§ Question again proposed.
§ 5.45 P.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson rose—
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, if the right hon. Gentleman will excuse me. His speech has already been interrupted for 10 minutes by our call from another place. That is almost the length of time of one back bench speech, at a time when we are exceedingly pressed. Would it be possible for these calls to be arranged so that they do not interrupt a right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench when he has just started an important speech, or could they be arranged at some period in a changeover of Business, so that, we shall not be subject to such an interruption?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid that is a matter over which I have no jurisdiction. I do not choose to go to another place; I am summoned there.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
Mr. Speaker, is there no channel which exists between your office and another place through which suggestions could be communicated? It is highly inconvenient to many hon. Members.
§ Mr. Speaker
I agree with the noble Lord. It can be highly inconvenient. I do not wish to pursue the matter further, but perhaps it was not easy to find another time which was both suitable to the other place and to ourselves.
§ Mi. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)
Further to that point of Order. Is it not better that a front bencher should be interrupted than a back bencher?
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Sir J. Anderson
When our proceedings were interrupted I was saying that if the fallacies and misunderstandings to which I had been referring could be effectively removed, I believe that no one would benefit more than the trade union leaders. I think the apparent loss of influence by some of the trade union leaders over their people is a grave feature of the present situation, and they would be greatly helped if there were authoritative state- 1181 ments from right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen known to them by name, who speak on behalf of the Socialist Party on those matters to which I have been referring, on which they could fall back in endeavouring, as they do endeavour—which I most willingly and readily recognise—to persuade those for whom they act to adopt courses which are best in the general public interest.
I now pass from these preliminaries which, as I said, are outside the actual scope of the White Paper, to the White Paper itself. I agree with other speakers in regarding the White Paper as furnishing a most admirable diagnosis of our present position and containing a great deal of valuable statistical information. When the White Paper goes on to deal with remedies for our present ills, I think it does not rise to the same high standard. It becomes, in many respects, halting and uncertain. The subject of coal has been dealt with at considerable length by other speakers, and I do not wish to add any thing material to what was said, for example, by my right hon. Friend the Senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan), except this: Surely, it is absolutely clear that we must in no circumstances run the risk of a recurrence next winter of the situation which has developed so disastrously this winter? If it is a question—as it probably is—of importing a substantial quantity of coal in order to establish a stock that will put us beyond the risk of sudden dislocation by adverse weather conditions, or for any other reason, then I think the Chancellor should make up his mind to find the necessary foreign exchange. It need not perhaps all be in dollars; it may be possible—I do not know —to get some coal from South Africa. But do it, in my opinion, we must. That is all I wish to say on that subject. I have something to say about wages and hours of work later.
I pass now—very briefly, because I do not want to detain the House too long—to the question of inflation, with which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer dealt in his speech yesterday. I am sorry I was not in my place when he rose, but I have read very carefully the report of his speech in HANSARD. It is, of course, perfectly true that we have on this occasion, avoided anything in the nature of a wage-price spiral—the most vicious form of inflation.
1182 But I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that we have had wage inflation, and we have had capital inflation. Not having had price inflation only means that our economy has, to that extent, been distorted, and it has been gravely distorted. Unless some relief can be found, I venture to say that the strain will, before long, become intolerable. May I suggest to the House that the comparison which the right hon. Gentleman made, between our experience in this respect during the postwar period and the experience after the last war, is somewhat misleading? We have, of course, profited by the experience of the last war. We have avoided some of the grave mistakes that were undoubtedly made after the last war. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that he has been fortunate in his predecessors, who have set him a very good example in this matter.
There has been, as I have said, no uncontrolled inflation. I entirely agree that there must be no uncontrolled deflation. I have so often discussed with the present Foreign Secretary what happened after the last war, and the hardships which, what can, I think, only be described as a run-away deflation brought in its train. I would not for one moment suggest that we should allow anything of the kind to occur again. But there must be deflation. The only way to avoid deflation is to avoid the antecedent inflation if we are not to break faith with all the people who have put their money at the disposal of the Government in response to appeals. It must be controlled deflation. How is it to be brought about? The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to "deflation" as an ominous word. So it is. But in order to consider the remedy we must first look a: the causes of the inflation that has come about. To the capital inflation which has come about there have been, I think, three main contributory causes. The first is the cheap money policy. Now, I take my share of responsibility for the cheap money policy. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that we could not get on without it; that we could not support the burden of our indebtedness without the cheap money policy. Where I disagree with him is not in regard to the cheap money policy, nor in regard to the objective of the cheap money policy, but in regard to the speed with which that policy has been pursued. I have said before, that in the matter of interest rates 1183 there is, in my opinion, a psychological as well as an economic aspect. I think it would have been much better—although it is easy to make mistakes in these matters —to have proceeded at a somewhat slower pace.
I think, however, that there has been a much more serious contributory cause, and that is what my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) referred to when he spoke of making mobile capital which was static. That process has gone on at a tremendous pace. All the compensation which has to be paid in connection with nationalisation takes that form. Assets which were fixed become converted into securities which can be deposited with the banks, can be a basis of credit, and so forth. The increased Death Duties, as I pointed out in connection with the Budget discussions last spring, have a marked inflationary tendency. Then there is, for example, a proposal which has not yet come into operation, but which is embodied in the Town and Country Planning Bill, to make avail able a very large sum of money by way of compensation, which ought to be made available—there is no disagreement about that—but which is to be made available all at once. Now, that will have a most pronounced inflationary effect. The third contributory cause—as has been pointed out by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery—is the very heavy rate at which Government expenditure is proceeding. Somehow or other that must be cut down.
Now may I say a few words in regard to food subsidies? Because the holding down of the price level by means of subsidies, which are mainly subsidies on food, has produced, is producing and will continue to produce a marked lack of balance in our economy. There, again, I venture to offer some criticism of the right hon. Gentleman. I think that the danger here could have been foreseen. In 1944, in my Budget, I proposed to allow the price level to move slowly in an upward direction. I was castigated from the benches opposite for doing so. I was told that I was deliberately encouraging inflation. But what I had in mind was to call attention, in a marked and forcible way, to a real danger—to use the Chancellor's own metaphor of yesterday, you cannot go on shoring up the dam against which the rising 1184 tide of economic pressure is pounding. Unless something can be done about food subsidies, we shall get into a very serious position before long.
Now, I am not going to suggest any sudden cutting down of subsidies. I very well realise the difficult situation that would result therefrom. I realise very clearly the hardships that would result, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot himself pointed out, to people with small incomes, small investment incomes, pensioners, the great variety of people whose incomes have not kept pace with the general rise in wages and remuneration. But I think some thing must be done to mark, in an impressive and convincing way, the fact—for it is a fact—that the present state of affairs cannot continue. I shall say no more on that because the Chancellor indicated yesterday that he was going to deal with the matter of food subsidies in his Budget Speech.
Just a word on the school-leaving age. I share the views that have been expressed by various speakers, including the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party, about the raising of the school age. All I will say is, that the Government ought to be thinking very carefully indeed now, if this proposal goes through, they are going to explain to the public at large the apparent inconsistency of taking this step, which will divert a certain number—I am not quite sure how many—young men and young women, from productive industry, at a moment when so much stress is being laid on our manpower situation. I say that the Government must consider very carefully how they would explain that. I am not advocating a reversal of the policy at all. [Interruption.] I say that the Government must explain, because if they do not they will create the very misunderstandings that I have tried to point out it is so essential to clear away. It is very necessary to remove misunderstandings. Hon. Members are labouring under one at this moment. It is very necessary when action is being taken—for whatever reason, with whatever justification—which appears, on the face of it, to be inconsistent with the general situation which faces the country, that adequate explanations should be given frankly and freely by the responsible Government of the day. They only can undertake that task.
1185 Now I am going to deal with another subject which may be controversial, though I am going to try to avoid controversy on it; and that is the question of wage rates—wage rates and reduced hours. The argument for a shorter working week for the coal mining industry may be as strong as the Minister of Labour suggested in his speech; it may be as strong as the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Labour Party indicated; but it does require clear explanation, because there are other workers who will think, unless they have an explanation, and unless it is convincing, that they have got as good a case for reduced hours. I am not opposed to reduced hours. I am all for more leisure. I have always wanted more leisure myself than I have ever been able to secure. I am all for it. But at this very moment when we must get every ounce of production that we can out of the working population, to talk of shorter hours seems, at first blush, grossly inconsistent. There, again, misunderstanding must be removed. It must be made clear, not merely as the White Paper states, that any further increase of wages must be justified by increased production; it ought to be made clear that increases of wages that have been obtained in the past need to be justified by corresponding improvement in production.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred more than once to the particular case of the building trade, where he said that output was far from satisfactory. I am glad that he referred to that, because it seems to me to be a glaring case; and, without reflecting upon anybody, I would say that it is perfectly clear, and ought to be clear to hon. Members in all parts of the House, that the labour in the building industry has for a long time been levying a toll on the general community: it has been demanding more for the services it renders than it would be willing or, indeed, able to pay for the product in its capacity as the owner or the occupier of the house which it is engaged in building. That is a situation which certainly requires attention. I know of the difficulties about special labour incentives in the building trade. An attempt was made in the time of the Coalition Government to secure the introduction of beneficial changes in that respect. But I hope His Majesty's Government will go on, and not rest content until they have made quite certain that 1186 this serious under production in the building industry is corrected.
There is another matter not referred to, I think, by any previous speaker which, I think, demands attention from His Majesty's Government, and that is the turn-round of ships. If we look round at the ports of this country we shall find that they are full of ships; and yet the amount of tonnage turned round, the amount of tonnage put through, is only about 50 per cent. of normal. The amount of goods handled is considerably more than 50 per cent., but the amount of tonnage handled is only 50 per cent. That is a matter of very serious import at the present time.
§ Sir J. Anderson
It is not for me to say why. I do not know. I think it is partly lack of understanding, on the part of labour, of the plight in which the country is now. I believe that there is plenty of good will; the relations, to the best of my knowledge, are very good; but there is, somehow or another, a failure on the part of the leaders to bring home to the men the necessity for a better effort in the loading and discharge of ships in our ports.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not put the whole of that emphasis on the turn-round at home. This shipping problem is affected very much by the turn-round, of which we have had experience, in loading and unloading abroad.
§ Sir J. Anderson
I am talking only of the turn-round of ships in harbours at home, which is not affected by what hap pens abroad.
§ Mr. Williamson (Brigg)
Wou114, the right hon. Gentleman tell us something of the equipment and the efficiency of the equipment?
§ Sir J. Anderson
The equipment is no worse than it was during the war. It is no use minimising these things. I am not making charges against anyone. I am expressing to the House, as I think I am entitled to do, and not in a controversial manner at all, certain things which. I think demand attention.
Now a word about taxation. I agree with hon. Gentlemen who have empha- 1187 sised the hampering effect of excessive taxation. I believe this is a matter that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will do well to consider very carefully indeed. As the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan) pointed out yesterday, we have to find, somehow or other, a compromise between the disadvantages of excessive taxation and the need to raise the maximum amount of revenue; and some sort of compromise must be found, for I am sure the Chancellor will agree with me that taxation in these days is to be regarded not only as a means of raising the necessary revenue for the Exchequer, but as a most powerful economic instrument, and we must see to it that that instrument is not used against the country's interests on a long view. That is all I wish to submit for the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman on that issue.
I turn to another topic. I want to discuss the national interest in relation to the profit motive. We have been told, again and again, that one of the main purposes of the Socialist plan, is to replace the profit motive by reference to the public interest. I do not think the two things are strictly comparable at all. In the first place, it is going to be extremely difficult to determine in all cases, or even in most cases, exactly where the public interest lies when it comes to planning in detail. The statistical data are often not available, or they become available too late. When they are available, they may be difficult to interpret. I have heard it said, in a semi-jocular vein, that if a man of science was called upon to fore cast what the weather would be in two or three days' time, from the meteorological data which are unquestionably available somewhere or other, he would be able to do it with certainty, but only after a delay of some three or four months. That may be a gross exaggeration, but I venture to say that there is a good deal of truth in the illustration, and the point I want to put to the right hon Gentlemen opposite is that planning, to be successful, must be on broad lines.
As to any attempt to carry out their planning in detail, they will find nothing which can take the place of the collective judgment of men who have grown up in the various businesses, to whom it has become second nature to form judgments on the probable course of events. In the 1188 White Paper, the statement is very wisely made, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to it, that the Government alone cannot handle this problem of planning. They must bring in the organisations of employers and workers. That is all right up to a point; it is perfectly right that the co-operation of organisations of employers and workers should be sought, but I venture to say it will not do the whole business, and it is essential that we should not delude ourselves into thinking that the process of conscious planning can be carried to a point at which the details can be settled by the planners. Planning must be on broad lines.
For one thing, the master minds are not available all down the line. We see them in front of us, perhaps, but, down the line, the work has to be done by bodies of officials, who have no discretion to decide for themselves, and the only course which is consistent with the national interest is to rely on the skilled judgment of men who have grown up in the various businesses. I know that I am not alone in holding this view. I was much interested only a few days ago to read that someone whom I know very well, with whom I had the pleasure to work some years ago, and who is a very respected member of the Socialist Party—Mr. J. R. Clynes—had to say. He said:The programme for national prosperity calls for experts who know their jobs and their markets. Patchy, State-inspired planning is not always as effective in practice as in theory, and we must give a freer hand to science and experience in industry. We must encourage and not antagonise the industrialists.I agree with every word of that, and I shall be very surprised if there are not many hon. Gentlemen opposite who also agree. I was pleased to hear what the President of the Board of Trade had to say about organisations within the Government establishments for making planning more effective. I think that the idea of the joint planning staff, which was so successful during the war, is entirely sound. To employ a joint planning staff on the lines followed in the war would avoid creating a super-organisation which I always think is a bad thing. The joint planners are drawn from the Departments concerned and remain in their Departments, but they collaborate in the preparation of properly co-ordinated plans.
1189 That expedient was adopted in the military sphere and with great success during the war, and I am glad to hear that it is going to be employed in the economic sphere.
I have one further point with which I wish to deal. I notice that, when this "economic blizzard," as it has been called, first broke upon us, the Prime Minister said something to the effect that it was all the more reason for pressing on with the various plans that the Government have for nationalisation and so forth. I venture to hope very much that the Government are not going to adhere to that idea. The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday commended to the House an article in the "Daily Herald" which I have since read. It is a good one. I want to commend to the House a letter in "The Times" today, with which also I very much agree. I hope that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, will study the letter from Miss Violet Markham. She points out that it is really incompatible with the gravity of the crisis in which we find ourselves today that time and effort should be devoted, on the scale on which it is being devoted, to far-reaching measures which cannot possibly make any contribution to the alleviation of our pre sent ills but must. on the other hand, divert effort and energy, create disunity, raise false hopes, and confuse people's minds.
Why have the Government been so intent on pressing forward with these plans? They have made certain pledges. I respect people who do their best to carry out their pledges. I think I made that clear enough in the India Debate. But what was the mandate of the Government—if they had a mandate—from the electors? It was given to them, at best, by 35 to 37 per cent. of the electorate. They were returned to power by a minority of the votes cast, and if it was a mandate for doing certain things which the Government are now proceeding to do surely there was no mandate at all, either as to method or as to timing. I say that the Government will never succeed in doing what I suggested at the outset of my speech it was essential to do, in convincing the public of the need for a tremendous united effort so long as they are engaged on this apparently incompatible task of putting through a series of great nationalisation Measures.
1190 Would right hon. Gentlemen opposite just think for a moment of the fate of the dinosaurs in a remote geological age which, after a period of grotesque and portentous over-development, vanished from the face of the earth because they had outstripped the possibilities of their environment? Would they not feel very sad if a similar fate were to overtake some of their more monstrous conceptions?
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Grey (Durham)
If, in dealing with the subject of the mining industry, I deliberately avoid talking about the five-day week, about equipment, food for the miners and houses, I do so because I feel that Members on both sides of the House have dealt sufficiently with these subjects. I want to make one or two observations which, I believe, have not been made before. I do not think there ever was a time in the history of this country when there was so much publicity given to the mining industry and the Ministry of Fuel and Power. Coal is still the topic of the day. The activities and speeches of the Minister of Fuel and Power have been given great prominence in the Press. If there has been a Bevin boy who has declared his love for mining work which, unhappily, has not been shared by those who knew more about pit work than he does, then that has been given great prominence in the Press; if there has been any supposed quibbling between the Minister of Fuel and Power and the trade unions that has been played up in the Press.
I believe that the miners are sick of this sort of this, and long for the day when this great industry will have some privacy, when it will be remote from the disturbed and unsettling influence of public controversy. But so long as there is a position to exploit I believe that that day will be a long way off. There are certain sections of the community who have persisted in surrounding the miner with all the idiotic technique with which they treat a film star of a glamour girl. This sort of treatment is futile. There are not many people who deal with the really regrettable fact that the young generation of today will not have anything to do with pit work if they can possibly avoid it. Further, the young men in the pits have not their hearts in their work to the same extent as their fathers had, and this should 1191 be recognised and something done to meet it. We do not need to give the miner an extra 3d. of meat in order to expect coal output to increase by millions of tons. We must overthrow the over-riding curse of the industry, which is the deep-rooted objection to tackling pit work.
It is my view that coal output will not rise to any great extent until the miner is relieved of the deep apprehension that was his continuous lot during the days of depression, and until he is convinced that mining is a vital and honourable career. Speeches made in this House will not get coal. That can only be obtained at the coal face. Speeches, exhortations, scientific analyses, and the appointment of boards of experts will avail nothing. The miner must be rid of the deep resentment he feels about his previous maltreatment. In the crisis through which we are passing it is not enough to talk to the miner and the public through the medium of the Press, wireless, or Parliament. "Pep" talks, no matter how persistent, will not produce an extra nugget of coal. The miner must feel that he has a vested interest in, and a close association with, the industry. The establishment of boards of officials and committees will be sheer waste of time and money if there is not intimate association with the man at the colliery.
One vital necessity at present is that the personnel of the National Coal Board must have the confidence of every miner. It would be foolish to deny that there has been suspicion and criticism, that doubts and fears still remain. Confidence can only be achieved when these fears are removed. Miners cannot be too happy when they see certain people established in lucrative posts. While I have no doubt that these men will serve the National Coal Board as well as they served their previous employers, our miners must be forgiven if they remember the past with loathing and distaste. Therefore, I urge the National Coal Board to secure the confidence of every young and old miner by its own integrity and sincerity. If that is accomplished I have no fear for the future.
I would like to say a word on recruitment. I feel that some pronouncement ought to be made in this House by a responsible Minister that the mining industry is not in a state of decline. I find that many parents will not allow their sons to enter the mining industry because they visualise that something else will soon be 1192 found to take the place of coal, and that the need for this great raw material will be reduced. I think that a definite statement ought to be made that, no matter what the future holds in regard to any new form of power, coal will always be needed in this country in larger quantities, because of its valuable derivatives. In a word, dispel the fear of future unemployment.
On the question of policy, the Board will have to see that its long-term plans do not interfere with the immediate problem, because the position is too serious and the need too great. What is happening with regard to the colliery managers? Have they more power than they used to have? I know from experience that the work of enterprising colliery managers can be easily frustrated when working on the old system of passing on responsibility to the agent and from the agent to some celestial body called the owners. That kind of thing was never a success.
I believe that in the county of Durham there are still too many men who have to go to work at one, two and three o'clock in the morning. It is hard to describe what a man looks like, never mind what he feels like, at such an unearthly hour. The fantastic story is told of a man who was seen proceeding to work very early in the morning, carrying, as he thought, his packed meal in a tin can with a handle fixed to the top. He was actually at work before he discovered that it was not his packed meal but the alarm clock. No man can be expected to be at his best at those particular times, and to work under conditions which demand the last ounce of energy of which he is capable. I realise the difficulty that there will be to rearranging the times of shifts. I say that these particular shifts ought to be reduced to the lowest possible number.
As to officialdom in the pits, many hon. Members opposite, on the Second Reading of the Coal Nationalisation Bill, objected to it because they found that there would be Departmental officials, and I entirely agree that there ought not to be an army of these experts. I feel that there should not be so much officialdom in the pits. The Minister of Labour gave certain figures covering the whole of the mining industry. How many officials are included in those figures? After 1926, men were working for 6d. and 6½d. per day subsistence wage. There was no in- 1193 centive for the men to work, so they created officialdom to make them work, and it was not difficult for any man with imagination to almost hear the blacksmith hammering out the collars and chains to fasten round their necks, wrists and ankles to keep them chained there. I find these figures for County Durham. In December, 1946, there were 101,317 persons employed, plus 3,900 deputies, plus 4,000 officials, which means that for every 26¼ workmen there is one deputy, and for slightly more than 25 workmen, both a deputy and an official. It is well to remember that that was under private enterprise. Is there a tendency to increase the number, because, if there is, we shall be taking men from more productive work and enlarging upon a system which the miners have grown to detest.
The miner is like the average Britisher; he is at his best when facing a crisis. There is nothing wrong with a body of men who, despite crippling circumstances and difficulties, are increasing the production; and the House cannot withhold its gratitude to the mining community. I know that prophecy is dangerous, but I would predict that, before 1950, the mining industry will have solved the production shortage to such an extent as to meet its prewar export demands.
§ 6.37 P.m.
