§ 3.44 P.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
A minute and a half before the House adjourned last night, I was fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, in this Debate and I rose to support the Amendment. Since then, I have had the good fortune of being able to read the speeches which were made yesterday. We had speeches from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) and my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), which were appreciated and valued on all sides of the House. We had a speech from the Lord President of the Council. It was not a very characteristic speech. He started off in his very best debating style; there was a rather confused middle period, and at the end he did what he does not very often do—he read a very long apologia in the Government's defence. He told us that steel exports had now reached rock bottom, but whether that was to be regarded as a matter for 1035 congratulation, or whether the right hon. Gentleman's (statement was a cry of despair, I never fully made out. One thing was made quite certain by this Debate—that hon. Members opposite have undergone something like a political conversion. It is now common ground that the standard of life of the people of this country depends not on Socialism or any other "ism," but on our production per head of the population. [An HON. MEMBER: "What does that depend on?"] Surely hon. Members will not disagree with that statement. I am not going to read again the sneers of the Minister of Health about the export trade, or the comments of the Minister of Food on the subject of production—before they reached office. I would, however, say about the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench, who said these things in earlier days, that their statements were only a pale reflection of what their supporters were saying in every mine, factory and workshop in the country. What is happening now is that the right hon. Gentlemen are coming to what is more or less a political somersault. The sooner that evolution is performed the better. Let them do the thing completely. To hang, head downwards, is an undignified and indecorous position. It is no use paying lip service to production, while at the same time clinging to one's previous line of propaganda. The Lord President of the Council can scarcely see an industrialist without turning aside in the middle of a Debate to make some sneering comments. The profit motive and private enterprise, under the system which the Government are at present managing, are responsible for 80 per cent. of our production. That system is constantly sneered at, but speeches should not be made about the value of production unless those concerned take some of the practical steps which are necessary in order to achieve it.
I wish to refer only to three aspects of this matter. First, I want to examine the question of whether the Government have demonstrated to the people of this country their sincerity in the production drive. Secondly, I want to ask whether they recognise the true gravity of the problem which confronts them. Thirdly, I want to say a word or two about the steps they are taking, or are not taking, in order to achieve the end they desire.
1036 As regards the point of demonstrating sincerity, I would draw attention to the nature of most of the speeches which came from the back benches on the Government side yesterday.' If a great party is going forward on some new line of policy emphasising the need of production, they must carry their back benchers with them. We cannot launch a production drive from the Front Bench only. We had yesterday a speech on the subject of the nationalisation of the steel industry from the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans), but it did not indicate how the production of steel would go up. Incidentally, are we really going to nationalise the steel industry? What is the position? Why this war of nerves on. the steel industry? Is it a background to the Dunkirk spirit that the Lord President required? Then we had a speech on the nationalisation of transport. If the election manifesto of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in 1918 was read once, it was read several times. I beg the party opposite, if they believe in the nationalisation of transport, to put it forward boldly on its merits. Then we had a speech on electricity, but from the back benches there were very few speeches on the subject of production.
I put another case. One of the ways you produce things is by work. It is a crude and rather rude thought, but it is true. What is the attitude of the Government to such a matter as the 40 hour week? There are arguments both ways about that. Some people think it would increase production, others think it would cause an immediate drop. Some—and I am among them—see no reason why you should not have it in a particular mine or factory, if it can be shown that it will increase production, or not make overall production drop too much. What is the attitude of the Government? Can they really be neutral on a subject of that kind, and at the same time persuade the country that they are genuine in their production drive?
Let me give another example. One way of getting men to work is to hold out some incentive to them. I am not going to talk about P.A.Y.E. or complicated taxation problems, even with the Chancellor of the Exchequer present, because I do not wish to worry him, but there are much simpler incentives. One of the things that men look forward to, and can be persuaded to work and save 1037 for, is a house of their own, a garden of their own and quite simple things like that. It may be they have not a proper conception of their true social purpose, but this consideration was put over in the National Savings Campaign and then withdrawn. What is the attitude of the Government about that? The Prime Minister came down to the House the other day. He would not say he was for it; he was not against it, he just did not care. The Government are just as neutral upon that, as on other matters.
I give still another example. One of the ways of getting production is by making the best use of your manpower, by having a system in which a man finds the job for which he is best suited—and the man only knows that himself. If he is not suited to one job, he should be able to transfer to another. It is perfectly well known today, however, that throughout the whole trade union movement there is a tangle of regulations which make it incredibly difficult to transfer from one job to another, or from one trade to another, or even, may I add, to do the job which you are trained to do. The public has not forgotten about those railway trucks at Swindon which, for nine months sat without roofs on, waiting while the National Union of Railwaymen and the National Union of Vehicle Manufacturers —[HON. MEMBERS: "Builders."]— squabbled as to who should have the right to punch the rivets in them. For nine months the Government were neutral upon that subject. It is very difficult to persuade the public that there is any genuine drive behind this call for production.
That brings me to the subject of manpower. We shall be, and everybody admits it, desperately short of manpower. The demands of the Armed Forces, the need to concentrate a large number of men on making exports, even the raising of the school age—all accentuate the problem which as the Government themselves recognise, will arise. It is what they call a manpower gap. They publish little books about it—"More Production Now, Means Better Living Later On". But what do they say about the manpower problem. It comes to this—that the old age pensioners must be asked to work a little longer, the married women must be invited not to leave industry, and at the end, they say that coal produc- 1038 tion for 1945 was 182 million tons compared with 226 million tons in 1938. That is frank enough anyway. They also say that unless output rises there is a real danger that the coal shortage may act as a brake upon reconversion. What a masterpiece of. understatement. That comes under the heading "Closing the Manpower Gap." Yet it is public knowledge in this country that there are Polish miners here who are being kept out of the pits. There is a practical suggestion for closing the manpower gap. But the matter goes somewhat further. What about other foreign workers? The fact is that with a shortage of manpower in this country, and a Government paying lip-service to production, every kind of administrative and bureaucratic difficulty is put in the way of any volunteer who tries to get into this country to work. I do not want to bore the House with instances from my own constituency, but it so happens that one of my constituents asked an ex-prisoner of war agricultural labourer to come back to this country to do agricultural work. This is the letter I had from the Ministry of Labour:The issue of permits to aliens to work here is restricted, with the exception of female domestic servants, to those who possess unusual skill or qualifications not already available in this country. Manual workers in agriculture do not, therefore, qualify for Ministry of Labour permits.I do not know whether the Minister of Labour has ever tried to lay a hedge, but he should know that there is a certain amount of skill required to do that. The letter continues:As you know, the Government is at the present time negotiating with both sides of the agricultural industry for the absorption of a large number of Poles with experience in agriculture who are already in this countryThe date of that letter is nth October, and the farmers, during the previous period, had been making desperate efforts with inadequate manpower to get in their harvest. Yet every effort was made to keep these men out. I find something a little contemptible about a party which preaches internationalism abroad, and on every platform in this country, and yet takes every step to prevent free men coming here to work. I find it the more contemptible, when I notice that they are prepared to use the slave labour of a conquered nation, to bolster up the restrictionist economy that they want. I cannot believe that a Government which does 1039 those things, can really put forward their production drive with very much conviction. It seems to me that they are much more inclined to treat this country, as a whole, as a closed shop. Therefore, I doubt very much whether they have successfully demonstrated their sincerity in these matters.
I doubt, too, whether they recognise the real gravity of the problem that confronts them. What is the picture put forward in most of the documents which one sees in the current propaganda? That if we work a little harder, our standard of living may go up a little; if we do not work hard, it may drop. That does not seem to me to be the case at all. It seems to me to be much graver—that unless we do something pretty drastic in the next two years, it will not be a little higher or a little lower standard of living—it will be a national disaster which will confront this country.
At the same time our whole economy is supported by two transitory things: one is a sellers' market abroad, and the other is the American Loan. Neither of those things will last. With regard to the sellers' market abroad, we hear figures about the way our exports are going up. I do not think that those figures, in relation to lasting export markets, are worth the paper they are written on. Anybody can export and they are exporting a very little coal from South Wales You can sell coal from South Wales with 33⅓ per cent. dirt in it, and you can demand a price higher than has ever been demanded before, and it all goes into the export figures. But it represents nothing in the way of a permanent market. Then there is the Loan. That Loan, that pipeline of credit, will come to an end, and I hope the President of the Board of Trade will be able to answer the questions put to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley yesterday on that subject. Not only the American Loan, but the Canadian Loan, will come to an end and the whole process will probably coincide with the beginning of the end of the sellers' market abroad. Unless really great steps are taken by us as a nation in the next two years, we shall face disaster and if Ministers really want their production drive to succeed, why do they not tell the people the truth, and how grim the situation is? In such circumstances it is hardly surprising that 1040 the steps they have taken to deal with production are not adequate to the task.
May I refer once more to the Loan? This country has accepted a Loan from the United States of America, but, while the Loan is transitory, the conditions under which it was accepted are permanent. One of those conditions was that we should accept a system of multilateral trading, and the obligation to enable other countries, so far as we can, to maintain full employment and the rest of it. Cutting out the jargon of economics, what does that mean? It means that here at home one year we may be exporting cotton pants for the Chinese, and another year they may be making cotton pants themselves, and we may have to export wireless sets to the Mexicans. It is that kind of world in which we shall have to live. Hundreds of thousands of private firms in this country must be ready with enterprise and ideas to step in with a new product any time it is desired. Eight hon. Gentlemen opposite have accepted the Loan, but were they prepared to accept the inevitable consequence, a free economy at home, which is the only way we can live in that kind of world? If they were not prepared to do that, it came very near to getting the money on a false prospectus.
There are proposals for dealing with those industries which are not to be nationalised. They have been the subject of working party reports. Another group of industries have not been subject to any inquiry at all, but are to be nationalised more or less as a matter of party doctrine. I want to say a word about each of these groups. I am not going to decry the efforts which members of working parties have made. I think they have made very valuable suggestions, and the country should be grateful for the work they have put in. The Prime Minister, the other day, said that a Bill is to be introduced—it was mentioned in the Gracious Speech—to give effect to those recommendations of the industries themselves as to how they should be reorganised. I have seen suggestions like these in the past. I have seen suggestions coming from the employers' side and the trade union side. They may be very convenient for the industries them selves, but they would be quite disastrous for the consumers. Instead of that, or at least in addition to that, why could we not see some reference in the Gracious Speech to a Bill which would not put 1041 industries into tighter rings, but would break up one or two of the rings?
What is the use of the President of the Board of Trade getting up and sneering, in an aside, at my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton)—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Lord President of the Council."] I apologise most humbly for what must have been a most deadly insult to the right hon. Gentleman. I did not mean it as harshly as all that, and I withdraw unreservedly. But what is the use of the Lord President of the Council directing his remarks, in an aside, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot on the subject of the lamp ring? If the Lord President of the Council feels that way about the lamp ring, why on earth can we not have an inquiry into it, and a tribunal set up before which anyone can go, be he employer, worker, or consumer, to complain of any practice which he thinks restrictive? That was the policy upon which the Conservative Party stood at the last Election. It was in their Election manifesto. Why do not the party opposite do something about these things? Do they believe in monopolies and price rings, or do they not? If not, why not introduce some legislation to deal with them? That would be getting down to realities on the subject of production. But they do nothing of the kind. Instead of that, we have the usual suggestion for nationalising various industries, a majestic progress of this revolution—coal, the Bank of England, and now transport and all the rest. No doubt that gives some satisfaction to regular subscribers to the Fabian Society, but it does not at all increase the zest of the workman in any of these industries to get on with the job of production.
In South Wales, where I now live, there was, and will be until 1st January, a coal combine called Powell Duffryn. It was not a universally popular coal combine, but now the director of Powell Duffryn has been translated to the head of the National Coal Board. Why do the Government expect the individual Welshman to be thrilled by that? I am not making any reflection on Lord Hyndley, but what cause is there for the individual Welshman to be thrilled? I came from the Black Country before I was defeated there, and I knew that great Midland coalfield. They have got Sir Ben Smith. Now what are we promised? The same great process is to go on. The railways are to be taken over, and someone like Lord 1042 Portal is to be removed from the board room of the Great Western Railway, and put into another room a little further along. I suppose the "Go Slow" strike at Paddington will then come to an end.
I was reading again that most illuminating document, the Socialist Party's "Let us Face the Future." In it I read that in the years that followed the first world war,the 'hard faced men' and their political friends kept control of the Government. They controlled the banks, the mines …There are grand pickings still to be had.The fact is that the British workman sees no future in the system of State capitalism and industrial patronage so ably sustained by His Majesty's Ministers.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
In my view, the Government have failed to demonstrate their sincerity about the production drive. I am not accusing them of insincerity. I am sure the President of the Board of Trade—and I mean him this time—is sincere in his desire for production. He has faced some quite unpleasant decisions in order to bring that about, and I give him full credit for it. But the Government are a long way from demonstrating to the country that they are sincere about it. They do not recognise, or if they do recognise, they have not told the country of the real gravity of the situation which they have to face. Certainly they have wholly failed to take any steps to deal with it. I only want to say this: We shall be faced with a crisis in any case, and in large part, the reasons for that crisis will lie outside the control of any party or any group of parties in this country. But we are a great nation, and we have faced crises of this sort before, and we shall get through this crisis. Of that I have not the slightest doubt. But if we spend the next two years just nationalising an industry here and there or doing something like that, and not facing up to the reality of the situation, then when we come to that crisis the people of this country, the workpeople, will have to go through a degree of suffering which otherwise they might not have to endure.
