§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Address, at the end, to add:But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech discloses such an absence of well-thought-out and constructive policy that Your Majesty's Government do not propose to give adequate time during the next three months to the House for discussion of many immediate problems, thus depriving themselves and the nation of the advice and counsel of the House.It has been agreed by hon. Members in all parts of the House in the course of the debate that the times in which we are living—indeed the times in which we have been living for a long period—are serious. I fully agree that in these circumstances it is the duty of Members of Parliament in both Houses, of managements, labour and housewives, and indeed of everyone, to do all they can to help the country in its difficulties. I am sure we shall respond, as I hope every other section of the community will respond, to the needs of the country at this time.
The test of the policies of all of us, whether we be Government or Opposition, is the public interest, the national interest, the welfare of our country and of the world. No private interest, no sectional interest, must be permitted to stand in the way of the common good. That I assert in all sincerity now, as I did when on the other side of the House, and as I sought to do during the Election.
That does not mean the stifling of argument and debate, for argument and debate 823 are largely the purpose of Parliament. If there were no clashes of opinion in the House, it would be a dull place. If there were no criticism of the Government, the House would be a dull place and, let me add in all fairness, if there were no criticism of the Opposition by the Government it would be a dull place.
It is equally true to say that our concentration on the public interest and the general interest is not really assisted by the scattering of Parliament as if it were something of a nuisance, something of an annoying Obstacle. But that is how the Government have begun by proposing an abnormally long Christmas Recess. It is true that under pressure they have somewhat shortened that Recess—[HON. MEMBERS: "What pressure?"]—but it is still abnormally long for a Christmas Recess.
I remember that in the days of the war, when this House was under bombardment, as it frequently was, or this City frequently was, one of the greatest things to the credit of Parliament—I refer to both Houses—was the way in which we stuck to our Parliamentary duties. The House functioned. It supervised the conduct of the war, and I think that all of us who were Members of that Parliament were. proud of the fact that Parliament continued to function.
I recall that at that time it was a not uncommon phrase of the present Prime Minister, a phrase in which he took comfort, that the Government were sustained by the. House of Commons. I thought that was an excellent Parliamentary phrase which stated, in one respect at any rate, the right relationship between Government and Parliament. But today the Prime Minister's line is, "Let me get Parliament out of the way for a substantial period as soon as I can." I noticed that the weekly journal, "The Tablet," of 10th November picked up this point by commenting:Mr. Churchill is the last man who should start emulating the Stuart Kings, who were almost always so much happier when Parliament was not sitting.We are genuinely unhappy and shocked at the right hon. Gentleman, having got his Parliamentary majority—I said his Parliamentary majority—telling us as soon as he gets here about the terrible crisis in which we are, and then saying.
824 "Now, you go away; let the House dismiss itself as soon as possible and for as long a period as possible," so that he and his colleagues may not be disturbed. He says, "Let us forget all about the Election." In a sense, he rather reproved my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition by some reference to the fact that my right hon. Friend spoke in something of an election atmosphere.
What is the purpose of the debate on the Address, immediately after the Election, if it is not to review the general position of the country and, in particular, to call attention to the policy that Members of the present Government were advocating in the country during the Election in contrast to the policy which they are pursuing? It is a perfectly natural thing to do. It is legitimate and proper, and it is in the public interest that it should be done.
But now, the Election having passed and the right hon. Gentleman having got his small parliamentary majority in the House, he says, "Let us forget it all. Let us forget the warnings we gave about the bad state of the country. Let us forget the promises. Let us forget the electorate. Let us forget everything. And let Parliament be submissive, and let no Labour M.P. say 'boo' to a Tory goose." In short, the Prime Minister says, in effect, "I am on the winning side this time." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] All right. Let hon. Gentlemen opposite be comforted while they have the chance. I am all for good cheer in human relationships.
In short, he says, "I am on the winning side this time" and so, addressing himself to the Opposition—and this is typical of the right hon. Gentleman, who changes his attitude in these matters according to which side of the House he is sitting on—he says, I pray you be good and, above all, do not follow the bad example of myself and my friends in the last Parliament." Well, we shall not. Heaven forbid that we should. We shall not put out our tongues at the Prime Minister. We shall not even appoint an Opposition giggle leader to succeed the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury. But we have a right to be critical on days such as this. as we shall have a duty to be constructive on many other occasions.