Lady Grant (Aberdeen, South)
In asking the indulgence of the House for a maiden speech, I am very conscious that hon. Members have told me, with vivid description, that it is a most horrible experience. Perhaps, however, I am justified in taking part in this great Debate because of having, not long ago, fought a by-election, where the issues were plainly put before the people: whether they were, or were not satisfied with the Government's performance to date. In the north-East corner of Scotland at least, the people join together to censure decisively the Government's record of the last 20 months. That is perhaps more significant because South Aberdeen can fairly claim to be a good cross-section of the life of this country. It is an industrial and urban division, and a central market for one of the finest agricultural districts —with apologies to other hon. Members—and is, I think, a city which is fully representative of the commercial life of Scotland. Coming, as I do, from over 1194 the Border, I cannot resist reminding the House of the growing feeling of nationalism, due to the Government's policy of centralised control. We of the North, who have many geographical and climatic conditions to contend with, have in long years learned to take the initiative in running our affairs to a very large extent. Now we find enterprise taken from us and placed in the hands of the Sassenachs, who fail to understand the peculiar characteristics of the Scottish race. In the United Kingdom generally, I think that it is fair to say that great numbers of people consider that, for this country to have been brought to this grave economic situation, the Government have squandered both time and victory.
Therefore, perhaps, in this Debate on manpower, it would be fitting if I said a word about the attraction of women into industry. I do not refer to the great number who have made industry a career, but to the 960,000 who have left it since July, 1945, a large number of whom it is hoped to persuade to return. It is very good to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour that every possible effort is being made to get special conditions for those women who do not normally make industry a career. I venture to suggest that as long as the ordinary job of keeping house is made so unnecessarily difficult that no great number of women will be prepared to go out and undertake a double job. The conditions prevailing today are largely due, if I may say so, to the housing policy of the Government which has resulted in gross overcrowding, and all hon. Members know how difficult it is to live for a long time with one's family, however kindly. Then there is still the ever-present battle to feed, clothe, and warm the family under conditions that are far worse than they were in 1945.
I was very interested to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said yesterday regarding the distributive trades. I trust that in any redistribution of industry the distributive trades will not be further depleted, because otherwise we will only have another vicious circle with queues growing longer and with even more people spending half the day trying to live the other half. Women have been much praised for the part they have played in the nation's life, but oddly enough I do not think they always want to be told 1195 that they are wonderful. They are ready and proud to play their part, but I do know from personal contact with many in all walks of life and particularly in Scotland, that there are vast numbers who consider that the Government are guilty of gross maladministration and neglect of the ordinary necessities of daily living. I suggest respectfully that in so doing they sap the mental and physical vitality of our people and do much to destroy what largely is at the root of all our production problems—the will to work.
In that connection I should like to speak of that great key to production, the will to work, on a larger subject; that of industrial relations. I can only touch on the fringe of it because of the time limitation and the wide nature of this Debate, but I do think that there are certain influences at work in industry which do much to destroy the output per man hour. Particularly I would refer to the restrictive practices which were born of the past when there was the old dread of insecurity and unemployment. Now we are at the time of a seller's market and industrial expansion, and I would suggest to the trades unions that they have a high responsibility to the whole nation to proclaim that those same restrictive practices are now out dated. Furthermore, as my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) said earlier, this is not a time to ask for more wages and a shorter working week. Those things obviously must come. It is our aim in politics to make life easier, more fruitful and more pleasant as the years go on, but I suggest that we are now engaged in a primitive struggle for survival and that the trade unions have a magnificent opportunity for leadership in ensuring a full day's work for a full day's pay.
There have been many true facts and fine principles enunciated in the White Paper, but, I suggest, no forcible leadership and no courageous statement of policy regarding the output per man hour. One can understand that a Labour Government may find it difficult so to do because as a child of the trade union movement it might have to face unpleasant facts and bitter criticism from its own supporters. It is true to say that great work has been done in the past by the unions in the way of industrial organisation, but they have of late years tended to concentrate far 1196 more on political as opposed to economic issues I have myself often wondered in industry whether the leaders of the unions are always representative of their best men. It always seems to me that in the factories and workshops the man who gets elected to office is the man who shouts most, and it seems that many will not stand for election as shop stewards because they prefer peace and quiet rather than the agitation of office. I feel that perhaps much should be done to overcome this concentration on political, as opposed to economic, issues, and close the cleft between employer and employee by measures designed to create an understanding of the difficulties, responsibilities and skill of each section of industry.
One welcomes the announcement made yesterday that a small board is to be set up between all sides of industry, and I do trust that this will filter right down to the man and woman who are on the job. Because surely in these days of great, monotonous and repetitive processes, people often feel that they have no individual status or share in the shaping of events. They are just one more number on the clocking-in machine. I have often felt instinctively that in all social, political and economic problems it is all important to conserve and foster the personal touch. I would, therefore, hope that the trade unions will now throw aside all restrictive practices and refrain from injurious demands for higher wages and a shorter working week in the face of the tremendous events that have, after all, taken charge of everyone of us. The Labour Party can surely, in their call for the co-operation of the nation, expect to have the fullest measure of support from their own trade unions. If not, I suggest that the Government would be widely respected if they took a firm lead in relation to these matters. In fact, one would say it would be their finest hour if they ensured that a very great nation was not to be held to ransom by organised labour.
Very respectfully I suggest that the Government should now act as a national Government and forget the wanton acts committed in the past which have done so much to destroy the morale of the working people of this country. I refer to the propaganda that Labour in power meant easier living and also the division of the nation by the stirring of class consciousness. We must now act together, 1197 united in the face of great dangers, at a time when, on the Continent, untold suffering is sowing the seeds of bitterness, evil germs that, for all we know, may well be the forerunners of tremendous alien political movements.
I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for having allowed me to catch your eye. I wanted particularly to take part in this Debate because I do feel strongly that the Government have still time, if they wish, to show strong leadership, and that they can tackle the colossal problems of the White Paper with vision, judgment and responsible leadership. If they can do so, even in the face of this desperate situation which confronts us today, if they can, and only if they can, they will have united behind them the great spirit of a fine people who will gladly rise to face this fresh menace of our industrial age.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I am sure that this is one of the few occasions when I can speak for hon. Members on all sides of the House in congratulating the hon. Lady. In a maiden speech, she has shown a dignity and command of language that one must admire in an Assembly of this kind. She has also delivered very keen thrusts, but they were tempered with humour. I am sure she is a very valuable Member of the party to which she belongs. She has advanced its theories in a lucid and persuasive manner; she has the additional attribute of being kindly to the eye, and all parties realise what an asset that is. As a humble Low-lander, may I congratulate my Highland colleague on her very fine speech this evening. With the confidence and ability she possesses, she need have no fear of addressing the House in future. I feel certain that hon. Members will look forward to hearing her speeches with interest, if not, perhaps, with general agreement.
This very serious Debate has shown that hon. Members in every part of the House agree that we are dealing with a very grave position for this country. At the same time I realise that party interests are sometimes inclined to play too strong a part, and that prejudice and bias too often come into Debates when we are concerned with national issues and the national effort. This country is going through a period of very severe crisis, and if we are honest it must be admitted, from 1198 every quarter of the House, that it was inevitable that this crisis should develop if we had a period of severe weather. I remember during the war years speaking to the right hon. Gentleman, the then Minister of Fuel and Power, during the month of January. I said to him, in a friendly tone, "How is Fuel and Power?" He replied, "I have my fingers crossed. If we get beyond the back end of the season without a very cold spell, it will not be too bad. But if we have a very cold spell, then God help us." I take it that this was the position of our country all along, and that the intervention of the very cold weather accentuated the crisis to the extent that demands were being made on fuel and power at an unprecedented rate. During the cold spell a woman in my area who had had some coal delivered said to the coalman, "I am afraid the Labour Government have been let down. They have nationalised the coal mines but it seems to me to be the quarries which need attention." The poor quality of coal certainly made things a, great deal worse.
I heard the speech last evening of another compatriot of mine, the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan), which was, I think, a splendid analysis of the situation and had not in it that complete party character which one finds in a large number of the speeches made on this situation. With regard to the coal situation I have felt from the very beginning that the Government have been very badly served in the matter of publicity and in the answer and the statement of the case to the general public as to the reasons for the complete breakdown. I remember being in my own area at a meeting where I answered questions for an hour. Every question was both intelligent and reasonable, and the people were serious-minded so that I had no difficulty in putting up a case in defence of the Government. Let me say—without any desire to be provocative—that if hon. Members on the Labour side, instead of swamping the country with speeches about Ernest Bevin's foreign policy, would go into their own areas and explain to the workers the reasons for this holdup and all the trouble, they would discover that the workers are prepared to listen intently and seriously to what they have to say. The Govern- 1199 ment are in need of first-class publicity and it is necessary for everyone of the key people throughout the country to get on to the platform and make a complete defence of the Government.
As I understand it, hon. Members of the Opposition have been saying that what is wanted is to desert the policy adopted at the General Election. Then they talk of incentives. Are they not aware that one of the greatest incentives to the working-class of this country is that a new order is being born and that that incentive of idealism in the minds of a large mass of our working people throughout the country makes them more understanding in their outlook and more tolerant of the position, and not in the least inclined to desert the policy and programme? I can understand the Opposition desiring that, but there is this answer to it. If the Government were to accede to the demand of the Conservative Party for some form of vague national unity, and deserted their policy, they would have the masses of the working classes in open revolt against them. There would be a revolt because they had coalesced with the enemies of Labour and destroyed the aims and ambitions for which many of them had struggled over a lifetime.
In my view, the development which has taken place is due to the fact that we have had two world wars within 25 years, and because a decadent capitalism was unable to deal with the situation in the years when we could have gone ahead in the mines and elsewhere, and in providing all the houses we require. Those who now say that the crisis is upon us, and the Government must now desert their policy and get back to some form of national unity, fail to understand that the only way in which the crisis can be solved is by a new order, which has energy, mental capacity and directive ability be hind it. The ordinary things of life cannot fall like manna from the skies. The people cannot expect, having put the Labour Party in power, that they can now black mail them into giving them all they re quire. That is not the conception at all. The conception is that now the Government have the power, they must use it courageously and energetically, expecting the people to be behind them, while the plans are being unfolded and the new order is being born. The Government 1200 expect the people to fulfil their part, and to drive themselves with even greater energy and enthusiasm than they did during the war to give the tools, the machinery and the products to lay the foundation of that new order. We can only lay the foundations of a decent society by casting aside the last remnants of private enterprise.
I have heard all the difficulties in regard to the mines, and I have not told the miners what I think they should do, because I believed they were better informed and had more correct knowledge than myself on what was required. I have never tried to impose myself in that way. I think, however, there are certain difficulties which could be remedied. Take the question of foreign labour. We are told that one of the great difficulties is the question of language and more space in the mines to employ more workers. Could we not sink a few more mines, and put all the foreign personnel in them, with directors, foremen, engineers and pit managers with knowledge of both languages? We could use Army huts for housing these people. I remember going to a place in Germany where they had imported 3,500 workers to lay out an entirely new town for 70,000 to 80,000 inhabitants. I was told that the difficulties which arose between the Italians and Germans were very great. They were certainly greater than the difficulties between British and Poles. The Italians were easy-going and the Germans wanted discipline. They found that they had to let the Italians work in their own way, and these people were doing a magnificent job in building houses and industries.
The community spirit plays a great part. People should not be put among a lot of strange faces. I remember when I was in Australia for two years meeting people out in the bush. The one thing that daunted them, they told me, was being away from everything and everyone they knew. When people glibly demand the elimination of the five-day week for the miners, let them remember that a tired miner is of less use than the man who has had a chance to recuperate. There was a story told after the last war of a leader who set 300 men to do a certain job. He took another 300 men and divided them up into three separate 100s, and worked them in turn for 20 minutes on the same task. It was found that the 300 men who had been divided up into 1201 groups of 100 accomplished the task in two-thirds of the time taken by the 300 men who worked continuously. The idea is all wrong that a man can go on expending his energies. There has been a refusal by large masses of workers to face up to a task that they really can do. That has grown up, because of the great propaganda and destructive agitation that has gone on. That has to be reversed. The worker who is put on to the job must understand that he is not now fighting and working for a decadent, exploiting system, but is constructing the civilisation of the future, of which our children and our grandchildren will get the benefit. I believe we have to face up to this question in that spirit.
There is only one question to which I must take exception—the conscription of labour for the Armed Forces, which many previous speakers have mentioned. I am not unmindful of the tasks that the war has thrown into the lap of the Government; I am not unmindful of the fact that during the time they have tried to divest themselves of the vested interest of Empire—and some people think it is more difficult to get rid of an Empire than to get one—the Government have been placed in a difficult position. However, with the development of the atomic age, are we really to be told it is essential that young men should now be taken into the Armed Forces at 18 years of age, during this great national crisis? I have a young son who has been conscripted for the Forces, and has gone into the Royal Air Force. He was sent home for three or four weeks because of the short-age of fuel. Boys all over the country are being sent home. They could not get food, they could not get fuel, and a number of them are dying of chills, of "flu," of pneumonia, or are sent home to kick their heels when they should be doing some useful work. Are the Government so wedded to this question of conscription that they cannot desert this policy entirely, realising that we cannot afford one in 14 of the population in the Armed Forces—if we include those dealing with supplies and so forth—and one in six of the young men between 15 and 25 years of age going into the Forces? I say we cannot afford that, and we should not allow it. I am thinking only in terms of the effort which these 1202 young men could contribute, instead of which they are doing nothing useful.
In this crisis, I believe that the main thing we want is for the Government to see that the ordinary men and women should get to know the position. I know the case, I can put forward the case on any platform, I can satisfy anyone of the difficulties that are being encountered. But we must speed up this publicity in defence of the Government, and they must go forward with their plans, realising that to fulfil those plans, is to fulfil pledges to the common people. The real incentive to the people will be to know that in stress and trial, this Labour Government, with for the first time in history, a vast majority are remaining true to the promises and pledges they made to the ordinary men and women.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North)
I would like first to comment upon one or two remarks made by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). I would remind him that the appeal for national unity came from the Prime Minister; that the Prime Minister pointed out that we must have the Dunkirk spirit, and that the crisis was so great that we must all unite in the common interest. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that those of us who do not share the hon. Gentleman's political views might suggest, as my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish, Universities (Sir J. Anderson) suggested just now, that if there is to be that national unity which is asked of us, it would be only fair that there should be a little give and take. Although the hon. Member for Shettleston, and no doubt the whole of the party opposite, are convinced that "Socialism in our time" is the right and proper policy for this country, there is a large body of opinion throughout the country which believes that that is not the case, and that, therefore, this hurried policy of nationalisation which has been adopted by the Government has aroused a vast amount of opposition against it throughout the country, Surely it is not unreasonable for us, in this time of national crisis, to ask that the Government might go a little more quietly in their nationalisation programme, and so avoid those violent party politics which are what we least desire and which are so undesirable in the present circumstances.
1203 I wish to address myself to two or three particular points. My real reason for in tervening in the Debate is that, as a result of that unfortunate last Election, I regret to say that I am the only Conservative Member from the whole of Tyneside, and, therefore, I represent a vast body of opinion which is otherwise unrepresented in this House.
§ Sir C. Headlam
The last of the Mohicans, or the orphan of the storm, or anything else the hon. Gentleman likes, but I represent, nevertheless, a large body of opinion which I must put forward in this House. At the present time on Tyneside there are already signs of unemployment, and industrialists and employees are viewing with great anxiety the course of events. They still have the memory of the bad times between the two wars, and they are fearful that they will come again. This unemployment between the two wars was not due to any lack of coal; indeed, there was a great shortage of work in the pits in Durham and else where at that time.
§ Sir C. Headlam
Because there was no planning, did the hon. Gentleman say? The unemployment at that time was largely due to causes which we could not control, but now the whole problem, as I see it, is one of coal, so far as employment in the heavy industries is concerned. Take shipbuilding, for example. There is no industry in the country I believe which entails the employment of so many sub-contractors as does shipbuilding for the various fittings and appliances required in ships. Already I gather that the building of ships is in danger of being held up, and this at a time when, as the White Paper emphasises, there is a necessity for building more ships. The shortage of the various materials which are necessary for the fitting out of ships is due, no doubt, to the fact that so many of the sub-contractors have had to close down, or partially close down, their factories as a result either of shortage of materials or, latterly, of shortage of fuel and power. I would emphasise the fact that this shows more than ever the vital necessity of a greater production of coal. I do not think for a 1204 moment that the 200 million tons of coal which the Government are demanding, is anything like enough for our national needs.
Yet we were told the other day by one of the miners' leaders—I think it was Mr. Horner—that that amount of coal was beyond the powers of the miners at pre sent. If that is the case I am sure that what my right hon. Friends the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) and the senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan) said last night, and what my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) repeated today, is wise advice, that the Government would be very well advised to purchase foreign coal now If we are successful in producing the coal asked for in this country, and it is really sufficient for our purposes, we should have it in stock, and could no doubt utilise it. We might even be in a position to export a little coal, and so pay back some of the money which the foreign coal would cost.
The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Grey), representing the miner's point of view, emphasised some facts in regard to the psychology of miners. He seemed to me to be living in the past, because most of the grievances which miners suffered have been taken away. They have achieved the nationalisation of the mines, they have higher wages, they have been given various privileges and are promised more. What I am afraid of is something rather different. I well remember at a very critical period of the war there was considerable trouble at some pits in the county of Durham, and production was gravely affected. I suggested to one of the miners' leaders—a very important member of the mining fraternity—that it might be a good thing if he and I went to the pits concerned, as we were known to be strong political opponents, and tried to explain the critical state of the military position, which was then very bad, and adjured the men to work. He agreed to that and we went round to some of these pits. I made my contribution, and he made a very eloquent speech adjuring the men to work. But what was curious was the slight effect his speech seemed to have on them. At that crisis in the war, they were far more interested, indeed, entirely interested, apparently, in, the small local troubles at their own pits. That self-centred feeling has to be got rid of some how or other. There is no doubt that it is 1205 an element in the coalfield at the present time throughout the country, an element which is not under the control of the union leaders.
The hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant) pointed out the importance of the personal touch in industry, and this is intensely so in the mining industry. The men should be led to realise the vital importance of their work to the country, and that without coal this country must undoubtedly go downhill very quickly, and disappear as a great nation. This would lead to a lower standard of living for us all; it would affect all classes of society. We cannot have the new world in which it is to be so pleasant to live, unless we can support the standard of life which is desirable for us all to have in these days. This should be made clear to workers in industry, employers and employees alike —that unless they can put aside their old grievances and troubles, and live in a new world, they will never have a new world in which it will be worth while to live. That point of view should be emphasised by the Government in every way. If it is the intention of the Government to carry on their Socialist policy, and to proceed with nationalisation, they should at the same time point out that nationalisation really carries us nowhere; that it is only by work that men can live, and only by doing their utmost can they be of use to society. That is what we have to learn in this national crisis.
An industry which I do not think has yet been mentioned in this Debate is agriculture. It is upon agriculture and coal that we have to depend to weather the storm. Whilst everything is being done to help the miner—and that will have to be explained to other heavy industry workers—nothing is being done, so far as I can see, to encourage the agricultural worker. I trust that the, Government will bear in mind the importance of agriculture, and will do more than is set out in the White Paper in the interests of agriculture. I honestly believe that if we can induce the miners to work their hardest —and they can do the work necessary in a five-day week if they choose—we shall soon get back to our old position in which we not only had all the coal we needed for our domestic consumption, but also coal for export.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Manchester, Hulme)
I think it is a great pity that the economic troubles of the nation could not be discussed in this House without the Opposition deciding that it was an appropriate subject on which to move a Vote of Censure. If all the Government had to do was to prove their case, and to show their ability in swinging over the nation from war to peace in a manner somewhat in excess of and more success fully than that achieved by those who now move Votes of Censure, when they were in charge following the 1914–18 war, the Government would have very little to fear.
The things the Government have accomplished are deserving of the very greatest credit. I am afraid that in this respect the Government are their own greatest enemies, for they have never attempted to tell the people of their great accomplishments. The swing over of 4¼ million men and women, some of them brought from the far flung corners of the earth, when shipping was in short supply and in great demand for other purposes, and the swing over of more millions from war to peace production, practically without a pocket of unemployment showing itself anywhere, will be seen, when the history of the Government comes to be written, to be one of the greatest feats of British states manship since democratic government came to this country. Certainly, it bears favourable comparison with what obtained in the less difficult conditions following the 1914–18 war.
One of the greatest criticisms we on these benches have to make of the Government is their unbelievably poor public relations departments. We know that it is not part of the Government policy merely to pose and display themselves, but at a time when we have such a complexity of problems, and at a time of such great stringency, it is not only a question of advertising the Government, it is at the heart of the problem of keeping up the morale of the people themselves.
Why should the Government be afraid to tell the people what they have done? That would be one of the greatest inspirations towards increasing that productivity which we now so badly need. The history of the war shows that if the people are aware of a problem, I care not how vast it is, they do not, at least in 1207 this country, buckle under because of hard news. It is, in fact, one of the greatest and most inspiring things to our temperament when we are up against the wall and have to fight for our very existence. I submit that from now on the Government must pay great attention indeed to their public relations.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)
I must remind the hon. Member that during the war the Ministry of Information, for example, never attempted to keep up public morale; we would not insult the public in that way. At the present time the Government have many thousands of public relations officers of various kinds.
§ Mr. Lee
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's point, but I still make 'the point that so far as the Government are concerned they have accomplished great things, and that whilst they may not wish merely to use the public relations departments for advertising of a political character, they owe it as a duty to the people—a report, if you will—that they should be told precisely what has taken place. I maintain that point.
This question of productivity is vital. Now, for the first time in our history, large numbers of our workpeople are being asked to believe that full production will not bring unemployment in times of peace. I suggest that it is necessary that that point should be explained to them. People below 40 years of age have never known full employment in peace time in this country. Therefore, it is necessary that it should be technically explained why unemployment is not at all likely under these conditions. It may be a revolutionary thought, but, nevertheless, it must be hammered home that full production is now the only guarantee of full employment, and that the greatest threat to full employment is under-production. It is most necessary that a point of that type should be hammered home.
