§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
It is not the least my desire or intention to enlarge the scope of this Debate, but I must begin by pointing out that the productivity of labour is only one of a trilogy of connected subjects. It must be viewed against that background, and taking as postulates the position of the connected matters. The first of those connected matters, as I am sure every quarter of the Committee will agree, is that the adverse trade balance at the moment is about £300 million more than the economic survey of January contemplated. The second is that, at the June rate of drawings on the American credit—that is, the rate of £900 million a year—those credits will be gone before Christmas. The Marshall plan was not designed to enable this country to produce too little and to live beyond its means. Those are the connected facts which must be faced.
1524 The other preliminary point which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to appreciate is that, in the line which we will endeavour to give to the discussion today, we are not abandoning in any way the main argument which we advanced on 19th March. That argument was that the Government had delayed and failed to take action for 18 months to deal with the primary problem of the maldistribution of labour and the consequent underproduction. We say today that the very success of the recruiting campaigns which have been started for various industries underlines our point that there was that delay. The absence of it might have been of great service to the country. It is true that, in spite of these difficulties and criticisms, we have to face the immediate position. The productivity of labour is important not only from the aspect of what can be done in these critical months before the dollar credits run out, but also in demonstrating to the world what Britain is prepared and is determined to do. It is in that attitude that I want to try to set the Debate today.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that four months ago I put to him certain questions with 'regard to hours of work. I should like to take up this subject today from what, so far as I have been able to discover, is the last percentage arrangement given in the magazine of his Department for September, 1946. I would ask him, or someone else who may be responsible, to be so kind as to bring the figures up to date. I take them because they were reproduced in one of the last numbers of the London-Cambridge Economic Survey. I take them as being the latest available data. They were to this effect:
Per cent Under 44 hours … … 13 44–48 hours … … 8 47–48 hours … … 28 48 hours … … 47 Over '48 hours … … 4
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am sorry. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will remember that in his Ministry's "Gazette" there were, I think, 225 entries from a number of industries. The percentages were averaged from these typical entries. The important point is that in September, 1946, 75 per cent. of 1525 these selected examples and then results were for over 47 or 48 hours a week. It is vitally important that we should know what change has been made in the number of industries and what effect it has had on the general picture seen in those entries in the official magazine. The last thing I desire to do on a subject as important as this, is too rashly to charge the troops of error and to leave hostages among the enemies of truth. Therefore, on this point I take an extract from the first leading article in "The Times" of Monday, because in two important regards it seems to show the dangers in which we stand on this matter of hours of work. The first extract is:The June coal production figures to date have borne out the worst fears. At this rate production will soon be running below that of 1946 and even the inadequate target of 200,000,000 tons for the year will certainly not be achieved.The second extract is:Further reductions in working hours should be resisted, not least because the effect of the five-day week in the engineering and other industries has been much more adverse than was expected.I think that anyone who read the articles would say that the extracts which I have given have been taken fairly from their context. They deal with a vitally important point which we must consider once again in July. The White Paper says quite clearly that there should be no reduction in hours of work unless an increased output per man-year was obtained thereby. In the situation in which we find ourselves today we must know the right hon. Gentleman's view as to the continuing effect of the five-day week, not only in the coal industry, which is most important, but in the other industries where it has been tried. What industries are at present negotiating or attempting to negotiate for a five-day week, and what is the expected result? I would remind the right hon. Gentleman—I base this on the second last issue of the London and Cambridge Economic Survey—that it has never been determined by his Department whether the drop in working hours in 1919–20 had a good or a bad effect on output. That is simply unknown. I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman's Department or his predecessors of any party, because there was the excuse, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, that for 20 years there was practically no change in basic hours of 1526 working, but here, after 20 years without a change, changes are being sought for.
These changes are being sought for at a time when production is more important to the life of this nation than ever before, and I say that the time has come when we should be given an opportunity of judging whether reductions in hours of work are going to mean a reduction of output or not. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that, having considered this matter in March—as, I think he will remember, I did with such care as I could give—having considered it in the intervening period, and considering it again today, all the evidence that is available shows that these reductions to the 40-hour week are having a deteriorating effect on output. That is the first point we must face. We cannot refuse to face that point today. If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to contradict my conclusions, I shall be very glad to examine again the position which he puts up.
Everyone will appreciate that it is impossible to consider productivity without saying something about coal. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel will appreciate that I am not trespassing on his enforced silence. I am only doing what is essential for a sensible consideration of the subject we are debating. As I see it, the position is that the general productivity is enormously and adversely affected by the poor coal production at the present time. When steel is said temporarily to be the raw material in greatest shortness of supply, that only takes us back to the same point, because as soon as we could increase our production of coal, steel would immediately come out of that unenviable position. The same position applies in Lancashire in regard to the textiles which are so necessary for our export trade. The shortness of the supply of coal makes it impossible for that industry to enlarge its production. In general, this affects our export position and our inflow of raw materials, and it is true today to say that coal is a harder currency than dollars. There is nothing—practically nothing— that we could not get were the supply better at the present time.
The right hon. Gentleman will allow that I do try not to make criticisms without putting forward some suggestions, 1527 especially in a Debate of this kind. I suggest there are two things that must be done. A new wages agreement must be examined to give greater reward to greater productivity and to penalise still further absenteeism and general inability to produce. That must be done at once. The other thing—I do not envy the right hon. Gentleman the task which I set him—is that he or somebody else must get it clear from Mr. Horner whether Mr. Horner's first objective is the economic recovery of his country, or the breaking down of capitalism in industries which are still under it. That is one of the essential matters which must be tackled.
Let us again remember the problem. I ask hon. Members opposite to consider this. One cannot ignore it. We require 250 million tons of coal in a year. That cannot be disputed. That means one of two things—either an output per manshift on the 1947 labour force of 1.46 tons or 910,000 miners in the pits. If we could get a 10 per cent. increase, it would revolutionise our economic position, but without it, I find it difficult to consider how seriously the position can be stated. I am not for a moment trying to be defeatist or to make a party point; I am really trying to approach the position as realistically as I can and with the greatest knowledge which I have been able to acquire, and to face it; and if we measure it truly in facing it, then at any rate we do not add to the difficulties and we may decrease them.
I want to pass to another point which the right hon. Gentleman will remember we raised on the last occasion. At that time I drew his attention to two statements in the "Economic Survey for 1947" at its formidable conclusion in paragraph 141. First:There is now no place for industrial arrangements which restrict production, prices or employment.And a few lines further down:Against this background there is no justification for action by either side of industry which limits production.I could not endorse more strongly those statements which I have read again. On the last occasion when we were discussing cognate matters, I asked whether we could not be told of some of the restrictive practices and said that they should be brought into the light of day and that we should 1528 consider whether or not they were necessary. That has not been done, and therefore I want the right hon. Gentleman to consider just some of the practices which I put to him. If he cannot give us these practices, then he might consider those which I shall give him. I am not going into great detail, but I shall try to give typical examples.
First, there is work at the docks. There you have the great difficulty of enforcing what are the terms in the agreement of working of the transfer during the working shift. In theory it ought to be possible to transfer men in the middle of an operation, either from one part of the ship to another, or from one ship to another. However, there is the greatest difficulty in getting that done at the present time. The men ask, and stick out for, being paid for the completion of one job and not being transferred. Another example is the introduction of mechanical aids. A practical example, which is probably well known to hon. Members, is that of mechanical trucks. Mechanical trucks have stood idle in the sheds for lengthy periods because it could not be agreed what diminution in the labour force was the right one to use with these mechanical trucks. That is ridiculous. If we have to get our ships turned round quickly, if we are to do any good at all, to indulge in shadow-boxing of this kind on the brink of an economic abyss is, in my view, beyond reason and beyond sense.
The third is a similar example where you have trimmers whose work can only be used in the shift when a good deal of cargo has been moved and it is a question of getting what is left into a space where the grabs will come down and take it, but who still have to be on parade and ready to work the whole shift even when there is no work for them. That is one aspect. The other aspect, which I take quite broadly, is the opposition which is still manifest in the rules of great trade unions to piece-work and bonuses and matters of that kind. I take the example of the Electrical Trades Union, the woodworkers and other building unions. This can be found where in each case there is this proclaimed opposite, contrary not only to the spirit but to the actual words of the White Paper dealing with this subject.
Again I take one or two special cases which, however, are typical of what is 1529 happening at present. What could be more absurd than when a transport operator employing, say, about 20 men, has his men away on business and he himself unloads his own wagon when it comes to Covent Garden, that he should be compelled not only to receive complaints, but to reload his wagon with his own hands so that the appropriate grade of labour will then be employed in unloading it again? That is surely an absurdity at a time like the present or, indeed, at any time. You have the same sort of thing where carpenters on building jobs are not allowed to move the wood from a job where there is nothing for them to do, to a job where it could be used and where they could work, instead of not working. That is not allowed because it is an infringement of correct grading.
I have tried to give examples, I have tried to make a fair selection from the many that have been brought to my notice, and I say that the right hon. Gentleman has the duty of combating the attitude of mind which these practices show—
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
Up to now the right hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned only restrictive practices inherited by the trade union movement during the last century. Nothing has been said about restrictive practices or customs of manufacturers from the other side of industry. There must be an appeal to look at this transition period in a different light from all sides.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The hon. Member is perfectly right. Hon. Members will remember that the quotation I gave did not differentiate between the two sides of industry. I have always said, I say it again now, I firmly believe it, I shall always work for it, that restrictive practices must be examined and brought into the light of day wherever they appear, on whatever side of industry. It has always been my view and—if the hon. Member will allow me to mention one personal matter for a moment—he will find it expressed quite strongly in the Industrial Charter of my party of which I have the honour to be a part author. It is my view that these should be first brought into the light of day and, where they are found to be against the national interest, steps should be taken to put an end to them. I hope that satisfies the point made by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies).
§ Mr. Harold Davies indicated assent.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I had intended to refer to it myself, but I am glad the hon. Member brought it out so sharply. In dealing with the productivity of labour hon. Members will appreciate the position in which I found myself. I suggested that in March and, as far as I know, no action has been taken; therefore, I thought it right today to make a fair selection from those which have been brought to my attention and to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to use his great influence— not only the influence of his position but the influence of his record, which is known to so many of his colleagues—to try to get rid of these. I am sure that the use of that great influence will be most beneficial.
We say there are four essential matters which should be dealt with in order to improve productivity at present. First, by every means, it should be encouraged by payment by results. Second, we believe it would have been a great help had the Government been able to give effect to and encourage equal pay for equal work between the sexes. Third, there should be a clearance of these restrictive practices of the type of which I have given a few examples. Fourth, there should be a removal of low level controls. The import programme which will be discussed is an admirable example of the legitimate operation of high level control and of Government policy but, below that, it is surely more than we can afford now to retain a vast network of low level controls in Government hands and to refuse to let industry operate itself? The inevitable result is that not only are the extra 300,000 civil servants who have come in since the war having a distorting effect on the general layout of our manpower, but, by their existence, they are necessitating the corresponding existence of a vast section in industry itself which cannot be used on productive work because it is dealing with work made by this vast army of civil servants. These are four practical approaches which can be made.
I wish to turn for a moment to the future, because we must make the problem as we see it quite clear to the right hon. Gentleman. I have endeavoured on three important aspects—hours of work, restrictive practices, and partly, at any rate, in regard to incentives—to show that 1531 in our view enough is not being done at present, and that there are lines of action which could be taken. But time is short, and if we are unable by the combination of all the methods open to us substantially to affect the adverse balance of trade at the time of the running out of the loan—which may be any time from December, 1947, to a month or two later as present conditions show—then, indeed, we must not advance backwards into the next crisis. We have to look at what is going to happen, and to be ready with measures to meet it. What we must face, to a greater or larger extent according to our efforts, is a lower availability of distributable goods, and that means, in ordinary terms, a decline in real wages and also unemployment due to shortage of raw materials. Those are facts which must be faced.
What we want to know is whether the right hon. Gentleman has now approached the problems that are corollary to that position. When that position comes, are we to have a camouflaging of unemployment, that is, bodies of labour up to the old prewar numbers and producing infinitely less? Is that going to be the line taken? Are we going to allow the maldistribution of labour to be corrected by unemployment, or are we going to take steps to correct it by the rationing of raw materials and the like? Are we going to take any positive steps, or is it to be left to unemployment and reduced purchasing power to do this redistribution for us? What are the plans for alleviating to the worker the friction which is bound to come when we get this reduction in the standard of living which less distributable goods is bound to mean? What is the new direction which incentives are to take in that very different economy from the economy we have been enjoying during the last few months?
I cannot in truth and fairness shut my eyes to these problems. I do not see how anyone who starts with what I have said are the postulates of the present position, can shut his or her eyes to them. We want to know what is the line of approach to the position. That does not in any way mean, as I hope I have made clear, that we should abate our own efforts. It means that we should increase every effort that can be made by our people, and our special task in this Chamber is to try to urge a clearing of the road along which that greater effort will progress.
1532 It is today our view on these benches that both on the short-term and the long-term view too little has been done. The right hon. Gentleman has said again and again how anxious he is not to disturb conditions and methods that work well at present. I sympathise with his desire, but when we come to a position of great difficulty and national danger that is not enough. Good will towards existing institutions will not do. The right hon. Gentleman has to throw every ounce of his influence, every ounce of his energy, into dealing, first, with the short-term difficulties which I have endeavoured to demonstrate, and, second, with the long-term problem which we must face. If that is done, if we face bravely but realistically the situation, we can deal with it. If we slide once again we are not only abdicating our own position, we are bringing what may be real suffering upon those who trust us.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Byers (Dorset, Northern)
I shall do my best to follow the restrained way in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has put forward his view on this important subject. Undoubtedly this is a big problem, a problem so big that one cannot do justice to it in the course of a short speech. The more we think about this problem of increasing the productivity of labour, the more we come to the realisation that there is no one general panacea which can be applied universally, and which will solve the problem. It is made up of a number of complicated things which have to be done in different industries. It is a psychological problem, a problem of incentives, and a problem in which one thing may work in one industry, but not in another, or may work at one time, but not at another. It is absurd to think that we can find one solution to this great complicated problem. If we recognise that, it will help us to some extent.
I wish to deal with the psychological atmosphere, what I call the psychological incentives. I do not think I am going to say anything particularly novel, but what worries me is that very few people, taking the mass of the people throughout the country, seem to realise the importance and urgency of this problem. I am not 1533 blaming them, but I am suggesting that we have not got over to the mass of the people how important this problem of increased production is. In other words, our propaganda and approach have failed. I do not think it is right to blame the Government for everything, nor is it right to blame the workers for everything, nor to blame management for everything. We are all in this together, and all have a responsibility.
It is my task this afternoon to see if we cannot recognise those responsibilities and get some improvement in the different branches of our organisation. The object we have to set before ourselves is the creating of a sense of urgency and national emergency on the question of productivity on a national scale, on a factory by factory basis, and an office by office basis. I do not see that happening today. I admit that it is an uphill task to create this sort of atmosphere when industries are short of fuel and raw materials, or there is a dislocation, with idle time, until materials arrive, or do not arrive, through lack of co-ordination, etc. I do not think we shall get the maximum increase in output per man-year until we have solved these shortages of raw materials.
Unfortunately, these shortages of raw materials are themselves something which we have to solve. To take coal as an example, I do not see how we shall increase the output per man-year in various industries while we are short of coal. The problem we have to solve immediately is how to increase the output per manshift in the coal industry itself. When this has been done and we have got over the shortage of fuel, it will be easier to increase the output per man-year in the other industries. On the other hand, it is quite futile to shout "Work or want" from the hoardings of this country to people who have not got the raw materials and are working on short time. I am not suggesting that we should lay the blame at anybody's door but that is an insult, even to the unintelligent.
§ Mr. Fairhurst (Oldham)
Surely the hon. Member would agree that the exhibition of the posters was to bring home the urgency of the position.
§ Mr. Byers
I am suggesting that it is an appeal which does not get over, when a man comes home from working four 1534 days instead of five and a half days a week, although he wants to work, and he is met by a huge hoarding which tells him. "Work or want," and then is "stood off" for a while. It is all very well telling that to people in factories which have materials and where production is flowing smoothly.
If we are to have posters, do not let us go in for generalisations. There are different problems to be solved. The problem in factories which have materials is an entirely different one from that in factories which have not, and when they have not got materials it is an insult to the workers in them to see that notice. If we must have posters, and I am not saying that we must, I would prefer to see something much more specific. I would prefer to see" Production is above Party "and the three leaders of the political parties appealing to specific industries to do specific things. I throw that out as a suggestion. There may be nothing in it, but I think it should be considered. I believe that if people working in the steel industry were told that if they were prepared to work, shall we say, an extra three hours per week, they would produce so many more motor cars it would have an excellent result. A generalised approach to this problem of posters is wrong; it ought to be a specific approach.
I turn to the question which has been raised of the restrictive attitude of mind of the worker. I agree with what has been said about restrictive practices on the other side of industry; I am against them, too. There is this attitude of mind, which is a very difficult one to surmount. I thought that when the war ended everybody would be agreed that we had got full employment, that we knew how to get it, and that, therefore, we were in for an era of expansionism and could do away with these restrictive practices. I was quite prepared to wait for a short number of years so as to meet the case of the man who said, "Let us see it working in practice before we really believe in full employment." I would have expected this restrictive attitude of mind to have disappeared making it possible to have people in full employment, particularly with a Government of the complexion of the present one. After all, the workers voted for this Government, and I would have expected that. But the fuel crisis last winter was 1535 absolutely disastrous, because it shook the confidence of the workers in full employment. It will take many years to get over that. I believe that the Government have to recognise that fact. If it happens again next winter I cannot see our getting rid of this restrictive attitude of mind for generations, because people will just not believe that there is plenty of work to go round, they will not believe that there is work to be done for hundreds of years in this country. They will say that it is "boloney." They will say, "Yes, but we shall have another crisis next winter." I believe that the Government ought, quite frankly, to take the full blame for that crisis last winter.
Mr. Arthur Alien (Bosworth)
§ Mr. Byers
It was lack of foresight. It has been practically admitted at that Box by different Ministers that they did not see it coming. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the weather?"] That is the point. Every time hon. Members opposite blame it on the weather they are doing a disservice. It was not due to the weather. The weather aggravated it, but there would have been a crisis in any case. It would not have come when it did, but later. I believe that the Government were gambling on getting through. The people of the country believe that the system has failed, when in fact it was the men working the system who failed. I am not trying to score a party point on this—[Laughter.] —I hope that hon. Members opposite realise that I am trying to prove to the people of this country that we know how to get full employment, and that a mistake was made last winter. I am not at this moment blaming people for that mistake. I blamed them when they made it.
§ Mr. Sparks (Acton)
I am interested in what the hon. Member is saying, but in view of the fact that coal production increased by nearly 6 million tons between 1945 and 1946, with fewer miners in the pits, and that the consumption of coal for new industries which were opening up increased by six million tons during that period, is the hon. Member now saying that those factors must not be taken into consideration when dealing with the fuel 1536 crisis? They were important factors, encouraging factors, and the hon. Member seems to me to be quite incorrect—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
The hon. Member rose to ask a question, but is now making a speech.
§ Mr. Byers
I would like to follow up that point, but I do not think I can. The point I am trying to make is that it was clear in the fuel crisis that electricity and gas consumption was going up rapidly, and that coal was not being produced fast enough to meet it, and that therefore there would be a crisis some time. Let the Government be men and admit they did not take the necessary action in time, and that there is nothing wrong with the system. [An HON. MEMBER: "What action?"] One of their first actions could have been to have had rationing far earlier. We know that we began the winter with inadequate stocks. In any case, I am trying not to get out of Order in developing the question of coal. I am trying to say that we must give to the workers of this country the confidence that we know how to produce full employment, that we know that occasionally we shall make mistakes, but that they will not be serious mistakes.
I believe also that if we are to deal with the psychological problem of the restrictive attitude of mind, we have to prove to the worker not only that we shall have full employment, but that the Government will do their best to ensure that there is no crisis next winter, that a man does not need to spin out his work, and that there is plenty more for him when he is finished what he is doing. It is equally important that the Government should tell the country what we are trying to do. That suggestion is made in the "News Chronicle" today—that there is not the proper leadership coming from the Government. Here I believe that the Government are to blame. It is no use having fortnightly Press conferences and saying, "We think we are going on all right." People want to know what they are trying to do, the sort of pattern they are trying to build over a period of years. They want to know that if they make sacrifices today they will get real benefits tomorrow by so doing, and what those benefits will be. I believe it can be done Next, I would like to make a suggestion, and I believe that this is the respon- 1537 sibility not so much of the Government as of management. I would like to see in every factory that the worker's job is directly related in his own mind to the production drive. I do not believe that it is. That is where we fail. That is not the responsibility of the Government but of the management inside the factory. We should show in some dramatic fashion, to the coalminers in a particular pit, what an increase of so many tons of coal in that pit would mean in terms of increasing the consumer goods in the shops three, four, or five months later. Those people who are responsible for putting over these dramatic forms of appeal to workers in industry ought to be able to do that. I would like to see coal related to steel, related to motor cars for export, related to what we want import. I do not believe that that is understood. It is always said in economics that the theory that imports should balance exports is the easiest thing to understand. That should be brought home to the people who do not think in those terms at present—and I do not blame them.
I suggest that the managements could play a big part in explaining the position just as was done during the war, when people were sent round the factories to explain how a man's job was related to what was taking place on the beaches of Normandy or in the air over a target area. That can still be done though we are working in a slightly different atmosphere. I was glad to see the announcement that we are to have a great increase in joint production committees. Joint consultation is very important indeed. Do not let us forget when we get joint production committees and joint consultation that, really, we are talking to the people who, probably, are aware of the urgency of the problem. We are not getting at all the workers on all the benches. That is why I have suggested that we should apply the same principle as we did in the war when the management got somebody to give a talk to relate the workers' specific jobs to the production drive and to show how they fit into the drive.