Never were so many promises set aside in so few days.
§ Mr. Morrison
From the Prime Minister during the war. It was a very good one. It has been used often since and I have taken the liberty of adapting it in a slight way. I will say it again. Never were so many promises set aside in so few days. Whereas it used to be the Conservative policy to "dish the Whigs," they have now started in this Parliament by dishing the Conservatives themselves. The Dispatch Box has become the penitent's box.
Let us examine the Conservative election promises. Let us take housing. There was the promise of the target of 300,000 houses. It started at a Conservative Party conference by the overwhelming of the platform by the floor clamouring for 300,00 houses—and they never talked about a target. The platform was overwhelmed. They resisted it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, but they had to give way. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said at the Labour Party conference, in a way that I cannot fully and adequately imitate, Lord Woolton on that occasion, when he met this clamour from the floor, surrendered by saying, "Magnificent. Magnificent, gentlemen." And so the 300,000 came about.
It was not the result of any research. It was not the result of any consideration of what was possible. It was what the boys on the floor forced upon the platform in a moment of what they thought was good electioneering and good politics. So the story has gone on. But they did their best to forget it. It was not advanced at many of the bye-elections which followed that Blackpool conference. I do not think that it was mentioned at a Bristol bye-election, but they dug it out again at the General Election, as it was considered, no doubt, too good a selling point to drop altogether.
Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to drop the amount of other building work started. We ought to be told by the Minister of Local Government and Planning—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Minister of Housing and Local Government."]—it is a job to keep up with all these political changes in nomenclature—the Minister of Housing and Local Government—no longer Planning. It is understood that the Chancellor proposes to 826 reduce the amount of other building work started. We ought to be told what this means not only in respect of housing. We want to know whether these 300,000 houses a year are still to be built; but does it mean that school building is to be reduced, that factory building is to be reduced, that hospital repairs and buildings are to be reduced—all of which, it must be remembered are in desperate need?
I am not arguing at the moment one way or the other what should be done in this respect, but I am asking that the House should be told, because obviously building operations must be considered as a whole. We ought to be informed of the consequences upon other building operations. The housing promise developed in the constituencies. It was promptly transformed by the Prime Minister, after Blackpool, into a target. But in my own constituency the Conservative candidate made an interesting comment. I want to know from the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he supports it. The candidate's address said:The Conservative and Unionist programme is to build not less than 300,000 houses per year…It refers to not less than 300,000 houses per year. One or two hon. Members opposite are nodding their assent. The Minister of Housing and Local Government has a peculiar responsibility, because this Conservative candidate was something in the nature of a protdge of his. On the back page of his election address, I see this:Eve of Poll Rally. Town Hall. Catford, Wednesday, 24th October. The Rt. Hon. Harold Macmillan will speak in support of Ross Hutchinson.So the right hon. Gentleman is rather tied up as the result of coming over the border from Bromley into my very respectable constituency of Lewisham, South.
Today the most ironic of all the Tory promises is their persistent denunciation of controls and their persistent line of argument that, in principle, controls are bad and that we should have as few of them as we can. I think that is a fair representation of the general line of Conservative argument. The Prime Minister coined one of his other notable phrases—and we all admire the way in which he coins phrases—about setting the people 827 free. One of the ways of doing it was by reducing controls and all the rest of the nonsense that was so irrelevant to the economic facts of life in post-war Britain.
If we abolish controls, how are we to get the 300,000 houses a year, or any other number? Clearly there is a limited amount of building materials and building trade labour available, and there are many claims upon them. Many Ministers in this Government, as was the case in the last Government, will go to the Cabinet or to a Cabinet committee and put up a fight for their full share of building trade labour and materials, or they will argue it out with whoever is the appropriate co-ordinating Minister, which is now a bit of a mystery.
Either officials or Ministers have to sit round a table and say: "We have got this amount of building trade labour and materials. How much is to be available for housing, how much for hospitals and schools, how much for factories, how much for the Service Departments and how much for electricity power stations and so on?" How can they make these allocations and enforce them unless there are controls and statutory instruments for that purpose in order to secure the enforcement of the necessary allocations?
