scene.
Of course, as competition departed, monopoly came in. An example of the monopoly position can be given in connection with the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), to whom the Lord President made reference in another way, earlier in the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman was President of the Board of Trade, in the Tory "caretaker" Government which, thank goodness, did not last very long. He was—and it is not a personal matter but a matter of common knowledge—one of the largest monopolists and cartelists that we have. As an illustration of the monopoly to which I have referred there is a long string of metal companies. They include the British Metal Corporation Ltd., the London Tin Corporation, the Amalgamated Metal Corporation Ltd., the Imperial Smelting and British Tin Corporation. There is a whole list of them. They had become amalgamated in the way that I have indicated. The right hon. Gentleman, and this in connection, of course, with metal, at a meeting of zinc manufacturers in 1936, announced that the British group would—and I am quoting now—make immediate application to the Government"—which was, of course a Tory Government—for an increase of duties, with: the promise that those duties could be reduced if a cartel was formed.He went on to add that that policy had successfully brought about a steel cartel. 961 It is said that free enterprise has, as one of its qualities, that it is free from State aid and interference. I think most of us remember that big business not only flourished, but survived by means of subsidies, quotas, subventions and Preferences, and by a series of methods of that sort. It is perfectly clear that it is that very process of maintaining industry in the form of free enterprise that it is sought to introduce now. As recently as last week-end the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr Eden), said this—and he regarded it as a cardinal principle of government at the moment:It is the function of the Government to make available the necessary capital to finance the industrial equipment and expansion needed in the next few yeans.The question I ask is, for whom? Is it for free enterprise? Is it for private profit? Because if it is, in that principle is enunciated one of the most dangerous forms of capitalism under the formula of "free national effort." It means, if it is to be applied, that there is to be State control of industry for private profit. If it is to be so, with the emphasis on the word "free," what I want to know from the Opposition is precisely what they mean by the word "free." Does it mean that every man is to be freed to foster and look after his own particular interest, and not care at all about the general interest? Does it mean that every man has a right to employ anybody he wants or cause the unemployment of anybody he wants—because that is very material? I should like the Opposition to define much more precisely what they mean by this word "free."
There is another principle to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington subscribed. He said the Government were responsible for the strategic planning of our industrial and economic life. Of course we can all see, and agree, that, in future, industry must be reorganised and planned on a much wider front, and with a much greater production potential than it has ever had before. But the issue before the nation, I repeat, is this: in whose interest is this planning to be done? For whose benefit is the nation's money to be spent, and the nation's resources to be used? In my submission the Opposition knows very well that this phrase "free national effort" is merely rhetoric. They accept that State intervention is indispensable, but what they are trying to do is to preserve private 962 profit along with it, and they made that very clear as far back as 1934 in Bristol, when they passed a resolution for the reconstruction of industry and the setting up of an industrial board free from political interference. There is no doubt about it that that simply meant industrial dictatorship in the interest of private profit, and that industrial dictatorship in the interests of private profit has one result, to which, of course, they have shrewdly made no reference, and that is the economic enslavement of the masses. That is what always occurred under free enterprise, and that is undoubtedly what will occur again. It is not surprising that with that policy in view, in Dundee in 1908—it is true that the vintage is rather old—[Laughter.]—when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had not yet gone astray he said this about such a policy:We know what to expect when the Tories return to power, a party of great vested interests banded together in a formidable confederation, dear food for the million, cheap labour for the millionaire.That is precisely what free enterprise has always meant, and what it will mean today, if allowed to come back. What was the main preoccupation of the National Government before the war? Spending the money of the nation in order to bolster up capitalism. Take the coal industry, transport, shipbuilding, agriculture, housing, that is exactly what was being done the whole of the time. The money of the country was being used to bolster up capitalism in that way. Although, of course, capitalists and the Opposition denounce nationalisation, they are not too proud to take public money in order to bolster up their capitalism. On this question of initiative I do not want to take up time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."]—I am sure the Opposition are very pleased to get rid of me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."]—but in consideration for my colleagues who I know wish to take part in this Debate, although I have many more counts in the indictment against the Opposition, I will content myself with the points I have already made.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, a few minutes before you came in, Mr. Speaker made an appeal to hon. Members who may be fortunate enough to catch his eye, to be restrained in their remarks. I want 963 to assure you that I will rigidly adhere to that admonition. I have listened for six days in this Debate. I have listened to experts on farming, electricity, transport and so on. I have even listened, with some impatience, I admit, to the dogmatic statements of the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) and his fantastic misrepresentation of Tory philosophy, a doctrine he does not understand, and has apparently never tried to understand. In all those six days of interesting discussion, I have not once heard the subject of Scottish interests mentioned. Therefore, I take it upon myself to remedy that situation without delay.