On the question of management, I should like to quote a letter from the manager of a big firm employing thousands of men. I received it only this morning. I believe that if we can get this attitude of mind to work, we shall indeed make quite a big difference to the productivity of labour. He writes: 1538You ask me what we ought to do, and I say to get more output you must always treat your men as human beings.That is something which can be done by the management in the factories this week. They can check up on this and say to themselves, "Arc we doing the maximum to treat these men as human beings?" The letter proceeds:They must know where the management is going and why, and where they fit in, and they must feel as well as think that their interests are yours. This requires proper consultation and discussion in order to break down the 'them' and 'us' barrier which has so often been erected in the past.That was a lesson we learned in the Army in the very early days. We did not get the best out of the troops in a platoon or a battery of guns unless the men knew what was happening in detail on the whole front. If I have put even that one point over—it is by no means a novel point— I shall be grateful. It is the duty of every employer of labour to ask himself whether he is doing enough to take his men into his confidence and to let them know exactly what their specific jobs mean in the factory. It is his duty to tell them what the factory is doing in the production drive. It would not take them long to consider this matter. It would not cost them anything and if they put it into effect they would get a good return.
On the question of financial incentives, I agree that there must be an extension of the system of payment by results where that system will get increased production. It is no use suggesting that it can be applied throughout industry, because it cannot. The facts put before the House by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) not long ago about the building industry show quite conclusively that increased production can be attained by adopting a certain system of payment by results. I have also spoken to representatives of firms responsible for erecting prefabricated houses, and they have proved conclusively that there is a phenomenal increase in output, and that the men are happier and make more money by having a system of payment by results. I know that there is a psychological reaction on the part of the worker. He is frightened that he is letting himself in for sweated labour and for being done down. We must recognise that the trade union movement has never been stronger than it is today. Surely, they can safeguard the interests of the workers. Why 1539 cannot they come forward with schemes for payment by results with proper safeguards? I believe that those schemes are being held up for lack of initiative.
What a magnificent lead it would give to the country if the leaders of the building trade unions said tomorrow morning, "This is what we reckon will increase production by 25 per cent. These are the safeguards we want, and now we are prepared to have this payment by results system. We have changed our mind from the old days. But we have now got safeguards. Our primary duty as trade unionists is to safeguard the interests of the worker." If the interests of the worker are to be safeguarded, it must not be done on a short-term basis. One must look ahead. The one thing which will wreck the interests of the workers of the country will be a failure to get the production we want. I would like to see the trade unions take the initiative in the introduction of a system of payment by results. Then, at least, we would have the safeguard that the scheme would be in the interests of the workers, because it is the job of the trade unionists to look after the workers. Do not let us wait for the management to bring forward these schemes and then say, "No, we do not like that one." Why should not the trade unions take action now and produce a proper scheme?
§ Sir Robert Young (Newton)
Surely the hon. Member realises that in some industries schemes of payment by results have operated for a long number of years, and-that any increased production as a result of these schemes cannot be attained. I have never met a piece-worker who did not try to get the best out of his piecework in days gone by.
§ Mr. Byers
I agree, but I have covered that point. There are cases where the bricks, cement and mortar are on the site and still the work is not being turned out. Hon. Members must realise that that attitude of mind is the one against which we are fighting. On every occasion, an excuse 1540 is found for not doing something. That is why I say that the trade union movement must take the initiative in this matter in cases where increased production will result.
§ Mr. Tolley (Kidderminster)
Surely the hon. Member is not suggesting that the great mass of British working class people engaged in production today are slacking, and that if we give them some monetary incentive they will work harder? Is the hon. Gentleman saying that the slackers are the great mass of the people, and that without more incentive they will go on slacking?
§ Mr. Byers
Tests have been carried out by many firms on time workers. Managements have made a time study in their factories and discovered that where an incentive is given, where there is payment by results, they get better results. I. have no interest in this, I am not an employer of labour. It seems to me that it is a perfectly logical proposition that where that happens, where the management gets increased production, then it is up to the trade unions to take the initiative and to say, "Can we apply that system anywhere else?" Why should they not do that? The attitude of mind shown by hon. Member will not help this country or the workers to get through the problems of our time.
§ Mr. Sparks rose—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I do not want to spoil the cut and thrust of Debate, but constant interruptions are apt to increase the length of individual speeches. That means that fewer hon. Members will be able to participate in the Debate.
§ Mr. Byers
I have spoken for ten minutes longer than I had intended already, but that is because of the interruptions. I have not deployed all the arguments which I wished to use.
I wish to conclude on the subject of shorter hours. The same argument holds good. Surely, the objective which we have to keep in mind is increased production. If the five-day week will produce more than five-and-a-half days, by all 1541 means, let us have it. We all want shorter hours and higher wages; they are natural things to demand, but the yardstick by which we have to measure is the maximum production that we are going to get. If it can be proved over a reasonable period that a five-day week produces more coal, or more anything, than five-and-a-half days, by all means let us have it, but the opposite is also true. If it does not, we must have the courage to put on the extra hours as soon as we realise that the scheme is not going to work. If we have the courage to do that, in the trade unions, in the Government and in the works— [HON. MEMBERS: "And here."] Well, I think we work more than 48 hours altogether here. I am pretty certain we do, but what we do with it is a different matter.
Can we get this approach, this realisation that the only test is maximum production? I suggest that, at all levels, there is a personal responsibility, be it management or trade union, Government or worker, it is the responsibility of each to test this problem by that yardstick. There is an almost quadripartite responsibility for making the controls work smoothly, where they are necessary, and for seeing that there is proper co-ordination, that there is a response on the part of management to create the right psychological atmosphere in their works and to treat their men as human beings, and to examine at regular intervals how they can improve their output without in any way exploiting their workers or doing them down.
There is a responsibility on the trade unions to be less conservative than they have been in the past and to be willing to make a fresh approach to this problem. The trade union movement is strong enough to safeguard the interests of the workers and to look with an entirely fresh mind on payment by results, and to look upon profit-sharing, co-partnership and all these other forms which may help to give the workers stakes in industry and a sense of responsibility in the worker himself. I believe that if we get over the psychological problem, and get down into the works to make the worker realise the part which his specific job plays in the production drive, and the urgency of the problem, not only in regard to national survival but to his own personal survival, we shall get through.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I would like to speak for a few minutes as an employer of labour who, at the moment, is getting more production per man-hour than he did before the war. It has not been done in a moment by putting down plans and saying "There it is." It has been done by long years of understanding with my own workpeople, by showing them the results, where the cloth was going—and I declare my interest in this subject, as I am a wool manufacturer —what the worker received for his labour, and what profit I was getting for the goods. I have had considerable experience in this direction, because I started my business with my war gratuity after the last war, and the reason for my being here—not particularly on this side of the Committee, because that is by conviction, but for my being in the House—is on account of the intervention of my own workpeople, who put me up as a suitable candidate to represent Labour, so that I am rather an oddity.
I wish to make a few remarks, not in general terms covering the whole wide field—because it is so vast and so wide that one can talk much and get nowhere with it—but with reference to the textile industry. The subject which we have in. hand is the productivity of labour, and when I say that there are five factors— management, labour, materials, plant and space—I am not exaggerating the subject-matter. If intelligent use is made of all five factors, we are bound to have a higher rate of productivity, because one factor is dependent upon the other, though the importance of each varies according to the-conditions and circumstances in different-factories in different trades. Therefore, the field of productivity of labour opens out very wide indeed.
The Cotton and Wool Working Parties have dealt at great length and in considerable detail with the problem of productivity, and may I say modestly that most' of the best recommendations of the Cotton and Wool Working Parties have been in operation in my factory for over 12 years, including shift working very willingly undertaken. We have been told that the cotton industry is short of 164,000 workers to bring it back to prewar level, but we do not want to consider this question from the point of view of the prewar level, because, when we are 1543 considering it from that point of view, we are accepting a host of prejudices which went to make up what those conditions were. Let us get out of the prewar mentality altogther, and think in terms of what we need now. Similarly, the wool trade needs 20.000 more workers, but the same argument applies and it is conclusive.
We are told also that we cannot expect to get anything like the prewar production per man-hour. All these factors are known to us, and we can expect only a modest increase because of the wastage in industry and the fact that so many of the people engaged in the industries are getting a bit old. We do not need to be told of the shortage of workers. Everybody knows of it, and not least the people engaged in the industry; and the housewives and people of modest incomes all over the country know it perfectly well. What we did need to be told by these working parties was the effect of shortage on our national economy and the best way to correct it, and the recommendations of the Platt Commission, the Ever-shed Commission and the working parties have all pointed to this one thing—the need for increased production per man-hour. The White Papers which we have had have emphasised it and directed our attention to it. All these reports prove that increased production per man-hour is easily possible, and there is positive proof that the productivity of the textile industry can be increased.
The textile industry must take bold steps if it is to survive, and fulfil its functions as one of the largest exporting industries. What these reports do not -fell us is by how much output per man-hour can be increased, and we have to turn to other sources for the information, to the practical men who have been engaged in the industry, either as consultants or as actual manufacturers. On 17th May, Mr. R. J. Ely, an eminent industrial consultant, who has acquired great experience in the reorganisation and deployment of factories in the textile trade, particularly cotton, addressed the Cotton Board. He said—and this may surprise Members who represent cotton constituencies:The present level of utilisation of the industry's resources, in relation to the conversion of materials, having regard to the mills and sheds in their present condition, has 1544 resolved from what has been accomplished in 85 companies and is, on the average, just less than 65 per cent. of the attainable.I have many figures which 1 brought from America after my visit there last year, showing comparisons in productivity there of one type of employee with another. Mr. Ely went on to say:This means that with the mills and sheds equipped as they are today, and with the present labour force, the productivity of the industry's resources can, on the average. be increased by 53 per cent.That is an extraordinary statement. Hon. Members can discount, if they like, some of the reasons why Mr. Ely made such a statement by saying that he is professionally engaged in the industry. But I am prepared to back that statement by my own experience. When labour is deployed, everything is brought up to scratch, and there is introduced not only the right machines but the right methods. As re-equipping is a long-term question, what is important is that we should use our present equipment to the best advantage. Many people think that the cotton trade is decadent. Let us get rid of that idea; let us stop crying stinking fish. There are soma fine men in the cotton trade who are respected the world over. Our textile trade can play its part in our economy, and it will do its part under this Government. No other Government would have been able to satisfy the required conditions. This question of the usage of equipment was mentioned by Sir George Schuster, in a letter to the President of the Board of Trade. He said:It is not enough merely to seek a higher production per man-hour by wholesale re-equipment, regardless of the commercial and economic result.How right he is. This increase can be achieved by industry as a whole, and it needs no stressing to show that it is important that we should think in terms of the buyers' market which is now almost upon us. When we read in the Press that we are buying 6 million yards of cloth from the Russian zone in Germany, 62 million yards of cloth from Japan, and spending a lot of money in France in this way, people think there is something desperately wrong. More often than not, it is something wrong with themselves. The increase of output per man-hour must be related to costs and selling prices. It is no use putting up 1545 prices, especially at this time, to the new level of productivity, and expecting to get away with it. There must be advantages on both sides.
I hope the committee will forgive me for mentioning my own case, but years ago I reduced my hours from 48 to 40, and increased my wages by 10s. a week. That created consternation in my district, and much unpopularity from one section of the trade, which I need not mention. Increased earnings and lower costs must accompany any change we make. This has been done in my own mills, where deployment has taken place. It has taken place in a hundred mills in the Lancashire and Yorkshire area. There has been an increased production of 40 to 50 per cent., and the average earnings of the mills have been increased by 25 per cent. Incidentally, where that has taken place labour costs have been reduced by 20 per cent. It sounds almost paradoxical, but it is true.
In Bolton, where these changes have taken place, operatives of the first ring-spinning mill to be deployed advised their union representatives that they did not work so hard, that the work was more interesting, that they liked it better, and would not return to the old conditions if requested. In some cases where new methods are being employed, even with the present shortage of labour there is a waiting list of people wishing to be employed. That shows what can be done. Why is it that the industry cannot go forward with confidence to this increased production per man-hour? It is being done slowly, but the process is far too slow, because it is being done in isolated pockets. This is not a matter for shouting across the Committee at each other, "We did this, and you did not do that." It is astonishing what can be done with progressive managements and trade union officials working together. My trade unionists speak on my platform, and I speak on theirs, and none of us has anything to be ashamed about.
It is essential—and I am only echoing what the President of the Board of Trade and right hon. Members on the Front Bench have said on so many occasions— that this deployment should be dealt with more evenly throughout the textile trades. It should be dealt with on a larger scale, and higher up. I am optimis- 1546 tic enough to believe that there is nothing in the way of production problems-assuming that this Debate is not going to be wasted by everyone saying that it is no use anybody doing anything because we have no coal—which cannot be overcome when managements and unions work together as teams. I say to Lancashire and Yorkshire that what is possible in one area should, in proportion to the circumstances, be possible in another. In conclusion, I would say that we must go forward boldly, discarding old, worn-out prejudices, in a joint and determined effort to achieve efficiency, as otherwise we shall have the mortification of seeing inevitable decay in the textile trade, without having made a sporting bid to win.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Prescott (Darwen)
I am sure the whole Committee listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes). He speaks with authority and personal knowledge of the matter, and equally with common sense. It gives me great pleasure, and I find it very edifying, as I am sure do all other Members of the Committee, to listen to the hon. Gentleman on the too few occasions on which he addresses us.
I also would like to deal primarily with the textile industry in Lancashire. I noted with interest, but also with regret, that the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne referred only in passing to the coal situation. He said it was no good saying that everything depends on coal, and that without it we cannot do anything. I would like to address a few observations to the Committee with regard to the coal situation and its effects on the textile industry, on the recruitment of labour, and on production at the present moment. At present there is a cloud hanging over the whole of the Lancashire textile industry. It is the memory of the experience of last winter, coupled with fears whether it is to be repeated this coming winter. I do not want to enlarge upon what happened last winter; unfortunately we all know it only too well; but the position now—and I speak with some knowledge of these matters—is that managements, by and large, are trying to conserve as much fuel as they can, in accordance with the insistence placed upon that matter by the Minister of Fuel and Power and the President of the Board of Trade. One 1547 thing that cannot be done to any great degree is to increase production and to save fuel at the same time.
I mention the following matter because it is also germane to this subject. I am informed that in the textile industry we need some 75,000 additional operatives, and that they are coming in very slowly. It is the female labour which is the slowest in coming in. I put this point to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. The other day I asked the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade how many spinning mills and weaving sheds still remain closed under the wartime concentration scheme. The answer I received was that 48 spinning mills were still closed, representing some 2,500,000 spindles, and that, on the weaving side, 250 sheds were still closed, representing 73,000 looms. I think the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne and the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. E. Porter) will agree that Lancashire has its own peculiarities, its likes and dislikes, and its native suspicion of certain things. It is true to say that many of the operatives who were put out of the textile industry owing to the war-time concentration scheme would go back to their own mills if they were reopened. It would be more difficult to persuade them to go to other mills, because they have a great regard— and tradition—for the mills in which they, and often their ancestors, worked.
What, therefore, is the reason these additional mills, which were concentrated in war-time, have not been reopened? I believe the main reason is lack of fuel. It is true, of course, that in some respects, the machinery and the mills have deteriorated. It is always said that the labour shortage prevents them from being re-opned, but I do not think that the labour shortage alone has been the deciding factor. I believe there have been other shortages which have prevented many mills from reopening, even in a small way. If they get going in a small way, the operatives may come back. I put that forward for the right hon. Gentleman's consideration. What he can do about it, I do not know, because the coal situation prevents him from reopening these mills, but I think it is a point he should bear in mind when conducting his recruitment campaign for the industry.
1548 On the question of recruiting operatives for the industry, I would again mention the wretched poster "Work or Want." The slogan of the Labour Party used to be "Work or Maintenance." I think the poster is a horrible thing, which does no good. This campaign of urging people to greater productivity must be dealt with on a higher level and psychologically. The fuel crisis considerably injured the recruitment of labour for the textile industry. With the exception of the Austin Motor Works, the textile industry was the first to be hit by the coal crisis, and that crisis has left its mark on the minds of textile operatives who were then not back in the industry, but who might have gone back but for what happened last winter.
I have already dealt with the reopening of the mills and the effect which that would have had if it had been possible. The next point I want to make is with regard to European volunteer workers and their importation into this country for work in the textile industry. The other day, I asked a question about. these workers and the answer I received was that the Government did not know how many European volunteer workers were to be recruited in this country during the next 12 months; that, even if they did, they could not say how many would be suitable for work in the textile industry, and certainly could not say how many of them would already have had experience of that work. Surely, the Government should now know how many European volunteer workers they want to get during the next 12 months. Of that figure, they ought to say, "We will try to get so many people who are suitable for work in the industry." Surely, inquiries could be made before they came to England as to whether they had knowledge or experience of the industry. I am informed by people experienced in these matters that in Europe there are many displaced persons of whom a large percentage have experience of textiles. I do not know whether that is correct, but if it is, cannot they be included among the European volunteer workers brought to this country? I should like to have an answer on that point when the Minister replies.
There are one or two things I should like to say about the five-day week. Personally, I would be quite happy to work as little as possible, and to get as high a wage as possible for doing so. That is 1549 only natural. If it was in the interests of the industry and the country, and if production could be maintained, I would be in agreement with the five-day week in the textile industry, but it is common knowledge that since the five-day week was introduced six or seven months ago, there has been a considerable fall in production.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
The trend has been upwards all the time until this month. The hon. Gentleman's statement is not true. The graph has been going up all the time until the slight fall-off this month.
§ Mr. Rhodes
May I point out that it depends upon the circumstances, and that production has not gone down much more than about seven per cent.?
§ Mr. Prescott
I give way to the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne because his technical knowledge is greater than mine. If my statement is wrong, perhaps the Minister of Labour will correct me. Taking the industry as a whole, there has been a considerable fall in production.
§ Mr. Prescott
Shall I say "substantial," then? I will not argue about the word. The fact remains 'that there has been this fall in production. Is it the policy of His Majesty's Government to support the continuance of the five-day week in the textile industry, or are the Government going to use all their endeavours to get the workers and the unions concerned to revert to the ordinary six-day week?
§ Mr. Edward Porter (Warrington) rose—
§ Mr. Prescott
I am not addressing my question to the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. E. Porter). I would not be so unwise. I think that not only the Committee, but Lancashire, would like to know the view of the Government.
§ Mr. Prescott
The hon. Gentleman is assuming that he will be so fortunate as to be called—he may not be—but even if he does reply, I shall not be worried by what he says. He has made inaccurate statements in the House before, and I have no doubt he will do it again. It is no concern of mine. With regard to the engineering industry, the right hon. Gentleman will know that in the last few days they have agreed, in effect, to forego the five-day week and to accept '' staggering '' arrangements for the coming winter. I would like to know what other industries desire to follow suit. What other industries have been approached, and what replies have they given?
Another point I want to raise concerns the wallpaper industry. We hear talk of the employment of labour and increasing productivity. The greatest fear in the wallpaper industry is that, because of a lack of materials, men will have to be discharged. There is no question of increasing productivity but of "making-do" with the materials which are available. The most difficult thing about asking for increased productivity is that in some industries it is needed, and in other industries the workers become annoyed when exhorted to increase productivity, because it is quite impossible to do so.
I would like to make this offer to the right hon. Gentleman. It may be of no benefit to him, and I have no desire that he should accept it just to please me. I shall never see eye to eye with him politically, but the question of increased production is above politics, and one which hon. Members in all quarters of the Committee wish to assist. If, for example, in my constituency it would be of benefit to call a meeting of managements, workers and representatives of the trades council—with no party politics— with a view to trying to spur them on and iron out their difficulties, I would gladly assist. Personally, I doubt whether it would be of any great use, but if the right hon. Gentleman would like to bear that in mind, I think many of my hon. 1551 Friends would help if they were approached.
I have a certain following in Lancashire, as has the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Fuel and Power, although my following is slightly different from his. Not so long ago I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether it was the desire of his Department to further part-time work in the Lancashire cotton mills, and in a written reply the right hon. Gentleman said it was. Unfortunately, the Question was not reached for oral answer, and I could not ask a supplementary question. If necessary, I will give way on this point to the hon. Member for Warrington, who lives in Blackburn. Some time ago, in Blackburn, it was desired to get the women to go back and do part-time work in the evenings, and many volunteered. There was then the greatest possible opposition from the textile trade union in Blackburn.
§ Mr. Prescott
I do not know why, but there was. The result was that the whole scheme was dropped. That is an example of the difficulties with which one has to deal, and the right hon. Gentleman must bear it in mind. It is no good making wild and woolly statements about increasing production in the textile industry. We must be told what help we are going to get. Coal is one example. We must have a properly conducted campaign to get men and women back into the mills, and we must have some imagination, because there is none at the moment. We must also be given targets, and we must have assistance. We must not be stultified, as we have been in the past, by being told that we cannot export to dollar countries; and now that we cannot export to dollar countries we are exhorted to do so. At the moment the cotton industry is being hamstrung by lack of coal; we are not getting the proper allocation that we should get, and we are apprehensive about what will happen next winter.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Belcher)
I believe I heard the hon. Gentleman say that at one period the textile industry was exhorted not to export to dollar countries. I wish he would give some indication of when that was.
§ Mr. Prescott
I do not know it I used the word "exhorted," but what I meant to say was this. Some months ago the most difficult thing in the world was to get an allocation in order to export textiles to dollar countries. It was difficult for the Lancashire textile people to get permission to export to dollar countries. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to correct me, I will give way. Now the exact opposite has happened. We are being told that we must export everything we can to dollar countries. At the time when we were allowed to export only a very little, we could have got into those markets; but now, when the Board of Trade are urging us to do so, the opportunity has passed. I may have used the word "exhorted," but I think what I meant to say was quite clear.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Edelman (Coventry, West)
I was interested in the suggestion of the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Prescott) that he should call a conference of those people who are concerned with production in his constituency. I ventured over 18 months ago, with my colleague the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), to convene a similar meeting of industrialists, workers, and trade unionists in our city which, I think, had certain favourable results. What emerged most clearly from it was that both sides of industry are eager to get on with the job of production. One thing in particular I wish to emphasise. It is that the British worker is anxious to work, and he does not require chivvying and exhortation and nagging to get on with the job. He is as eager as anybody. But I believe a great deal of our propaganda has been misplaced. It is no good urging the worker to apply more energy to his job in the hope that that alone will increase productivity. 1 feel that the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Supply should address themselves with far greater force to the managements of this country, because I believe that, with our existing resources, we should be able, even within the limitations imposed on us by lack of raw materials, to increase the productivity of the individual worker if proper methods of scientific management are employed
We have only to compare the productivity per man here with the productivity of the worker in America. Some of the 1553 comparisons are notorious, and I shall not detain the Committee by multiplying examples. But I will quote a few. There is the well-known case of coal. The miner engaged in extracting bituminous coal produces approximately four and a half times as much as the British miner; the American anthracite miner produces approximately two and a half times as much. The reports of the working parties of the Board of Trade show extremely interesting comparisons between the productivity per man hours of British and American workers. For example, in the linoleum industry in America, the productivity of the individual worker is approximately between 50 and 1d 100 per cent. higher than that of a worker in this country. The shirt-maker in America produces approximately 50 per cent. more than the British shirt-maker. In the case of men's wear the productivity of the American worker is 25 per cent. greater. I mention these comparisons not to belittle the British worker, because I believe that, man for man, the British worker is far more energetic and far more efficient than the American worker.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
While I entirely agree with the hon. Member's general argument, I think it may be well to remember that there are cases in which the reverse is true. For instance, I think it is true that in shipbuilding we do better per man hour than the Americans. I do not say that that changes the hon. Gentleman's main point, but I think it is as well to mention it.
