§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Peart (Workington)
Yesterday I listened very carefully to the case put by hon. Members opposite in support of their Amendment. Since then, in common with other hon. Members, I have had the privilege of reading in HANSARD the speeches made in yesterday's Debate. The more carefully I have read the speeches of hon. Members opposite, the more confirmed I have become in the conclusion I reached at the end of yesterday's proceedings that hon. Members opposite have no constructive case in support of their Amendment.
What are the facts? This country has made a great industrial recovery in three years. If we examine the speech of the Economic Secretary to the Treasury made during a recent Debate in the last short Session; if we examine the facts presented by the President of the Board of Trade which show how output has risen and how our productive potential is increasing; and if we examine most 863 carefully the overwhelming case presented in that Session by the Chancellor of the Exchequer showing how we were making a great recovery in the field of exports, we can see that the campaign of the Opposition both in this House and in the country has failed miserably. Yesterday I read out a testimony from a neutral observer. Again I will read a statement by Ferdinand Kuhn, junior, the London correspondent of the "Washington Post." This neutral commentator said:A visitor from the Continent wonders why so many British people show so little pride in the effort their country has made. He suspects that they have listened to too many speeches by Conservative politicians telling them that this is somehow a sordid, mean and ignoble chapter in their history. Actually no other nation in Europe has done more to pull itself up by its own bootstraps.He continued:The British people made the hard decision to share their shortages fairly and honestly, and they stuck to it. They kept their Budget balanced with the help of savage but equitable taxes. They had the character to do without luxuries and many essential consumer goods in order to sell abroad and pay their way in the world, and they did all this without ever losing, their political decencies and without ever sacrificing their democratic processes.That is a remarkable testimony. So far no facts have been presented by hon. Members opposite.
Let us examine our economic situation. Let us cover broadly the whole field of economic affairs. Let us take three main sections of industry—agriculture, coal and the industries in the Development Areas producing goods for the export market and consumer goods for home consumption. Tradition prevents me dealing with the first industry, which is perhaps the most important. All I can say in passing is that there in that great industry farmers and farm workers are showing initiative and enterprise because, for the first time, under a Labour Government, they have a security which is embodied in the Agriculture Act of 1947. There in one field of activity the policies of this Government have produced great enterprise and initiative which contrasts favourably with the experience of rural Britain in our pre-war years.
Let us take the subject of coal. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power will be intervening in this Debate. He will be dealing 864 with specific points -which have been raised by the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). I wish to discuss coal nationalisation. What was the position? First, we had to win the psychological battle. I believe that battle has been won and that my hon. Friends on this side of the House who represent mining constituencies will be able to put forward a case showing that, in the main, the confidence of the men has been won by the very fact that we nationalised the industry and that we have now public ownership. That was not an easy task. First, we had to win the confidence of the men. We had to repair the ravages of past mishandling and, for the first time, under nationalisation we are beginning to recruit new people to the industry.
I am certain that if hon. Members opposite had been in power, particularly if the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) had been Minister of Fuel and Power in 1945, this country would have had a France in the British coalfields. I go further. Instead of having a fuel crisis, as we had nearly two years ago in the icy days of winter, if a Conservative Government had been returned in 1945 we would have had a fuel crisis in the golden summer days of July, 1945. In the main, we have won the confidence of the men. There may be difficulties for there may be still old suspicions to break down.
Not only had we to win the psychological battle, we had to set about a technical revolution. We had to implement the main findings of the Reid Report, and in that respect the Coal Board has made a good start towards bringing about mechanisation, improving underground haulage, and all the other technical aspects of the winning of coal. We have made a good start. Again I will quote the testimony of a man known to all of us in this House. I refer to Mr. Lewis Douglas, the Ambassador of the United States in this country, who gave evidence before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Marshall Aid. That evidence was reported in "The Times" of 15th November last year, and this is what Mr. Douglas said:Because of the condition which the war created and the pre-war history of the coalmines, when the Government took them over on January 1st they inherited, on the whole, a rather dilapidated estate, and it will take some time to get them back in order.865 Then he went on to say that a good start had been made, and I believe—[Interruption.] The hon. Member can examine the evidence if he so wishes by merely going to the Library and reading "The Times," if he can do so. A good start has been made. Coal nationalisation was essential to national recovery——
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
The hon. Member says that a good start has been made, and he quotes the American Ambassador in support. All that the American Ambassador told us was that the British Government had inherited a dilapidated coal industry. He said nothing at all about what the National Coal Board had done since the mines were taken over.
§ Mr. Peart
I am sorry that the noble Lord is merely quoting one part. I could go on and quote another part of the speech, in which he talks about the squalid history of the coal industry, which can be examined in the later part of his evidence. Coal nationalisation, I assert, is essential to national recovery.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green) rose——
§ Mr. Peart
I wish hon. Members would take their medicine. After all, we had ome extremely vicious speeches from hon. Members opposite yesterday, and, as an example, I would refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans). I think hon. Members opposite should not be so touchy, but that they should, at least, hear a point of view which I believe is the correct one.
From coal, we can pass on to another great field of industrial activity which is covered by industries in our Development Areas, which were distressed areas when hon. Members opposite had full political power. I hope that hon. Members opposite, when they talk about this Government restricting enterprise and initiative, will read very carefully a recent White Paper, published in October of this year, and entitled "Distribution of Industry." I would ask them—[Interruption]. My facts are more accurate than some of those given by the leaders of the party opposite, particularly when they were supporting Munich. This is what the White Paper says: 8664. The situation in the Development Areas has changed for the better, both absolutely and relatively to the country at large. Not only is unemployment in the Development Areas now much smaller than it was shortly before the war, but employment is much greater. The 100,000 insured persons out of work today contrast with some 410,000 in 1937 and 820,000 in 1932; 250,000 more are now in work than in 1939, 400,000 more than in 1937, and 800,000 more than in 1932. By June, 1948, 443 new factory buildings had been completed in the Development Areas since the war.The right hon. Member for Southport in yesterday's Debate, quoted the example of the Fire Service in his constituency, which he said was a microcosm of nationalised industry. I should like the right hon. Gentleman also to take as a microcosm a constituency which he once represented—Whitehaven, in the former distressed area. Let me quote the figures of employment and unemployment in that area under a Labour Government as compared with the past. In 1932—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, 1931.'] In 1932, the number of employed in that important area was 18,200, and the number of unemployed 15,200. In 1938, employed v, ere 28,700 and unemployed 8,200; in 1945, employed 37,600, unemployed 11,000; in 1946, the number of employed in the West Cumberland Development Area was 40,000, and unemployed 3.200; in 1947, the employed were 41,600 and the unemployed 1,700.
§ Mr. Jennings (Sheffield, Hallam)
Would the hon. Gentleman round off those figures by giving us the number of unemployed there would be today if it was not for Marshall Aid?
§ Mr. Peart
I will deal with the Marshall Aid argument, hut, even when there was no Marshall Aid and there was no problem of the balance of payments such as faces us today, there was mass unemployment in this country. That is reflected in the figures I have given for West Cumberland. When I hear hon. Members opposite talk of liberty and freedom, I think of my constituents who walked the dole queues, were subjected to a means test, and had to seek work in industrial centres in many other parts of the country. I say that our people are showing initiative and enterprise, reflected in the figures which I have quoted.
Hon. Members opposite have argued that we preach nationalisation and control 867 in a spirit of doctrinaire Socialism. I ask them to remember their own blue book, "The Industrial Charter," sponsored, I believe, by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). On page 24, it states:We are opposed to nationalisation as a principle upon which all industries should be organised.If that is not doctrinaire, I do not know what is. If that means that hon. Members opposite oppose nationalisation as a principle, surely that is a doctrinaire approach? If we can prove that it is necessary to take over the steel industry—[HON. MEMBERS: "But you cannot."]—that it is necessary to have public ownership instead of a having a private monopoly—because the steel industry is not private enterprise but a private monopoly—and if we can prove very soon in future Debates that it is necessary, in the interests of our country and of our people, to take over this great industry and make it responsible to this House and to the British people, hon. Members opposite will still oppose it in principle, I assert that they are the very people who approach the nationalisation policy from a doctrinaire point of view.
I hope hon. Members opposite will remember the words of the newest of their recruits, and I hope he, too, will remember some words which he uttered on this very subject. I refer to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas), who, as reported in "The Times" of 5th August, 1946, when he was speaking at Waleswood miners' demonstration at Swallow Nest in the Sheffield district, said:So far, the House of Lords has been on its best behaviour, and has not got out of hand on a major occasion, but the real test, whether it is to be regarded as a revising Chamber of elder statesmen or the last refuge of the Conservative Party, might yet be to come.Then, the hon. Member went on to say:The real fight promised to come over iron and steel. This was the real fortress of Tory privilege and power. It was significant that the last three Tory Prime Ministers before the war—Bonar Law, Baldwin and Chamberlain—all had connections with the iron and steel industry.He then went on to say, in the same speech:It was unthinkable that a Labour Government which had tackled finance, coal. gas, electricity and transport should not complete the job of tackling steel.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
Does the hon. Member find the word "nationalisation" in his quotation? I was careful to avoid that word. In so far as the words implied that the iron and steel industry should be treated as a political problem, I regret them. But I was careful, even in those days, not to use the word "nationalisation."
§ Mr. Peart
Perhaps I could repeat that passage:It was unthinkable that a Labour Government which had tackled finance, coal, gas, electricity and transport should not complete the job of tackling steel.Surely, that was in favour of steel nationalisation? Further on in the same speech, he said:It would not be forgotten into what a state of inefficiency the industry fell between the wars under private enterprise. Those were the days when the steel manufacturers felt that if they closed a blast furnace they had done a service to God and man. Planning must be for plenty, not for scarcity.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas
The question of my consistency may be a small one, but if it will give the hon. Member satisfaction, I will show him privately a letter which I wrote at the time to one editor of a newspaper remonstrating with him for accusing me of asking for the nationalisation of the steel industry.
§ Mr. Peart
The argument that a Labour Government have been able to provide full employment and to extend the social services has been attacked by hon. Members opposite on the ground that we have had to have Marshall Aid. Even an intelligent Tory will know the reasons for Marshall Aid when we face a balance of payments problem arising out of six years of struggle, the gobbling up of our assets abroad, the deliberate shrinking of our export trade in order to produce weapons of war, and the loss of our merchant shipping. Even hon. Members opposite must know those facts. When there were no such problems as we now face after a world war, we had continually, under Tory dominated Governments, mass unemployment, low wages, and people facing insecurity. That, I believe, is the answer to those who try to use the Marshall Aid argument.
869 Lastly, the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling), who is not in his place, yesterday used the argument, which has been repeated by many hon. Members opposite, that we are restricting liberty, that we are not out for freedom, and that only under a Tory Government can people be really free—the cheap slogan of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), "Set the people free." That argument was used yesterday by the hon. Member for South Edinburgh whom we in this House do not often treat seriously, although I propose to treat his argument seriously today. He said he regretted that now he had not freedom to invest. I would remind hon. Members opposite that there are other types of freedom: freedom from fear of mass unemployment; freedom from fear of insecurity in industry; freedom from fear of the Poor Law, and freedom from fear of expensive doctors' bills in sickness. All those essential freedoms are being provided by a Labour Government—essential economic freedoms which were denied to our people when hon. Members opposite were in power.
The hon. Member for South Edinburgh also chided people like Sidney Webb. Sidney Webb wrote a book entitled "The Decay of Capitalism," which hon. Members may have read. He quoted Professor Graham Wallas's definition thatFreedom is the possession of continuous initiative.Today, for the first time, some of our people have an initiative, the right to enjoy holidays with pay in the mining industry, the right to have the best available education that the nation can afford. All these essential freedoms are being developed through a comprehensive policy of social reform initiated by this Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] History will judge, and I am certain that when the General Election comes, the British electorate will not be deceived by the slogans of hon. Members opposite. In the field of social economics, we have provided a great measure of positive social freedom.
Hon. Members opposite think that they are the guardians, not only of economic freedom, but of political liberty. When I look back on history, I think of the Tory Castlereagh, of the prosecution of men like Richard Carlile, the publisher of Tom 870 Pain's works, of the Chartist Movement, of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, and, even in my days in Durham, of men victimised because of their political opinions; also the rural areas, where men and women were afraid to attend political meetings because of victimisation. In conclusion, I would say to hon. Members opposite that political liberty in this country was only won after a hard struggle by ordinary men and women. The Labour movement played its part. We believe in political and economic liberty. That is why we are confident today that the Amendment moved by the Opposition will fail to convince the good people outside. A Labour Government, through a policy of nationalisation, a wise policy of effective financial control, a policy of giving support to the distribution of industry in development areas, and vast schemes of social reform, will give our people that initiative and that enterprise which they never had under Tory rule
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) kindly told me that if I had been Minister of Fuel and Power in 1945 there would now be a "France in Britain." All I can tell him is that I was in a much hotter place—the Ministry of Information.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Member for Workington gave copious quotations from a speech made by the American Ambassador. I think that the American Ambassador ought to be kept out of party controversies, if only for the reason that Mr. Douglas has edited one of the most formidable indictments of Socialism that I know of. Therefore, hon. Members opposite would really be well advised to leave the American Ambassador out of our disputes. We have also had read to us some quotations from a speech made by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas).
I am sure Ministers will agree with me that very awkward quotations can be found from their own speeches, and if they were read out in this House now they would be even more embarrassing than, say, the American election results are to Dr. Gallup. I understand that the 871 Minister of Fuel and Power will follow me. The last time he did so he graciously told me that my voice reminded him of Hitler's. Today he will be comforted by the knowledge that the infantile complaint of tonsilitis subdues the Hitlerian chords of which he complained. If, therefore, hon. Members cannot hear me, they are to be congratulated. Of their charity, I hope they will not complain.
The Chancellor yesterday indulged in some rather heavy humour about our single-sentence Amendment. I think it is distinguished by clarity and brevity; and, after all, the Chancellor will recognise that two points of the Amendment create no difference whatsoever between the Government and ourselves. There is no difference between the Conservative Party or the Socialist Party or the Liberal Party about the gravity of the international situation, nor upon the need for a persevering national effort to bridge the gap in our overseas trade. If we fail to bridge that gap, national bankruptcy will plunge our people into limitless misery. When the Marshall Plan ends we shall have drained the resources of charity and of borrowing.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) says "No," but his colleagues on the Front Bench differ from him, not for the first time. The reduction of the deficit in our overseas account is an encouragement to our people to keep right on to the end of the road to solvency. As the hon. Member for Workington said, the progress made during the last year is very encouraging, and let us always remember that it is due to the work of all sections of our people. It is quite unfair for the hon. Gentleman to assert that we on this side of the House get no delight from the improvement in our economic situation. I think these class warfare remarks are completely out of place. Of course, we recognise that our people are in sore need of encouragement, but we must also recognise that the deficit in our overseas payments is still tremendous.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is really no division between our parties on the desirability of a tremendous effort to put John Bull on his feet again. Ministers and other well-informed persons 872 have rightly warned us about the shrinking sellers' market. I believe that next year we shall find the road to recovery more uphill and frosty, and all parties must agree that there can be no flinching in our efforts to restore solvency. A bankrupt Britain would be not only a catastrophe to our own people but a disaster to the world. Rough indeed will be our task to achieve solvency, but Britain is the mother of hard sons who know the truth of Sir Walter Scott's saying:We must brave bad weather as well as bear it.The Chancellor rightly says that this vitally important problem of bridging the gap in our overseas trade cannot be solved without an immense national effort. But that effort must be guided by intelligible and flexible policies. The requirements of our overseas customers are constantly changing, and I am afraid that some of the gentlemen responsible for the direction of export policy seem blissfully unaware of this fact. I am not censuring them, but I am making an appeal to the Government, who control so many essential raw materials, that they should be ever mindful of the changing demands in our export markets. I am sure that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, with his experience at the Board of Trade, will agree with me that one cannot regard any market as a permanent place for British exports. Public tastes change, and we must always be on the look out for new markets in order to redress the loss of old.
Instead of the Government paying attention to such practical suggestions, they are, alas, otherwise engaged. They are preparing a bigger dose of their favourite nostrum, nationalisation, in compliance with the prescription by the Minister of Health. Does anyone in this House, be he ever so strong a nationaliser, believe that nationalisation can bridge the gap in our overseas payments? Or, to borrow language from my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), how can we hope to build a grand alliance in defence of freedom, not to say of civilisation, without recognising the necessity for national unity and the worthlessness of nationalisation as a means of achieving such an alliance? If that bard of class warfare, the Minister of Health, could 873 show us how to nationalise export markets we might accept his prescription.
I agree that this is not the time for academic arguments about the virtues or follies of nationalisation. In former times Socialist leaders—one of them, Mr. Keir Hardie, was mentioned this afternoon—believed in nationalisation as a principle. I think right hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree that nationalisation is looked upon by their party today as an expedient at the best. To Mr. Keir Hardie nationalisation was the means whereby workers' control of industry could be enforced and the profits of State controlled industry could be distributed among their creators. Those so-called principles have been abandoned for very good reasons. For instance, the Kremlin experiment in workers' control was not reassuring to the party opposite. The first thing the Kremlin did in their desire to achieve workers' control was to nationalise all the trade unions. Democracy was also liquidated in the name of workers' control. Therefore, I do not think that right hon. or hon. Members opposite any longer interested in what is called the principle of workers' control.
The other principle of Mr. Keir Hardie, that the profits of nationalised industry should be distributed to their creators, no longer interests hon. Members opposite. I am sure of that. Their anxiety is to staunch the losses of the nationalised industries, and we share that anxiety and will do all in our power to help them to staunch those losses. If we could for a moment forget the spinosities of party politics, I think we would admit that the only justification of the expedient of nationalising industries such as coal, transport, aviation or electricity is that the public at home and our customers abroad will be given plentiful supplies of good coal at fair prices; that better transport services will be provided at prices that do not hamper traders nor add to the burdens of people of small means; that a civil aviation service will be provided which can compete without loss with foreign countries; and a reliable, cheap and abundant service of electricity. All of these would be justifications for the expedient of nationalisation. In our Amendment we declare that the nationalisation of those industries has imposed heavy burdens on taxpayers and consumers. many of whom, I may point out 874 to the Chancellor of the Duchy, are also taxpayers. The weight of these burdens was well described yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) in his wholly admirable speech.
On this side of the House we are less concerned with the past than with the future. It would indeed be very optimistic to expect the nationalised industries to make what the Treasury calls an "adequate profit" in the first year of their existence. I give that point to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I must also remind them that the losses of the nationalised industries are unconscionable. [Interruption.] Hon. Members really must know the industries which are losing money. They had better read their newspapers; they might even read HANSARD, or take a look at the Public Accounts, because the Chancellor of the Duchy, as their leader, yesterday gave a particularly solemn account of a very severe loss—a loss made by the civil aviation side of Government activities.
I am even more concerned by the organisation of the nationalised industries than I am by their losses in their first year's trading. Unsound organisation means continuing losses. We know from the Secretary of State for War, who piloted no fewer than two nationalisation Bills through this House, that although the Socialists had confidently recommended nationalisation of industry in their election programmes for nearly 40 years, they had worked out no plans for the management of the industries they nationalised. They may, therefore, perhaps be forgiven for having hastily to improvise strange contraptions like the Coal Board or the Transport Commission. I do not believe that the coal and transport industries can ever prosper unless they are placed on solid foundations and I fear that unless swift action is taken to lay such foundations they may strangle our export drive and increase inflation, for fuel and transport costs greatly determine all other industrial costs. If hon. Gentlemen opposite doubt that statement let me remind them that coal is delivered to American steel plants at half the price which our steel industry must pay.
I, of course, must make some criticisms of the operations of these nationalised industries, but I shall try to make them as constructive as I can. First, let me say 875 that I have no intention whatsoever of making any reflections on the gentlemen who serve on the nationalised boards. They are obviously honourable and some of them are very able men. They are, indeed, struggling with adversity, largely due to the badly designed organisations they administer. Those designs are the responsibility of the Government and not of the members of the various nationalised boards.
Yesterday the Chancellor of the Duchy, who was right up to his old form, complained of attacks from this side of the House on Lord Hyndley. I know of no attacks made from these benches on Lord Hyndley.
§ Mr. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Would the right hon. Gentleman permit me to intervene? Did he happen to be at the Conservative Party Conference 12 months ago when the hon. Member sitting immediately behind him threatened those men who joined the nationalised boards that if the Tories got back, they would know how to deal with them?
§ Mr. Bracken
I am sorry that I missed that conference and I do not even know the name of the hon. Member who made that statement.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
That speech of mine, which the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) is good enough to recollect—I am glad it made so deep an impression—merely indicated that it would be desirable to dismiss those members of public authorities who were not competent to do their job.
§ Mr. Bracken
I was saying that I was very anxious not to get involved in controversy this afternon. I now assert that no hon. Member from these benches, so far as I know, has attacked Lord Hyndley. I do not——
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
On a point of Order. Is it in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to support an Amendment which is a Vote of Censure and yet to say it is not his intention to get involved in controversy?
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. and editorial Gentleman the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) must understand that it is possible for a passage of a speech to be non-controversial and nevertheless for one to put down a Vote of Censure on the Government.
Let us return to Lord Hyndley, because the Chancellor of the Duchy yesterday made a very grave charge against hon. Members on this side of the House. I know of only one disgraceful attack made by a public man on Lord Hyndley, and made by name. It was made by the present Minister of Health and the right hon. Gentleman made it at the Labour Party Conference at Blackpool in 1945, speaking of the setting up of the Finance Corporation for Industry. This is what he said:The Chairman is going to be Lord Hyndley; a 61-year-old Director of the Bank of England and of several big steel and colliery companies. It is a remarkable situation that here you have a man involved in two heavy industries which are at the moment technically obsolescent, and he is made the Chairman of the new organisation to provide finance. In between the wars these gentlemen have been carrying on a totally opposite policy; they have been making one blade of grass grow where two grew before.This is the passage I particularly recommend to the Chancellor of the Duchy. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:It is unreasonable to expect from these people any intelligent and enlightened approach to this problem.Yet Lord Hyndley was appointed Chairman of the Coal Board by a Socialist Government of which the Minister of Health was a member. I, too, express the hope that the vitriol-throwing Minister of Health will accept the rebuke given yesterday by the Chancellor of the Duchy on those who make unfair attacks on Lord Hyndley.
Obviously, the most important of the nationalised industries is coal, and I am very glad that the Minister of Fuel and Power is here this afternoon to answer, because I am going to say things with which I think he may not be in complete disagreement. Upon this great industry Britain rose to greatness and I greatly resented the remark made yesterday by the Chancellor of the Duchy when he said the coal industry was a "wretched, 877 dilapidated industry." Let me point out to the right hon. Gentleman that at the present moment vast sums of public money are being expended in order to obtain recruits for the mines. Nothing could be more harmful to the efforts made by the Minister and the Coal Board to recruit labour than the sort of remark made yesterday by the Chancellor of the Duchy.
I aver that the over-centralisation of the industry is disastrous, that the remote and bureaucratic control of the National Coal Board frustrates miners and managers, thereby diminishing production and inflicting heavy burdens on the public. Exhortations and comminations constantly stream from the National Coal Board to the coalfields. They are all well meant, but they are utterly futile. Miners are men set apart. They follow a dangerous calling, and hard and dirty is their work. Of all sections in the community they can best claim to be members of one another. Their loyalties and their suspicions are titanic. They will not respond to lecturings from the Government or from the Coal Board or, indeed, from any one in London, or from London's agents. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or from the Tory Party."] I certainly agree, not from the Tory Party either.
Miners rarely like their bosses, whether nationalisers, or the old free enterprise bosses; but they often wish to see them face to face; and, therefore, I make a suggestion to the Minister. I hold that instead of eight divisional boards there should be at least 20, peopled by men in constant touch with the pits, for each pit has its own peculiar problems. It is nonsensical to suggest that there can be any sort of general method of dealing with the mining industry. As I have said before, each pit has its own problems, and, in my judgment, the sooner that fact is recognised by the National Coal Board and by the Minister the better for us all. An hon. Member opposite said that miners would not take advice from the Conservative Party. I think he is right. Miners may not vote for what is called individualism, but they are, in fact, the most tremendous individualists in our country, as the Minister well knows. I do not believe that those men of intelligence wish to cast a lasting burden on the taxpayers and consumers. I think 878 that they will gradually respond to the leadership that they know, but that they will never respond to an over-centralised organisation in London.