It may well be, though I feel rather like the right hon. Gentleman, in that I do not want to insult the public, that unless the reasons for our shortages today are explained they may believe headlines in the "Evening Standard" and papers of that type—[An HON. MEMBER: "The 'Financial Times'."]—I do not say the "Financial Times" But let them see that our shortages are not explained by the kind of sophistry put forward in those 1208 papers but that the policy of the Government has resulted in a great redistribution of income which has brought us to the position that the 1938 standard of production, now surpassed in many of our basic industries, is no longer any use, mainly because the people as a whole can now afford to buy the necessities of life. Let the Government make a bigger point in that direction.
During the course of this Debate, I have listened with interest to financial questions which have been discussed, mostly from the opposite side of the House, matters relating to inflation. We are getting to the old basis of being told that the supply of money, the purchasing power of the nation, is far in excess of the goods which it can purchase. I feel that those arguments have a ring of 1931 about them. I believe that the Government would do well to disregard such arguments, for one of the greatest reasons why we retain the confidence of the people is because they are certain that never again will a Labour Government listen to May Committee Reports and act on them. Let us remember that our policy is not to reduce purchasing power to the level of available goods; it is the harder and more serious proposition of bringing up the quantity of goods available to the level of purchasing power which we now see in the country. That is most important in the policy of the Government.
It has been said that the White Paper does not give any remedies for the ills it shows. I am in full agreement with that argument. Remedies are not suggested in the White Paper, and I want to suggest one or two, in addition to those I have already put forward. During the war I did my bit as far as appealing to workers in industry was concerned. We got a re sponse. It is so necessary now, if we are to get a response from the workers, that they should fully understand that we will demand equal sacrifice—sacrifice on the basis of ability to sacrifice—from all sections of society of this nation, not merely sacrifices from the workers themselves. I have a suggestion to offer in this respect. One of our biggest difficulties will be the mechanisation and modernisation of industry. I suggest to the Government that they should insist on a certain fixed percentage of profits being frozen and utilised for the early provision of modernising and mechanising the particular industries from which those profits accrue. By actions of that kind we can show that we are not 1209 merely asking and expecting that those who always sacrifice shall sacrifice again, but shall be in excellent company in that they will be asked to sacrifice on the ratio of ability to do so, with all sections of the community.
I am not satisfied that even in the industries which are to be nationalised, or which are already nationalised, we are doing enough in the way of giving workers a share in the control of those industries. From my war experience I know that some good work was performed in certain factories by production committees, but I challenge contradiction to my statement that in a great many of those factories and institutions the production committee was merely a sham and a farce. That was so because we were never able to get from the employers costings, prices and delivery dates and why one priority was demanded instead of another, information which was essential if we were to play our part in production committees. We always found that when ever a workers' representative on the committee put a point of view, if the employer failed to accept it, that was the end of the story. Failure to agree meant that the employer had his way in that particular matter. I suggest that if we are to get full co-operation in these important matters we must set up national boards in each industry, boards with executive authority, upon which an equal number of employers and trade unionists will be under a Government appointed chairman; that we shall also have in regions the same type of board, and that factory production committees should have the ability to seek a decision from the regional board as to who is right and who is wrong, if necessary. Only by that method can we expect to obtain and keep the full co-operation of these workers in the factories.
I turn for a moment to the manpower position. Do the Government believe that there is an overall shortage of workers? If so, what method do they propose to adopt to increase the number? On all sides of this House the idea of the direction of labour has been rejected—for the moment, rightly. I wonder whether we are equally justified in refusing to accept direction of labour for certain people who are in fact doing no labour? I do not know whether the word "spivs" is a Parliamentary expression, but it seems to me that in these days we are 1210 suffering from a curse of "spivs" have never found, and I do not want to find, a method of getting anything without working for it. It seems to me, however, that a very large number of people in the gaming saloons one can see around London are getting "a very good living, thank you" without much thought or work. I think we could agree that the time has come when such parasites—I know "parasites" is a word used freely in this House, but I use it deliberately—should be forced to do a job of work. They should be given a time limit in which to get their own job and, after that, the Government would be justified, and would have the backing of the people, in forcing these people to do a job of work. The more onerous the job, the better some of us would like it. I will not enlarge too much on the "spivs". I will leave the matter to hon. Members.
In the White Paper the Government rightly have pointed out that they would like a large number of women, who at the end of the war left industry, to return to work. That is a most important point in swelling the numbers of pairs of hands which are available, and I agree with it. But again, it is not sufficient merely to ask women to return to work unless we can make conditions such that they will allow them to go back to work. We know of the contentious point about equal pay for equal work. I feel that the time is now appropriate for the Government to give a lead in this direction by accepting the principle of equal pay for equal work so far as the people under their jurisdiction are concerned. Also, at the very time when we call for so many married women, the Minister of Health has reduced, or taken away, the grants for nurseries and places in which the children of married women could be accommodated whilst their parents were at work. I hope the Government will look seriously at this problem of providing facilities to enable married women to return to work instead of merely asking them to do so in the national interest without taking further steps. These things are most important.
The question of the return of women to work perhaps is more vital than would appear on the surface, During the war period, because of the shortage of skilled male labour, industry adapted itself to the use of female labour. In very many jobs which had been performed by highly 1211 skilled men, the processes were broken down, jigged and tooled, and performed in sequence by woman labour. Although many of those alterations were not economic, very many were and it is true to say, perhaps in the light engineering industry in particular, that the method of production has changed permanently because of the introduction of women during the war. We are now faced with the position, because of that change in method of production, that there are not now the women available, and highly skilled men are forced to do these jobs which could be performed by women, whilst more serious jobs concerning the production of plant, etc., which could be done by men stand idle because the men are not available. That is a most important consideration. It affects two grades of labour power, both men and women. I hope the Government will look again at the whole question of the employment of women and will give a lead in the right direction.
In the White Paper the Government have broken down in a convenient way the figures of workpeople and have told us the target at which they aim in a number of industries. At the risk of being told that I am asking for too many figures, I would say that the figures for each industry again must be broken down. I feel—and probably hon. Gentlemen opposite would agree in this—that in the past ten years or so, the number of un productive workers employed on paper work throughout the whole range of British industry has increased probably by five or ten per cent. Whilst we are correct in allocating certain numbers to each industry, it is more than necessary that we should know precisely what jobs they are doing in that industry to ensure that they are doing a job which is adequate to the time in which we live, or to make them available for some other form of work.
It has been said in this Debate that the Government have exported too much of certain articles. Heavy steel products have been mentioned. My criticism of the Government on the question of exports is not that they are exporting even generating plant and articles of that type. My criticism is that at a time when we are short in our supplies of coal and steel, the Government are expending a far greater percentage of our coal and steel 1212 upon the production of what, I submit, are unnecessary things—motor cars and so on—instead of giving a far greater percentage to basic industries such as those producing generating plants. If once we get our nose into certain Continental countries by the sale of such plant, we can hold the market even at the time when the seller's market has gone. I think it will be agreed that it is not merely a question of getting in first with the sale of turbines and so on. It is a matter of once having established that trading relationship, alterations, repairs and replenishments will naturally flow to the place from which the first installation came. Therefore, I believe it is necessary that the Government should look at this problem and consider the type of thing upon which we should expend our coal and steel. They should be expended only upon those things which would have a long-term value.
Inducements to people in industry is another matter which gives food for thought. I think that it is necessary, in the case of those industries in which we decide there is a need, that we should agree not only to give higher pay, but to provide more food, clothing coupons and other things, including, after a certain time in that industry, priority so far as housing is concerned. I think that is the only manner in which we can induce our men and women to go into the industries which we now consider to be "priority one." Much has been said about mechanisation. This is a question which must be examined by experts who understand the type of product upon which we depend. I know that in textiles, agriculture, transport, and so on, we are woefully lacking in the degree of mechanisation which we have achieved. We must concentrate all our efforts upon the modernisation of such industries.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that agriculture in this country is more mechanised than in any other country in the world.
§ Mr. Lee
That may be, but I do not think the hon. Gentleman would argue that mechanisation of agriculture in this country has reached anything like the degree that we hope to attain. I have heard Questions put to the Minister of Agriculture this week in which complaints 1213 have been made about the export of agricultural implements while farmers are waiting to get them in this country. Perhaps the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) will argue the matter out with the hon. Gentleman who asked the Questions. It is necessary that we should discriminate very closely in regard to the question of mechanisation.
It is true to say that in the years to come the basis of British craftsmanship will be ability to produce those off-standard things which neither the United States nor any other country with a robot type of production system can produce. That will be our greatest asset when the seller's market has gone. For that reason it is so necessary—this is an answer to those who talk about delaying the raising of the school leaving age—that we should invest in education, craftsmanship and apprenticeship. Only by doing so can we maintain our high standard of crafts manship and keep the off-standard market which is more than ever necessary we should keep.
In these days when we talk of shortages of electric power, it is necessary to look at the position to which this country has degenerated. The grid operates on 132,000 volts. New schemes which have now been announced base their operations on 200,000 volts. If we look to the overseas market we see that in India, China, Russia, and places with vast distances to cover they will probably want to operate on something like 400,000 volts. Are the Government aware that even before the war we had reached a position in this country where designers of heavy turbines, condensers and so on could not go to the full limit of their ability because it was utterly impossible to move the pro ducts to the point at which they could be worked? Our ability to move to the ports in the case of exportation or to the centres where we propose to install our electrical equipment is now limited by road and rail factors, which, if not looked at immediately, will mean a very serious cur tailment of our ability to meet the demands which the world and our country will make on us so far as the increase of generating plant is concerned. There are now designs for transformers weighing 210 tons, 33 feet long, 15 feet wide and seven to 18 feet high, and we cannot move them at all because of our obsolete and ridiculous modes of transport. These things 1214 are vital and I hope the Government will give them the attention they deserve.
Votes of Censure by out-worn and discredited parties matter little. The manner in which this Government will keep the confidence of the people is by going to the people and stating clearly our troubles and difficulties, facing the problem in a realistic manner, and assuring the people that at all times our legislation will be based on bringing a higher standard of living to the people who have waited so long for it and that the Government will not be dissuaded by the Stock Exchange Members opposite. By doing that the Government will not only retain the confidence of the people but will instil into them a greater desire for a permanent Labour Government as a guarantee that the days of unemployment and depression shall never return.
§ 7.54 P.m.
§ Mr. David Eccles (Chippenham)
It is really lamentable that the Government have given only three days for this Debate upon the whole future of our economy. There must be many hon. Members with very valuable contributions to make who will not have the opportunity to do so. I consider that bad for the House and bad for the country, but the planning of the Business of this House and the planning of the British economy are all of a piece—thoroughly bad.
Planning is the central theme of the White Paper, and the great question be fore the House is whether the British Government can plan the use of scarce resources without so interfering with the liberties of the citizens that the plan must fail. I interject here that all sides of the House mean to treat labour as a scarce resource for ever mare. Both sides of the House are agreed that a British Government cannot direct labour. On that basis, will it ever be possible to man up the dirty jobs under conditions of full employment? Again, on the assumption that the Government will not enforce a wages policy of payment by results nor will they compel trade unions and employers to sweep away restrictive practices, will it ever be possible to attain a satisfactory level of output and costs? These are great questions. Are we in fact dithering and fumbling trying to make up our minds whether we can escape the choice of either a return to the free play of prices, or totalitarian Communism—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke)
The hon. Member has made accusations about trade unions. Will he give us some examples of this?
§ Mr. Eccles
I have not time, but the hon. Gentleman knows that there are many such practices. They are referred to in the White Paper and it is common ground. I am asking: is the choice in escapable between a return to the free play of prices or totalitarian Communism? Very significantly, much the same answer to that question was given yester day by both the President of the Board of Trade and the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). Both said that democratic planning is possible. The methods which these right hon. Gentle men proposed were more remarkable for their points of agreement than for their points of disagreement. But will they work in practice? The essential feature of the President's plan was co-operation between both sides of industry and the Government. He rejected compulsion; so does my right hon. Friend. The President said that he would revive the Joint Production Staff; that was invented by my right hon. Friend during the war. As his servant I attended its meetings. My right hon. Friend said he would confine planning to strategic decisions and in various ways he would delegate the carrying out of those decisions to industry itself. I am certain that the President of the Board of Trade would be glad to do the same thing, if he knew how to do it.
It is easy on paper to draw up a scheme of democratic planning, but is it practicable, in the economic and political conditions which exist? That is the real question which the House has to answer. My answer as a technician is that, in terms of economics, it could be done. My answer as a Member of Parliament is that, in terms of politics, it cannot be done. As long as the ultimate aim of one of the great parties in the State is to socialise all the means of production and exchange, for them to ask for voluntary co-operation between the hangman and his victims does not make sense. Nationalisation is a policy which is bound to split the country into two, and we feel that our half is growing. On the other hand, if we on this side of the House were to aim at a return, when the shortages have disappeared, to a completely unplanned economy, I think that the proposals of 1216 my right hon. Friend would not work and that it would then be our turn not to have co-operation. We could not have the co operation of labour in those circumstances.
In my judgment, the conclusion is quite clear. Democratic planning—that was the essence of the proposal of the President of the Board of Trade—has little chance of success while the electorate is equally divided by great differences of political principle. If that planning is to succeed, the Conservative Party for its part must convince itself and the nation that it knows how to prevent a return to an over - privileged and under - employed society, and the Labour Party must abandon Socialism. Those are the hard facts of democratic planning. The President of the Board of Trade said yesterday, and he was quite right, that no temporary solution to this economic crisis is possible. No short revival of the Dunkirk spirit will avail. I believe that we need something of an economic revolution. We have to find the principle on which we can make a radical change in the balance and methods of our industry and agriculture, and that is a long-term business. If I turned that idea into political words, I would say to hon. Gentlemen opposite that we shall have to meet in the middle or we shall diverge in disaster. So much for the politics of democratic planning.
I turn now to the technique, of which I have had some slight experience. I am surprised continually at the poor show the Labour Party have made of planning. I frankly admit that I thought they would do much better. The fuel muddle is only one out of many examples. I believe that within a few months the Ministries of Food and of Agriculture will be seen to be just as incompetent as the Ministry of Fuel and Power. This is not an accident. There must be behind that incompetence some underlying weakness, and I want to offer to the House, for what it is worth, a technical explanation—not a political explanation. I am sure that an immense amount of harm has been done by the confusion between planning and controls. Planning. and controls in this country are irreconcilable enemies. The better the plan the fewer the controls; the more the con trols the Less flexibility we have in our economy, and without that flexibility it is not possible for a British Government to plan for abundance. What fools we are to have taken our notion of planning from Continental economists who have never 1217 been able to understand the limitations set to the British policy by our love of individual rights and liberties.
§ Mr. John Lewis (Bolton)
May I interrupt the hon. Member? If he will read the speech made by the President of the Board of Trade he will find these words:We need a great degree of flexibility of mind on both sides of industry if we are to adapt our industries to the new economic circumstances. The Government have done their utmost to help along those lines."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1947; Vol. 434, c. 997.]
§ Mr. Eccles
I would only say to the hon. Gentleman in all seriousness that I do not think there is much difference between the President of the Board of Trade's conception of planning and the conception which is held by hon. Members here who understand industry. [An HON. MEMBER: "How many do?"] A great many of them. The President of the Board of Trade has been evolving very quickly in the last few months. In this country the purpose of planning is to take something off the ration and the purpose of a control is to put something on the ration. The Labour Party have been too afraid of their own vested interests to draw up an overall plan. The tragedy is that they have been able to console themselves, under the lead of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for their shortcomings by their faith in the controls. Most of those controls are necessary only because of the inflationary pres sure, which must be kept in check. I am talking about rationing and price control. If we had abundance we should not need those controls.
Now let me deal with the unusually muddled, inaccurate, and inadequate speech which we had from the Chancellor of the Exchequer last night. It deserves an answer because it is on this point that hon. Gentlemen who may not understand the situation are most easily misled. The evil consequences of this controlled inflation have long been recognised. My hon. Friends on this side of the House derive some pleasure from the.-fact that during recent weeks eminent journalists and economists have been, proclaiming in unison that inflation is the Government's most pervading sin; but my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), my hon. Friend the Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) and others said all that a year ago. I can remember using these words in the Budget Debate last April: 1218The Government are gambling with the value of the pound. They are speculating that by December of this year the supply of goods will be sufficient by itself to restrain inflation. They are going to lose that gamble."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th April, 1946; Vol. 421, c. 2044.]The White Paper admits that the gamble has been lost, with £7 thousand million of purchasing power pressing upon —6 thousand million of goods. That estimate of the inflationary gap was made before the fuel muddle began to affect production. The gap is much larger now and it is growing.
I want the House to consider how that gap came about, what are its effects, and how it can be closed. Until it is closed I can see, as a technician, that no form of democratic planning is possible. The inflationary gap is due on the one side to the depressingly low level of output, and, on the other side to a deliberate increase in the volume of purchasing power. Both the White Paper and the President of the Board of Trade run away from this vital question of productivity. That is quite understandable. No Government likes to own up, any more than employers would, to low output under their management and direction. The ugly facts are plain enough to anyone who has experience in industry. I have taken trouble to build up what I believe to be a sound estimate. Allowing for increased mechanisation, which is very evident in agriculture, and allowing for the general deterioration in the quality of articles produced, I reckon that the overall efficiency of industry today is not more than 80 per cent. of prewar. Of course, in some industries, like building and dock labour, it is much worse, and in others, like rayon, it is much better; but overall, it is about 80 per cent. That figure is not just bad—it is mortal.
What are said to be the causes of low productivity? The most fashionable is the shortage of raw materials. My hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett) said very well the other day that if the supply of materials is not coming in steadily at the front of the factory, there is nothing that will push the finished goods out at the other end. If raw materials are short, who is to blame? Who is in charge of the foreign exchange control? Who draws up the import programme? Who spends the American loan? Who under takes bulk buying? Through whose fingers have slipped the lead, the hides and skins, 1219 the feedingstufts, and the linseed? It is not possible for the Government to shift responsibility on this score. The stocks of imported raw materials in the United Kingdom today, except for wool, are desperately low—almost as low as the stocks of coal. We do not yet know how much damage this destocking will do. It is an inevitable consequence of the inflation. I am quite sure that from now onwards it will cause widespread unemployment and a very great deal of short time. Even though a shortage of raw materials is today a growing handicap, I do not believe it has been the main cause of low output.
The truth is that it was never reason able to expect high output in a period when a Socialist revolution was being forced upon an unwilling economy which had already been strained and dislocated by six years of war. One can add to that the undoubted fact, mentioned by the hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant), in more or less the same way, that millions of workers have been led to believe that Socialism meant more pay for less work. Those two facts together make it clear that in this transitional period output was bound to be very low. I will return to the vital question of productivity at the end of my speech, but I want first to say something about the other side of the inflationary gap—that is, the volume of purchasing power.
As my right hon Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) said yesterday, the war has left a vast mass of unusable money. The duty of the Government was to prevent, by all means in their power, the growth of that mass and to persuade its owners to have patience until civilian production got into its stride. What has the Chancellor of the Exchequer been doing? In three deliberate ways he has been adding to that mass of purchasing power. As those ways have been mentioned already, I will be very brief in this part of my speech. The Chancellor has allowed the Budget to continue at such a size that it is a powerful instrument of inflation. He has continued his cheap money policy—good in itself—to the point where it was necessary to add an enormous increase to the volume of bank money. He has turned hundreds of millions of long-term investments into the equivalent of cash. Nationalisation 1220 has set these vast sums adrift, and in the process of re-investing them, a most un healthy Stock Exchange boom has been created, and the consequence of that boom has been a big increase of pressure upon the prices of non-rationed goods.
§ Mr. Alexander
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the change of ownership, by means of Government stock, is making so much more tremendously mobile the capital of a company whose shares were always common barter on 'change?
§ Mr. Eccles
I think the right hon. Gentleman has only to follow the course of the capital market and to inquire of any body whose business it is—it is not mine, but I know gentlemen whose business it is—to change stocks and shares to find that I am right in what I say.
§ Mr. Eccles
I am not saying anything about that. I merely say that if the Government go in for a nationalisation programme at this period, they are bound to add to the inflationary tendency. I only wish that Lord Keynes had lived to this day. What brilliant and biting things he would have said about this financial policy, things which would have shaken the Chancellor of the Exchequer's most obsequious pupil from the London School of Economics. Of all the ridiculous periods to choose in which deliberately to contrive an increase in the volume of purchasing power, choose a period when there is a universal scarcity of goods and labour.
But the Chancellor is not the man to have undertaken this policy blind to all its consequences. I know him well enough, as do hon. Gentlemen opposite, to know that. He is relying upon two remedies, both of which have let him down. Not long ago, he told us that the only cure for inflation was greater production. That is not true. It is just as easy to take money out of circulation as it is to put money into circulation by reversing the very methods by which he has himself used to create money. First, he relied upon greater production, and that has not come about. Secondly—I am glad to say that he walked right into it last night—he has relied upon physical controls, upon rationing, and subsidies. It really is important that we should try to 1221 find out what has been the actual effect upon the standard of living of these controls made necessary by the Chancellor's policy. Shortly, the ruinous effect of these devices is this: if the prices are held down in one sector of our economy and allowed to rise in another, then inevitably capital and labour seep away from the production of the controlled articles and find a profit able employment in the production of the uncontrolled articles. Let me give one illustration which is, I believe, very much in hon. Members' minds. In Liverpool, 15,000 girls are earning good money in the football pools. Close at hand there are idle textile mills equipped with machinery, supplied with raw cotton, but lacking labour.
