HC Deb 08 December 1948 vol 459 cc453-74

6.29 p.m.

The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I beg to move, That the Draft Order, entitled the Jewellery and Silverware Development Council Order, 1948, made by the Board of Trade under Section 1 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, a copy of which Draft Order was presented on 29th November. be approved. I do not think I need take up the time of the House very long in expounding this order. The Jewellery and Silverware Development Council Order, which is now presented to Parliament for approval in accordance with the requirements of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, will be the third order to be made under the Act. Its purpose is to provide for the establishment of a development council for the jewellery and silverware industry, and it follows closely the precedent set by the Furniture Industry Development Council Order, which has just been approved by Parliament.

The establishment of this Council will give effect to the recommendation of the Jewellery and Silverware Working Party, which said: If as an industry it continues to exercise as little control over its own destiny as in the past, it seems likely to have an extremely unprosperous and precarious future—indeed, in our judgment, it is hardly too much to say that, as an industry of any size or importance, it is doomed. The working party considered arrangements should be made to ensure that the case of the industry could be continuously and effectively stated to the Government and the public, and that the Government and the public would feel satisfied that every effort was being made to see that the interests of the consumer and of the nation as a whole received proper attention. The Report went on to say that: This could best be done, in our judgment, through the establishment of a Standing Jewellery and Silverware Advisory Board. which should be tripartite in structure. I do not need to spend much time in talking about the industry. It is a very old and honoured industry, reputed to have been founded by St. Dunstan in the tenth century. It already had a trade association in 1180, which is quite an early date for a trade association. I think that its general organisation and location are well-known to Members, and that the House will understand the main problems with which it is confronted. It is at present concerned, for instance, with the development of its export trade. The industry never had a very big export trade before the war, but in 1947 it exported, despite many export restrictions abroad £2frac12; million, which is something like three times the pre-war figure. That is a very fine achievement, even taking into account the price increases.

One of the big problems with which all sections of the industry recognise they are faced is the problem of increasing the productive efficiency of the industry especially in certain of the smaller firms. This is one of those industries which consists of a large number of small firms —1,258 firms out of a total of 1,716 employed less than 11 workers in 1935, Although it is true that in many fields of production in the industry the skill of the craftsmen cannot be replaced by machinery, the industry feels that in certain parts the production layout, management and sales methods could be very much improved. The industry is faced with the big problem in certain parts of the country of recruitment, and is conscious of the need to improve working conditions. It has certain raw material problems, and above all it is desirous of improving its present arrangements for design and research. The Design and Research Centre for the gold, silver and jewellery industries was established some two years ago. It is not intended that the Development Council will duplicate the work of this centre, but will support and assist it, and, in particular, will provide it with an assured income from the industry out of the proceeds of the levy.

We are looking to this development council to make a notable contribution towards the solution of all these difficult problems. I think I can say that, although there is no unanimity, very large sections of the industry welcome the establishment of the development council. The Working Party also urged strongly that a single employers' association should be set up, and a Federal Council was, in fact, constituted for the employers' side, but the Master Silversmiths' Association were a little individualistic on this point. I think it is a little interesting, when trade associations go a little individualistic. I have no objection to a certain robust individualism on the part of individual manufacturers, but when one sees trade associations going all individualistic, it is perhaps worthy of comment. It seems quite likely that the Federal Council will shortly formally be breaking up, as it has already done in practice.

I am under an obligation to refer, as I have done with regard to the previous orders, to the consultations which have taken place before this order was made. In the case of this industry, consultation began with the consideration of the recommendations of the Working Party. The British Jewellers' Association, which has a membership of some 800 firms and is responsible for some 75 per cent. of the output of the industry, and the Society of Goldsmiths, Jewellers and Kindred Trades, with a membership of 1,850, accepted, in principle, the recommendation that a central tripartite body should be set up, and agreed that it should take the form of a development council, constituted under the Industrial Organisation and Development Act. The Master Silversmiths' Association, which has a membership of 78 firms and are responsible for about 12 per cent. of the output of the industry, opposed the establishment of a development council. The National Union of Gold, Silver and Allied Trades neither opposed nor supported the establishment of a development council. The manufacturers' organisations consulted are broadly representative of the whole of the industry, but I have mentioned that one section was opposed to the establishment of a development council. I am sure, however, that the development council will be welcomed by a substantial number of employers and workers, if not by all.