I am not suggesting that the laying out of new mines or the plans to improve old ones should not be shaped at headquarters. I think that that is necessary for two reasons. One is the lamentable shortage of able mining engineers. The other is the shortage of geologists. The Coal Board must necessarily make use of that talent at its headquarters. All these reasons—the losses of the National Coal Board, the ancestral doubts of miners about their bosses, the failure of the industry to fulfil ministerial targets—all these have led to the inquiry presided over by a member of the Coal Board with the aid of two outside helpers. I think that that is a farcial way of dealing with the problems of this vast industry—to appoint a member of the Coal Board to investigate the competence of his colleagues, even though he is aided by outside gentlemen. I do think the Government ought to take a much greater responsibility, and undertake the task themselves.
In fact, as the Lord President is showing a lively interest, let me tell him something—that the nationalised coal industry cannot be re-organised by the Coal Board. The. Coal Board itself cries out for re-organisation from its creators, the Cabinet. It is a task that will test the utmost abilities and energies of His Majesty's Ministers and of their advisers. So in the interests of the miners, the consumers and the taxpayers, Ministers must scrap their jerry-built organisation which they set up two years ago and provide a better and more dispersed organisation for managing this infinitely important industry.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with what I am now about to say—that the nationalisation of the coal industry is the biggest experiment in the history of industry. It is also likely to prove a very dangerous gamble unless the Minister is able to give up much more time to the supervision of the Coal Board and to the reshaping of its constitution. This business of establishing a solid foundation for the administration of the coal industry is enough to fill the plate of a Government of nationalisers in the life of one Parliament. Even a Minister as busy as the 879 Lord President could not hope to set up a satisfactory organisation for the Coal Board within the 12 short months allotted through the Government's decision to take over the industry. I maintain that wisdom lies in improving the success of one nationalised industry before other industries are nationalised, and I feel sure that the Lord President in private will agree with that remark.
But this unfortunate country has a Government of greedy feeders. Transport is also on their plate, to the great misfortune of the consumers, the taxpayers, and the Transport Commission. That unfortunate Transport Commission has hardly peeped out of the Socialist incubator. Nevertheless, the Government are reposing all sorts of new responsibilities upon it. So far as I can discover, the only way the Transport Commission can remain solvent is to raise prices against the helpless consumer. Despite heavy increases in fares and rates, nationalised transport, judged by ordinary accounting standards, is a big loser, and will continue to be so. The Chancellor of the Duchy told the House yesterday that the increase in railway charges had been authorised by the Transport Commission. Now, that was a disingenuous——
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dalton)
I said that there had been no increase in fares or charges since the nationalisation of the railways. That is true.
§ Mr. Bracken
I say that that is a disingenuous statement, and one unworthy of a Minister whose main duty is ecclesiastical—that is, to coax parsons to accept livings which are often liabilities; in fact, selling Dalton bonds in a restricted market. The right hon. Gentleman must know that the increases in railway charges were authorised by the present Minister of Transport. Yes, Sir, authorised by the present Minister of Transport—but authorised just before nationalisation was introduced. The right hon. Gentleman has no monopoly of disingenuousness. The unfortunate Transport Commission are struggling against heavy losses on the railways. They have reserves of power to increase charges, but they are sensible men, and, therefore, they do not wish to order 880 increases, for they know that the sales resistance of the public to increased railway charges would accentuate falling traffics.
Yesterday I read a speech by Sir Eustace Missenden, the Chairman of the Railways Executive. It was, as usual, an excellent speech; but I thought it was tinged with great pessimism, and, in a certain sense, I thought the speech was defeatist, because he proposed to close down many railway services and provide, later on. road transport services to take their place. A policy of despair is really not much help in our present circumstances. Why do not Sir Eustace Missenden and his masters in the Government follow the example of American railroads faced with similar problems. They have proved that the best way to strengthen turnover is to increase speed, slash costs, and offer new and attractive services to travellers and traders. It is quite remarkable to see the progress of certain American railways from bankruptcy to prosperity through the recognition by their presidents and directors that salesmanship is essential to transport. I pass that idea to the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply.
Ministers must remember that transport is not only a big public service but it is also a great industry—one of the most important industries in the country—and it requires daring and imaginative management. Among the many worthy gentlemen who have been appointed to the various Boards, the Minister seems to have a special preference for what I might call "The good old men." If we want to put a nationalised industry in order, we must find young fellows with fire in their bellies. They may be able to deal with that towering job. Apart from changing the ownership of the railways and slowly absorbing road transport, the Government have never condescended to give us any information about their transport policy. I have hopes that the Minister of Fuel and Power may give us some information this afternoon, because I feel that this is a matter of vital importance to thousands of traders attempting to reach the Government's targets. If railway rates are to continue to increase, a most heavy blow will be struck against our export trade, and Ministers cannot hope to fulfil their targets if more effort is not made to reduce the cost of transport.
881 Let me leave transport and deal with something directly connected with the Minister's department—the British Electricity Authority. This, of course, is a much easier industry to manage than coal or transport. If the B.E.A. was all that the Minister had on his plate, how happy he would be. The consumer today may be forgiven for thinking that the B.E.A. follows a strange policy of raising prices and lowering supplies. The B.E.A. justifies its conduct in often cutting off electricity by saying that there is a grave shortage of generating plant. I used to accept that excuse, until the other day I saw an account in a newspaper, which was not contradicted by the Minister's busy public relation officers, that plant is now being delivered and put in storage because the generating stations cannot be built. If that is true—and it has not been denied by the public relation officers of the Ministry or the Ministry itself—I think that the Minister has a grave complaint to make against his colleague the Minister of Works because he is giving licences for many buildings which are nothing like as urgently needed as is new generating plant in Britain.
I must also say to the Minister—and I hope to get a little support from the other side—that I consider that the B.E.A. have shown a callous attitude to the public by recommending to the Government that rationing by the purse is the best method of saving electricity. I think that rationing by the purse in electricity is wicked. I have had a number of letters from quite humble people—postmen's wives and other people whose earnings do not exceed £4 or £5 a week—protesting bitterly, and saying that they are accustomed to do their cooking by electricity, and it is unfair of the Government to ration them by the purse. 'I hope that the Minister will look into that matter. I know that it is difficult to arrange a workable form of rationing, but I think it is very wrong to ration by the purse. I am sorry that the party opposite do not seem to give much applause to that doctrine.
There are many other indigestibles on the Government's plate. I have no time to deal with them all. I must however say something about what the Chancellor of the Duchy said yesterday in his odd defence of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. All that I need say about the Ministry 882 of Civil Aviation is that it is a Ministry distinguished for its all-round incompetence. Muddle and extravagance have marked all its doings, and the Government have now tardily recognised this fact. At the present moment, a tremendous purge is taking place in the Ministry. Management experts of impeccable capitalist antecedents are now brought in to help the Minister try to bring order into his chaotic Department. I maintain that even the most drastic purge cannot improve the Ministry of Civil Aviation. I hold that it should be wound up as soon as possible. There is no need for a full-blown Ministry of Civil Aviation, and I am sorry to say—because I belonged to the Government that set it up—that today I am absolutely certain there is no case whatever for a full-blown Ministry of Civil Aviation. It is a burden on the taxpayers and an obstruction to the development of aviation.
The Chancellor of the Duchy in his speech declared that of all nationalised industries civil aviation was the only known burden on the taxpayers. I hope that I am not misquoting the right hon. Gentleman; but does not the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the most hard-pressed of the consumers are also taxpayers. Has he forgotten his former defence of P.A.Y.E. in this House, when he was bitterly assailed by his own back benchers? If he has, let me remind him of what a poet said of Vanbrugh:Lie heavy on him earth! for he laid many heavy loads on thee.May I ask this question of the Government: "Have not you enough on your plate? Why are you now seeking to control the manufacture of yachts, umbrella frames, hair grips, fruit essences and, most appropriately, manure?—to mention but a few of the by-products of the companies listed for nationalisation in the Steel Bill."
The Government are blithely accepting responsibility for managing many more new industries and trades in competition with private enterprise. The devoted higher Civil Service must in the end be called in to clear up the mess which acquisitive Ministers leave behind them. Let me say this to the Minister in all solemnity: "You are asking too much of members of the Civil Service. You are working them to death." That point should be taken into account by our 883 nationalising Ministers. May I make a diversion encouraged by the speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last Sunday. The Government have acquired great chunks of land in Africa, and, as we all know, they are fertilising that land with millions of pounds of the taxpayers' money. They may or may not get results from their policy of growing groundnuts in Africa and setting up other industries there, but we are entitled to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he intends to liquidate the African part of the British Empire, because, if that is his intention, great sums of public money should not be poured into that territory. The British are, at any rate, entitled to a little return for their investments. I hope very much that the Minister will be able to reassure the House that it is not the intention of the Government to liquidate Africa, following the bad example of India, Burma, Pakistan and Ceylon.
Yesterday the Chancellor of the Duchy gave us some most interesting reminiscences of his meetings with leaden of the Welsh steel industry during the war. I would remind hon. Members who were not in the previous Parliament that the present Chancellor of the Duchy was President of the Board of Trade for a considerable period during the war. His great talents were not fully occupied, because the President of that Department had to restrict trade rather than to promote it. The right hon. Gentleman had many opportunities of talking upon economics and other matters with the leaders of industry. He described his interviews with various steel magnates from South Wales. The right hon. Gentleman shook his head over them. He said that he found them very restrictionist.
All I can say about those men is that they are building in South Wales the most remarkable plant in the world. If hon. Gentlemen opposite do not accept my authority let me read something which the Minister of Supply recently said about this great scheme organised by the restrictionists:I cannot exaggerate the amount by which T have been impressed by all I have seen; the immense scale of the work, the imagination of the designers and the enterprise of all concerned.Those gentlemen are labelled "restrictionists" by the Chancellor of the Duchy. It is a great discouragement to men who 884 are serving the public to have such language used about them.
The Minister of Health should read another statement made by the Minister of Supply in a message to the workers employed in that great steel development. He said:The amount of work done at Port Talbot in the past 15 months has been outstandingoutstanding"—and here's the rub—when one considers the time it takes to Build a house these days.I thought that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Supply were once happy comrades with the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) on that great journal the "Tribune." That paper seems to have stirred up great trouble between two devoted Ministerial colleagues.
Now let me turn to the worst of all the nationalisation schemes so far introduced by the Government, this Bill to vivisect the steel industry. It is certainly the worst piece of legislation for which this Government, or any Government in our history, have been responsible. It was well described as "a measure that might have been conceived by a Fabian planner in a nightmare." The Bill will certainly destroy the pattern of one of the greatest of all our industries, an industry producing some of the finest steel in the world. If anybody wants to see a picture of the quality of British steel I advise him to consult the United States steel companies and many other competitors of British steel. We have the finest steel producers in the world. It is a very great pity that the Government have introduced this Bill to limit their efforts.
Another thing which hon. Gentlemen opposite know about is the great example set by our steel industry to all other industries in the matter of labour relations. I hold that this crazy scheme for nationalising steel may well jeopardise Britain's recovery. Let me say in passing that the compensation terms offered to the unfortunate owners of the industry are more worthy of a Soviet Finance Minister than of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We are going to have many long Debates on steel and, therefore, I do not intend to say any more about it, save that perhaps the worst of all its consequences will be that it will 'create deep divisions in this country. The other day a Ministerial 885 colleague of the right hon. Gentleman declared that Britain was in danger and would continue to be in danger for a long time to come. That Minister was Lord Pakenham. We on this side of the House agree with that statement. We therefore ask: Why divide the nation in this time of great crisis?
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ The Minister of Fuel and Power (Mr. Gaitskell)
When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy opened his speech yesterday, he spoke of the several styles possessed by the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) and said that the very mild manner in which that right hon. Gentleman had addressed the House had been a matter for some surprise. This afternoon the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), at any rate until the end of his speech, surprised us somewhat by the very mild manner of his attack. He was less adjectival than usual. There were fewer inaccuracies. There was rather less fantasy. Of course, at the end, he was back in his old form. Should he be representing the Opposition in connection with the Steel Bill, I have no doubt he will be able to repeat his performances of the Gas Bill.
For what we have had this afternoon I cannot help expressing a word of gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman. His unexceptionable statements on the balance of payments problem were, I am sure, welcome to all my hon. Friends here. Even his excursions into the history of Socialist thought were at least interesting. I welcome his new attitude towards insulting members of nationalised boards. I do not want to rake over the past, but the right hon. Gentleman has used phrases, not against individuals but against members of nationalised boards, which most people would regard as insulting. I know that the right hon. Gentleman's standards in this sort of thing are rather different. All this may be due to tonsillitis. I would not wish to say that I welcome tonsillitis. On the contrary, I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman, but I hope that the difficulties through which his throat is going at the moment will keep him on this rather narrower path.
The Amendment clearly implies condemnation of the existing nationalised industries. In effect, it points to them as 886 failures and says: "These have failed; therefore, we should have no more." I think the Opposition will agree that that is a fair statement of the implications of the Amendment. The arguments in support of the Amendment have been frequently confused. We have had many speeches from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite comparing, for example, the performance of nationalised industries today with their performance 10 years ago. We had a comparison this afternoon of the price of British coal with that of American coal. We have had comparisons between the position in coal and the position in steel.
I suggest that those comparisons are not relevant to the case that the Amendment is trying to make. The real issue is whether and how far the results of our nationalised industries compare with what they would have been had private enterprise continued to run those industries. That is the sole issue. Only if the Opposition can show that results in those industries have definitely become worse as a result of nationalisation can the Amendment have any sense whatever. It is our contention that there is no foundation whatever in that assertion.
The Amendment refers to burdens which it is alleged have been imposed upon consumers and taxpayers. I did not quite follow the right hon. Gentleman in his remarks about taxpayers. Of course, taxpayers are also consumers, but if they are identical persons, what is the point of putting both of them into the Amendment? Surely, because they are not. It is not the case that everybody pays taxes and consumes in exactly the same way and exactly the same proportion.
§ Mr. Bracken
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There is a slight tinge of tautology in our single-sentence Amendment.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The right hon. Gentleman is continuing on the strait and narrow path of frankness, and I welcome it. I think he would probably agree with me, so far as the narrower interpretation is concerned, that my right hon. Friend dealt with it very adequately yesterday. There has been a burden on the taxpayer only in the case of Civil Aviation, and there was, of course, a subsidy for civil aviation long before nationalisation took place.
887 Let me take one or two instances where it is alleged that the consumers have suffered. The right hon. Gentleman referred to electricity, and other speakers have also complained about the increase in charges. It is perfectly true that electricity charges have gone up since the vesting date; but why, and in what circumstances? I should like to explain to the House precisely how this has arisen. The facts are that at the vesting date no fewer than 150 undertakings were making losses. The total of these losses amounted at that time to between £5 million and £7 million a year. This phenomenon was partly the result of deliberate Government policy during the war, whereby the Electricity Commissioners were encouraged to refuse increases in electricity charges submitted to them by municipalities, because the Government wished to keep down the cost of living. Indeed, the Commissioners went so far as to insist that municipalities should eat into their reserves, even if they were making losses, before they would agree to put up charges.
Obviously, that situation could not continue. Nothing had been done about it before, for the simple reason that in many cases the municipalities were somewhat indifferent to the financial future of their undertakings, because they knew that they were going to be nationalised. But in many cases applications to the Commissioners had actually been made before the vesting date. Therefore, the British Electricity Authority, as soon as it took over, had immediately to apply first-aid measures and to raise the tariffs in these 150 cases. They could have done nothing else. It is perfectly obvious, whether or not nationalisation had taken place, that these increases would have had to occur.
Secondly, it was found, when a further survey was made of the financial position, that these increases were not sufficient for the industry as a whole, and that there were other undertakings which, because of increases in costs, all of which occurred before nationalisation, were themselves in financial difficulty. Consequently, a further increase in some cases had to be agreed. What the British Electricity Authority did, in consultation with the area board chairmen, was to 888 settle on a minimum running charge of -id. a unit for most of the two-part non-industrial tariffs. The reasons for this increase were: the Government policy during the war of keeping down charges; the wage increases granted in January and February, 1948, before the vesting date, and the increase in coal prices in September, 1947, and January, 1948. It is perfectly clear that, whether or not electricity had been nationalised, the same thing would have had to happen.
I come to the third occasion, the change in tariffs, due to the differential which is being introduced between the winter and summer rates. This, of course, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is closely related and entirely connected with the peak load. Everyone agrees that there is this gap between generating capacity and demand, and that it is a very difficult problem. Therefore, I appointed a Committee under Sir Andrew Clow early this year to consider what further measures might be adopted to deal with it. This Committee consisted of a number of gentlemen from the industry, and also a number of outside persons, including a trade union representative and a housewife. Their report said, in effect, that the only thing which could be done immediately was to introduce a surcharge for a period during the winter to be offset by a rebate during the rest of the year.
This is not an increase in the charge to the consumer throughout the year. Taking the year as a whole, the consumer should pay no more. It is simply a change in the form of the tariff. The Committee did not claim, and the Government do not claim, that it is anything more than a rough and ready method for dealing with this problem. It certainly cannot be described as rationing by the purse. If the right hon. Gentleman says that he is not in favour of rationing electricity by the purse, it is up to him to say how he would deal with this problem. Is he in favour of some other form of rationing? I think he knows perfectly well that the problem of rationing electricity, not only at peak periods but over the whole year, was considered by successive Governments to be administratively impracticable.
It is because of the great difficulty of adopting any system of rationing that this 889 proposal for surcharges in the winter, offset by rebates during the rest of the year, has been introduced. That has absolutely nothing to do with the nationalisation of electricity. There is not the slightest doubt, had there been no nationalisation, that any Minister of Fuel really concerned about this problem would have been compelled to look into it. I do not say that any Government would have adopted this particular measure, but it is certainly quite independent of what has been happening in regard to the control of the industry.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to shortage of plant, and asked if it were true that a lot of sets were in store. I do not intend to deal with the generating position generally, for this is extremely complicated and involves a lot of figures; it would take up a lot of time, and I prefer to leave it to another occasion. But there is certainly no truth in the story that there are vast quantities of turbo-alternators lying about in store. There may be one or two, but that is inevitable in a programme of this kind. It would be very surprising, in the construction of a power station which takes three and a half years to complete, if every single piece arrived on time to be fitted in at the exact moment. That for a few weeks some bit of plant should be in store until the other parts are ready, is a perfectly natural thing.
The Opposition have argued, although the right hon. Gentleman, to do him justice, did not press this point, that the increases in electricity charges are really the result of nationalisation because of the increase in coal prices. That is not the result of electricity nationalisation, and so we come back to the problem of whether or not the increases in coal prices are the result of nationalising coal. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster dealt with that in some detail yesterday. He gave full details of the reasons why the prices had gone up and why the increased costs had occurred.
In the National Coal Board's Annual Report reference has been made to the fact that in July, 1947, the National Coal Board, realising the higher costs in which the five-day week would involve them, came to the Government and asked to be allowed to put up prices. They made it plain, in that report, that the Government did not agree to the full increases for which they asked. I should like to 890 explain to the House and to the country exactly what happened on this occasion. The National Coal Board are not under any statutory obligation to accept a Government decision of this kind, but they have continued the undertaking given by previous owners to consult the Government and, in effect, to get their permission before increasing the price of coal to the inland market.
It was in pursuance of that undertaking that they came to my predecessor, in July, 1947, and asked for permission to increase the price. The increase they asked for was 5s. per ton from 1st August. This was the first occasion on which it was possible for the Government to examine the financial position of the Coal Board, and I think it was reasonable that the Government, faced with this request, should say, "We want to know what is happening. Why do you want so much as 5s. per ton?" Consequently, the Government investigated the matter and, as a result, agreed to an increase of 4s. per ton from 1st September.
Subsequently, the agreement to work extended hours was arrived at, and an increase in the minimum wage was granted; and in November, 1947, the Coal Board came back to the Government and asked for a further increase of 3s. 4d per ton. The Government again considered the situation, and agreed to an increase of 2s. 6d. per ton from 1st January, 1948. That was the one gap in the Coal Board's story, and I must make it clear that these decisions were Government decisions, and not the Coal Board's decisions.
We have been subject to some criticism; we have been told that the Government should have agreed to the full increase. The answer is that the Government have to take into account not only the need for the Coal Board to pay their way and repay the losses incurred in their first year's working but also the inflationary consequences of a sharp increase in price. They took the view that, on balance, a smaller increase, which meant a slower repayment of the losses incurred in the first year, was appropriate. In many respects the decision of the Government in this matter is not in the least dissimilar to many decisions taken during the war, when the coalowners asked for increases and the Government gave them something, but not as much as they wanted.
891 No one denies that coal costs have increased, but the real question is whether private enterprise would have avoided those increased costs? That is the issue. I do not know whether the Opposition can enlighten us. Supposing the mines had not been nationalised, do they think that the owners would have declined to grant the better wages and conditions which were so long overdue in the mines? It would be interesting to know their views on that point. Some people have argued that there should not have been a five-day week in the mines. Supposing the mineowners had remained in possession. Would they have declined to grant the five-day week, despite the fact that employers in the cotton and engineering industries were granting it? Not much light has been thrown on that by the Opposition.
There is only one other thing I want to say about prices, and it is that if private enterprise had been in operation, in all probability the increases would have had to be considerably more, and I will tell the House why. Some of the divisions under the Coal Board are still incurring heavy losses. In South Wales, the loss, quite apart from any payment of interim income or interest, is 5s. 2d. per ton saleable. It might be said that even under private enterprise it was customary for some pits to be run at a loss, and I agree, but it would be fair to say that the industry, under private enterprise, could not have tolerated anything like a loss of 5s. per ton in South Wales. Private owners would have had to come to the Government, and say, "If you want these pits to be kept open we must have a further increase of 5s. per ton."
It may be said that the arrangement which existed during the war—the Treasury Coal Charges Account—should have been continued by which the financially profitable areas subsidised other areas. I wonder whether the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde (Colonel Lancaster), who is connected with collieries in the East Midlands region, now making a profit of about 10s. per ton, would have been prepared to continue to subsidise such a loss? I cannot see how, under private enterprise, there could possibly be a continuation of the temporary arrangement which was made during the war. If it had not continued, unquestionably prices would have increased still further.
892 We hear complaints about the quality of coal. No one denies that the quality is not as good as we would like. But these criticisms are not new. The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), in 1946, used words which were very similar to those used today by the right hon. Member for Bournemouth. That is what the right hon. Member for Bromley said about coal when it was under private enterprise:Let me now turn to the other problem of quality, which is almost as important as that of quantity. Here we have a very serious situation. As regards domestic consumption, we know the quality in our own grates. You can make a crazy paving in your garden with the stuff you take out of your grate … if you have a garden, but if not, you can pile it up against your doorway."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th July, 1946; Vol. 426, c. 52–53.]
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
Was not the operational control of the industry in the hands of the Government in those days, and did not that influence very much the question of how coal should be produced?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
There was a form of control within the industry, as well as in many others, but I do not think it can be denied that the industry was substantially under private ownership and control. Regional controllers had the right to intervene here and there, but so far as I know they did not intervene to any substantial extent. I do not believe it can be denied that the quality of coal had seriously deteriorated long before nationalisation.
What is the main cause of the deterioration? It is set out in considerable detail in the Coal Board's report. It is because of the increase in the proportion of coal cut mechanically as compared with the increase in washing and cleaning facilities. Here are some figures: in 1930, 31 per cent, of the coal mined was mechanically cut and 30 per cent. was mechanically cleaned; in 1938 the proportion mechanically cut had risen to 59 per cent., but the proportion mechanically cleaned had risen to only 45 per cent.; in 1946, immediately before nationalisation, the proportion mechanically cut had risen to 74 per cent., but the proportion mechanically cleaned had risen to only 47 per cent. This is not a case of nationalisation making things worse; it is a case of the utter failure of planning under private enterprise.
893 The right hon. Gentleman made some remarks about the organisation of the Coal Board. He said that he thought the present number of the divisions should be increased from eight. They are, as a matter of fact, seven.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The number of areas is not eight but 50. It is very difficult to know what the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting. Is it areas or divisions?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Then it is from seven to 20. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman's idea about areas is and whether the division should be the only unit under the National Coal Board or whether there should be areas as well. His attitude in this matter is in contrast, I must say, to that of the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde, who put forward on a previous occasion the suggestion that there should be four provincial headquarters and that the present 49 areas should be reduced to 30 producing areas. We must know a little more where we are in this matter, because anyone can think of a number and say that it is the right one for areas or divisions. There must be some kind of basis for such a proposal. I do not hold a doctrinaire view on this matter. If I may say so, it is quite wrong for the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Government have imposed a particular organisation on the Coal Board. All the Act says, in effect, is that there shall be a National Coal Board of so many members. As to the divisional and area structure, that is left entirely to the Board to do as it wishes.