§ Mr. Edelman
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the senior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) for mentioning that, because it reinforces the argument I hope to develop. That argument is that in America the worker is provided with efficient tools and effective management. He is better equipped to produce more per man-hour than is the worker in this country, who in many cases is not provided with efficient and up-to-date tools and has not effective management to help him. But in the shipbuilding industry we have a great, traditional British industry, in which the Americans have not been able to catch up with Great Britain. For that reason, I urge the Minister of Labour to address himself to the managers of this country, in order that they may re-examine their 1554 shops, that they may look at their works and ask themselves whether they are, in fact, producing as much as they could.
I believe that if a manager looked round his workshop and asked himself, "Is this machine in the right place?"—"Is my plant maintaining a proper flow of output?"—if managements were to consider whether their raw materials were coming in at the right time and moving through the workshops in the right order, then I think that, without adding a single pound of raw material to our stocks or a single pair of hands to the labour force in Great Britain, we could produce that vital 5 per cent. of increased production which would be the equivalent of a great supplement to our labour force and, in my view, would make it unnecessary to rely, as it seems that we are doing, on the importation of workers from a broad-workers whom, in passing I would say. I welcome—who may lack the necessary skill to engage in immediate work and who may, therefore, require a period of training, despite the fact that our crisis is on us now.
After all, if it is merely a matter of brute force and the application of more physical energy, then the Chinese coolie, sweating away from dawn to dusk, would be more productive than, for example, a mechanised fanner in Canada. But we all know that, in fact, that is not so: we all know that a worker who is assisted by efficient equipment is in a far better position to raise his productivity per man-hour than the worker who, with the best of intentions, strives through a mere increase of physical energy to increase his production.
I would also address myself to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because I believe that in the coming months he, too, has a very great responsibility for increasing productivity in this country. We depend for increased output per man-hour on obtaining suitable machines. Those machines can come to us only from America. I was very glad that in his statement the other day my right hon. Friend emphasised that the import of machinery would receive high priority in the allocation of dollars.
We have today a great chance. During the war there was a long period during which our machinery had to run down and become obsolete owing to the fact that we could not replace it by imports 1555 from abroad; but now we have the chance of re-equipping our industry to a great extent with new machinery. I feel that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should give us an opportunity of carrying out that re-equipment by adding to the amount of dollars he is making available for the purchase of machinery abroad. I myself am unfamiliar with the textile industry, but I am told that, by automatic looms, it is possible for a single worker today to do approximately ten times the amount of work a worker could have done ten years ago. That may be an exaggeration.
§ Mr. Edelman
If that is so, I apologise to those hon. Members who are expert in the subject. But it is quite clear that by using improved, up-to-date methods and modern equipment, we can climb on to the shoulders of America and outstrip her, just as, in the nineteenth century, when we had a great start in the Industral Revolution, other countries climbed on to our shoulders—countries like America, Germany, and Japan—to compete with us, and, finally, to surpass us. I regard it as being a fundamental consideration today, that we should make a great effort, putting aside our natural enthusiasm for consumer goods, in order to concentrate on the import of that heavy machinery which is necessary for British industry.
I turn from that to the question of raw materials. I speak with special interest in the question of steel, because in my own constituency, where the motor industry is one on which the country relies for help in the export drive, we have today factories where there is, in fact, concealed unemployment. We have factories where people nominally working for five days a week, are, in fact, working only for between three and four days a week. Those people do not like working only three or four days a week, even when at the end of a week they receive payment for a full week's work. They want to get on with the job, because they are conscientious, patriotic people who recognise that, unless they work their country as a whole must suffer. I urge the Minister of Supply to give them the steel they vitally need.
1556 I do not want to pillory any individual firm, so I will not mention the name of the firm which I am about to quote as an example of the workers exceeding the management in their enthusiasm for work. A short time ago I was asked by a shop stewards' committee to visit the factory where they were employed in order to see if I could help them to get more work. They were particularly concerned by the fact that in their factory, although all the workers were anxious and eager to get on with the job of production, they were not able to do so because the work was not coming to them. When I inquired into the general situation of the factory I found that there was, in fact, an extraordinarily lackadaisical attitude on the part of the management. During the war, as was the case in many parts of the country, the management was rather spoon fed by the Government; they had as much labour as they wanted; they had large Government advances in order to engage in development contracts, and from that period of coddling there was a hangover into peacetime, when our problems are, in a sense, even more acute than during the war. The management were not giving the workers of that factory the necessary drive and inspiration which would encourage them to produce more.
For that reason, I want to address myself to the Minister of Supply, through his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour, and ask whether something might not be done to stimulate the managements of this country so that they will put their backs into it and, instead of continually throwing all the blame on to the alleged lack of will amongst the workers, will recognise that they have a joint responsibility in' the industry, that it is up to them to exercise initiative and not merely to wait for the Government, and expect the Government to nurse them and to worry their heads about what should properly be the management's concerned. If there is virtue in private enterprise—and I believe there is—then let those people who are engaged in private enterprise show it by taking the initiative in the present production drive. I do not want to generalise, and I do not want to be critical of those extremely able managements who are putting their backs into the job, despite material shortages. Those people who will help the country to survive the present difficulties 1557 —whether they be workers or managers —are not those who sit back and moan, but those who say: "Here's a job to be done. 'Let's get on with it. and do it."
§ 543 P.m.
§ Mr. Heathcoat Amory (Tiverton)
I do not think any hon. Member on this side of the Committee will find anything in which to delight if anything we say this afternoon adds to the difficulties of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. As an employer, let me say that we are anxious to respond to the courtesy and the fairness which he and, I think, following his example, his Department show in their very difficult job of doing justice between all the different sections of industry. This afternoon we are all conscious of the gravity of the background against which this Debate is being held, and that will make us still more careful in weighing our words.
It seems to me that the Marshall offer stands out as the one bright gleam against an otherwise darkening horizon. It is a big offer from a big man, and we must respond to it in a big way. The aspect of that offer which I wish to relate to the subject under discussion this afternoon is the principle of self-help, which I understand underlies that offer. I think that is very important. Our friends the Americans know that we are short of manpower; they know that today, for a variety of reasons, productivity in British industry is very low. If we are to establish a firm claim on their assistance, I am quite sure it is important for us to do everything possible to show the Americans that we are making the utmost use of our own resources, that we are straining every nerve to help ourselves, and that we are doing so efficiently. In the early days of the war the Americans saw this country standing out against immense odds, and it was that which made them decide we were worth helping. We must make sure that they see the same spirit today as they saw in those days.
The first question I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether he is satisfied that that is the impression which we, as a nation, are conveying today. I cannot help feeling that an impartial observer would have some slight doubts. I think he would have doubts on two points. He would be perplexed at some 1558 apparent contradictions. For example, when our problem is clearly one of underproduction, he would be surprised to see a continuing tendency apparently to go in for a five-day week, with a steady pressure maintained for shorter hours; and at the same time the Government apparently occupying a position of rather uncomfortable neutrality on this issue. That impartial observer would also see the melancholy sequence of bottlenecks and breakdowns; and in that he would see, to some extent, a failure in our national management. The lesson I deduce from this—and which I want the right hon. Gentleman to accept—is that during the last year or two the Government have steadily under-estimated both the size and the tempo of the problems which face us, and that they are still doing so today.
The Government are still running round plugging holes, instead of planning for the situation which will face us in 1948 and 1949. The record of the last year or two has been one of grappling with one crisis after another, each particular crisis only after it had broken out. As my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) said last week, it is as if on every occasion the cooks and the clerks were called out and put into the firing line to deal with one break-through after another. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will convince us today that he is now grappling with the problems which will face us next year and the year after, because I believe that in some cases they will be quite different in kind from the problems which have faced us during the last year Or two. If he does so, he will be confronted with conclusions which will call for great moral courage on his part.
I referred to the five-day week and shorter hours. I have always felt reduced working hours to be one of those compensations that could be reasonably looked for as a result of the increased mechanisation of our lives. In anything like normal conditions it is a good way of enjoying a rising standard of living. But today, are we not really trying to deceive ourselves by pretending that any general reduction of hours can mean anything else but reduced output? We must honestly face up to the situation. Of course, there are exceptions, and by taking a test over 1559 a quite short period it is easy to show that that is not so in particular cases; but, by and large, I think that is a truth which we must face. We cannot indefinitely reduce hours without reducing output. If in our present predicament a five-day week is justified in any particular case, then it is justified for men who have to do heavy work underground; but I sincerely suggest that on this question of hours, which is only part of the problem, the Government are not giving a bold or positive lead to the nation. The ordinary citizen finds their attitude equivocal and timid. He finds it difficult, for instance, to reconcile the almost despairing appeal for women to go back into industry with continued extensions of the five-day week. I liked very much a cartoon which appeared in this connection in one of the newspapers the other day. It was a picture which showed some men sitting down outside a factory on a Saturday morning presumably having a gossip, with the wife of one of them putting her head out of a door of a nearby house and shouting, "Come along 'Five-day Week,' 'Seven-day Week' has cooked your dinner."
I think the time has come when the Government are putting the thing the wrong way round. They are saying that shorter hours can only be approved if there is no loss of production. The time has come when they must say surely that longer hours must be worked if, by working those longer hours, there can be increased output of what the nation needs so badly. I agree with the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) that, in asking for longer hours, everything possible must be done to bring home to the people concerned what the result will be. I know the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties. I know the invigorating air of Margate seemed to have an unfortunate effect on some Trades Union Congress leaders. I would remind him that the nation is still looking to the Government for leadership. It is not clear sometimes who is at the helm, or whether anyone is. For instance, we should like to know whether Mr. Arthur Horner is really a member of the crew, or whether he is a pirate waiting for the opportunity to make the captain and the crew walk the plank.
The biggest obstacle today to increased production is undoubtedly the fact that in industry we cannot get a steady flow of 1560 raw materials. This, of course, is having a bad psychological effect on production, and it is making incentives very much less effective than they otherwise would be. The Government must concentrate on building up from the bottom with raw materials. We are in the situation of an army at a stage of operations which was sometimes experienced during the war. The troops are deployed and ready to fight, but the fighting has to be curtailed because of interruptions in the basic supply line. The tragedy is that we can ill spare the time for a sound build-up. I hope that the Government will concentrate on getting things right in our basic industries, upon which everything else depends, even if it means causing hardship to less essential industries. I have not time to say anything about our export trade, other than that we have only to look at the figures in the Statistical Digest to see the symptoms of our malaise. We see it there very clearly, when we find that while we are employing one and a half times more people, on manufacturing for export we are producing only the same volume as before the war. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that it will be necessary to switch more of our textile production to the export trade. That is probably still possible, but every day it is becoming harder and harder to do it. The sellers' market is undoubtedly drying up, and unfortunately it is drying up most rapidly in the hard currency countries.
I want to refer specifically only to one industry, agriculture, the great dollar saver. The wages level, in agriculture seems gradually to be getting on a par with other industries, which is a good thing. The key to the future is a really imaginative rural housing plan, and pushing forward with mechanisation, which means that agricultural machinery must have a good priority for steel. In my own county total agricultural production will almost inevitably drop temporarily, but if equal priority is given to agriculture as to the coalmines, any drop in production need be only temporary. We understood that as the Germans went home agriculture was to get a good influx of Poles, but in my county we are not getting them. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us how many Polish ex-Service men have been put into established jobs, and how many are still to come. It is extraordinary that after two years so many of them 1561 are still in uniform doing nothing in the way of productive work.
I am afraid that the trade unions cannot be exonerated from blame in this respect, because they have been very halfhearted about it; nor can the right hon. Gentleman himself be exonerated from blame, because he does not seem to have given effective leadership in this. It seems strange by the way that a substantial number of British personnel are still employed in staffing and maintaining Polish camps. I cannot see why any British personnel should be employed for any other purpose than, perhaps, as industrial instructors. My last request on agriculture is to ask the right hon. Gentleman to ginger up the procedure permitting satisfactory Germans to remain in this country as free men, if they voluntarily wish to do so. There seems to be some hitch here, because in my own county men who would like to stay and who would be very useful if they could stay are having to go home.
I agree with much of what the hon. Member for North Dorset said on intangible incentives, and I cordially support what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) said in regard to an extension of payment by results. The difficulty is the continuing lack of interest on the part of the trade unions, and the fact that while the Government have been giving lip service to the principle, they have been sitting dangerously on the fence on this issue. If only the unions could see it, that is the most practical way in the years to come by which they can achieve their objective of maintaining and improving the level of real wages. I should like to see a voluntary truce for three years in which the unions agree not to press for shorter hours or higher wages, except as a result of payment by results, and the employers on their part agree not to pay higher dividends. If that were done, I believe it would help very much indeed.
The last point I wish to raise concerns the Government alone, and that is their example as the largest direct employer of labour in the country. In the White Paper, we were told that it was hoped to achieve a reduction in Government staffs of 80,000, I think, by the end of this year. When I read that statement, I made a public offer to eat my only remaining hat 1562 if it came off, but I gather from the Prime Minister's statement the other day that both my hat and digestion are now likely to be safe. It is significant that the shortest hours are being worked today in local government offices—I believe 38 hours a week. As regards the non-industrial staffs of Government departments, some figures issued a day or two ago give much food for thought. The figures are: Admiralty, 35,000; War Office, 45,000; Air Ministry, 25,000; total for Services Ministries' staffs, 105,000; Ministry of Food, 43,000; worst of all, I think, Ministry of Supply, 41,000; Ministry of Works, 20,000, and the right hon. Gentleman's Department, 41,000. These are colossal figures. When one looks at the staffs deployed in the institutions under Government control, one sees the same disregard for economy in manpower.
To sum up: I believe that if we are to get the help which we want from the United States we must go flat out to show that we are making the utmost use of our resources and doing this efficiently. British industry will continue to work spasmodically, and at a very low rate of output, until a sound situation can be built up from the bottom, so far as the supply of raw materials is concerned. The sellers' market is weakening and import restrictions are increasing in foreign countries and, unfortunately, that will mean that easy switches to the export trade will become harder and harder. The extension of the principle of payment by results will be one of the only ways in which we can maintain the real level of wages in this country for the next few years. Let the Government treat agriculture on a par with coalmining as one of our vital basic industries. Lastly let the Government look to their own example in the use of manpower, because I believe the example which they are setting is not a very good one. I trust that the Minister of Labour will keep his eyes, not on the ground just in front of his feet, but on the horizon, which is not too far off now. For assuredly the economic difficulties that await us are going to test the resources and the resolution of the nation as a whole, and, in particular, of those on whom the responsibility of leadership falls.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
The discussion today has gone on long enough for it to be apparent that the Conserva- 1563 tive heaven in Great Britain would be a situation in which we had no Government Departments, no Civil Service, no trade unions and no restrictions on working hours. If that is a slight exaggeration, it was certainly the general trend of their arguments. One source of encouragement for us, on these benches, after listening to the suggestions that have come from the other side, is that Britain's problems are not in the hands of hon. Members opposite. One of the brightest and most charming speeches in this Debate was that of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes), and I think that from his remarks we get a glimpse of how our problems could be solved. If we could get everywhere that relationship which he has established in his mill, in fair play all round and efficiency all round, Great Britain could expect to survive the next few months and the next few years successfully, but all employers do not act as he does.
Like the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory), I am very much preoccupied with the thought of what we can do about the productivity of labour in this country, not only from the point of view of long-term plans, but to carry us over the immediate crisis through which we are going, and which is bound to deepen. We all profoundly hope that the Marshall plan will be acceptable, but when the countries of Europe get together and work out the concrete proposals, that plan has still to be sanctioned by the American Congress and the American Senate. Therefore, however wholeheartedly I and other Members in all parts of the Committee hope for a constructive plan for European recovery, it is not something which we can bank on or build on to help us over the next few months.
The thing that is concrete, and the thing we have to live with and deal with at the moment, is that in America Congress and the Senate have already decided to pass repressive labour legislation of a kind that is bound to cause widespread and continuing industrial disputes in America, which is bound to put up American prices and interfere with American supplies such as the industrial machines asked for by the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman). Certainly there will be interference of deliveries whether of machines or food. 1564 I leave others to deal with some of our long-term plans for new industrial management, new plants inside factories and the rest, much of which cannot possibly be carried out in the next few months. Taking the position as we have it now, our manpower now, our industry now, our dollar resources and what we can expect to have in the near future, are we doing everything we can in Great Britain to get maximum production?
I agree with hon. Members opposite that we are not, but I do not expect them to agree with me, although I shall be very pleased if they do when I indicate where, in my view, the shortcomings lie. It is bitterly hard indeed in Great Britain today for working men and women, particularly some of those growing older with a lifetime of labour behind them, to be continually asked to work more and produce more and to do so in a society that lacks the essential comradeship and essential unity that could only be experienced if every able-bodied man and woman were also working, indeed were obliged to make some useful contribution. It was very noticeable when hon. Members opposite were speaking that in dealing with what they considered trade union shortcomings, their conclusions were always positive and concrete, but when dealing with social shortcomings and employers' shortcomings there were only rapidly passed over generalisations.
I am not suggesting that it would be easy to work out a scheme in peacetime Britain which would mean that every able-bodied man and woman had to do work of some kind, and I would not even say that it would add enormously to our labour force, but I think it would have a pyschological value; not that we should tell people where they should work or what they should work at, but we should work out some scheme whereby able-bodied men and women could all at some point in the national economy be able to prove that they were doing a share of essential work. What I am suggesting now is mainly psychological. It might not add much additional manpower but psychological factors are very important while we are waiting on new machines and new factories.
I would say to my hon. Friend who is to reply to the Debate that I hope that in the mining industry we will very soon get over some of our initial difficulties 1565 and correct some psychological mistakes which have been made there and ought never to have been made. Coal production in the pits after the introduction of the five-day week has gone up until this last month. We cannot expect spectacular results until the green labour is trained, but all over the coalfields there has been a mistaken notion in some quarters that there is such a thing as a non-political citizen and that if the Coal Board makes appointments that are called non-political, we shall get the best results. We are not inventing new men and new relationships. In every coalfield everyone knows everyone else, and in fact what is happening is that an undue proportion of people who have had a long history of industrial conflict with the miners have been put in key positions in the very areas where those conflicts have taken place.
They should be sent to other parts of the country. I know that that is being done to a certain extent, but not enough. I could quote one important coal pit where the father had lived in a state of civil war for a generation with the miners, and when the father died the son was made the manager. I am not saying that the young man was not a first-class technical man, but it should not be forgotten that we are dealing with men—not machines— and long embittered personal relationships. In the coalmining areas there have been some very serious cases of psychological mishandling for which we are paying now. I hope it will be a temporary thing, and that we will get over it soon, because we cannot afford even the smallest mistakes in the mining industry at the present time.
I should also like my hon. Friend who is to reply to tell me why it is that, while we are still appealing for additional miners, no decision has yet been reached between his Department, the National Coal Board and the Miners' Federation about bringing into this country certain men from abroad, including some who are trained miners and who want to come here to work in the pits. Again, I am not saying that numerically these would make a vast number, and we do not want to have so many foreigners that the British coal mines will become camps for foreign or prison labour, or create an atmosphere in which the British miner will not be willing to enter the pits. We want the 1566 ordinary life in the pits to be a pleasant happy life, attractive to the average British worker. I cannot understand the delay in regard to a case which I have brought to the notice of the Minister of Labour and also of the Minister of Fuel and Power, of an Italian who was a prisoner here and worked on Cannock Chase and who now wants to come back and marry a local girl with whom he has fallen in love. To prove his earnestness he is working as a coal miner in Belgium, and has been in Belgian mines for months waiting to get permission to come here. I give that example knowing it is a small matter in proportion to the main problem, but those small matters add up and make us feel we are not doing everything we can even now while working towards long-term solutions.
I was hoping when hon. Members were talking with expert knowledge about the textile industry that they would say something specific about attracting women to the textile industry both in cotton and in wool. Here again, while some of us are conscious of the gravity of the situation and know that as far as possible we have got to tie up additional money in circulation with additional production, there were issued figures from the Ministry of Labour telling us that the average wage for men in industry is now just over £6and that the average wage of women in industry is not two-thirds of that amount. I am not suggesting that we can put the whole thing right at once, and I know that it is not the Government that employs labour in the woollen and textile mills. But if the Government can use their influence and if the employers and trade unions concerned would look into this question women in Great Britain would feel that they were being treated more fairly and were having some share of such progress as was being made. That is not asking anything unreasonable and would be to the general good.
I am haunted by the feeling that we are not really getting down to this business of work in Great Britain today. I am wondering if we can solve our production problem, if we can keep our homes clean, get the houses built, and the factories and agriculture manned in an atmosphere where all the time on this side of the Committee we are acutely aware of the drudgery and long hours of the past and quite properly our energy goes in the 1567 direction of pressing for shorter hours, better working conditions and better wages. What is going to happen if this tendency increases without some new element coming into the situation? If any Member in any part of the Committee could answer that one, I should like to hear it, because we are being caught badly in Great Britain in a transition stage in which we need more output, but we on this side of the Committee are certainly not going to part with a single piece of the hardly won protection which the working people have procured to better their standards of life.