I have had the good luck and honour to represent a Scottish seat for more than 21 years. During that time I have never known greater discontent with the administration of Scottish affairs than exists today'. Of course, hon. Members opposite, with strong party ties and, perhaps, not much experience, may not agree with that assertion, but I would like to assure them that I am speaking the truth from deep personal conviction. That being the case—I assume that it is accepted—it is surely the duty of Scottish, and indeed of English Members, to examine this situation, to probe the causes, to try and ascertain the reasons, and, if possible, to find some remedy for these faults, which obviously exist.
Successive Governments, excluding this one, have taken many steps to improve matters. They have practically moved the whole of the Scottish Office staff, except for a small secretariat, to Edinburgh. One Scottish Under-Secretary, at least, spends most of his time in Scotland, and one of the Law Officers spends all his time there. In addition to that, the same successive Governments have delegated a great deal of authority from the central Government to local authorities. As I have said,.-there is wide and growing resentment in Scotland today against this autocratic control from Westminster and Whitehall. There are some obvious reasons. The main one is due to the centralisation policy that has been adopted since the present Government came into office and power.
I should add—I would not be "honest if I did not do so, though I am sorry that none of the Ministers of the Scottish Office is here to hear the truth—there 964 is also, whether rightly or wrongly, a belief held in Scotland that the present political heads of the Scottish Office are inadequate properly to represent Scottish interests, both in the Cabinet and in the Government. They have undoubtedly a considerable and quite just popularity in this House. I think that all my colleagues would agree about that. There is the Secretary of State himself, genial, affable and kindly. with a naive though very robust belief that all is best in this the best of all Socialist worlds. There is the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), honest and sincere, though at times a bit violent. He gets away with a lot by his obviously transparent simplicity, which at times is just a bit too obvious. But somehow he does not get things done, at least not as Labour promised to get things done. Then there is his colleague, the other Joint Under-Secretary of State, modest, mild and placatory, so charming in his modesty that we would not have the heart to attack him for his activities, even if we knew exactly what they were.
Of course, there have been various outstanding blows dealt at Scotland during the last few months, which these admirable and amiable gentlemen seemed either unwilling or unable to divert. These have undoubtedly raised alarm throughout Scotland. I need hardly mention Prestwick as a classic case. Betrayal after betrayal has followed since the Government took office and power—let us get that clear. No longer is it an international airport, no longer is it even a national airport. It is forced to go to Dutch K.L.M. and Air France to get work—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I do not think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to turn the Debate on this Amendment into a discussion on Prestwick Aerodrome. That is certainly too far removed from the scope of the Amendment.
§ Sir T. Moore
I was merely using that as an indication or an example of how the Government have failed to provide that unity of purpose for which this Amendment asks. If the Government will provide that unity in Scotland by giving to Prestwick and to various other industrial organisations in Scotland—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am afraid 1 do not admit the hon. and gallant Gentleman's contention. This Amendment deals in the main with production.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is the point to which I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will direct himself.
§ Sir T. Moore
I bow entirely to your judgment, but I would call your attention, Sir, to the statement in the Amendment:…there are no practical proposals in the Gracious Speech calculated to unite your Majesty's subjects…I would say that it the Government had said in the Gracious Speech that to nominate Prestwick and to treat it as an international airport—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] Mr. Deputy-Speaker is quite capable of saying whether or not I am in Order. I will not embarrass you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I would like to ask—and undoubtedly this is covered by the Amendment—where is the Scottish section of the British European Corporation which we were promised? You do not think that is in Order, Sir?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I certainly do not think so, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not in any way embarrass me. He simply departs from what he well knows to be the Rules of the House.
