HC Deb 06 April 1948 vol 449 cc45-6

When formulating a plan which will give an over-all balance we must ask what it means in terms of manpower, and what changes it may involve in the distribution of manpower between different industries and different parts of the country. Raw materials, too, must be examined to see whether they can be made available and capital equipment for the necessary changes or expansions of production should be considered. Obviously, if any measure of success is to be achieved in carrying out the plan, the tasks set for different industries must be indicated. That has been done in the Survey for certain of our key industries, and targets have also been set for the labour force to show what changes in the distribution of manpower are desirable.

I would warn the Committee against the danger of developing plans which have no real relation to the actual facts of our present situation. Many such proposals have been put forward by armchair critics which would involve the movement of many hundreds of thousands of workers and their retraining in new skills, the use of raw materials that we cannot obtain and of capacity which does not exist and cannot be created. We are dealing primarily with production by human beings and they cannot, and must not, be dealt with as though they were pieces of machinery. We have to plan within the restrictions imposed by human habit and custom as well as by raw materials and machine capacity.

It is because of the overriding importance of this human factor that we must give the producers the fullest information both as to our existing economic situation and as to the targets of production at which we are aiming. Unfortunately, it is not possible to set targets from the centre for all individual production units. A global target can be set for an industry as a whole but it is not possible in most cases to break that down owing to the very great variety of products and to the scarcity of raw materials and components that is bound to persist until we can afford to fill up all the pipelines of production.