The same is true if we are to get the necessary degree of exports. If we do not do that, then the home market will absorb goods which it is vitally necessary we should export so that we can pay for the imports which, as has been pointed out repeatedly and as is so obvious, are necessary both for our stomachs and for raw materials for our factories. Therefore, it seems to me that all this talk which led the country to believe that controls could very largely, or almost entirely, be done away with was sheer nonsense, and that this ought to have been known.
I remind the House that the Prime Minister, in his broadcast during the Election, said:The fewer controls we have, the better for a vigorous and expanding Britain.I know that that is the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but what has happened to the poor things? Directly Parliament met, with its new Conservative majority, what happened was not a reduction of controls but the imposition 828 of more controls, which were announced in the course of the debate. I rather sympathise with hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have been so badly let down by their own leaders, and whose speeches during the Election were probably made in good faith in this respect, since it was a reactionary doctrine. Now they find themselves let down, and they will have to explain to their local Conservative associations, to chambers of commerce and to their electors why there has been a switch in the Government's policy in this respect.
It was made perfectly clear that it was the Conservative Party's intention again to start up the privately-operated Liverpool Cotton Exchange. There was, indeed, no measure of transformation from private control to public control that was more scorned by the Conservative Party. There was the categorical statement in a pamphlet which, for some reason or other. was entitled "Britain Strong and Free," that the Liverpool Cotton Exchange would be re-established. There is no alibi here about the re-armament programme and whether that programme will permit it to be done.
Yet, the new President of the Board of Trade said in the House on Friday that it was impossible at the moment to return to the free working of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, and he refused to lay down what the eventual answer is to be. So we leave the President of the Board of Trade with that headache caused by the categorical promise given in the pamphlet to which I have referred. The same promise was made in Liverpool, and indeed all over Lancashire. What Lancashire will say about it to the people who wanted it done, I do not know; but hon. Gentlemen who represent Lancashire constituencies had better be thinking up something in the meantime.
Now we come to food. The Minister of Food, in his short speech last Friday, shattered once and for all the hopes of the Housewives' League. The House will recall this subsidiary of the Tory Party organisation. There are subsidiaries of the Communist Party; the Labour Party have a long list of them, and they are on the proscribed list. But the Conservative Party, as well as the Communist Party, also have their subsidiary organisations, and I believe that the Housewives' League have had the distinction of having on their 829 platform on more than one occasion the present Home Secretary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman accepts the soft impeachment. He had better go on their platform again now. Indeed, I invite and incite the Housewives' League to invite the right hon. and learned Gentleman to go to another nice mass meeting. Let them wait a week or two; let it not be hurried, and let the Minister for Welsh Affairs then explain to them how it is that the Conservatives incited the Housewives' League to function as a Tory Party subsidiary. [Interruption.] Oh yes, it was.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
The Housewives' League was formed in my constituency in 1945 by a lady who voted Labour.
§ Mr. Morrison
If the League was formed in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, that is a certain sign of suspicion, but in any case, it is quite clear that millions of electors were led to think that, if they voted Conservative, they would have more food and a greater variety of food. [Interruption.] An hon. Member says "So they will," but he does not say when. For years, the Conservatives have fostered the idea that, if we abolished bulk buying, or at any rate reduced it to a minimum, we could get more food. and Lord Woolton himself, the supervising Minister of Agriculture and Food, has said that the sooner bulk purchase ends, the better we shall be fed, the greater variety of food we shall have and the more pleasure we shall get from our food.
Lord Woolton did not say that a year ago or two years ago; he said it in his broadcast during this actual election campaign. Therefore, the people of the country were led to think that all they had to do was to return a Tory Government and people's waistlines would begin to spread and all things would be well. Yet the Minister of Food, in his speech, never mentioned bulk purchase as the cause of our present difficulties. It may perhaps be that it is because he is an ex-Liberal that he did not like to. But he painted a gloomy picture of long-term prospects.