§ Sir T. Moore
Then, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will not embarrass my listeners. It is very hard for them to listen to the truth, especially those Scottish Members who have failed so lamentably to play their part when the opportunity offered. Where we are in trouble, of course, is through the Secretary of State for Scotland not playing his proper part and seeing that Scottish interests are properly safeguarded. The trouble is that he is weak. I am sorry that he is not here. I would say it to him perhaps even more directly if he was. He is weak and under the control of a ruthless Chancellor of the Exchequer. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State for Scotland does not stand very high in the queue when it comes to the distribution of Measures designed to promote the welfare of our country. As the President of the Board of Trade knows, we have throughout Scotland day by day men and women being declared redundant in our factories and industrial organisations, principally in the very organisations, such as War Department factories, where they were almost guaranteed a sort of permanency of occupation 966 These men and women are being declared redundant without any apparent plan being arranged for their re-absorption into industry. Indeed, there do not appear to be any plans of any kind for their future The result is that we have nearly 80,000 unemployed in Scotland today amongst whom are some of the finest craftsmen in Great Britain, and this at a time, if you please, when the Prime Minister and other Government spokesmen tell us that the shortage of labour is the chief reason, the chief obstacle to our industrial recovery. That just does not make sense to Scotland nor to me.
I do not intend to take up much more time, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because you rather interfered with my style. I had a lot more to say about conditions in Scotland which I must keep for another day. However, in my criticisms of the Government and in the constructive suggestions which I am about to make, I hope to show a way whereby they might unite the people of Scotland—even if they do not unite anyone else—for an effort at production. I am not an advocate of Scottish Home Rule, nor a Scottish Nationalist, but I see that the disinterest shown by the present Government is causing a growth of the demand that something should be done. This demand emanates from every thinking Scotsman. Therefore. I feel that we must do something about it here, and we certainly will not get it unless we fight.
There are many advocates of control by Westminster who assert that everything can be fixed up and arranged in the Scottish Grand Committee. They say that there are, of course, ample safeguards that Scottish legislation will be directed, reviewed and revised by the Scots themselves. That is an argument of wool which is designed to cloud the whole issue, for the only legislation which is handed over to the Scottish Grand Committee is legislation which is introduced by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and, secondly, the only legislation which he introduces is what is thrown to him, like a bone, by his English colleagues, and, in the queue for legislation, the right hon. Gentleman does not stand very high.
I have a proposal to make, which I make entirely on my own responsibility, and not with the support or backing of any of my Scottish colleagues in the House. It is that, as a means of 967 eliminating the present disgust and resentment in Scotland at the people's inability to play their part in creating or advising upon fresh legislation, a Scottish Council should be set up in Edinburgh for mat one purpose of initiating legislation in Scotland. It might be a good thing if, in its composition, it included all the ex-Secretares of State for Scotland not in this House, all the Lord Provosts, all the Conveners of county councils, all the Provosts of the large burghs and certain co-opted or nominated members. It would have to be a statutory body, of course, with all the accessories and adjuncts, to enable it to function smoothly and successfully, and its chief duty would be to initiate Scottish legislation and promote all Bills dealing with Scottish matters.
Will the House listen, for a moment or two, to the advantages of that proposal? If this body remained statutory, it would mean, of course, that the Government of the day, whatever it was, would have to accept the Bills or suggestions made by that council, but subject to debate in this House and subject to any Amendment while it was going through the Scottish Grand Committee. That, briefly, is my suggestion, and I believe it would be acceptable to every shade of opinion in Scotland—[Interruption.] Of course, we have to admit that nothing would pass unless the Chancellor supported it.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is putting forward the idea of a Nazi Grand Council.
§ Sir T. Moore
I think the hon. Gentleman sees a Nazi round every corner and underneath every chair. He should not be so suspicious. I had intended to speak on a number of other Scottish topics, but, subject to your decision, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I propose to leave them for another opportunity. I am grateful for having had this opportunity of dealing with the people and the country that means so much to England and the Empire, and without which both England and the Empire would be very poor places.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Morris (Swansea, West)
Owing to the lateness of the hour, I am deprived of the opportunity of developing the theme which I wished to submit 968 to the House and, in order that some other hon. Members may have an opportunity to speak, I confine myself to one or two points. During the past few months, we have had a spate of propaganda issued by the four main line railway companies with a view, presumably, to convincing the Government and the public that, if the companies were only given a freer opportunity and additional power, they would solve the traffic problem and bring about the desired coordination. It is a death-bed repentance, and, for that reason, I ask the House to support the Government and to reject the Amendment.