I do not intend to outline policies or anything of that kind. We do not accuse the Government of planning. No one would accuse them of that. The British 1043 housewife, who reads of the great American harvest and the glut, is submitted to bread rationing; the motor manufacturers who are lectured about producing more motor cars and find that there is no steel, or the Welshman, sitting in his home, who is told to produce more, and cannot get a job—they are not accusing the Government of planning. The Lord President questioned the authority of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley on that matter, but I think that we would agree that he spoke for the whole Conservative Party and the whole country. We want planning, we want freedom, but we do not want the planning of political doctrinaires, and we do not want the freedom of the closed shop.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Daines (East Ham, North)
A short time ago a conference was held at Blackpool, and the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) addressed that conference, on the occasion of its main debate. Preceding his speech, there was a statement from an ex-Member of this House, Sir Herbert Williams, who said, in reply to a request for a policy:We have to go bald-headed for the other side, and gradually out of that you build up the policy you want.I submit to the House that that is precisely what has happened, in this Debate. In reply to that statement, the hon. Member for Monmouth, who has just addressed the House with great eloquence, and, if I may say so, with a considerable amount of charm, and who evidently felt that "to go bald-headed" without a policy was not sufficient, gave vent to this utterance:I do not believe a change in the name of the party or an alliance with the Liberals is going to have the slightest effect whatever in providing the leadership and inspiration which this country wants.…What matters is what we stand for—and speaking of the Conservative Party:What we want is a policy and not a political label.I am a comparatively young man, as is the hon. Member. When I listened to him I expected him, not to use the whole of his time in "going bald-headed" for the Government, but to give us some indication of an alternative policy to that which is being pursued by His Majesty's Government. I, as well as the right hon. 1044 Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), have been taking an active part in the North Paddington by-election. I submit to the younger section of the Tory Party that what democracy wants today from the Opposition is some real indication of what is their alternative to the policy of the Government. So long as they continue to pursue a policy of "going bald-headed" for the Government, Rotherhithes and North Paddingtons will continue to be their lot.
Coming closer to the Amendment, I would say that it follows two main lines. One is criticism of the Government's policy of nationalisation, and the second is in relation to the question of incentive. I regretted that a third point did not show itself in the speeches of hon. Members opposite—some elaboration of the intentions and programme foreshadowed at Blackpool, particularly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). If the House is prepared to listen I propose to deal with these points from my angle as a Socialist, and try to take the House a little further on the latter question, than did the hon. Member. I submit that this Government did not approach the question of the nationalisation of the coalmines, nor will they approach that of the nationalisation of the railways, from any political angle at all. The reason we were driven to nationalise the coalmines was because they were in a position that demanded a major recapitalisation. That capital could only come from public funds. Therefore, we were compelled to adopt the policy which we did adopt.
§ Mr. Daines
What was the alternative? Let us recall the position after the last war. The alternative was to follow the same policy as that which was pursued then, when a huge amount of public money was poured into the mines, and there was no real attempt at mechanisation or unification. The consequence was the position which we now face. I submit to the House that if this Government had not been returned, the Tory Party would have pursued exactly the same policy as they did previously. The fact which younger members of the Tory Party have to face is that in all their approaches to these problems, they are 1045 primarily concerned with the maintenance of property rights. So long as that position is taken up, that all these questions are to be dealt with on the basis of this determination to maintain property rights, they are bound to be inhibited in their approach to major economic problems. If the hon. Member will get his research department to spend some time analysing what took place in Committee upstairs, he will find out how much of the time of his own party was taken in getting the best bargain possible for financial interests, rather than on suggestions for the practical working of the mines.
I accept some of the best parts of the speeches which have been made from the other side, particularly that of the right hon. Member for Bromley. He, I must say, made an extremely interesting speech. I wish to refer to one passage, which I think foreshadows the problem which all parties in this House will have to face if they are sincerely concerned with the national interest. He said: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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th November, 1946; Vol. 430, c. 870.]The hon. Member for Monmouth referred to that in his speech, in order to rally his own side to utter cheap jeers. I ask him, however, to go a little further and approach this as a real problem. It is true that on 1st January the mines will come under national ownership. The miners will see the same managers and the same foremen. Their mental makeup—and in this the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley has not gone far enough—is not covered by 25 years' experience only. It is covered by a tradition that goes back for 100 years. Is it imagined for one moment, that we are so short-sighted as not to realise the terrific psychological problem that is involved? The plain fact to be faced—'and I, as a Socialist, recognise it—is that Socialism is not only a means of economic change. Unless it also has a spiritual content that is capable of changing men and men's natures, then it is bound to fail. When I had the temerity first to address this House, I made a frank confession that those of us who are on these benches have come here largely be- 1046 cause of social discontent that arises from the struggle of the dispossessed. I know it, and I recognise it, and, to a certain extent, that is bound to mark the mentality of our people. We must change men and their outlook.
Hon. Members opposite can score cheap points at our expense, but, are they then admitting that we talk completely for the working classes, and that they always talk for the employers? Is that their attitude? Am I not entitled to reply, "Are all employers, then, socially and nationally minded?" I do not profess to be an economist. Heaven forbid—we have a sufficient number here and I do not need to join the happy band. When we turn to the Stock Exchange notes and examine the records of increased dividends since the last Budget, can hon. Members opposite say, with sincerity, that great employers who want to be animated by the profit motive are approaching their problems only from the standpoint of the national interest?
Finally, I wish to refer to the question of the creation of a property-owning democracy. I regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, in the latter part of his speech, did not elaborate this particularly intriguing aspect of the new policy indicated by the Tory Party. I submit that what we want from hon. Gentlemen opposite is not a mere statement that they are going to create a property-owning democracy. We are anxious to have the details of how they propose to do it. How are they going to work it out? How would they tackle the problem of the mines; how would they share out the ownership of the railways; and the ownership of the Bank of England? The plain fact is here for us to see. It is we on these benches who are creating a property-owning democracy. The ownership of the mines can only go into the hands of the whole community. The same applies to the ownership of the railways and the banks. It is a Labour Government who are creating a property-owning democracy. I think hon. Members opposite should carry the details a stage further. Suppose they try to sell that policy to the cotton manufacturing areas of this country. After the last war, there was an attempt at diffusing the ownership of the cotton mills and factories of Lancashire. There are enough of them 1047 here who remember the name of Hooley in connection with that.
I am very grateful to the House for the courteous way in which they have listened to me. Perhaps I shall have to be silent for quite a long while, and I want therefore to say a final word to hon. Members opposite. Many of us on this side of the House think quite seriously that there is need for alternative thinking to our own, and that out of the two will come a synthesis that will give us a united nation. I say this—and I say it to them from my heart—if they cannot get away from the policy of confining themselves to brick-throwing at this Government then the younger generation of the Tory Party are doomed to the political sterility of their elder members who sit on their Front Bench.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for North East Ham (Mr. Daines) dealt with one point of great interest—the spiritual approach to the whole economic life of the country. I will touch upon that later in my remarks, because in one's consideration of Socialist proposals, one very often feels that on paper they are very perfect indeed. The only thing wrong with them is that they completely ignore human nature. However, I do not propose to follow that point up at this stage. I wish to refer to the speech made yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council. After the Lord President had finished what I think he called his "exchange of pleasantries," he turned with what I thought was a certain amount of reluctance to his more formal brief. As long as he stuck to his brief I thought he gave us some very interesting information. One was interested particularly in what he told us of the Government's economic survey and planning working, of the Ministry of Labour's reconstitution of the National Joint Advisory Council, and of the working of the National Production Advisory Council on Industry and the regional boards for industry. He said that early in the New Year he hoped we should have a full Debate upon those matters. If it is possible, I hope the President of the Board of Trade, when he speaks today, will give us a little more information upon the working of these bodies which axe exceedingly important.
1048 The Lord President stressed one point in his speech. He hoped through these organisations and bodies to give industry and workpeople increased economic knowledge and background. I hope this will be a two-way traffic and that the Government will benefit equally; that they will ask for, and get, the maximum amount of detailed information from industry and workpeople about their problems. It must not be a one-way traffic. It was rather disturbing that the Lord President of the Council did not say that in his remarks, but that is probably because he had not time to extend them. I am in substantial agreement with what he said in that part of his speech. It has been said several times during this Debate by hon. Members on this side of the House that we must have planning. Of course, we must. A central economic staff is an essential for this country. I would go so far as to say that in between the wars, we suffered desperately from the lack of such a body. People have accused industry of being selfish and of not acting in the best interests of the nation. By and large, I think those of us who have any knowledge of the great bulk of the people running industry can repudiate absolutely that suggestion. The trouble between the wars was that there was no effective machinery in existence which enabled industry to understand the problems of the nation as a whole or any machinery which enabled the individual Government Departments attempting to deal with them to understand the detailed problems of industry. One hopes that a remedy for that will be developed steadily during the coming years. I believe that the machinery described by the Lord President of the Council is a step in the right direction, and, as I have said, I hope we shall hear a good deal more of it, certainly in the full Debate promised for the New Year.
On the subject of a central economic staff and its planning, I think it would be a disaster if it attempted to work in a vacuum. We all make mistakes in our own affairs, and sometimes they are disastrous, but they affect only ourselves. If central planners, with a big influence on the actions of Government Departments, make mistakes, it is not individuals who suffer but the whole nation. If the central economic staff is not to make mistakes, it must have the closest and most constant contact with industry and work- 1049 people. That contact can be effective only if based on full confidence from both sides. If there is one factor which destroys confidence in the relationship of industries and the Government, it is the constant fear of nationalisation. As long as that fear exists at the back of the minds of industrialists, it is bound to affect the closeness of their contact with Government planners, whatever device may be used to attempt to obtain that contact.
The Government propose, in the Gracious Speech, to nationalise transport and electricity. They also intend to endeavour to ensure that the resources of the nation are effectively employed for the common good. My hon. Friends and I, on these benches, have ventured to suggest that these two objectives are simply not compatible. Nothing has been said in any part of the House during this Debate, either from the Government Front Bench or from the back benches, to show that those objectives are compatible. We all agree that both these industries present problems. I will not go into any detail, but I would say that we all agree that the problem of road and rail coordination is difficult, and that that of electrical distribution and supply needs looking into. But why try to delude the country into believing that the difficulties which they present can be solved better by nationalisation than by any other means?
The Lord President said that transport problems could be solved without nationalisation, but that it would involve the creation of a semi-monopoly or a full monopoly, and that that was the reason why the Government were taking over the industry. This is really no reason at all for taking it over, unless it can be proved that, by taking it over, the State will be able to ensure that it is as efficiently operated as before. What is more, the act of nationalisation must have a serious effect on the whole political morality of the country. Can the President of the Board of Trade say—can anyone say—that he is convinced that State ownership can result in efficiency? Can any hon or right hon. Gentleman opposite deny that the creation of a State monopoly will result in an ever-increasing number of State employees, and that this must, inevitably, produce disastrous consequences on the morality of our political life? That is how to judge the case for nationalisation. No case has been made 1050 out on any grounds that State ownership can bring efficiency. On the question of political morality, with a General Election six months off, and a demand for wage increases by sections of the workers of this country, can anyone say that the Government of the day will judge the request for wage increases strictly on its merits? I just do not believe it
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Heston and Isleworth)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what the joint council dealing with wages in connection with civil servants has done up co now?
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not think that is quite relevant. I am talking of the days when even those industries now considered ready for nationalisation will mean a very large percentage of State employees.
§ Mr. Palmer (Wimbledon)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, under the nationalisation proposals, it is not suggested that the employees are to be civil servants, but are to be employees of the National Coal Board and the Central Electricity Board 'To take the case of the Central Electricity Board, has the General Election had any effect on the employees of that Board so far?
§ Mr. Maclay
I rather hoped that that one would be brought out, because it really is fantastic. Hon. Members must not pretend that, when the State takes over an industry, the employees of the Board are not employees of the State. But I must get on with my speech and not be drawn into these sidetracks. Let us remember what the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health told us during the Committee stage of the National Health Bill. He said, in one breath, that the doctors will not be civil servants, and in the next breath, that he could not allow the ultimate court of appeal against a doctor being struck off the panel, to be a judge of the high court, because he, the Minister, was responsible for the doctor, who was the Minister's servant. That is what the Minister said, and the two things are irreconcilable. There is no doubt we are going to have a larger number of State servants, whatever they are called.
If we go in for this very critical programme of nationalisation, I assume that the President of the Board of Trade and all his colleagues have studied all the available information from other countries 1051 and I hope that many hon. Members opposite did so before backing this Government. We ought to consider what has happened in other countries where nationalisation has been tried. I take shipping first, because of the statistics which are available. We find that France went in for State-owned shipping, but came out again in 1924, at a time when the State was losing a million francs a day. That information comes from "The Times" of 30th November, 1927. What about Canada? They gave up their venture in State-owned shipping when they had lost in one year £1,300,000 on a very small fleet of ships. Australia lost £12 million with a very small number of ships and gave it up, and the United States, which made a most extensive experiment between the years 1917 and 1937, lost, according to the- economic survey of the American merchant marine prepared by Mr. Joseph Kennedy, £760 million out of the taxpayers' pockets.. I admit that shipping is not a very good example to take, because it is probably the most difficult industry to operate nationally, but it is the fact that a number of nations tried to operate it and, on a test of efficiency, failed lamentably, while other nations, which did not experiment that way, came through all right
§ Mr. George Porter (Leeds, Central)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the point about shipping, may I ask, Does he not know that, in this country, when ships were being built on the Clyde by free enterprise, work had to be stopped until the Government came to the rescue of free enterprise?