What I am going to say now may be rather contradictory to that, but I am wondering if we might not have developed two entirely different types of work. First, there would be the work by which we earn our daily bread, and in that work everyone would want hours, conditions and wages to be carefully protected by the best possible trade union rights. At the same time, there would be another type of work in which we would not work for low wages, but where we would learn to work for nothing at all. If we are expecting help in the homes of Britain—I am not talking about luxury help but in terms of where there is illness or children in a home—and if we are expecting all the work of our new hospital service to be done by paid labour at so much an hour, I cannot see where the workers, the money or the resources are to come from. The poison in our society today, which is blinding us to one way out of our difficulties, is that we have got this class division and this atmosphere of patronage from the past.
If we can only have that sort of relationships with which I grew up, where there was plenty of service and help in the home it would point a way to the solution of our ills. In my youth we never lacked servants. We had always assistance in times of need, for under the democracy of a mining village if my mother was ill a neighbour came in and helped. There was happiness and pleasure all round in such service because my mother in turn did not think it an indignity to go next door and get down and scrub her neighbour's floor, bath the babies and do the cooking. We were friends and equals but in society as a whole today we are suffering from a false 1568 gentility and from an historical and economic hangover. The people who were living in bad conditions and who had to do the hardest but the most useful work were despised socially.
I noticed the other day that a' group of university students are going out from Great Britain to help to build a railway in Yugoslavia. I do not disagree with, that, because we need an international outlook as well as a national sense, and it is well that we should know what conditions are in other countries. But what is wrong with developing voluntary organisations in Great Britain both youth organisations and adult organisations of men and women, not on the basis of patronage, but for the purpose of assisting in voluntary work in homes, hospitals and in the harvest fields? In that connection I might say that I think a disgraceful amount of food is wasted in our country every year for old fashioned economic reasons. Those who have gardens in Great Britain know that when they have too much rhubarb or lettuces or fruit, their neighbour's garden is also overstocked and much is wasted. We make gifts to neighbours or to hospitals, but much more could be saved and used. I am wondering if we could seriously deal with the organisation of services through the Government or through the local authority, which by giving voluntary organisations collecting vans and other essential apparatus would organise voluntary work both for youngsters and for older people, such as calling at the gates of the cottages and of the larger houses and saying, "If you have any surplus let us collect it, we shall do any work involved in the collecting." Many people would give who have not time to do the collecting themselves. We had the unfortunate situation in Great Britain last year that when fruit was ripe and we could have been bottling it, we had not the bottles in the country to do it. That kind of waste is serious in the present critical times.
What I am saying now is largely of a tentative nature. I am not talking about years hence, but about the fact that the Marshall plan is in the stratosphere, and that America's labour laws are such as to make it certain that we shall have trouble and interference with our supplies. I am also talking about the fact that dollars are running out and that we shall be faced with a period of sharp crisis 1569 in this country which will not be averted by pep talks by hon. Members or representatives of employers and trade unions. I hope we shall give very careful attention to whatever can be done in the matters of mining, women's wages, the youngsters and the rest, in order to maximise production.
I believe that we need a complete psychological change of atmosphere and a feeling that, however hard men and women arc working, there is at least fair play all round. We have gone a certain distance in that direction but not far enough yet, and, in particular, we need to get back to the fact that it can be great fun to work in the proper conditions, and that we could build up a volunteer organisation for certain types of work. Above all, I suggest that we need the spirit of urgency that will make our youngsters feel not only that it may be well worth while to go and build a railway line in Yugoslavia, but also that it is infinitely worth while to add to the work by which they earn their daily bread voluntary work in spheres where they could help to maximise British production at this critical time.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)
I do not propose to follow the argument of the hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), although I am always very interested in what she says. I would like to assure her that if she thinks that there is false gentility on this side, I, for my part, feel that perhaps there is false gentility on the other side. Since the beginning of the war, at any rate, I have always been used to the situation that if there was nobody to do a job we had to do it ourselves, and that is the right angle from which to tackle the position.
There is no doubt that this country is up against it in a most desperate way, and that we must cast aside all prejudices and class criticisms. I think we might say that all sections of the community have been guilty during the last few years of criticising either the workers or the employers, but the time has now come when that should cease. We have to realise that unless something is done in this country to ensure that every section of the community is pulling its weight, we shall sink deeper and deeper into the mire, and the very standards which the hon. Lady has been discussing 1570 will become lower, so that we shall be in a desperate situation. I say this because I am very anxious about what is to happen to the steel industry in Sheffield, and I am rather afraid that the Government are not facing up to the issue fairly and squarely. Although I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister has created a great deal of respect for himself up and down the country, it is not his Department bur various other Departments which are concerned, and I have found during the last year or two that when I have applied for an import licence for a machine I have had the greatest difficulty in obtaining it. There seem to be far too many minor restrictions on industry.
I agree that we cannot cut out all controls, but there should be a great deal more elasticity in Government Departments, and those who are managing these industries must be given a freer hand to enable them to re-arrange the work if necessary and to see that a steady flow of raw materials is likely to come along. Steel is very largely dependent on the main raw material of coal, and early this afternoon I heard it said that we should not waste this Debate by discussing coal. I am afraid, however, that one of the fundamental difficulties which we are up against today is the lack of production of coal. The hon. Lady made some criticism of the organisation in the coalfields today where, for example, a manager who had caused some trouble in a mining area had died and his son had been appointed as manager in the same area, which the hon. Lady thought was not likely to create harmony. The other day, however, I read a report of a coroner's inquest where Mr. 'Hall, the Secretary of the Yorkshire Miners' Federation, asked one of the witnesses whether he agreed that the electrical equipment ought to be abolished. The witness replied, "I am afraid I do not run the coal mines in this country." Mr. Hall said, quite properly." I do not know who does."
If Mr. Hall does not know who runs the coal mines in this country the fault is at the door of the Minister of Fuel and Power, because it is the Minister who ought to tell him. If there are these difficulties and this dissatisfaction in the coalfields, and if the Coal Board is criticised for putting this man in one job and that man in another, it is high time that the Minister of Fuel and Power 1571 took the position into his own hands and told them exactly how serious the situation is in this country. Economically we are being placed in greater difficulty every day, and I am afraid that we are floundering about and that, as my hon. Friend said, there is a leak here which we are trying to plug up and a hole there which we are trying to repair. But we have a major difficulty and we must meet it in a major way. I feel that there is one main problem which the Government and the Minister of Labour have to face with courage and determination. It may be unpopular, but it is my view that they have to say quite definitely within the next few weeks or, at any rate, within the next month or two, whether the five-day week is or is not a success. If it is not, the Minister must see to it that we turn back to longer hours, in spite of what the hon. Lady said. If the five-day week is not a success, and if we do not return to longer hours we shall certainly not achieve greater production.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
Would the hon. Gentleman say what, in his opinion, would be the effect on recruitment in the mining industry if the five-day week were abolished?
§ Mr. Jennings
I think that if we gave compensation in incentives, it would not have any effect at all. I think that it is high time that any restriction on the giving of incentives in industry was done away with. We ought to have payment by results, which I think would be one of the greatest incentives to higher production. There is no need for party friction in this matter. On an issue which is so-serious for this country we ought to be able to step aside from party conflicts and try to get ahead. One of my hon. Friends made the very noble suggestion that a truce should be called for five years by both sides of industry, employers and employees alike, to see what they can do by throwing their efforts into a common pool. If it means more work let them pull together and say that it will have no effect at all on the hard-earned liberties mentioned by the hon. Lady.
§ Mr. Sargood (Bermondsey, West) rose—
§ Mr. Jennings
I cannot give way again. These liberties have been hard earned and 1572 fought for, but surely in a crisis such as that which confronts us now, we should stand aloof from any partisan spirit and say that we are not going down but will get through. The spirit of the workers would improve, and if they were given leadership from both sides, I am quite certain that there must be ways and means of developing industry in this country. As I have said, coal is the root of most of our difficulties; let us have Mr. Horner properly instructed as to the seriousness of the position. [laughter.] Well, apparently he cannot appreciate it. Some of his statements in the country are irresponsible. I noticed that the Minister said the other day that the five-day week was in jeopardy. Let him follow that up. Let him tell us a bit more about how much it is in jeopardy and what the production will be in the next month or two. This is floundering about with the situation.
It is the responsibility of the Minister of Labour and he has to face up to it. The steel industry of Sheffield did very well during the war. The spirit of the employers and the employees there is good. A similar feeling of harmony can be created in a number of other industries. We must have fewer irresponsible statements on all sides. We should stop saying that private enterprise or that nationalisation is no good. Let us try to create a better spirit in industry. There has been far too much partisan spirit and feeling in the past. The present situation is far too serious to be dealt with on partisan lines.
I ask the Minister of Labour to get all the Departments together. Let him see that the Minister of Fuel and Power has his proper, supply of labour. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power knows that coal is of the utmost importance and that it should be directed into the heavy industries so that we can get the raw material, and ensure that there is no lack of steel. The class of coal is very important because a type of coal supplied to one furnace or works may not be suitable for another. Let us have the greatest concentration upon the coal situation. I believe that we can get coal production increased to its 1938 figure if the spirit of the people is appealed to.
We must tell people that we are right up against it. The "Work or Want" 1573 poster does not explain to the people of the country how serious is the position. We must get our propaganda right into the minds of the masses of the people. They know that we are short. They have heard statements from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and from other Ministers about dollars. They know the situation is not so good but let them realise how bad it is. We have to make efforts on all sides to recover from the difficulty. We ought not to have partisan feelings. Let us try to forget some of the difficulties of the past and create a better future. That can be done if all sides are prepared to put something into the common pool.
Let us call a truce for five years. Let us cut out all restrictions among employers and employees. There are many restrictions on both sides. I could mention some in which one type of skilled man is not allowed to do another type of work while he is on the job. That is a restrictive practice. There are similar practices on the employers' side. It is high time that all these practices were cut away and that a truce was called. If the spirit of the people is appealed to in the right way and the seriousness of the situation is told to them in a frank and proper way instead of by the "Work or Want" poster, I am sure that the people will respond and that we shall get through.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Longden (Birmingham, Deritend)
I shall endeavour to adopt a rather unusual attitude. Every Member must desire to increase productivity in our country be cause he knows that it is essential. We know that our country must necessarily import much of its foodstuffs and raw materials and that we must do all we can to export such manufactured goods as we are capable of producing. At the same time, we recognise that many people are more or less unproductive or produce very little directly. We recognise that much of what we call private enterprise is incompetent in every conceivable sense. I am interested this evening in what the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings) called the spirit of the people. It is about that I wish to speak. I believe HANSARD tomorrow will show, running right through the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who opened the Debate for the Tory Party, the thought that, while he recognises incompetencies, inefficiencies and racketeering on the part of employers, 1574 the class in whom backwardness is to be found is the workers. It is suggested that they lack the spirit and intention to help our country in this grave time. We may talk about nationalisation, new machinery, the need for raw materials and for better managers, but so long as we look upon the worker largely—I put it rather crudely and strongly—as a mere instrument of production, we shall never get down to the root of the trouble before us.
The whole atmosphere and attitude surrounding this question should be realised. The hon. Member who opened for the Liberal Party told us that the workers were accustomed to spin the work out and to ca'canny. It is all very well to say that we must not look into the past, but we are living the past. We are of the past. The make-up of the workers is of the past. Everything that capitalism and Imperialism are inflicting upon the world today is of the past, whether we like it or not. It is a pretty shameful past. The workers are not certain what is coming. That feeling is impeding the Labour Government, in spite of what they are endeavouring to do. The real incentives have yet to be offered to the working classes of our country. Even our own Government have a responsibility in this direction. They have to demonstrate to the workers that they know what the past has meant and what is happening now. In this matter of the production crisis, the Government have to show the workers behind them that they remember what they taught the workers in past days, and are not forgetting too much.
Something has been said about our poster, plastered all over our country in big letters, "We Work or Want." I hope the Minister will have that withdrawn—and not for the reason mentioned by the spokesman for the Liberal Party. It is quite true that the working men and machines cannot give us the goods without the raw materials. It is a psychological blunder, as some hon. Members have said. It is quite true that millions of workers have always worked and always wanted. It is no use exhorting the workers to work or want. They know they have wanted even when they have worked to the very limit of their being. This Government—which I have worked to produce to the best of my ability for a good generation, as my colleagues know —ought not to repeat the follies of the 1575 past. Let me quote what a Minister of the MacDonald Government, the Right Hon. J. R. Clynes, said in 1919:If ever there was a risk of over-production causing unemployment, there is none now. For at least a dozen years there must be conditions of shortage which, with the best energy and effort, cannot be removed. We are in arrears. We need have no fear of the supply exceeding the demand.That is what the workers were told, and a few months later we had three million unemployed*. As to the spirit of the workers, again they wonder what will happen. They had a further experience. Another Labour leader, John Hodge, about the same year, said that the workers must increase their output or be workless and wageless. The workers wonder whether they will experience that again because, despite what this gallant Labour Government is doing, it is having to fight against the fearful mess that the system represented on that side of the House has produced. The Labour Government are up against the fact that the workers have been workless and wageless despite all the burdens they have carried. In 1930 the Right Hon. J. H. Thomas, who had supported that attitude to the workers in 1919, said in this House that one of the great anomalies of that moment was that the main cause of the world depression as well as our own, was over-production.
The workers want to know what will happen if they produce hand over fist the commodities they are now asked to produce in the field as well as in the mill and in the pit. We have to convince the working classes that this sort of thing will never recur. Capitalism does not guarantee a job to anybody unless it is profitable enough. We have to face that. Despite our talk about jobs for the people, the Government are up against that fact, and the sooner they face it the better.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
The hon. Member seems to be implying that the workers of this country, owing to suspicions based on the past, are practising a deliberate policy of ca'canny or go-slow. Does he really mean to leave that impression?
§ Mr. Longden
No, I think not. What I am saying is that the workers, before proceeding to do a Stakhanovite demonstration—as it were, the last ounce of their body—should be guaranteed that there 1576 will be no recurrence of the past. They see the rake-offs made by some firms. They see goods and foodstuffs destroyed when the cost of production has been covered—and the factories do not produce unless it is profitable, no matter what state our country happens to be in and no matter how much our people want clothing and food. This slogan of "work or want" is an imposition on the country. It is strange that sometimes even for our own sake, we can be concerned with squeezing more from the working man. It is a perpetual squeeze. It is an appalling infliction on the working class. Tories and Liberals—Tory landowners and Liberal millowners—always did drive the working class to the limit of their output, no matter what return came to them and no matter what conditions of life they experienced. Then when it no longer paid to employ the workers, they introduced machinery. Even now, the economists are talking about finding out the most productive hours in a working man's day. It is as if the working people were not human beings, but just machines wanting a little more oil. It is as if by applying to our bodies and minds the principles' of Bedeaux on productive movements we can produce a little more. It is a constant squeeze on the working class.
There are limits to human endurance and stamina. Many intelligent working people are feeling rather disquieted about the trend from democracy in our country in our time. They find the management going further and further away from them and away from the human touch. Why, for instance, have consultative councils admitted the fact that the cooperative production societies have demonstrated relatively higher outputs and higher qualities than their competitors in private industry. The reason is pretty clear. It is because that form of mutual industry is nearest to the common pool from which they can receive after having given. They know very well that it is the nearest to industrial democracy that we have got since mediaeval times, when the craft guilds governed our country better and more honourably than has ever been done since. It is therefore not enough to have social security. That existed in ancient Greece. It is not enough to rationalise private enterprise or public industry. That is as old as Greece and Rome and mediaeval Europe. It 1577 is not enough simply to educate our people about industrial efficiency, which is all we are promising to do.
Our Government have fought well and have done very well. I believe the Government have saved our country, not from possible or even probable, but from certain chaos. Let us be bolder, let us get rid of these stupid advertisements— "Work or Want"—and tell the people we need them to help us mutually, as we certainly do. Let us, as a Labour Government, give them a taste of the true Socialist expedients we have been promised in my life time and in the life time of those who have gone before. Give them a sight of the true aims of the Socialists. They have a right to the highest level of leisure and democracy. It is for the Government to give them constitutional experience of these things. Give the working classes of our country this inducement and they will certainly respond; they will build our country better than before.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
The hon. Member for Deritend (Mr. Long-den) has ascribed the workers' psychology which is preventing full production to resentment of the past and fear of the future. I shall not at this moment contest this. It reminds us of what is the most important question at the present time, namely, whether, as the causes of past grievances are removed, the psychology which resulted originally from those grievances will itself change. We have the best possible example in the case of the most basic industry of all, the mines. It is true that the miners had great and legitimate grievances in the past, that they were underpaid, that they were improperly treated by many employers.
But what of the present? Miners now have double the earnings of the prewar period and, when every allowance is made for the difference in prices, that means both an absolute increase in purchasing power and a relative increase in relation to the other classes of workers. They have in the past suffered from long periods of unemployment; they are completely assured against any unemployment for as far as man can now foresee. They have had grievances against their employers; their employer is now the State. Miners are in fact, completely exempt from practically all the hardships 1578 and sufferings that every other class of worker suffers as a result of coal shortages. They have no shortage of coal in their homes; they have increased wages and, as regards food, they have not only the heavy workers' allowance, but 17 per cent. more calories in their food than other heavy workers. What will be the response to the removal of all those past grievances? I do not propose to suggest an answer now. We all hope that the answer will be the one which will increase coal production, because on that depends the future of all the workers in every other industry in the country.
I am extremely glad that this Debate has taken place today, not in terms of the alleged shortage of manpower but in terms of the productivity of labour. A great deal of harm has been done in the past in ascribing to a shortage of manpower what is really due to other causes. It is about time for someone to say, as I propose to say now definitely, that in the sense in which that term is commonly understood, there is no shortage of manpower. If we had twice the manpower we have in this country now, we should be worse off and not better.
§ Mr. Harold Davies
Did I hear the right hon. Gentleman say that if we had twice the manpower in the country at the present moment we should be worse off?
§ Sir A. Salter
I think certainly worse off. May I explain why I think that? It must be remembered that producers are also consumers, and that producers tend to have wives and dependants. The root fact is that the average producer, with his family and dependants, is, at present consuming more on the average than he is producing. That is the root fact of our position, and it is measured with great precision by the extent to which this year we are drawing upon our American and Canadian dollar credits: The phrase "shortage of manpower" is in fact used to cover three different troubles: the first trouble is maldistribution of manpower; the second is poor output by those who are employed; and the third is the interruptions in output due either to a shortage or to an inappropriate allocation of raw materials. Those are the three troubles from which we are suffering.
Of course, there are shortages of manpower in certain industries. I think it would be an extremely good thing, for 1579 example as has been suggested today and previously, that the shortage in the mines should be made up by the employment of ex-prisoners in this country, by the importation of displaced persons of suitable skill, and by the immigration of others who are neither displaced persons nor ex-prisoners of war, from a country like Italy, which needs coal but does not possess coal in its own soil. That would undoubtedly help our general position but, while I have frequently urged that displaced persons should be welcomed into this country, I have never pretended that if we took all the displaced persons in all the camps in Germany the net result would be an economic advantage to this country. If, however, the' are carefully selected, as having the special experience which we most need, we shall reap an economic advantage in addition to the humanitarian and political benefits. I have said that the phrase "shortage of manpower" is used to cover up three real troubles—distribution of manpower, poor output by those employed, and shortage or bad distribution of raw materials—
§ Mr. Dumpleton (St. Albans)
Would the right hon. Member leave entirely out of account inefficiencies and lack of skill in management as another possibility?
§ Sir A. Salter
I did not say these were all the troubles from which the country was suffering. I said that the phrase "shortage of manpower" is commonly used to cover the troubles which really result from these three causes. I am not saying they are the whole cause of the trouble, but they are the three principal causes of our troubles at present. May I illustrate that from our basic coal industry? This is suffering from the first two of those three causes. By and large, there are indeed enough men in the coal industry to give us, if their output per man was as great as it was before the war, enough coal for our domestic and industrial needs at home.
§ Sir A. Salter
The present equipment which has been worn out, has been supplemented and improved by the new machinery of which the Parliamentary 1580 Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power recently told us. With this aid, I should have thought that the output per man might be as great now as in the years immediately before the war. We should then have enough coal for our needs—not for export, but for our own industrial and domestic needs.
§ Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
Is the right hon. Member inferring that the miners are not working as hard as he would like them to work?
§ sir A. Salter
I do not propose to say anything in either praise or blame; I am limiting myself as far as I can to plain, statistical facts. There are many things, such as the age distribution and other factors, to be considered. But the actual number of men in the coal industry is almost the same as in the period immediately before the war, while we find that the output has gone down a very great deal. While, however, I think there would be enough men, with the full standard of output reached in the past, to meet our domestic needs, there are clearly not enough to meet the need for export. We also, therefore, require further men to be brought in, recruited as they are now being recruited, and supplemented by workers of other nationalities.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The reason I put that question to the right hon. Member was because of the atmosphere he was creating. Workers outside are more intelligent than they used to be, and they resent that attitude. They are producing coal, and they resent men like the right hon. Gentleman who have never worked in a mine lecturing them, when they have done nothing but work for their lives.
§ Sir A. Salter
There are many who have never done manual work, but who have done work which is as hard, and has lasted as long through life, and is sometimes as beneficial to the country as the production of manual labour. But I am not now ascribing blame. My point is that in the case of the mines extra labour is needed, and in that sense there is a shortage of labour in the mines which needs to be supplemented by recruiting more miners, and I suggest recruiting them from different nationalities.
In building, again, we all know that the output per man is poor. We know 1581 it is partly due to a hangover from the psychology of times when there were recurrent periods of great unemployment in the industry. We also know that it is also partly due to the fact that there are frequent interruptions in the supply of raw materials. In this case I should say that of the three troubles-1 mentioned there is no shortage of manpower; there is indeed a surplus of labour in relation to the available materials; there is but a poor output. I will not now expatiate on the number of bricks laid per hour compared with America or Belgium, because the poor output is not solely due to that, but also to interruptions in the supply of raw materials.