For the sake of clarity, I will divide my contribution under two headings. According to the book issued by the railway companies, there are no less than 7,000 stations needing renovating and attention. They say that, during the next five years, 9,000 miles of track must be entirely relaid, 2,500 miles partially renewed, resleepered and rechaired, 2,800 locomotives built, and 16,000 passenger coaches constructed. In addition, 60 main line stations should be entirely reconstructed. Are we expected to believe that these arrears are entirely due to the war years?
§ Mr. Morris
That is not true, and if the hon. Member will favour me with his attention I can prove, from 33 years' experience of railway service, that much of this work is entirely due to indifference in the sacred name of economy during the prewar years.
One other matter. In 1928, the railway companies were urged, especially by the trade unions, to recognise road transport as a potential source of additional revenue, as a further opportunity of providing facilities for the trading and travelling public and as an opportunity to eliminate an unnecessary competitor. But our representations were treated with indifference, if not with contempt. A few years passed, and the railway companies then came to the railway unions and asked if they would lend a helping hand in order to get a square deal for the railways. Despite our treatment on the previous occasion, we responded, but it was too late, and the war overtook them before they could recover. They have made these difficulties for themselves, and it is 969 too late now to ask us to subscribe any further to private monopoly in the transport industry.
Another interesting feature was that during the years between 1928 and 1938 they found it necessary, after rejecting our advice to take an interest in road transport, to try to acquire a financial interest in the road transport undertakings. They acquired an interest to the extent of 49 per cent. That figure has great significance. Had it been 51 per cent., the staffs would have claimed railway conditions, which were slightly, but only slightly, better than the conditions of the road undertakings. The companies contented themselves with having an interest equal to 49 per cent. Will some hon. Member explain to the House why railway stations have always been allowed to be the most dismal places in the country? Reference has been made to Lime Street Station, Liverpool. Has any hon. Member had to use the general waiting room on that station and wait in it from, say, 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. or patronise a railway refreshment room? What surprises me more than anything is that the staff are able to serve with such patience and such diligence, in view of the conditions under which they work. The railway refreshment room is still the standard joke of the comedian.
The railway companies deserve nothing of the public because of their studied neglect. They have only attempted to do something when faced with this new competition. From the public point of view, coordination is essential and unification is desirable. If the programme of work to which I have referred is carried out, the competitive element and the profit-making element must be taken out of it. But I am concerned with an entirely different aspect. In the few minutes at my disposal, I should like to refer to a speech made by the chairman of the Great Western Railway Company in another place last week. The noble Lord has been a very great friend to South Wales. He took an interest in us when most people forgot all about us. But he is chairman of the Great Western Railway, and in his speech he said this:One of the chief factors, and one which I myself consider most important in these days of great difficulty, is to have settled conditions in industry. That is almost the biggest priority you can have today. We have been fortunate in having had no major disputes for 970 20 years on the railway, and this one attributes to the class of conciliation machinery employed by the railways for settling questions of wages and the conditions of service of our railway staffs.Reading that speech, hon. Members would be entitled to assume that all is well in the railway world, and that the staffs feel there should be no change. The facts are quite the contrary. In fact, since the Essential Work Order has been removed no less than 15,000 people have left the industry on account of the shocking conditions. A moment ago I referred to the accommodation in respect of the public. For years we have been striving to get decent accommodation for the clerks who serve hon. Members from time to time. For years we have been pressing that decent sanitary accommodation should be made available. It may surprise hon. Members to know that the only accommodation of that kind available is the same as that which is provided for the public, which is totally inadequate and very unsatisfactory. When staffs have asked for the medical officer of health of the various boroughs to be called in, the railway companies have held up their hands in horror and said, "No, we do not come under the Factories Acts." For two or three years the professional and technical staffs of the railway companies have been asking that recognition should be given to their claim for improved conditions and proper scales of salaries. But the railway companies haggled for a long time about whether they would recognise them at all, and, despite the fact that there were a substantial number in the unions, pressed us to give actual figures. If this industry is to prosper, it must be given a new life and a new will. It is now listless and dispirited, on account of the neglect it has experienced' during a number of years from both the private and the public point of view.