§ Mr. Eccles
I will not quarrel in terms of miles. Who keeps the mills from get ting these, girls? Who prevents in this way the clothing ration from being in creased? The answer is that it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his policy. What is the good of a policy of fair shares for all if the only result is smaller shares for everybody? If, when you get to the end of the queue, there is nothing to buy except tangerines mouldering in a shabby pyramid? I put it to the hon. Lady, would she not prefer a little extra cooking fat with which she could do something? Why is there not more cooking fat? Because the Government have badly planned our imports; and there is another reason, because the British farmer has not had enough labour to produce foodstuffs. Why has the farmer not had the labour? The main reason is that the housewife has not been allowed to spend as much as she would have been willing to spend on buying the products of the farm, and there has been nothing that could be done with the sur plus cash but spend it on amusements, smoking and drinking—all very well in moderation, but very bad in excess.
We ought to be clear on what has happened. This system of rationing and price control has enabled the non-essential industries to outbid the essential indus- 1222 tries for the labour coining out of munitions and the forces. I say that monetary mismanagement is largely responsible for this distortion of our economy. What ought we to do now? We must reverse the bad policy of this Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Budget must be balanced, at somewhere below —3,000 million. The cheap money policy must be stopped at the point where it requires the creation of additional bank money, and the nationalisation programme must be dropped. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am giving a technical explanation, and I assure the Government that if they are not willing to do that, and they may very well not be, it will not be possible to achieve any success through the democratic planning measures outlined by the President of the Board of Trade yester day. If the Government prefer to go on as they are they will be preferring scarcity to abundance, and it will not take the British people very long to find that out.
Reversing the Chancellor's policy brings anybody up against some practical difficulties, which I will not shirk. If the Budget is to be balanced at a non-inflationary level there must be large cuts in expenditure. What cuts? Can they be large enough to provide the taxation reliefs on direct income which are essential weapons in the battle of production? Only the Government are in possession of all the information to show where the most advantageous cuts could be made, but I make the suggestion that defence, the Civil Service, and the housing and food subsidies between them could yield from £500 to £1,000 millions. What is quite certain is this. If those cuts are not made in a rational way, they will be made in the most unjust and cruel way possible, that is by a collapse in the value of our money. The choice is between planned cuts and unplanned inflation.
If the Government had the courage to make the cuts they could take two really big steps forward. In the first place they could give relief in taxation on direct in come at all points in the scale, and secondly, the price of rationed goods could then rise in relation to the price of non-rationed goods. Then, at last, capital and labour would again flow without direction to the production of the great basic necessities. Hon. Members will be quick to see that this policy means a lowering of the standard of life of the 1223 wage earner as well as of everybody else. We should all have to pay more for our food, clothes and other necessities, and have less to spend on amusements, tobacco and beer. That is perfectly true, but it is also inevitable. Having got us into this mess, whatever the Government does the standard of life in this country must for a time go down, and go down sharply. The only question is whether it shall go down in an orderly way or with a brutal bump that will hurt the wage earner more than anybody else. The answer to that question of course lies with the Government, but the standard of life need not stay down. Once the basic elements in our economy are again in equilibrium it could begin to rise. That will depend upon all the men and women who produce goods and render services. Will they then respond, and raise their productivity, 10, 20 or 30 per cent.?
Thus, in my final remarks I return to this question of productivity. Suppose the Government have the courage to stop inflation, and suppose they have the competence to secure an adequate supply of food and raw materials; will the British people then work hard enough to pay their way in the world on a rising standard of living? Will they do that? I do not think they will. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because there will still be lacking two things. First of all, the ordinary man and woman will not have grasped that the work he or she puts into his own job directly determines his or her standard of life and that of every body else; that truth is not grasped. Secondly, we have not got the industrial, agricultural and political leadership of the calibre necessary. Today, we neither understand the age we live in nor have we found the right leaders, so we shall suffer, but out of suffering will come wisdom and recovery.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. O'Brien (Nottingham, West)
The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) deduced that all the ills from which this country is at the moment suffering, are due to a divided electorate. May I remind him and his colleagues on the opposite side of the House that it was his party which decided in the first place to divide the electorate? If there are consequences which he and his friends regard as evil in themselves, upon their own heads be it. In the time at my dis- 1224 posal I should like to deal with one or two points arising from the Debate. My right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade in his com prehensive and lucid speech stated clearly the views of the Government and, I think, the views of the people of this country. I must say also that those of us who heard it would compliment the fight hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan) on the very constructive and uncontentious statement which he made in winding up the day's Debate. If we had more of that constructiveness from the Opposition, it would encourage the response to the appeal which the Government have made on this very serious matter.
The trade union movement of this country welcomes the White Paper. Several of its important features are being examined at the moment by the Trades Union Congress. The special committee of the T.U.C. had its third meeting to day, following the special meeting of its General Council, two or three weeks ago. I am sure that my hon. Friends will have realised that the gibes which have been made by certain Members of the Opposition about trade union leaders, and trade unions in general, are unworthy at this time, when responsible leaders in Great Britain are applying their minds seriously to this important subject.
There are certain pitfalls to be avoided. Failure in one department, or in one priority, will mean failure in other priorities, which are referred to in the White Paper. Likewise, development in one line, or section, may possibly create bottlenecks in another. These are matters for detailed examination, and not for rushed conclusions. Trade unionists welcome the White Paper in the sense that it is a framework. It propounds a programme; it aims at, and sets, targets; it is not a rule-of-thumb application; it is not a dogmatic doctrine which is thrust down the throats of our people, particularly the workers.
I ask the Government to remember that while we have heard a lot about coal, and rightly, that is not the only object of their survey. Coal in the earth or even at the pithead, is useless. Its usefulness depends on its despatch to the particular place where it is required. That depends on transport, on the railways, 1225 which means that the target set for the capital re-equipment of road and rail transport must be reached. That means that our steel target must be reached. That, in turn, means that our engineering industry, in its many ramifications, is involved, that we must reach our engineering target. The provision of electricity to meet the increasing and overriding needs of industry generally depends on building priorities, on power stations, and so forth. I therefore ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to appreciate that the White Paper is a priority in itself, and does not merely refer to a coal priority. It should be looked upon as a pattern rather than a unit.
I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench not to embarrass the trade unions or trade union leaders, by rushing into print their ideas about, for instance, a night shift, without having serious regard to the ramifications of these proposals. When we read in the Press that it was proposed that 7,000,000 people, including women, were to go, willy nilly, on night work we realised that that did not take into account the difficulties which some trade unions would have to face. It might do the Government a little good if they were better advised by practical trade union industrialists, rather than by the many theoreticians who, we know, exist. The idea at the moment is to provide a two shift system. Many colleagues of mine, inside and outside the House, are already trying to prejudice this idea, because they think that the two-shift system necessarily means working one shift from six in the morning to two, and the other from two to ten. That is not the view which the trade union movement generally takes.
Major Houghton (Antrim)
Where is the leadership coming from—the Government or the T.U.C.?
§ Mr. O'Brien
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), on more than one occasion, paid unsolicited tribute and testimonial to the value of the trade union movement in the con duct of the war, and probably that point of view remains in the minds of the more intelligent Members of the House. The trade unions are not trying to dictate to anybody; they are trying to do a good job of work under very great difficulties. The idea of the two shift system does not necessarily mean that the two shifts will 1226 run concurrently. I am appealing, there fore, to the Government to make use of the regional industrial boards in this matter. Some parts of the country may be able to work a system of shifts better than other parts of the country. The conditions differ in many localities and in many regions. It is quite possible, and probably it will be applied, that some industries will have only one shift working in the morning in an area and another industry will work a late shift in the same area, thus providing a complete, administrative and technical working unit at one and the same time.
The trade unions also welcome the idea of some kind of general staff planning, so long as the people who do the planning know something about the industries and about the work which they are called upon to perform. I must pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and his Department as one example of good planning—a Department which was largely responsible in 18 months for the transfer of 7½ million industrial workers from war to peace in one of the greatest turnovers in our history. To make such a gigantic turnover of over 7 million people from war to peace with a minimum of dislocation is something of which this country can be proud. The Ministry of Labour was mainly responsible for that planning. We hope that more of that type of planning will be seen in the future.
We have heard a lot about trade union restrictive practices. It is referred to in the White Paper, and was referred to by the hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant). I must admit that it was more difficult to resist the con tent of her argument than the appeal of her eyes and face, as the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) remarked. Although it was a maiden speech, I think that I am entitled to refer to the more controversial parts of it. It was a most provocative speech, and it was followed by speeches from the hon. Member for Shettleston, and other hon. Members, who referred to the trade union movement holding the country up to ransom. What precisely does the Government mean by restrictive practices in industry? The White Paper does not define these restrictive practices, and it would be far better if it did, and if the Government told us what they meant by restrictive practices. The Government mean to be helpful in these matters, but they are unhelp- 1227 ful to those who have to deal with these issues around the conference tables, in the factories, workshops, warehouses, docks and mines.
We know exactly what hon. Members opposite mean by restrictive practices. Do they mean that trade unions should forgo willingly without any guarantee all the concessions, all the practices and all the protections that have taken generations to build up? Do hon. Members opposite appreciate that the trade unions have taken nearly a century to reach their present situation? It has been one great battle against the evil of oppression enforced by the fathers and the grandfathers of the hon. Members opposite who were engaged in industry. Do they understand that trade union agreements in this country are reached not at the point of the gun or at the point of the sword, but through legitimate trade bargaining between workmen and employer or by arbitration and award? Are not the trade unions en titled to say, "We have to deliberate upon this matter and discuss it and see exactly to where the elimination of our practices leads us and the country." There must be consultation between employers' organisations and workers' organisations; other wise we might still have Government by decree. The trade unions are prepared to co-operate as they co-operated most magnificiently during the war, to which hon. Members opposite will testify. There is no reason why they should not co operate in these difficult times of peace, especially in view of the fact that there is in power a Government which is sup ported by a party which the trade unions themselves created.
There is one more point to which I would like to refer. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have referred to it several times today and yesterday as the dollar remittances to the United States, including the amount for American films. I shall deal briefly with the social side of that. Let me declare very frankly in this respect where I stand. I happen to be the secretary of the largest trade union in the entertainment industry, and in referring to this matter I will try to give some information which will be of some benefit to Members in all parts of the House. I am defending the importation of American films into this country. I have worked hard all my life with my 1228 colleagues in trade unions in the industry to build up a virile film industry and I am still working towards that end. It would be a cardinal error to cut the supply of American films into Britain now or in the future.
The President of the Board of Trade touched lightly upon the subject when he spoke. The social consequences would be this. There are not enough British films made in Britain or likely to be made during the next few years that can supply the cinemas of the country with the number of films necessary for weekly entertainment. Therefore the films would supply but one fourth of the needs of British cinemas. The rest come from the United States, and if those imports are cut it may appear to save £18 million in dollar remittances but it would only be done by two alternatives. It can be done only by one of two methods. The first is that we should have to close about half the cinemas of Great Britain; alternatively, the second method is to show the same pictures for about a month or six weeks in an average provincial town. If the people would stand that; all well and good. If hon. Members will go to their constituencies, report on this Debate and say, "You have to do this, to do that or to do the other, and you cannot even go to the pictures because three out of every four cinemas in your town are to be closed, or you will have to look at the same picture week after week for about four weeks," let them do so, but I know what kind of reception they will have.
During the recent cold weather—and it happens in hot weather too—over three million people stood in queues in the cities and towns of Britain every night, despite the inclemency of the weather, and 33 million pay for admission to the cinemas of this country every week. I mention these facts in order that hon. Members may understand that behind them there is the great social and psychological issue that the mass of the people of this country find their main relief and relaxation in the cinema. Surely, if the Government were to take upon themselves the responsibility of removing even that last recreation they would be proceeding on very precarious lines. As a matter of fact, the cinema is the only kindly light amid the encircling gloom, and since the workers we represent are, in the main, the people who go to the cinemas, let us at least leave them with that recreation until we are in a 1229 position to produce more films in this country, an aim towards which my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade is most sympathetie. He is, in fact, the most sympathetic Minister we have had in the Department so far with regard to the building up of the British film industry.
I would make one last appeal to the Government and to my hon Friends. Please do not put the theatre, with all its cultural and educational potentialities —and the cinema too—into the same category as pools, dog tracks, or even sport itself. There are too many references in this House to the entertainment industry as if it were not an essential industry. The cinema and the theatre are more essential today for the social needs of the people than at any other time in the history of this country. It cannot be regarded as a mere sport or pastime in the sense of dog tracks, and so on. It is a virile and constructive art of our social life. I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, for having had the opportunity of giving these facts to the House, and I trust I have not spoken in vain.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Central)
I trust that the House and the hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. O'Brien) will excuse me if I do not follow the remarks he has just made because they did not seem to be getting us anywhere. The important thing for this House, and for the country, is that we should get somewhere and get somewhere very quickly. It is an ironical paradox that the White Paper should in fact be the medium of conveying so sombre and black a message to the country. Nevertheless, although that message is sombre I, and 1 think my hon. Friends on this side of the House, welcome the advent of the White Paper because it shows us that at least there is a dawning realisation of the magnitude of the task with which the Government are confronted and the danger which is threatening the country. We have heard some ill-balanced talk after both wars about increased standards of living and better times, as if any war could ever raise anything except man's courage and self-respect. The sooner hon. Members on either side of the House begin to realise and tell the country that so far from war being able to produce betterments, it can only bring impoverishment of some sort or another in its train, the better. What 1230 I also welcome in the White Paper is that at last it trusts the people. As hon. Members on either side have said, this is the time when the British public stands highest—when it knows the facts, how ever grave they may be. What a contrast to that to which we have recently been accustomed. What a contrast to that spurious nonsense that fell from the lips of Members who adorn the Government Front Bench. Let me quote some examples. The Minister of Health wrote in a jaundiced book, inside a jaundiced cover:Expanding exports are the will o' the wisp that private enterprise is compelled to pursue, by under-paying its workers and thus eliminating its own markets.Take the Minister of Fuel and Power in one of his optimistic moods:Increased exports are demanded. There never was a greater fallacy. You might imagine, if you fail to increase exports, this country's standard of living will diminish.Now we know that what he treated as sarcastic imagination is solemn truth from the mouths of his own colleagues. Then there is the Minister of Food, who said:Hard work will not make the workers any richer. You remember the old produce more cry. I suppose we shall get it again.Yes, he was right; we have it again, and this time from the Government's White Paper.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Will the hon. and gallant Member give the date of that statement made by the Minister of Food?
§ Mr. Gallacher
No, I do not deny that. It was made at the time when the masses of the workers were idle because they had produced too much.
§ Colonel Hutchison
I am not going to be led into a dissertation on when this was said, because it is not material. The statement is that hard work will not make the workers any richer. If that is the doctrine the hon. Member wishes to spread in the country, it is in direct conflict with what the President of the Board of Trade was advocating in his speech yesterday. In view of these pernicious prophecies from the Front Bench, how can we have confidence as to what the future of the planning is to be? The President of the 1231 Board of Trade has told us how at Election time he adumbrated and envisaged there would be difficult times ahead—perhaps he was taking out an insurance policy. Did he contradict the statements that fell from the lips of his colleagues? The answer is "No." Now the situation is vastly changed. How circumstances alter K. Cs.
§ Colonel Hutchison
The emphasis in the White Paper is right in parts, that is to say, the need for production and the diagnosis of the troubles from which we are suffering, but in other directions there is too much complacency, too much pride of 1946, too little confidence and no real planning. I admit that the right hon. and learned Gentlemen gave us a good deal more detail as to what planning was to take place, such as the setting up of a National Planning Board. But the White Paper itself shows little evidence that that nettle has at last been firmly grasped. Perhaps it is too much to expect the Government to produce a White Paper, and at the same time to stand in a white sheet.
Throughout the whole of this Paper, throughout this long dirge, there is emphasis upon production and, in that production, upon the production of coal. The improvement in 1945 has been instanced, but what is that improvement? Is it not only the improvement that may be said to have taken place in a man whose temperature has fallen from 105 to 104? He is still desperately sick. Compare 1941, when the labour force in the mines was primarily the same as it is today. Between those days and now we have lost a production of 210,000 tons per week. What accounts for that? Has there been absolutely no mechanisation in that time? Has the quality of the coal which we are getting now—210,000 tons per week short—not fallen? There may be some explanation other than what we have already been given.
Is the diagnosis which we have been given here complete? Is not the question mainly, almost entirely, a psychological one? As hon. Members from this side of the House have said time and again in this Debate, the Government's problem is to unteach the teaching that has been going on for a generation. Now at last their chickens are coming home to roost, 1232 and they find them to be ill-omened birds, and very unwelcome.
The White Paper talks, and the hon. Member for West 'Nottingham spoke, about restrictive practices. Let it be known and understood—and it cannot be too widely diffused—that those of us who sit on this side of the House are not anti-trades unions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No, trades unions carrying out their proper role of collective bargaining are nothing but an asset; when they become dangerous is when they try to usurp political power. So far as restrictive practices are concerned, we would like to know what practical steps the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Government propose to take in either direction, to the Left or to the Right. Let him tell us what they are. He told us that there is to be set up a joint planning staff, with an inter-departmental planning staff. That is good, but was it set up at the time the White Paper was produced? Was the view of any industrial concern or of the trades unions consulted, and are their voices reflected in what is stated in the White Paper? We are sure that is not so, and we think that the Government should have followed something much more close to the Monnet plan—that plan which has been produced in the country of people who, after all, are great realists; in which, before they produced their plan for five years—and we are told it is not possible in our country, because of our great difficulties, to think so far ahead as five years—they consulted the industrialists concerned. That is why their plan promotes more confidence than the one which we have been looking at.
What is our evidence of planning from the past and, indeed, why is it that only now have the Government realised that co-ordinated planning is necessary? We have been hearing about all the planning that is to take place—the setting up of an inter-departmental planning authority, the bringing together of industry, how everything is to go with an impulse. Were the Government so blind that they could not see over the last 1½ years that this crisis was coming upon them, or some thing like it?
§ Colonel Hutchison
Indeed we saw it. We warned the Government. If they 1233 saw it, why was not their planning taking place in the past? How, for example, could the Minister of Fuel and Power get up in this House and say that the Government were astonished by the immense and quick increase in the demand for electricity supply, when 180 million lamps were sold in 1945 as compared with the too million in 1935 boasted by the Lord President of the Council? The Minister of Supply crowed over the fact that electric fires were doubled last year on what they were in 1938. Refrigerators jumped in the period of October to November, 1946, from 448 to 7,000. Would not anyone with an idea of planning have estimated that this would call on an increased supply of electricity? Then we are told in regard to generating plant that it, takes three or four years to provide—[An HON. MEMBER: "Whose fault is that?"]. It only takes 18 months to provide if the materials are so provided that the through put takes the minimum of time. What about purchases of generating plant from abroad? Has any census been taken as to whether it is available in Switzerland, or the United States of America? Was there any generating plant to be got in Germany? If so, have we had any? The Minister of Fuel said in October that there was going to be no crisis. How can we have any sort of confidence in a Government whose Ministers make re marks of that kind? How can we have any confidence in the fact that the 200 million tons of coal which are so essential are in fact going to be available, and even if they arc available, that they are going to produce that 140 per cent. in volume over 1938 which we need in exports? It is very doubtful. Mine leaders say that unless 35,000 more miners are introduced, the target of 200 million tons is not going to be achieved. Does this sort of talk give us any confidence in the Government's planning, or in the Government's White Paper?
We have heard much about the planning of currency and I will not follow the discussion about the importation of American films or tobacco. But one thing is abundantly certain, and that is, that the Government will have to switch from purchases from hard currency countries to the maximum extent possible to those of the sterling area or soft currency countries, if they are going to make the American Loan last out for 1234 anything like the period for which it was intended to last.
I want to touch on what is happening in France. There, apart from the Monnet plan, some very big things have been done. The Government in France, led by Monsieur Blum, a Socialist, and then by Monsieur Ramadier, had abandoned their nationalisation policy. It was difficult for them, but they showed courage and realism. As hon. Members on these benches have told our Government, at a time of crisis like this the energies and abilities of Ministers, such as they are, should not be taken up in sitting day after clay in Committees considering Bills, which are only going to operate one way or other in the future, while, at the same time, the country is crying out for their attention in their Departments to look after fuel and power, and to keep the wheels of transport turning. That great realist country, France, hating to have to abandon nationalisation, have done so because they have realised that fact. They have also seen that during 1945, when in France half the mines were nationalised, and half were not nationalised, how desperately badly the nationalised mines came out of the comparison.
I commend those hon. Members opposite who can bear to look upon the other side of the picture with an unbiassed eye to read the report of that eminent body of Frenchmen called the Sorbonne, which has just been published, on the nationalised and unnationalised mines of France in 1945. There they will find that, compared with 1938, the production of the nationalised mines has gone down by something like 20 per cent., whereas that of the unnationalised mines has gone up slightly. The cost of production of coal in the nationalised mines is considerably higher than the cost of production in the unnationalised mines. Most serious of all—and this is a grave evil which even hon. Members opposite may some day appreciate—those who wish to get a position in the mines are more or less likely to get it according to their political opinions. That may be the way to Himley Hall, but it is certainly not the way to prosperity.