It is certainly time that these realities of the world situation with regard to food which were indicated by the Minister of Food were recognised. It was interesting to note that the new Minister 830 of Food had to stand at the Box opposite and state the same irrefutable facts as my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Food had to state on former occasions and which, when he did so, were received with scorn and disbelief by hon. Gentlemen opposite when they sat on this side of the House. It is time the nation, on all sides, accepted the facts about the world situation regarding food, and Lord Woolton stopped smacking his lips over red meat in order to win votes.
So many vague and specious promises were made in the Conservative prospectus it would take too long to detail all of them. Many of them have already been mentioned in the debate. For instance, there were the Tory promises of reduced taxation. I admit that it is early days for that, but we shall see. There was the easy inference that the cost of living would come down under the Tories. There were complaints about power cuts. Yet apparently, there may he cuts in power-house building which will make the situation worse, and there is little doubt that a number of peopleߞdisappointingly few from the Conservative standpointߞwere taken in by this bucket-shop line.
What is the defence of His Majesty's Government for all these undoubted departures from their election policy? If anyone following in the debate can say that they have in no way departed from their election policy, by all means let him do so. But what is the defence of the Government? Their defence is, "Well, we are very sorry, but we did not know how bad things were." I must say that is extraordinary. We spent six years in this House listening to hon. Members, when they sat on this side of the House, telling us how bad things were; but along come right hon. Gentlemen opposite and say, "We are so sorry to have to do these things, but we really did not know how bad things were. We were deceived by the wicked Socialists when they were in office." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
All right, I hear the cheers, but now the cheers are going to be demolished because I am going to quote two Tory leaders who have stated something to the direct opposite of saying they did not know. I quote, first of all, the present Foreign Secretary, speaking in his constituency on 10th October. 831 and I take the report from a Conservative morning newspaper. This is what was said by the deputy-leader of a Government who did not know. The report stated:Commenting on this country's formidable financial and economic problems, Mr. Eden said: Too little is being said about this, and there is not yet a real understanding of the momentous decisions that confront us. We can narrow the dollar gap only by exporting more goods to the dollar countries or by reducing our purchases from them. These purchases include supplies we cannot dispense with for the national effort. These are stark and stern facts which we have to face and which any new Government will have to try to resolve That is why no responsible politician should speak comfortable words to you now.'
§ Mr. Morrison
A little while ago the cheers meant the opposite.
Who were the politicians who, on the evidence I have given, spoke the comforting and extravagant promises? They were right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in their broadcasts and otherwise. Well, that is one witness, the deputy Prime Minister. I now quote the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this House on 7th November, in the debate on the Gracious Speech, during this present series of sittings, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:It has been generally known for some months that our balance of payments was deteriorating, and that unless vigorous remedial action were taken we should be once more in crisis as in 1947 and 1949. The previous Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is sitting opposite me now, in a debate in July, said that the position was getting worse. In his speech at the Mansion House on 3rd October he announced that the dollar deficit for the third quarter was 638 million dollars compared with a surplus of 56 million dollarsߞa surplus ߞin the second quarter and of 360 million dollars in the first quarter.Now listen to this:Those who listened to him could not have doubted that whatever Government were returned to power an ugly situation would be bequeathed to them."ߞ[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 191.]In the light of that, what was the good of hon. Gentlemen opposite cheering the statement that I made when I alleged that the Government were saying, "We did not know how bad things were"? The Government did know. My right hon. Friend the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House and the City. I made speeches on the subject, and 832 others did the same. Therefore, all of us knew that the situation was serious.
The promises made to the electors by the Conservative Party and the implications of promises were therefore made in the full knowledge of the situation that now faces the Government. Yet despite all this evidenceߞand I could quote further evidence from the debate, including at least one back bencherߞthat they knew how serious things were, the Prime Minister, two days after the Chancellor had used the words I have quoted, said at the Lord Mayor's Banquet on 9th November:We were shocked and surprised at the situation with which we were confronted after accepting responsibility.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury and Radcliffe)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say when was the first moment that we knew that the whole sterling area was in deficit, and that the stock position was disastrously bad? That had never been revealed before.
§ Mr. Morrison
That, if I may say so, in no way answers the case I have put. It is a typical quibble on the part of the hon. Gentleman. There is, therefore, a purpose in trying to manufacture the maximum possible degree of scare.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am perfectly prepared to deal with that at the right moment, and I shall not withdraw a word I ever said upon the subject. I shall not, however, withdraw the phrase "war mongering" because I never used it, but neither shall I withdraw what I said about the relative prospects of peace under Toryism and Labour.