There are men in the industry who have great responsibilities. I refer to men like stationmasters, who give almost body, mind and soul to the industry. The housing accommodation provided for station-masters is iniquitous. If I am asked for proof, I would refer to the files of the railway companies and the files of the railway unions. But hon. Members need not accept my evidence. During the coming weekend let them inquire in their constituencies, and let them knock at the doors of the various offices and inquire 971 of the stationmasters about what is happening. Then they will discover that, instead of having an industry that is working satisfactorily and well, they have one which is entirely discouraged and dispirited, and which is pleading for a new spirit. The men of the Southern Railway assisted in the epic of Dunkirk by working 24, and in some cases 36, hours on end, to snatch our men from the jaws of the enemy. Since then, all recognition of what they have done has been forgotten. The men of the London Passenger, Transport Board are working 20 consecutive days out of 21, in order to keep going, despite the fact that there is staff which could be made available but which the Board now consider redundant.
I appreciate that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and the House have been very patient with me, and I have introduced matters which relate primarily to one industry. But they have a tremendous bearing upon the future, of transport in this country. The failure to coordinate, and the failure to unify in the public interest, must be laid at the doors of the companies. The failure to give the country a satisfactory service must be attributed to their neglect in the years before the war, and to their concern for profit rather than for service. The discontent that now prevails is due- to the fear in the minds of the railwaymen that we shall have a private monopoly instead of an industry under public auspices, responsible to Parliament, where the leaders of it can be cross-examined and made to give an account of themselves. I urge the House to reject this Amendment, and to support the Government policy.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) opened this Debate with an admirable exposition of the seriousness of the situation today, particularly when he spoke about the approaching crisis, and said we must either produce or perish. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, on the other hand, in my opinion, was not only more moderate in tone than his speeches usually are, but, also, exceedingly moderate in content, and had very little, indeed, to do with the urgencies of the present moment. The right hon. Gentleman re- 972 ferred to the forthcoming publicity campaign of the Minister of Fuel and Power. I, and some of my hon. Friends on these benches, ventured to laugh, and the right hon. Gentleman was very scornful and suggested that we had not the proper interests of this country at heart. But I ask the right hon. Gentleman this question: What earthly good is it to put up posters in a factory which cannot carry on full production because the Minister of Fuel and Power has not provided sufficient fuel for that purpose, and in which the workers have insufficient incentive to push forward, and are held back by restrictive customs? And yet there is the situation. These are the realities today and what we laughed at was that the right hon. Gentleman should take such an easy view of present conditions.
The situation with which this country is faced economically is very grim, indeed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has repeatedly told us that, taking the index of exports—volume—in 1938 as 100, we have to export to a figure of 175. This is a task of fantastic magnitude. Today, nearly 18 months after the war is over, the present figure is round about 100. It is obvious that, proceeding on our present lines, there is no earthly possibility of increasing our exports to the figure which is required. I see many hon. Members sitting on the benches opposite who represent industrial constituencies. I do not know how many of them are inclined to be optimistic about this production question, but I will remind them of one or two things. First, that British manufacturers are going to be faced with a very difficult situation in a year or two when our competitiors' industries have got into full stride. Secondly, we look like ending this year with 500,000 less workers than before the war, and with the raising of the school-leaving age no less than 390,000 boys and girls next year will be kept in school who would otherwise have entered productive industry. Thirdly, we have achieved our present figures of exports only by self-denial on the part of our people in respect of the goods they most urgently need. How long have our people to go without? Does anybody imagine that we can possibly not only almost double our present figures of exports, but also make up the lag in consumer goods, with a declining number of workers in this country? His 973 Majesty's Government have already printed ration books for 1948, and it is not surprising. It is perfectly obvious that many other shortage controls will have to be continued for several years more. Fourthly, almost the only constructive provision of this Government—I refer to the exhortations for harder work, with which we on this side are all in agreement—has not been a tremendous success. So we see that with 50 per cent. more people in this country on export work today, production has only gone up by 17 per cent.