Reference has also been made to the Burrows Committee. The Burrows Committee was appointed by the National Coal Board. I should have thought that that was a perfectly proper thing for an organisation of this kind to appoint a committee. Here I quote from the terms of reference:To take stock of the position reached in the development of the Board's organisation and advise where any improvements can be made.There is nothing very sensational in that I quite agree; but to say that this is not the way to handle it because Sir Robert Burrows happens to be a member 894 of the Coal Board—as a matter of fact, he was only appointed a member a few weeks before—is something with which I cannot agree. I should have thought that any board of directors—and the right hon. Member for Bournemouth has experience in this matter—would be well advised to do this sort of thing.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am coming to that. Lord Hyndley recently made a statement on this matter and he made it plain that the Board is now considering the recommendations of the committee. That seems to me to be a perfectly sensible procedure. Three people are asked to look into it, and to discuss the problem with those concerned as well as take a look round and talk it over. That is what is happening in this case. Lord Hyndley also said—I will quote his actual words:It is too early yet to say, but it is the intention of the National Coal Board that a full statement should be published in due course giving the Committee's recommendations and the action we propose.
§ Mr. Bracken
Will the right hon. Gentleman—I was going to say use his influence but I will not use that phrase—convey a message from this House to the Coal Board that we should be much more interested in the evidence than in the conclusions?
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The right hon. Gentleman has many interests, and I have no intention of transmitting any such message for this reason, that this is a matter which is within the sphere of the Coal Board. It was not a committee appointed by Parliament or by the Minister. Indeed, if I may say so, I very much doubt if there is any record of evidence. It was not a matter of having a stenographer going round with the committee taking down what everybody said, and it would not be the best way to go about the business of an inquiry of this sort. Much better results are secured by allowing people to go round and have a chat with those concerned, and talk the thing over between themselves without everything being taken down. The right hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
That is the way they do it on the "Financial Times."
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Yes, that is how they do it on the "Financial Times" as my right hon. Friend the Lord President says. I am happy to be in accord with the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon.
I should like now to say a word about production. It is inevitable that the Opposition should make some play with the fact that we are falling short of the target which we have set the coal industry for this year. Nobody denies, least of all myself, that the results have been disappointing compared with the hopes which we expressed at the beginning of the year. However we have now produced in the first 43 weeks of this year nine million tons of deep mined coal more than we did in the corresponding period of last year. That is an increase of 50 per cent. over the rate of increase achieved in the previous year. To be precise, there was an increase in 1946 of six million tons over 1945 and an increase of six million tons in 1947 over 1946. This year we have so far put on nine million tons more than in the same period of the previous year. It is not as good as we had hoped, but at least it is a distinct and noticeable increase.
It is not reasonable, as hon. Members are so inclined to do, to compare the position now with 1938. It has to be remembered that there has been a steady decline in output year by year throughout the war, despite the maximum propaganda and despite all the pressure that was brought to bear. Down it went year after year falling 10 million tons a year from 1943 to 1944 and from 1944 to 1945. Since then we have been steadily climbing up again and increasing the rate of advance as we go on.
This is not just a matter of getting manpower back, though manpower has increased. Far more important than that is what is happening to productivity. The right hon. Member for Southport yesterday made much play with the fact that in the new publication launched in connection with the productivity drive, coal was said to be lagging behind. What are the facts? Output per man-shift in 1938 over all was 1.14 tons. It had fallen by 1944 to one ton, that is by 14 per cent.; and it stayed at one ton in 1945, rising to 1.03 tons or by 3 per cent. in 1946. It was 1.07 in 1947, and it will almost certainly rise in 1948 another 3 per cent. to 1.1 tons. In these last weeks the figures in effect take us back to a pre- 896 war level of 1.14. I do not think that anybody can say that that is a bad record. Hon. Members who are familiar with these questions know that a rate of increase of productivity of 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. per year is a very respectable increase indeed and is nothing of which to be ashamed.
One can take if one likes the figures which show what happened after the last war when a very similar phenomenon took place, only instead of a decline of 14 per cent. there was a decline of 25 per cent., which went on until 1921. Instead of being practically back to prewar level in three years, it was nine years before the output per man-shift reached pre-war level. None of this really suggests that private enterprise would have done a better job for coal. Here I may possibly refer to the position in Europe. The hon. and gallant Member for Fylde made some rather surprising remarks about the position in Belgium and Holland, where he said that the Governments in those countries, despite Socialist influence, had decided against nationalisation. Let us see what has been happening in Belgium and Holland. The output per man-shift overall in Great Britain in June, 1948, was 95 per cent. of the 1937 figure. In Belgium it was 77 per cent. That is to say, they are still 23 per cent. below pre-war level. In the Netherlands it was 75 per cent., so that they are still 25 per cent. below the pre-war level. He compared these countries with France where, as a matter of fact, output per man-shift is about the same, 74 per cent. of the 1937 figure.
§ Colonel Lancaster (Fylde)
What I said, and of course, the right hon. Gentleman knows it, was that those countries have decided against nationalisation. I was not comparing output with those countries. I merely said that it was a fact that they had decided against nationalisation. I went on to give what I thought had been the reason why that had been decided.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
We are discussing an Am9ndment which condemns the nationalised industries in this country, and if the hon. and gallant Member had any point to make it could only be this—"Look how wise Holland and Belgium have been compared with this country." Those facts dispute that.
§ Mr. Bracken
Did the Germans do any damage to these mines to which the right hon. Gentleman is referring?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was in the House yesterday during the Debate, but I should like to remind him that it is clearly within the recollection of most of us who were here that the attack made from the Opposition was on the basis of the work done; it was claimed that the miners in these other countries worked very much harder under private enterprise than the miners in this country did under nationalisation.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Well, I think that really the figures speak for themselves in this matter, and we can leave it at that. But, of course, I do not for one moment suggest that we are satisfied with the present position, and I should very much regret it if anything that was said from this Box today gave that impression. We are not satisfied, because we cannot afford to give the industry anything but a very stiff target at present. We cannot sit by and be satisfied with coal exports—which, although three times greater than last year's level—are still only between one-third and a half of the prewar level.
I have been particularly concerned with the fact that as the year went on we were obviously falling short of the target, and I would remind the House that for that reason I recently called a conference of the union and the Coal Board on production. As a result of that conference there was set up a committee, which worked very rapidly, comprised of six members of each side, and they came to certain conclusions. Now I say to the Opposition that I believe those conclusions are far more relevant to the efficiency of the industry and to reaching the target that we are after than any amount of recommendations on organisation and administration. By all means let us have the best possible organisation; but if hon. Members imagine that we shall get coal in large quantities by 898 better organisation, then I am sure they are wrong. Where coal is got is in the pits, and that is where the Joint Committee's recommendations must be applied.
I should like to refer to some of these recommendations. I will not take the House right through them. The first one relates to the obvious point, that there must be an increase in the number of face-workers; and in that connection both sides of the committee unanimously recommend, first, the maximum development of face-room—that is a matter on the management side, and I have no particular point to make on it—and secondly, a speedier procedure for the immediate upgrading of suitable men for whom face-room is available, because it is the fact that in certain coalfields difficulties are encountered in this matter. Now, why are they encountered? Because of these old customs and habits in the industry, not habits and customs introduced by nationalisation, but habits and customs that existed under private enterprise, which we are trying to overcome. Then they recommend amendments of the training regulations, where necessary, to avoid delay in getting men to the face. I told Lord Hyndley before that that I was perfectly prepared to relax those regulations if both sides wanted it and I was satisfied that it would not be prejudicial to safety. Finally, they recommend removal of lodge or branch objections to the introduction of foreign workers required to release miners suitable for upgrading to the coal face.
The point I want to make is this. On those two essential matters—upgrading and the admission of foreign workers—we shall never get anywhere without the fullest possible co-operation of the unions and the management; and the question I put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: does he really think, supposing the industry had remained under private enterprise, that we could conceivably get a position where the National Union of Mineworkers was prepared to co-operate in a report of this kind? I say to him, sincerely, that it would have been completely impossible. It is only because the union and the men feel that this is their job, that it is their responsibility, that they are prepared to break down all these habits and customs of the past.
899 Take the even more difficult question of attendance. I freely admit—I have not had time to mention it so far—that the figures are bad; they are disappointing. True, it is misleading sometimes to speak in terms of absenteeism percentages. What we want to take is the number of shifts worked per week. But the figures are not going up as fast as they should, and the union know that. Therefore, this is what they are prepared to do. I should like to read these words, because I think they mark a considerable development in the history of industrial relations in this country:The Board and the union recognise that efficient production, which is essential, not only in the national interests but also to safeguard the standard of living of those in the industry, cannot be achieved without regular attendance on every shift of a properly balanced labour force in each pit. They recognise their joint responsibility to secure more regular attendance and that. where their efforts are of no avail, the retention in the industry of the workmen concerned will impede production, place an unfair burden on regular attenders and depress the standards of their fellow workers.They go on, as hon. Members will be aware, to recommend a particular procedure, which amounts to saying to the men:" It is really a condition of the better conditions and high wages now being paid in the industry that there should be regular attendance. If you attend regularly, then you can earn more money and we can maintain this standard. If you cannot and if you will not do that, then it is no good." They are saying: "If we cannot reform a man"—and there is full opportunity for reforming him under this procedure" then in the last resort he may have to go." Now, I consider that for a union like the National Union of Mineworkers, with all their history, to have taken this step—of course, I agree that it is only at the national level so far that it has gone through—is a remarkable development. It would have been completely and utterly impossible had we not nationalised coal.
I have repeatedly said that there is no reason to be complacent. It will not be easy to get the increased output on the scale we need. The House must understand that an increase of 6 or 7 per cent. per year—which is the kind of target we 900 aim at—is not usual in the coal industry. Not long ago I went to a Divisional Coal Board, and I discussed with them their figures and their problems. I think they showed an increase of 4½ per cent. The vice-chairman—who is, I think, as a matter of fact, well known to the hon. and gallant Member for Fylde—looked across the table and said: "You know, 4½ per cent. is a damned good result. We are not used to more than that." Well, we are asking for more than that, but it will not be easy to get it.
We are in a period of transition, and it is inevitable that, in such a period, there should be a time during which people have not quite settled down, new relationships between individuals have to be established, and we have all the time to fight against old habits and old customs—the legacy of the past. But, if I may say so, in my view all these difficulties are quite inevitable, and are not an argument for not nationalising: they are an argument for having started it much earlier. If only—and I say this in all sincerity—the previous Government had in 1942, when this matter was discussed with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy when he was President of the Board of Trade, agreed to, at any rate, some measure of nationalisation or of real unification, we should be very much further on than we are today. There is no doubt about it.
I am not in the least depressed, though I admit that we shall take some time to get things right in this industry, and in conclusion I want to refer to three incidents which I have recently observed in going around the coalfields. The other day I was in Lancashire; I went to a pit which, had it not been for nationalisation, would have closed down in two or three years' time. It is not being closed. Its life has been extended for 25 or 30 years, because it is now able to work coal that was previously in the confines of another company. Now, that is a typical instance, as I think probably everybody would agree, of the advantages of unification.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
If I may say so, it could not have been done, because despite the 901 fact that the 1938 Act did unify royalties, it did not get over all the leases which individual companies had. Experience in the Coal Commission certainly confirms that.
§ Mr. Bracken
The right hon. Gentleman surely is not saying that under private enterprise it could not have been achieved? It is constantly done. I myself am engaged in the mining industry and constantly we have to buy a piece of other people's territory, or they have to buy from us, to improve a mine. It is an old custom in the mining industry.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should intervene on this point because one report after another has emphasised that this was one of the greatest weaknesses of the industry under private enterprise. However, I was merely interested in finding an instance where what we said so often was obviously true.
The second incident I want to refer to is a visit I paid to Northumberland and Durham. There I attended conferences where managers and management representatives from individual colleries were meeting with workers' representatives from the consultative committees of a number of different collieries. They spent either a whole day or weekend together discussing their problems. Everybody who spoke at those conferences, whether from the managerial or the other side, said one thing, "This consultation is something new and it is something good, and it has already helped us to an understanding of each others' problems and position that we have never had before." As one of the union leaders said, "A few years ago, if I had been seen coming here in a manager's car, I would have lost my job the next week." That spirit is encouraging, for it shows that the consultative machinery is really beginning to operate.
The third one is this. At a colliery in Kent I went underground and saw near the pit bottom a large notice which said:The Consultative Committee have recommended that in view of their persistent absenteeism the following shall be dismissed. …They did not name the men, but stated so many fillers, so many packers, and so on. I asked the Consultative Committee how they managed to do this, because it 902 seemed to me a remarkable development. They said, "We thought it was right, we took it to the union, we got the policy endorsed, and we have carried it out. We do not like doing it, and we hope we will not have to do it very often, but it has had a marked effect on attendance." That kind of courage is what we want to see in industrial democracy.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
If they are not prepared, after a period of reform, to turn up properly for work, obviously the men cannot be employed.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
The question of whether they should be employed elsewhere or not depends on the circumstances.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
As my hon. Friend indicates, not for not turning up to their work but for all sorts of personal reasons and political reasons, men failed to get jobs. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are now saying, "Really, we must be careful about these people," I would like to hear about it. Are they now turning round and saying, "No, we should not be severe with absentees"? I think they should make their position clear in this matter.
§ Mr. Bracken
I want to make it quite clear that great care should be taken before power is given to any organisation to blacklist a man in such a way that he cannot get employment in an industry in which he was formerly engaged.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Nobody has said anything about blacklisting, but I do say that I will not stand by and have the Opposition saying that the National Coal Board is to be denied the rights that any ordinary employer has of not taking on somebody who is no good.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
I am glad to hear it. The case for the nationalisation of steel rests on its own merits. A number of speeches have been made on that subject. Many more will be made and the case will be argued with vigour and 903 clarity. The Opposition, however, have chosen in this Amendment to base their criticisms of the Steel Bill on the alleged failure of other nationalised industries compared with private enterprise. If I may say so, they were very foolish to do so, because it is perfectly clear, the case is overwhelming, that if we had not nationalised coal we should now be facing industrial disaster. If the right hon. Gentleman really believes that the policy of nationalisation pursued by this Government has been unfortunate, if he does not understand that this policy is not only justified in itself but is an integral part of the whole conception of Socialist democracy in this country, I am afraid he will have to learn many more lessons in Socialist theory.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I have listened to the Minister with a good deal of interest and I was struck by one thing he said early in his speech—that the real issue is whether, under nationalisation, conditions in these industries have become worse. I admit that at that moment I was handed a piece of paper about a telephone message which interrupted my listening but, if I really heard that aright, I am astonished at the ideal being such a low one and his pessimism so great. That is putting the idea of nationalisation on the basis of idolatry of a Socialist theory simply as an objective in itself.
I want to follow the right hon. Gentleman in only one other matter. He asked what would the private owners have done after this last war if they had been in full control of the industry, and whether they would have been able to pull the industry round better or worse than the nationalised industry has been. That is a hypothetical question which it is difficult to answer, but it is relevant to remember what happened after the first world war. It will be recollected that in 1921 the industry was flung back to the owners at a fortnight's notice. At that time it was losing £60 million a year, about 7s. a ton on the output, and not unnaturally, as a result of its being flung back, a strike took place. At the end, of that strike the owners, who had been left with the responsibility of returning the industry to an economic basis, made 904 an agreement with the Miners' Federation whereby wages were governed by the ability of the industry to pay a minimum wage, and the Government gave £10 million spread over three years to help them out.
The Minister went on to give some figures of output after that first war. I may not have heard them aright but I believe the figures I shall give now are correct. In 1920 the output of saleable coal was 229 million tons. That was with the industry still under Government control and still suffering from the effects of the war. In 1921, the year of the strike, it dropped considerably, of course, to 163 million. In 1922, it rose to 249 million. In 1923 it rose to 276 million, though I admit that in that year the demand from the Continent because of the occupation of the Ruhr had an effect, but a somewhat similar position exists today. In 1924, it went back to 267 million, but the point is that in the year after the owners had taken charge again. it went up nearly 20 million tons.
§ Mr. J. J. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
What was the number of men working when that output was reached?
§ Colonel Clarke
The number of men working in 1920 was 1,226,000 and in 1924 it was 1,213,000. There was a reduction in the number of men, although the output increased to that tremendous extent. I know the right hon. Member will forgive me if I read the correct figures, which are: in 1920, 1,226,000 men, and in 1924, when the output rose to 267 million tons, 1,213,700 men.
§ Mr. Lawson
I am much obliged to the hon. and gallant Member for giving way, but is he aware that that was the very period when the men were defeated and when a great number of them were driven out of the industry, so that today about only three-quarters of that number are working in the industry as a result of the conflict at that time?
§ Colonel Clarke
That may be correct, but I believe that two years later, in 1926, the number of men was 1,115,000; the number had not gone down so tremendously by then. These figures, however, show that there was a very rapid increase in output after the first war. The owners did it then, and who knows that they might not have done it again?
905 I support the Amendment. I think it is very apt and very suitable to be moved just now. I believe it reflects the feeling of a vast number of His Majesty's subjects who are really astounded that any Government of responsible men, faced with the crises at home and abroad that we face to-day, and with the standard of living of the country wholly dependent on the generosity of the United States of America, can still continue to perform economic experiments on our people instead of husbanding and trying to develop our resources.
I have followed the nationalisation Measures fairly closely, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, and I believe that the term "series of experiments" is the only true wording which can be applied to them. They were started without a blue-print and do not seem to be based on any embracing and well-thoughtout system of nationalisation policy. That is shown by the fact that nearly all arc different; each one differs a little from the previous one—possibly it is a little better, advantage being taken of what has been learnt. The only sealed pattern seems to be in the financial clauses. In the Coal Act, where valuation took place, treatment of the owners was not unfair, but, unfortunately, we came later to the sealed pattern of Stock Exchange valuation, which is utterly unfair. Fairness. it seems, was too expensive.
I will underline the contents of the Amendment by going into the story of one of the first of these experiments, that of the coal industry, and I am afraid that my conclusions differ from those which the Minister has just laid before the House. We are now in the 23rd month of the nationalisation of the coal industry and should be beginning to see some improvement, if improvement there is to be.
The Amendment speaks of:… a policy of nationalisation which has already imposed heavy burdens on consumers and taxpayers alike …without, I believe, producing any advantage at all. If the coal industry under private ownership, or under private ownership under Government direction, was as bad as was so continually said from the other side of the House, then some improvements might have been made in these two years. But it is much harder to improve an industry with fewer 906 troubles, such as electricity, and it will be harder still to improve a flourishing industry like steel.
In the early days of nationalisation Debates in this House, there was a lot of talk during the passage of the fuel Measures of "cheap and abundant sources of power." That term often came up although, I notice, it was not included in the final Acts. What actual tangible benefits have been derived from the nationalisation of coal? I noticed yesterday that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster spoke in quite a different tone, with no mention of cheap and abundant supplies of power. He seemed to take pride in the fact that nationalised industries—and he spoke of other industries than coal—were holding their own; in the case of the Bank of England, that it was no burden on the consumer or the taxpayer. I do not know exactly what is a consumer of the Bank of England; perhaps it is one of those hard-faced, hard-mouthed men from the City. Of Cable and Wireless also the right hon. Gentleman said that there was no increase in the burden on consumers and taxpayers. Why should there be an increase? Then came civil aviation and coal. After a good deal of juggling with figures, the Chancellor of the Duchy deduced that there had been no real losses to the taxpayers—only a subsidy. I say that, to the man who travels only by train or steamboat, a subsidy to civil aviation is a distinct loss.
Is coal really abundant today? Have we all that we want for export? Nobody knows better than the Minister that we have not, and is he not, in fact, already raiding some of our household coal in order to make up our exports? If we have a really bad winter, like the one before the last, we shall have some nasty headaches before the spring. If only we had something like our pre-war output, what could we not do with it abroad—the dollars we could bring in! In prewar days British coal was the life-blood of much of Europe's economy and if only it could flow once more at proper pressure through the very anaemic veins of Europe today, what a tremendously beneficial effect it would have.
Will the target of 200 million tons of deep-mined coal be achieved? The Minister has already said this evening that it will not, and I would remind him 907 that that target is smaller than those which have been suggested by a number of people, including the Prime Minister. In September, 1947, if I recollect rightly, the Prime Minister asked for an output over this year of 4 million tons a week, which is more than 200 million tons in the year.
I will not refer to electricity because the Minister has already done so, and, I think, has made our case. He explained why electricity is more expensive, which is what I was going to say. But what he did not say is why it is no easier now to connect a farm or a factory to a main supply than it was under private enterprise. I do not think it is any easier, in spite of what we have been promised.
Let me return now to coal. Is it getting any cheaper? The hon. Member for the Walton Division of Liverpool (Mr. Haworth) said yesterday:On the question of coal, I do not think the price matters twopence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 751.]That is rather reminiscent of statements by a former Minister of Fuel and Power. Does the Chancellor of the Duchy agree with that; does he really believe that the general feeling opposite about the price of coal is that it does not matter twopence? The price of coal enters more into the problems of the standard and cost of living and the danger of inflation than does that of any other single raw material in the country. In the second quarter of 1948, that is, from the 16th to the 19th month of the Coal Board's administration, the price of coal had increased by 8s. 4d. a ton more than in the same period a year before. Of course, this had an effect on other fuels, such as gas and electricity.
Is the relationship between managements and workers, to which the Minister referred, really so good? Has the psychological battle to which the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) referred really been won? If so, why do we not see more tangible results? From January to July, 1948, 15,000 more days were lost through disputes than in the first year of the Coal Board's control, that is, an increase of 4.3 per cent. That does not look as if relations were getting any better, particularly as the great majority of these strikes were unofficial. The year 1947 908 itself was not a good year for industrial relations. On 15th July a gentleman who, I understand, is the industrial correspondent of the "Daily Mirror," broadcast on the B.B.C. He said:In 1947 there was the staggering total of 1,635 strikes—most of them a matter of a few men and a few hours, but four of them were serious.He also said:Disputes about the application of the five-day week resulted in the loss of 800,000 tons of coal.I suggest that seldom has a gift horse been so disappointingly looked at in the mouth. I believe absenteeism was higher in the months of May to August this year, both at the face and overall, than in the corresponding period of 1947. It is not getting less, but more.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
Does the hon. and gallant Member appreciate that the absenteeism percentage depends partially on the number of shifts worked and partially on the number of possible shifts? There was a much greater number of possible shifts this year.
§ Mr. Gaitskell
It is perfectly true that the absenteeism percentage is higher for October this year than for October last year, but then a five-day week was being worked without any extended hours and, correspondingly, the absenteeism was smaller, but now it tends to be correspondingly higher.
§ Colonel Clarke
One has to go on the statistics published by the Ministry. I think it would be fair to say there has been no outstanding improvement in absenteeism in the second year of the Coal Board's control. I do congratulate the Minister on having got this joint committee working and I hope it will do all he hopes to increase output. I cannot help asking why it was not thought of 18 months ago.
Another sidelight on the relationships in the pit, and also another complaint of the consumer, is that coal has become no 909 cleaner. I see that the Report last June of the Industrial Coal Consumers' Council says:It is regrettable that as you "—the Minister—informed the Press on 10th June, not only is production falling short of expectation, but it includes a higher proportion of inferior coal.Later, the Report says:On every hand it is recognised that deterioration has taken place in the general level of quality in recent years.I think any big consumer would tell us that is true. The quality of coal is not going up, but is going down. I believe the amount of ash in coal is a rather good barometer of feeling in the pits. I was brought up to believe that ash and agitation went together and when there was trouble in the pit the ash content increased. If that is the case today, it does not look as if the relationships in the pit are very much better.
Looking at the matter in quite a detached way, I feel that this failure of nationalisation to satisfy the workers in the mines is really rather tragic. I do not believe anything has been more destructive of the coal industry in the last 35 years than the continuous warfare which has taken place to get nationalisation. For more than a generation, Communists, Syndicalists and even good trade union Socialists have been pouring out a continual stream of propaganda to the effect that the coal industry did not work under private enterprise—[An HON. MEMBER: "And Lord Sankey."]—and if it did work, no one would say so. This continual spate of propaganda went on all the time for the purpose of showing that private enterprise in the mines had failed and, what is more, that it was impossible for it to succeed. It has all been for nothing. Nationalisation has been obtained. The workers still feel frustrated and the consumer and taxpayer are worse off.