I repeat, what is the purpose of trying to manufacture the maximum possible degree of scare and alarm concerning our economic difficulties? I fully agree that the economic situation is exceedingly seriousߞindeed, we said so during the Election; I do not deny itߞbut I think it undesirable that the Government should seek to paint the picture worse than it actually is or to exaggerate the situation, which I suspect they may be tempted to do for two purposes.
One purpose of painting things worse than they are might be to prepare the way for a policy of Tory reaction, which, after 833 all, is what they did in the years which followed the First World War. Secondly, it would be calculated to provide excuses for not carrying out what they led the people to expect if they won the Parliamentary Election.
One of the defences here and in Germany against enemy air attack during the war was a process which I think was known—I am speaking from memoryߞas "camouflage and deception"; for example, the lighting of fires in open country to tempt bombers to drop their bombs in the wrong place. The present political tactic of His Majesty's Government of camouflage and deception is to cause the public and the Government's own supporters among the electorate to direct the blame and the disappointment to the wrong quarter.
I now wish to deal with the composition of His Majesty's Government. I said in the course of the Election that the ideal Government from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman the then Leader of the Opposition was a Government of himself and his hangers-on, and to a great extent he has secured this. He has put some square pegs in round holes and he has put some people in holes who ought never to have been in holes at all.
For example, I really cannot understand why he put the Minister of Works where he is. We do not agree with the present Minister of Works but he had made serious contributions to our economic and financial discussions in the House and one would have thought he was marked out for a Department like the Board of Trade. [Interruption.] No, I would not mention the Minister of Supply. I do not want to touch on too delicate a subject. Instead of that the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Eccles) goes to the Ministry of Works; and why the President of the Board of Trade has gone where he has gone, I am not sure.
There are some other very curious appointments in His Majesty's Government. Certainly it is a very lordly Cabinet. There are six lords in this Cabinet compared with three in the last oneߞa somewhat different picture from that which was given by the Prime Minister. The number of lords has gone up by 100 per cent. One of my backbench friends said to me the other day, 834 "This is 'the Lords-help-us Government'." It may indicate a shortage of Tory ability in the House of Commons, but still the Prime Minister might have done the best with what he had available.
Among the six, there are three mystery lords. Let us start with Lord Woolton. His duty, as I understand itߞI can be corrected if I am wrongߞis to be responsible for the over-all or higher policy of the Ministries of Agriculture and of Food. He is to co-ordinate and be responsible for the higher policy and direction, which of course is a limitation on the functions of the departmental Ministers.
Lord Leathers has similar duties in relation to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which I understand is now to be merged into the Ministry of Transport.
Lord Cherwell has other duties which are not so clear. I gather that science is among them. Presumably that means that the Lord President of the Council has lost the functions he had many years ago of general responsibility for civil science. I know that Lord Cherwell is a scientist of some ability. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]It is so. I am trying to be nice; give me a chance and do not discourage me. I understand he is a scientist. That is not disputed. But I am very doubtful, from my experience in handling our scientific research departments and so onߞ[Interruption.]—I have had considerable experience of itߞand did some good work there, too.
In this world of science, in which there is plenty of disagreement, plenty of conflict of opinion and plenty of legitimate argument about scientific opinion, I am very doubtful about the wisdom of putting a scientist there to supervise, especially a somewhat controversial character such as Lord Cherwell. No doubt he will assist the Prime Minister by briefing him about other Ministers, and he will be handy for that purpose. No doubt they are looking forward to that situation, and I wish them luck.
But I come to this serious constitutional point about Lord Leathers and Lord Woolton and any other Ministers in a similar position. It has been publicly announced that they are specifically responsible for certain things, either co- 835 ordination or the over-all policy of the Departments with which they are connected. The Prime Minister says there is nothing new about this; it was done in the war. With great respect, I do not agree with him, and I think my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who had a hand in all that, will bear me out.