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to the "Queen Elizabeth" and the "Queen Mary," because, if so, there is a very easy explanation for that. The company planned a certain programme, but the depression struck the world like a blizzard and all movement of passengers stopped. The company naturally had to stop building until they saw how passenger movements would recover. The Government came in, very largely through pressure from one of the hon. Member's own colleagues.
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
Is it not the case that Australia took over her shipping, and reduced the rates from the 1052 private companies, and that that helped industry?
§ Mr. Maclay
The Australians would be the first to admit that they could not efficiently and economically operate their own merchant marine in competition with free enterprise.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr)
Did not scores of shipping companies go into liquidation in this country during (he period for which the hon. Gentleman quoted the American figures?
§ Mr. Maclay
I must really be allowed to proceed with my own speech, instead of taking up time in answering hon. Members' queries. The British Merchant Marine survived and its efficiency was a vital factor in winning the war. But let me turn to the railways for a minute. I am going to quote only a few cases of countries taking over the railways-Canada, Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, France and Switzerland all sustained very heavy losses. [HON. MEMBERS: "Canada?"] Canada, yes. I will give the figures afterwards.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am afraid I must get on. The net result was that, in the case of three countries—New Zealand, Belgium and Switzerland—substantial changes had to be made. New Zealand put the railways under independent control; Belgium put them under a self-governing body, and Switzerland produced an organisation which was separated from the Government. The fact is that there is evidence all over the world that nationalisation of these two industries which are to be dealt with in this Session cannot produce efficiency. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will produce as evidence the case of at least one railway, which has worked efficiently under State ownership.
§ Mr. Maclay
I must get on with my point. Now on the question of political morality I should like to quote from a debate in New Zealand when they were discussing in 1931 the case for putting the State railways under a non-political Board. In that debate the Minister of 1053 railways declared that in the past he had been subjected to political pressure sufficient to shake the nerves of anyone, and that there was always the risk of such pressure becoming irresistible. He claimed that transfer to independent control was a safeguard to sensible men. In the report of the inquiry into the New Zealand railways at that time it was stated that, the further the functions of Government and control of railways could be separated, the better it would be for the railways.
I now turn to Canada. A Royal Commission on Railways, which sat in 1931, made the following comment:When considering the scale on which branch line extensions and acquisitions as well as hocel expenditure were made, it is impossible to avoid the conclusions that the board of directors and the management of National Railways were amenable to political influence and pressure which it would have been in the public interest to have withstood.There we have evidence. True, it is only a small amount of evidence, but it is evidence by the nations who have tried the experiment.
§ Mr. McAdam (Salford, North)
In regard to the Canadian national railways, is the hon. Gentleman aware that at that particular time the Canadian Pacific Railway was also incurring a loss as the result of their party policy?
§ Mr. Maclay
That is true, but the point I am dealing with concerns political pressure on the railways. It is inevitable that management under nationalisation will not be free from political influence. I am not going into further details, but the general expression used in a report on the Belgium railways was that the whole business was one of wholesale jobbery and political corruption. That is the evidence of what has been going on elsewhere. Can right hon. and hon. Members opposite give us any evidence whatsoever as to where nationalisation of an industry has been a success? No word has been said from the Government side to show how nationalisatino can possibly be efficient. I have raised the question of political morality, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will deal with it when he comes to reply. Hon. Members opposite must realise that people are going to react in a very human way to the conditions under which they have to live and work.
It has been said from the Government Front Bench that we on this side of the 1054 House have talked too much about rash promises by supporters of the Labour Government during the last election. The Lord President of the Council indignantly denied that, and quoted from "Let us Face the Future." I have no doubt that many responsible, right hon. and hon. Members opposite were very careful in what they said, but can they deny that, right through the country, the impression was given that Socialism could work miracles? To substantiate that, I would like to quote from the address of my own opponent in the last Election. He was a delightful fellow; his objectives were the same as mine; we both wanted the same things for the citizens of the world. Here is what he had to say, and it is this, I think, which is the real charge against the supporters of the present Government. His opening paragraph says:The future of this country and the future of the world depends upon the attainment of two main objectives: (1) the maintenance of world peace, and (2) the attainment of world happiness for every living soul.At the end of his address, after saying in between what we would like to see in the world, he said:Socialism means an end to world poverty. It means no more starved children anywhere in the world; no more crimes or cruelties caused by bad housing and other evil social conditions. No more forgotten men and women.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
All that has been said before in the course of this Debate. That, of course, is international Socialism. International Socialism means just that. That is a long-term international policy which could only be obtained by long-term means and cooperation. No one has suggested that Socialism in England could cure a housing shortage in other countries.
§ Mr. Maclay
That is just my point. There is a little in this programme about international Socialism, but there is not one practical word about how to achieve this wonderful world in which we all would like to live. The implication was "Vote Labour and all will be well." I am glad to say that the electors who received this address decided by a substantial majority that Socialism was not the easy answer to all their prayers.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Longden (Birmingham, Deritend)
I think we all agree that the two speeches 1055 made today by hon. Members opposite have been extremely interesting. The hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) relieved me of much of what I intended to say. I, too, am concerned about State ownership, about what it means, and to what it leads. The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) had as the burden of his speech the question of production. He did not tell us what was happening to the product; he mentioned nothing concerning distribution. When he mentioned incentive, no idea was forthcoming as to what was meant by that word. It is because of omissions of that kind that I placed on the Order Paper the following simple Amendment to the Address:But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech fails to foreshadow any Government intention to widen the democratic control of publicly-owned industries.As one of the oldest Socialists to be found in our movement, I am supremely disturbed at the tendencies which exist in regard to what we call public ownership and control, and I will try to explain that as briefly as I can. There is no intention on my part to stab our Government in the back and I think it was a pity that, in opening the Debate in this House yesterday, the right hon. Member for Bromley. (Mr. H. Macmillan) should have used such a shameful term as a "stab in the back." I know hon. Members on this side of the House fairly well, and I could not conceive of one of them who would wish to stab the Government in the back But every Member on this side of the House has the right to offer friendly criticism of the Government's actions, and that is what I suggest I have the right to do now.
It is no use telling me that this matter of public ownership and its consequences is not important, or is academic. I suggest that Fabian minima of life and administrative orderliness are not by any means all that we require. I could conceive of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite coming to power some time, and using these bases as a means of introducing a totalitarian propertied State-if the electorate was unaware. That is what I fear. To be honest with my colleagues, I must say that I do not like the increasing numbers of differential, varying forms of public ownership. State ownership and State controls. These might well become a menace. Secondly, I fear that failures. 1056 if there be any, will redound to the discredit of the movement which I have supported all my life. If hon. Members opposite were to, come to power again, they would make these forms of public ownership and controls in public utility corporations a sheer menace to future democracy in this country. 'Monopoly is here, whether we like it or not. Liberal Members and the Society of Individualists must realise that private enterprise, which the Liberal Party came in to represent, laissez faireand "cut throat" competition have gone for ever. In their place, monopoly capitalism has come, and for us it is a matter of monopoly capitalism or people's monopoly. That is what we have to face.
If there were time, which there is not. I should like to quote a number of instances in proof of what I am saying, but hon. Members know as well as I do what the "Manchester Guardian" inquiry revealed about monopoly. They know, too, what the Board of Trade inquiry told us in the report on the structure of British industry. It is no use saying, therefore, that monopoly is new It is as old as ancient Greece, Rome, and mediaeval England. It is as old as Napoleon's nationalisation of the tobacco industry, Disraeli's nationalisation of the telegraphs in this country, or Bismarck's nationalisation of the Prussian railways; and the Tories and the Liberals in the last several generations have supported all manner of public ownerships and controls, through sheer necessity to serve the people at large. We know these things, just as we know that the Leader of the Opposition was favourable to railway nationalisation about a generation ago. We have all manner of forms of public ownership, such as the Port of London Authority, the Central Electricity Board, a private company recently created to control the products of atomic energy, and the L.P.T.B., which is the most perfect totalitarian structure in the whole world, serving property rather than the working classes of democracy in our country. We have the Bank Board and the Coal Board, and I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley when, in the Third Reading Debate on the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill, he said:This Bill vests the ownership of all the colliery undertakings in a board.…It is not nationalisation in the old sense of the word.…It is State capitalism."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 20th May. 1946; Vol. 423. c. 132.]1057 That is quite true. What I wish to know is whether we are going to move forward or not. The right hon. Gentleman went on to state that the workers' representatives on this Board were an abstraction, and that is just what I wanted to say. It is clear to me that when men who previously had been leaders of the trade union movement—members of a caste apart, as Sidney Webb called them—are appointed to a board like this, they become far more abstract, more distant and out of touch with the people they previously represented. It is no use saying that there is no alternative. I remember quite well in the 1920's, the Independent Labour Party putting forward a Socialist alternative to this kind of thing. They said that every industry might be run by the triumvirate of the State, technical staffs, managerial staffs and the workers in every industry. It should be a guild, not a syndicate. It should be linked up with all other industries in a parliament of industry under the sovereign Parliament. Otherwise, it seems to me that Frederick Engels was quite correct when he said that this is a situation in which the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things and by the conduct of the process of production. It becomes an inspired robotism or, as the "New Statesman" of 24th January, said:The idea of public boards or corporations has now found very wide acceptance when it is desired to produce a form of administration for a public service deemed unsuitable for ordinary departmental control. But, apart from this, politicians are now apt to take the administrative machinery for granted and to assume that when they get power they have no need seriously to adopt it.That is our difficulty. We have these boards administered by abstract or, rather, remote bodies, and they are simply "run"; there is no coordination at all by the industries, generally speaking.
Again, to save words from myself, let me quote this very illuminating passage from the same issue of the "New Statesman." It says:Here two problems arise. In the first place, there are a great many things still to be settled about the way in which public boards or corporations ought to be worked. As long as such bodies were set up only piecemeal, each case could be tackled by itself. But as soon as they become numerous, and are created for the purpose of working in with any sort of general State economic plan, there arises the question of their relations to the 1058 Departments to which they are loosely attached and to any 'control and planning machinery the Government may set up—and therewith the further problem of the relation between the salaries of ordinary civil servants and those to be paid to the members and to the leading officials of the various corporations and boards. The London Passenger Transport Board could be treated as a business enterprise operating with public capital; the new Mines Board and the other boards which are now being called into being can hardly be so treated. They, and their servants, have to be related to the Civil Service set-up as a whole; and their activities have to be coordinated with the general economic plans.Unfortunately, while the Government which I support are setting up all kinds of boards, there is no such coordination; but the leaders of big business are just as keenly aware of the need to coordinate and command the economic life of our people. We all know what Lord Melchett, Sir Lynden Macassey and other similar individuals have said. They would follow the late Mussolini in organising industry upon industry, linking them together, and commanding the very life of the country. Here is what is asked for in the manifesto of"120 leading business men. "They would link up the F.B.I, and the employers' associations—they are doing it now—they would induce the State to help compulsorily to regroup firms, to eliminate competition, to fix prices and to allocate quotas; they would coordinate all these bodies into a council of British industry for the purpose I have indicated. They would watch monopoly interests, they would watch relationships with the State, they would watch interests abroad, and they would seek to obtain united politico-economic power. They would confine the State to making the plan work, running a commission for complaints, and controlling the currency; and they would induce the State to provide State funds to deal with slumps in the old sense.
What do our side do in this same matter? We have this anarchy of ownerships and controls without any coordination. We offer security for vested interests. We offer careerism for the "self-mades." It means robotism for the many in the lower ranks of society; it means militarism in order to control such a situation, and finally it leads to a situation in which there is capitalist state-ism, and not State capitalism. Therefore, I cannot agree with what my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has been saying. He has been assuming that the working class is inefficient and 1059 incapable of -running industry. I have no time now to analyse how industry is being run at present. It is not being run by the people.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Are we to understand that the statement which the hon. Member has just made is a criticism of the policy of the President of the Board of Trade?
§ Mr. Longden
I am simply pointing out that I cannot agree with the statement of the President of the Board of Trade that the class to which I belong is incapable of running industry. That is not true. The workers run the very efficient productive societies in the Cooperative movement. The management board is made up of men who use their hands and brains in the factory. No one will dispute the competence of those societies or of the working classes who run so well the consumers' cooperatives. What I am asking is that the boards which the Government are instituting shall be placed in the hands of the people who work, who understand what ought to be done, and how wealth should be distributed. Mankind must have a common purpose and inspiration, and must control a commonwealth proper. Finally, I wish to quote from a book by Dr. Mark Graubard—"Man: Slave and Master"—something which is very pertinent:A society in which there is no economic equality and where a divergence of interests exists can never perform its biological function. Such a society ceases to cater to the welfare of each individual. A large section of its population acquires enormous wealth: the community is brought unduly into conflict with ruling groups; and large numbers of people are deprived of the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of the community's material progress. Society becames a Frankenstein monster of tragic dimensions.Therefore, I fear that these forms of ownership and control will play into the hands of what some hon. Members opposite have boasted of as being the father? of Fascism. I do not want so loose a control of our national industries that they can easily and cheaply fall into the hands of such people. I want to put an end to this tendency, this misnomer of the socialisation of industry. I want to see industries democratised, I want to see them communalised, and, if I may coin a term, I want to see them culturised, so that our people will not become mere robots under any form of totalitarianism, but human beings, cultured as the best.