There are several causes of the present under-production. I will take only one of them and leave it to my hon. Friends to mention the others. Fuel and raw materials are scarce, largely due to lack of manpower where it is most urgently needed. In the coalfields today manpower is less than it has ever been before in the history of the industry. The result is that there is a shortage of steel, and also of timber since it is being burned in Scandinavia because we cannot export coal there. According to Mr. Horner, the miners' leader, there may be a million people in this country out of work this winter because of shortage of coal. Mr. Horner's own words on 27th October were:We say that the existing manpower cannot get the coal. Help must come from outside.What are the Government doing to provide this help from outside? Or are they content to leave a million workers in this country under the threat of unemployment? There is no indication whatever in the King's Speech on this subject, and that is why we propose to vote for the Amendment. There are unlimited foreign workers available today. Why do not the Government make use of them? I wish to enforce strongly what the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) has said upon this subject. Is the Government so frightened of the prejudices of trade unionists that it is not prepared to use them? I suggest this Government should stop drifting, and start to govern, or get out. More workers are required in the coal mines, in iron foundries, and in the cotton spinning industry, those industries which the Under-Secretary of the Board of Trade referred to as the unpopular industries. But he went on to say that we had come to the end of our resources of manpower— 974 a statement which is both misleading and untruthful while there are unlimited foreign workers anxious to be used, and quite accuston[...]ed to austerity in a degree unknown in this country and therefore quite leady to accept accommodation which is suitable for gang labour, although it would not be suitable for the English workman and his family. What are the Government doing? All the Government are doing is exhorting the workers to work harder while it is not' providing the necessary raw material for that work to be carried out. Let me quote a few lines from a letter of a Birmingham industrialist:We require aluminium, tinplate, steel sheets and paint for our normal productions. Suppliers now require seven-eight months for delivery of aluminium, steel sheets cannot be obtained in the lighter gauges we require, and tin plates are unobtainable for our manufacturers, even for export.I ask the Government, how can one expect a higher output under conditions like that? Do they not realise the sort of thing that goes on in a factory? What do the workers do? They go to the storekeeper and ask how much raw material there is. The storekeeper says, "Enough for two or three days." Who can blame the workers if they go back to the workshops and do very little work for the rest of the day when it seems likely that they will be out of work by the end of that week?
The Government must remove these obstacles to production. They must sharpen incentive. They must abolish restrictive practices wherever they are to be found, because it is abundantly clear that we cannot reach our export target, and maintain our present standard of living, going on as we are going. It is also abundantly clear that a planned economy is quite impossible unless the Government can place the labour in those industries where it is urgently needed and, as it is impossible to direct British labour in time of peace, that the Government have no alternative but to use foreigners.
I believe that the trend today is very critical. I believe that it is just as critical as it was in another way in 1940, when we were rapidly losing the Battle of the Atlantic. On that occasion Lord Hankey told the War Cabinet that we were going to be lost unless we could bring to bear some new reserve of power which had not hitherto been tapped. As a result, the Royal Air Force, from that moment, were 975 thrown into the Battle of the Atlantic, and the situation was got under control. I believe that we are faced with a parallel situation today, and that we must use some new reserve of untapped power in order to deal with it. I believe that that reserve is foreign labour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where from?"] From the U.N.R.R.A. camps in Germany, where there are 300,000 distressed persons, German prisoners of war in this country and Polish labour. I warn hon. Members opposite who sit for industrial areas—the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman), the hon. Member for Acock's Green (Mr. Usborne) and others—that it is these domestic issues concerned with production that matter most at the present time. If we are not careful, the next Election will be fought on the issue of the declining standard of living of the people, and it will avail hon. Members opposite nothing to say that they were very clever about foreign policy. A tidal wave will rise and sweep away the guilty men opposite, and they will never return.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
I hope that the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his somewhat ragged discourse on planning. I was interested when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) opened this Debate, because he and I have at least one thing in common. Prior to my election to this House I was connected with the railway company with which he is now connected, but unlike the right hon. Gentleman, a full-time substitute had to take my place when I became a Member of Parliament, as I was unable to continue my employment with the Great Western and represent a constituency as well. One would have thought, listening to the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, that he was delivering his speech in 1919, because it was the same kind of speech which was being delivered at that time. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lichfield (Major Poole) earlier today quoted from a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in December, 1918. One has reason to believe from the facts, as they are known, that the Government of the 976 day had made up their mind to nationalise the railways of this country. Not only did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford make speeches of that kind, but I should like to read to the House an extract from a speech made by the then Prime Minister a fellow countryman of mine, the late Lloyd George. Speaking in the House of Commons in November, 1918, he said:There is the problem of transportation, left very largely to chance—rails, canals, roads and trams, all vital to the lives, the industry, the amenities of the people of this country. This problem must be taken in hand under the direction, inspiration, and control of the State.The Trades Union Congress of that time made representations to the Government and, about them, "The Times" of 12th April, 1918, carried this report:The reply of the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, to the private deputation of the T.U.C. which met him on March 20th was "made public yesterday. Mr. Lloyd George referred to the nationalisation of the railways, and said he was in complete sympathy with the general character of the proposals. He agreed that the State would enable them to pay a lower interest on borrowed capital, to pay better wages to railway workers, and to provide better facilities for the public.If one turns to the Report of the Select Committee, set up by the House of Commons in 1918, and presented in November of that year, one finds that they suggested unification by means of nationalisation, followed by the establishment of a Government Department to manage the railways or the constitution of a board of management, not directly represented in Parliament, or a leasing of the system to one or more of the commercial companies.