These remarks are aimed at the principle of nationalisation rather than at the Coal Board. That does not mean that I have no criticism to aim at the Coal Board. That I will do if I get an opportunity later on, but they had an almost impossible task and were given far too short a time to take it in hand.
910 Is the mining industry more popular today amongst workers than it was when the Coal Board took it over? Is it attracting labour? The Chancellor of the Duchy said yesterday that the losses of the Coal Board last year were extremely simple to explain. They were due to improved conditions for the miners. He enumerated them—the five-day week, increased minimum wage, increases for deputies and others, and local wage adjustments. I would like to add to the list extra rations and priority consumer goods.
With all these inducements, is the total labour force in the coalfield increasing? It appears to me from the figures I have been able to obtain that that is not so. The manpower target for the end of this year was 750,000 men on the colliery books. On 1st August there were 726,000 the number having gone up by only 8,000 since the campaign began on 1st January, when the number stood at 718,000. That is another target missed, and missed by a great deal more than the actual output target. I suggest that quite a number of those 8,000 are not British workers at all, but are foreigners, and that the attraction of British labour is practically nil.
To return to the words of the Amendment, I think no one will deny the premises on which it is based, that at the present time we are in a "grave international situation" and that we have a "continuing gap in our overseas trade" or that the Government are persistingin a policy of nationalisation which has already imposed heavy burdens on consumers and taxpayers alike and is impeding the enterprise and initiative which is essential to our recovery.We use the word "obstinately" and doubtless the Government might not accept that. Perhaps they would wish to alter it to "unswervingly." I would not object, because it gives the impression of a railway engine going along lines and unable to stop. I am quite sure that a heavy burden is being imposed upon consumers and taxpayers. I believe that nationalisation is impeding enterprise and initiative, and that directly any industry is told that it is likely to be nationalised, people begin looking over their shoulder all the time to see who is going to take their place. One finds that people have divided interests and loyalties. I 911 believe that the history of the coal industry is largely the story of the tragedy of the forcing of nationalisation by propaganda, which has caused more trouble than anything else. I still hope that the Government may desist from further nationalisation. I hope that they may take to heart the substance of this Amendment, even if they do not support it. I am well aware that that hope is probably vain, so I will add, for the benefit of the Minister, who I know had a classical education:Quem deus volt perdere dementat prius.For the benefit of the members of my old school, or those who now use the modern Latin pronunciation, I give the following slightly free translation:If a party behave with the irresponsibility of a lunatic, they will probably lose the next Election.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Greenwood (Wakefield)
I must bring the House back to what this Debate is really about. There is a strange air of unreality about this two-Days' Debate. To move an Amendment to the Humble Address to His Majesty, is the equivalent of moving a Vote of Censure, the most serious step which an Opposition can take. Yet, where is the Leader of the Opposition, where is the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition? With what fire did the two speakers on the Front Bench opposite speak yesterday and today? There is no enthusiasm, no vitality. In fact, I will do my best to prove that they are half way with us and do not know it. It is a strange thing. The real truth is that not only have the speeches been heartless—I do not mean in the sense of being cruel, but of being speeches without spirit—but the Amendment itself is about the most amateurish piece of work which I have seen after 25 years of experience in this House. I speak as one who has assisted in the drafting of Amendments to King's Speeches and Votes of Censure when I say that I would be ashamed to have my name attached to that Amendment on the grounds of draftsmanship alone, for what does it do? The Amendment starts by saying that:notwithstanding the grave international situation and the continuing gap in our overseas trade, …It then goes on to say that the Government still insist upon doing what they meant to do. The right hon. Gentleman 912 the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) said that we agreed about the "notwithstanding" part of the Amendment, but the "notwithstanding" part has nothing to do with what the draftsmen of this terribly drafted Amendment really had in their minds. The Amendment goes on to say that we are still going on doing what we meant to do. It reminds me rather of an old story about an old negro in the Southern States. Having heard about a young negro coming to grief and getting into the hands of the police, he said, "It is a pity about young Sambo. He had a good education, instead of which he goes about stealing chickens." That is rather like the second part of this extraordinary Amendment.
There are two words in the Amendment to which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster referred yesterday, which I am quite sure have the authentic Churchillian ring about them. I refer to those words of the Amendment which regret that His Majesty's Government should "obstinately persist" in its policy. I cannot think of any person other than the Leader of the Opposition who would invent a term of that kind. What does it mean? That this Government intend to pursue the purpose for which they were returned to power—they "obstinately persist in doing so." During the war, the Leader of the Opposition used that kind of quality in our people to organise them for victory. It is what we in Yorkshire call stubbornness, and what is wrong with it? The reference in the Amendment to our obstinately persisting in a policy is very like the querulous mother, hearing strange noises in the adjoining room, and oalling out to her child "Whatever you are doing, stop it." That is what this Amendment means in saying that we "obstinately persist."
Then comes what is thought to be the sting in the tail in reference to nationalisation, a policy which it says "has already imposed heavy burdens …" The implication of that is that it will impose more. Yet, as I shall try to prove, the party opposite now accept nationalisation, they do not intend to undo it, they dare not. This Amendment, in fact, amounts to a futile and infantile attempt at criticism without any backbone in it. The Amendment was moved yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman 913 the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson). His speech was interesting for its admissions. I will read an astonishing statement which is backed by the Party opposite and its leaders, in spite of all the secret fears and hopes of their back bench Members. The right hon. Gentleman said:Hon. Members opposite often accuse us of wanting to abolish all controls. I know of no responsible Member of my party who ever said such a thing. Obviously, in the conditions of the world today, it is impossible to go back to prewar. It is inevitable that the State should play in our affairs a role much bigger than it used to do. Decisions on the balance of payments, for example, are bound to be taken on a scale wholly inappropriate for any private industry, however large. In time of scarcity, there are occasions on which decisions as to supplies must be taken by the State on information that only the State can possess."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 694-5.]The Leader of the Opposition himself at the time of the General Election said much the same thing when he said that they wanted to get rid of controls. We all want to get rid of controls; we want it for different reasons from those of hon. Members opposite. They want to get rid of controls to get back to the good old juicy days of long ago. We want to get rid of controls because controls affect millions of our people who suffer under them. So far as they are concerned, controls affect a handful of people whose private interests are affected. The Leader of the Opposition made it quite clear that some of the controls will continue to be needed until normal times return. He said:As long as shortage of food remains rationing must obviously be accepted. The danger of inflation also must be guarded against.That has been the policy of the present Government, and it is likely to remain so.
The Industrial Charter is a document which is worthy of being used for bedside reading. It is nice light literature which does not carry one very far. But it really does substantiate the case that we have always made out for controls. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), and this was noted in "The Times" at the time, said:Any Government, whatever its political complexion, was bound to concern itself with the affairs of industry in 1948 in a way that 914 would have been considered impossible or intolerable in 1938. The present Government, he agreed, had gone too far, but it must be recognised that in the world of the present day the Government had to take a much larger part in industrial matters than our forefathers would have thought possible.… 'The only thing'"—this is a complaint against certain industrialists, who, he said, he mistrusted—'I want in my business is to be left alone'.He repudiates that when he says that the State has to play a great and increasing part in the direction of our industrial affairs.
It has been pointed out today that the Conservative Party is opposed to nationalisation as a principle. That is not new. But see what has happened now. In a most extraordinary ending to his speech yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport, who I am sorry is not here, having talked about controls ended with this sentence—and this is just like the "notwithstanding" part of their Amendment, which has nothing to do with the rest of it:We believe, therefore, that there is an overwhelming case against any further extension of this experiment of nationalisation, at all events by members of His Majesty's present Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 695.]By implication he accepts what has been done, but is "agin" doing any more. He even suggests—Heaven forbid that it should happen—that they might do some experimenting.
This is really a fantastic Amendment. There are only two words left, "obstinately persist." Hon. Members opposite cannot help it. Reason guides them in the direction in which we have travelled over many years, although it is against their instincts. They are really feudalists. They would love to go back to the good old days of two hundred years or more ago. Or, if they are not feudalists, they are romanticists, and the greatest romanticist today is the Leader of the Opposition. He has a strange ally—I never expected it myself—in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot. In the speech which I have quoted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot said:There were in industry a great many wayside violets when the present Government came into power. They were hoping that the 915 sickle of nationalisation would pass them by if they kept silent.Then he went on to say that the poor little wayside violets had been plucked—and I can hear the tremulous note in his voice as he made that speech before a lot of hard-headed businessmen.
Two hundred years have passed since the order in which they believed and in which they secretly believe today, left this country. In two hundred years the face of this country has changed. The character and the life of the people have changed. Revolutions have taken place, a new equality has been born through these past industrial processes. We think that we have found a way out, a long and painful way. It is the way which all nations must follow sooner or later. We led the world in the industrial revolution. We suffered most from the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution made a hell of the North of England and we have not yet recovered from it. We know now that political democracy is a farce unless we have with it economic prosperity. That is the path we are going to follow.
So long as I have any life in my body I shall go on obstinately persisting in this policy. Hon. Members opposite are being dragged behind us unwillingly. They admit the need for controls and they dare not undo the nationalisation that has already been carried out. If it should happen that they are returned in 1950 when we are operating nationalised industries and public services, they will not dare to go back on it. If the right hon. Gentleman who will wind up for the Opposition likes to say that they will go back on it, I shall be very glad to hear it. They dare not. They are being dragged at the tail of the Socialist coach and they do not like it.
With all their romanticism they have to face the hard facts of life. At the middle of the twentieth century, the common people of this country after two hundred years of struggle and fight now have victory. Hon. Members opposite must follow the same star that we have followed. There can be no doubt about the result of the Division tonight. There is no fight in the Tories. There was none yesterday; there is none today. They dare not, they cannot, fight. Therefore, whatever may be the 916 slogans in the Press, whatever obiter dicta may be uttered by their leader, whatever speeches may be made from now on, the Tory Party in this Debate are tied whether they like it or not to the advancing progress of public ownership and public control in the public interest.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
The whole House will share the mutual pleasure we have in seeing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood) back with us again, so obviously restored to health and full vigour of both mind and body. None of us agreed with any of his arguments, but we are delighted that he was able to make them. While I am in this congratulatory frame of mind, I should like also to say that I think the Minister of Fuel and Power today honestly believed what he was saying. That none of us agreed with him does not detract from the fact that he himself believed in his own unfortunate remarks.
We heard a speech yesterday which was quite different in both tone and content. It was a most interesting experience. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster once more gave us an example of his old technique. The boom and the bluster, the ready phraseology with which he so unhappily talked himself out of office and so successfully talked himself back again—it was all there. There was the old bluster, the old boastfulness, the old booming voice, the deliberate hesitation, the cheerless smile, the ponderous repetition. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman was himself again. How eagerly his supporters behind him lapped up what he said. They were anxious supporters who had been eagerly waiting for someone to defend their cause, to give them some hope and refreshment after four days of constant attack on their stupid policies. It was most interesting to us on this side of the House to watch how they giggled and tittered at some of the best-known and most obvious quips of the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, it was a measure of their anxiety to have some form of defence for the policy about which they as well as their constituents, are beginning to feel such great concern.
917 The right hon. Gentleman brought back this myth, which is still used in pathological cases, I believe, of the bottomless pit from which an inexhaustible supply of money can be drawn to meet any deficit or cost in which the State is involved. What nonsense it all is. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman had grown up and got beyond that infantile stage of economic argument. The trouble with hon. Gentlemen opposite is that they and their constituents realise that behind all this apparent satisfaction, all this boom and bluster about their nationalisation achievements, there stands, or rather crawls, a weak flabby Government distrustful of themselves and their achievements and certainly distrustful of their future.
§ Mr. John Lewis (Bolton)
How does the hon. and gallant Member explain the great increase in production which has taken place since this Government have been in power?
§ Sir T. Moore
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument, he will find an explanation of that in due course.
§ Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North)
What reason has the hon. and gallant Member for thinking that the people are tired of our nationalisation policy? There is no evidence of that at the by-elections.
§ Sir T. Moore
I will tell the hon. Lady. I had not meant to give way to her curiosity like this, because it takes up time. I walk down the streets of Ayr every time I am there and it takes me about an hour. During that time I meet and talk to probably 100 different people. According to their own statements, each is anti-Socialist but, to judge from my majority at the last Election which dwindled to 700, every other person that I meet in that hour must have voted against me. Now, after three years, I find that not one of them is a Socialist, because all immediately say, "When are you going to get these people out?" I conclude that they have all changed in the last three years from being somewhat doubtful Socialists into being very determined Conservative. I hope that satisfies the hon. Lady.
§ Sir T. Moore
I was in the middle of describing certain aspects of this Government. One was their flabbiness and another was their uncertainty and doubt of themselves. Apparently, as far as I can see, they have only one ambition, and that is to cling to office with all its privileges. The only policy by which they can cling to office is that of appeasement. It is easy to prove that charge. At home they are appeasing the disruptive elements in their own Cabinet by tinkering with our Constitution and by endangering the most complex, efficient and contented of our great industries. They are appeasing their own restless supporters in this House—of whom we see many all around us—by giving way under the National Service Act, by trying to abolish the death penalty and by the adequate payment of £1,000 a year for their services.
They are appeasing the wage earner by fat weekly pay packets of borrowed money, hoping that that will continue to dazzle them until the 1950 Election. Abroad they are appeasing our friends in the United States of America so as to secure a few more dollars to enable them to continue to fill those fat pay packets. To go outside the scope of this Debate for one second, they are appeasing Russia because they have not got the moral or physical courage to call her bluff. This Government who were so hostile to appeasement ten years ago, in 1938, when time was our friend, are now friends of appeasement when time is our enemy.
I realise that the scope of this Debate does not extend to Defence, but I refer to that subject, by way of example. Recently, before travelling to my constituency I was asked by the Secretary of State for War to do everything I could to foster and stimulate recruiting there. Naturally I agreed, not because it was the Minister who asked me but because it was the Minister speaking in the name of our people. I carried out his request and I met with a courteous hearing, but I believe the number of recruits I obtained was two. At the end of my two or three weeks, I received several letters on this subject from officers and men who had given their life to the Territorial Army. This was one of them. He said:Of course, one of the best methods of stimulating recruiting for the Army as a whole would be to get rid of Shinwell.919 I will elaborate that and say that the only way in which we can give consolation to our people today is by getting rid of the whole Front Bench.
May I now review the policies that have already been adopted, and those which are outlined in the Gracious Speech, to deal with the prosperity of our country and the happiness of our people? They have, of course, practically nothing that is new. The only policy that was not adopted or put into force by the Coalition Government was the policy of nationalisation. All these Acts of Parliament dealing with education, health and the social services were all devised, and most of them published as White Papers, by the Coalition Government.
Well, where has nationalisation led us? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Hudson) said yesterday, it is indeed a sorry tale. Whether we take the losses that have been incurred on coal and civil aviation, or the losses that will be incurred on electricity and gas—and already the charges are being put up to meet them—whatever these losses may be, they will be borne by the people. The people will pay, and they will pay in the increased cost of cigarettes, beer and household equipment and all those things that are necessary to maintain the home. That is the source from which these losses will be made up, and not from any bottomless pit such as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy tried to tell us about yesterday.
§ Mr. J. Lewis rose——
§ Sir T. Moore
I will try to cover the points which I know are in the hon. Gentleman's mind. I do not, personally, blame the Government for trying out nationalisation. They had warned the electorate in their dud prospectus in 1945, but the electorate did not heed the warning. No doubt, in a wild frenzy of relief at the end of the war, they never gave a thought to nationalisation, and, even if they had done so, they would not have known what it meant. They voted for nationalisation on a dud prospectus, and having voted for it, they now have to suffer. Therefore, I am not querying the right of the Government to introduce nationalisation. What I do blame them for is their timing. It was the duty of the Government in 1945 to try to put 920 the country on its feet, to get the wheels of industry turning again, to restore our economy once more and to put us on a sound and prosperous basis after six years in which we had been shooting away all our assets. That was the duty of the Government before they indulged in these futile experiments, which have either been discarded or modified in every country in which they have beer tried.
Indeed, there was another alternative before them, and that was to act in the way which the Lord President used to talk about, though he has not said so much about it recently. That course was to take every nationalisation step on its merits, and to judge by the success or failure of each industry that was nationalised before proceeding to the next. If they had done that, they would not only have had the approval of the House—because it had to be an experiment; it is just like prohibition and Communism, and all those nasty things—but, I believe, the country as a whole would have been satisfied. They could easily have chosen the coal industry, which was generally acknowledged to be a sick industry. If, by nationalisation, they had produced more coal, cheaper and better coal, most of the arguments of my hon. Friends and myself would have fallen to the ground, but coal is neither any cheaper nor any better, nor is there more of it, nor is the industry itself any more contented. We have more absenteeism and strikes than there were in the industry when it was previously privately owned.
The Chancellor of the Duchy yesterday asked one or two questions, and particularly he asked what we, as a party, would do in regard to civil aviation and its drain upon the taxpayers. We would do exactly what the Government have already been compelled to do; that is, to lease out certain routes to private charter companies, and to go on doing it until we have that great service once again controlled and guided profitably, economically and efficiently. Of course, that could be done with other nationalised industries as well. Coal could be treated like that, and, in fact, is being treated like that. There are other measures that can easily be carried to a greater extent when we come back to power in 1950, and, so long as the good of the country is not endangered—for that is always the first consideration of the Conservative 921 Party—we will, no doubt, carry out some such process as that.
I would like to finish with one suggestion. We have been asked time after time during the course of this Debate what is our alternative to nationalisation. The Chancellor of the Duchy likes to call it public ownership, but it is the same thing as nationalisation. Our alternative has already been set out in the Industrial Charter. It is mutual ownership, not public ownership. We want to see employers, technicians, management and employees all working for the good of each and all, and, in the course of doing so, working for the good of the country at the same time. I have in my constituency two great industries in which this idea of co-partnership or mutual ownership is no new thing. It has, in fact, been tried out with success everywhere, and it has brought prosperity and contentment in its wake. In my constituency, there are the two great industries—Glenfield and Kennedy, and Johnnie Walker, the whisky people. These two co-partnership schemes were introduced by Sir Alexander Walker, who was the managing director and chairman of both these companies, 45 years ago, since when they have been a great success and have never looked back.
I would modestly offer a suggestion to right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I ask them, in the interests of their own party and in the interests of our country's reputation abroad, to advise their colleagues to restrain their tongues. There is something which I find is held very much in common between Mr. Vishinsky and the Minister of Health. They both choose as the chief target for their insults and lies my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). That, of course, is natural, because his very existence reduces them both to the same common level of squalid mediocrity. I hope that both Mr. Vishinsky and the Minister of Health will hear these words.
I end with a word of solemn warning. The Government have failed, and they know it, the country knows it and the world knows it, and therefore, it is their duty to the country to resign and to leave better men to take over their jobs to rebuild Britain, our once great Britain, and, in the rebuilding, to make her happier, stronger and mightier yet.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Cocks (Broxtowe)
I listened very carefully to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), but I could find nothing in it to show why the grave situation mentioned in the Amendment should halt the Government's moderate and balanced nationalisation policy which has enabled us for three years to maintain the great popularity which swept us to victory in 1945. As has already been said in this Debate, this is perhaps the first Government in history which has ever carried out its election pledges. I think it is quite true that never have so many first-class Measures been carried through in so short a time.
§ Mr. Cocks
On that subject I shall have something to say on another occasion; I cannot discuss it in this Debate. We had to work very rapidly because the whole house was falling down, thanks to years of Tory misrule.
As far as our legislation is concerned, the ball has flashed from the bat so quickly that the Tory fielders have been unable to see it, let alone stop it. As for the bowling, it has been like a schoolgirl tossing up the ball to Bradman. In fact, this Government might be compared to a Bradman Government, because the Opposition cannot get it out, as every by-election shows, and as the next General Election will conclusively prove. I think that the Conservative Party are subconsciously aware of that, because, at their annual conference at Llandudno. they all joined in singing "Lead Kindly Light," which contains the following very sad lines:The night is dark and I am far from home.I do not think that referred to their hotels, but to the Treasury Bench. It is all very well for the Tories to appeal to the electors, and to say:Remember not past years.The workers do remember the past years of Tory government, and they do not intend those years to occur again. Of course, according to that hymn, the Conservative Party do not ask tosee the distant scene,One step enough for me.
§ Mr. Cocks
One step is enough for them—a short step from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) to the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers). I think, however, that, in view of the Gracious Speech, they chose the wrong hymn. They ought to have sung:Now the day is over,Night is drawing nigh,Shadows of the evening'Steel' across the sky.And they would have been perfectly right. Once we have nationalised steel, we shall have broken the back of capitalist control of industry in this country and its domination for ever, and after that happens, whatever party is in power. we shall be a Socialist State.
The remark made by Sir William Harcourt about 54 years ago, that we are now all Socialists, will then at last be realised. Of course, there will be a number of stick-in-the-mud Socialists calling themselves Tories, and there will be go-ahead Socialists ranged under the Labour banner, but all parties will then have to operate within the Socialist framework laid down by the present Government. Even the Leader of the Opposition will have to be a Socialist of sorts, but, as he has fought under more than one banner, I am sure he will be perfectly happy in the shadow of the Red Ensign.
I understand that hon. Members opposite have recently found comfort in reading books on natural history, and finding out that a rat does not usually swim towards a sinking ship. But just as one swallow does not make a summer, one rat does not make a shipwreck. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) is not in his place. The speech he made last week shows, however, how difficult it is to walk with bishops and to keep one's virtue. Saul of Tarsus had a similarly rapid conversion, and was afterwards initiated into his new party by a gentleman called Ananias. I do not know whether, prior to his departure for Damascus, Saul had some trouble in Jerusalem and was demoted by the high priest, but that is not recorded in the documents that have come down to us.
924 The speech of the hon. Member for Keighley also showed—of which we have had many instances—that academic distinction is not always accompanied by a sense of proportion. That is illustrated, as we all know, by the old story about the Senior Wrangler who, filled with great excitement at the honour he had won, came to London and entered a theatre at the exact moment that a royal personage took his seat in the Royal Box. When the orchestra played the National Anthem and the audience cheered, the young gentleman got up and bowed. I was watching the hon. Member for Keighley when he was making his speech, and I felt that he was genuinely puzzled and bewildered that the abilities so applauded at Oxford, were not equally appreciated at Westminster, and that others less gifted had been elevated to positions of great eminence. We shall never know why the poor young woman threw herself from the tower of Lincoln Cathedral, but perhaps the event which finally caused the hon. Member for Keighley to lose his balance was the arrival in this country of the Commissioner-General for South-East Asia, Mr. Malcolm MacDonald.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Commissioner-General for South-East Asia is somewhat removed from the question of nationalisation in this country.
§ Mr. Cocks
I only mentioned that gentleman by way of illustration. As this Amendment refers to international questions, I did think of dealing in a very short way with certain aspects of foreign affairs to show how they can be solved in spite of the programme of nationalisation. But I have been advised that it would be very difficult to deal with such questions on this Amendment, and as I do not wish my modest views to be presented to the House in a mutilated form, I propose to reserve them for another occasion if, Mr. Speaker, I am fortunate enough to catch your eye. I hope that a foreign affairs Debate will not be too long delayed, because I believe it is important that such a Debate should be held very soon. The voice of England, as expressed through its elected representatives, should be heard at this grave and critical time. Therefore, my remaining remarks will be exceedingly brief.
925 As we all know, the Labour Government took office at a time when the situation was perfectly appalling. There was a world shortage of food, a world shortage of coal, a national shortage of housing, an immense dislocation of trade and industry, millions of Service people had to be brought back from the Services and placed in civilian life, and all over Europe a new pattern of life was emerging. The changing situation had to be met with new structures. The Government have had to organise and are organising our industrial life on a new scientific plan, avoiding on the one hand the extreme individualism of the capitalism of the West, and on the other hand the intolerance of the Communism of the East. The plan has to be firm yet flexible, adapted to British needs and British idiosyncracies, and has to strike the right balance between order and liberty. That plan involves State ownership and control of certain basic industries and key organisations, in order that we shall be able to carry through a policy of a balanced national development and of full employment, which I think is admitted by all economists would be impossible under a purely Capitalist system, and it has to do all those things without adopting the dictatorial methods of a totalitarian State.