§ Mr. Walker (Rossendale)
May I raise a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? Yesterday afternoon, Mr. Speaker made two pointed appeals to hon. Members about the length of the speeches that were being made. I would like to know whether you could repeat that appeal today, because it is very boring to sit here and listen to long speeches
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The hon. Member is not entitled to make that comment. It is true, as all hon. Members know, that Mr. Speaker did make an appeal for short speeches—an appeal which, I hope, will be noted by all concerned.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Sidney Shephard (Newark)
I want to bring the House back to the subject of this Amendment, and that is the matter of production. The Lord President of the Council, yesterday, invited criticism, but said, "Let it be constructive." I do not think he will have any reason to take objection on that score to what I have to say today. After all, shortages affect the lives and the standard of living of the people of the nation, and if we on this side had any panaceas to offer the Government we should certainly let them have them. Up to now, we have only had exhortations from the Government. I have yet to hear of any constructive or practical plans that the Government have put forward for increasing production; and, frankly, I am very doubtful whether either speeches or posters will take the place of incentive. What affects the working man or woman in this country is the question, "How much is in my pay packet after I have paid my Income Tax, and what can I buy with it?" I have had many years of industrial experience, and I have noticed that on certain occasions workers will work harder. I have noticed it before Bank Holiday week; I have noticed it before Christmas. I have seen as much as a 30 per cent. increase in production during those two particular weeks. But we do not want a sudden spurt: we want a steady improvement in output. We must remember however that the workers have had a diet of war savings propaganda now for seven years, and that diet is getting very unappetising, and they want a change.
I want to suggest to the Government today one or two approaches they should 1061 consider. The first is this. Have we enougn workers, in manufacturing industry? Out of a total working population of over 20,000,000, we have less than 7,000,000 in manufacturing industry. That is a smaller rumber than we had in 1939. Despite that, we have set ourselves the target, first, of increasing the volume of exports to 175 per cent. of the 1938 figure; secondly, to make good all the arrears of the war years; and then, on top of that, to supply the home market with both our consumer and capital requirements. Taking also into account the fact that there are many goods we must manufacture in this country today which, formerly, we imported, it does seem to me that we have far too few workers in manufacturing industry, and I think we have set ourselves an impossible target. The Government have given no indication of how they are going to deal with this maldistribution problem.
For instance, let me take that group of industries for consideration—the cotton, woollen, textile, clothing and hosiery industries. They are down in labour strength, compared with prewar strength, by some hundreds of thousands of workers, and I tell the President of the Board of Trade, quite frankly, that there can be no hope of an end of clothes rationing, until we get more workers into those industries. The women of this country have worked for seven years to make do and mend, and they are at their wits' end to know how to manage to clothe themselves and their children. I have had no indication from the Government of how they are going to induce the workers to come into those industries. It is not a bit of use saying, "You must improve your conditions in your industries." It is not practicable. We cannot do it. We cannot build new factories or provide more amenities to carry out that programme at the moment. I will say this to the President of the Board of Trade. There are today many thousands of young women, who would normally be in those industries, but who are now employed in Government Departments. There are also many thousands of young women who are having to stay at home to look after the house while the mothers go queueing, and those young women would have been in industry today if we had not had this endless chasing after rations. Why is it 1062 that the Government do not bring more of the foreign workers from Central Europe into this country, if only for domestic service, and so release our young people to work in our factories?
My next point is on the subject of controls. I maintain that many of them are preventing industry making its best contribution. Before the war, a man in industry was kept on his toes by competition. There were free commodity markets, and he bought raw materials when he thought the market was most favourable. If he was efficient he had a good chance of success. If he was inefficient, he went to the wall. What happens today? First he is told where he must buy his raw materials; then he is told the price he must pay for them and he must get a licence to buy; then he is told what he has to make, the price at which he is to sell, and what profit he should make. The consequence is that there is complete lack of initiative, and stagnation in industry. It is hardly likely that industry can put its best foot forward while we have these conditions, and I hope the Government will do their best to get rid of unnecessary controls as soon as possible. I do not want to take too long, and I am racing through this speech.
My third point concerns the restrictions on building in non-development areas. It is well known today that if one wants to build a factory one must go to a development area. That is all right up, to a point; but, surely, if we are to increase production, we want more ways than one, and more ways that that of merely geting the workers to work harder. There is the question of providing modern mills in factories, and the question of new machinery; but unless one is in a development area it is very difficult to get a licence to enlarge an existing building, or to build a new factory, or to get new machinery, because most of it is going abroad. It does seem to me that this is a point that the Government should consider.
My fourth and last point is, that it is high time the Prime Minister gave a directive to Ministers to stop this continual abuse of private' enterprise. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade only the other day said that if private enterprise does not pull up its socks "we will do it for them." There are not many socks to pull up. But who are "we"? Is it the Civil Service? It cannot be the 1063 workpeople, because the President of the Board of Trade said they were not capable. Is it those frustrated quislings of industry who see in control power without ability? Because if the people who are running industry cannot run it, then, I am very sure, indeed, that neither the Civil Service, nor the workers, nor those other people I have mentioned can either. But I do feel that it is time that industry was given confidence. It is confidence it wants. I believe that if there were confidence in industry, industry would cooperate to the fullest extent. Industry is fully alive to the gravity of the situation. It knows that if we are to survive we must subordinate sectional interests and all pull together.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Palmer (Wimbledon)
I want to speak for only a very short time and, therefore, I shall have to make my remarks quite brief. I agree with the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) on the question of the employment of foreign labour, and it was brought home to me particularly strongly today by a letter I received from a manufacturing firm in my constituency. They are makers of scientific instruments, and this is what they say:Even with our existing labour force, we are totally unable to cope with a fraction of the world-wide demand, but if we are to lose our young glass blowers in addition to engineers and tool makers, who are being withdrawn at a rapid rate without replacements, the position will be quite impossible and we cannot express our apprehension too strongly.Then they go on to say, and they are very restrained about it:It does occur to us, as a desperate measure whether it would be feasible to explore the possibility of employing suitable females from the occupied areas of Germany as a means of helping the situation both on the Continent and at home.I entirely agree with my constituents on that point. The hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Shephard) talked about the Government's spokesmen abusing private enterprise, and said they must give it up. In return, I think private enterprise, particularly employers, should give up abusing the Government in this direction. I have here a letter from the Chairman of the County of London Electric Supply Company to every individual employee. He calls it a personal note, but it runs into two pages. I will not read it all, because it is 1064 too long, but I will read the first and last paragraphs, which are as follow:I write this personal note because, whilst I do not want to concern you with my political views on the nationalisation of our industry, I want you to consider the effect of nationalisation on your future and that of the Industry with which you are associated. …He ends:It you think I am wrong, and that nationalisation will be to your advantage I would prefer you to say so.
§ Mr. Palmer
It goes on:If, on the other hand, you think I am right, I would ask you to bestir yourself and ask your local member of Parliament in what way nationalisation is likely to benefit the industry.I think that is a gross abuse of an employer's special position. It is no good private employers talking about the Government attacking them, if they attack the Government unfairly in this fashion through their employees.
§ Mr. Palmer
I would like to make a few remarks about the electricity supply industry. In general, I agree that public-ownership should not be used as a sort of nasty laxative to frighten costive capitalists. On the other hand, electricity is such a general servant of industry that even the Opposition might have placed it in a rather special category, but apparently they regard the nationalisation of electricity with the same prejudgment that we now take for granted in every direction. Therefore, I do not propose to give any of what they call doctrinaire reasons for nationalisation. I believe that the reorganisation of the distribution side of the electricity supply industry is an urgent matter and it cannot be postponed indefinitely. The recommendation of the 1936 McGowan Committee was that larger distribution units must be formed, and speedily. There is a public demand for the standardisation of both systems and tariffs. All experience since 1919—and great power was given to the electricity undertakings under the 1919 Act—has shown that about 600 separate undertakers cannot cope on a loose, voluntary basis 1065 with these problems. Therefore, we require Government intervention in 1946 for electricity supply on the distribution side in just the same way as Government intervention was needed in 1926 on the wholesale generation and transmission side. That is a practical argument, and I believe that the country as a whole is about to welcome the nationalisation of the electricity supply industry, and that the country as a whole will benefit from it. The rural consumer in particular will benefit because the only hope that the rural consumer has of getting electricity everywhere is by the merging of urban and rural districts and hence the equalising of costs.
If it is to be argued that the industry can do it now, without interference, why did it not do it in the years before the war? It had the power to do it. I believe British industry will gain from electricity nationalisation, that production will gain from it. The nationalisation of distribution should promote increased efficiency, the lowering of costs and, therefore, charges. As far as the industry itself is concerned, the workers, technicians, and engineers in the industry are in favour of national ownership. Hon. Members can put that down to political prejudice if they like, but how do people arrive at so-called political prejudices? Only by basing them on experience and facts. As far as the present owners of the industry are concerned; the municipalities, do not like the change very much but are prepared to accept it under present conditions.
Then who is opposed to the change? It is apparently just the companies and the Tory Opposition. In part of my constituency the companies are sending out with the electricity supply accounts propaganda against nationalisation. I think that to send out propaganda to the consumer when the consumer is about to pay a pretty heavy bill, is a somewhat wrong approach; I cannot imagine that consumers' minds will be very receptive. I hope the Government will not be deflected for one moment from their intention, because I think industry and consumers in general will gain from the public ownership of electricity.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Marples (Wallasey)
In the very short time at my disposal, I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Palmer) in his argument 1066 about nationalising electricity. The planning of this Government, as far as I can see, allows for an abundant supply of electrical apparatus, such as kettles, and no supply of electric current. I propose to talk briefly about the lack of productivity in the building trade, and to make an effort to give some measurement of that lack of productivity. There has been a great deal of talk about the lack of productivity, but no one has yet tried to measure accurately the inefficiency in a particular industry. Afterwards I propose to give a constructive suggestion, in accordance with the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House.
The only way of measuring the lack of productivity in a trade is to compare the costs as they ought to be at the present time with the actual costs which are incurred. I propose to try to find out what the cost per superficial foot should be in 1946 for building, and to compare it with the actual price which is now being paid or which is tendered. If the price being paid is greater than it ought to be, then that is the measure of inefficiency in that particular trade. I must ask for the indulgence of the House as I shall have to quote figures which are necessary to prove my argument. In 1938, the cost per superficial foot of building was 8s. 8d. To that must be added three known and ascertainable increases since that date. Firstly, there is the increase in the standard of building, which amounts to 39.4 per cent. The standards now adopted are much better than in 1938. Therefore, to the figure of 8s. 8d., in 1938, should be added 39.4 per cent., or approximately 3s. 4d., making a cost of 12s. The authority for all these figures is the Ministry of Health Report on "Design of Dwellings." In addition, there is an increase in wages amounting to 72 per cent., and an increase in materials of 62 per cent., making an additional cost of 9s. per superficial foot on the 1938 figures. I have allowed 75 per cent. for these two items. I now arrive at the figure which really counts. The cost per superficial foot ought to be 21s. in 1946 if the efficiency in the industry is the same as in 1938. For a house of 856 feet, it would mean that the cost at 21s. per foot should be £900. In point of fact, the tender price is £1,200, which means that at the minimum £300 is lost in efficiency; further- 1067 more, the tender price is not necessarily the final figure. The final bill usually amounts to more than the tender price. At a rough estimate, the inefficiency in the building trade is not less than one-third.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
Is the hon. Member implying that the increase of £300 is due solely to inefficiency, and is not due to shortages of supplies, such as the shortage of gypsum for plaster in some cases, and the possibility of groups getting together to force up prices?
§ Mr. Marples
The increase of £300 is due to inefficiency and lack of productivity in the trade. The increase in the prices of materials has been allowed for.
§ Mr. Diamond (Manchester, Blackley)
Is the hon. Member aware that at this moment contracts are being let at 21s. per foot?
§ Mr. Marples
And then they are increased, because additions and variations take place. I am glad to see that the Minister of Health is now here, as he is interested in houses. I now wish to deal with the two main reasons for the lack of production. Firstly, there is maldistribution of materials, and, secondly, there is the low output of labour With regard to the maldistribution of building materials. that has been taken care of, because the right hon. Gentleman appointed a committee to inquire into this and make recommendations. In passing, I would point out that the Committee was appointed in the summer of 1946, and that we on these benches asked for it to be appointed in November, 1945. I will now deal with the low output of labour. There is a block of flats being built in North London for the London County Council. Bricklayers are paid 2s. 7½d. per hour, which works out on a 44 hour week, at about £5 15s. per week. During the war, bricklayers were paid by results under a scheme started by the Ministry of Works, and if they had to justify and earn that wage of £5 15s. on the basis laid down during the war they would have to lay 475 bricks per day. But the work of these bricklayers has been carefully measured over the last five weeks, and they are only 1068 laying 300 bricks per day instead of 475. This is because they are paid on time-rates and not on piece-rates.