I wish to make some brief comments as to possible remedies. In the first place, there is the question of incentives. Human nature being what it is, there is no class, although there are individuals in every class, who are likely to give of their utmost and continue to give of their utmost unless they have the incentives of both penalties and prizes. The general effect of present policy and the present situation is either to remove or to diminish both prizes and penalties. I do not say-that for the purpose of elaborating a platitude, but in order to make a positive suggestion. The extent to which an incentive can be supplied by individual piece-work rates is very limited. Many, or most, of the processes of industry do not permit of the application of that method. On the other hand, I do not think we shall get very far if we relate the general standard of wages in a big industry like coalmining or shipbuilding, or whatever it may be, to the total output of the industry. What is, I think, needed by the combined efforts of unions, managements and everyone concerned, is to increase bonus incentives in relation to small units of work. If there is a small factory of about 200 people, I think it is an extremely effective thing to get a basic wage for each class of skill, but to add a general bonus of so much per cent. if the total output of the factory increases. I wonder whether that could not be applied also to the coal industry, with the pit as the unit. I suggest that incentives related to small industries or small units in industry now offer the most useful avenue to explore.
I wish next to express the opinion that the Minister's task of getting a proper 1582 distribution of manpower will be increasingly impossible if the present inflationary movement continues. A great part of the world now suffers from a very serious inflation of a kind quite different from that which the world suffered after the first world war. At that time the impelling cause was usually a Budget deficit met by printing paper money. That is not the form of inflation from which we are suffering, or from which the greater part of the world is suffering, today. By and large, we have a nearly balanced Budget. I think the Chancellor was wrong in saying that we have a surplus Budget. But he might justly claim that, with the aid of the new revenue from the increase in the Tobacco Tax Duty, the Budget is not such as would itself cause inflation. But it does not correct the inflation which is resulting from an excess of expendable income over available commodities at existing prices.
So long as that situation continues, I think the Government will have an impossible task. Prices go up in one direction; they clamp on a control; the result is partly the creation of a black market, but still more the diversion of the excess purchasing power to another commodity, and so on indefinitely. The Government are always chasing a hare which twists and turns, and is never caught. The final result is bound to be that the less essential enterprise which is either uncontrolled or imperfectly controlled will be the most profitable and therefore the most attractive both to manpower and materials. I think the task of allocating by deliberate order and licence of materials will be increasingly costly impossible unless the Minister, by co-operation with the unions, can prevent this kind of inflationary spiral continuing.
Mr. Richard Adams (Balham and Tooting)
How can the right hon. Gentleman at one and the same time talk of increased incentives and increased taxation? Can he suggest a solution to the problem he has enunciated?
§ Sir A. Salter
It is too big a question to elaborate now. What I am suggesting is a wages policy. The unions need to realise that in present circumstances, with the excess of purchasing power over purchasable commodities, when they shorten hours of increase wages for a particular group of workers they are doing more harm to workers as a whole than the 1583 momentary benefit to the group directly affected. It would be a great advantage to union members as a whole if they would secure an increase in production which is sufficient to catch up with the increase in purchasing power before new purchasing power in created by successive wage increases.
Thirdly, whatever is done by the Government and by the workers in this direction, I do not think it is at all possible that we can balance our accounts before the existing loans run out. It is, I think, equally important that we should have some form of new loans or credits as the present loans run out, and that they should be used to a much greater extent than the present loans have been for productive as against consumption needs. I will not develop this point, because it is relevant both to the Debate of next Tuesday and also to the delicate Marshall negotiations. But if we are to look at our present problem in its proper perspective, we must realise that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have an impossible task within the framework of our present international balance of trade. Let hon. Members consider the directions in which the Chancellor told us a few days ago that he was contemplating dollar economies. I do not think that any responsible person will consider that from the three or four sources he then mentioned it is possible to secure dollar economies to the extent of as much as 10 per cent. of our dollar deficit this year. I say that in passing, as a matter which we can perhaps pursue more fully next Tuesday.
I entirely agree with the hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) that general appeals such as "Work or Want" are likely to do more harm than good. So far as there are appeals, whether by the Government or by others, they must be well-timed, specific and concrete. I cannot imagine anything likely to be much worse than a patriotic appeal which is responded by a group of workers, who then find, after a few weeks of specially hard work that they are on short time or out of work, because of causes completely outside their control, such as a shortage of raw materials. Obviously, the greatest and first emphasis should be put on such a basic necessity as coal. So far as sufficient coal is obtained to secure continuity of 1584 fuel supplies to other industries, the emphasis of the appeal and its direction can be changed. So again, as raw materials are assured for different industries. But a general appeal to a lot of people who are seriously threatened with unemployment through shortage of raw materials, either because they are short in the world or because we have not the dollars to buy them, may come back as a fearful boomerang a little later.
The trade unions now have a new task of equal importance to the vital task which they have pursued in the past. They have, hitherto, been engaged in securing better terms for their members in relation to the employers. But as the Lord President of the Council recently reminded the unions, candidly and courageously, there is no further progress at this moment along those lines that can really increase the standard of the workers. It is immensly more important, under present circumstances, that the dimensions of the cake to be distributed should be increased than that there should be some slight change in the shares of the existing, and it may be rapidly diminishing cake. If the trade unions, in cooperation with the Government and in consultation with each other, addressed themselves to that task, they could do more for the interests of their workers than in any other possible way.
I remember that just before the great depression between the two wars, one of the greatest economists and administrators in Central Europe said to me, "We are entering a period in which great and rapid adaptations to changing facts will be required in every country. You in England have the most elaborate and efficient economic organisation in the world, with your trade unions, your employers' federations and your industrial system. The existence of that organisation may make you, in the crisis with which the world is confronted, either the happiest or the most unhappy country. If it is used to anticipate, to forestall and correct the changes that are confronting all of us, you will be the happiest. If, on the other hand, it is used to block and delay the inevitable, you will be the un-happiest of countries."
This is the new challenge, the new constructive task for the trade unions. Can they, will they, devote themselves first to increasing production in every possible way?—not abandoning for ever, but post- 1585 poning till production has caught up with existing purchasing power, the piecemeal increases of particular wage rates. If they do that, they will be doing far more good for their union members than they can do in any other way, or than any other body of men, not excluding the Government, can do
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Awbery (Bristol, Central)
I listened carefully and attentively to the opening speech for the Opposition made by the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe). He put his case in a very unimpassioned and reasoned way, but I would suggest that some of the arguments he used were fallacious, and if he had known the whole of the facts, he would, I think, have recognised that. I wish to take some of the arguments he has used and try to show that to him. I desire to face the problem as it faces us today. It is that we are not producing sufficient to fill the national larder, we are not paying our way. The workers in this country have for many years been in the position of not being able to pay their way. If one took a look at the pawnshops one would see that they were unable to do so. They were not able to produce. From 1920 to 1940 we were suffering from under-consumption. It now appears that we are suffering from under-production.
What is the cause of the position in which we find ourselves to day? The workers of this country are producing as much as they produced before the war if not more. We have a larger number of people in industry and they are producing more. However, we must face the position that we cannot balance our budget because we have lost our foreign investments, and our income from the carrying capacity of our ships, and our National Debt has increased from £7,000million to £24,000 million upon which we must pay the interest. In addition, we have to make up seven years of leeway lost during the war years. Therefore, there must be a greater strain and effort to balance our accounts. We must export more to pay for the food which we must import. Otherwise, we must go without. Many people cannot understand why we export a larger variety of goods which we require today at home. The reason is that we want the food and we must send abroad things that we need in exchange for 1586 something which we require more urgently. We are living today partly on borrowed money and. as a Government, we are attempting to establish an equilibrium between production and consumption.
Who is to get us out of the dilemma? Who is to increase production so that we may meet our liabilities? It is not the rentier or the landlord who will help us out. It is not the people who produce nothing and get a fat living upon the production of other people. It is not even the people who invest their money. Savings are necessary and vital, but it is not the investment of money which will get us out of our difficulty. Who will do it? The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that it is the producer who will do it. He mentioned particularly the coalminer, and I agree with him. The miner, at least, has come into his own. Anyone who looks back upon the history of the mining industry and considers the treatment meted out to the miners, will understand the position. These men have never been treated in a proper manner, but now, judging from the speeches we have heard from hon. Members opposite, a real value is being placed upon the services of the miner. He is the only man who can get us out of this difficult position. The right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the vital importance of the miner. He said coal is more important to this country today than dollars and that in the mining industry we need 910,000 men instead of the 710,000 we have at the moment. The production of this increased number of men would save the day. We must look to them. I am glad that the miners are being placed in an important position in the industrial world.
During their period of office, the Government have been trying to treat the men in this vital industry as human beings instead of cogs in a great industrial machine. After the last war these men did not count. Two hundred and fifty thousand of the men who produced this vital commodity were walking the streets unemployed and starving. Their wives and children had pinched faces. I am glad that now we are placing a true value upon these men. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned the reduction from a six-day week to a five-day week. He inferred that he would go back to the five-and-a-half-day week and would 1587 increase the hours of work. That was what was done after the last war. The hours of the miner were increased and his wages reduced, causing chaos throughout the industry. The inference to be drawn from the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech is that if his party were in power today, they would revert to that policy and increase the number of working hours for the miner.
If we cannot produce the same quantity in five days as we could produce in six, then we must return to the six day week. But if the miners produce in five days what previously they produced in six, the Opposition immediately would say, "There you are; the miners of this country have not been pulling their weight in this industry." The right hon. and learned Gentleman then talked about the dockers and their industry—
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
The hon. Member appears to have left the coal situation. Assuming, as I hope he does, that we cannot do without increased production, what is his proposal for increasing production if we are left with a five-day week?
§ Mr. Awbery
If the hon. Member will allow me to pursue my argument, I will come to that point. I did not want to take up too much time. I wish to deal with some of the points made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman on behalf of the Opposition. He dealt with the docker. If he had been more conversant with the conditions in the dock industry, I do not think he would have advanced the argument which he used. He said that production was being held up because men would not go from ship to ship. Production is not held up. It is true that men will not go from ship to ship when they have their mates standing on the stones waiting for employment. I have dealt with these men. Whenever I have found a ship requiring men and there was no labour available, the men have transferred from ship to ship; but they would not do that when there were idle men on the stones waiting to do a job. The question was also raised of a man not going from one job which is incomplete to start another. The same principle applies. A man will not leave a job half finished to go to another while his mates are on the stones.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
May I interrupt the hon. Member, because I hope to say something about this later? I think he is confusing the right hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks about what is happening at this minute with what happened before the war, when a different set of conditions prevailed.
§ Mr. Awbery
I am trying to discuss the position as it appears now, and not as it was ten years ago. If the hon. Member wishes me to relate the position as it was ten years ago, I can do that. The men in the dock industry have been struggling desperately for 50 years against the Tory Party and the employers to establish these conditions. They will not give away lightly the conditions which they have established after such a long struggle. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has forgotten the casual character of this job. I am pleased that at last casual labour on the dockside has been abolished. We did not receive the wholehearted support of the Opposition when the Decasualisation of Dock Labour Bill was before the House. They opposed it. Now let me raise the question of mechanical appliances—
§ Mr. Maclay rose—
§ The Chairman
I hope hon. Members will not interrupt unnecessarily, because there are a very large number of hon. Members who wish to speak, and, if there are many interruptions, it makes it impossible to call all those who would like to be called.
§ Mr. Awbery
I will be as brief as I can, but these questions are vital to the industry. Mechanical appliances have been mentioned. It is true that, when mechanical appliances were introduced, there was a need to negotiate a rate for operating these appliances, but while the negotiations were proceeding the work went on. I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that ships are turned round, as far as labour is concerned, much more quickly today than ever before. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also raised a point about piece-work and he knows very well that the majority of the men working on our boats have the incentive of piece-work, and they work hard because they can earn the money. The more work they do, the more pay they get.
I believe that this question of payment by results and its effect on production 1589 is being made into a bogy by the Opposition, because the trade union movement has no objection to payment by results, where it is practicable and possible. Since 1889, we have had piece-work and payment by results in the dock industry, and how can the trade union movement be said to oppose this, when it has been in operation for the past 50 years? Every speech delivered during the past 12 months by responsible leaders of the trade union movement has appealed to the workers for increased production, and the only people who can get the workers of this country to produce more are the trade union leaders, in whom they have the greatest confidence.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked what was our remedy. I want to make two or three suggestions which might help the position. One Opposition Member suggested that there ought to be a truce in industry for five years. I have vivid recollections of the strikes between the wars, when we were pleading with Ministers in this House to help us. We asked for help and understanding, but we did not get either. Now that the trade union movement has reached the position of power which it holds today, now that the battle has been won, Opposition speakers say, "Let us have a truce so that we can set about the thing properly." What is the remedy? First, we have to remove from the minds of the workers the grave suspicions which they have felt for a considerable number of years. Many employers have a bad past to live down, and the workers in industry cannot forget it. I suggest that there should be in all industries joint consultation from the lowest level right to the top, and that these consultative committees should be given power not only of consultation but of rectifying faults. I believe that would be a step in the right direction. The next step is that the men must be treated as human beings and as co-partners in the real sense of the word. These men are indispensable, and they have been recognised as indispensable in this Debate. Why not, then, recognise them in the industrial world as co-partners?
I have been associated with the workers for a long time, and have been trying to find out what was in their minds, and this is what they tell me: the men who work the least and produce the least are 1590 paid the best and housed the best. We have got to do something about that. We have to do something about the control of profits in industry, because that is a matter which is agitating the minds of the workers. Then, there is the problem of propaganda. The only people who can carry on successful propaganda among the producers of this country are the people in the organisations which possess their confidence, and they are the great trade unions. They are doing that job now, and they are prepared to co-operate wholeheartedly to get the increased production that we require. One last word about a poster which has been referred to in this Debate —"We Work or Want." Some hon. Members have objected to it, and some have agreed with it, but I would say that I would very much prefer to see that poster on our hoardings than the one which I saw between the wars—"We Want Work."
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Marples (Wallasey)
I will not follow the argument of the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery), because, to be quite honest, this Debate has not produced the recriminations which I expected it would, and it is probably better for both sides of the Committee not to attempt to follow his line but to face the future and the real facts of the situation. It is in that spirit that I will attempt to follow some of the earlier speakers. Productivity in the building trade, with which I am going to deal, because I am an employer in the building industry, depends to a large extent on many more factors than that of labour. It depends upon management to a very large extent, and, if I concentrate tonight on labour, it must not be thought that I am quite content with management as it is today, because, in my opinion, the building industry is one of the worst-managed industries in the country. There are a number of suggestions which I could make on the management side and if I do not make them tonight, it must be understood that it is because it is not an appropriate time. But it might be mentioned that in my own firm, we took one of the leading Communists and made him the assistant personnel manager. I am sorry that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is not in his place to hear this, for the first thing that happened after the 1591 appointment was that a broadsheet was sent out from some remote district called Tooting stating that "Comrade So-and-So had gone over to the enemy." Still, it was an effort to do good.
Assuming that the psychological atmosphere of industry is right, it seems to me that there are only two real methods of obtaining increased production from the men. The first one is the play of economic forces, which we can either regulate or leave unregulated, as has been largely the case in the past. The other is compulsion in a police State. I do not think that we can have the latter or that anyone wants it. But the Socialist Government do not quite realise that only these two methods increase production. The Prime Minister, in a speech over the week-end, said that he has removed the incentive of fear and that he is removing the incentive of profit. It is no use the Government exhorting the people to work harder and thinking that something else will replace economic forces, because it will not. It is just no use relying on appeals for people to work for the community
It was not my intention to speak on payment by results but in view of what has already been said I would ask for the indulgence of the Committee, to repeat what I said the other night in the Adjournment Debate about accurate tests which have been carried out. Men were timed at work on ordinary rates and on piecework rates. It was on nine-inch brickwork. There are all kinds of brickwork, four-and-a-half-inch, nine-inch, sometimes left rough, sometimes pointed on one side, or on both. People talk about bricklaying quite light-heartedly. It is not realised there are many types. This particular test was carried out with nine-inch brickwork left rough both sides. On time rates the men were paid the 23. y—d. per hour; and on the piecework rate by making bricklayers subcontractors—they were paid so much a rod for their work. The result was that the men on piecework received two-and-a-half times their normal wage, and we were glad to give it to them because we were getting three times the productivity. During the war the Ministry of Works had a bonus target on nine-inch brickwork, which was 50 bricks per hour. The men I am referring to, when timed on ordinary rates, laid 66— bricks an 1592 hour, and, on piecework, 103— an hour. If anything, the experiment was in favour of the men working on time rates, because they used "Dun brick" which are made of concrete, are heavy and more difficult to lay. It worked out that three men on time rates were required to produce the same output as two men on piecework—
§ Mr. Sparks
That is assuming that the bricks were there to be laid. Supposing there had been an interruption in the supply.
§ Mr. Marples
The hon. Member will find in HANSARD that in February the Minister of Labour said he was satisfied that the flow of materials into the industry would be such that labour would be properly fed by materials. The production is better now than it was in February. On 28th January last, my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), asked the Minister of Labour whether:…in view of the prospective supply of building materials, the building trade is being overmanned.The right hon. Gentleman replied:No, Sir. I can assure the House that the whole scheme has been planned so that we shall not train men and find them waiting about because materials are not available. In that connection, we are making arrangements with the Ministry of Supply."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 749–50]It will be seen that the point which the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) has made is irrelevant. It is a 'red herring."
§ Mr. Sparks
In the case I had in mind the production of a big building scheme was interrupted, first by the lack of bricks, then of cement, and then by lack of other materials. The hon. Member cannot attribute blame to the Government for that. It was due to a general shortage.
§ Mr. Marples
It was apparently due to faulty distribution, and that matter lies in the hands of the Ministry of Works, under the W.B.A. priority scheme, which he controls. The hon. Member should address his remarks to the Minister of Works. Another point about piecework and payment by results is that there is a distinct difference between the two, particularly in the building trade. When a man is paid on piecework his earnings are dependent entirely on his output. If he lays no bricks he gets nothing; if he lays 1593 50 bricks he gets a certain wage, and if he lays 100 bricks he gets twice as much. But under the payments-by-results method that is not so. He receives a basic wage based on attendance and, in addition, receives an output bonus for all output above a given target. To some extent that meets some of the objections which trade unions have raised against the piecework system in connection with bricklaying. If Members opposite say that the trades unions do not oppose this, I would remind them of Rule No. 12 of the General Rules of the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives, which categorically states:Piecework: The plain time rate method of payment constitutes a vital and first established principle of the Federation, and the branch is the guardian of that principle. Should piecework, or any other deviation from plain time rates operate, the Federation branch should write to affiliated branches with a view to the immediate withdrawal of labour for the enforcement of the planned time rates, and,' further, write to the regional secretary asking him to give his attention to the matter.Since that rule has been passed trade unionists have expressed unalterable hostility to any system of payment by results.
§ Mr. House (St. Pancras, North)
Did the hon. Gentleman ever work as a bricklayer during the trade depression?
§ Mr. Marples
No. I did not. If the hon. Gentleman will look at me he will realise that I am too young to have done that. But I would remind him that payment by results or piecework has been in force in the decorating and plastering trade for years. It has been a vital principle of building for many years, but it ought to be applied to other branches of building.
I would ask hon. Members opposite this question: if the men want to adopt piecework voluntarily why should the Government stop them? They want to do it, and if they are allowed to do it they will give us the output we want. My own experience has confirmed the experience of Lord Quibell. The output of his men was raised from 250 bricks a day, overall, to about 750, and the men's wages were doubled. I see no reason why the Government should not take a positive attitude about payment by results. They should give some kind of lead. But the Minister of Labour has adopted a negative attitude on this 1594 matter. It reminds me of a story of men who were watching a Lancashire v- Yorkshire cricket match. After watching the grim struggle for about 20 minutes they saw a batsman make a beautiful late cut to the boundary. One of the men clapped heartily. He was asked, "Are you from Lancashire?" and he said, "No." Then he was asked, "Are you from Yorkshire?" and he said "No," whereupon his questioner said, "Then mind your own bloody business" [HON. MEMBERS: "Order"]. I am sorry, Major Milner, that I used that word; it slipped out. The point I was trying to make is that that is something like the attitude of the Minister of Labour. He says, "Are you a member of the trade union?" or, "Are you a member of the Employers' Federation?" He receives "No" for an answer in both cases and then says, "Mind your own business; you are only living in the house and paying for it." Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman took a more positive step about this question of payment by results. Why not rescind the regulation which prevents them from working by this method?
Now another point affecting wages in the building industry. There is too small a gap between the wages received by skilled and unskilled labour, and this has been increasing through the years. I have some figures here from the London and Cambridge Economic Survey, Special Memorandum No. 50. It states that in 1914, the labourer received 69½ per cent. of the wages paid to a skilled man, that in 1924 he received 75 per cent., and in 1946, 80 per cent. The proportion of wages received by the labourer compared with that received by the skilled man is becoming greater. When it is considered that the extra 20 per cent. received by the skilled man is subject to tax at the highest rate, it must be conceded that the skilled man is not getting enough compared with that received by the unskilled man. The disparity is increasing.
What is happening today is that labourers will not work on Fridays because they pay tax. While the skilled men stay on the job, the labourers go round the corner and do odd jobs for money on which they do not pay tax. I know that is true because, recently, I wanted an odd job done, and put an advertisement in a 1595 stationer's shop asking for someone to clean a car. I received quite a number of applications from labourers in the building trade. Indeed, there were men from my own firm coming to me and saying, "I will do it for 10s. if you do not deduct any tax." This is all quite wrong, because it means that a labourer who is doing that sort of thing is getting more money than the skilled man. No hon. Member opposite, I am sure, would like to see that happen.
Another point in connection with the cash the man receives on the site is that we have to pay more attention to his wife getting the money. I will give my reasons for saying that. We recently started a reasonably well-equipped canteen on a site where 200 men were engaged. But less than 40 of that number availed themselves of the hot meal service which the canteen offered. What really happened was that their wives said to them, "You are not having any money out of our housekeeping money." Wives are the most powerful trade union in the world, and they are not parting with one penny to which they consider they are due. Besides, they think that they know their husband's digestion better than anyone else.
If the Minister of Labour is going to reply—I see that he has now been joined by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works—will he kindly answer the following question in regard to building materials? Will he say that both he and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Works are satisfied that the flow of materials to the industry will be sufficient to keep the labour force that can be used, employed to the utmost capacity? Remember that if payment by results is introduced, output will increase. It is an important question, not so much from the point of view of the production of materials, as from that of distribution. I believe that the point which the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) made when interrupting earlier, was mote concerned about distribution than about production. To a large extent, distribution depends upon the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works. Personally, I am not satisfied that his system of distribution has always worked as well as it might.