One would imagine' from listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley that the question of the nationalisation of transport was something new, that it had not been heard of before, that it was something to be found in the imagination of the Lord President of the Council, that it had not been considered. I have in my hand a whole series of quotations, not from politicians alone, but from industrialists of all types, who have dealt with this question of nationalisation during the inter-war period. I agree with those who have said today that production is important. I suggest that one of the most substantial contributions that can be made to increased production is 977 the establishment of a highly efficient transport system. The late Lloyd George once described coal as the lifeblood of this nation. We realise now that that is absolutely true. If it is true then I submit that the transport of this country provides the arteries through which the lifeblood passes to all parts of the economic body. In 1921, Parliament passed the Railways Act, which brought the railways into four groups. I would like to quote, from the "Financier" of 23rd November, 1922, what Sir Henry Thornton said on board the "Olympic" as he left for New York to become the general manager of the Canadian State railways. He said:The only alternative, if the railway grouping system is not successful, is nationalisation. You cannot unscramble eggs when they are scrambled but, in this case, there is the remedy of nationalisation.I suggest that the Railways Act of 1921 has failed to yield what its promoters hoped it would yield. The railway companies themselves, by 1932, had demonstrated the weaknesses of that Act because, in that year, the London Midland and Scottish and the London and North-Eastern Railway Companies themselves entered into a pooling arrangement in an attempt to provide a new economy.
It failed because it failed to give decent conditions to the railway men of this country. In 1930, there was a demand for the railway companies to reduce the wages of the railway workers because the grouping system was not proving a success. Next year, they submitted a further demand, which ultimately went to a tribunal, and some members of that tribunal, which rejected the railway companies' demand, in their findings intimated that the only way in which the railway workers could be guaranteed decent conditions was by nationalisation.
This afternoon, the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), interrupting the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield, made reference to the tributes that had been paid to the railwaymen of this country for their work during the war. It is fashionable in some quarters to make reference to what the railways did during the war. I suggest to the House that the success of the railway movement of traffic during the war was in the main due to the energy of the 600,000 railway-men represented in the three railway trade unions. The Royal Commission of 978 1931, set up by Parliament, reached these remarkable conclusions:It appears to us that without unification—however it may be accomplished—no attempt to bring about complete coordination would be successful.Later in the Report they stated:We are all impressed with the immense importance of internal transport as the handmaiden of British industry, and we are all agreed that this can best be done by the adoption either of nationalisation or, alternatively, by the formation of a National Transport Trust.Three members of the Commission, in an appendix to that Report, developed the matter still further, and stated:Competition is not a possible solution and is incompatible with coordination. Coordination can only be obtained by unification. Unification through the preponderance of one form of traffic over another, in a given area, is not desirable, and would not have the support of public opinion; consequently, unification, which is desirable in the public interest, could only be brought about through some form of public control or ownership. Public ownership combined with commercial management should operate through a statutory corporation, free from all political and governmental interference. It should manage the coordinated transport facilities in the interest of national industry and trade. In other words, it should operate for service rather than profit.I suggest to the House that a case has been made out completely by the speeches delivered by hon. Members opposite this afternoon, that if we are to achieve that higher production which is to raise the standard of living of the people of this country, it can only be done through unifying all forms of inland transport under public ownership and control.