That brings me to my constructive suggestion, that until and unless we have payment by results universally applied throughout the industry, the Minister of Health will never solve his problem. It is perhaps better that this suggestion should come from this side of the House rather than from the other. The present wage-structure in the building trade is confused and chaotic. Building under the Essential Work Order carries a bonus system, and if the same building is not carried out under the Essential Work Order, it is on a time-basis. In consequence, we have the position of two or three men working side by side, each doing the same job, and being paid at different rates. There is no greater source of friction than for Mr. Smith, who is performing the same job as Mr. Jones, getting slightly more money for it. The employer, in no circumstances, can make any departures in regard to wages, because if he does, he loses his building licence under Defence Regulation 56, which is applied by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works. And so, it is quite a rigid structure. The history of this wage position in the building trade is very interesting. On 1st January, 1946, the building trade operatives were granted an increase of 15 per cent. on their wages, which was embodied in the "Working Rule Agreement" sent out on 27th February, 1946. The leaders of the men pledged themselves to increase output to the 1938 level at the earliest possible date. They also pledged themselves to appoint a committee to see whether they could devise a workable system of payments by results. They received their wage increase on 1st January, 1946, and no action has yet been taken and no report has yet been made on payment by results so far as I can make out.
When people make promises, there are three courses of action open to them. First, they can support that promise by carrying it out; secondly, they can be rather cowardly and remain neutral; and, thirdly, they can take action which means that they have no intention of carrying out their promise. The trades union representatives who are sitting on the Committee to devise a system of payment by results, in 1945 sent out a pamphlet called, 1069 "Notes for Building Workers in the Forces." On page 6 of these notes, we find that the very gentlemen who are sitting on this Committee to discuss payment by results, in May, 1941, passed this Resolution:That this Conference places on record its unalterable opposition to payments by results.What is the use of trade unionists who express that definite opinion, sitting on a Committee to decide this particular question? I do not think they have any intention of introducing payment by results.
I think that payments by results can only be introduced by those in power, and the question arises. Who are the people in power? The Attorney-General said, "We are the masters now." The Minister of Works was reported on 10th March in the "Sunday Express" as saying:We have now become the ruling class, and I hope we shall rule in a way which will raise this nation to the heights, as it has never been ruled before.I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman meant "depths," but, at any rate, are the party opposite the masters? I remember that when I was in the Army I used to have a batman to look after me occasionally. [An HON. MEMBER: "You would."] Well, I cleaned my boots when I entered the Army as a private. I was given a commission, and a batman, and I remember that the regular batmen got hold of the most dull and backward boy in the camp, and made him what was known as the batmen's batman. He cleaned the shoes of the batmen. He used to strut about the camp, saying that he was a batman, but only when the actual batmen were not present. Is it not the same now? The Treasury Bench say, "We are the masters," but the masters are around the corner, at Transport House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Members opposite say "No," but, if that is so, why are there no Poles in the mines?
§ Mr. Marples
The Minister of Fuel and Power would like to have the Poles in the mines, but he dare not because the Mineworkers' Union would not like it. It is high time that the Opposition arranged a Debate with the masters at Transport House, and cut out the intermediate party, the party opposite. I think it was 1070 Wellington who said, "We must know, beyond a peradventure, with whom we are dealing." The trade unions themselves must introduce a scheme. I am delighted to see the Minister of Labour here, because if the trade unions introduce a scheme they can then safeguard the new aristocracy—their own members—from any exploitation. That is a constructive suggestion. The effort must come from the trade unions themselves. I am serious about that. If they want to start a scheme they can base it on a German' scheme, particulars of which have been published in this country, price 12s. 6d.
I have mentioned the building of a block of flats for the L.C.C., in North London. Recently, there was a strike. A ganger was passing on the ground floor level, and bricklayers were laying bricks on the second floor. Quite by accident, a brick dropped, and hit the cap of the ganger. Turning up to the bricklayer, he had no hesitation in giving what was his considered opinion about the bricklayers and the dropped brick—
§ Mr. Marples
I can only give them outside the Chamber. What the ganger said about the bricklayer was a fairly accurate description, but not very complimentary, whereupon all the bricklayers said, ''Unless you apologise we shall go out on strike". In fact, they did go out on strike. The foreman and the apprentices then got down to work, and were paid on an incentive system by which the output of bricks laid rose from 300 to 400 per day. A report from the agent on the site now says that the foreman bricklayer and the charge-hands got in among the men, worked themselves, and increased production. They said that the stronger and older apprentice lads had done far better than some of the bricklayers who, admittedly, were, in some cases, getting on in years. The report says:We recently discussed with Mr.—some method of incentive for maintaining improvement without contravening any rules or regulations.That is the key to the whole situation. Workers cannot be given any incentive without going against some of the regulations made by one or other of the Departments represented on the Treasury Bench. The employers want to pay the 1071 men more, they want to receive more, the nation wants more output. These men will give that output, but the party represented on the Treasury Bench will not allow us to do it.
I do not want it to go out that I think the men are idle. Only the party opposite are idle. The men are just human. They are the finest raw material' in the world, if properly handled, and the worst if they are not well handled. They are not being well handled at the moment. An hon. Member opposite said that Socialist doctrine would not succeed unless there was a change in the hearts of human beings. They have not changed in 2,000 years but if they can change I agree. At heart, I am a Socialist, too—[An HON. MEMBER: "It sounds like it."]—but not on this earth with these human beings; perhaps in another planet with another type of humar being If Members opposite sat on this side of the House they would never believe in Socialism, especially when they look at the Government benches. The Minister of Health wants, in his own heart, payment by results as much as I do. His period of honeymoon is over and the period known as the treacle moon is about to begin. Unless he brings about payment by results for the building trade, he will never succeed in building houses for our people.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I have followed the interesting contribution to the Debate which has been made by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) but I believe with all sincerity that it is not correct to claim entirely that the increase of £300 he talked about is due to inefficiency alone. There are many other reasons to be found in the organisation of the building industry as it is today. I have here a copy of a document called, "The Economic Crisis, Foretold by the 'Daily Mail', 1921–1931", and I find that just as after the first world war, when Members opposite were in power, we had the same type of banner headlines in the Press as we are getting today. But the people of Britain no longer fall for that type of propaganda. The Labour Party knows that it may be face powder that gets the votes, but it is baking powder that keeps them. The reaction of the country at present shows that our people are prepared to give this Government—
§ Mr. Davies
—a fair opportunity to steer industry through its difficulties. I listened to the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. Macmillan) yesterday. One does not know whether he was advocating nationalisation or 100 per cent. free enterprise. Eighty per cent, of the industries of the country are run by private enterprise, and 20 per cent. are nationalised. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) agreed, many years ago, that this nationalisation was necessary in order to prime the country's production.
My second point is that I believe,' as a whole, this country will have to watch the increasing number of people employed in distribution. There are about 25 per cent. of the people in this country occupied in distribution. I heard an hon. Member whisper, "Too few." Let me qualify that: It is an increasing proportion at the present time, and I believe that it is essential that we, on this side of the House, decide on our priorities so far as the activities in distribution in the future are concerned.
§ Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)
The hon. Gentleman says that 25 per cent. are employed on distribution. Twenty-five per cent. of what—population or those engaged in industry?
§ Mr. Davies
Working population. My third point is this: The hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) said yesterday, in an interruption, when discussing cotton, that the trouble with the cotton industry, as reported in the working party's report, 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. But he did not point out that the profits in the cotton industry were used not for strengthening the industry but merely to pay high dividends and support share gambles, as was also pointed out in the Cotton Report, and, last but not least, through the entire period that Conservativism and capitalism had run the industries of this country they had not been prepared to put back into industry some of the high dividends that would have modernised them to meet a crisis such as we have at the present time.
1073 So far as cotton is concerned, the Platt report condemns the activities of the cotton people and cotton kings of this country without any doubt. I believe, therefore, that we, on this side of the House, can steer the ship of State through these rough seas better than any of our opponents opposite who with all their rhetorical phrases have done nothing, in all the years, to rehabilitate the country's economy and could not even catch the votes at Paddington last night.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) will forgive me if I do not follow his interesting contribution at great length. I was glad to hear the confident tones in which he prophesied a successful spell of helmsmanship for the administration of this country:Let not him that putteth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.One must recollect the little experience of navigation in the present seas which has fallen to the lot of hon. Gentlemen opposite. It may be wiser for them to wait a little and to watch a few of the storms and currents which are inevitable in navigation before they indulge in too triumphant a salutation to their powers.
We have come nearly to the end of the Debate on the Address in response to the Gracious Speech. We have discussed a great number of topics during the Debates which have preceded this one. There was, on some of the topics, we regret to observe from this side of the House, a little disunity among hon. Gentlemen opposite. 'That gave us great pain because in the words of the Psalm:Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!If I am any judge of the speeches which have taken place on this particular Amendment, I think that it is one which will probably find hon. Members happily united in prostration before the Moloch of State monopoly, and, therefore, it is not with very fervent hopes that one can hope to convince them to go into, what I consider, the right Lobby. While the great majority of hon. Members opposite voted on foreign affairs against the doctrine of one of their number—which I think the hon. Member for Western Renfrew (Mr. Scollan) described as the doctrine of Bloomsbury Bolshevists—they 1074 are all happily united here in applying a considerable slice of that doctrine to our own home affairs, and one can only say of that, as the Prophet Hosea said.' more in sorrow than in anger:Ephraim is joined to idols: let him aloneIt is quite impossible to over-estimate the importance of the present point of time in our affairs. We have just emerged from a tremendous war, and we are now facing a period which has been truthfully described by the Minister opposite as one of considerable economic danger. Danger is not a new thing to our people. It often brings out the very best that is in them, and this particular danger, it is agreed, can only be overcome by increased production. We, on this side of the House, will do what we can to assist in bringing that about. For us the doctine of actual production is no new thing. The Minister of Health, before he became a Minister, described it in practice as a twist of the Tory mind. Since he has come into contact with reality, it is interesting to observe that his mind shows a similar deflection to the twist which he has described.
When we talk of production, let us remember that production must be the work of the people of the country. The Government by itself can produce nothing; that is to say, nothing but speeches and restrictions upon the activities of others [An HON. MEMBER: "And nationalisation."] The Government must rely upon the people producing, and it is from that angle that I wish to address myself to this problem. That is not to say that the Government is unimportant. It can either hinder or encourage; it can lead us or it can obstruct. The Amendment expresses the views of my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House that the legislation which the Gracious Speech foreshadows and threatens is much more likely to hinder and to obstruct than it is to lead and encourage in the drive for production.
For the people to rise to the present emergency, they require more and not less unity, and more and not less freedom. There should be, properly to meet this national emergency, a truce to some of the bigger controversies of the past, and there certainly should be a cessation of that campaign of recrimination which has been so often characteristic of speeches on 1075 industrial topics by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I suppose the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite feel themselves too deeply committed to their nostrum of nationalisation to adopt Measures more suited to the present emergency. Past speeches, made when we were a much wealthier country than we are today, come back to my mind. The good old mandate complex no doubt still inhibits them. I should have thought that they could have been honourably free from these perplexities and inhibitions. Just as, during the war, hon. Members on this side supported many disagreeable limitations on the liberties of the subject, I should have thought that-right hon. Gentlemen opposite could have, in this crisis of production, waived some of their party doctrines until the nation was more out of the wood than it is today.
As for the mandate, the votes cast at the General Election showed an actual majority of votes against nationalisation and Socialism. If the votes cast for the parties other than that of hon. Gentlemen opposite are counted, they total some 13,000,000, and there was actually a minority of Socialist votes at the last Election of 1,167,000. I am not saying that because of those figures hon. Members were not properly elected and fully entitled to form an Administration, but I do say that, at a time like this in our nation's affairs, they ought to remember that they are, after all, minority representatives on this issue, and that it is an abuse of a Parliamentary mandate to rush the country into a controversy of this arid and embarrassing type.
Who can say, on looking at the mandate, that the nationalisation of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange or of road hauliers was really the issue which got hon. Members opposite their majority? We all know that these arid Marxian doctrines were never really the bone of contention. No doubt hon. Members opposite put them dutifully into their Election addresses, but I feel certain that those things occupied far less of their speeches than general abuse of the party to which I belong and promises of the great amelioration which voting for hon. Members opposite would bring about. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council yesterday answered the charge made by my right hon. Friend the 1076 Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) on this matter, and read out, to show how true was his prediction of events, some quite harmless platitudes from "Let Us Face the Future," which did indicate that the times ahead of us might be difficult, and that work was necessary. The most fraudulent prospectus contains some truth. It would deceive nobody if it did not. But abuse of their political opponents is rather embarrassing to hon. Members opposite at this time, when they have to turn round and tell the people that salvation lies in nothing but hard work. Those are the true facts about the mandate. To put it shortly, I think that a mandate which is so negatived numerically, and has been obtained by such dubious means, should not compel Ministers at this juncture into courses which I believe to be very harmful to the production drive, which is so necessary for the country at the present time.
Let us see how the issue stands, on this Amendment. To vote conscientiously against it, hon. Members must feel that these Measures of nationalisation will increase production. That is the point. No attempt to prove this case was made yesterday, and I do not see how it can be proved. Perhaps when the President of the Board of Trade replies, he will prove the case, because he can prove practically any case that has any vestige of substance in it. But consider the railways, with their long history. How will the transference of the railways to what is called public ownership, but which is really State ownership, increase production? There have been many criticisms of the railways in this Debate. The hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. P. Morris) complained about some of the accommodation for clerks who were employed in railway premises. I remember receiving exactly the same complaint from the National Union of Post Office Workers when I was Postmaster-General. There is no magic in a mere transference of property from one owner to another which will produce all these wonderful changes that have been so confidently anticipated.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
It was not a Tory Government; it was a Coalition. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell us, if he can, how this great scheme 1077 for transferring the ownership of the railways and the road vehicles of the private hauliers will increase production. No attempt has been made to produce any logical chain of cause and effect which would justify that proposition. The same is true of electricity. The record of the electricity companies, and of the great municipalities which have electricity undertakings, is plain for everyone to see, and it is a fact that the electricity companies, between 1922 and 1940, increased, the supply for domestic purposes by fifteen and a half times and reduced prices by 75 per cent. They are at the moment up against difficulties of equipment. We all know that. Poles for carrying the current are one of the difficulties, but the Post Office is up against exactly the same difficulty, and the fact is that whether the thing is publicly owned or privately owned does not in any way alter the facts of the existence or non-existence of the necessary materials for its proper functioning. Nothing has been said yet to show that the electricity companies, by having their capital transferred to other hands, will increase production in any way.