Therefore, a draft order was drawn up in consultation with these bodies, and a number of other bodies, and in August last this draft order was published so that anyone affected by it, or interested in it, might have an opportunity to comment on its text before the final version was prepared for presentation to this House. A number of comments were received, some from the trade associations and some from individual manufacturers. Most of these comments were of a minor, technical or drafting nature, except for the comments made by the Master Silversmiths' Association. Their comments were principally designed to impose drastic limitations on the scope and the authority of the Council. While we have made a number of minor amendments to meet the more reasonable requests of the Master Silversmiths, most of their suggestions had to be rejected if the council were not to be reduced to an ineffective shadow. I can say, therefore, that the majority of the industry, with the exception of the Master Silversmiths' Association, are in favour of this draft order now before the House.

The principal provisions of the draft order follow the orders already approved by the House. The constitution is set out in Article 2 of the Third Schedule. It lays down that the council shall consist of 12 members. One will represent the employers in each of the four main sections of the industry—fine jewellers, manufacturers of imitation jewellery, goldsmiths and silversmiths, and electroplate manufacturers, and four will represent the interests of the workers. Three will be independent persons, including the chairman, and one will be chosen as having special knowledge of the marketing and distribution of jewellery. The provisions for appointing the staff and the salaries follow the usual orders that have been placed before the House.

As in the Furniture Development Order, provision is made for the maintenance of a register of all persons carry- ing on business in the industry, in order to make available a comprehensive guide to industry, to facilitate the collection of a levy by the council, and generally be of use to them in the discharge of their functions. These are the only powers given to the council, although there is a fairly lengthy list of the functions printed in the Second Schedule, all of which are permissive and not compulsory, and none of which involves any interference with the operations of individual firms. They are designed to enable the industry to improve its collective arrangements and its centralised arrangements for the benefit of the industry as a whole. That is probably all I need say in expounding this order which, as I pointed out, is largely an agreed order, but not entirely, unlike the other two which were put before the House and which were entirely agreed by all sections of the industry. If I am given the leave of the House to speak again I shall be happy to reply to any points raised in the Debate.

6.41 p.m.

Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)

I greet this jewel song from Millbank with very little enthusiasm, indeed, with about as much enthusiasm as the right hon. Gentleman displayed in expounding the order. The main reason for its acceptance by the trade is that they realise they are a luxury trade, that they are entirely dependent on the Government for their supplies of raw materials, and would rather give in quietly than make a fuss. Without wishing to be unduly frivolous I say that is also my position tonight. I am prepared to let this order go by as the trade would rather lie down under pressure from the Government and from the unions than put up an independent fight.

6.42 p.m.

Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)

I wish to say a few words about the Development Council. While I think it will not do much harm I very much doubt whether it will do much good. The lack of enthusiasm displayed by the Minister in introducing this order was most marked. I would remind him that development, research and design was taken care of by a research council which was established two years before the proposal was made to establish the development council. I was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman take the view that a trade association was being independent. After all, what is a trade association for except to express the views of their members? If members are independent in spirit and outlook then their trade association should correctly reflect their spirit. I was sorry that an innuendo was cast on a trade association which, choosing to be independent, was said to be naughty or wrong. I hope we shall have an explanation from the right hon. Gentleman. I will give way now if he wishes to intervene.

Mr. H. Wilson

I did not use the word "independent." I said "individualistic." This association, representing a number of very distinguished firms in Sheffield, naturally takes colour from its members. I recognise, as I am sure the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings) recognises, that Yorkshiremen are notoriously individualistic; indeed, as a Yorkshire-man myself I am not without some individualism. What I did say was that the failure of this trade association to co-operate with other trade associations in the industry for the common good was something to be regretted.

Mr. Erroll

I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings) will be able to deal with that point later.