There were Cabinet Committees and there were chairmen of Cabinet Committees, as there were in the late Labour Government. That is domestic to a Government, and Sir John Anderson always took the view that it is desirable that they should be secret and not announced. I respectfully agree with that. But this is a domestic matter within the Government. There is no need for there to be answerability for Chairmen of Cabinet Committees, in other than exceptional cases where the chairman of a Cabinet Committee is announced or his function is announced, as mine was in relation to the Information Services.
These have been announced. These Ministers have specific responsibilities which will move the responsibilities away from departmental Ministers. Let us make no mistake about that. Therefore, I want to know who is to answer for those two noble Lords in the House of Commons. This is an important matter. If it is said that the departmental Ministers will answer, that is an impossible situation, because the departmental Ministers have no longer responsibility for this sphere of activity.
Where more than one Minister is responsible, there is the Prime Minister in reserve. Should policy questions on transport, civil aviation, fuel and power, food, and agriculture and fisheries all be put to the Prime Minister? I hope we can be told, because obviously someone must answer for these two Ministers with specifically stated public functions who sit in another place. I do not think this kind of expedient will work particularly well. We shall see. The Conservatives have said that they wish to strengthen the powers of the House of Lords. Well, they have done so already at the expense of the House of Commons.
We are not surprised at the lack of legislative intentions in the Gracious Speech. It is typical of the Conservative Party that that should be so. The Conservative Party are a party designed to conserve, to leave things as they are, 836 not to change and not to alter; and one does not need much legislation to do that. They wish to preserve the status quo, and therefore in their minds legislation should mean no change either forward or backward, although, at any rate, there is promised in the Gracious Speech some legislation which would go backwardsߞthat is to say, legislation to undo valuable legislation which has already been passed. There is, however, a limit even to the Conservative capacity to turn back, and therefore, there is limited legislation.
But I impress upon the House that the Government are also master of the administrative organisation of the State, especially when the House of Commons is in Recess. In the old days, to which the Conservatives are mentally acclimatised, the Government were responsible for very little. These problems of trade, balance of payments and the other business of economic problems did not exist in the minds of the Governments of the 19th Century. Therefore, there was little administration. There were short Sessions, and there was at that time plenty of fox-hunting. But today Governments are concerned with trade and commerce and a wide variety of social and economic problems, and administrative decisions will be taken in the next few months to deal with the situation.
Having refused adequately to outline their policy here in open Parliament, the Government now realise that they will have to do things and they are contemplating doing things by administrative action, by Order in Council or, as we heard yesterday, by Ministerial direction against which no Prayer can be submitted in this House at all. That is a very serious state of affairs. One of Parliament's jobs is to supervise administration by Questions, Motions, debates on the Adjournment and by Prayers. When Parliament is not sitting, we are denied this right, and I say again that I think the precedent which was set yesterday is exceedingly dangerous in respect of the Iron and Steel Act and, although it has been done in a different way, in respect of the Transport Act as well.
What has happened to the Iron and Steel Act? There was in that Actߞwe put it in; we must take that responsibility and we doߞa provision whereby the Minister had power to give general directions on various matters. It is under 837 that power of general direction that this action has been taken. But these powers of general direction in the Act of Parliament were put there by Parliament for the purpose of operating the Act and developing and expanding the iron and steel industry.
Remember this is a direction, and I think I am Tight in saying that it is not susceptible to having a Prayer against it in this House; it is a direction. This direction is being used, not for the purpose of implementing the Act, not for the purpose of developing the iron and steel industry, but for the reverse purpose of holding up the operation of the Act and the proper development of the industry under that Act.
What is the defence? The defence is that some day after the Christmas Recess the Government will bring forward a Bill, and that Bill will take months to get through both Houses of Parliament. Therefore, they say "We are going to anticipate the will of Parliament by Ministerial direction, by bringing out a direction which is going to begin to operate the principle of that legislation before ever Parliament has seen the legislation, let alone approved it."
This comes from the party who have been denouncing government by delegated legislation. This was encouraged, and even worse than encouraged, by the Leader of the Liberal Party whose friends in another place have brought in a Bill on at least two occasions, once by Lord Reading who has since gone over, and once by Lord Samuel—I forget what it is called, but it is about the liberty of the subject—and part of the provisions in that Bill were to put checks upon delegated legislation. That is where they have got to. This is another complete reversal of all the arguments that the Conservative Party put in the House during the last Parliament and with which it was frequently my duty to deal.