We have to remember that, besides these main proposals, there is one proposal in the Gracious Speech which has not been properly mentioned yet, and that is the proposal to render permanent the closing of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, and to substitute for the operations of that market bulk buying by some Government commission. How will that increase production? It may be right or wrong on other grounds. People will argue, about that. I remember that when we first argued it here, there was a case made against the Cotton Exchange that there was some element of gambling in it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to note that strikes an echo. Many of us associate gambling with lurid scenes in a casino where the wicked rich disport themselves, and others are affected no doubt by memories of some schoolboyish tract pushed into their hands, which described the downfall of a boy who started by putting 6d. on a horse, and ended by committing some crime like whistling on the Sabbath.
Whether it be a gamble or not, how does this substitution increase production? That is what we want to know. On the question of gambling, it is only fair to remark that every transaction of insurance 1078 is a gamble. When you take out a policy of insurance of any kind, it is a bet between you and the insurance company. That method of insurance is one of the only ways in which men can, to some extent, offset the hazards of mortal existence; and one of the justifications of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange is that it takes off the manufacturer's shoulders the hazard and risk of an agricultural crop, and conducts for him a service which supplies him with what he wants at the time he wants it, and has done this with a degree of expertness and probity which has given the Exchange an international reputation, and has brought to this country in time of peace millions of pounds of scarce foreign currency. How does the destruction of this intricate, export machine and its replacement by some rudimentary purchasing commission encourage the production of textiles? Already merchants complain that they do not get the qualities they want, nor are they allowed to see the samples before getting the goods. All the evidence seems to be against this new proposal. There is an entire absence of any positive proof that these Marxian measures will increase production, and, if one looks at the probabilities, the chances are almost certain that the opposite effect will be produced.
I take one of the shortages and difficulties at the present time, and that is the shortage of manpower. There is no Minister, who has referred to this subject, who has not told us that we must economise in manpower, and has not asked us to look at the question with which they have to contend as one of difficulty and hardship. There is no doubt that the proposals in the Gracious Speech must mean an enormous growth in the already swollen Civil Service of this country. I do not attack these people in the Civil Service and I do not say that they do not work, but they do not make anything that one can eat or wear or sell abroad. They are withdrawn from the pool of production and production must suffer in the mass by their withdrawal to unproductive toil.
There is the question of coal, and some think we have solved the difficulties here because we have nationalised coal, that we have finished our duty in this House. We were apt to think when we passed the Bill that that would be the end of the matter. But it will be years before the coal business is settled. I was told yesterday that one colliery has 10,000 forms to fill up on 1079 account of the passing of this Bill. It one considers what that means up and down the country, it represents an immense withdrawal of personnel to be engaged on mere form filling and accounting when they could be engaged in production. One can see from this that the nationalisation envisaged in the Gracious Speech must mean, in addition to the civil establishments of the Crown, for years a steady increase in the number of personnel belonging to the companies and firms who are withdrawn from production for the purpose of doing clerical work involved in these transactions.
There are the managements. The managements have been very public spirited, and in most of the great industries which are threatened, they have gone ahead and done their duty in preparing for the future the public services for which they are responsible. It is useless to deny that this new threat of nationalisation, coming at some unknown date and in some unknown form, must be an added complexity to the concerns affected at a time when they ought to be clear in their minds and sailing straight forward. What about the man? How does all this affect him? He will change his master. The coal mines, as we were told today by an hon. Member, will now work for a board presided over by a director of Powell Duffryn. Is it not human nature, when there is to be a change of master for the workers to wait and see what sort of a man he is before making up their minds as to their attitude? I can remember when at school that when there was a change of form master there was a great deal of speculation as to what he would be like. Would he be easy to "rag" or would he have a sense of humour which would save him from such activities? Would he be a strict disciplinarian or one in whose class it would be quite safe to slack? All these things have to be found out by experience and until a new relationship is established with the new master production lags, and it must inevitably be so.
There is another aspect of this matter. One of the premises of our drive for production is undoubtedly to avoid inflation; and inflation means loss in the value of currency and that savings and pensioners' incomes will have less pur- 1080 chasing power. It arises from the disparity of the amount of currency in circulation, on the one hand, and, on the other, real wealth in the shape of goods and services available for that currency. These proposals affect both kinds of inflation. Not only will they, as I think, retard production and reduce the amount of real wealth against the money available, but the sums issued in the way of stock must result in an enormous increase in the amount of Government paper in the market, so that at the one time we are increasing the amount of currency and at the other reducing the amount of stuff which can be obtained for it. I view this tendency from a constitutional angle with some anxiety. In this House our control for centuries depended upon the old doctrine of redress of grievances before the grant of Supply. We have had to keep, as part of our duty, whichever side was in office, a constant watch on the expenditure of the Executive. The Government have now added to the already enormous Government expenditure a number of commercial accounts, and that being so, what are the prospects of any conceivable scrutiny being kept by this House on the accounts of the Government? This weakening of Parliamentary control by the bulk of the financial undertakings embraced by the State comes at a time when these steady encroachments on personal liberty and steady consolidation of monopoly and power in the hands of the Executive, gives the running of industry and raw materials as a monopoly to the Crown. All these things place power in the hands of the Executive which ft never previously enjoyed, and, at the same time, we are rendering control by this House impossible to operate.
If the Government take my advice they will proceed in exactly the opposite direction. I do not expect them to accept this advice, but I am putting forward these ideas as expressing the views and opinions of myself and of a great many of my hon. and right hon. Friends here. There are far too many controls and hindrances to production today. We heard an excellent speech yesterday from the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) who argued that all the tiny little details necessary to get a licence were holding up production. There are far too many offences created by these regulations, and there is the danger of a proper attitude of the Government to the people being lost.
1081 The Government stood before us at the General Election as a fairy queen about to dispense all sorts of blessings, but now, after the passage of this short time, she has became something very like a querulous and fussy old woman, who is prohibiting anybody from doing anything, and who, when she hears of any activity going on, sends one of her enormous army of myrmidons to see what Johnny is doing and to stop him doing it. The Government should rely on the public spirit of our citizens. They should remember that the State is but an organ and they should seek to be the servant of the nation, and not its master. If they followed that principle they would find a store of good will in the country at large, which has carried us through all our difficulties in the past. We were a great country long before hon. Gentlemen opposite were thought of. In the citizens of the country and not in the State is the real strength and capacity of this land to survive. I would ask the Government to trust the citizens and not to pin their faith to too much action by the State.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I am bound to say that the contribution to this Debate of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) has left me more confused than I was before he began, and I was pretty confused then, as indeed anybody must have been who has listened to the series of speeches from the Opposition benches. The odd thing about this Debate is that it has made obvious, I think, the way in which the Opposition are trying to fish around for a policy. They have expressed the widest range of views from the extreme Right, denying any idea of planning, to the other limit of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), who opened the Debate and demanded that the Government should form a great master plan. I really do not know whether they believe in planning or not, and I do not think they know themselves either, but one thing is quite clear. They have at last made up their minds that any policy they have had in the past is no good for them in the future, and no doubt, in the course of time, they will work out some new policy. In the meantime, they are having a series of practice Debates in the House of Commons to sound out how these different ideas are 1082 likely to go, and in that confusion some of them are vaguely and tentatively moving in the direction of the common sense of the Government's policy.
The Debate has, however, been enlightened by quite a number of excellent contributions from this side of the House, particularly as regards the necessity for the nationalisation of the two great services which are mentioned in the Gracious Speech. I should like at the beginning to deal with a point which was made by the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate, has just been repeated by his right hon. Friend, and has often been made in this House, despite denials. It is that at the Election we put forward a case of ease and simplicity, and said that little effort was necessary and that Utopia would be likely to appear around the corner.
§ Sir W. Darling
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said in a fortnight. I did not believe it, but he said it.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I daresay that the hon. Gentleman is aware that I have denied the accuracy of that a number of times, although that does not stop the Conservative Central Office sending it out.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
How long did it take the right hon. and learned Gentleman to deny it?
§ Sir S. Cripps
About half a minute, on the first occasion it was drawn to my attention. I should like, with regard to this suggestion, to cite three short passages from a broadcast address that I made immediately before the General Election, because it was on the same lines as the speeches of other people in the party and of many speeches I made myself:The ways of peace will prove themselves as hard, may be, as the ways of war.That is not a prospect of ease.We need the same determination and self sacrifice, and the same sense of values that have brought us through to victory in the war.Again:We, in the Labour Party, want no easily won power or cheap success. We know and we emphasise the difficulties that lie ahead.I think those quotations make it quite clear that these accusations—which are never put up with quotations—are accusations which have no foundation. Indeed, ever since that time we have stressed the difficulties that this country is now encountering and is likely to encounter in 1083 the months that lie ahead. It is perfectly true, as many hon. Gentlemen have stressed on both sides of the House today and yesterday, that we are up against a colossal job, but that is no reason why we should underestimate what we have already accomplished. There really is no need to cry "stinking fish" about the accomplishments of our own country. I think myself, as I have said on many occasions, that the greatest credit is due to the management and workers and to the administrators of this country for the smooth way in which we have changed over our production and increased our exports now to 117 per cent. of pre-war volume, and many of our consumer commodities for our own people to more than their 1938 volume. That is a great accomplishment in so short a time, and there are few, if any, countries in the world that can show a better record of recovery than we can. Certainly that is the view that has been expressed to me by a great number of foreigners who have been over here in the course of the last few months to examine the state of our industries.
Before coming to the main question of economic planning, with which I want to deal at some length, there are one or two special points which have been raised and with which I am sure those who have raised them would like me to deal. The question of foreign labour has been mentioned by a number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay), and the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) also referred to it in a speech which, I am afraid, rather disappointed us because we are apt to look for coruscation and interest in his speeches which were lacking this afternoon, although I do not blame him because he had no material upon which to speak. It sounded rather odd to hear the Conservative Party pressing for the introduction of foreign labour into this country, and I think that hon. Members who suggest this apparently easy solution do not realise the difficulties that are entailed.
A fear of unemployment still exists in this country, as was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley when he was opening this Debate, and the admission of large blocks of labour into particular industries is naturally, therefore, looked upon with considerable caution—let me say no more than that—by those 1084 who are already employed in those industries.
There is also the excessively difficult problem of housing accommodation. It is difficult in the existing circumstances to force any considerable amount of new labour into those areas where it is most required, and camp hutting accommodation is nearly always far removed from the areas where, in fact, labour is required. We are, however, doing our utmost to get over these difficulties, especially so far as the Poles are concerned, and we hope that the growing realisation of the fact that our difficulty is labour shortage and not labour excess will gradually make it possible for amicable arrangements to be arrived at for the utilisation of these extra resources. After all, it really is no good putting say 10,000 Poles into the mines if, as a result of it, 700,000 Englishmen are coming out. It is a matter that must therefore be arranged in accordance with their feelings, and it takes some time to arrange it.
Another matter of manpower which has been raised is that of the manpower employed in the Civil Service. There is a good deal of confusion in some hon. Members' minds between civil servants in Government Departments and that larger lists, including industrial civil servants and employees of such places as the R.O.F. plants and others, who are also, technically, servants of the Government. The fact is that there are today about 700,000 whole and part time men and women employed in the nonindustrial civil service grades. Until we are able to do away with rationing of various kinds and licensing, it will not be possible to make any marked diminution in that number. The tidying up of wartime emergency matters very often takes more labour and more administrative labour than actually ran all those matters while they were on a smooth course. Some time must elapse before we are able to release large staffs which are at present engaged on matters like petrol licensing, clothes rationing, dockets for furniture and all other such matters which are still admittedly necessary while great shortages exist.
Then, of course, one has to bear in mind that we have to man up those new branches of the service which have to do with the new social service legislation, for instance, which all sides of the House agreed should be put through.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am not dealing with the hon. Member as a "side." He is only a point. The right hon. Member for Bromley asked whether I could give the figures of our American dollar expenditure. He knows the figure which was given the other day of the amount which has been drawn on the dollar loan from America. Of course, one cannot allocate that amount to any particular expenditure. It comes out of the whole of the dollar fund. What I can give him is the percentage of the dollar expenditure in America which has been spent upon different commodities. I think that is really what he wants.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
The figure given was for what was spent. Our question was in relation to what was spent in the sense of the deliveries, of things, or things hypothecated in the sense of orders for goods which have not yet been delivered.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The figure was for the amount already drawn. It goes into the general pool. One cannot say that it is spent on any particular commodity. AD I can give to the right hon. Gentleman is the proportion in which we have actually spent our dollar resources. That proportion is: On food and drink, 47 per cent.; on raw materials, 15 per cent.; on manufactured goods, 9 per cent.; and on other items, primarily oil and films, 29 per cent.— [An HON. MEMBER: "Shame."]—making 100 per cent. in all.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
Is the item "manufactured goods" in respect of consumption goods or machinery goods?