I also wish to refer to the suggestion that small firms are perhaps not as efficient as they might be. It should be realised that in the jewellery industry there is a large number of small firms which cater for the highly specialised and individualistic needs of a small semi-luxury clientele. We must not be bemused by the idea that the industry is a large organisation, producing the type of jewellery which we necessarily have to export. We must remember that small firms with only a few employees, who are efficient craftsmen, may produce far better articles than those produced by large organisations which depend on something approaching mass production methods. Apart from that, I have nothing to add, except to point out the difference in the way in which this development council was referred to, as compared to the working parties which were introduced about three years ago.

6.45 p.m.

Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)

The Sheffield Silversmiths' Association have a fundamental objection to this order, and are to be admired for standing out for what they believe to be a matter of fundamental interest to their industry. They object to being classified with the jewellery and ancillary trades. They say they have nothing in common with those trades, except that their products might be sold in the same shops. Their workers are craftsmen, and the Sheffield silver and electroplate industry is known the world over. They are perfectly justified in standing out against the appointment of a development council. When an industry is approached on this question it knows that it might get its supplies of raw materials cut off and, willy-nilly, it is forced to agree to this sort of thing. Undoubtedly pressure is brought to bear on an industry to agree to such things as development councils.

The Sheffield Silversmiths' Association say, "If you intend to force a development council on us will you allow a specific section of it to deal with our industry, instead of allowing the whole council to deal with all ancillary industries?" The Minister must admit that there is a wide difference between ordinary jewellery and the products of a craftsman industry such as that which is carried on in Sheffield. If he does not his order will not do much good. The Sheffield Silversmiths' Association are prepared to pay their levies, and provide such information as the development council requires, but say they cannot take any active part in the work of the council because their industry is quite distinct from the other allied industries which are, covered by this order.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the word "individualistic." He knows that the whole trade in Sheffield is individualistic. I believe they are to be admired for standing out for their own trade and their own craftsmanship, which has been built up on years of experience. I feel that the President of the Board of Trade should have admitted that he had been approached with regard to the fundamental issue in the trade. I could quote from minutes where representatives of this section of the trade have been to see the Minister, and have gone back to receive 100 per cent. support from their representatives at the annual meetings, who were standing strong for a special section of this development council to deal specifically with their branch of the industry.

I should specifically ask the President of the Board of Trade—I cannot be definite about this and I hope he will accept it in the way 1 am putting it—if he did not agree with the Sheffield representative of the Silversmiths' Association as to the difference between the types of trade in the industry, and that he would see that in any order that was made there would be a special section covering the Sheffield industry? The industry has been rather misled. I hope the President will accept that in the spirit in which it is meant; I do not mean that they were deliberately misled but that they had been given to understand and agreed to this development council in the belief that there was to be a special part of it, to deal specifically with their industry. Is not that the case?

I can understand their disappointment when they saw this order and noted that it contained nothing at all in regard to their own particular branch. I am asked to protest strongly against it, and I do so. I would, if possible, oppose the order on the ground that the Sheffield industry has not, in my opinion, had fair consideration. When he comes to reply would the right hon. Gentleman definitely say that the Sheffield industry will receive more consideration? The President of the Board of Trade said that there were no major objections but a lot of minor ones to the order. I have criticisms here covering almost every paragraph in the order.

Mr. H. Wilson

Perhaps the hon. Member misunderstood what I said, or maybe 1 was not too clear on the point, but I said there were no major objections except the objections of the Silversmiths' Association. The other comments received were all of a minor character, but those of the Silversmiths' Association were pretty fundamental.

Mr. Jennings

I do not want to delay the House by reading out all these objections. There are two pages of them and they cover almost every paragraph in this order. There is criticism of the council occupying property without the authority of the industry concerned, of the salaries to be paid, of the development council being responsible to the Board of Trade instead of to the particular industry which puts up the money which pays the expenses and so forth. As I say, I will not weary the House with all the objections, but I must strongly protest against this Motion on behalf of the Association of Silversmiths of Sheffield. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will, in his reply, afford some encouragement to the Sheffield branch of the industry, and that a special section will be set up to deal with it. In this manner they will appreciate that they are being taken care of and given the consideration which they justly deserve, because they are playing a very important part in the export trade.