Take the temporary housing programme, for example. In one place, we 1596 erected more than 2,000 temporary houses. We were promised the whole house complete. I listened in this House to a magnificent account of what would happen. We were told that 2,000 houses would be delivered complete on the various sites; but not one of them arrived complete. When we were short of materials, we contacted the Ministry of Works, who said that if we had our plumbers there on the Monday they would send us the materials. We had the plumbers and the labourers there on the Monday, but the materials did not arrive until 4.45 the following Wednesday afternoon. The men said, "We don't appreciate this; we are going home," or at any rate words to that effect. In such cases, the men go home, the material is not unloaded and goes back. That sort of distribution adds considerably to the cost of building. It is a vital point. I know that the Minister's reply is likely to be that he has a committee considering the matter. But that committee started too late and is taking too long to make its report. If it is going to make long-term recommendations it will, of course, take a long time, but for a short-term emergency, it would be advisable for the Minister to get a better scheme of distribution if he possibly can, and get it quickly.
Before I sit down, I want to touch on one further point—namely, the attitude of mind of most of the men. The hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) made a most passionate appeal on this question and I should have been delighted if I had heard her make such a speech in the period between the two wars. Now I have talked to quite a large number of men on different sites, and, quite frankly, their attitude of mind and their knowledge about our everyday economic affairs for the country as a whole, are simply appalling. On this occasion I am not blaming hon. Gentleman opposite or the men themselves for that; all that I say is that it literally appals me. On going round the sites last week, I was met again with the old argument, "We want an increase in wages. We want it because if the country could spend £12 million a day during the war, it can do it now." When I try to point out the difficulties, they do not believe me. They do not believe the posters. I am saying to the right hon. Gentleman in all serious- 1597 ness that the condition of mind of people in the building trade is such that exhortations and posters will not do anything. Even if the exhortations are more eloquent and the poster more attractive, it will not make any difference. I wish it would, but it will not.
I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite must take some of the blame for that state of affairs. That is not said in any vindictive spirit, because we have all got to pull together if we are to survive economically. We have got into this position through certain facts known to them. There is a book which was written by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food in which he says that everything we produce goes to the employers and not to the men or words to that effect. All I have to say is that, having told the men not to produce more for the past 25 years, the Government and all Socialists cannot turn round and expect them to reverse their attitude within two years. It is people like the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food who are responsible for that state of mind. Frankly, I did not want to say that this evening, but that is a fact. Now if they are going to use the same methods to get these false ideas out of the people's minds, then it is going to take another 25 years to do it. If the hon. Member for Cannock had made the speech which she made today in the years between the two wars, there would not be the class hatred that exists at the present time. I am afraid that none of these remedies about which we are talking today will take effect until such time as the men's minds are attuned to receive them, and it is with sadness that I say that only events will supply that Corrective.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Williamson (Brigg)
The hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) addressed his remarks mainly to the building trade. He suggested there ought to be more incentive in that trade, and that the members of the unions were opposing payment by result. He said that he knew a great deal about the building industry. If the system of payment by results were operated now, and even if it did substantially increase output at first, a shortage of materials would immediately arise which would lead to unemployment. The Minister has already explained, as was pointed out by the hon. Member when quoting an answer to a 1598 Question in the House, that the industry is manned in relation to the supply of materials. It is no use saying that we must face the future unless we are going to analyse some of the reasons for the alleged lack of enthusiasm on the part of certain workers. For example, there is grave dissatisfaction that the employers in the building trade have conceded to the workers a guaranteed week of 32 hours only. In winter and inclement weather there is no guarantee to the workers of more than 32 hours' wages in a week. It is true there can be no justification for slacking in any industry, but that applies equally to other sections besides the workers. I have not heard any hon. Members opposite speak of the necessity for greater production on the part of the whole community. The worker is quite intelligent and he reads and observes. The hon. Member for Wallasey spoke of the lack of knowledge of economics on the part of the building trade workers to whom he had spoken. Those who are in touch with the workers know that today they are taking note of economic conditions in this country to a greater extent than hitherto.
What do we mean by "payment by results"? Do we mean piecework bonuses, individual bonuses or pooled bonuses? Piecework or other bonus systems are now in operation in almost every industry in the country where they can be applied. There are many industries where piecework cannot be introduced. For instance there is transport. We must have something else besides piecework in industry. I suggest that the incentives might not be in the form of wages at all, but conditions. The first essential is that the workers should know that they are getting a fair deal and a fair share of the production. Will any hon. Gentleman opposite say that the workers are getting their fair share at present? They are entitled to a share equal to those who have invested capital. If we are to get full production, and to get the last ounce of effort out of the workers, we must concede to them the right of representation on boards of management. If they give of their best they have a right to be consulted on policy, prices and profits. Many workers will say, "If we produce more than we are producing now, what guarantee is there that we will get our fair share or that the increased production will go into 1599 the common pool? "They are now reading the" Financial Times "and" The Times, "and day after day they read of profits which are indecent at the present time. These are matters which must have attention. We on this side of the Committee, and the trade unions, will press that the working people today must have their place on boards of management. They must have representation. Until that is conceded, there will be some sections of British industry which will not co-operate.
Reference has been made to distribution of manpower. It would be a fine thing if we had the right workpeople in the right places all the time, but owing to the chaotic developments in industry between the war years, labour today is to some extent in the wrong places I am informed that at present about 60,000 people are unemployed in one of the North-East Coast towns. Why cannot they be engaged in industry? There is a shortage of labour in other places. One hears talk of the possibility of introducing foreign labour. I could not follow the logic of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) who said that there is no shortage of labour in the country, and then proceeded to say that we ought to import foreign labour to the mines. Until we get houses and mobility of labour, there will be shortages and unemployment in certain industries. In the meantime, it is quite clear that direction of labour, as we understand it, has been discarded and hon. Members opposite declare that they are not in favour of such a policy. In what I might call the distasteful industries, such as mines, foundries and brickworks, labour must be attracted not only by wages but by the conditions in those industries. It is not to our credit that we should have to employ foreign labour in the coalmines and in gasworks—Italians, Poles, Germans and other foreign labour. The employers, in consultation with the trades unions, must make the conditions in those industries sufficiently attractive to induce not only adults but young people to enter those industries.
Reference has been made to co-partnership. In some industries today co-partnership is in operation. But there is no evidence that co-partnership has 1600 itself improved production. We must get the confidence of the workers. We must instil in their minds that they are part and parcel of industry, that they have some say in the direction of industry and that they are getting their fair share out of what is produced. If that is done, I am satisfied that we will obtain the maximum production possible, Substantially, the British worker is sound, although I do not deny that there may be some slackers. It is no use having a spurt, by means of increased hours and extra effort, which might last for a short time, followed by a lag. It would be far better to have a sustained effort. That would bring greater I reduction. For that, we must have greater confidence among the workpeople.
One hon. Member suggested that the trade unions should damp down for five years their requests for improvements in wages, hours and conditions, and that if the unions did that there would be greater production. In my view, it is true, and cannot be denied, that the trade unionists in the various industries have acted with restraint in the past few years. It is 50 years ago since the 48-hour week was conceded in some industries in this country, and now 50 years afterwards, we have reduced hours to 44; and yet, at this moment, the workers are being asked to forego this hard-won concession. These hours ought to have been reduced long ago. The workers believe that, from the employers' point of view, the time is never right to reduce hours. That is why I say we must get the confidence of the workers, and rid their minds of many of the suspicions they have now. If we can do that, we shall get that greater production that will bring the nation out of its economic difficulties.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
I know that the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Williamson) will forgive me if, in the interests of brevity, I do not follow him in detail, but come straight to the main points to which I am anxious to draw attention in the very short time. to which I am going to try to restrict myself. I should like, first, to put right a possible misunderstanding that may arise out of the speech of the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery), who has gone out understandably requiring some sustenance. In the course of his speech, when he was 1601 talking about the scheme for the de-casualisation of dock labour, he said that hon. Members on this side voted against the original Bill that was brought in, under which the Order now being produced is made. I sought to interrupt him to correct him, but on appeal from the Chair I desisted. I should like now to correct any misunderstanding there may be about this. On the Second Reading of that Bill, which took place in November, 1945, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) said:We, on this side of the House, would not disagree at all with the objects for which this Bill has been drafted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1945; Vol. 415, c. 1763.]The Second Reading had the full support of this side. I want to put that on record so that misunderstanding should not arise. I have not had time to turn up the Debate on the Third Reading, when there was, I think, disagreement on some points of detail; but I do not think this side voted against it, and I certainly did not vote against it myself. This statement is rather necessary for the record, and it does bear on what I am going to talk about.
If, in the course of my remarks, I go into a certain amount of detail and supply facts—what I believe to be facts— I hope the Committee will forgive me, after the Debate has gone into some interesting generalisations and psychological approaches; but I want to deal with some hard and ugly facts which we are up against. One fact is that port delays to shipping throughout the world are appalling. I should like, in justification of that remark, to quote a resolution passed very recently by a meeting of representatives of trade, industry and commerce, of, I think, 22 nations at Montreux—by a meeting of the International Chambers of Commerce. They went on record as saying that they wished to draw attention to the delays to shipping of all flags at many ports throughout the world in regard to the berthing, discharging and loading of ships. They went into a little detail, and added that they recognised thatthese delays are due to a number of factors arising out of the disturbed conditions of the postwar transitional period;but they emphasised the fact that these delays constitute a waste of tonnage, already in short supply, with conse- 1602 quential increases in cost of transport, and impediments tothe expansion of world trade. That is the general aspect of this port delay problem over the whole world. I submit that, from the point of view of the United Kingdom, the whole question is even more important, and is certainly one which comes within the terms of reference of this Debate.
Possibly the Committee will realise how serious the position is for our depleted fleet of merchant ships after the war when I say that it has been fairly accurately estimated that on an average the turn-round of ships today—that is, leaving a home port, going abroad, doing the job, and getting back—is taking at least 20 per cent. longer than it did before the war. I do not suggest for one moment that the British home ports are the only ones where delay takes place. In point of fact, the position is very serious in North America, and even more serious in South America. The congress to which I have just referred has been doing its best, through the various means at its disposal, to draw this matter to the attention of Governments, employers, workers and trade union leaders in all countries where it has any connection or influence at all, because that congress believes that the slow-down in the turn-round of shipping throughout the world is having as serious an effect as anything else in dealing with the problem of recovery, particularly in the sterling area, where there is still an acute shortage of shipping.
Let me turn to the United Kingdom. The position here is not too good. I can illustrate that by saying that in one particular port, which is a very important port in this country, it was carefully estimated that the average cargo ship was in port in 1946 almost one-third longer in time than in the immediately prewar period. That obviously leads one to try to analyse the factors which delay a ship in port. I will not elaborate any of these factors, because I want to be as quick as I can. Clearly, these factors include major repair jobs. Minor repairs are not a cause of delay, because they can be effected concurrently with the loading and discharging. But the major repairs are a serious cause of delay, partly through shortages of material, and partly through the other difficulty which we have heard discussed during this Debate. 1603 There is a tremendous need for men to be encouraged in every possible way to give of their best in order to turn these ships round as quickly as possible. I do not attempt to lay the blame on anybody. I believe that if the employers will devise means, particularly in the ship repairing industry, to encourage men and to give them the best possible conditions, the men will respond, and somehow or other we will get that side of the job improved. But the men must respond.
Another factor which enters into the problem is the availability of cargo for loading, but I will not go into that. Another is the removal of cargo from the docks, involving the whole of the transport system. which is affected by it; and one hopes something can be done there. But, by and large, the period of time which the ship lies in port is due mainly to the problem of loading and discharging, although the other factors are very important. I do not want to be accused of blaming the dockers, the stevedores, the employers, or anybody particularly for the whole thing, but there is no shadow of doubt but that the responsibility of the dock workers is a very big one, and if they can do anything to improve the speed at which their part of the work is done, that will be of tremendous importance, I should like to give one or two figures to show how serious this problem is for this country. In 1911 the United Kingdom owned 41.4 per cent. of the world tonnage; in 1938 the United Kingdom owned 26.2 per cent. of the world tonnage; and today, 1946, when we are just trying to recover from the war, we are down to 18.1 per cent. of the world tonnage. It is absolutely imperative that we get the last ounce of work out of every ship we have left.
I pass to a more striking statement, and I hope the Minister will refer it to his statisticians, although it may be more a job for the Minister of Transport. When I tell the Committee what can be done by saving one day in loading and one day in discharging a ship in British ports, hon. Members will realise how important it is to solve the problem which I will put to the Minister of Labour. In 1946 there were over 12,000 entrances of British ships to British ports. That, as most people know, means that they came in to discharge cargoes. In that period there were 1604 about 13,000 clearances, which means ships going out with cargo
A fairly simple calculation will show that if one day had been saved in unloading and one day in loading these ships, we should have saved the equivalent of 70 British ships working for a full year. A saving of one day at each end would gain us 70 ships, which today would cost us possibly £21 million to build, and these could carry 1¼ million tons of extra import or export cargoes. We can carry that further than our own incoming and outgoing trade. After our ships have fulfilled our own requirements, they can be released to earn us valuable hard currency, but this they cannot do until there is some improvement in the turn-round. I am glad that the Minister is here, because I wish to emphasise that if some simple facts like these could be made available to employers, merchants, trade union leaders and men—that one day's saving in loading and one day's saving in discharge could give this country an extra 70 ships—it would give us results.
§ Dr. Stephen Taylor (Barnet)
Before leaving these interesting facts, can the hon. Member explain how 1,700 more ships came out of the ports than went in?
§ Mr. Maclay
I can assure the hon. Member that it is a proper statement; it would, I think, be a waste of time to try to explain it. It has been prepared by statisticians from available Government statistics. It is a question of entry and clearances. The hon. Member for Central Bristol remarked that we were reaching the point of complete decasualisation of dock labour. I think it is reasonable to point out what this means. There was no responsible person before the war who liked the position in the docks. The volume of overseas trade inevitably fluctuates. Destinations, particularly of tramp ships, vary. Then there is the weather factor, which often holds up a number of ships, and then, when the weather improves, it means that they all come piling into port. The position in regard to dock workers before the war was very difficult indeed. In one week there might be full employment, while in the next week there might be no work to do. Not one responsible person could say that that was a good situation. It must be confessed 1605 freely that the solution has evaded us for a long time, but, with the coming of the war the problem had to be tackled. A system was worked out, during the war, and it worked pretty well. Since the war, efforts began to be made by employers and trade unions to carry into peacetime the system which had-proved satisfactory during the war, and to improve on it. One does not want to go into the history of the matter, but the long and the short of it has been that with the ultimate help of the Minister—whether he liked it or not he found he had to help— a scheme has been produced, which is now lying on the Table of the House of Commons. Unless something happens to that scheme, it will become law at the beginning of the month.
When that scheme comes into operation, the really bad features of prewar work in the docks will disappear. I know the Minister will not think it a waste of time to mention briefly what are its features. The essential part of the scheme is that the worker becomes registered as a dock worker, and from that moment he is assured of a constant livelihood, provided he is reasonably behaved, and subject to certain minimum requirements, which largely boil down to reporting for work. If he reports twice daily for work and there is no work available for him, and if he does that every day in the week and there is no work, he gets a minimum wage of £48s.
That is security of work. It is a vast change from the old system, and an extremely welcome one. From that figure, however, it will be realised that this scheme can prove extremely costly. The cost falls directly on the employer, and the employer will pay his share of the cost by an adjustable levy; but indirectly that cost, which may be a heavy one under certain conditions, must fall squarely on to the overseas trade of this country, whether it is imports of essential raw materials and foodstuffs or exports. Even then, this extra cost will be worth while, and may be more than balanced by the corresponding advantages provided there is a parallel improvement in working arrangements.
The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) touched on restrictive practices in the docks. We all know that they exist; I do not think that any one of us would deny that there are these things. I would 1606 not myself suggest that it was a very terrible thing before the war, when the system of casual labour existed. It was perfectly understandable though not admirable that such practices grew up. But in June, 1947, we are faced with shortage of ships, an adverse balance of trade and shortage of dollars; and the old bad conditions are gone in this industry, and I hope, therefore, that these old restrictive practices will go. If this position, which I have tried to make clear with some illustrations, is put fairly and squarely to the men, I believe that they will, in a short time, be prepared to rally round and do their best to get the ships moving. I hope that the Minister, in conjunction with the Minister of Transport, the employers, and others, will find some means, dramatic if necessary, of putting forward facts such as that one day saved in the loading and discharging of cargo will give 70 extra ships. I hope that the Minister will give that consideration, and see what can be done.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Baird (Wolverhampton, East)
Many hon. Members opposite have emphasised that the main problem today is increased production per man-hour. I agree that is a most important problem, but I also think that the problem of making the best possible use of the labour available, and the mobilisation of all the able-bodied labour of the country, is just as important. I believe that the Government have not faced, as they might have done, this problem of the direction of labour into the right channels, and the mobilisation of labour. Today I paid a visit to Woolworths. There I saw counters laden with luxury goods and trinkets of all kinds which must have involved many men's labour for many days; and this labour could be used in a more productive way. The other day, I was in a Lyons Corner House, and two able-bodied young men, obviously ex-Service men, were wheeling around a trolley on which they were packing dirty dishes to take into the kitchen. On the other side of the social scale we get pictures in the "Tatler" of various friends of hon. Gentlemen opposite visiting Ascot and other places, and we read about ladies and gentlemen going to the Riviera and spending hundreds and thousands of pounds on holidays. [Interruption.] The problem is not the wastage of labour of the wealthy people 1607 who go to Ascot, but the wastage of the labour which they employ.
How are we to mobilise labour and direct it to the proper channels? One of my hon. Friends has said that the best incentive is to improve conditions in the industries into which we wish to attract labour. I agree, but that is a rather long-term policy and I think something could be done in the immediate future in another way. With regard to the able-bodied labour which is not suitably employed at present, it has been suggested that we should withdraw the right of such people to a ration card. That may not be a practical possibility, and even if it were —and I do not believe that the effect on the labour problem would be very great—the psychological effect on the workers would be very great indeed. However, the point I want to make is that I believe that we can do something to attract labour which is at present employed in less essential industries into other industries where it is most required by a more rigid control over the distribution of raw materials.
It was some 12 months ago that the Emergency Powers Act was withdrawn and many of the controls over raw materials, in particular metals, then lapsed entirely. The effect of this is that metals and raw materials of all kinds are now flowing into luxury industries and industries where they are not really required for the better economy of the country, and other industries which are engaged in building up our export trade are deprived of the materials which they should have. As the Committee knows, I am interested personally in the dental profession and, during the war, as the result of markets being cut off, we built up in this country a large dental manufacturing industry. Today, the whole world is asking us to supply dental chairs, X-ray machines and the like. The amount of raw materials such as steel and copper which is used in producing this dental equipment is very small compared with the export value in dollars of the goods themselves. We sent a deputation to the Ministry of Supply, who agreed that it would be a good thing if we could obtain an increased allocation of copper and castings, so that the factory concerned, which is now working only 34 hours a week could increase its output We were told that while the Ministry of Supply 1608 can advise or request a firm to supply the material to this most necessary industry, they cannot force them to do so.
The same thing happens with regard to lead. At the present time lead is in short supply for housing, but after the Emergency Powers Act lapsed the Government control over lead also disappeared, and I believe that the metal is now being allocated by the lead industry itself on the basis of prewar consumption. It is being sent today to various small firms in the Midlands and is being used for the manufacture of toy soldiers when we need it for housing. Then there is the question of glass, for which the raw material required is sand, which is in bountiful supply. Glass is controlled by two firms. In Scotland we have an unemployment problem and many thousands of people are without work, and I believe that some time ago the glass industry was approached with a view to setting up a Subsidiary factory in Scotland where the raw material was plentiful and the labour was plentiful, but because of the restrictive practices in the industry this was not done.
§ Mr. William Shepherd
Surely, the hon. Member should be aware that the main reason why glass production is not what it should be is, first, because of fuel difficulties and, secondly, because the necessary alkali is not obtainable?
§ Mr. Baird
The point I want to make is that if the Government give a lead and take more powers instead of reducing powers to control industry, the people in industry will respond to the lead. Before I sit down I should like to say that obviously the trade union movement at the present time is in a transition stage. Reference was made from the other side of the Committee to a book written by the Minister of Food in which he advised the workers that the more they worked the more profit there would be for the "bosses" and suggesting that they should not work so hard. I agree that it was so, and that what the Minister of Food said was right. In the past, the harder the worker worked, the more profit went to the employer, and that is still so to a certain extent.
1609 We on this side of the Committee must look forward, now that we are in power and likely to remain in power for a long time. [Laughter.] I do not think any other Government has had a history like ours for the two years we have been in power. We have gone to the country in by-election after by-election and we have not lost a single seat. As I was about to say before I was interrupted, if the Government gave a resolute lead the people would follow. In the past, the more the workers worked the greater the profit for the employer, but already in two years, as a result of the activities of a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, the position has altered. While the employer is making the profits, as a result of our fiscal policy, a certain proportion of the profits are taken back and go to the workers in increased social services. In that way an incentive is created, and I hope in the future that the incentive will be greater. Let me appeal to the Minister of Labour to approach his right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply to see if something could not be done to take back some of the powers which we rescinded 12 months ago, so that we can direct raw materials, which are the lifeblood of the community, into the industries where they are required. If that is done something at least will be attempted to get labour into the industries where it is most needed.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
I have listened to a great number of speeches this afternoon from hon. Gentlemen opposite and I could not help thinking what a lot of reformed characters they were. There is one exception to that, the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Baird). There is on the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. Who would have imagined 20 years ago, when he was one of the arch villains of the General Strike, that he would be an opponent of it today? Today he sits there benevolent, benign, if at times bemused. We can say of him at any rate, that whatever wrongs he may have done in the past, he has been very properly punished by being made Minister of Labour in a Socialist Government.