They then abandoned their 40-hour week. That same leader, Monsieur Blum, who before the war fought hard for the reduction of the 48-hour week to 40 hours, 1235 has today himself reversed that process in face of grave national danger, and with the consent of the Communist Party, individually the largest party in France, the Socialist and the M.R.P. Parties, France has gone back to a 48-hour week. There is realism. There is something which I doubt whether our Government Front Bench will have the courage or the wisdom to follow. But in the long run, remove all the members from these benches, remove the whole of the Conservative Party from Britain, and economic facts, those hard relentless economic facts, which have no party allegiance, and which come along with their merciless attack, will force the Government into that position, and economics will say, "Work longer, or work harder, or go under. There is no other choice."
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for calling me, although I think that the time allotted to this Debate is far too short—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and at a later hour tonight I hope to be able to say so, when the Motion comes to adjourn the Debate. The speech which I would really have liked to follow in detail was that of the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), though I think it would be more appropriate, per haps, on the Budget Debate. He ascribed all our troubles to the Chancellor's financial policy. I do not believe that, and I am sure he does not either. However, it is a good stick with which to beat the Government on this occasion. Perhaps during the financial Debates we shall have more opportunity of going into it in detail. As for the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) I thought that he enunciated a new and striking theory. If ever we get compulsory direction to the mines, we shall have to say to everybody, or Members opposite will have to say to everybody, "Call yourself a Tory and you will not become a miner." That seems to be a good way of getting out of working in the mines, and, indeed, if political prejudice is to play that part there may be some thing in what he says. I would prefer to make my own speech rather than that of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow.
I would like to say a word at the be ginning about what our responsibilities 1236 are on either side of this House. In the whole of this Debate we have concentrated on only one of the elements that go to make up our industrial life. I refer to the element of manpower. Apart from the hon. Member for Chippenham, who blamed it all on financial matters, it has been broadly assumed that if we work harder, if we put more guts into the job, then we shall win through. Manpower, the restrictive practices of the trade unions, low output—these are the recurrent themes that have run through practically all the speeches that have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is grave simplification of the problem which confronts us. There are at least four elements to go to make up the harmony or disharmony of our industrial life. In addition to the men, there are the managements. We have not heard much about them. In addition to the managements there are the machines. We have not heard much about them, except from my hon. Friend the Member for Clay Cross (Mr. Neal), who made a speech yesterday in which he devoted a consider able part of his comments to that subject. Finally, there are the materials.
Why have we isolated the manpower question from the remainder of the issues which go to make up the grinding of the gears in our industrial life today? Why have we spoken only of that? With great respect, I would have expected hon. Members opposite, with their great experience of our industries and of business, to have devoted some of their time to telling us about some of the things there that are wrong and which might be put right. I should have thought that they might have addressed some of their strictures in connection with trade union practices to some of their industrial concerns —or do they assume and say that every thing in that garden is rosy?
I would like to read to the House from a book, which was commended to us by the editor of the "Economist" last week as being something that everybody should read if he intended to speak in public. It is called "Britain and her export trade" and it is by a Mark Abrams. I do not know what are his political affiliations, but he has written a very good book. He has been studying the reports of the working parties which have been examining British industry, and these are the conclusions which he has reached. I read them to the House for this purpose, 1237 and this purpose alone, that I do not want us to isolate output of manpower and sheer muscle power from the remainder of the tasks that confront us. He says:The reports of working parties published so far have thrown a good deal of light…on the facts.
In industry after industry it has been found that there is a striking absence of up to date machinery and modern buildings.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It goes on to explain that briefly the main causes are:(1) During the interwar years Britain's industralists tended to dissipate the profits they made in good years on high dividends; (2) in bad years they turned for safety to restrictive and monopolistic devices—tariffs and international cartels, price maintenance agreements, quotas, financial amalgamations, etc. By the mid-193o's effective competition had disappeared from large sectors of the British economy.Why have we heard nothing about that in this Debate? What is the remedy for it? Cannot hon. Members opposite, with their great and wide knowledge of British industry, say something that will help us with these factors, in addition to criticising the restrictive practices of trade unions?
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
Can the hon. Member say in which sectors of British industry competition had entirely disappeared?
§ Mr. Callaghan
My hon. Friends have answered for me. I will go on to the third point which is most important. I am making a party speech but, if I may say so, it has a moral. The third point is:British industry was outstandingly deficient in obtaining trained scientific and managerial manpower, in the United States it was rare to find any reasonably large plant where the executives had not received University training in the techniques they were handling. In Britain it was exceptional to find plants where they had received any such preparation.4. Throughout the inter-war years unemployment was high; British labour was cheap and abundant, and under these circumstances there was inevitably managerial indifference towards either machinery or plant layouts which might have saved labour.12385. Finally, there is in British industry a long tradition of trade union and labour opposition to the introduction of labour-saving machinery and to the fullest utilisation of existing machinery. Twenty years of deep unemployment did little to shake that opposition, and twelve months of full unemployment have made little impact on the experiences of a lifetime.That is the analysis of someone—one of the few people—who has made a detailed study of what the working parties have reported on—
§ Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
The writer reports that working parties were set up to investigate certain industries which were admittedly in trouble and difficulty, but no working parties were set up to investigate the large majority of industries to which many of these strictures do not apply and which did carry out all the things that those working parties reported have not been done in other industries.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It is no part of my case that the whole of British industry is in efficient. Of course there are parts which are highly efficient and competitive. Thank God for them—
§ Sir P. Bennett
It could quite easily be presumed that what the hon. Member quoted referred to the whole of British industry. As long as the hon. Gentleman makes it clear that only a small part was referred to, I will not grumble.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Thanks to the hon. Member's intervention, it is now quite clear that it refers only to the many industries in which working parties con ducted investigations. To get back to the main point, both sides have responsibilities. I think the trade union leaders and Members of Parliament on this side of the House are discharging their responsibilities as far as overcoming restrictive practices and calling for increased output are concerned. We are ably abetted by hon. Members opposite. At the Trades Union Congress at Brighton last October there was more plain speaking from people like George Gibson and others on the responsibilities of men and women in the present times for full output and going all out than I have previously heard in this assembly.
I am not qualified to speak about these things which are relevant in industry—though some of my hon. Friends are—but there are many hon. Members on the other side of the House who are 1239 qualified to express a view on this. What guidance will they give to their industrialist friends? Will they say to them that this pernicious system under which businesses come down from father to son irrespective of the ability of the son must go in the interests of British industry? Are they prepared to give a lead to their industrialist friends and say that no longer are profits to be dissipated in high dividends? The Chancellor gave them that advice in the Budget a year ago. They neglected it. No notice has been taken of it. Perhaps industrialists will take notice of hon. Members opposite. When will they give a lead, or do they assume that all the fault lies in the low output of the worker—
Mr. Peter Thorneyeroft (Monmouth)
I heard the hon. Member's extract, with large parts of which I very much agree. Supposing we turned to the industrialists and suggested that it was an evil thing that competition was so largely eliminated in so large a section of industry before the war, would the hon. Member join in supporting that contention?
§ Mr. Callaghan
—open-minded to be able to acknowledge faults on either side. I do not claim any prerogative of wisdom in these matters. Whatever the faults were in the last 20 years and on what ever side they were, let us now frankly acknowledge them and move on to some thing different. That is all. I invite hon. Members opposite to join with me in doing that.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The trouble with the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft) is that he speaks for nobody else on his benches. If he did, perhaps there would be a modus vivendi. When I hear hon. Members giving us dissertations on those issues, when I hear them telling us about the deficiencies in managerial experience which are so profound, the deficiencies in plant layout and assembly, then I shall begin to accept—and I think ordinary men and women will begin to accept—their strictures on matters of output and manpower; but do not let us use the so-called low output of 1240 manpower to shore up the deficiencies in managerial experience. That is really what we are being asked to do throughout the whole of this Debate. [HON. MEMBERS:"No."] I am very glad to hear hon. Members opposite say "No," and I shall listen with pleasure to their speeches tomorrow to hear what they have to say on this subject. I do not accept it as a fact that output per man is low. In the White Paper there is a statement, to which attention has so far not been drawn, which says that output per man is running at about 90 per cent. of what it was in prewar days. I am bound to confess that everyone must have expected a falling off in output after the war. It happens in every country. Let hon. Members read the history of the United States after the last war; immediately be fore the large upsurge of productivity that occurred in the 1920's, there was a substantial falling off during the years after the last war. I see no reason why it should be substantial or permanent today.
I want now to turn to another subject, since the Minister of Defence is to reply, and that is manpower in the Armed Forces. There I join issue with the Government on their attitude. My complaint against the Government is that they have not decided whether this is to be peace or whether it is to be war, and I think they should have taken such a de cision by now. My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. Shawcross) last night drew attention to what was called the 10-year rule which was set in motion in 1919, when the Cabinet of the day took the political decision that Britain could not expect to be engaged in a major war at any time during the next 10 years. They took that decision, and they asked the Chiefs of Staff to make their plans on that decision. No considerations of that sort have entered into the Cabinet's mind, and certainly no decision has been taken —of that I am quite certain. It is precisely because of that that we are in the position today of living in a miasma some where between peace and war, and making the worst of both worlds.
We cannot maintain these huge forces that we have today. We cannot continue to maintain them for a second longer, and they should be drastically cut. They could be cut simply because of the wastage of manpower that exists in the Armed Forces today. I do not propose at this stage to go into that wastage. There will be other 1241 opportunities on the Army Estimates for producing the grossest examples of neglect and wastage of manpower in the Armed Forces, but there is only one way to deal with the situation, and that is to tell the Forces that they must do with a percentage less than they have now. If the Government really mean that the shortage of manpower is the key to the whole situation, that is where they could start tackling the issue. If we had a courageous Minister of Defence, he would go to the Cabinet and he would say, "There are risks to be taken in this situation one way or the other."
§ Mr. Callaghan
There are greater risks in not reducing our Armed Forces than there are in reducing them, and, balancing those risks, I say that he ought to have advised the Government that they should reduce the Armed Forces in order to get more men back into civilian life. This is a popular case to make from the point of view of the country. I know that, and I ask hon. Members to strip themselves if they can of any feeling of that kind, since I make the case because I am profoundly convinced that the Minister of Defence is wrong and that he is crippling Britain's economic recovery by maintaining forces, and letting the men out in driblets when the pressure of public opinion compels him to let them out, when he should by now have got back to the sort of permanent forces he can maintain. These men could be strengthening the life blood of British industry; they could be in the reserve, all their experience and knowledge would not be lost if they were in the reserve, they would still be available to be called up, and I say to the Minister of Defence that the pressure that has been maintained so far will have to continue to be maintained until the Government change their views.
I am not alone in this; there are experts surrounding the right hon. Gentle man who feel this way. Let me quote the Chairman of his Research Policy Committee, Sir Henry Tizard, of whom Lord Hankey said that he was by instinct a man who had the strategical sense. This is what this man who has the strategical sense said:The outcome of a future war between highly organised nations may depend far more on the state of science, education and industry in the rival countries than on the 1242 courage, skill and number of the fighting men.That is what the Chairman of the Research Policy Committee of the Defence Committee has to say on this matter, and there are many other expert opinions around the Government which do not share the view that we are bound to maintain these crippling Armed Forces, which are eating into our foreign balances and keeping away from civilian life men who them selves are wasting their lives where they are at the present time.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
Is the hon. Gentleman then recommending that we should occupy Germany with a couple of atom bombs?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. and gallant Member was not in the House last night when the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) referred to an alternative way of using the occupation forces in Ger many, and the hon. and gallant Gentle man knows well enough that the only way of maintaining law and order in Germany does not lie merely in having a soldier standing at every street corner with a rifle.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Of course there are difficulties. No one is pretending or suggesting that our commitments should be lessened. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is not my case. My case—and the hon. and gallant Member for the New Forest (Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre), knows this, for he was in the Royal Marines—is that there is a gross waste of manpower in the Armed Forces today. That is the gravamen of my case.
§ Colonel Crosthwaite-Eyre (New Forest and Christchurch)
As far as my own Service is concerned, I would like to point out that the Royal Marines are extremely economical and extremely efficient.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am glad to have that encomiom on his own force from the hon. and gallant Member. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I will with draw if I am called on by Mr. Speaker. Because of our criticism of the Minister of Defence, we are invited by the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings) to vote against the Government. No, we are not going to vote against the Government: we shall sustain them with our votes and 1243 criticise them in our speeches. [Laughter.] That has obviously been received with a marked sense of pleasure on the Opposition benches, because the one thing they do not want is to defeat the Government. If they thought that by our voting with them they would defeat the Government they would run away from their own Motion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Try us and see."] If there is one thing that the party opposite are praying for it is that there will be no split in the Labour Party, which would mean that they would have to take over the responsibilities of this Government.
I have covered fairly wide ground, and have been a fairly long time, and I will conclude by saying that through practically every speech which has been made in this Debate there has run the vein of belief in the future of Britain and the British people. I am certain that the despicable Senator of the United States who offered us two seats in the United States Senate, a couple of weeks ago, had better brace himself for a shock, because this country will emerge buoyant and triumphant from its present difficulties, as it has done in the past. It has a great contribution, through the British Com monwealth and Empire, to make to the future of the world, and Britain will show the rest of the world that despite the difficulties we are going through we have much to offer to our own people, and to the rest of the world.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I hope the House will have noticed this sign of grace on the part of a Front Bencher in not wishing to put himself into the Front before one more opportunity has been given to a back bench Member to take part in this Debate. I thought that it would have been possible for me to com press my remarks to an even greater extent than now seems absolutely necessary, and I expect that when I resume my seat the House will have felt that my judgment was sound. I feel that we have seen, in the speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), an explanation of the general attitude of the Labour Party at the present time, namely, that they are willing to sustain the Government with their votes, but will criticise them in their speeches. That seems a typical explanation of bubble and squeak, 1244 the best of both worlds. It is typical of the Government's planning policy, and appears to be the instinct of the Labour Party. I can only say this: That the economic events of the moment are dwarfing political personalities, and that just as the rain washed away the Corn Laws almost exactly 100 years ago, so the snow today will wash away the present Administration. That snow, which has been so definite a feature in our affairs, is one form of external planning which Members opposite can neither control nor foretell.
The right hon. Gentle man has just referred to what the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) said about criticising the Government while sustaining them. Is it not the case that that was the general attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who now leads the Tory Party, when he sat on the bench below the Gangway?
§ Mr. Butler
If my words can bear any testimony in this matter I can only say that for many years my right hon. Friend, who then sat on the bench below the Gangway, voted against many of us in our party with surprising efficiency, and with a very stout band of followers.
I want to refer to an intervention I made in our Debates some time ago on the subject of agriculture. That was on the occasion of the agricultural Debate of 28th January, in which I foresaw, in my speech, that agriculture would have to play a great part in the economic troubles which we are now facing. I used these words:I should have thought that anybody examining the vast expenditure which is being carried out by the present government, the inflationary tendencies which exist today, and the weakness of our dollar resources, would regard it as essential to encourage agricultural production as one of the most practical ways of restoring our economy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 800.]It is to that subject that I wish to come in a few minutes as my contribution to this Debate, in view of the fact that it is one of our basic industries, and probably, the most important next to coal, in the same way as the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan) referred to coal last night.
Before I consider the subject of agriculture, I want to traverse certain questions raised in this Debate, and to answer certain of the observations made by the 1245 right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in his imposing survey at the opening of this Debate. Whether the snow or the bad weather washes hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite away or not, in exactly the same way as the Corn Laws were washed away—and in my view this is very likely to happen—the fact is that hon. Members on both sides of the House are indeed possessed in their minds with the fundamental truth of the economic situation. We have realised that we are, to begin with, far from self-sufficient nationally. I think that we have also realised, and this is a more personal aspect of it, and it comes from the result generally of the industrial revolution in its application, that we are not self-sufficient or sufficiently self-dependent individually and personally as citizens.
It is, indeed, a sad fact, which I was able to observe perhaps from the front row of the stalls during my period of service to education, that man has become in industry the prisoner of the assembly belt; and we have this paradox—and here I refer back to some remarks made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, when he referred to the Luddite attitude in connection with mechanisation. Mechanisation, which was intended to help and relieve the labour of man, has dulled and blunted his intelligence, and very often relieved him of much of the interest he takes in the industrial process. That is a self-evident fact. I have noticed, in my experience, that that is often very much felt by those young men and women who have come back to industry from the Forces. They are finding that the repetitive process, the dullness and monotony of industry, and the lack of chances of pro motion, which they got even in the Forces to rise to a stripe or two stripes is absent in industry today, and they are finding that our industrial revolution is indeed a disappointment, and, to many of them, a sham.
How are we to deal, with these matters? I should like myself to support those constructive portions of the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in which he referred to the vital need today for greater opportunity in industry, for incentives, and, as I believe, for the educative process, because I believe that the most important part of the educational reform 1246 which ought to be put through with the least possible delay is that dealing with technical education, with opportunity in industry, and with training for skill in hand or eye. I hope, therefore, that, in the general race which is to take place in the priorities which are to be laid down, we shall never forget these particular needs of industry. My one fear about the social services as a whole is not that they will be affected because some May committee comes along again, but that the inflationary tendency which undoubtedly exists today, and which the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself did so little to ex plain, and little to palliate in his speech last night will reduce the value of money and reduce the value of the social services to those people who are counting on them so much today.
After this short introduction which takes up some of the points referred to by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I want to come to an examination of the White Paper itself. The Government are always priding themselves on having got through the transitional period easily. They remind me of the famous and rather cryptical conversation between Adam and Eve, when Adam said as they were leaving the Gar den of Eden," We are about to enter the transition period and it is bound to be very difficult." I would not rely upon the return to the Garden of Eden, because that is a land which the Government left long ago at the time of the Election, and they have been wandering in the wilderness ever since with the serpent, themselves disguised in every sort of fig leaf. What I want to call in evidence are the words of one of our leading economists, namely, Professor Jewkes, and it is a far cry from the Garden of Eden to Professor Jewkes. These are the true words of this profound and modern economist. He said that it is not true, as the Government continually claim, that the transition has been passed through in an orderly manner. We have, in fact, permitted the gravest disorders to grow during this period. The sooner the Government come off their high horse of self-satisfaction and realise the mess in which industry is at the present time, the sooner they with us will find a solution.
I do not believe that the period 1945–46 represented in any way a satisfactory solution of the planning problem. It represented neither free consumers' choice nor the system of priorities allocated and decided according to the needs of the 1247 country. We have had the worst of both worlds, and we are still in worst of both worlds, for we have control without proper planning. Our conclusion on this side of the House is quite definite, and it is not, as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House may think, a conclusion which is timorous. It is that we want far better and stronger central policy and much less interference with the individual at the circumference. We are not frightened at the use of the State. A good Tory has never been in history afraid of the use of the State. The State is an agency and the agency is sub ordinate to the needs of the individual. The State ought to be used in the interest of the people and the community generally, and what we resent in the Government's supposed democratic planning, so lightly and so vaguely sketched by the President of the Board of Trade, is that they have not yet solved this problem of democratic planning.
What was, in fact, the theme or cry of the right hon. Gentleman? His cry was that human nature was so selfish. He described how one section of the community was jealous of another section, how the commercial section was jealous of another, and how, in fact, there was no real urge in the human personality for better things. We do not take that view. We follow the words of Burke when he said that right action followed right character. We believe that there is in our people the right character which can be encouraged and which will help solve the problems on the circumference, which are at present interfered with by the controls of the right hon. and learned Gentle man the President of the Board of Trade. We believe that democracy is comprised of individuals, and we believe that if the Government encourage the best in individuals and lay down at the centre the general strategic policy on which they have got to work, we will get the best of both worlds and not the worst, as the Government have got at the present time.
I believe that the fundamental mistake of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade on this subject of democratic planning is that he thinks that one can impose unselfishness by a system of controls. I do not believe that that is in any way possible. The only way to encourage unselfishness is to give the person who is doing his job, 1248 in his own quarter and in his own section, independence and confidence so that he may develop the best within himself—or, it may be, herself—and in that way one may get the best out of those who have to do the job. I was delighted that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has so far accepted the profit motive that he now believes in incentive. We must remember that incentive offered to the workers in the form envisaged by the right hon. and learned Gentleman is no different from the profit motive. After all, what is it? It is the offer of a greater profit by way of reward in the wage packet for the man who does more work. Therefore, the right hon. and learned Gentleman must be consistent. If he accepts the profit motive through the system of incentives—which we heartily support and which I think is the most sensible approach—he must also realise that the same principle must go through the whole gamut of human nature and not be confined to those who work on the bench alone. He must give the management and others in industry the same incentives he wants to give the workers.
I believe that the solution of this problem is intimate collaboration between the Government and industry. I should like to congratulate the Government upon the fact that in the latest edition of the White Paper—in the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman yesterday—they are beginning to catch up with the right idea of how to organise their planning. I believe they have been inspired by a modest speech which I made on 27th February last at the Friends' Hall in which I referred to the White Paper as a "six penny shocker" because it is like all those serial stories in which the villain is brought right up to the last ditch, and one does not know what is going to happen next, because there is in fact no solution till the next issue. In that speech I also envisaged that the kind of plan laid down in paragraphs 8, 16 and 140 of the White Paper would not work. The reasons I gave, immediately alter the publication of the White Paper, were that the Government had not up to that date invited the collaboration of industry and had not worked out their plans with industry, a course which, I maintain, is the only possible method of working out a democratic plan, not only with industry but with the representatives of the workers
1249 The White Paper, not like Mr. Micawber, waiting for something to turn up, but for something to catch up, seems to be exactly the same in regard to the stormy meetings of the right hon. Gentleman's party which have been so widely reported. The Government seem to have desired to catch up with the feeling of their own party at the last minute and to bring into the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech certain refinements which were totally absent from the White Paper. As is typical of the productions of this document, and as anybody who heard the speech last night of the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan) knows, the coal and fuel crisis has been inserted at the last minute in this document by a series of nuggets which appear quite plainly to anybody who has eyes to read. We should, therefore; like to congratulate the Government on trying to keep up to date. If they would listen a little to what I have to say to them now they would, perhaps, bring their plan more up to date as the result of some of the positive suggestions which I want to make.