I would not be allowed to refer to it in detail, but if this industry is encouraged and some further markets are opened up for its export trade, the result may be that more bacon could be purchased abroad for this country. As I say, 1 cannot deal with that in detail, but 1 have had that aspect of the question put to me. If the President of the Board of Trade would consider all these points perhaps he would give more consideration to this industry. Finally, I cannot protest too strongly against this Motion on behalf of this Association.

6.55 p.m.

Sir Peter Bennett (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

I am sure that every side of the industry will sympathise with the views put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings), who has laid before the House the point of view of Sheffield. I speak from the Birmingham end, and therefore, I have a certain amount of resentment against my hon. Friend when he keeps on emphasising the craftsmanship of Sheffield, and by inference suggesting that the rest of us have not any craftsmanship at all. I am sure that he did not intend it that way, but I want to make it clear that craftsmanship is not the prerogative of Yorkshire or Sheffield, and that the work turned out in the jewellery quarter of Birmingham is well-known all over the world for its quality of craftsmanship and its beauty of design.

Having said that, I should like to say that had it been possible, I would have favoured the President of the Board of Trade separating Sheffield from the rest of the industry in this matter, because I do not like to have unhappy bedfellows quarrelling. I know it is difficult. There is an overlap, and in order to make certain that that overlap does not upset matters the whole industry has been put into one compartment. Had it been possible to keep it separate, it would, in my view, strengthen the scheme from this point of view that we have always advised the President of the Board of Trade to get voluntary agreement. Here is a case where there is a large amount of voluntary agreement with a little very strong opposition.

As regards Birmingham, my own works have nothing to do with jewellery, although we have turned out good craftsmanship. However, we are in the middle of the jewellery quarter, and, therefore, I have watched its development during the whole of my business life. It is a peculiar industry. It has grown up from private houses, with little shops built at the back. I know the same thing applies in a good many cases in Sheffield, but, nevertheless, it is a peculiar industry that has not the large factory organisation with which we associate production in the ordinary way. It is a small individual craft. These firms have moved from the houses now and have gone into factories. They have an enormous problem in front of them in rebuilding premises and bringing themselves up to date.

It is not for me to say whether they are wise or not, but it is certain that the jewellery sections to which I refer and which are located in Birmingham as well as in other parts, have agreed amongst themselves to advise the Board of Trade that they are entirely in favour of this council. We Birmingham Members of Parliament naturally support our own people, therefore, this Motion. The reason I do so is because the President of the Board of Trade in this case has obtained voluntary agreement with the exception of our friends from Sheffield. The President knows quite well that when he gets that, we support him, but, on the other hand, many of us are very much opposed to anything which is forced on to an industry and to which they object. I am not referring to the protests from my hon. Friend from Sheffield, but to other organisations which the President will have in mind where the industry offered voluntary co-operation and asked to be allowed to run their own organisation in their own way and not have a development council forced upon them.

I support this Motion. I regret that a way has not been found of making Sheffield happy. We in Birmingham are constantly in competition with Sheffield. At the moment it seems to be a competition between us to keep from the bottom of the League table. I hope we shall both be successful. If the right hon. Gentleman could help Sheffield without upsetting Birmingham, I should be very pleased. I am very pleased to have this opportunity of saying that the President of the Board of Trade in this matter has the wholehearted support of the jewellery trade of the district in which I live, and I have very much pleasure in supporting his efforts in this case.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)

I do not propose to enter the contest between Birmingham and Sheffield. The two contestants have done very well themselves. I would not, at this late hour, have troubled the House with any remarks at all if it had not been for the winding-up by the President of the Board of Trade on a previous order which he moved. I am concerned about the misrepresentation of the purpose of development councils.

It was very evident on the last Debate that we had, on the subject of furniture. One hon. Gentleman thought that the development council ought to finance the introduction of new machinery and ought to establish joint industrial councils. That sort of thing is not good enough from Members of Parliament. If that is the kind of view which is held inside this House, what must be the views held by people outside who have less knowledge of these things than we have who are in the centre? I call attention to these misunderstandings because they are damaging to the prospects of the organisations themselves. If hon. Members constantly assert that these councils should have wide powers outside those which they actually have, they are fostering fears among many people that these councils are the back door to something else. The President of the Board of Trade is having difficulty in getting agreement in many industries. The misrepresentation by his own supporters makes his task much more difficult.