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
The total amount spent of all our resources in the period is under 9 per cent. on capital goods?
§ Sir S. Cripps
That is true. I now come to the main point in this Debate, that is, to what the right hon. Gentleman referred to as the Government's master plan. First I will pose the question: What does economic planning mean within a democracy? Unless we have that definition fairly clear in our minds in the first instance, it is not very much good dis- 1086 cussing whether we have or have not planned and whether we have spent too much or too little, all of which has been said by various hon. Members on the other side of the House. Economic planning means the laying out of the desirable end, that is the organisation of all the resources, in the national interest and of the methods to be pursued in attaining that end. Having done that, it is using all the means which the people in the democracy are prepared to give to the Government in order to reach the end that should be attained. One can see that planning on those lines is made up of six principal elements—the choice of the products, the supply of labour, the supply of materials, the supply of capacity including the location of capacity, the supply of machinery, and the supply of finance. Those methods will, no doubt, all be discussed much more fully when the Economic Debate referred to by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, takes place a little later in the year. It is true that it is not possible to carry out completely any such plan without compulsions of the most extreme kind, compulsions which democracy rightly refuses to accept. That is why democratic planning is so very much more difficult than totalitarian planning.
Confusion seems to exist in the minds of the Opposition at the present time as to what is really happening. At one moment they say "Why do not the Government do this or that?" whatever it may be. The next moment, they say, "The Government ought to divest themselves of all powers to do anything at all." Hon. Members opposite must make up their minds which of those two horses they are going to run. When one considers planning it is necessary to decide how far we are going with regulation and control, in order to reach the objectives that we have laid down. Planning consists not only in making the plan but also in seeing that the plan is carried out. It is also true that today we, like everyone else in the world, want to do very much more than it is possible for us to do. We cannot make good the deficiencies and destruction of six years of war and raise our standard of living, all in a few months. It will take us years and not months to achieve our objective. That is why it is so easy today for troublemakers to stir up trouble, and why it is so re- 1087 markable to see the constancy and understanding of the British people. Not only are we short of resources of many sorts and kinds but so, indeed, is nearly all the world short of those resources. In that shortage, the danger of a scramble for supplies is very great indeed. That is why we are trying to retain every international method of dividing the shortages as long as we possibly can.
There are certain compulsions against which the people of this country have rightly decided. The principal one is the direction of labour. There are others, such as the direction of materials, the direction of capacity and the direction of finance. At the last Election, the British people expressed their desire to see them utilised in order to carry out a plan of production to give them the things they want. When talking of this planning, the Opposition all the time hark back to regaining what they regard as that happy state of unplanned, free enterprise which existed before the war, but that battle, that question, was the very one which was fought out in the General Election. It was fought out in the light of our experience after the last war, and it is a duty of this Government to carry out the mandate that it was given. We are accused—unlike the general accusation which is thrown against governments—not of failing to carry out our mandate, but of failing to abandon our mandate in favour of the policy—if one can call it a policy—upon which the Opposition were decisively defeated at the General Election. We do not propose to do that, nor indeed do we intend to seek a coalition, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) yesterday—
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me. I neither said that nor intended to say it. I certainly would not like a coalition with the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I listened to the hon. Member's speech. Anybody can read it in HANSARD and if their deduction from it is that he does not want a coalition, I will accept their deduction, but my deduction was that he did.
§ Mr. Hogg
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman do me the courtesy of quoting anything which bears the con- 1088 struction he has suggested? I said that the principle for which I stood and believed in could only be carried out by a Conservative Administration. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will find those words in my speech.
§ Sir S. Cripps
If I accept it that the hon. Gentleman did not mean what I suggested, all I can say is that having listened to his speech that is what I thought was behind it—
§ Sir S. Cripps
I have stated the impression I gained from the hon. Gentleman's speech. If he says that was not what he meant, I accept itߞ—
§ Sir S. Cripps
We do not propose to seek a coalition whether it is what the hon. Gentleman for Oxford wants, or not, and we certainly do not intend to seek it on the basis of the policy of the Opposition when they find one. [An HON. MEMBER: "Neither do we."] I am very glad to hear that we are saved from that danger. It is alleged in this Amendment that there is nothing in the Gracious Speech which shows how we are going to encourage production. Of course, except in so far as new legislative measures are required for that purpose over and above the powers now existing, no one would expect to find it in the Gracious Speech. We are carrying on with the policies already laid down and made clear to the country. Perhaps I may explain to the House what it is we are doing in order to encourage production. I have already said that planning consists of six different elements. I will deal in a very few words with each of those to show what we are doing.
The first is the choice of products. That means that we have to decide how much of our resources we think should be expended upon the various productive activities—housing, clothing, exports and so forth. That is done very largely by means of a manpower budget which, just as in wartime, is used for laying down 1089 the distribution of manpower between the different major activities of the nation—defence forces, export manufacture, home consumer goods, building, transport, distribution and so forth. That sets the general pattern at which we aim and limits the various forms of activity to the labour which is available for it. That is the first approximation or target. As I have said, we cannot force or direct labour into those channels but we can persuade and induce it, and it is these latter methods of persuasion and inducement upon which we have to rely. The planning of this choice of products, therefore, carries with it the planning of the distribution of manpower.
So far as materials are concerned, a great many of these are imported—cotton, timber, rubber, among others. In this case the first difficulty that arises is as regards quantity for, as the House knows, there is a world shortage of many of these commodities. Secondly, difficulty arises as regards the country of origin where there is a choice of countries of origin, owing to foreign exchange difficulties and changes. Thirdly, there is the problem of distribution in this country when these commodities have been purchased. The latter must obviously be done on the basis of the planned choice of production and the distribution of labour. I think everybody agrees that the acquisition of the materials overseas, when there are acute shortages, is far better done by one purchasing authority in order to avoid that further degree of competition which is already putting up prices quite sufficiently and which, if it were allowed to operate, would put up prices still more against the people of this country. If those prices went up with only limited quantities of foreign exchange available, we should only get less of those raw materials. The distribution of raw materials in this country is most carefully planned in order to keep up maximum employment in all districts but with a bias in favour, first, of the most essential productions and, secondly, of the development areas where there are already bodies of unemployed.
A good deal has been said about controls, but there is never any particularity in these observations about controls. It is always an argument against controls as a whole. Nobody ever points out what particular control they think should be got rid of. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubber and petrol."] I have not time now to go 1090 into the merits or demerits of individual controls. Controls do, of course, require, and get, constant attention and reexamination to see how far they can be simplified or removed in the light of the changing world situation—
§ Sir S. Cripps
By the Government. That review is constantly being carried out, and as a result of it a great many controls have been removed. The export controls are an example. Practically the entire lot has gone, and others have been much simplified and modified. Another example is the timber control. This process is continually going on, and will continue until we have been able to get rid of a great many in the future. If these controls were all to be removed in the present circumstances, there would be a completely chaotic situation, in which the national interests would suffer most seriously. I noticed, for instance, in a paper—yesterday I think—a plea by the chairman of the Toilet Preparations and Perfumery Manufacturers Association, who said:It must be a great temptation to a Minister, in wishing to increase the supply of consumer goods, to take controls off the cosmetic industry. We ask him not to do so.The mere fact that some person or industry thinks that they could get more if controls were taken off, means that other people would get less.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
This is such an important point and so useful to us, that we are very much indebted to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for telling us, but might I ask him this question? As I understand his argument, it was that where there was a "full" supply, controls were being lifted—he gave many instances where they were being lifted—and that where there was a shortage, they had to be kept on. Is that the principle which the Government intend to operate, and, if so, why is it necessary not to use the temporary powers in the case of cotton but to build the control into the statutory fabric of the nation?
§ Sir S. Cripps
The answer to that is, as the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, that there are other purposes for controls. [Interruption.]
§ Sir S. Cripps
The right hon. Gentleman now says apparently that I have not told him the truth. Perhaps he will withdraw that statement?
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
I will certainly withdraw it, and apologise, if I have said anything at all offensive, but I gathered from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, perhaps wrongly, that it was the supply question which was the reason for taking them off or leaving them on.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I had got so far, and I was dealing with the complaint which had been made with regard to the difficulties of the supply of raw material. I was trying to point out, as regards this question of controls, that when the supply of those raw materials reaches a point at which there is no harm in allowing free dealing in them, we either do as we did in rubber—open the market freely—or do as we did in cotton—put it on a more permanent basis of Government control.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I was just saying that it is, of course, quite easy for an individual to think that he would do better if there were no controls. He might or he might not. It would depend entirely on the length of his purse. However, one thing is quite certain, that if we look to the national as against the individual interest, the continuance of these controls is essential at the present time, and it is essential if we are to try to get any sort of planned economy which will make the best use of our resources in the national interest.
I come next to capacity which has been very carefully planned in accordance with the total capacity or factory space that is required in each locality in order to give full employment, and that variety of industry which is a necessity for stable employment. The principle is to take the work to the worker, and not try to export the worker to the work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] A great deal of the provision of new factory space has been undertaken by the Government, and that has been very largely supplemented by the efforts of private enterprise as well. Up to the end of September, some £88 million worth of factory building and extensions had been authorised in various parts of the country. Altogether there were some 2,200 schemes, of which 900 were in the development areas and 1,300 were 1092 outside the development areas in the whole of the rest of the country. That has been planned by a method of licensing building which is absolutely essential in order to see that materials and labour are not wasted on unnecessary construction at a time when we want every man and every piece of material either for new factories or for new houses, whichever the case may be. Here again, of course, we have no power of absolute compulsion. We cannot order manufacturers where they are to manufacture. We try to persuade them and induce them to go to places where the labour is available, such as the development areas, and, by refusing licences, we stop them going to places where there is no labour available and where they would only cause a further congestion if they went there. I must say that, on the whole, manufacturers have been most accommodating and helpful in trying to get this location of industry.
Next we come to the question of machinery. Here the problem is that we need much more machinery, and more quickly produced, than our engineering industry is capable of turning out, although it has 300,000 more employees than it had before the war. We have to bear in mind here, of course, the problem of exports, because though each person who requires an article for use at home might say, "You ought not to export that article," if we applied that all round our exports would disappear altogether. Therefore, we have to keep as wise a balance as we can between the different classes of articles that we export, and the supply of them that we provide for the home market, and consumption as a result has to wait. We try to arrange, also, that the most urgent requirements are dealt with first by a method of licensing so that those who are merely prepared to pay the most do not necessarily get the priority which should go on a national ground rather than on a private ground.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The hon. Gentleman asks why we exported 720 railway engines. The same argument can be applied to every article that we export. We want it here, but we have to export something and we like to export things that will give us a stable market in the future.
§ Sir S, Cripps
As to finance, provision has been made for that under the two Finance Corporations, and I do not think there is any problem today as regards financing industry.
Planning is, of course, only one part of the general scheme. Side by side with it goes the question of the tackling of those major industrial difficulties which private enterprise has proved itself wholly unable to tackle in the past; such, for instance, as the coalmining problem, the transport problem, the problem of power and light and heat, and so on. Whatever views hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite may take, these have been national problems, anyway since after the last war Hon. Gentlemen have only to read the political literature of this country over the last 30 years when these have been key problems, and during that period of time it is perfectly right to say that those problems have not been solved under the aegis of private enterprise. We believe that it is quite useless to continue year after year hoping that some miracle will turn up to remedy this state of affairs. The experience of failure is far too longdated already, and it was to deal with these cases that we asked for, and received, the mandate for drastic action at the General Election.
So far from confusing and retarding recovery by this means, these are the fundamental services and industries which must be put right before we can proceed with success to the improvement of production throughout the rest of our industries. They are all, as everybody will admit, absolutely fundamental to the general industrial structure of the country. We do not believe in private enterprise for the sake of private enterprise however inefficient it has shown itself in the past. We believe that in those cases where it has been clearly proved that private enterprise has not, and cannot, do the job required in the national interest, some other method must be tried. It is the internal stresses of competition, the lack of coordination in these great national services that have been so fatal in the past, coupled with the idea that they were merely vehicles for earning profit, instead of being great national services. We are convinced that 10 improvement can come until they are coordinated under one con- 1094 trol, a control which is inspired by the need for national service rather than the need for gain. Indeed, our view was very much confirmed by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Baldwin) yesterday when he said this about transport services:'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.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th Nov., 1946, Vol. 430, c 946.]That is exactly what we want to see.
Let me say a word or two about agriculture. Let us not forget in these Debates that agriculture is a very vital part of our production. Many hon. Members in the course of the Debate have referred to the part which agriculture must play, and the Government are heartily in agreement with its importance. As was indicated in the Gracious Speech, there are proposals to introduce, this Session, a comprehensive agriculture Bill. Among other things it will lay down methods for promoting the efficiency and productivity of the agricultural industry. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture said in his statement on 15th November, last year, the Government's long-term agricultural plans, on which this Bill is based, include the need for guaranteed prices, and assured markets to farmers so that, freed from the day-to-day worries of securing an outlet for then-produce, they can plan ahead with some confidence, and devote their energies to increasing the productivity of the land. These provisions for guaranteed prices, and assured markets, will be supplemented by measures for ensuring that the land is not only properly farmed, but is properly managed, and equipped, as well. The Government entirely agree with the idea that there is still scope for considerable increase in agricultural production, especially in certain lines such as milk, eggs, meat, and bacon, but, as hon. Members appreciate, that is a question of world shortage of feeding stuffs, and materials. My right hon. Friends the Ministers of Agriculture and Food are doing their utmost in order to cure those deficiencies.