In order to do that, we had to nationalise the Bank of England, the mines, gas, electricity and transport. Now we are to complete the task for the time being by nationalising steel in this Parliament. During the last three years the Government have carried through a virtual social revolution. They have carried it through without a shot being fired, not a bomb being exploded, without any liquidations and without any secret police. That is the way of social democracy; that is the English way, and it is the way of the Labour Government. That is the way which will bring the Labour Party victory at the next election.
Some hon. Members opposite regret the "good old days," which were good for a few but not for the many—the time when beer and tobacco were cheap, but so were human life and labour. Only a few years ago there were three million unemployed in this country. Thousands of homes were ravaged by the means test. Today we are following a policy of practically full 926 employment, and those who are unfortunate enough to be unemployed are protected with their families from the worst consequences of unemployment, thanks to the Acts which will always be associated with the name of my right hon. Friend the Minister of National Insurance.
In spite of all these difficulties, in spite of the economic crisis which burst upon the Western world last year with the destructive force of a typhoon, we are moving ahead. Every ship has to move ahead when a typhoon bursts over it, otherwise it will sink. We are advancing on a broad front. I have absolute faith in the future, and I have absolute confidence in the Government. I feel sure that if war can be averted, we shall be able to build up in this lovely England of ours, the city of our dreams and the land of our desires.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) very far down the path strewn with part-worn clichés, damp humour and mixed metaphors which he has been following. His speech was of great value for one reason. It revealed, quite clearly and honestly, what was in his mind and in the minds of a great many others who speak their minds on the question of the nationalisation of steel. There was no question of merit about it, as was said on another occasion about the Order of the Garter. It was an open confession that it was to be done, not after considering it on its merits, but simply in order to assure political power in spite of what might happen at any election. That, I presume, is the true working of democracy—that a party should arrange beforehand, not to consider all the merits of the case, but simply to nationalise steel because it controls in turn so many other industries, so that the vote of those people who do not favour the party at present in power will be ineffective. That exposé of democracy, coming from the other side, was a very valuable contribution, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for making it.
I would like to turn to the speech made yesterday by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. As a Lancashire Member, it gives me rather an unpleasant tremble to think that he is connected with the County Palatine, but thank Heaven he has no real power. My chief feeling in 927 hearing him was one of great thankfulness that his power to do harm to the finances of this country has been so notably limited since he has been removed from the office of Chancellor of Exchequer and his Tom Tiddlers' ground is now very much smaller than it was. I have never come across a greater display of intellectual dishonesty in the matter of finance.
I am one of those who feel that we have got to examine the working of nationalisation, not only on the basis of whether it is politically right or wrong, but from the point of view of its real working. Every one of these industries must depend for its good working on the matter of finance. In the intellectual acrobatics in which the right hon. Gentleman indulged yesterday it was made quite clear how dangerous it is that he should have anything to do with that. He tried to prove—and I interrupted him on this question—that the burden thrown upon the public, about which we talk in this Amendment, was not a burden unless it was one which was immediately payable in cash from the pocket of the taxpayer. He brought up the instance of the Bank of England, and seemed to argue that it was perfectly in order and quite satisfactory as long as he received his dividends from that institution twice a year, and no burden was being thrown on the taxpayer. But a burden is being thrown on the taxpayer and equally on the shareholder. In a private company, if a profit which should have been made is not made, it is just as if a loss is made. It is the worst form of dishonesty to argue, as he did, that because he gets his dividends from the nationalised Bank of England no burden is being thrown on the taxpayer.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer in a speech not so long ago showed himself converted to a thesis which I and others have put forward in this House on many occasions—the value of invisible exports. The value of invisible exports was very apparent in the old days when London was the entrepôt centre of the world, and when the trade of the world flowed to London in spite of the greater power of the United States and various other factors. I am glad to see the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster now coming into the Chamber. I am sorry he was not here to receive the 928 bouquets which I have been throwing at him, but I have got several in reserve.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Dalton)
Throw them again.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Perhaps I will in due course. His arguments about the Bank of England were dishonest and showed blanks in his mind. The value of the Bank of England was this: Because it was an entirely independent body, people came from all over the world to take its advice on the financial situation of the world, and through that an enormous amount of business flowed into the City of London, which produced those profits from invisible exports which are so intensely valuable because they do not draw on the already fairly well absorbed pool of skilled labour in this country. The value which the right hon. Gentleman seems to place upon the Bank of England is not on that true basis of the great inflow of indirect profit, very often in hard currency, which came to this country from the independent non-nationalised Bank of England, but simply on the fact that he got a dividend twice a year.
I believe an hon. Gentleman who hopes to speak later will tackle the question of Cable and Wireless. I would like to come to the remark which the right hon. Gentleman was making when I suggested to him that although a burden was not immediately thrown on the taxpayer by a loss in the first year, it would have to come out of the taxpayer's pocket in direct taxation in that year, and it was absolutely unsound from the financial point of view to argue that it was no burden because it was not immediately apparent. When is a loss not a loss? When it is to-morrow, seems to be his answer. His financial policy seems to be like the gentleman who had the misfortune to fall off a skyscraper, and as he passed the 20th floor he was heard to say, "I am all right so far." That is very true about a great deal of the finance of the nationalised industries. If we examine them closely we see that the basic idea behind them has been expressed very often. It is that good years will equal bad years, and therefore it does not matter if we have a bad year to start with, when conditions are admittedly difficult.
The great danger of the theory that you will be able to balance this year's 929 losses by next year's profit is that you may not make a profit next year. We are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is a realist, that the seller's market in the world is coming to an end and that we are entering an era of very great competition. It affects not only this country, where one might be able to pass on losses to consumers by raising prices, but it hits at the whole root of the export drive if the finances of the basic industries in this country are wrongly handled. If this is the great intellectual conception of the ex-leader of the London School of Economics—hiding away from the realities by saying, "I am all right; it will be all right next year"—he said it with all his famous ebullience—what will happen when next year produces a loss? A financial and economic crisis.
There is only one thing to do with a loss, and that is to face up to it, realise it, bring it into this year's balance. If one can think of a loss that one may possibly incur, put it into this year's balance sheet, do not put it in the background and say, "We will be able to balance it later." To put it in the background, is the dishonest conception about finance which grew up under the aegis of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy. It has been partly corrected by his successor, but if the Chancellor of the Duchy is to be the Minister who is to be in charge of the nationalised industries, and if he infuses into them his entirely unjustified optimism—[interruption.]—I will make the gesture with the other hand if the right hon. Gentleman does not like this one, or even without a gesture; it will not alter my words—he will have to bear the responsibility when we begin to see the result in the nationalised industries, when we begin to see what happens with the shutting down of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, when we see that we cannot raise the price of coal against the foreign consumer although we may be able to do it against the consumer in this country.
It is no use saying this to the right hon. Gentleman, because he is past redemption, but let us say it to others who are more receptive and who really do wish for success in their heart of hearts, not only from other motives, but from the real motives of hoping that the nationalised industries may be succes0sful. If they take the short-term view and if 930 they do not realise that losses can only be turned into profits by the best possible administration, by the tightest possible regard to expenditure, by considering that even if there is no direct competition because they have nationalised the industry nevertheless they can still regard it as one in competition with industries outside this country—as they can with aviation and shipping—then there is very little hope that these industries, on whose fate the whole machine of this country depends, will succeed.
Let not the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues be too sure about the answer when we are challenged about the impossibility of denationalising these industries. In Socialist Australia after the experiment of nationalising shipping had produced huge losses and come to a disastrous end, it was extremely easily unscrambled. If the right hon. Gentleman likes to appoint me as a one-man committee and reward me adequately, I will undertake to produce for him in the next year a study on how to unscramble nationalised industries. It is not so difficult as he thinks. A good deal of thought has been devoted to it and I want to warn the Government and their supporters that this easy pushing out of a challenge, "Because we have nationalised the industries you will never be able to return them to private enterprise again," is leading them into a fool's paradise.
The Leader of the House in a weak moment, without consultation with his colleagues, spoke of judging the matter "on its own merits." It may be that when it is regarded on its merits, quite apart from any theory, then it may be the best thing for this country to denationalise an industry. If that is so, it is quite certain it can be done, in a great measure in certain cases but rather less so in others.
§ Mr. Dalton
In order to get this quite clear, may I point out that I did not say it was impossible to denationalise. I have never said such a thing nor would I sustain it. What I did ask was, what would be the policy of the Opposition, in the event of their being returned to power, towards the denationalisation of these industries which we are discussing? No reply has been given from the Front Bench opposite and I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) is giving a personal reply, 931 from his own point of view, which is very interesting, or whether he is speaking on behalf of the great Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I have no title to speak on behalf of the great Conservative Party. The right hon. Gentleman's questions were largely rhetorical. He knew perfectly well that he was not asking them in order to get an answer, but he was asking them because they sound very good at the present moment. I will give an equally rhetorical answer, not on behalf of the great Conservative Party. It is this: if and when we get into power—in due course—we shall look at the question on its merits with the backing, at any rate, of one right hon. Gentleman sitting on the benches opposite.
My final word about finance is this. It is a thing about which one cannot become romantic. If it is removed, as it should be, from the rather hot arena of political argument and if every nationalised industry is regarded entirely on its merits, I think the answer which the public will very soon learn is that the nationalised industries are being badly handled, disastrously handled, from the point of view of correct finance, and the facing of realities and dangers instead of pushing them forward into the future, with the hope that it may turn out "all right on the night."
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Chamberlain (Norwood)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) spent most of his time tilting at the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy and, I feel, not very successfully. In fact, he entirely misrepresented certain things which my right hon. Friend said. Yesterday my right hon. Friend did not deny that losses had been made in the first and second years' working of certain industries. He did not attempt to deny that. What he did say was that only in one particular instance had the burden been directly placed on taxpayers and consumers. As a matter of fact, his financial policy by all the well-known standards, which I would have thought the hon. Member for Bury would have followed and applauded, was entirely sound. Many other hon. Members on the opposite side of the House have 932 stated quite clearly that it is not to be expected that a nationalised industry, particularly when it takes over obsolete plant and obsolete methods, would necessarily pay its way in the first year. That is a point which I think we have all maintained on this side of the House. We know that presently these industries have to pay their way, but there are a good many years of neglect which have to be made up.
I think we rather expected the clash of steel in these two days, or at least a foretaste of the clash of steel, but if we have been flogged by the other side it is, I think only with feathers, or if they have found sticks with which to beat us, these have been very miserable little sticks which have broken in their hands. I think the truth of this matter—and the Debate has made it very clear—is that they do not know, as a party, or even as a Front Bench, where they stand in this matter of nationalisation or denationalisation, and they have no policy in regard to it. Some right hon. Members on the Front Bench say they give warning that they will denationalise, and the hon. Member for Bury has indeed given that warning. Others, as for instance the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) a little while ago, have said they had no objection at all to experimental nationalisation. What he objected to was one experiment after the other. Even so, between the speakers in these two days we have heard enough to make it clear that on the whole question of nationalisation they have no clear policy and they do not know where they stand.
For instance, the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) yesterday made a most extraordinary statement. There seemed to be no bite in his speech at all, but he said something we would definitely applaud on this side. He said:It is inevitable that the State should play in our affairs a role much bigger than it used to do."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 694.]That is a useful admission, and it would seem that the right hon. Gentleman is beginning to work his passage over to these benches. We shall be handing him an application form before very long if he goes on in that way: That is precisely our policy in these matters. It is inevitable that the State should play a bigger role in our affairs than it used to do, and that is the policy we are 933 putting into force in our five-year programme. The Chancellor of the Duchy had no difficulty in rolling up the case, such as it was, from the other side of the House yesterday. It was a pretty poor case put up by the right hon. Member for Southport in regard to the inefficiency of nationalisation, and with regard to the supposedly heavy burden that nationalisation puts upon consumers and taxpayers; it was in fact a pretty easy task given to my right hon. Friend to demolish that case. Similarly, today, an impartial listener must agree that the case, such as it was, put forward by the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) was quite easily answered and rolled up by the Minister of Fuel and Power.
However, what I particularly want to do, is to call attention, very briefly, to three misconceptions in regard to our policy of nationalisation; three misconceptions which seem to be very prevalent on the benches opposite. Whether hon. Members opposite really misunderstand our policy, or whether they are not anxious to understand it, I do not know; and I leave that to their consciences. However, these misconceptions can be broadcast to the detriment of the policy of nationalisation, and so, perhaps, it is as well to call attention to them.
It was very clearly stated by some hon. Members on the other side yesterday, and particularly by the hon. Member for Streatham (Sir D. Robertson), that Ministers do—or wish to—run the industries. Nothing is further from the truth either in practice or in our policy as enunciated in these many years. Certainly, anyone who looks at the Steel Bill will know that there is no intention of such a thing so far as steel is concerned. Nor has such a thing been claimed by us. It has never been claimed by us that Ministers would or should run these industries, and it would be foolish for them to imagine that they could do such specialised pieces of work. However, Ministers do control policy in these matters. That is their intention and their function, and that is laid down quite clearly in the various Acts in relation to these nationalised industries. Indeed from our point of view it is all important that they control and direct policy in these industries in the interests of the nation, and not in the interests of profits and the 934 shareholders. That is the all important difference.
But even on the subject of the management of nationalised industries there does not seem to be unanimity on the other side of the House. The right hon. Member for Bournemouth was today inciting the Minister of Fuel and Power to interfere in certain matters, whereas other hon. Members on the other side complain that Ministers interfere too much in industry. So that hon. Members on the other side do not know whether they want Ministers to interfere or not to interfere. The right hon. Member for Bournemouth suggested—and I was very glad the Minister immediately repudiated such a thing—that the Minister should increase the number of divisions for the coal industry from eight to 20. The Minister quite rightly said that that was a matter for the Coal Board and not a matter for him, and he proposed to leave it to the Coal Board. It is important and right that we should make it clear that Ministers do not run these industries and do not intend to run them, and that that is the case with the coal industry, the transport industry, electricity. the steel industry or anything else.
The second misconception to which I want to call attention is, that because an industry is, anyway, temporarily prospering, we ought not to nationalise it. That has never been the basis of our reasoning. The basis of our reasoning has always been, that there are certain services or industries so vital to the nation that it is in the nation's interest that they should be controlled by the nation—the Government—in the interests of the people, and not in the interests of the shareholders and profits. Many hon. Members on the other side fall into that error. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) in his speech of Tuesday of last week suggested it, and imagined that we should not nationalise the steel industry because at the present time, anyway, it is comparatively prosperous. It has never been our policy that we should take over the decrepit and dying industries. It is true that certain industries that we have taken over were dying on their feet, such as the coal industry, or were in a pretty chaotic condition, such as the transport industry. That was not, however, the basic reason for taking them over. We do not even take industries over because, 935 like the steel industry, they have rather sorry histories, but because they are physically essential to the life of the community, and because they must, therefore, be controlled by the nation.
Personally, I have very little faith indeed in the ability or the will of financial interests, which have run these big industries, to run them for the nation's benefit. In fact, further researches I have been making recently into certain phases of what is called big finance make it quite clear to me that, generally speaking, where there is a contest between the benefit of the nation and the benefit of the shareholders, the shareholders have it every time. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes. There are honourable exceptions, I agree; but, generally speaking, no fair minded person would refuse that proposition, because he would know that it is perfectly true. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Where there is a contest between the interests of the country and the shareholders' profits, the shareholders have it.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
I have no wish to trespass on the time of the House, but without now going into detail, I say a wide range of cases shows this attitude. On a suitable occasion I will develop this. Actually I have a good deal of evidence with me now, but I will not take up the time of the House at the moment with it.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
Another prevailing idea on the other side is that industries should be nationalised one at a time, and that we should wait to see how one nationalised industry or service prospers before tackling another.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
I suggest that that view is taken up by the other side. Certainly, we have taken them one at a time. We have not nationalised everything at one time. But hon. Members opposite suggest that we should be content with one or two every five-year period, and then see how nationalisation works. We are not quite so foolish or naive as that. 936 Surely, it must be realised, as it is on this side of the House, quite certainly, that our scheme of nationalisation is a composite whole, that the nationalised industries are inter-related, and fit into each other. How foolish it would have been to have taken ine industry, such as coal, and nationalised that, and not done anything about finance, transport and steel.
Again I refer to the vested interests which, normally, put their interest and profits first. Everyone knows that if we had taken one industry and nationalised it, it could have been hamstrung by finance in private hands, or by transport in private hands, or by steel, if hon. Members like, in private hands. I am quite sure that if we had been so foolish as to have taken only one industry, and not taken several as a composite whole, to make the circle complete, there would have been an attempt to demonstrate in that way that nationalisation would not work. We are not quite so foolish and naive as that. The danger to the country is certainly not in the nationalisation of steel, but in leaving that one important factor not nationalised. We are not going to jeopardise the completed scheme and the composite whole of our nationalisation programme by taking one industry at a time and leaving it to be killed, hamstrung, or starved, financially or otherwise, by other interests and industries in private hands; and we are certainly not going to leave an all-important thing such as steel, which comes into every other industry, out of our programme.
There may be other industries which prove themselves to be so essential to the life of the nation and so badly handled in private hands, that in another programme we shall have to nationalise them. That remains to be seen; but let the Opposition remember that the interest of the nation is the basis of our programme and will certainly remain so in any future programme.
The Amendment, which I am quite sure will be soundly defeated, regrets that:notwithstanding the grave international situation and the continuing gap in our overseas trade,—the Government are going ahead with nationalising steel. I would like to put it in another and quite definite way, and say that it is in part because of the grave international situation and the continuing 937 gap in our overseas trade that it is of paramount necessity that we now nationalise the steel industry.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Bucklow)
We have listened to a most uninspiring defence of nationalisation. If the real case for nationalisation is no stronger than that put forward by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Chamberlain), then I am afraid that nationalisation is in for an extremely thin time. This has been a bad day for nationalisation. The Minister of Fuel and Power made a trite defence of it. While listening to the right hon. Gentleman, I could not help comparing the rosy promises as to the performance of nationalisation which were made in the years before right hon. Gentlemen opposite were returned to power, and the feeble excuses which were put forward by the Minister this afternoon. Between the rich and rosy promises and the poor performance there is such a gap as must even dismay any thinking hon. Members opposite.
A short time ago, the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke in optimistic vein when he told the House that if we really got down to it, we could look forward to an increased standard of living. I do not know why he said that, except, maybe, in order that he might justify action of an economically dangerous nature at this stage, because this country cannot look forward with any degree of certainty to a rosy future or an increased standard of living. In support of this contention, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that we must get Western Europe going.
I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that this country is in such a position that if they restore it to its pre-war trade and every other country in Western Europe is restored to its pre-war trade, while those other countries will be in a more or less satisfactory state economically, we shall still be in serious trouble. That is a significant fact which hon. Members opposite ought to have in mind when they talk about our future prospects. If we restore our balance of physical trade, the lack of invisible exports will still put us in a perilous position, and it is sheer humbug to suggest that because the present conditions permit political recklessness, there is a prospect for a long time to come of any 938 increase in the standard of living of the people of this country.
My main intention today is to deal with the question of nationalisation, but before I do so, I want to refer to the remarks made by the Chancellor of the Duchy, who has kindly come along because I told him that I was going to raise this matter. I must say that the right hon. Gentleman was hard pressed to justify nationalisation. He had to tell a rather doubting public about it. Therefore, if he has fallen into a grave error, it is perhaps because he had to deal with a difficult problem, and had a very hard case to prove.
He gave an example which, to my mind, was almost incredible, when he cited Cable and Wireless as an example of how satisfactory nationalisation is. I would remind the House that he said that this industry had made a profit. What he did not say was what kind of profit the industry had made. It is true to say that in the published accounts the industry made a profit in the first year of nationalisation of £1,724,000. What the right hon. Gentleman refrained from telling the House was that in the previous year—the last year of private ownership—the industry made a profit of £3,500,000. It is not a very convincing argument in favour of nationalisation that in twelve months the profits of the industry are reduced to less than half.
The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to give the House the impression that nationalisation had afforded to the community low rates. Let me remind him that no material reduction was made in the rates to users by Cable and Wireless during the term of nationalisation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may say that this very substantial reduction in the value of the profit is due to giving the workers a better time. That might be an argument; but what is the truth? The truth is that the earnings of workers of the nationalised Cable and Wireless were less in 1947 than in 1946.
§ Mr. Dalton indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Shepherd
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he must know the facts, and while it is true to say that the basic wage of workers in the industry may be higher now than it was in 1946, I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that in 1946—the year of private 939 enterprise—the arrangement was that all the staff of Cable and Wireless had a bonus on their basic wage of 60 per cent. A munificent Government has stabilised that bonus at something like 40 per cent., so that the nationalised workers in Cable and Wireless got less in 1947 than in 1946. If no reduction has been made to the consumer, and the only reduction is in the wages of the workers, how can it he said that reducing the profits to less than half is an example of successful nationalisation? I accuse the right hon. Gentleman of intellectual dishonesty. Yesterday he gave the House partial facts in order to bolster up a case which he must have known to be false. If the right hon. Gentleman spoke yesterday without knowing the whole facts, he is equally at fault. Anybody who speaks at that Box should have some sense of responsibility.
The loss of the profits of Cable and Wireless is a damning indictment of nationalisation. It is damning also to this country. The greater part of the profits of Cable and Wireless took the form of receipts from abroad. What we are losing is shown not only by the actual figures, but there are invisible exports involved by the loss of those profits. Therefore, I say that the right hon. Gentleman was intellectually dishonest as well as foolish to put before the House a case which was so frivolous and unjustified as that about Cable and Wireless. Now I want to say a few words about nationalisation in general.
§ Mr. Dalton
If the hon. Gentleman is going to pass from Cable and Wireless, I would like to answer at once what he has said. I listened with great attention to him. I would remind him that yesterday we were debating, as we are today, an Amendment in which the Opposition allege that nationalised industries have already imposed burdens upon taxpayers and consumers. I took a series of nationalised industries in succession and considered that allegation. In the particular case of Cable and Wireless, I repudiated the claim on both counts. Cable and Wireless since nationalisation have not imposed a burden on the taxpayers, because they yielded a profit last year. [HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] That is Common sense. Nationalisation imposed a burden on the taxpayer only in such cases 940 as civil aviation, which I dealt with. It has not imposed a burden upon the consumers in the case of Cable and Wireless because the rates have not been raised. When I made that statement I was challenged from the Front Opposition Bench to say from where I had got the facts. It appeared that the spokesman of the party opposite was not even aware that this White Paper had been issued. I do not know how much of the White Paper the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd) has read, but if he will read it he will find figures given there to show just why there is a difference between the profits in 1946 and those in 1947.
It would be out of Order for me to pursue the matter at greater length but it will be wrong for hon. Members to assume that these figures, which have been carefully prepared by the Corporation, are wrong. It will be found that the figures given at the bottom of page 3 of the report show that the profit, the so-called profit, of £3,500,000 in 1946 was not a true profit. It contained a large number of exceptional elements. Also it contained non-recurring war-time accretions. In the second place, insufficient provision had been made for depreciation of cable ships and other assets under private operation. Therefore, in those cases, an additional £450,000 had to be spent in order to put the things into proper shape.
§ Mr. Shepherd
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that what he has said is a conclusive answer to the case I have put, I am surprised. It is true that there were items of unusual expenditure. It might be possible to justify a difference of a few hundred thousand pounds, but let the House remember that the message revenue in 1947 was almost exactly the same as it was in 1946. That fact makes the right hon. Gentleman's case look rather silly. I am sorry for this example of nationalisation, if the right hon. Gentleman is going to be pleased with so poor a result. Very few people outside the House will be as pleased as the right hon. Gentleman appears to be upon this issue.
Now I want to deal with nationalisation in general. There is an attempt among hon. Gentlemen opposite, deliberate I think, to confuse the issue by trying to make it appear too simple. The issue today is not between unbridled private enterprise and State ownership and 941 management. The issue is much more subtle and sophisticated. Those hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House who try to put forward that idea, as did the hon. Member for Norwood a short time ago, are not being honest with themselves.
§ Mr. Shepherd
The idea that the issue today is merely between unbridled private enterprise versus State monopoly.
§ Mr. Shepherd
Everyone realises that there are virtues and advantages associated with private enterprise and that there are certain advantages associated with State activity. Surely the intelligent view to take on this question is to ask: How can one combine both and get the advantages of private enterprise together with the advantages of State operation? Hon. Gentlemen opposite are not being even remotely intelligent. They are running away from this problem of the 20th century and are merely digging their heads into the sands of nationalisation.