§ 9.54 pm.
§ Mr. Skeffington (Lewisham, West)
In the few moments that remain, I shall have to exercise, as quickly as I can, my powers of selection, and comment on only one or two of the points which I wished to make. I may say personally that, so far as I understand the Amendment of the Opposition, I am very pleased with it, because it seems to me that the Amendment which we are discussing is a complete denial of the usual Opposition line, that the Government has failed to carry out the detailed programme which it put before the electors. I well remember the speeches which were made on the Address last year, when there was the very easy assumption that what appeared in "Let Us Face The Future" was an election 979 statement without any serious intent behind it.
I remember hearing the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) talking in those easy terms. Then my mind jumps to 19th November, 1945, when the Lord President of the Council made his detailed statement on the industries which were to pass into public ownership, and I remember noticing, on the benches opposite, real consternation on many faces because here, at last, was a Government with power which was speedily going to carry out its Election pledges. I remember how the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton)—I am sure that if he were here he would not mind the words I am about to use, because they are at least a tribute to his physical nature—charging in like a rather intemperate bull. He and his supporters did not like the fact that the Government was going to carry out its pledges. I can imagine also what the Opposition would have said if, in the Gracious Speech this year, the Government had failed to refer to certain of the industries which we hope within the next year will be passed into public ownership. They would have talked about our running away from our pledges, and they would have "hotted up" this attack outside the House.
One further point that I want to make on the Amendment is this. I quite understand, and I quite believe, that there are many hon. Gentlemen opposite who are perfectly sincere in their desire to see that our production is maintained and increased. We can quarrel about the method by which this is to be achieved, but I find it difficult to reconcile their attitude, and the attitude also expressed by the right hon. Gentleman who is the greatest attribute which the Opposition have at the present time, the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who said that the Opposition associated themselves in the production drive—and the attitudes—and individual activities of many of our opponents, particularly outside the House. Week by week, in my Division, one reads in the local Press letters—the intellectual content of which is not particularly praiseworthy—from officials of the local Conservative organisation, and every one of those letters exploits the difficulties which any Government would have had 980 to face on the conclusion of a great world war. Although I do not think these letters are particularly dangerous to me, personally, or to those whom I represent, I' find it difficult to associate action of that sort—in which the comment by a Conservative speaker on the world food shortage is "dried eggs have dried up"—with the kind of sentiments about national wellbeing which are expressed by the Opposition today.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) may be able to say something about a leaflet distributed outside an exhibition of which, I imagine, we are all proud, the "Britain Can Make It" Exhibition. It is a Conservative leaflet, although the fact that it is published by the Conservative and Unionist Central Office, 24, Old Queen Street, is put on it in very small letters at the back. As people come out of the exhibition, they are given a statement entitled "One Year of Power," by George Murray, which is a complete distortion of the facts. The House will judge the contents of this sort of document when I say it is reprinted by permission of the "Daily Mail." It is really difficult to reconcile that kind of thing—the exaggeration of world and internal difficulties—with the pious expressions which have been made about production here.
The other point I would like to make is in reference to that section of production which will not pass into public ownership. It is an extraordinary feature of the British industrial system, as it has grown up, that there is in most instances no representation of the consumers' interest at the policy making stage. Except to some extent in the Cooperative Movement, and in some of the ad hoc bodies which the Government have set up, there is no real representation of the consumer or the user. I am hoping that in the work which the Board of Trade are doing it will be possible to get into many of our industries consumer representation at an early stage in policy making. If that is done, we may be able to see that the consumers' interest is represented, not when the article is finished but before, so that we may get a better standard in the production of good quality goods.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
We have had an interesting Debate and I doubt whether, in the short time that 981 remains to me this evening, I shall be able to deal very adequately even with the extremely interesting speech which has just been addressed to the House. The hon. Member for West Lewisham (Mr. Skeffington) is, I believe, a lecturer, but I imagine that he can never have been called upon to deliver in so short a time a lecture upon such a very important subject as has been the case this evening. I would say for the hon. Member's speech that it was about production, which was vastly to his credit—
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.