But, even if we get all these plans for industry and agriculture, and do our best to induce and encourage their implementation as I have suggested, we shall not 1095 have succeeded in getting the maximum of productivity, because that depends as the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury said, upon the outlook, state of mind and willingness of millions of individual men and women in this country. That is why I was delighted to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory), a very excellent speech, yesterday which was partly repeated by the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay) today, with regard to the relationships in industry.
It is along those lines of getting a fuller and wider cooperation that we are working. I would like to accept the invitation of the hon. Member for Montrose to elaborate, if I had the time, on the work of the National Production Advisory Council for Industry and other bodies mentioned by the Lord President of the Council, but I am afraid there is not time this evening. We want to get an integration of partnership between the Government as the overall planners, and the employers and employees in industry as the executors of the plan, whether the employers happen to be a national board, as in the case of coal, or private employers, as in the case of cotton. In our view the key to getting that good team work which alone can give the production we need is the close and friendly association of management and labour at all levels, not merely over wages and conditions, but over every problem that arises in the field of industry. It was for that reason that in setting up the working parties we included both sides of the industry as well as independent members. I would like to support the tribute which was paid to members of working parties, for the very great contribution they have made towards our knowledge of British industry. The reports now coming forward fully justify the work that has been put in, and will form an invaluable basis for concerted action in each of the industries which they cover.
There is, however, a corollary to this method of procedure. That is that all of us, all three partners in industry, must be flexibly minded in our approach, and must not be hidebound by old fears—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Well, we are very well prepared to play our part in that flexibly minded approach to the problem. It is true that we have entered a period in which we—and I think this was the 1096 impression of the right hon. Member for Bromley—live or die according to whether or not we can maintain an expansionist economy. All ideas of restriction and safeguarding against unemployment by restrictive practices must go. Indeed, the one and only safeguard that exists today against unemployment is an expansionist outlook. That is why, as the Secretary for Overseas Trade said the other day, we must be on our guard against the appearance of slump conditions, especially if they come from abroad, not because we anticipate falling a victim to those conditions, but because we must be ready in good time to apply the remedies that we have now got at hand which may prevent them having an adverse effect on our economy. Do not let us live in a fool's paradise thinking that no adverse conditions can develop. Let us, rather, be fully aware of the obvious dangers, so that we can forestall their evil effect.
The truth is that we as a Government, and as a nation, have set out upon what most of us always realised was a new and difficult task. We are attempting, without the extreme compulsions of totalitarianism, to plan and organise our production so as to give a higher and more equal standard of life to our people. The fact that we do not apply extreme compulsions means that it will take rather longer, and that delay is, in our view, well worth while if we preserve our democratic freedom, as we are determined to do.
The more the whole production team in the country works together, the quicker we shall get results. The hon. Member for Tiverton remarked,' in another part of his speech, that it is not a matter of material inducement alone that counts. During the war, managers and workers would have been insulted if we had suggested to them that they could only be induced to give of their best for money payments. I believe that the same principles apply in times of peace. We are not all out to make what we can out of the difficulties of the world and of our own people. That is not the attitude of the British people. They are, one and all, I am convinced, anxious to do their best to help to rehabilitate their country and provide a decent standard of living for the people. They deserve and need reasonable remuneration for their work, whether they are managers or workers, and that ought to be a first charge upon 1097 our production. But beyond that it is good working conditions and team work that will produce the results we want. The idea of an ever rising spiral of inducement wages is one which makes me shudder at the economic consequences that might come.
However one looks at this Amendment, it is clear that there is inherent in it an old out of date theoretical insistence on private enterprise and private profit, and almost, indeed, a threat not to cooperate except upon that basis. My answer to it is that the electorate have decided this issue, and it is too late now to raise it again. We are going forward with our programme, and we are confident that by so doing, we are laying the right foundations upon which to build the future prosperity of our country. In these difficult
§ days of transition, which may last for some years yet, it is easy to raise up discontent and disappointment by extravagant and unjustified criticism, based often on false promises, and nearly always on false facts. But I am convinced that in the future, whatever may happen today, the people of this country will be grateful to us for the foundations of prosperity we shall have laid by our programme, and it is because we are convinced of the soundness of our methods and the practicability of the programme we have put forward, that we ask the House today decisively to defeat this Amendment.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 188; Noes, 333.1101
|Division No 10.||AYES||7.14 p.m|
|Agnew, Cmdr P. G||Gammans, L. D.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Aitken, Hon. Max.||Gates, Maj. E. E||Macpherson, Maj. N (Dumfries)|
|Amory, D Heathcoal||George, Maj Rt. Hon G Lloyd (p'ke)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon R||Glossop, C. W H||Manningham-Buller, R. E|
|Astor, Hon. M||Glyn, Sir R||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Baldwin, A E||Gomme-Duncan. Col A G||Marples, A. E.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Gridley, Sir A.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Beamish, Maj T V H||Grimston, R V.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Beechman, N A||Hannon, Sir P (Moseley)||Maude, J. C.|
|Bennett, Sir P||Hare, Hon J H. (Woodbridge)||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Birch Nigel||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A V||Molson, A H. E.|
|Boles, Lt. Col D C (Wells)||Haughton. S G||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T|
|Bossom, A C||Head, Brig. A. H.||Morris-Jones, Sir H|
|Bower, N||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir C||Morrison, Maj J G. (Salisbury)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J A.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W S. (Cirencester)|
|Bracken, Rt Hon. Brendan||Hinchingbrooke. Viscount||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj C E|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt-Col W||Hogg, Hon. Q||Mullan, Lt. C. H.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Hollis, M. C.||Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon R A (S'ftr'n W td'n)||Holmes, Sir J Stanley (Harwich)||Neven-Spence, Sir B|
|Carson, F.||Hope, Lord J||Nicholson, G.|
|Challen, C||Howard. Hon. A||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon W S||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Noble, Comdr. A H. P|
|Clarke, Col. R. S||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr N J||Nutting, Anthony|
|Clifton-Brown, LI -Col G||Hurd, A||Orr-Ewing, I. L|
|Cole, T L.||Hutchison. Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Osborne, C.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E||Hutchison, Col J R (Glasgow, C.)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Jarvis, Sir J||Peto, Brig C H M|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U (Ludlow)||Jennings, R.||Pickthorn, K|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr Hon. L. W||Pitman, I. J|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Keeling, E. H||Ponsonby, Col. C. E|
|Crowder, Capt. John E||Kerr, Sir J Graham||Poole, O. B. S (Oswestry)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W H||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D|
|Darling, Sir W. Y||Lambert, Hon G.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Lancaster, Col C G.||Raikes, H V|
|De la Bere, R||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Ramsay, Maj. S|
|Digby, S. W||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E A H||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Dodds-Parker, A D||Lennox-Boyd, A. T||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr P W||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Reid, Rt. Hon J S. C (Hillhead)|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A V G (Penrith)||Linstead. H N||Renton, D.|
|Drayson, G B||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Roberts, H (Handsworth)|
|Drewe, C.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesas)|
|Dugdale, Maj Sir T (Richmond)||Low, Brig. A. R. W||Robinson, Wing-Comdr Roland|
|Duthie, W S||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Eccles, D M||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Ross, Sir R|
|Erroll, F J.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J A|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E L||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||McCallum, Maj. D.||Savory, Prof. D L|
|Foster, J G (Northwich)||Macdonald, Sir P (Isle of Wight)||Scott, Lord W.|
|Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Fraser, Sir I (Lonsdale)||McKie, J H. (Galloway)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon Sir D P. M||Maclay, Hon. J. S||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Gage, C.||Maclean, Brig. F. H. R. (Lancaster)||Smithers, Sir W|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D.||MacLeod, Capt. J.||Snadden, W. M|
|Spearman, A. C. M.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Spence, H. R.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.||Touche, G C.||Willink, Rt. Hon H U.|
|Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Turton, R. H.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Strauss, H G. (Englih Unlversities)||Vane, W. M. F.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Sutcliffe, H.||Wakefield, Sir W. W||York, C.|
|Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Walker-Smith, D.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Teeling, William||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.||Mr. James Stuart and|
|Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Davies Ernest (Enfield)||Hubbard, T.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras. S.W.)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Allan, A. C. (Bosworth)||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Allan, Scholefield (Crewe)||Davies, S. O (Merthyr)||Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)|
|Allighan, Garry||Deer, G.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Alpass, J. H.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Delargy, Captain H. J.||Hynd, J. D. (Attercliffe)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Diamond, J.||Irving, W. J.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Dobbie, W.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Dodds N. N.||Janner, B.|
|Austin, H. L.||Donovan, T.||Jay, D. P. T.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Driberg, T. E. N.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Dugdale, J (W Bromwich)||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Dumpleton, C W.||Jones, D T. (Hartlepools)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Durbin, E. F. M.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Balfour, A.||Dye, S.||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon A. J.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Barstow, P. G.||Edelman, M.||Keenan, W.|
|Barton, C.||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Kenyon, C|
|Battley, J. R.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Key, C. W.|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||King, E. M.|
|Belcher, J. W.||Edwards, N (Caerphilly)||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Kinley, J.|
|Benson, G.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Kirby, B. V|
|Berry, H.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Lang, G.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Lavers, S.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Ewart, R.||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J.|
|Binns, J.||Fairhurst, F.||Lee, F. (Hulme)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Farthing, W. J.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Leonard, W.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Follick. M.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Foot, M. M.||Lever, N. H.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Forman, J. C.||Levy, B. W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Lewis, J. (Bolton)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Lewis, T (Southampton)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Gallacher, W.||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Ganley, Mrs. C S.||Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng- Univ.)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Gibbins, J.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Gilzean, A.||Longden, F.|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Glanville. J. E. (Consett)||Lyne, A. W.|
|Buchanan, G.||Gooch, E. G.||McAdam, W.|
|Burden, T W.||Goodrich, H. E.||McAllister, G.|
|Burke, W. A.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||McEntee, V La T|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Callaghan, James||Greenwood, A W J. (Heywood)||McGovern, J.|
|Carmichael, James||Grey, C. F.||Mack, J. D|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Grierson, E.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Chamberlain, R. A||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J (Llanellv)||McLeavy, F|
|Chater, D.||Griffiths, W D. (Moss Side)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Chetwynd, Capt. G R||Gunter. Capt. R J||Mallalieu, J. P W.|
|Clitherow, Dr. R.||Guy, W. H.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Haire, Flt.-Lleut. J. (Wycombe)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Cobb, F. A.||Hale, Leslie||Marquand, H. A.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hall, W G (Colne Valley)||Martin, J. H.|
|Coldrick, W.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Mathers, G.|
|Collick, P.||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Mayhew. C P.|
|Collindridge, F.||Hardy E. A.||Medland, H. M.|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Harrison, J.||Mellish, R. J.|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Messer, F.|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N W.)||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Mitchison, Maj. G. R.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Herbison, Miss M.||Monslow, W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Montague, F.|
|Crawley, A.||Hicks, G.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Hobson, C. R.||Morley, R.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Holman, P.||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)|
|Daggar, G.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Daines, P.||Horabin, T. L.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||House, G.||Mort, D. L.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hoy, J.||Moyle, A.|
|Mulvey, A.||Sargood, R||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon G|
|Murray, J. D.||Scollan, T.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Nally, W.||Scott-Elliot, W||Ungoed-Thomas, L|
|Naylor, T. E.||Segal, Dr. S.||Usborne, Henry|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A||Vernon, Maj. W F|
|Nicholls, H R- (Stratford)||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.||Walkden, E.|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Walker, G H|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|O'Brien, T.||Shurmer, P.||Wallace, H W (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Oldfield, W. H||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.||Warbey, W. N|
|Oliver, G. H||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Watkins, T E.|
|Orbach, M.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Watson, W. M.|
|Paget, R. T.||Simmons, C. J.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C)|
|Palmer, A. M. F||Skeffington, A. M||Weitzman, D|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Skinnard, F. W.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Parkin, B. T.||Smith, C. (Colchester)||West, D. G.|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Peart, Capt T F||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Perrins, W||Snow Capt. J. W||Wilcock, Group-Capt C A B|
|Piratin, P||Colley, L. J||Wilkes, L.|
|Poole, Major Cecil (Lichfield)||Sorensen, R. W.||Wilkinson, Rt. Hon. Ellen|
|Popplewell, E.||Soskice, Maj Sir F||Willey, F T (Sunderland)|
|Porter, E. (Warrington)||Sparks, J. A||Willey, O G. (Cleveland)|
|Porter, G (Leeds)||Steele, T.||Williams, D. J (Neath)|
|Proctor, W. T||Stephen, C.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Pryde, D. J||Stewart Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)||Williams. Rt Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H||Strachey J.||Williams, W R (Heston)|
|Randall, H. E||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Williamson, T|
|Ranger, J.||Stross, Dr. B.||Willis, E.|
|Rankin, J||Summerskill, Dr Edith||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Rees-Willlams, D. R||Symonds, A. L.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon J|
|Reeves, J.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wise, Major F J|
|Raid, T. (Swindon)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Woods G S|
|Rhodes, H||Thomas, John R. (Dover)||Wyatt, W.|
|Richards, R.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Yates, V. F.|
|Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Young, Sir R (Newton)|
|Robens, A.||Thurtle, E.||Zilliacus, K|
|Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Tiffany, S|
|Robertson, J. J (Berwick)||Timmons, J||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Rogers. G H R||Tolley. L||Mr. Whiteley and|
|Mr. R. J. Taylor.|
Question put, and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.