These development councils are an instrument for the self-government of industry. They have no representatives of the Government upon them at all. They are concerned with self-administration, to do things together better than they have been done separately. They have no powers at all, save those of the levy upon the industry and the production of certain figures. They cannot force anything upon anybody. Everybody who has paid the money, is entitled to disregard what they suggest. There is no power of compulsion at all, save in the directions I have mentioned. They are a genuine effort, which may or may not succeed, to get self-government and self-discipline into industry. Certain industries, such as the one which we are discussing today, are composed of small units, and the development councils will be a very suitable vehicle for them.

If we are to have constant misrepresentation fostering the idea that the powers of the councils may be enlarged to something else, all the good work which has been done by the councils will be destroyed. I hope, therefore, that the President of the Board of Trade will make clear how limited are the functions of these bodies and that it is a question of voluntary acceptance on the part of all who take part in them.

7.4 p.m.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd) in emphasising the importance and the desirability of getting plenty of co-operation for the development councils. The President of the Board of Trade should be well aware that they are not acceptable to a great many individualistic employers, manufacturers and businessmen in the country. If they are to be a proper organisation in industry, they must be put in the most agreeable light. My hon. Friend is in error, I think, in supposing that the Board of Trade imposes no control over the development councils. Indeed, the order which we are now considering makes it clear that the Board of Trade will appoint three members to the development council, and that the Board is to be satisfied that they have no financial or industrial interest——

Mr. W. Shepherd

I did not say that the Board of Trade imposes no statutory requirement upon the development councils. I said that, save for the levy and for the production of certain figures, there was no statutory requirement placed upon members of development councils by the council itself.

Sir W. Darling

I thank my hon. Friend for clearing up a misunderstanding. I should like to ask the President of the Board of Trade a question which he may consider worth answering. He will notice that the constitution of the development councils contains the usual representation that one would expect, but there is anxiety amongst people who are good craftsmen in jewellery, because of the fact that they are not represented. They may be only small craftsmen or perhaps they are only their own employees. That is why there should be some special effort made to represent them. These people are supreme individualists in this industry and they are not specially provided for in the constitution of development councils.

I have no doubt that paragraph 2 (4) will be the one which will bring them in, and I like to hope that some such arrangement is contemplated, because of the nature of these craftsmen. They cannot give up the time, however, to represent upon these councils even themselves and their own special aspect of the industry. In fact, one of the growing dangers about the development councils is that they tend to take from each industry the loquacious, time-wasting type of person, who tends to use the development council as an opportunity for indulging in talk. The man who is good at his business, but cannot talk with such engaging fluency as that of which the President of the Board of Trade is such a master, tends to remain at the bench or in the office because he has no time to give to the development councils. Those who can talk, those who are engaging in the proliferation of mere words, are encouraged, to the discouragement of those who are doers. I do not see in the constitution of the development councils any particular arrangement which will meet that difficulty.

I have a further objection. This particular case is very properly one of a development council for the United Kingdom. The President of the Board of Trade is often in a quandary on the subject of representation. If he adequately represents upon the development council the main centres, like Birmingham, Sheffield and London, as he properly must, he will inevitably relegate other centres, who are perhaps not so important, except in their own localities, to practically a condition of non-representation. The goldsmiths, the silversmiths and the makers of artificial jewellery in other parts of the country will have relatively no representation. That will tend to concentrate, narrow and limit these specific industries to the towns and cities in which they at present exist, while the wider distribution of industry which is desirable both functionally and economically, will be prevented.

I have an example in that part of the United Kingdom from which I come. We have recently been engaged in developing an extensive hydro-electric business to give the ordinary small workshop some opportunities for the development of crafts. Under the leadership of a former Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. Thomas Johnston, many such small industries are coming into existence. Among them is jewellery, which is using our native cairngorm and our native silver and gold, which are sometimes found in small quantities in Scottish localities. Industries of this kind are capable of development. They may be small, but they are highly individualistic, and highly characteristic. What representation does the President of the Board of Trade think he can arrange for such persons, upon this council? I am concerned about the development council, but I am also concerned with the desirability of seeing that it is fully representative.