Many comments have been made today on the need for a new spirit. I am convinced that there is no purely industrial or economic solution to our problems. 1610 The need for a new spirit is most urgent, and unless we can get a change in our economic conditions or a charge of heart, there is no way out of the morass in which we are going to find ourselves. Many people have emphasised the necessity of emulating American standards of production. It is extraordinarily difficult for this country, which cannot at the present moment afford to buy essential foodstuffs or import essential raw materials, to start a campaign to get on the level of efficiency equal to that of America. We arc tied by dollar scarcity and by the hopeless position in which we find ourselves. Many hon. Members opposite say, "We shall not allow conditions which we have built up to be taken away from us." I would remind the Committee that conditions are not determined by Governments. The value of wages is not determined by Governments. Even though there may be a strong desire on the part of the present Government to maintain the present standard of living, they will find themselves driven by economic circumstances over which they will have no control. The Government have not attempted to seize hold of the economy of events. They have always had to be driven to take action, usually too late. I have been thinking upon a Socialist phrase, which stuck in my mind for a long time:We have solved the problem of production. It remains only to solve the problem of distribution.How hollow and false that statement seems today; yet it is one of the statements upon which hon. Members opposite have come to power. I am sure that they now recognise, as we all do, that we must have more production if a higher standard of living is to be made permanent. I differ from some of my hon. Friends because I believe it was the duty of the Government to implement some negative form of direction of labour. Some effort should have been made to seal off industries which were grossly inflated in staff during the war, and to say that no more men should be taken into them. Those men could have been diverted to other industries. If the Government had done something 12 months ago to balance our labour position, the country would be much better off than it is at present.
It is churlish to blame the workers alone for the shortcomings of industry. Managements ate to blame in many cases. A 1611 bad management or a bad managing director can do much more damage to production than one worker. There are today quite a number of managers who are by no means as efficient as they should be. Moreover, there is little incentive to efficiency in present circumstances. If costs rise in a works, does the managing director say to himself, "I have to sell this article at £10"? Does he go round and sort out the difficulty or improve the methods? The tendency, with incentives as they are today, is for him simply to put 10 per cent. upon the selling price. There is no incentive to efficiency in production in the sellers' market which we have today.
There is another disincentive which must be very powerful. It is that taxation, in which hon. Gentlemen opposite rejoice, is heavy. We shall not get individuals in business to work themselves to the bone in order to be as efficient as they can, in the national interest, unless they see some reward. Who is going to bother to run a big business, with all its anxiety, when he can make as much net money by running small ones? Who is going to undertake the liability. while taxation remains at its present level? At the present moment we are entering into an entirely new phase, in which the factors which have been operative in the last 18 months are changing. We are definitely faced with a decline in purchasing power. Money is by no means as readily available for the purchase of goods as it was even three months ago. That applies not only in this country, but also to the export trade. A buyer's market is on its way.
What will be the result? It will inevitably mean that we shall have unemployment on a considerable scale in this country in the next 12 months. We are of necessity reducing importation, and if we are trying simultaneously to increase exports, it means only one thing—a lower standard of living for the workers. At the moment there exists a very large measure of under-employment and with the passing of the easy money, that under-employment will crystallise into unemployment. Firms can afford to pay at present because they are making substantial profits—I agree that profits generally are too high—but when that circumstance passes, as it is passing, firms will not be able to keep in employment people who are not fully 1612 employed. As a result of the restrictions on dollar resources, we shall inevitably see a positive increase in unemployment during the next 12 months.
What are the Government going to do to meet this entirely new situation, a situation unparalleled in our history, unemployment for an entirely different reason? It is no exaggeration to say that no great industrial nation has ever faced a problem of the magnitude of that which we shall have to face in the next five years. There has been talk about re-equipment. How can one afford re-equipment? One is very fortunate if one can afford the food on which to live. One is very fortunate indeed if one is able to import the materials on which to work. There is no possibility of easier times for our people. We are certainly faced with a problem of the greatest magnitude. Are we facing it with the resolve with which we ought to face it? I am quite prepared to believe that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are sincere in what they are trying to do, but hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are to some extent determined and governed by their past, and if for 40 years one has tried to inject poison into the industrial system, one cannot clear that poison out overnight. The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) was complaining about this poison. I thought it very unwise of the hon. Lady to make that complaint, because I feel sure that she and those who are associated with her have done as much as anybody to instil the poison. We cannot clear out that poison overnight, but we must get a change of heart.
I doubt whether hon. Gentlemen opposite are effective on the factory floor. The shop stewards sabotage the Government's policy, and hon. Gentlemen opposite can do very little about it. On the whole, there is at present none of the sense of urgency and none of the national purpose which should be actuating this country. If one were a foreigner looking at this country from overseas, would one feel that this country was really getting hold of itself and getting down to the job? I am afraid that would not be the impression created. Unless we get this change of heart there is absolutely no hope for us. No great difficulty, even a great economic or material difficulty, has ever been overcome without the aid of timely spiritual forces, and I say that the only hope for us here is to galvanise the whole nation 1613 into action to get everybody behind a great national effort to overcome our difficulties, because we are not able—and let us face this situation frankly—to overcome our difficulties without outside aid. This country cannot exist in the next five to 10 years without outside aid. We have reached the position, through our great efforts during the war and the dissipation of our resources, when our national existence without outside aid is a complete impossibility.
If we are to justify those who are our friends overseas coming to our aid with their resources we have to show that we ourselves are making a real effort. I hope the Government will try during the next three or four months to give a lead to the country; I hope they will do something which will dramatise the situation, because all too few people now realise its seriousness and its urgency. The present situation is indeed painful to me, because I am interested in politics largely because I want to see the standard of living of the people of this country improved. I do not like to see hypocrisy and I see now the possibility clearly that the standard of living of the people of this country will go down to a level very much lower than it has been for 20 years. There is a real danger that that will happen, and it can be righted only by a national effort on a momentous scale. I hope the Government will not make this effort too late; up to now they have made almost every effort they have made too late, but, unless they can get hold of the country, get hold of themselves, and send the whole of the nation united into this battle, then the prospect for our people in the next five and 10 years is a very dull one indeed.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
I am sure that it is for the convenience of the Committee, and will have increased the value of this Debate, that the Minister of Labour has elected to postpone his own remarks until the close of the Debate. That is particularly fortunate in view of the subject matter of it. Few matters which are controversial in the strictly parliamentary sense have arisen, but there are many questions to which hon. Member on both sides of the Committee are anxious to have answers, and for that reason it is proper that the Minister himself shall be avail- 1614 able to answer them with all the authority of his office and with all his own great experience in the handling of these matters. I am fortified in the anticipation that our questions will be answered, as they have not always been answered in these Debates, by the fact that the Minister himself has been most faithful in his attendance today and, if he does not answer any of the questions that have been put to him, it will certainly not be because he has not heard them.
The question falls into two parts: First, the object, and, second, the method of dealing with it. As to the object, there is nothing between the two sides of the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, at his Press Conference yesterday, put the matter in two sentences:There was one thing—a big essential thing —that we could do for ourselves. That was to increase our national output of foods and services as quickly as possible.The matter has been put with no greater authority, but at some greater length in the economic White Paper, "The Survey for 1947" which His Majesty's Government presented to the House in February. Perhaps I might invite the attention of the Committee to two or three lines of that which are pertinent to our Debate. His Majesty's Government say in paragraph 132:We shall not attain the objectives described in paragraph 118 without an increase of output per man-year. In coal and in building, as shown above, output per man-year is far below prewar; in agriculture, on the other hand, it is appreciably above prewar. In manufacturing industry the evidence is not clear; the experience of different industries— and probably of different firms in the same industry—varies widely. The absence of precise facts on this vital question seriously hinders remedial action. The Government therefore propose to invite representative organisations of industry to co-operate with it in an attempt to establish the facts now that the first stages of the reconversion have been completed.The first question I desire to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this. In February His Majesty's Government indicated very properly that they proposed to inquire in an attempt to establish the facts as to output. That was in February, and I do not think we shall seem impatient if on this side of the Committee, now that it is July, we ask what the results of that inquiry have been. Is the right hon. Gentlemen in a position to tell the Committee and the country the 1615 full facts in reference to the output per man-year over the whole industrial sphere? The second question—and it is more important—is this. The problem is stated, with admirable and, indeed, forceful lucidity in the White Paper, but what we desire to know is what the Government are proposing to do about it. What are the Government proposing to do to see to it that that output per man-year, which is of such vital and crucial importance, is increased? That is a question which five months after the issue of, the White Paper we are entitled to ask, and to which, in my view, we are entitled to press for an answer.
I agree with the very forceful way in which the gravity of this question was put a moment ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd). In the situation in which this country stands, with the American Loan due to expire some time this winter, and with the whole standard of life of every man, woman and child in the country precariously supported for six months, and no more, on that American Loan, we are entitled to know. It is the question of all questions in our public life today. What is being done to increase that output, which alone can in time replace the support of the American loan? Our standard of life today, miserable as it is—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]—may I put it this way, desirable as it is to improve it, and to improve it enormously—[An HON. MEMBER: "That is different"]—no hon. Member would dispute that—it is desperately below what we would like it to be, and what it was—with that standard of life itself dependent only, as the "Economist" so vividly put it the other day, on the fact that we have been enjoying the results of the labour of a million Americans without paying for it, no one is entitled to underestimate the gravity of finding a solution to this question. It was for that reason that it seemed to me so very unfortunate that the hon. Member for Deritend (Mr. Longden) seemed to regard the obtaining of increased output as somewhat undesirable. He seemed to regard it as undesirable that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee should stress the importance of that increase in output. If output is not increased, I have no doubt whatever that we shall see a decline in our present standards of life which no hon. Member 1616 in this Committee has seen in this generation. It is playing with fire for hon. Members, whatever may be the past, or whatever may be their prejudices, to decry now, in this jam in which the country is, the need for obtaining that increased output.
Various hon. Members have pointed out with force and accuracy the fact that in some, though by no means all, parts of industry, increased output is prevented or handicapped by a shortage of coal Therefore, I put once again the question which was put from these benches on 19th March, and which was not answered on that occasion. What has been done to augment the supply of labour in the mines by the introduction of foreign labour —Polish or displaced persons? So far as the Poles were concerned it was partially answered, but so far as other foreigners were concerned it has not yet been answered. In view of the key importance of coal, the Committee are entitled to be told what the right hon. Gentleman has done during the months which have elapsed since this matter was last debated.
There is another matter which is not without its importance on this subject of the productivity of labour, on which it would be of assistance if the right hon. Gentleman could give us a little information. Some months ago the right hon. Gentleman announced that he had decided that December next should be named as the end of the war period for the purposes of the Restoration of Prewar Practices Act, 1942. The Committee will recall that that Act was passed in the war, and under it prewar trade practices, for which the trade unions had fought for many years, were willingly and patriotically surrendered in order to facilitate war production. It was understood on both sides of the House in those days that those practices should be restored when the war ended, and I make no complaint that the Minister has come to the decision that for that purpose the war period shall be deemed to have ended in December next. But I think the Committee are entitled to be told what information the right hon. Gentleman has as to the effect of this step. We are entitled to know what will be the effect on production of restoring practices which were deliberately waived because of the necessity for increasing production in war.
The right hon. Gentleman has not been particularly communicative on this sub- 1617 ject. On 1st April last he was asked by my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn)whether discussions are going on with trade Unions and employers' associations for ending in December the war period for the purposes of the Restoration of Pre-war Practices Act. 1942.The Minister replied:I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) on 20th December last. It is now for the two sides of each industry affected to consider jointly what arrangements for the purposes of this Act are necessary in view of the decision to end the war period in December next."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1947; Vol. 435, c. 286–7.]On 29th April, in reply to a Question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman, he said that he had made it clear…that it was essential that the two sides of any industry affected should consider the matter in the meantime with a view to reaching joint agreement on the problems involved. I have no doubt that this will be done, and I am confident that the need for maximum production will be fully borne in mind in the course of any joint negotiations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1947; Vol. 436, c. 1702.]It would be of interest if the Minister could now tell the Committee what has been the result of those negotiations, what steps have been taken to ensure that the naming of December as the date for the purposes of this Act shall not have a serious effect in restricting production.
I do not want to seem controversial, but I feel that because of the right hon. Gentleman's answer to me he did somewhat abdicate the responsibility which should fall upon him. That answer seemed to indicate that it was a matter solely for the two sides of industry. I do not think the matter can be dismissed as easily as that. It is, surely, a matter of national interest and not one merely for the two parties concerned, that at this moment productivity shall not be adversely affected by the restoration of these practices. If the right hon. Gentleman is not in a position to tell the Committee that, in these circumstances, agreements have been made which will prevent the restoration of these practices having an adverse effect on production, then I think the Committee is entitled to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that he is prepared to take the initiative, to use his unrivalled powers as a conciliator, to see that the agreement arrived at is one consistent not 1618 only with the interests of the parties, but with the interests of the nation.
There is another matter in this connection upon which the right hon. Gentleman could assist the Committee. It is one that has perplexed a number of hon. Members in the months which have passed since the Government White Paper was issued. In the final paragraph of the White Paper it is stated:There is now no place for industrial arrangements which restrict production, prices or employment. Such regulations and traditions grew up as a means of protecting those engaged in industry from the effects of a shortage of work and of empty order books.Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to tell the Committee whether such practices on the part of labour or of management exist today? If they do exist, will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what they are? I assume from the fact that the Government see fit to mention them in the White Paper that the Government must believe that they exist; but attempts to elicit from the right hon. Gentleman what these practices are, so far, have been a complete failure. If there are practices by anybody engaged in production which will really seriously affect production, then the least the right hon. Gentleman can do is to drag those practices out into the light of day so that the Committee and the country shall know exactly where they stand and exactly who is responsible.
In this connection I was a little disturbed to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Thornbury. The hon. Member for Thornbury seemed to be defending restrictive practices at the docks on the ground, perfectly valid years ago, that it was desirable to spread the work so that everybody could have some of it. I hope that no sympathy for that attitude will be expressed by the right hon. Gentleman. It is not now in the interests of—
§ Mr. Sparks
Is the hon. Gentleman in Order? I think he is quite wrong. The hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass) did not say that.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am much obliged. I am told that it was the hon. Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Awbery). It is a slight geographical error by a very few miles. I am obliged to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) for his assistance.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am obliged to the hon. Member for West Ealing. I am not really disposed to discuss English geography with him tonight. The point is that the hon. Member attempted to justify the existence today of practices at the docks, whose declared object was to see that more people were employed on jobs than was necessary for the doing of them effectively. I hope that the Minister of Labour will indicate his view on that subject not only to this Committee tonight but to those concerned outside in the course of a few days. It is a fact, as my right hon. and- learned Friend the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) pointed out, that such practices exist at the docks, that they do slow up the turn round of ships. The only surprise in the speech of the hon. Member for Central Bristol was that in this present situation any hon. Member of this Committee should be found who was prepared to justify it.
Yet another matter on which we should value the views of the Government, and on which we are entitled to their views, is their attitude to the system of payment by results. In the White Paper, they expressed approval in principle, but, once again, we should like to know what action they have taken to see that this system becomes more and more widely used. The power by persuasion, by the use of taxation adjustments, by all the infinite variety of pressures which are available to the Ministry of Labour and to a Minister so experienced as the right hon. Gentleman— all these could be employed to give effect to what the Government have said to be desirable. I should like to know whether the Government have taken any action to see that payment by results becomes a more widely used practice than it has been.
Up to recently, under a Defence Regulation, the Government are actually forbidding such a system in the building industry. I understand that the Defence Regulation is to go, but more is needed than the mere removal of prohibitions. What is needed is affirmative action on the part of the Government in setting an example in its own establishments and in the great nationalised industries in which it has a decisive control. It has always 1620 been the principle, though not always carried out, that the Government should set an example to the private employer. I think we are entitled to ask that, on a subject on which the Government have expressed their own view that the proposal is desirable, that they should, by their own action in their own establishments set an example to the private employers in the wider use of this system.
Then there is the vexed and difficult question of hours. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Williamson) seemed to think that hours could be decreased at this moment because in certain industries they had not been decreased for a good many years. Such an approach to the problem seems to indicate a complete lack of appreciation of the gravity of the national situation. It may be a good thing or a bad thing that hours have not been altered in that industry for many years, but it is surely completely irrelevant to the need of increased production. I willingly concede that there may be industries, and processes within industries, in which decreased hours can in some mysterious way result in increased production, but, over a large sphere of industry, particularly those industries where semi-automatic processes are used, there could be nothing but a decrease in output per man-hour when there is a decrease in the hours worked.
I did not want to touch on the vexed problem of the five-day week in the mines, save to point cut that the results have been disappointing to all hon. Members, and, putting the matter at its lowest, do not afford any evidence for the view that decreased hours will result in increased production. Once again, we are entitled to know what the Government are doing on this question of hours. What are they doing other than offering advice on the White Paper? What are they doing in their own establishments and in the nationalised industries. So far in one great nationalised industry they have reduced hours, and that, at any rate, seems to indicate to private employers an attitude in practice very different from that which the Government have been professing in theory, and the Minister can help us further by telling the Committee of what further demands for reduced hours his Department is aware. It would be a grave reflection on the administration of the right hon. 1621 Gentleman's Department if one were to doubt that he is well informed about demands which, although not precisely formulated at the moment, are coming forward from the trade unions. I imagine that it is no secret to the right hon. Gentleman that certain unions are putting forward demands, such as, for instance, from the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. The right hon. Gentleman, with his much wider sources of information, should tell the Committee what the Government's attitude is, and what they are doing.
I agree with what was so well said by the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee), in the impressive speech she made earlier today. When all has been said, and everything that can be done has been done, by the provision of incentive, bonus systems, and all the rest of it, the question is fundamentally moral and one of morale. During the war, men worked a 24-hour day under the grilling sun of the desert, or in the grey wilderness of the Atlantic for half-a-crown a day because they believed that what they were doing was necessary to the survival of the way of life in which they believed, and also because they had leadership which they trusted. That is an example of the transcendental importance of the moral factor in this matter. The troubles we have encountered, low output in certain industries, absenteeism, unofficial strikes, and so on, are but indications of the wider question of the failure of the Government to give to our people the leadership which is required by the situation. They have failed to do what it is essential that democratic leaders in a democratic country should do—give the people a clear and emphatic lead, tell the country the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It is in the hope that we shall get that lead, that clear, unquestioning, self-confident, bracing lead, which is demanded by the country and hoped for by half the world, that we await the speech of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Isaacs)
I find myself faced with a formidable task tonight, because I intend to try to answer all the questions which have been put to me. In doing so, I hope to get finished in time to make a little speech of my own, which I prepared for the occasion. I think it is right to pass the comment, first, that 1622 this Debate has been carried on with a remarkable absence of any attempt to make party capital out of it, and with good feeling, despite the real concern we all feel at the present situation.
I was particularly impressed by the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), who opened the Debate. He built his case on two main points—that we should consider the adverse trade balance and the maldistribution of labour, resulting in under-production. I know that by "maldistribution" the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not mean that somebody was doing something badly, but simply that there was not proper distribution. He said that we must demonstrate to the world what Britain can do, and is determined to do. I am glad he said that, because it was my privilege, about this time last week, to speak for Britain at the International Labour Conference, at Geneva, where I told the world that we shall demonstrate what Britain can do, and is determined to do. One or two Members opposite have cried, "Calamity," and my reply to them is that if it gives them a feeling of satisfaction to do that, they may do it. But there is no calamity. There are trials, problems and tribulations, but I am sure there is no calamity.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me for information about working hours. I have been able to get the figures. In 1946, 2,000,000 workers had their hours reduced on an average by 2¾ hours a week. Between January and May, 1947, 3,370,000 other workers had their hours reduced on an average by 3½ hours a week. [An HON. MEMBER: "With the same production?"] If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make my speech, he can make his comments afterwards. I am answering questions which have been put to me. It is important to note that the first people to get their hours of work reduced were those already working the least number. Since V-J day, roughly 5,500,000 workers have had their hours reduced on an average by about three hours a week. The level to which they are coming down at present is about 44 hours a week. Some are 45, one or two 42½ some are 43, but the average level is 44.
That is after six years of war, and it is only right to compare that with what 1623 happened after the previous war. In 1919–20, 6,878,000 workers had their hours reduced on an average by six hours a week. We came through that war and got that amount of reduction. Up to now we have not had the same amount of reduction for the same number of people as after the last war. But it is fair to say, anticipating the answer to one of the questions put to me by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), that there are some applications pending. I may come back to that in a moment. It must be borne in mind that this does not necessarily mean loss of production, because all the time between the two wars that we have been working on the 48-hour week, new processes, new machinery, and new methods of production have been coming along, and in most industries there has been a tremendous increase of production per man. This has been due mainly to the introduction of machinery. But machines bring a greater strain, and call for greater effort on the part of the individual to keep pace with them. Sometimes the labour-aiding machine is brought in. It makes the work of the individual tending it physically lighter, but it demands a constant attention, so that what he gains in physical relief, he loses in mental strain and concentration.
May I turn for a moment to the shorter working week? I ask all hon. Members to consider the difference between the 44-hour week on a 5½day basis, and a five-day week, whether it be for 44, 45 or 48 hours. There is a good deal of difference between the two. In many cases it has been found that where a firm has reduced the working week to five days, and has knocked off four hours on the week's work, several interesting things have been noted. I am not sure of the name of the firm, but I think it was one of the large motor firms in the Luton district which first gave us some information about this. They lost four hours a week, and at first their production went down, but not by four hours. Although their men were working four hours fewer, and, theoretically, therefore, giving them 44 hours' production instead of 48, they were, in fact, giving them 45 hours' production, and production gradually went up.
On a five-day week, a firm saves, first of all, the time and cost taken in starting 1624 and stopping their factory. There is always a time-lag in starting and stopping machines. It also means that a firm has the opportunity of carrying on its maintenance and repair work on Saturday at Saturday rates, instead of on Saturday afternoon and Sunday at the additional overtime rates that would normally be paid. In the bad weather they save the cost of having to keep the factory heated on Saturdays. Another advantage is that factories requiring women workers have found that the finest attraction is to offer them a job in a factory which is working five days a week, because it gives them Saturday mornings in which to do their shopping. There is still another advantage in places like London or Birmingham, where men have to travel long distances to get to their work.