I happen to be, by training and instinct, a great friend of France. I was partly educated there, and I have followed with great interest both the fortunes and the misfortunes of that great country. To my advantage I happen to have studied in some detail the Monnet plan. I think it is interesting to study that plan in relation to the planning system adopted by this Government. If one considers the Monnet plan one finds that the general principle is that of a central commissariat with M. Monnet in the centre of the hub, and a series of modernisation committees, these committees being composed of business chiefs, experts and Government Departments. The best description I have seen of the plan says this:The general scheme is as follows: Broadly speaking, the work of the Commissariat "—that is the central organisation—has been to help the modernisation committees to achieve their rival claims, to co-ordinate their activities and finally to synchronise the results of their efforts.I believe that this system of planning, which has involved from its earliest stages collaboration and contact with industry, is a much more effective one than that adopted by the right hon. Gentleman. The interesting thing is that if you 1250 examine the modernisation committees, the representatives arc chosen according to how they can best contribute to the national good. For example, the committee on textiles consists of 12 business chiefs, four trade unionists, four experts and three departmental experts. There fore, there is a round proportion between the different interests. When we come to manpower, there are only three business chiefs, six trade union representatives, seven experts and six departmental experts. The balance is different, and there are similar differences in the balance for the building materials committee, the machine tools committee and so on.
In all cases the Monnet plan has on purpose made its plants after consultation with industry, and after consultation with the trade unions and with the experts in each of the particular departments. I maintain that it is a much better method of planning than this belated con version of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to a small board which they are condescendingly establishing between industry and Government Departments. Democratic planning means collaboration with industry before you make the plans, and not, as is referred to in paragraph 140 of the White Paper, attention to industry after the plan has been made by a few back room boys addicted to planning and brought in for the purpose. The French planning system is comprehensive, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, who has always been concerned with education and has been willing to learn, will learn some thing from it. I am not happy about the departmental organisation of his scheme. I am not happy that there will be proper contacts by the Departments with industry. I should like to ask the Minister of Defence whether this planning scheme and the planning officer idea is going to apply to the Treasury and the financial side in the same way as it is to apply to other Government Departments, because the financial side is absolutely essential to planning, and we shall not be satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's scheme unless we feel that the Treasury come under the harrow in the same way as other Government Departments. Lastly, I should like to ask whether the supreme planner, which the right hon. Gentleman has not yet found, is to be in the Cabinet office or any other office. I believe this scheme would work better if he was in 1251 the Cabinet office and able to correlate his activities in that way.
I want to turn from consideration of the Government planning to a reference to manpower. In the Monnet plan priorities are controlled in regard to manpower, partly by the allocation of foreign labour to this industry or that. But there is a vital difference between the French plan and ours in this respect, because the French anticipate using more foreign labour than it would be right and profit able for us to use. I do not believe we have a lever of that sort. I am aware, from experience on two occasions in the Ministry of Labour, of the operation of the joint industrial council, and I would lend my support to the theory which has prevailed in the course of our Debates that we cannot direct labour or Government wages from a central point. I would also say that I have always been struck, both in my experience at the Ministry of Labour and since, by the extraordinarily conservative character of the wage-fixing organisation in Great Britain. There is probably no more conservative organisation in Great Britain. If we examine the matter carefully we will find that one joint industrial council will not in any way take orders or directions from even the Trades Union Congress. Take the engineers: they regard themselves as entirely independent of the T.U.C. when they are making their contracts in regard to wages.
Whether we like that or not, it is all typically British, and I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour in not desiring to overturn that in a hurry. I think it would be a great mistake to depart from anything so truly British, but the fact is that, despite the right hon Gentleman saying he had a wages policy, which I do not believe he has, and it has never been explained by any speaker from that side; despite him saying that, I believe we must have a closer approach to synthesis in the wage structure than we have at the present time.
I want to put a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour and to Members of the Government. It is put from a modest experience of these questions, and does not in any way upset the system of collective bargaining, nor does it introduce any spirit of direction. I understand that an experiment has 1252 already been made with the National Joint Advisory Council to bring the wage structure organisations more closely to gether, and to explain to them the facts of the economic and political situation. If that be the case, could we not follow that one stage closer, and introduce some council which meets in order to bring to gether the findings of the different industrial councils with a view to obtaining some synthesis between the findings of the councils; with a view to relating the wage structure in one industry to another one; and, above all, with a view to bringing before that central synthesising council the facts of the economic situation and the national interest? If the right hon. Gentleman could follow out that idea, he would find nothing repugnant in it, and it would simply be developing a structure which he has himself developed hitherto.
Now I pass to other aspects of the man power problem. I shall not say very much about the Defence Services tonight because I think we can rely upon my right hon. Friend the Member. for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who is to speak tomorrow, to speak most energetically on this point, and I feel sure the Minister of Defence will not be disappointed. I would like to echo what the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) has said, and that is that I believe that the only hope for the Ministry of Labour in manning up certain industries is to obtain more from certain of the Defence Services. I believe there are possibilities of slack which can be taken up, and I believe it is in that way only that agriculture, and several other of our industries, can be manned up properly. I would like to make one personal plea to the Minister of Defence. One of the weaknesses of this system of compulsory military service for two years is that there is not sufficient in it of the educative process. If he could make young men feel that after their two years they were in some way better trained or better educated, he would make them much more content in joining up. As I speak on foreign policy from this Box, I would not attempt to say that the Government is without commitments, but I do say they could make this period of Defence Service very much more profitable than it is at the present time.
There are two other aspects of the man-power situation to which I wish to refer. One is the reference to the Civil Service and its non-industrial and other staff, and 1253 the other is to the labour for agriculture. I have had what is known as "broken down" for me some of the details of what are called in a broad term, which I know is not accurate, as the "public servants" of this country. There is no doubt that they are swelled to an alarming extent. When we come to examine them and find the only Departments in which there have been reductions since April, 1939, we get a shock. The only Departments in which my figures show there have been reductions are in the Services and Supply Departments, and in transport. Otherwise, we find that the Post Office has increased by some 50,000 persons. I should like to ask why that is necessary between now and 1939. I should like to know why the Inland Revenue has increased between April, 1939, and now from 24.5 thousand to 34.8 thousand, and why the Ministry of Labour has increased from 27.9 thousand to 44.7 thousand. I should like to know why the Ministry of Works has increased from 6.3 thousand to 20.3 thousand, and why the Board of Trade has gone up from 4.3 thousand to 15.3 thousand, although I believe that is the only one, due to the absorption of the Department of Overseas Trade and the raw materials department in the Ministry of Supply on which the right hon. Gentleman has an easy answer. Pensions have increased from something under 3 to 12.6 thousand and other Departments from 57 to 89.1 thousand. These are very alarming figures. If we are going to insist on productivity, it is not by amassing numbers into the Civil Service and particularly into the clerical grades that we are going to get efficiency. I do not think we have had sufficient explanation from the Government why this is absolutely necessary.
But it is when I come to the labour problem in agriculture that I find the situation most unsatisfactory. Anyone who knows agriculture knows, as the President of the Board of Trade said, that the labour shortage is the basis of all our troubles. One would have thought that the Government would have taken drastic steps to deal with this vital problem in our ancient and most important industry. At the bottom of the labour shortage is the housing problem, because without houses, and with the present shortage of houses in the countryside, it is quite impossible to house the workers on the farms.
§ Mr. Butler
If we look at the White Paper we find a completely different inflection of the voice and the determination when the Government deal with mining and with the scandal of rural housing. In the case of mining, the Government say in paragraph 87 that it is the Government's intention to provide houses for the mining workers. What happens when we come to the agricultural worker, for whom we stand on this side of the House? When we come to the agricultural worker, what does paragraph 109 of the White Paper say? It is the usual officialese, the usual Government language:The Government will take what steps it can to provide more houses for agricultural workers.I think it is time that someone stood up for agriculture. But what do we find? I refer to HANSARD of 6th March, col. 103, and find an answer given by the Minister of Health to the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) who asked for how many houses local authorities have claimed the special standard amount of grant and how many cottages have been completed by the latest convenient date and so forth. The answer given to the first part of the Question was that 607 houses had been completed. That is for the purpose of housing agricultural workers up to date. I regard that as a scandalous figure. I want to bring in evidence certain local evidence from my own part of Essex, a typical rural area where we are right up against it on this question of labour. I am informed by the Essex War Agricultural Committee that in the North-West part of Essex there are likely to be only 1.5 men per Too acres. Every one knows that when the prisoners of war go there will be the biggest crisis in agricultural labour that this country has ever seen, especially on the arable land. Those of us who have been brought up to this subject know that at least three or four men are needed per Too acres if proper production is to be obtained from the land. This can only be solved by more expedition in housing. In the area of the Saffron Walden Rural District Council, the War Agricultural Committee have asked the local council for 266 houses over their programme to provide houses for agricultural labour. Sanction has only been given so far for 70 houses.
1255 I believe that the Government must go back on their tracks and accept the decisions of the Hobhouse Committee on the reconditioning of rural houses. Unless they do, they will not get the number of houses required to house the rural workers with the speed necessary. The Hobhouse Committee reported that no less than 100,000 houses could be improved by reconditioning to house agricultural workers. What answer do we get from the Ministry of Health? We hear that:There is no Parliamentary time for legislation this Session.''—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1947; Vol. 433, c. 332.]On this vital subject. What is there time for? Legislation and the Guillotine for everything except that which really affects the housing of a basic industry of the country. When it comes to housing the agricultural worker, no consideration is to be given in this Session. I am certain that the country will insist on the Government overturning their policy in this respect.
When we come to the agricultural policy, there is even more evidence of a lack of Government determination. Why is it the Minister has allowed his liaison officers in the districts to be dispersed? He must know perfectly well that his general system of control and supervision cannot be properly carried out in their absence. Why is it that we do not realise that at the present time it is possible to save a considerable proportion of dollars if we encourage agricultural production in the right way? When we examine the import programme we find this colossal figure of £725 million of imports to help agriculture, both with foods and materials for agricultural development. When we examine the import programme we find a purchase of grapes, as compared with 1938, when we purchased some £1,729,000, of £5,796,000 now. On peaches and nectarines we spent £231,000 in 1938; in 1946, we were spending £2,006,044. It is the same with all fruits and tomatoes.
I say, quite definitely, and I know I speak for a large section of the farming population, that the farmers want feeding stuffs, not nectarines. They do not want peach fed hams. They want hams fed on maize and proper feedingstuffs. I think it is time we realised what we can do if we adopt a proper policy towards feeding- 1256 stuffs. I calculate that the purchase of 90,00o tons of feedingstuffs for pigs would cost some £2million and save double that amount in dollars. It would result in some 48 million pounds of bacon production, an increase of 400,000 pigs for bacon over and above what we were counting for in the early part of 1948. I ask the Government so to readapt their policy that they can buy us feedingstuffs to achieve that result.
If we take the case of eggs—I have taken the case of pigs and bacon—£33 million was spent last year on purchasing dried egg costing 120 million dollars. Forty million dollars would have bought us enough feedingstuffs to produce sufficient eggs to cover the processed total. That would have been an immediate saving of 80 million dollars on the transaction. I consider that the Government should pay attention to this possibility—
§ Sir S. Cripps rose—
§ Mr. Butler
I have to end by a quarter past ten. I consider that the Government should pay attention to this possibility of saving our dollar resources by purchasing feedingstuffs instead of dried eggs.
§ Mr. Butler
I can only say that in to day's "Daily Telegraph" there is a statement in a telegram from the Argentine—and I should like confirmation whether or not that is true—which says that we have decided instead of purchasing five million tons of maize to drop our order to between 500,000 and 700,000 tons. I have confirmation of that in formation in the corn trade papers. That information would appear to show that there is maize available in the Argentine. I should like to know why the Government cannot purchase feedingstuffs for our stock if they can purchase luxury products at present. If they can give me an explanation, I shall be most obliged.
I want to come to an even more vital aspect in my last few words. I do not think that the recent statement of the Minister of Agriculture shows a proper sense of urgency. I want to speak with a sense of responsibility about this because this is the occasion upon which the Minister has fixed his prices with the 1257 farmers. These prices have been accepted by those with whom he is negotiating. I can only say that the farmers, I presume, have taken it that these are from their point of view suitable prices as individuals. I think the worst thing for agriculture would be if we got the impression that selfish men were asking for public money for their own personal interest. That is not the agricultural policy we want. We do not want to subsidise this interest or that. That is the old fashioned idea which has ruined agricultural policy in the past. What we want to encourage is the idea that agriculture has a set target within the national economy. That is just where the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture has failed. He has failed in the Committee upstairs on the Agriculture Bill to give any satisfactory answers about the long-term target for agriculture. He has failed when we tackled him on the Agriculture Bill. Until agriculture has a set target within the national economy, our main basic industry will not have a final place in our economy.
An answer was given in another place today that the Government are to publish a document which was produced in the early part of 1945 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). I cannot quote from that document tonight because it is not yet published, but when it is published we shall see that a programme was there laid down under which 80 millions of foreign dollar exchange might be saved on prewar values which, on present values, would be some £140 million, and that would constitute a proper target for agricultural production.
§ Mr. Butler
If five conditions are fulfilled, which the noble Lord who leads for the Government in the Upper House detailed for all to read, and therefore there is no need for me to divulge these secrets. That was a real policy for agriculture and it consisted in a rise in the milk output, an increase in the beef cattle output, an increase in the sheep output and, as far as I know from what I have heard of the policy, almost a doubling of our pig and poultry population. That is a positive long-term policy for agriculture which the Government ought to adopt at the present critical time, and if 1258 they do not adopt it but confine themselves to the meagre statement of the right hon. Gentleman about prices, they will be doing a very great disservice to agriculture and a great disservice to this country.
I am at any rate confident that when this document is published we shall see in it a long-term policy which I trust the Government will with the least possible delay put into effect. What we want is a much greater and more positive approach to the self-sufficiency of our national economy, a much greater sense of personal responsibility, a refusal to enter into the forthcoming international conference at Geneva with any idea of giving our agriculture away, a determination to put Empire preferences first, and especially the Colonial aspect of Empire preference; but what we want even more than those things is a sense of national regeneration in which we put the basic considerations first.
I know one nation which did it, and that was an agricultural nation, Denmark, after they were defeated by Germany, and that regeneration was led not by economists but by educationists. We want something of that revival under Bishop Grunburg. Something of that sort is needed here today, not just sheer modern economic planning but 'a sense of personal service; for the ordinary man a visual evidence of the result of his own exertions, which he does not see today, and for the nation as a whole a sense of mission, not in dividing one section from another but in sharing values which transcend social and economic values. These values are to be found in the simple words "sacrifice" and "service":A nation wins its right to riseBy service and by sacrifice.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
I am quite sure that the last words tittered by the right hon. Gentleman about willingness to sacrifice would be a great motto at the present time, if one could be sure from the attitude of hon. Members who joined in the Debate from the other side that they would share equally in the sacrifice.
The right hon. Gentleman has been referring in his speech especially to the problem of the agricultural industry. Because of the other things to which I 1259 have to reply, I have only time to make two references to the agricultural part of his speech. The first concerns his suggestion that labour will be short. He said that in North-West Essex there were about Li men per zoo acres, and that we had done nothing by way of general help and legislation for them. The problem of labour in agriculture is not something new; it is one which grew especially from the year 1921 onwards, starting with the repeal of the Corn Production Act under the Government of 1918–1922 end continuing between that year and 1939, when we saw an exodus of 250,000 workers from the agricultural industry. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman will not blame the Labour Government for that problem? He might perhaps look a little nearer home, and at the wages policies that were adopted throughout those years, when wages were 25s. a week for the agricultural worker in 1923, and even by 1939 had not advanced beyond a weekly wage of 35s.
The right hon. Gentleman also talked about the provision of houses for rural workers. How many houses for rural workers were erected during all the years when the Tory Governments were in office, when, instead of there being a general shortage of productive labour, as we have today, there were, as I remember distinctly, in January, 1929, 159,000 building trade workers out of work, a number which represented about 19½ per cent. of the total? The right hon. Gentle man had better think on these things. He said also that we did not find time for legislation for any really important industry, like agriculture. I suggest, from all that I have heard, that the biggest thing that has been done for agriculture for 50 or 100 years was to create the maximum confidence in the countryside by the Agriculture Bill which is now in Standing Committee.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
I was referring to the need for rural housing and the reconditioning of rural housing. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that if the Government had continued with the scheme for reconditioning rural houses, there would have been a great many more rural houses.
§ Mr. Alexander
I am sure my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health would be able to debate that point at any time having regard to the use of public money 1260 amid present shortages of raw materials and labour, and to the question whether in the use of public funds we should give preference to houses built directly for renting, or subsidise buildings owned by private owners.
I turn now to a matter which was raised this afternoon by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), and which has been referred to since by the hon. Mem ber for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan). I refer to the question of the size of the Armed Forces. Certainly, the current economic problems with which this country is faced and which have been described in all their gravity in the Economic White Paper, are such as to compel defence policy to be debated against the background of the general economic position. That approach to defence problems is a realistic one, and I welcome it for the reason expressed in the words of the Defence White Paper. It says:A successful defence policy must find its roots in healthy social and economic conditions. It is both inevitable and right that the rehabilitation of the civil economy should increasingly absorb the country's efforts and resources, to the diminution of activities in the defence field. But it is essential that the fruits of seven years of intense war effort should not now be thrown away by an ill considered jettisoning of defence responsibilities.We have had references today to cost. I know that the cost is very heavy at the present time. On the other hand, the figure of £899 million gross, including the Ministry of Supply element which the Armed Forces are estimated to cost in 1947–48, is something like £768 million less than the cost in the previous year, or a reduction in the next financial year of no less than 45 per cent. That is a very drastic financial cut on top of the cuts which had taken place in the previous year. [Interruption.] I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take some other opportunity of conveying his opinions to the House.
§ Mr. Alexander
I waited a little over the time in order to be able to reply to the points raised; I do not know what is the matter with the hon. Gentleman.
There is not only the question of the saving which has been effected in the cost, 1261 there is the position in regard to manpower to be considered. I recognise, and this is a point made especially by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff, how extremely important it is for us to use every possible resource of manpower we can in the present situation. What is the situation there? I will take it in two different sections. First I will deal with the man power used in production for the support of the Armed Forces. The target set for December, 1946, was 500,000. It is now reduced to 450,000, and I hope very much that, just as we had less than the actual target for labour on production behind the Services last December, so we shall also fall short of the 450,000 set down in the White Paper.
I beg hon. Members to consider two things in connection with that figure. The first is that. it includes 46,000 or 47,000 who are specially engaged in research and development; and it includes also a very substantial number of workers in the clothing, boots, personal equipment and similar industries, who would certainly have to be doing a very large part of the same work for the men if they were back in civilian life, to keep them equipped there. Probably, therefore, the net figure of manpower engaged in the supply and maintenance of the Services is no more than about 350,000, a figure on which I hope I may be able to make further economics during the year.
I am certain that the House will not begrudge the considerable volume of labour and money which we are spending on research and development. In the state of the world today that expenditure for the Forces must have complete priority. We have proved again and again, that the work done in that direction is not only of value for the Forces themselves but is of considerable value for production and development in civil industry. It certainly is so in the case of our aero nautical research, the results of which are valuable both to civil and military aviation. For example the jet engine or gas turbine, which was produced at the start entirely for belligerent purposes, and with which our Air Force is now being equipped in fighter planes, has been found already to be of great value in our industrial development. I am sure my hon. Friend will not want me to cut down labour in that direction.
Now I turn to the manpower in the Forces. I am leaving out, unlike some 1262 figures quoted last night, Polish Forces, Colonial Forces and the like, and dealing entirely with the figures of British Forces stated in my own Defence White Paper. The manpower strength at the end of December last was 1,427,000. We estimate that with the cuts we have made, it will be down to 1,087,000 by 3rst March 1948. I want to point out that this is a net reduction in fifteen months, of 340,000, and as that allows for the intake, both of volunteers and from the call-up in the same period, we have actually to provide during that period, for the release, under the demobilisation scheme, by age and service groups, of nearly half a million men. The strength of 1,087,000 which has been allocated to the Service Departments for the end of the next financial year has been arrived at after a careful consideration by the Govern ment, and after a joint consideration of our estimates, taking into account the facts in the Economic Survey. It was a very difficult decision which the Government had to make, as to where to put the figure for the year, in respect of Service man power.
The fact is, of course, that we have to continue to meet our commitments. Some of these commitments might be described as current commitments, and some as long-term commitments. They are all set out in the White Paper, and I hope very much that in regard to the current commitments—the short-term commitments—there may be developments which will perhaps enable us to reduce the strength at present estimated. But I am bound to say that the estimated strength could have been lower but for the fact that already there has been such an immense run-down in the Forces at such a steep rate. Unless our forces are to be rendered largely in operative for the next few years, we are bound to have a sufficient number coming in to be trained to take the place of the older men and the skilled men, without whom many of our units would be unable to operate at the present time. I ask the House to remember in this respect the figures given yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade. At the peak period we had 5,100,000 persons in the Armed Forces. We have already demobilised 4,300,000. Eighty-five per cent. of all those who were in the Forces at the peak period of service have already 1263 been demobilised. Taking the period from Decmber last to January, 1949, the Army alone expects to have nearly 700,000 men taken from it, and will have almost no one left at all except a few N.C.Os., some voluntary enlistments, and men called up in the interim period. It is essential in this transitional year that we should have a sufficient training cadre so that we shall not be left in the position between now and 1949 or 1950 of still spending huge sums on the maintenance of our three Services and yet, during the whole of that period, to have them practically crippled and inoperative for their particular tasks.