I pass to paragraph 5 where a very interesting principle is established. It is the principle whereby an ad valorem charge will be levied on those engaged in the industry to pay the expenses of the development council. This is a very interesting departure. Apparently it may be any figure. It may be such a figure as to be crushing to the small man although comparatively easily carried by a larger business enterprise. My imaginary craftswoman in the Highlands making cairngorm jewellery may be crushed by it, while the opulent and prosperous manufacturers in Birmingham and Sheffield may be able to meet it in their stride.

The ad valorem charge is possibly not the best of the methods by which the expenses of the development council can be met. I suggest as an alternative, that certain producers in a small way of business should be allowed associate membership for a nominal fee of 5s. or 10s. per annum. With people engaged in a total output of not more than £200 or £300 a year, the ad valoremmethod of charging does not seem to be one which would commend itself to me or others who are familiar with that aspect of the business. I am one of those who have always felt that the Purchase Tax referred to in the same paragraph is an unsatisfactory method of raising taxation, and I am glad to see that the Purchase Tax is excluded. I should like to see the ad valoremmethod which it is proposed to extend to the levy extended to Purchase Tax, but it would be out of Order to pursue that matter indefinitely.

I pass with greater security to para. 5 (4, c). I ask the Minister to consider the justification for compelling the small producer of whom I am thinking to produce for the examination of the Council: such books and other documents and records in his custody or under his control relating to such business. For a person commencing business or established in a peculiar and special way to submit to large-scale competitors the background and quality of his business is to invite crushing competition. It may be that I have invented or popularised a design for jewellery, and it may be that I have certain exclusive rights in the matter in a limited way, but I am required to produce the records of the design and the success or otherwise of my business to my larger competitors who, under the development council, are in a position to acquire that information. I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen opposite would be reluctant to take advantage in business of anything they acquired in a public position, but this provision ought to be amended. It is clumsy and might well be onerous and depressing, and I should say that the development council could function quite satisfactorily without it.

In this grim business of the revelation of the secrets of one's business, we pass to paragraph 8 where, in relation to a development council—which is being brought in on the good will of an industry for the improvement of conditions, the betterment of design and the better understanding of the consumer's needs—we find these sledgehammer, punitive powers. Up to £50 is the crushing penalty which is to fall on the devoted head of someone who is guilty of no greater a crime than that he wants to make and sell something which he hopes the public will buy. That is quite out of accord with the spirit of a development council. Sweet reasonableness is surely the way in which we should approach these matters at this stage. Until His Majesty's Government or their successors have the fuller powers they desire, I have no doubt that they will have to chaffer with those of us who still believe in free enterprise. This is a little too sudden. These penalties should be withdrawn. No man or woman engaged in the business of the production of jewellery will refrain from giving suitable information which it is in the public interest to give. When I see a penalty of £50 and £5 a day for every day after the records are not provided, my gorge rises against it, and as a representative of a nation of shopkeepers, I offer my protest.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings) referred to the representation of the silversmiths. Silversmiths and goldsmiths are separated in the Bible. Why should the President of the Board of Trade bring them together in an unholy and unproductive alliance? Surely his wide knowledge and experience in other directions has enabled him to meet this matter. I suggest with all sincerity that there is as much difference between gold and silver as there is between wool and cotton. The right hon. Gentleman does not propose to make a development council for all the textile trades in the country. He admits that cotton and wool are two different things. There is as vital a difference between cotton and wool as there is between gold and silver, and the case of the Master Silversmiths Association is made 100 times over. Let him unloose the bonds. Let us have a development council for the silversmiths and let the goldsmiths rejoice in their going.

7.16 p.m.

Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)

I rise to support the order and to refer to some of the words of the hon. Member for Edgbaston (Sir P. Bennett). He was apprehensive about imposing development councils on industry, and I think that when introducing the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, under which this order is made, the President of the Board of Trade made it quite clear that the Government would prefer to have the co-operation of the industrialists and all who are interested rather than impose a development council upon an industry. Unfortunately, it is not proving as easy as all that. We know that in the jewellery industry, as in other industries, there are good and bad employers. There is a variety of experience which might be useful to all sections in the industry. It is because the Government recognise that, in competition with other countries, nothing but the best will be good enough if we are to sell our products, that they come to our industrialists and offer, in a co-operative way, to place at their disposal under a system of cooperation the best experience in the industry.

Sir W. Darling


Mr. Davies

I could multiply the examples. It is well known to all of us who have any knowledge of industry that there are some people who do not observe the rules of the game and that some of the best employers are penalised because of some of the malpractices of the less honourable members of the trade. We would certainly make the point that the best use has not been made of research and that in some of the industries there has been an almost complete absence of a costing system.

The hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) referred to what he considered to be improper interference in the affairs of a company in view of the fact that it will be possible to call for certain figures and to inspect the books, but if he had been fair to what is contained in the order and the intentions of the Government he would have agreed that none but a properly designated person will be invested with that power, that there is protection for the industrialist and that it is only under proper conditions that such information will be called for. It is impossible for a scheme of this kind to operate unless we have the willing and practical cooperation of all who are interested.

I would, however, speak more especially from the point of view of the workers, and say that the development council should be similar to development councils for other industries. I suggest that, if the workers are to be requested to work harder and produce more, if they are to be exhorted day by day, they have a right to have the maximum information at their disposal about an industry, and to have the capacity and opportunity for contributing out of their knowledge and experience to the well-being of the industry. It is well known that this has not been the case in many industries, that workers who have had lifelong experience have felt, both in the policy and aims of the industry, that they had no voice. That is not to say that there should be interference at executive level in terms of decision, which must be the prerogative of management, but that the aims and ideas and the problems which concern the industry, which affect, after all, the well-being of the workmen in the industry, should be jointly considered.

When the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd) referred to misrepresentation and misunderstanding, I have no doubt he had some grounds for what he was saying. Certainly, there is no desire under a development council, as I understand it, to interfere with the ordinary methods of collective bargaining or to discuss wages. If, however, it is a question of closer co-operation between all sections of the industry, including the working man in the industry, certainly a development council means that. For that reason, I welcome the setting up of this development council today, and I hope that this third development council now being set up in the jewellery industry, following one in the cotton industry and another in the furniture industry, is the forerunner of many other useful organisations of this kind, so that we may have the full advantage of what was intended in the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947.

7.22 p.m.

Mr. H. Wilson

I can reply only by leave of the House but as there have been one or two points raised, I hope I shall have that leave.

It was commented by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) and one or two subsequent speakers that apparently I introduced this order with some lack of enthusiasm. If it was so considered, I would only plead in extenuation that I have been sitting on this Bench for some three and a half hours, together with one or two other hon. Members, dealing with the affairs of the film industry, and we cannot always keep up the enthusiasm and keep at the heights on which we have to dwell when we are dealing with that important industry. If I spoke somewhat hurriedly, in the interests of putting my points as briefly as possible, I hope no one will think that I have no great enthusiasm both for the idea of development councils, including this one, and also for what we hope will be the prosperity and success of this industry in the many great national tasks it has taken on, including not least the export trade to which the hon. Member for Hallam (Mr. Jennings) referred. Like him I desire to pay tribute to what this industry has done in all sections—or as he would say, all the industries—in face of great difficulties, especially the import restrictions of other countries.

I, like a number of hon. Members, do not want to enter into the "scrap" between Sheffield and Birmingham. I had round my table in the Board of Trade some months ago representatives of all sections of the trade from all the principal centres of production. I am not sure whether or not the North of Scotland was represented. At that time I could see there was some feeling between these centres of production and the different sides of the industry. Anything I have said tonight about Sheffield I hope will not be taken as a reflection upon Sheffield but as a reflection upon the inability of the various sections of the industry to co-operate with one another. I should not like to take sides in the various allocations of blame which have been made as between those two great Cities which now seem to be united only in their lowly position in Division 1 of the Football League.