What do we want of industry? Generally speaking, I should say that it should be able to provide a higher standard of life for the people of the country and give continuity of employment to the workers.[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to note that those are points on which both sides agree. Our concern is to find the best means by which those two objectives can be attained. In the Conservative Party, we reject the argument for nationalisation not merely as a matter of prejudice, because we are not bigoted upon this issue at all. We reject it for very solid reasons. The first reason is that nationalisation is unsatisfying socially. I do not think that hon. Members opposite have yet grasped how unsatisfying nationalisation is socially for the workers. Perhaps as time goes on they will realise it. Why has the desire for nationalisation grown up, apart from prejudices fostered by hon. Gentlemen opposite?
§ Mr. Shepherd
It has grown up because of large-scale industrial operations. What does nationalisation do? It makes a man 942 a more minute cog in an ever greater machine and robs him of social satisfaction in his work more than does the existing state of society. The argument that there is more joy in working for the State is one that hon. Members opposite have probably grown out of, excepting perhaps the hon. Member for Norwood who does not appear to have outgrown any of the juvenile ideas of the Socialist Party. If the State owns everything, it does not mean that the worker gets any joy or satisfaction out of it.
§ Mr. Chamberlain
Does the hon. Member think that the coal miner was better off socially under the old regime or under the present régime?
§ Mr. Shepherd
In regard to satisfaction in his work the worker is probably not so well off today as he was. I remember reading a statement a short time ago by a miner's leader in the North who said that never before, during the whole 40 years he had been in the mines, had he seen so many spivs and drones riding about in motorcars.
§ Miss Herbison (Lanark, North)
The hon. Member made a statement that he read something about miners in the North lately. He was asked a question as to whether the miners are better off socially today than they were, but that remark was surely not an answer to it. I ask the hon. Member whether he has had any talk recently with any group of men who are actually doing work in the mines.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I think the hon. Lady misunderstands what I mean. What I meant by "socially" is that their position in society is not improved by virtue of nationalisation, but is degraded because the control is more remote. The more remote the control, the less the individual feels his importance in industry. Remoteness of control is a significant drawback to any form of nationalisation.
My second point is that by nationalisation a machine is created which cannot be controlled. I would remind Members opposite that this has proved itself time and time again. The machine becomes so huge and cumbersome that its original purpose to serve the community and to afford better conditions for the workers is lost in its enormity. It becomes so cumbersome that no one can make it 943 flexible and responsive to. the public will. Hon. Members opposite have not solved this problem; they have not even attempted to solve it, but prefer to run away from it. Moreover, as these organisations get older and lose the legacy of private enterprise, they will become more and more bureaucratic. If we leave these nationalised organisations with their existing set-up, the result will not be that we shall have better and better instruments as we go along, but that they will become more bureaucratic and more stagnant. That is the position we shall reach with the set-up of the present administration.
The running of industry is a delicate and complex matter. It is not a question of opening up an office in Berkeley Square, or taking over some baronial hall in Berkshire and dragging in a few performing Peers. I suggest to Members opposite that the particular form of nationalisation to which they appear to be wedded costs the country more in wasteful administration than private enterprise would take in the form of profits. I agree that there are defects in private ownership. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We on this side have not the monopoly of bigotry of Members opposite. I maintain my position on this fundamental ground. While appreciating the drawbacks of private enterprise, I say it is easier to control the anti-social activities of private enterprise than to try to inject into State organisations a desire for service, progressiveness and initiative. I base my stand on that fundamental point, and if Members opposite can prove that I am wrong, I shall be happy to listen to them. Where private enterprise scores against nationalisation is that it provides a series of impulses right down the line, and the effect of nationalisation is that the impulses do not go right down the line. There may be a wonderful layout at the head of a nationalised industry, but it dies out by the time it reaches the lower levels.
I challenge hon. Members opposite to tell us how nationalised industries can provide goods for the people at the right price and at the right time better than private enterprise. No means *have yet been devised in this country or elsewhere, certainly not by the intellectual bankrupts of the Government Front Bench, to deliver the goods the people require at the 944 prices they require and at the time they require them, as effectively as competition. They detest, with a sort of Methodist religious indignation, the idea of any man making a profit. But to make a profit is not an evil thing. The intelligent view is to harness that driving force to the service of the community. The improvement of one's position is the most potent force in human society, and the intelligent thing to do is to harness that driving force to the service of the community. What Members opposite seem to do is to try to suppress it, but what we in the Conservative Party try to do is to guide that force along lines which will serve the interests of the whole country.
No one will deny in 1948, the right of the State to play a part in industry, but we know that the functions of the State must be strategic. The function of the State is to design an overall pattern, and within that pattern to allow some elbow-room for private enterprise. The role of the State is to direct the main strategy of economic policy. By this means it is possible to obtain the advantages of private enterprise and the security which comes from State ownership. Members opposite who take a contrary view are living in the last century.
I did not know what a progressive was until I came to this House. I know now that a progressive is a man who looks only at the past. We have only to listen to the speeches made by Members opposite to know how true that is. It is perfectly true that in the days of Keir Hardie we could not conceive control of the economy in the sense that we know it to be possible today to ensure all we need without getting involved in management and ownership. In so far as the State involves itself in management and ownership, it detracts from its capacity to play its full part in directing the main economy of the nation. It is a dissipation of its real purposes if the State is to involve itself in a morass of management and ownership. Socialism, to my mind, is proving itself to be a disastrous policy, and I am surprised that Members opposite pursue with such haste, a policy which even the intelligent Members among them realise to be at any rate doubtful.
Hon. Members opposite fondly imagine that they are flashing down the straight 945 of social and economic progress, whereas what they are doing is pathetically pounding the treadmill of Socialism, and getting nowhere. The national greatness of this country was built up by private enterprise——
§ Mr. Shepherd
I think I am entitled to a glimpse of the past; at least, I do not live in the past. Certainly, I do not visualise a number of Ben Smiths doing much for this country at the moment. Socialism has never built up a great nation, and has never even saved one in despair. From what I see of right hon. Gentlemen occupying the Front Bench they will prove no exception to this general rule.
I apologise for keeping the House for some time, but I have tried to point out some of the reasons why we on this side of the House take the stand about nationalisation that we do take. It is not prejudice; it is based on sound reasoning. It is based not merely on our party position, but on the position of our country, and Members opposite, glorifying in having introduced a spate of nationalisation Measures in a short time, do ill service to their cause and to the country. Wisdom would have dictated a very much more cautious course of nationalisation than they are now pursuing. It will not gratify Members opposite in the ultimate, if they are able to introduce five years of nationalisation in three years and, at the same time, ruin the country while they are doing it.
The condition of this country is by no means good. No man can say today that we shall survive as a great industrial nation of 48 million people, and that we shall be able to feed them all every day. Mandate or no mandate, the Government ought to pay some attention to present-day conditions. Not one Member sitting opposite had any idea, in 1945, that the economic conditions which the Government would have to face would be as grievous as they are. That they are not tempered in their judgment of the problems they are up against—which are of greater magnitude than they imagine—is evidence of the fact that they are prepared to put their party aims before the national weal. No party which does that ever survives for very 946 long—[An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Gentleman's party did not at the last Election."]—We have survived for a very long time, and we shall be back into power. Members opposite ought to realise that the conditions of today demand caution from those who rule us. We are not getting that caution. There is a mad, senseless pursuit of nationalisation; it can do the country no good, and can do Members opposite no good either.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Lawson (Chester-le-Street)
Of the speech of the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd) this, at least, can be said. It was worthy of the best days of the nineteenth century spirit of private enterprise. As the hon. Member spoke, I wondered what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) was thinking. I remember when the benches on this side of the House used to be packed with Conservatives, and the right hon. Gentleman used to sit as an Independent on the benches opposite, where he suffered obvious pain when having to listen to the kind of speech which has just been delivered by the hon. Member for Bucklow.
The hon. Member has said that one of the troubles of the mining industry is that the miner is too far from the point of control, that he has not the sense of possession that he ought to have. I wish Members opposite would make up their minds. Sometimes we have a speech from them in which it is declared that the miner thinks he owns the industry; now we have a speech in which it is said that the miner complains that he is too far from the point of control. I have had many years' experience as a miner, and have been associated with the coal industry for a very long time. For nearly 30 years I have heard speeches from both sides in this House almost praying for good will in the mining industry. Prior to the Labour Government taking office it would have been impossible to go through HANSARD and read a Debate on coal without finding urgent calls for good will in the mining industry.
I have always been an advocate of nationalisation of the industry, but I never expected to see, even under nationalisation, the fine spirit of good will that prevails today. When I compare the present position with the one which we knew for so many years I am almost 947 tempted to be poetic. Today, I never come out of my house but the ordinary collier tells me how different things are from what they were, and how much he is satisfied with the great change which has taken place in the industry.
§ Mr. Lawson
It is true that after the First World War the coalowners brought the price of coal down, but there were great battles and strikes, and much bitterness, especially in 1920, 1921 and 1926. That situation would have prevailed today if the Conservatives had been sitting on these benches instead of Labour Members. There are one or two Members opposite, who know the industry, who will understand me when I say that it took those in control of the industry in those days a long time to realise what was needed.
The Reid Report was applauded and rightly so, but those who know the story of the mining industry know that the Reid Report recommended what ought to have been done half a century before. I know not only something about the structure of the industry but of its history too. From the early nineteenth century there have been Select Committees and Commissions. In 1835 there was a Select Committee that asked the coalowners time and time again to instal two shafts in each pit, but it was not until 30 years afterwards when a terrible disaster happened at Hartley that two shafts became the common practice. Everyone knew that they were necessary for good ventilation.
The Reid Report emphasises the necessity for good roadways in the mines for transport. Anyone who knows anything about mines knows how necessary they are both for transport and for ventilation. It is safe to say that if the owners, after allowing time for experience in deep mining, say from the eighteenth century to early in the nineteenth century, had made the roads that were necessary there would not only have been good roads for transport—I do not care to say this but it is a solemn fact—but many of the explosions and disasters that did happen would not have happened because there would have been good ventilation as well as good transport.
948 The bulk of the mines are in such a condition—and this is according to the Reid Report—that it will take some years to put them into a proper condition so that coal can easily and quickly be brought to the surface. The British public ought to know that the roads were not made and that pits were not worked in the way they should have been. It is a plain fact that there are return roadways at the present time in a number of mines in Great Britain along which a rat could not walk to a shaft in case of disaster, never mind a man. The miners know that I am speaking the truth. Reorganisation of the mines is a longterm business. When the pits are put into proper condition, I have not the slightest doubt that the price of coal will be reduced, not at the expense of the miner but by virtue of making mining more efficient. There is another thing which ought to be said.
There is another thing which ought to be said. The hon. Member for Bucklow dealt with the price of coal. Cheap coal can be got as was, the case in pre-nationalisation days. There can be export areas like Durham, Northumberland, a part of Yorkshire and South Wales. The sale of cheap coal brought some good things into this land, none of which the miners saw. The miners worked for wages that would be unbelievable by the average industrialists, let alone the average person in this country. I was an average workman. Through the greater part of my working life I neither drank nor smoked. The greatest luxury I had was a book and how hard was a book to come by. As a miner, I was not asking for luxuries but for things that would feed the mind.
I want to say a word about a matter that happened between the wars. It is going to take some time to recruit the necessary number of miners. The reorganisation of the pits and their development is going to take some time as it is to get the men back into the industry. I am glad to say that there is a spirit today in mining whereby the men and boys are wanting to go into the mines. Wages are attracting them as is the five-day week. The better esteem in which miners are held is also attracting them. I have no doubt we shall get the miners in the years to come. In fact, from conversations I have had and from what I 949 have seen at close quarters, I am glad to say that one of the things that I feared at one time is not going to happen. I can see the old pride in his craft is coming back to the miner.
However, I ought to say to the Minister that he is not going to get new miners from adult men from other countries or from other trades. They have to be trained in the pit from youth upwards. I know it looks well if the numbers are mounting and there is an increase in the mines this year of so many. These adult men who go in do their best but from all I have been able to gather from the good miners the adults who come in as a rule are not adding much to output. I hope that the schemes for training are going to develop, so that this industry in time to come will produce its own workers from its apprentices, and will develop that type of craftsmen of which the miners have been so proud in the past. I wanted to make those points, because there is one thing of which I am certain and it is that the mining industry has never before been in as good condition from the point of view of the workers and the community.
Those who lived through those terrible years, particularly the 10 years before the war, those years of depression and misery; those of us who saw queues at the backdoor and queues at the front door begging, like men who have lost their spirits, for a few coppers a day extra; those of us who saw that and who live in the midst of mining communities now, will say to this House: If hon. Members want a comparison between life as it was and life as it is, it is the difference between hell and heaven. I say that the nationalised mines have given to this country a class of workman with a good will and an eagerness which did not prevail before the industry was nationalised. They have given us a much more satisfied community and, for the first time in the industrial era, they have given the mining community a decent type of life and a hope it never had before.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerald Williams (Tonbridge)
We have just heard an interesting speech from a right hon. Member who knows what he is talking about, and I am glad to hear from one who is in close touch with those who work down the mines that they 950 are happier now than they used to be. It is perhaps only natural that, having got what they have been asking for over a long time, they may be satisfied for the time being. How long it will last I do not know. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has mixed with the steel workers of this country during recent months, and I wonder whether he has found them as happy as the miners are now. They are still working under private enterprise, and I think he will find that they are a contented community doing a good job, and it is a great pity to disturb them.
I know that many hon. Members on that side of the House believe that they are honestly right in carrying on with nationalisation. We think they are wrong. I do not blame them for sticking to their convictions, but I am perfectly prepared to argue with them, either on the platform or across the Floor of this House. However, I would appeal to all hon. Members throughout the House to put this subject on a business footing. Here is a plan, comparatively new to this country, which we are trying out. No business man would try out a new plan throughout the whole of his business; he would try it in one or two departments or in one or two sections of his business. If he was then satisfied, he would say, "All right. This looks like a good idea. We will carry on."
Surely the Government are business men. They should be, for their shareholders are the taxpayers and they are responsible for running the business properly. Yet at the present moment they are taking on a great gamble. In my opinion, the industries that have already been nationalised are proving a failure, but they have not been nationalised long enough for me to say categorically that a catastrophe has come over the country, any more than hon. Members on the other side are able to extol the virtues of this wonderful nationalisation. I notice that in the Debate of the last few days they have not been painting very rosy pictures of the wonderful results and great ideals that they have got out of nationalisation.
Be it right or wrong to nationalise—we think it is entirely wrong—I am certain that it is criminal to do so at this moment. We are in the midst of a serious crisis, and we Conservatives have done all we 951 can to support the Government in any measures that they have brought in to try to put the country on its feet again. Now, if they carry on with the nationalisation of a great industry which is working perfectly well, it will only bring more chaos and confusion in the midst of one of the worst crises we have ever had.
They have only to look across the ocean at that great capitalist country, the United States, where they can see for themselves a high standard of living, with every working man doing his utmost to produce a little more, the boss making some money out of it, but again helping to raise the standard of living. And they have only to glance to the East where they can see what conditions are like in Russia where everything is nationalised.
Surely it would be better to give a little play to the initiative and enterprise that are still left to our people? I have advocated before now the reduction of taxation. Many hon. Members on this side would like to see the Income Tax slashed by 2s. or so. The Budget could perfectly well stand it. In these modern times we realise that the Budget does not have to be balanced every year so long as it balances over a series of years. Any feared loss there might be from reducing Income Tax would most likely turn out to be a profit because the wheels of industry would turn that much faster and the Chancellor might indeed be rewarded by reducing tax.
I have also previously advocated that overtime should not be subject to taxation. The Chancellor has always said that it is impossible, and at last he has come out with some of the reasons why he cannot take tax off overtime. I found they made poor reading and were not at all convincing. One reason seemed to be that everyone would want to work overtime and would not do any ordinary work. Surely, however, it is simple to say that overtime counts only after 48 or 44 hours a week, or any other arbitrary figure which can be named? I am certain it could be done if the Chancellor took the bull by the horns. He also said that it is difficult for such people as civil servants who do not have fixed hours. There, again, he could perfectly well count as overtime the proportion of hours which they work over and above 48 every week and reckon it 952 as overtime. That is the sort of stimulus we want in order to get industry on her feet again and to increase our exports. It would help this island to help herself far better than bringing in this party ideal of nationalisation. She has the initiative and the enterprise but she is not allowed to use it under present conditions.
It would be better to produce more food. I am glad to see that the Minister of Food is standing adjacent to his place, although he is not sitting in it. If only he could give us some more feedingstuffs to feed our cattle, our pigs and our poultry at home we could produce more food for the people to live on. He will not do it because of the cost in dollars; but surely that small cost in dollars would be repaid three or four times over by the bacon and eggs which we should be able to produce at home. Instead of encouraging more people to work on farms, he gives to farm labourers points which they are unable to cash in the shops because there is not the tinned meat and fish there for them. Instead of encouraging more work on the land, he is stopping it by insisting that extra harvest rations must be applied for 24 hours before people do the harvest work. What farmer can know 24 hours before whether it will be wet or fine on a Monday morning, whether a threshing machine will turn up during the week, or whether women will be able to come along to pick his fruit? All this means that that work will not be done, because of Government regulations which are coming in upon us faster and more furiously every day.
The spirit of the people is there, if only they could be allowed to use it. What happens now is that, instead of encouraging people to get on with the job and use their own enterprise, thousands more will be employed on the unproductive job of converting an industry from the hands of private enterprise into what is called a nationalised industry. This will involve a great deal of work for hundreds of people. Whether this issue is right or wrong, this is the wrong time to do it and it will cause a great deal of confusion and result in unproductive work by a great many people for many months, and perhaps years, ahead.
This legislation is being brought before Parliament at a time when hon. Members opposite, as well as we on this side, 953 are thoroughly overworked. The reason we are a law-abiding people—and I am proud to say we are—is that in the past our laws have been thrashed out, amended, considered, re-considered and suggestions made; as a result, they have turned out to be good laws. But now we are not given the time to pass those laws in a proper fashion. We are now given more legislation, and our future laws will be respected less than those which have gone before. Civil servants are already overworked, but more work is being thrust upon them by the new Bill to nationalise steel.
Why cannot we look at defence and housing and the way to produce more exports, put the rents of this country on a square footing, and talk about agriculture? Those are the sort of things on which hon. Members ought to be spending their time. Instead, the 500 back benchers of this House are not allowed to have their say and make their suggestions, just because of this monster machine which is carrying all before it to nationalise steel, when more than half the country are against such a step.
On top of all this is the uncertainty to which the Government are putting us. It is far better to deal with foreign affairs than to indulge in the party game which they are now playing. In this uncertainty in world affairs we on this side have done all we can to support the Foreign Secretary in his policy of standing up to Russia, but why is he weakening now? Why is it left to the Leader of the Opposition to make a forthright speech? Nobody on the Government Benches is able to say what we mean and to say in no uncertain terms what we are prepared to do because they are not sure of support from their back benchers. If only the Government would devote their attention to getting rid of this uncertainty, instead of carrying on with this party Bill which we are discussing——
§ Mr. Williams
—or will be discussing in the next week or two. All this is helping the Communist cause. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Yes, more power is being brought every day to the Front Bench opposite, and the more industries which are controlled from that bench the more likely there is one day to arise a strong man on that bench who will take all 954 the power into his own hands. Socialism is opening the road to dictatorship, and causing an easy path for Communism.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Crawley (Buckingham)
The hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. G. Williams) has indeed made a depressing speech. I will join issue with him later about nationalisation, but I should like to take up a point made in the earlier speech of the hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. Shepherd), who spoke about performing Peers. I thought that, from the point of view of his side of the House, that was an unhappy reference. He was referring to some Peers on the boards of nationalised industries. But if one goes through the lists of names of directors on the boards of private industries one will find a very large number of Peers. And if one inquires further as to the functions these Peers are performing, it is not always easy to decide what they are. I can quite understand that, in the view of hon. Members opposite, a performing Peer may sound a contradiction in terms, but if we had had rather more of them our industries might have been better managed. We on this side, at any rate, are perfectly prepared to use the service of any Peer who is ready to perform a useful function in a nationalised industry.
The tactics of the Opposition throughout the Debate this week have been very interesting to hon. Members on this side. They have not used very many of the guns in the forward turret on the Front Bench and they have called to the assistance of the rest of their battery the right hon. Member who sits as an Independent representative for Oxford University (Sir A. Salter). He and the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) and today, I think, the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken)—as I have no doubt will the right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) tonight—in all their speeches have conceded a great deal of the thesis on which this party bases its policy. All have acknowledged that there must be a large sphere of the industry of this country in which the Government plays a decisive part. We on this side welcome this change of front on the part of so many right hon. and hon. Members opposite. It seems that they are emerging from the phase of Tory democracy 955 initiated by the father of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) into that Tory Socialism which the right hon. Gentleman himself prophesied that his father would have adopted if he had lived in this century. Tory Socialism is a curious paradox which we on this side would welcome, because it must inevitably weaken the force of the Opposition when they attack us; but I cannot really believe that it is a policy which will appeal to the electorate of this country.
On the other hand, the sense of the Amendment and much of the criticism uttered last week, both here and in the Press, upon the King's Speech, has been mainly that at a time of great crisis the Government have been dissipating their energies on partisan legislation and that we are indulging in Socialism for its own sake. That is an insidious sort of criticism which needs answering; it implies that there is something discreditable in Socialism for its own sake, rather as if one were talking about making money for its own sake. It implies also, when uttered by hon. Members opposite, that Conservatism or capitalism for its own sake—which is presumably what they profess—is something quite different, and that, in some way, Conservatism and capitalism are above party, are natural products which, if only left alone and allowed to develop in their own way, will benefit mankind.
One has only to state that proposition to see how absurd it is. Nevertheless, a great many hon. Members opposite do in fact operate on that principle. The noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) is by no means the only hon. Member who discourages people from saying, because he believes that increased National Savings might benefit this Government. Those who have withdrawn from savings campaigns have always said that they do so because we are using the national finances for party ends. But do hon. Members opposite really think that when they went back on to the Gold Standard or raised the Bank Rate, or indulged in the economies of the 1920s and the 1930s, that they were doing something which had absolute merit and was entirely above party and that the country which suffered the disastrous effect of those 956 policies really thought their management of the country's finances was entirely nonpartisan? The fact is that of all the aspects of their policy the financial was most partisan of all. The truth is that when politicians cease to be partisans they very soon become self-righteous.
The great strength of this country's Constitution is that both parties do believe in their doctrines and, except in time of actual war, pursue those doctrine with the utmost vigour. That is the only way in which we get good government and it would be wholly against the national interest to depart from controversial or partisan legislation one moment before it is necessary. The time when that is necessary is only when we are forced to put the whole economy on a war footing. That time may come, but it has not come yet and until that time has come, the Government should continue to apply with the utmost vigour the doctrine this party holds.
I claim that Socialism, as practised by this Government and outlined in the King's Speech, is bringing immense benefits to the people of this country. What is the aim of our legislation? It is to provide conditions which allow all individuals in this country to lead a fuller life. What in fact is the greatest obstacle to that aim? I am old fashioned enough to think that the greatest obstacle to that aim is still the class structure of society in this country; the narrow ring which our laws of inheritance and our system of education create and perpetuate is still the thing, above all others, which denies to millions of our people that fuller intellectual and spiritual life to which they are entitled. Although, in my view, this Government have not done as much as I would have liked them to have done to break that ring, they have done infinitely more than any other Government.
It is this class structure which, to our great disadvantage, so distinguishes our country from the Dominions and the United States of America. There this class structure does not exist and their democracies are so much the fuller as a result. Nevertheless, this Government by their interpretation and improvements of the Education Act, by their taxation and almost every other Measure they have introduced have 957 made further breaches in that ring, and the King's Speech carries that process further.
Look at the Access to Mountains Bill. I wonder if it has ever occurred to hon. Members opposite that this is the only advanced country in which such a Bill is necessary. There is no other country, either in Europe or on the American Continent, where it is necessary to have a Bill to allow the population to walk upon the wild, uncultivated parts of their country. Only in this country do the rights of property still allow those who own these wild tracts to deny them to the population. We are introducing a Bill to take away that ban and that is one more step in the process of getting rid of this class structure which so restricts the circumstances of life of so many of our people.