I would say that, in regard to the Forces themselves, we shall welcome at all times suggestions from either side of the House as to special economies that may be obtained here and there. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff has referred to the wastage of manpower in the Services. It is not the first time it has been put to me by Members of my own party that there is a waste of manpower in the Services. We have always carefully considered such representations, though I wish sometimes that particular cases were put more specifically, but I can assure the House as a whole that any cases brought to our notice—and I am sure I am speaking for my colleagues who are at the head of Service Departments as well as for myself—will be thoroughly investigated with the object of getting them cleared up. The point which I mentioned with regard to proposals for running down the Forces still further, and so crippling them, has been brought sharply to a head by the request for an overhead cut of 250,000 I ought not to anticipate that any further, except to say that I do emphasise the point which I have already made—that it would be gravely crippling to the Forces if such a cut were made at the present time. Because of the general position of manpower, I should like to say a word or two about our future policy in regard to these defence matters.
§ Mr. Christopher Shawcross (Widnes)
Before leaving that point, would my right hon. Friend say whether he is able to confirm or correct the figure I gave yesterday, for the total civil working population employed directly or in directly in providing for the Defence Services?
§ Mr. Alexander
I have given the whole of the figures which we had worked out, and reported to the House, in the White Paper on Defence. I am not clear where my hon. Friend got those figures which he produced last night. If, however, he has any further doubt about it, I will he glad to go into the matter with him and give him any information that he wants.
§ Mr. Shawcross
It emerges quite clearly, does it not, from what my right hon and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade said, that 10 per cent. of our national output is devoted to the Services in 1947 and it follows from that that 10 per cent. of the total working population is so engaged.
§ Mr. Alexander
That certainly was not the impression I got from what my right hon. and learned Friend said, but I shall be very glad to go into the basis on which my hon. Friend makes his estimate. I think that the figures he gave were quite fallacious, but if he has any doubts about the question, I will discuss it with him.
During the Debate mention was made of whether we ought to keep up the present strength of the forces—I think the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery mentioned this—because of a likely change of the form of war fare. I have heard, too, on this subject a quotation by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff with regard to a view expressed by Sir H. Tizard, now Chairman of our Defence Research Policy Committee and Scientific Advisory Council. Many of those out side Government circles who think and on occasion write on such matters, have been perhaps somewhat daring in their personal forecasts of the shape of things to come. I observe that Sir H. Tizard, in the quotation given by my hon. Friend, gives no idea, nor indeed does anyone else that we should remain unarmed, or that we should discontinue the use of current improved types of equipment, until we have seen exactly where we are going. If my hon. Friend will look at that quotation again he will see that I am right. So the House will not be surprised if I say that the Government in general, and myself in particular, backed by our expert advisers of all kinds, find a difficulty at the moment in seeing clearly what are the answers to the question about the shape of things to come in defence matters. Indeed I will 1265 go so far as to say that the time is not yet ripe to answer them. They are being studied with great thoroughness by all concerned and the product of their studies will become evident in due course.
I should like, before I pass from defence to answer some of the other questions put to me, to speak about the international background. This House and the country are interested, chiefly, in the internal aspects of our policy, and its impact on our general economy. But we have also to set our policy against the international background. The supreme policy, it should be remembered, must be to prevent war, and the biggest factor in the prevention of war will be the success of the United Nations organisation. The Foreign Secretary, when addressing the House in June last, made that clear, although I have not the time now to quote the whole of what he said. He made it clear that, within the United Nations organisation, we are striving to develop an efficient system of collective security. The Government are determined in their efforts to try to make collective security an effective instrument of peace, and we trust that the forces which, under Article 43 of the Charter are to be put at the disposal of the Security Council, will be organised as quickly as possible; we are pressing for swift and decisive action on this matter.
§ Mr. C. Davies
May I interrupt the right hon. Gentleman? What is worrying me, and I believe a lot of my supporters, is whether the Government are satisfied that the commitments even six years from now, will be as heavy. I ask that because the Government are exempting the miners from service for five years so that it seems that conscription is intended for more than five years.
§ Mr. Alexander
I think that the question of conscription had better be debated on the Second Reading of the Bill which must be laid before Parliament. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to raise his point fully at that time. But, we, as a Government, are doing our best to speed up the development of the United Nations organisation because we know, from bitter experience that there is no ultimate security in the policy of simply building up forces alone. One must look to the development of an international system and, above all, we pin our faith upon the setting up, and the efficient working of, courts of justice behind which we 1266 can put the forces of the nations. But we have always our own security to consider, and the Charter of the United Nations organisation, in Articles 41 and 52, makes it clear that it is not expected of us, or of any similar Power, that we should be without some means of defence until such time as the United Nations organisation has given its decision on any case of aggression. I might say that the only ultimate solution is a really generally accepted system of disarmament, but I am also convinced from personal experience between the two wars, and from my connection with the London Naval Conference of 1930, that one will never get disarmament by anything which is done Unilaterally. If one wants agreement on general security, it is important that disarmament should be accepted by all countries at the same time, and that there should be an efficient system of super vision.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)
Was the late Mr. Arthur Henderson not attempting to act unilaterally?
§ Mr. Alexander
Certainly not. I say that from my experience between the wars, I know that it is impossible to get progressive disarmament if you act unilaterally. There are many people in this country who argued at that time that Britain acted unilaterally; but I always defended, and will defend again, whatever action we took, which was in conference with, and in collaboration with, other nations, on the same lines, and in the interest of collective security.
Time is passing rapidly, and perhaps I may be allowed to devote the period left to me to some of the main points which have been raised during the Debate. I must say that the general tone of the Debate was admirable, though I did not altogether appreciate some of the things said by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Oliver Lyttelton). I do not see him present tonight. The speeches of the senior Member for the City of London (Sir A. Duncan), and the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson), were excellent in tone. In fact, I wondered why it was that—
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I cannot hear the Minister speaking for right hon. Gentlemen over there who are carrying on a meeting of their own.
§ Mr. Alexander
If I may say so, I thought that a number of suggestions made by the senior Member for the City of London last night could have been answered on what has actually been done, especially on such questions as the target, the export of wagons, and similar points. We are having them gone into specially, and I will be happy to communicate with the right hon. Gentleman on some of the points he raised.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
On a point of Order. May I submit, Sir, that not for the first time has the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) by means of a rule of Order tried to break the customary rule of courtesy in the House. It is quite customary for hon. and right hon. Gentle men to engage in conversation, even with the Chair, provided that they do not do so in a loud voice. If I have been guilty of speaking in a loud voice, then I apologise; but I submit to you, Sir, that I am entitled to an apology from the hon. Member opposite for breaking a Rule of the House with his most insolent point of Order.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The noble Lord will appreciate that I did not think it necessary to take any action on the hon. Member's point of Order. That, I think, should be sufficient.
§ Mr. Alexander
With regard to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities, he seems gradually to have come to the conclusion that there was a great number of people in the country who did not really understand very much about what is meant by capitalisation, the wage fund, overhead charges, distributive costs, ultimate selling prices, and the margin called profit, in any business carried on in the country. The right hon. Gentleman really has not moved with the times.
When I came to London in 1920, we had about 3½ million members of the Co-operative Society. We have now 9½ million. They are running for themselves the largest business of its kind in the country. There are 1,000 of these societies which have their own boards of directors who have to meet every week to see to these matters of industry—production, finance and so forth. I am sure that there was no 1268 need for the right hon. Gentleman to talk down to hon. Members on these benches, the great majority of whom have been connected either with the Co-operative Society or the trade union movement. The right hon. Gentleman spoke as if the great bulk of the workers in this country were not really advised on these matters but they understand them very well. Any body who has had the experience that I have had knows that trade union head quarters have very capable secretaries, that their research departments contain more sound sense on how to run industry and planning than the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles), and that they probably know a great deal more than he does about how these things should be done. They also have a great deal of experience of what has happened in the past, especially from 1918 to 1939. I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot say to my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade that the White Paper, and his speech, seemed to show that we had determined to turn our backs on the future. What Members opposite were really after was to make us try to re trace our steps, and go back to the old-time economic and commercial methods which they practised in the past. The more I listened to that kind of speech, the more I felt bound to point out what really hap pened, after the end of the war in 1918, and up to 1939, by following the kind of methods suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot. It really was amazing to hear this kind of thing put up in this year of 1947, after the failure of any of the proposals which they are making. In 1921, there was heavy deflation, the Geddes Axe, and huge unemployment. In Sheffield—that great steel centre now, by the way, busily employed—they were then bereft of orders. There were 6o,000 unemployed in the City of Sheffield—
§ Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)
That was in 1931, when the right hon. Gentleman lost his seat.
§ Mr. Alexander
No, I am talking about 1921, when the Riot Act had to be read outside the City Hall in face of a demon tration by unemployed men, who could not get £1 a week with which to keep their 1269 wives and families. From the time that the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite first came to Sheffield to fight his seat. we had to live on borrowed money to keep our unemployed in Sheffield, after we had exhausted all we could possibly raise from the poor rate. That money was finally re paid to the Government, who had to lend it to subsidise the poor law, only seven or eight years ago. For years there was this overhanging burden on us. Was it not the same with regard to the later Government? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) is to move a vote of no confidence in the Government to-morrow. I cannot anticipate that Motion, but I can say we have no confidence in the methods of the Opposition. They have not given us one alter native which has not been tried between the two great wars, and found to be entirely useless in producing any finally satisfactory result.
I want to give a few reminders to the House. I got them out today. In the period 1924 to 1929, it may be remembered that the present Leader of the Op position was Chancellor of the Exchequer. —[Interruption.] Are we not entitled, as we have been talking on general principles for two days, about the respective merits of deflation and inflation, to weigh up which policy is likely to be the more beneficial? Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition will tomorrow try to explain what was behind his policy of deflation in 1924–1929. The right hon. Member for Alder shot complained bitterly to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday that Supertax was not giving a proper incentive to the leaders of industry to get on with their job. One would think that he was saying that if we reduced Supertax that would give an incentive to the high-ups in industry, and that we should get a tremendous contribution to industry. The first act of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in his Budget in 1924, when Supertax payers were much better off than they are now, was to make them a present of £10,000,000 per annum. The only result was to increase unemployment year after year, and four years after he had given that, unemployment was higher than when he took the tax off.
There have been many Debates recently in this House about the coal situation. May I say that no one did more than right hon. Gentlemen opposite to damage the 1270 coal industry during the periods they were in office. They are the people who hold the responsibility. In direct opposition to the recommendations of the Coal Commission, I remember that they insisted in passing the Eight Hours Act, and lengthening the miners' hours; but did that ease the coal situation? No, what it really did, after the disturbances were cleared up, was to make mining area after mining area completely derelict. I remember seeing upon the hoardings throughout the country—after Mr. Baldwin had sent a telegram to America that any statement that miners were starving in this country was untrue—an appeal by the Lord Mayor_ of London, "Is it nothing to you that more than one million men are in want of food and clothing?" Who are these people to talk? There was no single suggestion made by any Member of the House on the other side during this Debate which has offered us any other solution than the remedies tried in the period I have mentioned, which resulted in the starvation and unemployment of the workers of this country.
Let us now look at finance. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery spoke about the need to balance Budgets, and things of that kind. I dare say that he will be strongly supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wood ford. I have a memory of that period when he, the right hon. Gentleman, was Chancellor of the Exchequer. I went back to some of the records.—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg), who is interrupting somewhat loudly, spoke yesterday in this Debate. The hon. Member described as "rubbish and lies" what my hon. Friends have said from time to time about Tory misrule. I think that he might now be silent and hear some of the evidence.
§ Mr. Alexander
I am now going to quote from a newspaper tailed the "Daily Mail." I suppose that the Conservatives will be silent and take the old old story from the "Daily Mail." Let us take their description.
§ Mr. Alexander
I listened yesterday to the hon. Member for 35 minutes without once interrupting him.
§ Mr. Alexander
I thank the hon. Member for his reciprocal courtesy. This quotation from the "Daily Mail," on the period in question, is very apposite to this Debate:In the unsuccessful attempt to bribe its way back to Office, the Conservative Government squandered the scanty reserves of our national exchequer. The treasure it handed over to its successors was one of bare cupboards, plundered shelves, and empty boxes. The Conservative Government took everything it could lay its hands on. It raided the Road Fund of £20 million, stinted the Sinking Fund of £60 million, and treated as current revenue £13 million which, by right, belonged to the Currency Reserve Fund.This is the kind of finance—[Interruption.] What do you expect? The House of Commons has had to listen for the last two days to nothing but this old piffle and poppycock. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Aldershot said, at the end of his speech, that there were two things hon. Gentlemen opposite could not tolerate. One was indecision and the other was the promotion of sectional against national interests. I was very much taken by that great pronouncement about decision and indecision. Again, I would like to refer to what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. I quote now from the records of the House on 6th October, 1931. [Interruption.] Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have got to have it.
§ Mr. Alexander
The right hon. Member for Woodford was speaking from the Front Bench below the Gangway on this side, and he was referring to the Conservative Government which had kept him in the wilderness for ten years. He said:The Tory Government was decided only to be undecided, resolute to be irresolute, all powerful for impotence.And that is the party now led by the right hon. Gentleman, whose comment upon them was so thoroughly justified by after results. Hon, Members speaking from the Benches opposite tonight have used words about the present position being the mess into which the Government have got the country.
§ Mr. Alexander
What is this country under the great need to deal with? It is under the need to deal with a shortage of goods and services as a result of six years of dreadful war. This great fight for production has now to be carried on with the overhanging National Debt of £24,000 million—created by whom? By us? Created by the war. Led into by whom? Led into the war by the party opposite. [Interruption.] Again, I bring my evidence, spoken in this House on the night of the Munich Debate by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. This is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford said on 5th October, 1938:So far as this country is concerned the responsibility must rest with those who have the undisputed control of our political affairs They neither prevented Germany from rearming, nor did they rearm our selves in time… they left us in the hour of trial without adequate national defence or effective international security."— [OFFICIAL. REPORT, 5th Oct., 1938; vol. 339:c. 366.]
§ Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot) rose—
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The right hon. Gentle man has now come back to his usual courtesy and has given way, which he did not do when I rose before, but I am glad he has done so now. I would like to ask him how often he voted against the Naval Estimates.
§ Mr. Alexander
I should think I did so just about as often as Members opposite have done when they have been in opposition and have moved a reduction in the Vote in order to call attention to any points they wanted to raise. I do not think that is relevant at all.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has gibed at us for having taken the country into the war, would he say 1273 whether he voted against conscription in 1939?
§ Mr. Hogg
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I have your Ruling on this point? As I understand it, we are now discussing a Motion in the following terms:That this House welcomes the laying before Parliament of a survey of the nation's requirements and resources for the year 1947, is concerned at the seriousness of the situation disclosed, and will support the Government in all practical measures taken in co operation with all sections of the people of the country to overcome the difficulties and to make secure the foundations of our industry so as to provide a high standard of living for our people.I have been listening, I am bound to say as well as I could, to the long dissertation on the history of the past 24 years which has culminated in a debate between the right lion. Gentleman and certain of my hon. Friends as to who voted against the Estimates in 1938–39. The matter upon which I seek your guidance is this: how wide is this Debate to be permitted to go, and when is the right hon. Gentle man going to be compelled by the Chair to return to the Motion on the Order Paper?
§ Mr. Speaker
I understood that during the Debate certain reflections were made on the conduct of the Party which is now in power as Government, and therefore, it is in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to rebut the charges. These reflections always lead to counter charges, and there fore, in a way they are to be regretted, because they take the Debate widely off the subject; but if they are made, they can be replied to.
§ Mr. Hogg
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I have listened to most of this Debate, and although it is true that a large number of charges were laid against the right hon. Gentleman and those sitting on the Front Bench opposite with regard to the conduct of our economic affairs during the past two years, I cannot believe that it is your Ruling—and I ask your guidance on this matter—that because these charges were made, it is now open to the right hon. Gentleman to make a long dissertation on the question of who is responsible for bringing this country into war in 1939. If that were to be the case, I 1274 should respectfully submit that there really would cease to he any order in our Debates at all. If a charge on one question relating to the conduct of our economic affairs were to be held to permit the levelling of countercharges on every aspect of foreign and defence policy, then I submit we are going too far.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member must remember that these Debates may range widely and may appear at times to be irrelevant, but one cannot rule any argument out of order in a very wide Debate. The right hon. Gentleman makes his case in the way he thinks best. It may prove right, or it may prove wrong, but in the end the public must judge.
§ Mr. Alexander
I am just about to bring what I am saying to a close. I feel I am entirely within your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, because some people may not have observed before I read that last quotation from the right hon. Member for Woodford, that I did say we had a very great economic task to perform to try and put matters right under the burden of a war debt of £24,000 millions. Therefore, I was dealing strictly with the economic problems that we are now discussing in this Debate.
We are confident on this side of the House that a great deal of political capital has been made out of the temporary difficulties we have been passing through in the last six or seven weeks under rather unprecedented circumstances. It is perfectly true that, perhaps, we might have taken certain steps which would have ensured a larger stock of coal upon the ground, but I am bound to say that the way in which the miners of this country have shown their willingness and their capacity to improve their output in the last four or five months is a tribute to the work of the Minister of Fuel and Power. I am confident the miners will continue to sup port us and the nation right through the coming months, and help us to get out of this crisis. I also believe, from my con tact with people in different parts of London and the country, that the great majority of the people of this country are behind us and are willing to co-operate with us in setting our country on a course towards growing prosperity by dealing immediately with our economic problems. I hope that when the House meets to morrow there will be no mistake about the overwhelming majority we shall receive in the division.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. William Whiteley)
I beg to move, "That the Debate be now ad journed."
§ 11.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
I rise to oppose the Government's Motion to bring this Debate to a close at this moment. In doing so, I speak without any sense of personal frustration because, with a proper sense of gratitude for past favours and with an even greater appreciation of the law of averages, Mr. Speaker, I did not seek to catch your eye today. But many of my colleagues did so and they have not had sufficient time to express their opinions in this hour of crisis. I submit that today the country is in danger and that it is the inalienable right of Members of Parliament to offer their counsel to the Government in circumstances such as these.
I submit that back bench Members of Parliament are not only closer to the country but that they have more time to consider these problems and often speak with greater sense than Ministers who have great Departments to administer and important Bills to pilot through Standing Committees on three days of the week. Back benchers have not had sufficient opportunity to express their opinions in the course of this Debate. This Debate has ranged over 14 hours and 44 minutes and of those 14 hours and 44 minutes no less than 8 hours and 16 minutes have been occupied by Front Bench speakers, leaving only 6 hours and 28 minutes to back benchers. Yesterday the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade told us that this was the most important Debate that has taken place in the history of this Parliament. We sat until four o'clock in the morning recently to discuss the settlement of the Poles, and surely it is not unreasonable that we should be able to discuss for at least as long a time, the survival of the British people. Yet today the acting Leader of the House, who I see is now leaving the House, had the arrogance to tell us that he thought he had already been generous in allowing three days for this Debate. I hope that the House will reject this Motion.
§ 11.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I wish to support the plea of the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) very strongly indeed. We are told by Mem- 1276 bers of the Government, as well as by Members in all parts of the House, that the country is in a condition of extreme danger and faces a severe crisis calling for a national effort. The question that arises is whether the Government with all the sources of information at their disposal, have not been guilty of neglect in not bringing this matter to the attention of the House at least a year ago. As they have failed to do that, ought we not to devote more of our time and attention to it now. Owing to the number and length of Front Bench speeches the back benchers have been crowded out. The acting Leader of the House has been guilty of a gross insult to the House in speaking of his generosity to the House, in allowing three days for this Debate. I believe that the House would be surrendering its rights if it agreed to the suggestion that this Debate should be adjourned.
§ 11.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Drayson (Skipton)
I oppose this Motion. This Debate has been described as one of the most vital that has taken place during this Parliament. The word "Dunkirk" has been used, but I suggest that this is more like a Caporetto with the Government running away from the facts in the White Paper which they have presented. I consider that this Debate should be allowed to continue for a considerably longer period. I regard it as a means of educating the party opposite in the situation which faces the country at the present time. After having heard the speech by the Minister of Defence, which was full of piffle and poppycock, I am convinced that that education is still far from complete. The toddlers opposite are only just beginning to walk. I would like to see this Debate continuing for several days so that we could deal with the many other points and answer the many questions that have been raised by the party opposite. We had an extension of one hour yesterday. I can only suppose that the acting Leader of the House would say that that was because of his generosity. But, in any case, that time was largely taken up by his own party, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. The Minister of Defence has gone well beyond the time allowed and indeed beyond the time which the House could endure, and I should like to add my protest against this Motion.
§ 11.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
I rise to support the opposition to this Motion, and I do so as a protest on behalf of the back benchers on this side of the House, and, I hope, on behalf of some of the back benchers on the opposite side, against this tyranny of the acting Leader of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon that he was being generous in allowing three days for this Debate. It is the same expression as that which he used last week when the question of the adequacy of the time allowed was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). By agreement of every section of this House, we are discussing about the most important matter that has ever come before Parliament, a matter which involves the very survival of this country, and there are many hon. Members on this side who wish to take part. Further more, I believe that there are many hon. Members on the other side who wish to participate in order to put their case from a different point of view.