I want to put straight a point raised by the hon. Member for Hallam about the meeting which took place in my room in March last. At that time I gathered it to be the view of all sections of the industry that they were prepared to have this development council and to have a single development council. Certain arguments were put of the kind advanced by the hon. Gentleman but, certainly at the end of the meeting, there was no doubt expressed that this was going ahead as an agreed development council cover- ing the whole industry. As to the question raised by the hon. Gentleman, I have here an extract from the minutes of that meeting. The representatives of the Sheffield side inquired whether it would be possible to have a separate development council for the silver trade and, quoting the minutes: The President said that the industry was one, and its size would not warrant a separate development council for silver. It was quite possible for a single development council to treat the two branches of the industry separately. That may have been the assurance to which the hon. Gentleman was referring, and that was a point which has been taken up by the silversmiths in their comments on the draft order.

Mr. Jennings

Will the right hon. Gentleman say something about the method?

Mr. Wilson

Certainly. The silversmiths, of course, together with the several fundamental, almost wrecking Amendments which they sent in on the draft order, suggested a separate organisation for silverware. We did not feel able to accept that, for a number of reasons. First, the other organisations were not willing to accept it. Secondly, we thought it inadvisable to tie the council in advance to any particular arrangement which it must make for the conduct of its business. Certainly it is for the council to set up this kind of committee if it so desires, and to have a separate organisation for the different sections or for any appropriate sections of the industry. It would be quite wrong for us to lay down in the order the way in which the council should go about its business. Even so, if by conceding this point we could have secured the genuine support of the master silversmiths for the council, perhaps it might have been worth while risking upsetting strongly the other trade associations concerned, but it was quite clear that even if we did accept this, the other points made by the Master Silversmiths' Association were of such a fundamental character that we should not have secured their support for the council generally.

Before I conclude, there are two points on which I want to comment. First, I wish to express my agreement with what was said by the hon. Member for Bucklow. It may well be that there has been a misunderstanding about what a development council can do and cannot do. I associate myself with most of what he said as to the limitation of its powers. Many of those people in other industries seemed to think that a development council could exercise rights of interference with day-to-day management and could do many of these other things—purchase of machinery for the industry as a whole, and so on. These people are misleading themselves, and that may be one of the reasons there is in certain quarters opposition to development councils. Those industries with which I have discussed the problem have been left in no doubt about the exact powers that a development council may exercise.

Finally, may I comment on one of the points made by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling) about the right to require information. He seemed to think this would mean the production of books by some of these small working masters for the benefit perhaps of their large-scale competitors. If he will turn to paragraph 7 (2) he will find there is adequate protection there that: where a requirement is imposed by the Council under the provisions of this Order to furnish returns or other information … the Council shall ensure that the returns or other information shall be furnished to, or the examination done by, independent members of the Council designated by the Board of Trade or to or by officers of the Council specially authorised in that behalf by the Council.

Sir W. Darling

That is not a protection.

Mr. Wilson

I think the hon. Member will feel that that is a satisfactory protection. I hope I have dealt with most of the points and recognising, as I do, that there are mixed feelings in one or two sections, I hope they will forget some of their difficulties. I am quite sure that once this House has approved this order, all sections will forget their differences and will feel that it is right for them to co-operate and make a thorough success, not only of the development council, but of all those instruments of co-operation which are so badly needed in this industry.

Mr. Jennings

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, may I ask him whether he does not appreciate the strong case put forward by Sheffield, that he is taking these two industries together and talking about them as one, whereas the silversmiths are one industry and jewel- lery is another. We can never get the silver people to agree that it is one industry.

Mr. Wilson

I recognise the strength of their feeling on that matter. It would not be possible to be in the same room as the Sheffield silversmiths for five minutes without realising how strongly they feel about it. But after having two full discussions with the silversmiths, I was satisfied it was right to have a single body for the industry, as I would regard it, and at the last meeting which I had with them I thought they were equally satisfied.

Resolved: That the Draft Order, entitled the Jewellery and Silverware Development Council Order, 1948, made by the Board of Trade under Section 1 of the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, 1947, a copy of which Draft Order was presented on 29th November, be approved.