Then there is the proposed Bill on the magistracy. No one who has studied what happens in our police courts—and I once had to deal with nothing else for more than a year as a journalist—can fail to have been aware that although our magistrates have been most public spirited men, who have done their duty to the best of their ability, the operation of our police courts has inevitably suffered from a class bias throughout our history. If anyone doubts that, let him read a book on justice in the depressed areas published just before the war, where he will find the most graphic account of how the operation of our police courts has created a class prejudice, particularly in the North of England.
I, therefore, maintain that Socialism for its own sake is not merely good, but vital to this country, and I think one ought to emphasise that in all the legislation we have been introducing we have met with constant opposition from hon. Members opposite almost always on the same ground. I know that the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) has claimed in recent pamphlets that he thought of Socialism first, though he does his best to disguise it from his colleagues by calling it humanism, but they have always opposed us on the ground that the country cannot afford it. The country could not afford increases in the social services, it could not afford food subsidies, it could not afford controls such as the rationing of bread or potatoes to ensure a fair share to the people. And, 958 of course, it could not afford to own its own industry.
When hon. Members opposite say that the country cannot afford to carry out these reforms, what do they mean? Usually they say that they mean that the taxation which has to pay for these services leaves so little of a man's private income to himself that his incentive to produce goes down and they imply that production is bound to fall off. That is obviously wrong, because in fact production is going up. What I think they mean is that the taxation which finances the reforms we introduce leaves so much less in the pockets of that section of the community which they think is the mainspring of industry that their incentive to produce is reduced. There is a great deal of truth in that. But it never seems to have occurred to hon. Members opposite why that is so. The real reason why they think the country cannot afford to introduce the reforms which are so enriching the lives of the people, is that they cannot alter their standards.
The standards which hon. Members opposite consider necessary and therefore the standards above them which they consider incentives, are still pre-war standards and even pre-first war standards. Only the other day a Conservative industrialist was saying to me, "Until we get back to the day when every business executive can earn £10,000 a year, net, we shall never get back to prosperity in this country." But why should we hand these vast sums to business executives?[Laughter.]—Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but the fact is that today in this country there is so much less risk in any undertaking than ever before, that such rewards are not, and never again will be justified.
We have a social security system in which everyone can take part and a highly developed industry so that there is no risk such as there is in Africa and elswhere for which pioneers and industrialists have to be paid very high fees. Hon. Members opposite talk of inflation, but it is the inflation of the standards of the few who have been used to directing our industries from the top that this country cannot afford, not because if we redistributed the money they got and spread it, other people would become richer, but simply because those inflated and exaggerated and elaborate 959 standards divert the attention of millions of other people from their own real interests.
Let me give one single example—the question of schools. It now costs about £500 a year to send a boy to one of the best public schools in this country. The actual fees are over £300 a year, but the normal expenditure on a boy at any of the major public schools is between £400 and £500 a year. It is obviously absurd to suggest that all the children in this country whose talents warrant their being sent to such schools can be educated at such a cost. Yet all over the country thousands of parents are straining and skimping in order to send their children to those schools or to the slightly cheaper schools which are their imitations, when what they should be doing is to send their sons to the secondary schools of the country which are provided by the State, and to insist that the level of education in those schools be brought up to the highest standards.
Hon. Members opposite often talk about levelling down. The fact is that unless these elaborate and inflated standards at the top are not perhaps levelled down but changed, we shall never level up the standard of real education for the majority of the people in this country. The whole question of what the country can afford is, therefore, a question of relative standards, and it is only in that context that one can look at the problem of nationalisation. I observe, looking at you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that it is time I sat down. I would finish by saying that nationalisation itself and the real arguments for it, are also a question of changed standards.
What is the greatest single problem in all industry today? It is simply that the workers themselves will not accept the old conditions and standards. As hon. Members opposite so frequently say, in plaintive tones, they do not seem to want to work in the way they used to do. Of course, they do not. They want to have a fuller life, and the fact is that they will never get a fuller life and a really full life unless it can come through their work. It is no use thinking that we can base the reconstruction of this country on the idea that a small section of the population directs and the rest does what it is told. A framework has to be found within which the workers 960 of the country will feel that they can identify themselves with the industry in which they are employed, that they understand the place of that industry in the national economy and that they also understand the effects of profit and loss. Co-partnership or profit-sharing will never achieve that, because under private enterprise the workers can never accept the risks or loss.
It is only through nationalisation—and I am not for a moment pretending that all the problems which it raises have been solved—it is only through the publicity and the information which it supplies to the public as a whole and to the workers in industry, through the opportunity it provides for the men to own the industry jointly and to accept the obligations of ownership, that we shall ever induce in the workers the sense of responsibility which they must have if the fullness of their life is to be extended, and if they are to be given that interest in their industry which is their due. It is only in that way we shall, in the long run, get the cheaper goods, more efficiently produced, in the greater quantity which we all desire.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
I must begin with an apology to the House. Owing to two very longstanding engagements in Yorkshire yesterday, which I could not have cancelled without considerable confusion, I regret that I was not able to be present at yesterday's Debate. I have, of course, read most carefully the OFFICIAL REPORT Of the Debate, and I have been present at the whole of to-day's Debate. I thought it necessary to make this explanation in case Members might attribute to discourtesy what was due only to mischance.
I always think that those who have to wind up these long Debates are entitled to a certain measure of sympathy. All the arguments on either side have already been deployed, all the best points have been taken, and even the best—and certainly the most obvious—jokes have all been made. All the statistics on either side have been marshalled and brought into action. It is not likely that any Member's final vote will be affected one way or another by this discussion. Most Members are impatient for the call of the Division Lobbies, a call which by a merciful dispensation, can be awaited 961 with much the same result, and with a far greater degree of comfort, in other parts of our precincts.
Yet, and in the hope that there may be some Members who are wavering, who may be willing to extend their knowledge and correct their prejudices, we are expected once more to marshal all the arguments in a final appeal. But perhaps it may not be altogether in vain. Inside this House there may perhaps be, upon the Government Benches, some waverers and doubters. There may be some who will be willing to follow on the trail first blazed by the hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. A. Edwards) and then by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas). Outside this House I believe that there are many who up to now have accepted, with various emotions ranging from initial enthusiasm to resignation, the internal policies upon which Ministers have hitherto been employed, who will regard their new projects with alarm and apprehension.
In any event, the argument in which we are engaged, the broad argument covered by this Amendment, is only an incident in a long and protracted contest which must last for many months and perhaps for many years. It is part of the great ideological dispute which divides the world today, which has succeeded to the religious conflicts of 300 years ago. It animates the thoughts and even the activities of almost the whole civilised world; and it is a sobering thought that although in this country we are perhaps only engaged up to now in a skirmish of outposts, over a great part of the world the opposing sides are locked in bitter and ruthless conflict. The battle will be fought more and more fiercely even in this country. It may be protracted, and advantage seem to sway at one moment to one side and at one moment to another. For it is the great fight as to whether a Socialist society, by one means or another, is to become the universal form, is to become the fixed mould into which all human life and effort are to be shaped.
In this country the people will decide. They will decide whether or not they wish a Socialist State, charged with all the control and all the means of production, distribution and exchange; a State dominating and absorbing all human activities into its all-embracing power. My friends and I on this side of the House take some 962 comfort at least in this, that nowhere in the world up to date have any people, of their own free will, voluntarily accepted the Socialist system. Nobody has ever yet created a Socialist State by the ballot box—only by the bayonet. That is the truth. And that is why, underneath the words of this Amendment and the Debate, there is that historic contest which divides and must divide us.
Meanwhile the two propositions with which the Amendment starts are I think more or less non-contentious—… the grave international situation and the continuing gap in our overseas trade.These are both inescapable facts. It is true that for the first two years of this Parliament the Government and their supporters did their best to pretend that those facts did not exist. This was in the first full flush of Socialist optimism and enthusiasm—what historians will no doubt call the early and middle Dalton period—before the great rift—when we still had "a song in our hearts" and a mighty chorus bowed obsequiously to the doctor's wand; when all the spivs and speculators shouted for joy. Ah! those were the days. Even the Foreign Secretary fell a victim to this mood when he told his admiring constituents that:Left can speak to Left in comradeship and confidence,or when he so impulsively staked his reputation on the solution of the problem of Palestine. But, alas, there is very little left now of that complacency and those empty boasts. We know that we are in a perilous situation, at home and abroad; and whatever may be our sympathies we cannot shut our eyes to the westward onrush, to quote the recent words of the Minister of Defence,of the Communist menace—country by country, by methods of creating civil war and arming the workers in order to obtain power by local coups des mains. …Those were his words only two or three days ago in this House. There are some, like the Minister of Defence, whose instincts are fundamentally sound even though his performance is sometimes rather ragged. Some fear and abominate what he called in the same speechthe insidious menace of Communism as it is spreading today."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 367-371.]There are others—to judge by this Debate, more than I would have expected—who seem to regard this process as in- 963 evitable and perhaps even desirable. There are some who seem to cherish the extraordinary notion that Great Britain could act the part of a sort of mediator between Capitalist America and Communist Russia. One hon. Member even referred to what he called "a feeling of resentment" on the part of the man in the street in England against America,because it is too easy to clamour for war when one is 3,000 miles away."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 190.]This is really very dangerous talk. It is the same defeatist stuff, almost in the same words, which was spread by the same methods in France before the last war. It was this kind of talk which did more than anything else to rot and corrupt French morale. Then it was said about France and Britain; now it is said about Britain and America—It is easy to clamour for war when you tae 3,000 miles away.Yes, Sir, and it is easy not to go to a war when you are 3,000 miles away; and twice in my lifetime the American people have sent their sons to die 3,000 miles—aye, and 6,000 miles—from the Western shores for the liberties of Europe.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Bowles)
This is not a foreign affairs Debate. That is my Ruling, and Mr. Speaker has ruled in the same way. The Debate is confined more or less to production and nationalisation.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I understand that, Sir, but I thought I might be in Order in referring to the two sentences by which our Amendment begins to prove that the premise is true—first, that we are in a perilous foreign situation, and, second——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order.—[Interruption.]—I warn hon. Members that when I am on my feet there should be no jeers or remarks aimed at the Chair. Mr. Speaker has already ruled, and I have ruled similarly. The right hon. Gentleman was going back to the last war and morale in France in the last war. I ask him to confine himself much more closely to the Amendment, as has been laid down by Mr. Speaker before me.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Of course, I must accept that Ruling, Sir, but I trust that I shall be in Order when I come to the second premise—the gap in our overseas 964 trade. Certainly my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) and the Minister of Fuel and Power devoted a large part of their speeches to that subject.
How is that economic position to be overcome, and by what means? When hon. Members opposite preen themselves, as they have done today in this Debate, and take credit for the relatively bearable position of the mass of the people today compared with many European countries; when they boast of the high level of employment, and when they point gut the reasonably high standards which we have been able to maintain; when they make what I think are often rather false comparisons between the present years and the years before the war—when they do all these things, do they go on and say, "All these blessings, dear people, are due to the generosity and far-sightedness of the capitalist society of the United States, whose reactionary system we deplore but, of course, whose bounty we enjoy "? Who fills the gap in our overseas trade—Uncle Sam or Uncle Joe? If you do not know that, "Ask your Dad" or ask your Uncle Stafford—he knows. Of course, I suppose for a Socialist Government to accept this tainted money is not very pleasant. It is rather like living on the wages of sin; apart from everything else, it is rather humiliating. Still, contrary to high authority, it brings them not death, but their one hope of political survival.
In these political and economic circumstances—the perilous position overseas and the grave economic position—what would be the prudent course even for those who are convinced advocates of national ownership? I do not ask this question of the whole-hoggers—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Quintin Hoggers."] The hon. Member ought to qualify for the B.B.C. [An HON. MEMBER: "Or for Edinburgh University."] The Socialist Party would not even run a candidate there. I ask this question not of those who believe in absolute nationalisation of all the means of production, those who believe in a full Socialist State. The only differences I can see between that kind of Socialist and a Communist are the means to be employed to bring it about. One—Communism—is to be brought about by violence; the other is to be brought about by cajolery. One 965 says it with bayonets, the other says it with flowers. But the result is much the same. "Once aboard the lugger and the girl is mine."
Nevertheless, no doubt under the genial direction of the Lord President, who is tireless in his political courting of the depressed middle classes, I observe that there is to be a new tactical approach to nationalisation. The role has fallen, curiously enough, to the Secretary of State for War, who, on a famous occasion, told us, on the subject of the nationalisation of industry, that the Government had embarked upon this policy without any very careful thought or preparation.We thought we knew all about it, but the fact of the matter is that we did not.Undeterred by his experience and his admissions, he seems now to propose a continuation of that process without any marked addition to research or knowledge, but, of course, there is to be a change in the method of presentation. The right hon. Gentleman told us, I think at Margate:We must say what we mean to do with courtesy but with conviction.What an unhappy choice. What an unfortunate combination of words—"courtesies and convictions." It would, perhaps, be ungenerous to recall the latter, but we have fairly recent experience of the former. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman can really play this new part—the model of good manners, the Little Lord Fauntleroy of Socialism. Old lace does not suit him; he should stick to arsenic.
I do not think that the great mass of people who form the Socialist Party, and I am certain the great mass of people who voted Socialist at the last election, want a Socialist State at all. They may have wanted, and I think they were prepared to accept, a varying degree of State ownership, especially in certain statutory services and monopolies. They may have felt that they wished to see, in the hope of better relations and higher output, an experiment of nationalisation in the coal-mining industry. They may have wished to see that form of centralisation of ownership and control of statutory undertakings, whether private companies or municipally owned, in the field of gas, electricity and water. I admit that those who voted Socialist obviously voted for, or were prepared to accept, experiments 966 of this kind. Well, they have got them, but I am not sure whether they are wholly satisfied with the way in which they are working out.
The great body of our people are very fair-minded, and I have no doubt that they will judge in due course by the results, but I believe that the mass of people by whose votes hon. Gentlemen opposite got into power do not want to go any further. I believe they are prepared to accept an experiment in what one might call a mixed economic structure up to a point, but I do not believe that they want a Socialist State and I think most of them will be prepared to accept as reasonable the tests of nationalisation which the Lord President put forward himself. The first, he may remember, was at Toronto in 1946, when he said:It is up to the nationalisers to prove their case that there will be public advantage by nationalisation. It is no less up to the antinationalisers to prove their case that the public interest is best served by private ownership.Later, in Leeds, in a similar statement, he said this:Mind you, nationalisation is no magic cure. It is not an end in itself.These were in his Dr. Jekyll mood. I did not like it so much when he said:A political party, particularly our party, has to consider, in formulating its policies, first, what it wants itself, what it would do if it were living in conditions of political dictatorship and we were the dictators. Secondly, it has got to consider what it can get away with in practical political circumstances.That was Mr. Hyde. It is fair to say that it is some 10 years since the right hon. Gentleman said that, but I could not resist quoting it because I understand the scholars believe that to be the first authentic occasion on which this great phrase "get away with it" was used, a phrase which might be said to have been so long the refrain or the theme song of his life.
But let us return to the Leeds statement. "Nationalisation is not an end in itself." Of course, Socialists must reject that altogether. The last speaker on the benches opposite refuted it, and said that he was in favour of complete nationalisation. They must reject it, and I believe that to be the true division between us. I am not sure that this division necessarily follows precise party lines, but I 967 am sure it is the question round which the battle of British politics is destined to rage for a generation.
Those people who believe in the full Socialist society, the theoreticians, the ideologists, the successors to long generations of those so-called clever men who are always wrong in every age, many of them are the grandsons of the laissez faire school of a hundred years ago. One sees the same names year after year. All those people of ill-balanced minds, to whom any novelty has an irresistible attraction, all believe that Socialism and nationalisation are ends in themselves. But I do not believe that is in accordance with the broad common sense of the British people. I believe they are essentially a pragmatic people, who believe that an ounce of practice is worth a pound of theory. Moreover, I was shocked to see that modern Socialism now urges that only Socialists should manage socialised industries on the principle of Dr. Johnson's famous line:Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.The Trades Union Congress at Margate committed itself to this extraordinary doctrine. I am going to read the resolution passed:Persons to administer industries at all levels should be chosen on the basis of proved ability and belief in the policy of nationalisation.Is this to apply to the iron and steel industry? Is this belief in nationalisation the new Test Act? How is it to be applied? What will constitute belief? What will prove orthodoxy? Will occasional conformity suffice? Will it be sufficient if one goes on a Sunday evening to a Fabian meeting? Will that get one through? Will the oath be required or will attestation do? Belief in the policy at all levels. Why, even if a charge-hand is a Tory, it will offend the weaker brethren. But apart from these refinements of folly and meanness, which the Front Bench do not share—they do not fall into the trap so easily—what is the criterion on which, from now on, ordinary people will judge any further experiments, especially in the field of productive industry? What are the tests that the ordinary man will apply? Surely, the first will be, does nationalisation tend to improve the relations between management and 968 labour? Is it likely to be an advance on the existing relations? That will be the first test. Judged by that test, is it necessary to nationalise iron and steel? Of course not. Everybody knows that.
What will be the second test? It will be—will it improve production? Will it expand production? Judged by that test, is it a good thing to nationalise iron and steel? We had a gloomy account tonight of Coal from the Minister of Fuel and Power. I thought it was not a very expansive account; it was not very optimistic. I should have thought that it was not a very good moment to have embarked on the nationalisation of iron and steel. Is nationalisation necessary in order to obtain the necessary finance for the expansion and development of the industry? Of course, it is not. Everybody knows that there is no difficulty whatever in financing the development of iron and steel either in the money market or from the companies' own resources.
Is nationalisation necessary because of the monopoly characteristics which have been part of the agreed development and rationalisation of the industry over a decade? I should have thought that nobody could seriously maintain that this Government or any other Government had not been able, through the machinery of the Iron and Steel Board or some similar method, to give exactly that supervision which is necessary to carry out that strategic guidance which is the task of government, while leaving to individual firms the tactical independence which is necessary for the successful prosecution of the industry.
If nationalisation is not an end in itself, unless it is supported on purely theoretical grounds, there is no case for the nationalisation of iron and steel. Of course, I admit frankly that any conception of a mixed economy, of a compromise between a completely free and completely controlled economy, requires a high degree of common sense and of compromise. The frontiers must be agreed and maintained and kept reasonably inviolate. There must be give and take on both sides.
Before the war, obsessed by the dangers in the field of foreign affairs just as formidable and very similar to the dangers which oppress us today, I took a humble part with others—men and 969 women of all parties and of none—in trying to work out just such an agreed system. I do not regret it. Then the Nazi danger threatened us as the Communist does today. Then the Government of the day shrank from the necessary measures of rearmament because they could not command broad national support on an agreed programme. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer was saying as late as October, 1937—six months before the march into Czechoslovakia:Every possible effort should be made to stop recruiting for the Armed Forces.He was saying as late as the end of 1936:I do not believe it would be a bad thing for the British working man if Germany defeated us.Then, as now, I believe that a nation which was capable in the fierce ideological disputes of 300 years ago, of reaching anything so eminently sensible, as it seems to me, as the Elizabethan settlement, might be able to do something of the same kind in the new disputes and battles; and, as it had steered a middle course, which suited me, between Rome and Geneva, find some middle course between Moscow and Manchester. I still believe that some such compromise is what the nation desires in this new crisis, for something quite new has happened in the last year. The gap in our overseas trade yawns dangerously. The economic problems are menacing indeed. I am just not thinking only about Berlin at the moment. Anyone who has been there recently knows what it is going to be like in the next six months. We may as well face it; we may have to come to the issue very soon. The foreign situation is just as formidable as it was in the years of which I have spoken. Indeed, the Communist expansion by underhand infiltration is almost more baffling than Hitler's technique of overt military occupation.
At such a time as this, therefore, His Majesty's Ministers carry a heavy burden. But I say frankly, I envy them, for their burdens and their responsibilities are matchedby their opportunities. What a chance they have! Party pressure or party advantage may, of course, lead them along this course, which they have proclaimed in the King's Speech, in pursuit of party policies from which they do not seem to be able to 970 separate themselves, although I believe some of them want to. They may, of course follow it and thus make their consciences obsequious to their interests. But they are the King's Ministers and the King's servants, the nation's Ministers and the nation's servants, and I implore them even now, before it is too late, to rise to the high sense of duty which the nation's needs and Europe's misery equally demand. If they fail to do so they will be guilty of the grand refusal and they will deserve, and in the long run inevitably suffer, the censure of the people.
§ 9.16 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
We come to the end of a Debate which is virtually a Debate on a Motion of Censure upon His Majesty's Government and the vote which will be taken at the end of the Debate will really be a vote on that issue. Therefore, it is the more surprising, and it is perhaps either creditable or otherwise, that the Debate as a whole has been quiet and steady, and that all the predictions in newspaper land that this was to be a Session of bitterness and heat, of storms, thunder and lightning, have, as is so often the case, been proved wrong so far. Believe me, I am not blaming Fleet Street; I would not do that for anything. It is just by luck that this House of Commons has an awful habit—or is it a nice habit?—of somehow turning out the reverse of what newspaper land predicts about our conduct. If the predictions are that things are going to be quiet, we sometimes get noisy, and if the predictions are that things are going to be lively, we turn out quiet.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) gave us one of the quietest and least offensive speeches that he has ever given us in this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken)—I will say this with all appreciation—made a speech which I think was intended to be, and to some extent was, a helpful speech in regard to the problems of nationalisation. If I may say so, I want to see more of that. Nationalisation, socialisation, has come to stay and the more all political parties can contribute to the improvement of socialised industries, the better. That is public service. That is the right thing, and I commend the new spirit of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 971 Bournemouth. If he goes on like this, he may get within that definition which was quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) and qualify as one who is worthy of consideration for one of these posts on grounds of proven ability and of belief in the principle of nationalisation.
The Debate has been wound up for the Opposition by the right hon. Gentleman who is my geographical neighbour, the Member for Bromley, in a speech to which we all enjoyed listening and with some of which we agreed. We all understand and sympathise with the apprehensions and sorrows about the state of the world with which he concluded. I did think today of looking up some of the quotations from his book "The Middle Way" which he evidently had in mind in the course of his speech. Then there was a collective affair, "The Next Five Years." I said to myself that I could find quotations which justified the bulk of the Government's socialisation programme. But then I thought—"After all, there has been a great election today, and there was another election yesterday, and in the latter we sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman in his defeat;" And I said to myself, "Do not hit a man when he is down."
The right hon. Gentleman's speech also was a reasonable speech, and I did not dissent from the view he tended to take—I think I am putting it fairly—in regard to these measures of socialisation or nationalisation, to the effect that the systems of management which are evolved for them, really ought to be discussed and considered each time on the merits of the case. I do not myself think, whatever we should like, that it will be easy to get the British people to vote on the purely abstract, dogmatic proposition, "Ought there to be universal Capitalism or universal Socialism." They may in the end arrive at universal Socialism, but I think the British temperament is such that, if they do get it, it will only be by examining it at each stage of the way, and seeing whether this and that step is right or wrong. And that is the spirit in which this Government have approached this problem of socialisation. [HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] Yes, Sir. At each stage we have come to this Box—and my hon. Friends have spoken from their places on 972 the back benches—to defend and expound each scheme of socialisation upon its own merits, in accordance with the advice which I gave at the annual dinner of the Toronto Board of Trade, in Canada some time ago. Each Measure we have justified upon its merits. We have argued for each upon its merits, and we have shown in each case why we believe that these specific items of nationalisation are in the public interest and ought to be pursued.
In another part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech he argued that the world was divided in a great ideological dispute, so that there could be no reconciliation between the ideas of the one side and the ideas of the other. That may be so. But he then went on to paint a picture, not of a world in which each proposition could be argued upon its merits, but of a world utterly divided between sheer dogmatists on both sides. However true that may be of certain countries, it is not true of Great Britain. It is not true of this Government. We are willing and, indeed, eager to discuss these things on the merits of the case. I do not, therefore, accept the right hon. Gentleman's prophecy that the matter will be fought even more bitterly and fiercely here in Great Britain. I do not believe it. I believe that the British people will be content to argue these things on their merits, as we go along, and that the British people are not sufficiently foolish either to want violent revolution or to accept theoretical dogmas and doctrinaire abstract beliefs. The British people will do in this matter what they have done before. They will judge things as they go along.
The British people will not be afraid of action. Nor will they be afraid of speed in change as long as speed and change go along tidily, without muddle, chaos, and a breakdown of the organisation of society. That is the great quality of the people of Britain, and it is a quality which has served us well in the past and will serve us well again. He said that the people will decide. He is quite right, and we have no complaint about the decision of the people—at any rate in recent years.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth said that progress was due to the work of all our people. I 973 was glad he said that, because we have had so much misery and depression from the Tory speakers, including one who painted a picture of Britain that was so down and out, that it was liable to discourage our people in their daily work. I think, therefore, it is a good thing to get that new and strange note from the Conservative Party—to get some degree of praise for, and satisfaction with, the people of Britain, despite the fact that they voted Labour at the last General Election.