I would ask the House very seriously to consider this. Is it tolerable that any body who thinks of this House as a great assembly, with great historical traditions, should have to accept the insult in the statement that we are discussing the survival of our own country only by the generosity of the Government? It is a perfectly intolerable claim. It follows the claim last week that matters should not be fully discussed in Committees upstairs. I know, Mr. Speaker, that I should be out of order, and I will not follow that point, but it is a revolution in the history of this country because the tradition has hitherto been that we discuss in this House all matters of importance to the people. If the acting Leader's view that we are discussing this matter only by virtue of the Government's generosity were to be accepted by the House, the position would be that, in future, a General Election would decide only one thing; the question who were to be the tyrants for the next five years. In the interests of this House, I would say that if ever there was a case in which the matter should be fully considered and debated, it is the matter before us tonight. The survival of Parliamentary democracy immensely transcends the interests and views of any one Party. I beg to oppose the Motion.
§ 11.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Mikardo (Reading)
If this Motion had been moved only a little while ago, I should have felt strongly inclined to support hon. Members opposite in opposing it, because we on this side, 1 think, believe there is great validity in the argument of the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. M. Lindsay) in that a disproportionate amount of time has been given to Front Bench speakers. But hon. Members opposite who are now opposing the Adjournment of this Debate until to morrow must be in an extremely equivocal position in claiming more time in view of the fact that, during the speech of the Minister of Defence there was an organised exodus of about a third of the hon. Members opposite, led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). This was an ungracious act, in view of the fact that the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden had made a long speech, listened to by all right hon. and hon. Members intently on both sides of the House—
§ 11.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
I have not added up the number of hours taken up by speeches from Members on the Front Benches and compared them with the number of hours taken by speakers from the back benches. I do not see that there is any party difference about this at all. The real struggle, as I see it, from the Parliamentary point of view, is back bench against Front Bench. I do say, now, that it was slightly unfortunate that three Conservative speeches followed one another. But that is all by the way. There is no question of party in this at all. I shall support the opponents of the Motion, and I hope that many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House will do likewise.
§ 11.32 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
I oppose the Adjournment for similar reasons. I have taken no part in the Debate so far, but I do suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that there has never been a House of Commons so well-equipped in all parts, with men and women who have given a lifetime to the study of politics and economics. On this important occasion, when the whole 1279 wealth and capacity of the nation are required in the public interest, I do not think it right that there should be any attempt to suppress the opinions of hon. Members on either side of the House. All wisdom does not rest, I venture to say with respect, in either Front Bench. It may be that some of the new Members, of whom I think there are at least a hundred, have contributions to make which the House, and the country, should hear. I should be sorry if His Majesty's Government suppressed, not myself and hon. Members on this side of the House, but suppressed the very high standard of capacity which reinforces those who sit on the Government benches. I should like to think that the frustration felt by many of hon. Members opposite, who sit there with sealed lips, and are not allowed to speak except by the courtesy and permission of the Whips, is to some extent to be alleviated; I hope that that system will be destroyed tonight, and that free speech will once again he heard in this Chamber.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)
The House has gone very queer tonight. It is not many hours ago since I was accorded, without a Division, the suspension of the Rule. That was accepted by the House. I was cross-questioned, and I gave the answers. The questions which are being raised tonight were put to me this afternoon. I suggest that the House is going back on its tracks. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The House accorded me this afternoon, without a Division, a suspension of the Rule on the grounds which I then explained to the House. If the House wishes to discuss the Adjournment it can do so; but it will not get, so far as I am concerned, any more time for discussion of the primary Debate, from which it is now running away.
§ 11.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
I wish to support the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles). I was going to raise at Question time today the question of getting an extra hour but, frankly, there is nothing in one hour. This has become now a purely party business. There was a strong feeling in the House earlier today that this Debate was becoming quite 1280 impossible. There are more than 100 hon. Members, as you, Mr. Speaker, know better than we do, who wish to speak and who cannot possibly be called upon to speak in this Debate. If ever there was a time in the history of this country when the opinion of back benchers really mattered, it seems to me that this is the occasion. There are many Members on both sides of the House who have special angles of approach. If I may say so, with respect, we have listened to some pontifical speeches from both Front Benches during the last two days which have not brought us one iota nearer to grips with the essential problems which face us today. It would be wrong for me to develop that theme now, but I could mention half a dozen subjects which have not been mentioned. There has been little interest in the Debate, partly because it has been impossible for a large number of back benchers to speak. It seems that tomorrow we are bound to get into the purely party atmosphere. The blame is not for me to apportion, because I am an independent Member from a peculiar and special body, a functional organisation, but I register my protest that in this Debate, when we ought to have been acting as a Council of State, we have descended to the lowest tactics of party warfare.
§ 11.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I intimated to you privately, Mr. Speaker, and to my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, that I intended to raise this matter and the only reason I did not do so was because of the atmosphere in which the subject is now being considered by both sets of back benchers. But I want to draw attention to the fact that the situation as regards this Debate has been this: On Monday we had four Front Bench speakers, occupying 4 hours; eight back benchers occupied 3¼ hours. Today, Front Bench speakers have occupied 4 hours, and nine back benchers have occupied 3 hours. In two days, we have had nine Front Bench speakers and 17 back bench speakers, the Front Bench speakers occupying 8 hours, and the back benchers 6½ hours. That, I suggest, is not a fair proportion of' the time that should be allocated between Front and back benchers in this House. There is a distinct point of view that back benchers could put forward to the Front Bench. I am not in favour of an unlimited exten- 1281 sion of time, because then the Debate gets ragged as the morning advances, but I do ask my right hon. Friend the acting Leader of the House for some extension tomorrow, so that we can get in more back bencher speakers. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is no use."] If Members feel that it is no use then I am sorry that this situation has developed. The fact re mains, however, that a wholly disproportionate amount of the time of this Debate has been taken up by Front Bench speakers.
§ 11.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
I had not intended to intervene in this discussion, as I had intended to try to catch your eye during the principal Debate, Sir, but the observations of the acting Leader of the House have caused me to rise. I have never heard in any Assembly, or read in the report of any Assembly, even a totalitarian assembly, the kind of attitude which has been adopted by the acting Leader of the House towards the House tonight. For that reason I rise to oppose this Motion, which I had not in tended to do, because I agree that the atmosphere engendered in the House by the Minister of Defence was not conducive to good debate.
§ 11.40 p.m.
§ Mr. David Renton (Huntingdon)
I rise also to oppose this Motion, and in doing so will support the plea made by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) and the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), who drew attention to the over-emphasis on Front Bench speeches. Much as we value speeches from the Front Benches on either side, we have to remember that those made from the Government Front Bench represent the views of the Government and Government Departments, while those made from the Opposition Front Bench represent the views of the official party headquarters, whereas back benchers on both sides represent something quite different. On the one hand they represent the trade unions and the Co-operative Society, which is specially interested in the economic situation today, and on the other the views of the small business people, the small farmers and manufacturers who are trying to make their own contribution to national revival and to the export trade, and are experiencing great difficulties. Unless these people have an opportunity to put forward their views, 1282 a clear picture cannot possibly be obtained of the economic situation so that the future may be properly planned.
§ 11.42 p.m.
§ Mrs. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
I am speaking for the women Members on this side. At least four have sat in this Chamber throughout the Debate yesterday and today, except for time in which to have something to cat. Each of us has risen on every occasion, but for some peculiar reason has failed to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker—I do not know what attribute a person has to possess to catch your eye, whether it is size or what it is. I am voicing the opinion of all the women Members on this side, who feel that they have an important part to play in the economic policy of this country. If it had not been for the political antagonism engendered in the past hour and a half, I am certain that many Members, particularly women Members, might have supported the hon. Members who spoke earlier. I had intended to do that but for this political antagonism which has been engendered.
§ 11.44 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
There is a good deal to be said for the view of the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan). The Debate should come to an end now, and should be continued for a longer period tomorrow. I would point out, however, that there is a three-line Whip out on both sides for a major Division, and I feel sure that the Whips would look askance at the idea that the Debate should be prolonged tomorrow. I was astonished at the attitude taken up by the acting Leader of the House, who has just disappeared After all, it was his Motion on the Order Paper which provided for an unlimited suspension of the Rule. I listened with some care to the right hon. Gentleman earlier, but he did not commit himself. At any rate he was more accommodating then, than he has shown him self tonight. I do not know what has upset him. As to the division which exists between the two sides of the House, engendered by the speech of the Minister of Defence, I suggest that that major division subsided when the right hon. Gentleman resumed his seat. I agree with the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) that there is a good deal of common ground between back benchers on both sides of the House. There is recognition 1283 of the tact that they have not been able to make their speeches owing to the length of time taken by right hon. Gentlemen on both Front Benches, and there is a great deal of common ground tonight for wishing the Debate to be prolonged. Therefore, I say, let it be prolonged.
§ 11.46 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite (Holderness)
I rise to make a suggestion which might bring this matter to a satisfactory settlement. I address my suggestion to the Patronage Secretary in the absence of the acting Leader of the House. It is true that at half-past three this after noon the House agreed, without a Division, to the suspension of the Rule, but since then a great deal has happened. A second day's Debate has taken place in which back benchers have had just as great a shortage of opportunity as occurred yesterday, and we look at the situation from that point of view, with only one more day to go for this Debate. I would quote a precedent to the House. I recall a Debate, in the last Parliament, on the conduct of the war, when there was a vote of confidence in the Coalition Government. In those days the House met at 11 o'clock in the morning, and on the occasion to which I refer, it sat round the clock until three o'clock the next morning in order that hon. Members who wished to make speeches should have an opportunity of doing so. We made those speeches to a very thin House, consisting entirely of other hon. Members who were in their places only because they hoped to do the same themselves. That did achieve the object of enabling us to put on record our opinions upon another crisis of a different kind, which existed at that time.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In one of the Debates on unemployment in the past, we sat from half-past three on a Thursday until two o'clock in the afternoon of Friday.
§ Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite
The hon. Member may have another precedent in mind. The Debate to which I am referring was a two-day Debate, and we sat until three o'clock in the morning on the first day, and a Division was taken at five o'clock on the afternoon of the second day. I suggest to the Patronage 1284 Secretary that it would be a good thing—and the Government would lose no time at all—that hon. Members who wish to place their views on record, even if it were at three o'clock in the morning to a thin House, should have the opportunity of doing so. I suggest to the Patronage Secretary that he should leave this matter to a free vote of the House, in which hon. Members on both sides can give their opinion on whether this democratic institution should continue this Debate, or whether the Debate should now be adjourned.
§ 11.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
With all respect to my right hon. Friend the acting Leader of the House, I did not think his reference to the Motion for the suspension of the Rule this afternoon was altogether relevant, because that Motion cannot, of course, be debated in any case. Further, it is also the custom for the Government to say on such occasions, "We will see how things go later in the evening; we will see what the feeling is; and if there is clearly a fairly general feeling in some sections of the House that it should go on longer, we will take that into account." I cannot see why my right hon. Friend cannot do that now. I think it a little unfortunate that some hon. Members opposite introduced a particularly partisan note into their speeches in this particular discussion, because it is clearly not a party matter. I, personally, speak humbly for the small minority of hon. Members who are not trying to catch your eye, Sir, but I submit that those parts of the Debate which I have heard—and not least the speeches of the back benchers—have been on an extremely high level on both sides of the House, and extremely instructive and illuminating. There is, of course, the practical difficulty of transport, and so on, but in any case, I shall take part in what I regard as a free vote on this occasion, and I shall vote against the adjournment of the Debate. I think we ought to devote the maximum possible time to this Debate.
§ 11.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)
At the end of the mild speech of the Minister of Defence, I really thought that I would have liked the Debate to be adjourned at that time. I felt that we really had come to the time when the acting 1285 Leader of the House wanted a nice cup of tea, and for that reason, undoubtedly, at that time, I was rather inclined to wish for the Adjournment, but I conclude that the right hon. Gentleman, whose absence we regretted, is all right now, and is prepared to go on. That removes the only possible reason that the right hon. Gentleman had for wishing to adjourn the Debate. The right hon. Gentleman is now fit. We have been told by the Government, quite loudly, that the De bate which the Government wish to adjourn is one of very great and very vital importance. We have had repeated appeals from the Government and from all sides of the House to endeavour to treat this as an important Debate, to endeavour to treat this as a Council of State would treat it, in which case it is absolutely essential that the Government should not merely put forward their views, but that there should be the widest possible number of views expressed from all parts of the House. We heard a minute or two ago a very interesting speech from the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange Division (Mrs. Braddock). There happen to be in my Division far more women than there are men, and it would be only right, at this time, that I should put forward a plea to the effect that we should try to deal with this White Paper and this Motion from the widest possible point of view. I am bitterly disappointed that I have not been able to hear more speeches from lady Members. I am also bitterly disappointed that I have not been able to hear many back bench speeches from the Opposition side which I was hoping to hear. I see opposite the Members for the Plymouth Divisions. I thought I might have had an opportunity of hearing them. Perhaps I should not have referred to the Members for the Plymouth Divisions, for I quite realise that they are dumb-bells—
§ Mrs. Middleton (Plymouth, Sutton)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is the hon. Gentleman in Order, in attributing to me the qualities of a dumb-bell?
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think the hon. Member was referring to the hon. Lady, but generally to hon. Members representing those constituencies.
§ Mr. Williams
Being a happily married man, I do not take any notice of the re marks of hon. Ladies opposite, unless they 1286 make speeches of the power of the one we heard from the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange Division. As far as she is concerned, I hope she will get just a little courage and follow her own opinions for once, rather than the crack of the Government Whip. I do not think that on an occasion such as this, at a comparatively early hour, when it is known that there must be something like 100 back bench Members of great experience and great knowledge who wish to speak, we ought to adjourn the Debate. I am not sure that we have heard more than one backbench member so far who could really tell us about the coal situation. That was one of the things I was hoping to hear about. I could go on to give several other instances of a similar character, but I am absolutely sure in my own mind that when you have a Debate of this character on a subject on which, as the Government themselves admit, the future of this country depends, it ill becomes any Member on the Front Bench to say we have had enough. It makes me once again bitterly regret, as I think the House regrets, the absence of a real Leader of the House at the present time, who would have seen to it that the House had much greater time in which to discuss these matters, and would not have dreamed of neglecting his duty by adjourning at such an early hour.
§ 11.56 p.m.
§ Mr. William Whiteley
I think there are one or two things which the House, at the moment, does not seem to realise. Originally this Debate was to have been a two-day Debate. Through the usual channels the Government were convinced that we ought to make it a three-day De bate, and we agreed to do so. Then later when we were informed by Mr. Speaker that there were so many hon. Members desirous of speaking, we readily agreed to an extension of an hour. [HON. MEM BERS: "No. "] Oh, yes. Just let me finish, because I conducted these negotiations and I know. We agreed to an hour's extension of the Debate on Monday and again tonight, to be followed by Government Business which it was rather important we should get through in time for the Consolidated Fund Bill. That was agreed betwen the two sides of the House. I do not take exception to the complaints which have been made. There may be great concern in the House about hon. 1287 Members not getting an opportunity of speaking on an important subject of this kind. During past years I have had the same experience; I have taken speeches home in my pocket time after time, and I have had to accept the situation. We have heard the views of hon. Members tonight on what they think this situation means, and we are trying to take their views into consideration. I do not think it would do good to go on tonight and we believe that the Debate should now be adjourned. But we have taken note of what hon. Members in all parts of the House have said, and it will be given very serious consideration in the future. When full Debates of a similar nature take place in the future, we will give the matter full consideration in order to see that opportunity is given to a greater number of hon. Members to take part in these Debates and express their opinions.
§ 12 m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Cooper (Middlesbrough, West)
May I appeal for a more realistic approach? Either we see this country is in a serious economic position and we approach the Debate from that angle and decide whether or not to adjourn the Debate on that basis; or we consider the matter is not so urgent, and we vote in favour of an Adjournment now.
§ Mr. Speaker
We cannot discuss the crisis. We can only discuss whether the Debate should be adjourned or not.
§ Mr. Speaker
I think it would be better if hon. Members heard what the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Cooper) has to say.
§ Mr. Cooper
The hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) suggested that the decision depended on the atmosphere of the House. Surely it is not a question of the atmosphere of the House, but of the facts of the country's present position which should decide the issue.
§ 12.1 a.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I should like to express my appreciation of the ten der advances and the manner of the right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary. This House has been treated today in an unprecedented way by the acting Leader of the House. I have no doubt that a 1288 good deal of the feeling which has been engendered is due to the claim that the right hon. Gentleman made to be not merely the acting Leader of the House, and its first servant, but its master. the right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary adopted an entirely different attitude and I am sure many of my hon. Friends do realise that the business of this House can only be carried on, if there is some give and take on both sides.
§ Mr. Molson
I am glad to see that the acting Leader of the House agrees with that view. It is not the way the right hon. Gentleman put his arguments this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary has made an appeal to us, and has indicated that he realises that on both sides of the House there are two feelings very much uppermost in our minds. One is that there has not been adequate opportunity for the discussion of what is an extremely frank and very important White Paper; the second is that a disproportionate amount of the Debate has been occupied by Front Bench speakers. I hope that it might even now be possible for the right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary through the usual channels to make some arrangements for these matters to be further discussed. But I recognise that it would be highly inconvenient from everybody's point of view to continue the Debate tonight. [HON. MEMBERS:"No."] I think it would, and if we have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that further time will be found, I believe that that will meet the wishes of everybody.
§ 12.3 a.m.
§ Mr. Speaker
What has the absence of the Prime Minister to do with the Motion, "That this Debate be now ad journed?"
§ Mr. Maude
That is what I wish to show. I am replying to the suggestion of the Patronage Secretary that it would not be a good thing to go on with this Debate. The Prime Minister put his signature to the foreword of the White Paper saying that the Government alone could not achieve success and that every thing would depend on the willing co operation and utmost efforts of all sections of the population.
§ Mr. Speaker
We must keep our arguments to that. It is not concerned with the question of whether the Prime Minis
§ ter is here or not, or the merits of the White Paper.
§ Mr. Maude
With great respect, Sir, the argument is, that it is of the utmost public importance that this Debate should go on, because the Prime Minister is anxious that there should be full co operation between all sections of the community. I beg the Government to believe that there are some of us here who wish to exchange views in Debate, and who wish to get that co-operation which is needed instead of splitting the whole country into two. For those reasons I ask the Government to think again and let us go on. If there are not enough Front Bench speakers to carry on, we will do without them for we have enough back benchers to keep the Debate going.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 139 Noes, 61.1291
|Division No. 108.]||AYES||[12.6 a.m|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Ranger, J|
|Alpass, J. H.||Hardy, E. A.||Robens, A.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Herbison, Miss M.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Hobson, C. R||Royle, C.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Holman, P.||Sargood, R|
|Benson, G.||Holmes, H. E (Hemsworth)||Segal, Dr. S.|
|Beswick, F.||Hoy, J.||Shackleton, Wing-Corn. E. A. A,|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hubbard, T.||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Hynd, H (Hackney, C.)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Bruce, Major D. W. T.||Janner, B.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.|
|Buchanan, G.||Jay, D. P, T.||Steele, T.|
|Callaghan, James||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Swingler, S.|
|Carmichael, James||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Collindridge, F||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Collins, V. J||Kenyon, C.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Cook, T. F||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Corlett, Dr. J||Kirby, B. V.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Daggar, G.||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayto)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Tiffany, S.O|
|Davies, S, O. (Merthyr)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M||Timmons J.|
|Deer, G,||McAllister, G.||Tolley, L.|
|Delargy, Captain H. J||McGovern, J.||Vernon, Maj. W F|
|Dobbie, W.||McKinlay, A. S||Watkins, T. E.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||McLeavy, F.||Watson, W. M.|
|Dye, S.||Manning, Mrs L (Epping)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Edwards. A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Mathers, G.||West, D. G.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Medland, H. M.||While, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Middleton, Mrs. L.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E R||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Monslow, W.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Fairhurst, F.||Morgan, Dr. H. B||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A B|
|Farthing. W. J||Morley, R||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Follick, M.||Morris, P. (Swansea, W)||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Forman, J. C||Moyle, A.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Gibbins, J||Murray, J. D.||Williamson, T|
|Gilzean, A.||Neal, H. (Claycross)||Willis, E.|
|Glanville, J E. (Consett)||Noel-Baker Rt. Hon P. J. (Derby)||Wills, Mrs. E A|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Wilson, H.|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Paget, R. T.||Woodburn, A|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Yates, V. F|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Zilliacus, K|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Pearson, A.|
|Guy, W. H.||Peart, Capt. T. F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Popplewell, E.||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Hall, W. G.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Mr. Simmons.|
|Hamilton, Lieut.-Col R||Pritt, D. N.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Head, Brig. A. H.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Barlow, Sir J||Henderson, John (Catheart)||Price, M. Philips|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Prior-Palmer, Brig O|
|Birch, Nigel||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Renton, D.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Joynson-Hicks, Lt.-Cdr. Hon. L. W.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)||Shepherd, W. S.(Bucklow)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W,||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Crawley, A.||Macdonald, Sir P. (Isle of Wight)||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N. W.)||Usborne, Henry|
|Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Ward, Hon. G. R|
|Darling, Sir W. Y.||MacLeod, J.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Macpherson, Maj. N. (Dumfries)||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Fox, Sqn.-Ldr. Sir G.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)||Maude, J. C.|
|Gage, C.||Molson, A. H. E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gammans, L. D.||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Mr. Martin Lindsay and|
|Granvilie, E. (Eye)||Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Mr. Nicholson.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Nield, B. (Chester)|
Question put, and agreed to.
|Debate to be resumed this day.|