Take the case of a man who works in a big printing works in the South of London, and lives at Tottenham or Tooting. He does not come up to work on Saturdays; he is working half an hour longer on each day of the week. I am speaking of the days when they worked a 45-hour week and were putting those 45 hours into five days instead of five and a half days. The man saves his railway fare for one day,, he saves himself two hours in the morning because he can get up at eight o'clock instead of six o'clock. He could, if he liked, lie in bed until eight o'clock, and perhaps his wife would bring him a cup of tea in bed. It saves him buying a lunch while in town, and gives him an opportunity of having a mid-day meal at home. I assert that, in the long run, the five-day week will be a boon and a blessing to everybody concerned. It may take a little time, after a firm changes over, to pick up its production, but there is plenty of evidence that, eventually, production improves, the men's physique gets better and there are advantages all round. Although it may be felt that there is probably an immediate reduction in production at the moment, eventually it will rise again.
The next point referred to was that of restrictive practices. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said we should consider whether they were necessary. He gave some examples of these restrictive practices, all of which are generally known. At this point, I will also deal with the remarks of the hon. Member for 1625 Kingston-upon-Thames. Many of these restrictive practices had to be imposed in the old days. I myself have worked in workshops of different kinds where we had to have restrictive practices to protect ourselves. Even Parliament had to pass Acts to give us restrictive practices. One Act even prevented employers from putting the clock on and pushing it back again so that they could get a few minutes more work out of the workers. That is why all factory clocks today have to be regulated by the nearest public clock. Many of these restrictive practices were given up during the war.
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames dealt fully with this. He said that the responsibility for dealing with the restoration of these restrictive practices rests on myself, and that it is not a matter for the two parties concerned. My suggestion to the Committee is: leave them alone. They have not come to me with any proposals for the restoration of these prewar practices. If I were to go to the employees' and workers' organisations and say, "What are you doing about the prewar restrictive practices?" the union might say, "We had forgotten all about it; we will take it up." I do not intend to say to these organisations, "Are you not going to restore these prewar practices?" I know of no negotiations taking place. They asked that they should have the authority. We gave notice that the Acts giving them the full power to bring those practices into operation again will come along at a certain time, and they could negotiate, but up to the moment I have heard of no reports which would lead me to suppose that steps are being taken in that direction. The best thing to do is to let sleeping dogs lie, and not remind them that they can restore some of these practices which we do not want to see restored.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
The right hon. Gentleman would agree, I hope, that during the war new processes, and so on, and different practices grew up. Would it not be wise of him to encourage the unions and employers to join together to see whether those new practices nave not, in fact, made some of the old restrictive practices—what we can call restrictive practices—out of date? Otherwise, he may find himself in difficulty later on.
§ Mr. Isaacs
My judgment is, leave them alone. If I bring them together, something new may crop up. Some old Johnny in the factory may say, "That is all right. We want the old system back again." During the war there grew up in this country a far better relationship and understanding between employers and workers, and I am quite convinced that when they sit down and examine these things the employers will agree to restore practices they think right for their workers, and that the workers will not ask for anything they think wrong. I am sure that we have today the best relationship between employers and workpeople of any country in the world.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The right hon. Gentleman said it was best to leave them alone. If he is satisfied that the restoration of some practices will seriously affect production, what then?
§ Mr. Isaacs
The hon Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He said it was my business to intervene. If they start their negotiations and cannot reach agreement, then, in all probability, they will bring the matter to the Minister of Labour. They bring all their troubles there. But if they have not started to talk about restoring these practices, leave them alone. If they start to talk about these things and reach no agreement, I have not the slightest doubt that advice would be given by the Ministry, not only in the interests of the parties concerned, but in the interests of the needs of the nation at the moment. Such things have been done behind the scenes in many disputes that have cropped up.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby referred to opposition to piece-rate bonuses and demarcation of jobs between the trade unions, and so on. Such disputes were bitter years ago, but all that has died down tremendously. I went on strike myself when I was 16 years of age because my "boss" cut down my piece rates on a bookbinding job, but after a certain amount of jiggery-pokery he was glad to restore the price, to our mutual advantage. But piecework rates used not to be fixed, and when men slogged away to earn a few bob extra a week and had earned a few extra bob, the piece-rates were cut down. All that practice has largely disappeared today, because 1627 the rates have been fixed in the shops; they are fixed on some basis agreed between trade unions and employers, and they are more honourably observed now. If an employer pays a rate of £5 and the man earns £8, the employer is sensible enough to take the view, "he is earning £8; well, I am getting the extra production, and getting it at the same rent charges and so on as if I were paying out only £5 to him."
As to demarcation, there are still problems. There used to be more. There had to be very great and strenuous efforts put forward to maintain the rights of craftsmanship. These demarcation fights, in the main, were not fought by men saying, "Others shall not do our jobs," but to protect the rights of craftsmanship. We did not want to whittle down craftsmanship and the skill of craftsmanship. The pride of a really skilled craftsman in his craftsmanship, as I am sure hon. Members opposite will agree, is a grand thing in itself. The Trades Union Congress itself has set up a Demarcation and Disputes Committee, that settles, as far as it is humanly possible to settle them, disputes between unions on demarcation. Their power is so great that if they reach a decision and one of the contending parties refuses to accept it, that party can be excluded from the Congress; and that is a very severe punishment. I happen to know something about that work, because for eight years I was chairman of the Disputes Committee; therefore, I know something about rows between unions. If anybody wants to know what a real row is like, they should go to a Demarcation Disputes Committee.
§ Mr. Isaacs
Yes, it really does. Now and again there are some instances where the local branches decline to accept the advice of their union, and then it is a little difficult to put pressure upon the organisation whose members refuse to accept their advice.
I now turn to the-question of the maldistribution of labour. I am dealing with these points fully, because they cover some of the questions which I have been asked. The maldistribution of labour is a very awkward thing with which to deal. 1628 There is a feeling—and my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Bird) referred to it—that a better distribution of labour can be obtained by slowing up the supply of materials for certain firms. Of course, that is easy. It is quite easy to stop the flow of raw materials to any firm, and to put their employees out of work; but it is not so easy to put those people into other jobs. Let me give an example. From what we have read and heard, the probabilities are that, owing to the dollar situation, the great newspapers of this country will come down to four pages instead of six pages. That will put a lot of compositors out of work. Well, the compositors can be put out of work, but they cannot be then put to work on brickmaking or bricklaying. It is quite easy to push people out of a job, but it is not so easy to make sure that they go into other jobs, even if all the factories are in handy places.
I made a note of the concluding remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby. He said that our task in the Committee is to urge the clearing of the road to progress, and that we must all exercise all our influence and energy to remove obstacles to production. I am sure all Members of the Committee will join in that, in the spirit of this Debate, in which no party point has been put forward. The hon. Member for North Dorset (Mr. Byers) referred to many matters, with several of which I think I have dealt. He also raised a most important point, however, in referring to the restrictive attitude of mind of the workers, which he said should be combated by interesting the workers through an understanding of the finished product. The hon. Member has put his finger on the vital point. A person doing routine piecework, passing a job along, with no idea of the finished article, has no interest in the job. The Coalition Government, through whichever Department was responsible during the war, took women who were making little bits and pieces for aeroplanes to see the finished product; they took those people who were making little pieces for guns to see the finished job. Those workers then saw the aeroplanes flying and the guns firing, and they went back to work more enthusiastically; they were all impressed by the fact that their little part of the job was the important part of it.
1629 That same point was brought forward very admirably by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes), who emphasised it in a different way, and made use of the same words as the hon. Member for North Dorset: treat the men as human beings. The hon. Member for North Dorset said that that is what is happening today. I can remember the time when I used to walk around the machine room, and when a foreman wanted me, he said: "Oil you, come here." That type of foreman is dead—or very nearly. Today, most overseers and foremen like to know the Christian names of the men with whom they are working. I can assure the Committee that it makes all the difference in the world if, when an overseer wants to speak to a man, instead of saying, "Here, Isaacs," he says, "Here, George." It makes all the difference in the world. That is the kind of human touch which I anticipate is operating in the works of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne. The hon. Member for North Dorset also referred to payment by results, and the initiative of the trade unions. They are taking the initiative, as I mentioned earlier. Later on I will come to the building industry, in which at the moment there seems to be some little difficulty.
I think I have said all that I need say about the problem of the five-day and the five and a half-day week. Hon. Members were interested to hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, who told us about his own experiences. His point was to treat the men as human beings, and to use present equipment to the best advantage. If the present equipment in textile mills can be brought into greater productivity in the same way as it has been in that firm about which he told us, it will mean a big thing in the economy of the country. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby said that there has been a considerable fall in production. There is no evidence of that. There have been some slight falls and some increases—there have been falls and pick-ups. We have had no real evidence of any over-all fall in production.
That brings me to something which was said by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames. I think I had better get it off my chest now instead of later. He 1630 pointed out that the White Paper mentions an inquiry as against one year and another. That will be conducted on the basis of this year as compared with recent years, and it will be put in hand. It has not been pushed at the moment, because the Joint Consultative Committee of employers and workers is busily engaged on the question of the staggering of hours to meet the fuel position. They have done a good job there. I should like publicly to express admiration of the great engineering and shipbuilding industries which have got together and given a lead to the whole of industry on how to meet this spread-over of hours, so that work can be kept going in off-peak time without the extra costs which usually arise out of overtime.
§ Mr. Prescott
Before the Minister leaves the textile industry, can he say anything about recruitment of labour and volunteer European workers?
§ Mr. Isaacs
European voluntary workers are being found and drafted forward. They will be put into training centres. The European voluntary workers, from the displaced persons' camps in Europe, are a first-class type; they are nice, kindly people, well-educated, and we are very glad to be able to help them. We are not able to check for textile workers over there, because these people come into our hands only after they have been politically screened—it is then that we have to do the sorting out. Not many have come to us with knowledge of the textile industry, but some are being brought forward for this purpose. Many of them are very valuable for domestic institutions, and women are running the camps which are being set up for these people.
§ Mr. Prescott
Can the right hon. Gentleman say anything about recruitment generally of British people?
§ Mr. Isaacs
I am afraid that I cannot do that offhand at the moment. The position is not as good as we should like, but it is improving. It is the old question of giving a dog a bad name, and that I am afraid is what has happened. My hon. Friend the Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman) said that we should try to encourage new methods of production. That is being done. There are industrial efficiency advisors at the disposal of all industries which like to come along and 1631 ask for guidance. The Ministry of Works have been doing a first-class job in encouraging modern methods for house building. A visit to the Thatched Barn on the Barnet by-pass is well worth while. Mechanically hoisted scaffolding and all sorts of gadgets can be seen there, which make it possible for men to work without heavy labour, and for production to be increased without any additional burden. There are two branches in which the Government are encouraging methods of better production.
The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Amory) referred to a truce for three years. He said that there should be no wage increases or shorter hours of employment and no higher dividends. We have seen the effects of some of these truces in other countries. They have always broken down, because whatever happens by way of control of dividends or wages, there seems to be no control of prices, which fly away. The trouble with a truce is that unless every one conscientiously and sincerely accepts that truce, it is merely tying down the safety valve. If you say to people that they must not have an increase for three years, at the end of that period there is a "bust." When a wage contract is entered into for a definite period and that period ends, there is an automatic movement to go for an advance of wages. In a wages contract under which either side gives three or six months' notice to terminate, it usually goes on until there is some justification such as an increase in prices, for an increase of wages. We do not think that a truce is going to be of much benefit.
The hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee) spoke of the psychological aspect, and I think that some of the things she said were very true. When you get in an industry a feeling that there has been unjust treatment over a number of years, that is not easy to remove. The hon. Lady said that all able-bodied men and women should do some useful work I would like to see that happen. It is really fun to work, but it ought to be useful work. The trouble is, who is going to decide what is useful? If it were left to the hon. Lady and to me to decide, we might have a different idea from some of the hon. Members on the other side of the Committee as to what is useful work. I do not know if they would like to refer that to an arbitrator?
1632 The right hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter) made an interesting contribution to the Debate. He talked about fixing incentives for small units of work, and so on. He made use of a reference which one can never pin down. He said we needed "a kind of wages policy." I have heard a lot about wages policy, but now it is a "kind of wages policy." That is something like the war in South Africa. When it was over, it was a "kind of a war," and it had gone on for two years. The idea is that "a kind of wages policy" should be arranged between the Government, industry and the workers. I can recollect the tragedy of the period after the first world war when our wages were being slashed by 10s., 15s. and '£1 a week. Skilled engineers in London were then getting less than £2 a week. No one came forward then with a wage regulation policy.
§ Sir A. Salter
I said a wages policy of this kind—a kind which would only have a general increase of wages after production had already caught up with existing purchasing power.
§ Mr. Isaacs
I know that the hon. Gentleman said that. The point I am making is that we were not asked to agree to a regulation of wages when they were going down, but there seems to be a desire to regulate wages now that they are going up. I draw the attention of the Committee to the positive danger that once we get a Government fixing wages our General Elections may be fought on the plea, "Vote for me, and I will get you 10 bob more." But there will never be an election on the plea "Vote for me and I will get you 10 bob off." We have seen this policy operate in other countries. In Brussels, on Friday of last week, the Prime Minister of that country and the Minister of Labour were sitting in conference facing a nation-wide strike on the question of wages which that Government has to settle. With the power of trade unions of a country getting larger and larger, I would hesitate to think what would be the fate of any Government, even this one, if the trade unions said "we cannot accept the wages fixed by the Government."
The hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) referred to different problems in the building industry. They are problems, 1633 but I can assure him that the relevant part of that Regulation 56 (A.B.) is in the same position as an article for sale at an auctioneers. It is a case of "going, going," and it will be "gone" shortly, for it is on its last lap. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that builders are only debarred from operating bonus schemes in three areas of the country, Scotland, Northern, and Manchester by agreement. This Order will go shortly, and it will make it possible for other areas to adopt bonus schemes if they desire.
§ Mr. Marples
Could the right hon. Gentleman give us some idea of the time when the auctioneer's "gone" will operate?
§ Mr. Isaacs
It is right on tap. The Order is in draft, but I cannot say when it will come into operation. It may be tomorrow or the next day, or it may not be until next week. I cannot say. I want also to refer to what was said by the hon. Member for Montrose Burghs (Mr. Maclay). He gave us a very effective description of what it means to have a rapid turn-round of ships. We do not know whether the rapid turn-round was made possible by a double day shift or a day and night shift, but what happens is very important. He referred to the de-casualisaton scheme, and I would like to correct some of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee, for there was no real opposition to that scheme. There was some criticism of certain parts of it, but it was generally welcomed in the Committee. It is now at work, for it came into operation a short time ago, and it is a true decasualisation scheme, for the charge is based on the employer, who passes it on to his customers who, in turn, pass it through to the consumer. It is paid by the consumer who takes the goods, and it is far better that it should be spread over the whole of the community, which handles the goods rather than that it should be borne by women and children of the docker, as was the case before. Everybody will be happier for this circumstance.
We heard from the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd) of the woe that was coming and which would lead to a lower standard of living for the workers. Why only the worker? If things go wrong, why should the worker only have 1634 a lower standard of living? If there is to be any real calamity, let us all enjoy it while we are about it. He then said that we must galvanise our country into action. I agree with him, but how? We are not going to do it if we are going to overdo this "Work or Want." We want to get a more optimistic spirit about the country.
There were one or two other points which were debating points, and I will not concentrate on them. If I can, I want to answer the questions put by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, and I am afraid I will have to let my own speech go. As the White Paper said, we intend to ascertain the facts in regard to the question of production. At the moment we are concentrating upon the staggering of hours. That will definitely be taken up because we want to ascertain the facts. The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames said that we were enjoying the work of millions of Americans for no payment, and he quoted some paper, I think, the "Economist," in that connection.
§ Mr. Isaacs
That may be so, but let us look at the other side of the picture. How many millions of Germans are enjoying something at the expense of our own people? So if we are living on the fruits of some Americans, we are only passing it on to others, for we are letting the Germans live on some of our production at the same time. It is not all a case of taking without giving, for we are giving to someone else. He asked about foreign labour for coalmining, and what was the position. I cannot give him any statistics at the moment, but the scheme is working well. We are training men at the rate of 300 a week. I cannot tell how many are working underground, but one trouble is to get room at the face for the raw recruits. It is felt that it would be unwise, in view of the present emergency in coal production, to take skilled men from the face to make room for the newcomer. There is no resistance by the mineworkers to the Poles or other displaced persons working in the pits. I have dealt with the question of the practice of payment by results, and I think I have answered all the questions that were put to me.
1635 I should like now to run over in catalogue form what are the Government's actions. We recognise the vital need for increased productivity. We think it can be done, first, by encouraging the managements to improve the conditions of their workers. Many of them do not want much encouragement, for they get on with the job. What we want to see attended to are such things as lighting, ventilation, safety plant and safety measures, more modern methods, and canteens. If the employers do that and the trade unions co-operate with them, we can take the next step, and that is get down to joint consultations in industry.
I am a complete and profound believer in joint works councils. I know what it has done in my own industry, and I have seen what it has done in others. I am sure by that means we can get on to more production. We are engaged on it at the moment, and we are getting out a model scheme which will go to the regions. A regional officer will be available to advise the local unions and employers to work their own schemes. It is not the Government's job to say to this or that industry, "You must adopt this or that sort of scheme." We ask them all to examine methods of payment by results and adopt them where possible.
Factory safety is a matter which greatly helps to improve production, and no one will deny that factory canteens are
§ of tremendous value. Before the war there were fewer than 1,000 factories which had canteens; now over 12,000 have them. A reasonable meal in the middle of the day without running all over the place to get it means a great deal to production, and it means a great deal more in the matter of the comfort and convenience of the people at home. If the "old woman" at home is happy, then the man himself will go to his work in the morning much happier. Industrial health and the training of disabled persons, the training of foremen and supervisors, all make for better working conditions and improved production. This is merely a catalogue with which I have been able to deal, and I think I have answered all the questions that were put to me. I hope the Committee will be satisfied. There is in our country today a first-class relationship between employers, workers and the Government. All parties know that the vita! need is for improved production; it is realised that it is necessary for the workers to produce more. The workers are part of the country the same as everybody else, and I am confident that they will do their best to save our land.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I beg to move, "That Item Class V, Vote 4, Ministry of Labour and National Service, be reduced by £5".
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 90; Noes, 208.1637
|Division No. 294.]||AYES.||9.59 p.m|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Gage, C.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T D.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Beamish, Maj. T V. H||George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Maude, J. C.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Gridley, Sir A,||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Birch, Nigel||Grimston, R. V.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C. E.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Boyd-Carpenler, J. A.||Headlam, Licut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Nicholson, G.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Herbert, Sir A. P.||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Challen, C.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hollis, M. C.||Nutting, Anthony|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. 0. E.||Hope, Lord J.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||Hurd, A.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Prescott, Stanley|
|Digby, S. W.||Jennings, R.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. 0.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon, L. W.||Ramsay, Maj. S|
|Dower, Lt.-Col. A. V. G, (Penrith)||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Rayner, Brig. R|
|Drayson, G B.||Langford-Holt, J.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. 9. C. (Hillhead)|
|Drewe, C.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Dugdale, Ma]. Sir T. (Richmond)||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Strauss, H. G (English Universities)|
|Fox, Sir G.||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't'n, S.)|
|Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Teeling, William|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.||Marples, A. E.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Turton, R. H.||Wheatley, Colonel M. i.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Vans, W. M. F.||Williams, C. (Torquay)||Commander Agnew and|
|Walker-Smith, 0.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Mr. Studholme.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Granville, E. (Eye)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Grierson, E.||Randall, H. E.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Griffiths, W. D, (Moss Side)||Ranger, J.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Rees-Williams, D. R|
|Anderson, F (Whitehaven)||Gunter, R. J.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Guy, W. H.||Rhodes, H.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hairs, John E (Wycombe)||Richards, R.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Hail, W. G.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Baird, J.||Hardy, E. A.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Barstow, P. G||Hastings, Dr Somerville||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Barton, C.||Haworth, J||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Battley, J. R.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Herbison, Miss M.||Scollan, T.|
|Belcher, J. W||Hewitson, Capt. M||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Berry, H.||Hobson, C. R.||Segal, Or. S.|
|Beswick, F.||Holman, P.||Sharp, Granville|
|Sing, G. H. C.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Shawcross, C N, (Widnes)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Simmons, C. J.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L pl, Exch'ge)||Irving, W. J||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Janner, B||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Solley, L. J.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Jeger, Dr S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Soronsen, R. W|
|Bruce, Maj. D, W. T.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Burden, T. W.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Burke, W. A,||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Stamford, W|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Kenyon, C.||Steele, T.|
|Byers, Frank||Key, C W.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Carmichael, James||Kinley, J.||Symonds, A. L.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Kirby, B. V||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Champion, A. J.||Layers, S.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Cobb, F. A.||Lee, Miss J (Cannock)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Leonard, W.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Collindridge, F.||Leslie, J. R.||Thomas, I. 0. (Wrekin)|
|Colman, Miss G. M.||Lindgren, G. S.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G.||Upton, Lt -Col M||Tiffany, S.|
|Corbel, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Longden, F.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Corlett, Or. J.||Lyne, A W||Ungoed-Thomas, L|
|Crawley, A.||McAdam, W||Viant, S. P.|
|Daines, P.||McAllister, G.||Walkden, E.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||McEntee, V. La T.||Walker, G. H.|
|Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||McGhee, H. G.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Diamond, J.||Mack, J. D||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Dobbie, W||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Dodds, N. N||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Donovan, T.||McKinlay, A. S.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Daberg, T. E. N.||McLaavy, F.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Mathers, G.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||Mellish, R. J||Wigg, Col. G. E|
|Ede. Rt. Hon. J. C||Middleton, Mrs. L||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Moody, A. S.||Wilkes, L.|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Mort, D. L.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Nicholls, H. R (Stratford)||Willey, 0. G. (Cleveland)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Oliver, G. H.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Field, Capt. W. J.||Orbach, M.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Paget, R. T||Williamson, T|
|Follick, M.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Forman, J. C.||Parker, J.||Woodburn, A.|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Parkin, B. T.||Woods, G. S.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S||Pearson, A.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Peart, T. F.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Platts-Mills, J. F. F.|
|Goodrich, H. E.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Snow and Mr. Popplewell.|
Resolution agreed to
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.