He said that our people are largely in need of encouragement. They have had that encouragement from Ministers. We have thanked them for what they have done, as my hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has done. I was wondering when the right hon. Gentleman said that our people are sorely in need of encouragement, if he meant the British people or the Tory people, because certainly the latter do. He said that he was more interested in the future than in the past. That was manifest at Llandudno when that fine hymn was sung which contains the line:Remember not past years.I know that the Stirling and Falkirk by-election was taking place at almost the same time, the result of which the Tories anticipated by singing:Amid the encircling gloom.We have had admirable speeches in the course of the Debate, as one would expect, from my hon. Friends on this side of the House. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was in fine form yesterday, and he met the arguments of the Opposition very well indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) continued the Debate this afternoon in an excellent speech, and other hon. Friends of mine on the Back Benches have done well. We have also heard some good speeches from the other side of the House. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power, I thought, gave an admirable report of the work and the achievements of the National Coal Board, which I hope will be widely studied, because it was a faithful and useful report.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport yesterday in his opening speech asked, who it was that said the Conservative Party were against controls 974 or thought they should be scattered—nobody with any responsibility in the Conservative Party would say any such thing. I am sorry to disagree with the hon. Gentleman, but there is one Member of Parliament, the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow (Colonel Hutchison) who, in this House on 17th September, 1948, when he was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Tolley):Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman, at this important stage of his argument, give the House a list of the controls which he would immediately abolish?answered:The hon. Member can find that out for himself—it is every control except that over foreign exchange."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th September, 1948; Vol. 456, c. 430-1.]Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport had better square up with the hon. and gallant Member for Central Glasgow.
§ Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Central)
Since the right hon. Gentleman has referred to me, will he also point out that we were discussing industrial controls at that time and no others?
§ Mr. Morrison
According to the heading of the OFFICIAL REPORT it was a Debate on the Amendment to the Address. I have no recollection that that was confined to controls over industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."] It would not help hon. Members if I did. The right hon. Member for Southport quoted part of the statement which I made in Toronto—which the right hon. Member for Bromley got right tonight, and I congratulate him on that—the right hon. Member for Southport said that I had only recently introduced the point that there was an obligation on the opponents of nationalisation to show why they wanted the existing state of affairs to continue; or to explain the schemes of management in private enterprise which they would propose. He said I said this only last week, but if he listened, as he no doubt did, to the quotation made by the right hon. Member for Bromley, he will find that I said it earlier.
Really it is time the Opposition fulfilled their part of the bargain, if the bargain is accepted. We fully accept the liability on our part to expound 975 reasons for socialisation, but there really is an equal obligation on the Opposition, to say, for example, in the case of the coal industry, what they would have done with it. Presumably they would have left it in private ownership. In that case, would they have super-imposed a regulatory control upon it? Would they have subsidised it? Would they have permitted price increases, as the industry liked? What would they have done? I have never heard to this day what the Opposition would have done with the coal industry, had they been returned to power. They pose as the alternative government, and these refusals to say what they would have done in the past, or what they will do, if they are returned to power, are worrying the electorate, who do not believe that a party which has refused to state its policy is a party which is fitted to govern this country.
Now the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) also said some things in the course of his speech. I am glad to see that there is at any rate one Liberal Member of the House opposite. Let us not complain. The Liberal Parliamentary Party decided to abstain from voting on the Division, and I suppose that in the circumstances they thought they might as well go somewhere else and enjoy themselves. I want to refer to the Liberal attitude in these matters——
§ Mr. Morrison
Because I am anxious to get them on our side [An HON. MEMBER: "To get him."] No, this speech will be read by other Liberals outside. I think the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery was not unreasonable because he said:I personally will deal with the merits of the Steel Bill when it comes before the House for Debate. I cannot be asked to shelter myself behind the Second Chamber, as the Conservative Party when they were in opposition from 1906 to 1914 sheltered behind that Second Chamber and destroyed and mutilated the Bills that were introduced. I prefer to use my own reason and my own arguments, and if I fail I prefer to appeal to the country than to appeal to somebody else to protect me."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 130.]He also rebuked the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) as being a dogmatist: 976Any statement such as was made yesterday by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington to the effect, 'I shall be opposed to this nationalisation Bill, even though I have not seen it,' receives loud cheers from the Conservative Opposition."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1948; Vol. 457, c. 130–1.]That is a perfectly legitimate rebuke on the part of the Leader of the Liberal Party, and I entirely agree with him. I hope, therefore, that the Liberal Party will also reserve judgment as to how it will vote on the Steel Bill. For the life of me I cannot understand why they are not voting with us tonight.
But the Conservative Party is also in a state of difficulty with regard to what it is going to do about these nationalised industries in the future. In the Industrial Charter, which was published with the blessing of the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden and under the auspices of the Conservative Central Office, but which has never been enthusiastically blessed by the Leader of the Opposition, it made the most extraordinary statement about what it is going to do with these nationalised industries. According to their votes, according to their declarations in Parliament and outside it, one would have thought that, if and when, they got another Parliamentary majority, the Conservatives would proceed to denationalise these nationalised industries, or what is called "unscramble the egg."
§ Mr. Morrison
All right, the omelette. But this is what the booklet says, which is about as near to anything authoritative as one can get out of the Conservative machine.By out speeches and votes in Parliament we have made clear our attitude to the particular schemes of nationalisation brought forward by the Socialists. We cannot be expected now to state our decision on the future of all industries which are the subject of Bills at present struggling their way through Parliament.Coal. Rather than proposing complete denationalisation of the coal industry we would examine and modify the methods by which the Socialists will have tried to run it.It goes on with some more words, but that is what it comes to. Presumably, then, coal nationalisation is to continue.
The unprincipled character of this pamphlet is really shocking. Having said that all these nationalisations are evil and wicked, the Conservative Party immediately reverses engines and says, 977 "Interfere with them? Not us, we will merely reform them." It goes on to say that,The Bank of England had been working in harmony with the Government for many years. The act of nationalising the Bank was an unnecessary concession to theory where the practice was already the envy of every trading nation in the world. We would not repeal the whole of the Bank of England Act, but we should re-examine the powers of the Bank to give directives to the commercial banks. In any case,"—this is where we come to a heading, "Denationalisation"—the first one—In any case we should restore a wide measure of freedom to Road Transport, "A" and "B" Licences, to the Liverpool Cotton Market (which should be re-opened as the rubber market has been) and certain parts of Civil Aviation.So coal is to remain nationalised, the Bank of England is to remain nationalised, and presumably, the railways are to remain nationalised, as are the canals and docks and harbours; it looks as if road passenger transport is also to remain nationalised. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy yesterday asked what the Conservative Party was going to do about gas and electricity. We have had no answer, and I will bet my boots that they are going to remain nationalised, too.
The truth is that the Opposition have been conducting a pitiful sham fight over this Amendment. They are in a state of utter muddle and confusion as to where they stand on nationalisation, and they are utterly unfit for the responsibilities of Government. They have demonstrated not only that they are unfit for the responsibilities of Government, but that they are not even fit for the responsibilities of Opposition.
I come back to my friends of the Liberal Party and I find that in a resolution based on the report of the Liberal Post-war Committee which was passed at the Assembly of the Liberal Party in July, 1943, they said:The Liberal Party insists further that if freedom of enterprise is to be maintained it must first be restored and to this end effective action must be taken against monopolies, monopolistic practices and organisations for the restraint of trade. It urges that a strong and impartial fact-finding committee should be appointed to examine the extent of the problems and to suggest remedies. In the meantime, it presses for the acceptance of the following principles …978 No. 2 of those principles is:If a complete monopoly is found to be necessary or desirable because of the character of the commodity or service provided—coal, power, transport, and steel for instance, would call for special consideration—the industry should be converted into a public utility company, not trading for profit unless it is already effectively controlled by statute.I am the more mystified, therefore, that my Liberal friends are not with us tonight and I confidently expect that on the night when we take the Second Reading of the Steel Bill, they will be voting with us. They went further in the manifesto of the Liberal Party of January, 1945—and it was on this that the Liberal Party was elected at the General Eelection—they said:But where public ownership is more economic, Liberals will begin it without hesitation. Where there is no further expansion or useful competition in an industry, or where an industry, or group of industries, has become a private monopoly, Liberals say it should become a public utility. Liberals believe in the need for private enterprise and large scale organisation under Government control. Their tests for which form is necessary are the service to the public, the efficiency of the production and the wellbeing of those concerned in the industry in question.That is very good, and we therefore expect their support and that they will make representations to the "Manchester Guardian" and the "News Chronicle" with a view to those newspapers being more sympathetic to the Steel Bill, when it comes forward.
This argument, which is a Liberal argument, of deciding on the merits of the case, has also been used in recent years by the Leader of the Opposition and by the deputy leader of the Opposition. It is easy to quote the Leader of the Opposition when he was a Liberal, but I also have a statement made, when he was Coalition Prime Minister, in a broadcast on the Four Year Plan—and it is really a different story from the hysterical, intolerant, doctrinaire and dramatic stuff in Tory newspapers at the present time about nationalisation.
This is what the Leader of the Opposition said—and at that time he was the Leader of the Conservative Party—on 21st March, 1943, as reported in the "Manchester Guardian":There is a broadening field for State ownership and enterprise, especially in relation to monopolies of all kinds. The modern State will increasingly concern itself with the 979 economic wellbeing of the nation, but it is all the more vital to revive at the earliest moment a widespread, healthy and vigorous private enterprise——
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes, but hon. Members must take it both ways. I continue the quotation—without which we shall never be able to provide in the years when it is needed the employment for our soldiers, sailors and airmen to which they are entitled after their duty has been done.There is advanced the idea and doctrine that there is a broadening field for State ownership and enterprise. If it is permissible for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford to say that, why is it not permissible for Members upon this side of the House and for Ministers upon the Government Front Bench to say it too?
The right hon. Gentleman was not the only one. There was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington at Bristol—where all the great speeches are made—on 7th October, 1944. He said:The truth is that both State control and private enterprise can serve the national interest.I agree with him.There is scope and opportunity for both, but this very fact makes it all the more necessary in our view that private enterprise should not be stifled.I agree with that too, but let it be enterprising. One of our complaints about capitalist private enterprise in this country in the last 30 years is that enterprise has been getting squeezed out by capitalist monopolistic tendencies. That is the case in this very iron and steel industry. It is the case in a number of other industries in which monopolistic tendencies have been operating. The right hon. Gentleman went on:It should be for Parliament to decide whether enterprises or services of this type should be managed centrally or locally under private or State control. For our part we would draw no rigid line. We would judge each on its merits.When do the party opposite intend to start judging "each on its merits"? The truth is that they have voted against practically every one of these socialisation Measures. I think the exception was Cable and Wireless, in which instance my 980 right hon. Friend, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, convinced the Opposition that a vital Commonwealth interest was involved, and somehow got them into a right frame of mind. But they are not in practice dealing with each case upon its own merits, as was argued by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Systematically, dogmatically, obstinately, to use the wording of their Amendment, they are voting against each scheme as it comes along.
We see that under these Measures the rights of consumers are greatly taken care of, better than they were before. There are Consultative Councils, the reports of which have to be considered by Ministers. There are Parliamentary Debates. In the case of the transport services there is a tribunal to which representations and arguments can be made, and we see that, as compared with the protection afforded to the consumer under ordinary private enterprise, the position of the consumer under this new system is better than it was under the old. It is profoundly important, I fully agree, that the consumer should have his views heard and should make his views heard—I am all for that, and would urge it—in the fullest degree.
But in the organisation of these socialised industries we have not reached finality. There will be modifications, there will be improvements. That is why I welcomed the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth. Why should there not be? If we take as an illustration the organisation of a great concern like Unilever, I guarantee that their present organisation is materially different from what it was years ago. They have had to learn, and to modify as they went along, in the light of experience.
The same would be true of the Imperial Chemical Industries. The same is true of the British and Iron and Steel Federation itself. It is true that sometimes they were stimulated a little bit in their learning by the Import Duties Advisory Committee. But they had to learn as they went along and so it will be for the socialised industries. They will learn to improve the conduct of their organisations as they go along. It is perfectly reasonable that that should be the case.
981 When it comes to the position of the alleged increasing of fares in the transport undertakings, the truth is that the percentage increase in fares after this war, broadly speaking, has been less than the percentage increase in fares and charges under private enterprise after the first world war. Broadly speaking, that is the case, and the facts are on record. Against that it may be alleged, "Well, but the railways at the moment are not paying"—as to which I make no observation, because the accounts are not yet out. If that be the answer, and it is said, "If the railways are to be made to pay, you will have to put the fares up"—that is a point about which one has to be careful because there is a limit to what the traffic will bear. But if it is being argued that the railways in present circumstances under socialisation are losing money, let me remind the House that, according to Command Paper 815 on railway working, the deficit under private enterprise for the financial year 1919 to 1920, the year after the end of the First World War was £41 million. The estimated deficiency for 1920–21 was £52 million.
In both cases liability was falling on the Exchequer. It is an extraordinary thing that it is almost a virtue when private enterprise loses money and the State comes to its rescue. But if a socialised industry is in a temporary difficulty, though there is every prospect of getting over it, it is a shocking and terrible thing. I would say to hon. Members opposite that in their speeches and observations they might have a little consideration for the men who have the high responsibility of the management of these undertakings. Hon. Members may disagree with socialisation. They may disagree with public ownership. But they ought to pay respect to the men in charge of these industries. By all means criticise them, if there is something concrete about which to criticise, but these men ought not to he abused, as they sometimes are.
For example, there was a speech by the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), not at the last Conservative Conference but the one before, at Brighton. It appears to me to be a threatening speech against men who have accepted these posts of public trust as members of the boards of nationalised industries. Presumably addressing his 982 Conservative colleagues the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames said:We should make it quite clear so that there is no misunderstanding in the minds of industrial Quislings that betrayal and appeasement never pay in' the long run. They will find that they will not have served their selfish interests by betraying the interests with which their first duty lies.So gentlemen who serve upon these boards and who happen to have been drawn from the world of private enterprise, instead of being treated as persons who are doing a public duty and a public service, are to be abused as Quislings, because they do public service. The hon. Member calls them Quislings, and presumably traitors to their cause and the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
Would the right hon. Gentleman allow me to interrupt? As he has paid such considerate attention to my speech of a year ago, perhaps he appreciates that in the passage immediately before that which he quoted, I referred only to the limited number of people who had used their positions in private industry to obtain positions upon public boards. If the right hon. Gentleman does not apply the word "betrayal" to that action, I do.
§ Mr. Morrison
This is a very grave allegation. This is an allegation against men occupying considerable positions of responsibility in the world of industry to the effect that, before they undertook membership of these boards—presumably salaries being paid—they used their positions with private industry for the purpose of getting on these boards for their own advantage. That is the allegation. I only say to the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames that if he is making that grave accusation, not against particular men, but anonymously, so that it may stick to a whole series of men, then I think it is his duty as an hon. Member of this House and as a gentleman to name the people.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter rose——
§ Mr. Morrison
Do not get excited and misled. I will give way all right. I say that he ought to have the courage. It is his duty to give their names inside this House and, in order that they can vindicate their honour, outside this House.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The right hon. Gentleman need not get quite so excited. As he has paid my speech the compliment of this apparently deep study[HON. MEMBERS: "Give the names."]—even he may be able to understand, as the 6,000 delegates at Brighton did, that this was a warning to any person who might be so disposed.
§ Mr. Morrison
We can let it go at that. This was a warning and a threat, a wish to intimidate men from doing this work.
§ Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern) rose——
§ Mr. Morrison
Is this fair? I have only a minute left. Really, the Tory Party must take it as well as give it. They should not be so shockingly thin-skinned.
In the course of this Parliament we have passed legislation for the socialisation of a series of industries. We shall carry through in this Session, if we can
§ —as we ought to be able to do, in accordance with our Mandate—but certainly in this Parliament, a Measure for the socialisation of the appropriate sections of the iron and steel industry. We shall be proud of our achievement of having transferred, within the lifetime of a single Parliament basic industries from private capitalist, and even monopolistic ownership, to the possession of the people. We shall have laid the foundations, together with economic controls, for our people to be full citizens economically and politically in their own country. Our complaint about the social order of the past has been that the masses of the British people have been economic lodgers in their own country. We intend to make them full citizens. We are proud of the great economic achievements of this, the greatest Parliament in our history.
§ Question put. "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes. 195; Noes, 359.985
|Division No. 1.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G||Eccles, D. M.||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Lambert, Hon. C. G.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Erroll, F. J.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L||Law, Rt Hon. R. K.|
|Barlow, Sir J||Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H|
|Baxter, A. B.||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V H||Fox, Sir G.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)|
|Beechman, N. A.||Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)||Linstead, H. N.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Lipson. D. L.|
|Birch, Nigel||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Gage, C.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D||Low, A. F. W.|
|Bower, N.||Gammans, L. D.||Lucas, Major Sir J|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||George, Maj. Rt. Hn, G. Lloyd (P'ke)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Glyn, Sir R.||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Gomme-Duncan, Col A||McCallum, Maj. D.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Gridley, Sir A.||MoCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S|
|Butcher, H. W.||Grimston, R. V.||MacDonald, Sir M. (Invenness)|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)|
|Carson, E.||Harden, J. R. E.||McFarlane, C. S.|
|Challen, C.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.|
|Channon, H.||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S||Harris, H. Wilson (Cambridge Univ.)||Maclay, Hon. J. S|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Head, Brig. A. H.||MacLeod, J.|
|Cole, T. L||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir C||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. (Ludlow)||Hogg, Hon Q||Manningham-Buller, R. E|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Hollis, M. C.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. 0. E||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Marples, A. E.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E||Howard, Hon. A.||Marsden, Capt. A.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|De la Bére, R.||Hurd, A.||Maude, J. C.|
|Digby, S. W.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Donner, P. W.||Jarvis, Sir J.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.|
|Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)||Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Morris-Jones, Sir H.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Jennings, R.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)|
|Dugdale, Mal. Sir T. (Richmond)||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L.W||Morrison, Rt. Hn. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Duncan, Rt. Hn. Sir A. (City of Lond.)||Keeling, E. H.||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Mullan, Lt. C. H|
|Neill, W. F. (Belfast, N.)||Robertson, Sir D (Streatham)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Neven-Spence, Sir B||Ropner, Col. L.||Thorp, Brigadier R A. F|
|Nicholson, G.||Ross, Sir R D. (Londonderry)||Touche, G. C.|
|Nield, B. (Chester)||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir J A||Turton, R. H.|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P||Sanderson, Sir F.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Odey, G. W.||Savory, Prof. D L||Wakefield, Sir W. W|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Scott, Lord W.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Shephard, S. (Newark)||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Webbe, Sir H. (Abbey)|
|Pickthorn, K.||Smithers, Sir W.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J. (Dorset. E.)|
|Ponsonby, Col. C. E||Snadden, W. M.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Spearman, A. C. M||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Prescott, Stanley||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Price-White, Lt.-Col. D||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Raikes, H. V.||Strauss, Henry (English Universities)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ramsay, Maj. S.||Studholme, H. G.||York, C.|
|Rayner, Brig. R||Sutcliffe, H.||Young, Sir A S L. (Partick)|
|Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Renton, D.||Teeling, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Roberts, H. (Handsworth)||Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G||Grierson, E|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Corlett, Dr. J.||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Cove, W. G.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V||Crawley, A.||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Crossman, R. H S||Gunter, R. J|
|Alpass, J. H.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Guy, W. H.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Daggar, G.||Haire, John E (Wycombe)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Daines, P.||Hale, Leslie|
|Attewell, H. C.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Hardman, D. R|
|Ayles, W. H.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Hardy, E. A.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B.||Davies, S. O (Merthyr)||Harrison, J.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Deer, G.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Baird, J.||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Haworth, J.|
|Balfour, A.||Delargy, H. J||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Kingswinford)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon A J||Diamond, J||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)|
|Barstow, P. G||Dobbie, W.||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Barton, C.||Dodds, N. N.||Hewitson, Capt M|
|Battley, J. R.||Donovan, T.||Hicks, G.|
|Beattie, J. (Belfast, W.)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hobson, C. R|
|Bechervaise, A. E.||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Holman, P.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Dumpleton, C. W.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)|
|Benson, G.||Dye, S.||Horabin, T. L.|
|Berry, H.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||House, G.|
|Beswick, F.||Edelman, M.||Hoy, J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Hubbard, T.|
|Binns, J||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)|
|Blackburn, A. R.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)|
|Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl. Exch'ge)||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Ewart, R.||Irving, W. J. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Fairhurst, F||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Farthing, W. J||Janner, B.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Fernyhough, E.||Jeger, G (Winchester)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Field, Capt. W. J.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Jenkins, R. H.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T||Follick, M.||John, W.|
|Burden, T. W.||Foot, M. M.||Johnston, Douglas|
|Burke, W. A.||Forman, J. C.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)|
|Callaghan, James||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)|
|Carmichael, James||Freeman, J. (Watford)||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Chamberlain, R. A||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T N||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Champion, A. J.||Ganley, Mrs C. S||Keenan, W|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Gibbins, J.||Kendall, W. D|
|Cluse, W. S||Gibson, C. W||Kenyon, C.|
|Cobb, F. A||Gilzean, A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Cocks, F. S||Glanville, J. E. (Consort)||King, E. M.|
|Collick, P.||Goodrich, H. E.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr E|
|Collindridge, F||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Kinley, J.|
|Collins, V. J.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Kirby, B. V.|
|Colman, Miss G. M||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Kirkwood, Rt. Hon D|
|Comyns, Dr. L||Grenfell, D. R.||Lang, G.|
|Cook, T F.||Grey, C. F.||Lavers, S|
|Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J||O'Brien, T.||Stokes, R. R.|
|Lee, F. (Hulme)||Oldfield, W. H||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Oliver, G. H.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Lambeth)|
|Leonard, W.||Orbach, M.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Leslie, J. R.||Paget, R. T.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Lever, N. H.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Levy, B. W.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Symonds, A. L.|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Pargiter, G. A.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Parkin, B. T.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Paton, J. (Norwich)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Logan, D. G.||Pearson, A.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Longden, F.||Peart, T. F.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Lyne, A. W.||Perrins, W.||Tiffany, S.|
|McAdam, W.||Piratin, P.||Timmons, J.|
|McAllister, G.||Popplewell, E.||Titterington, M. F.|
|McEntee, V. La T.||Porter, E. (Warrington)||Tolley, L.|
|McGovern, J.||Porter, G. (Leeds)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Mack, J. D.||Pritt, D. N.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Proctor, W. T.||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Mackay, R. W. G (Hull, N.W.)||Pryde, O. J.||Usborne, Henry|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Pursey, Comdr. H.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Maclean, N. (Govan)||Randall, H. E.||Viant, S. P.|
|McLeavy, F||Ranger, J.||Walker, G. H.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Rankin, J.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|MacPherson, M. (Stirling)||Rees-Williams, D. R.||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Macpherson, T. (Romford)||Reeves, J.||Warbey, W N.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Watson, W. M.|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Rhodes, H.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield)||Richards, R.||Weitzman, D.|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Robens, A.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||West, D. G.|
|Marquand, H. A.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Rogers, G. H. R.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Wigg, George|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Royle, C.||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B|
|Midland, H. M.||Sargood, R.||Wilkes, L.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Scollan, T.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Messer, F.||Scott-Elliot, W.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Middleton, Mrs. L.||Segal, Dr. S.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R||Sharp, Granville||Williams, J. L (Kelvingrove)|
|Mitchison, G. R||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Williams, R. W. (Wigan)|
|Monslow, W.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Moody, A. S.||Shurmer, P.||Willis, E.|
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Wills, Mrs. E. A.|
|Morley, R.||Simmons, C. J.||Wilmot, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Skeffington, A. M.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Morris, P. (Swansea, W.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Skinnard, F. W.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Mort, D. L.||Smith, C. (Colchester)||Woods, G. S.|
|Moyle, A.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Wyatt, W.|
|Murray, J. D.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)||Yates, V. F.|
|Nally, W.||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Naylor, T. E.||Snow, J. W.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Solley, L. J.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Sparks, J. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Steele, T.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. R. J. Taylor.|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E)|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.