That is bad enough, but what is going to happen when Parliament is up? What is going to happen during this long Recess? Here the Ministers have got these powers. I cannot complain about that, because we passed the legislation that conferred the powers upon Ministers, but we did operate them decently and we did protect Parliamentary rights. There is to be this long Recess during 838 which, with all these vast powers and other administrative powers which the Government have, they will not be accountable to the House of Commons for what they are doing. That adds to the objection to the long Recess of Parliament at the Christmas period.
By the way, I should like to know whether it is intended that any directions of this sort should be published so that the House and the country may know what is being done. I think we ought to be told about that. This House represents the nation. It should be consulted, and we demand this right. We demand this right as an Opposition on behalf of the whole House and on behalf of the nation, remembering that we on this side represent more of the nation than do hon. Members opposite—[Interruption.]—It is no good brushing that aside lightly, because, goodness knows, we were reminded of the situation very often by the Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition.
The argument of the former Opposition, which is now His Majesty's Government, is that, because things are critical, Parliament should be sent away for an abnormally long Christmas Recess. An additional plea is that Conservative Ministers do not know their jobs and have to learn. Well, there is something in that, but it is a sad confession. But this is no way to treat the House of Commons, and we strongly object, and we shall express our objection in the Division Lobby at the appropriate time.
Those are among the criticisms which we make of the policy of the Government. I think we have completely exposed the argument that Ministers did not know of the gravity of the situation with which they would have to deal. That argument will provide no adequate excuse for the reversals of policy which they have set about.
I say in conclusion, as I said at the beginning, that for ourselves we shall be hearty and vigorous in criticism. It is really no good hon. Members opposite arguing that the Opposition should go out of business. It is part of the life of Parliament that the Opposition should be in business and that it should be alive. Nobody has stressed that more than the present Prime Minister, and I respect him for it.
839 But I want again to say that we are in difficult times. The country is up against great problems at home and abroad. We say that we fellow countrymen of all parties, of all creeds and all sections, must do our best to assist in bringing about the alleviation and improvement of those conditions so that our country in the future may be yet more glorious, and we may be as proud of it, as in the past.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) has presented the case for the Amendment in a speech of great skill and with his usual ability in debate. It is now just over 11 years since, as his Parliamentary Secretary, I received from him my first lesson in the art of political and Parliamentary management. He was a fine teacher, for he was a master of his craft, and if I had been a more apt pupil I might be better equipped for my task today. The right hon. Gentleman has certainly erected a remarkable edifice of argument on a very slender foundation of fact and with very scant material. He has made a lot of bricks with very little straw, and if I could apply his methods to my Departmental field, then I should be correspondingly encouraged in my task.
The Amendment deals with the alleged absence of policy and the proposed date of the adjournment of the House. The right hon. Gentleman, however, wandered over a very wide field, dealing with the functions of Government, the particular tasks of particular Ministers, the place of the peerage in our national life today —although he and his party have not shown any undue dislike for it, judging from the number of creations which have taken place—and a number of other matters. If I do not try to answer them in detail, but refer him to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on specific points, I hope he will not think me discourteous.
Many people seem to believe that a well thought-out and constructive policy means a large number of complicated Bills to be passed into law. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman almost seemed to indicate that he thought so himself. We have had a great many Bills passed into law during the last six years and, at the best—and 840 this is a charitable judgment—they are like the curate's egg, good in parts. Some of them were very bad, and these will have to be annulled or repealed; and that we propose to do.
This, at any rate, will be legislation in pursuance of a well thought-out and constructive policy, It will also be legislation which, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, will require considerable attention from the House by day and perhaps even by night. Apart from the legislation of previous Parliaments which we shall have to annul or repeal, there is some legislation which we shall have to amend, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not seriously hold that such amending legislation can be devised or drafted without detailed study, apart from the general principle involved; and that study we are now giving, with the help of our advisers, and in due course the results will be presented to the House.
Moreover, I think there is a general feeling in the country that what we need now is not more legislation but better administration. Good administration can certainly be stimulated by the close and active attention of the House of Commons and the steady drip of Parliamentary Questions and debates upon stoney-hearted Ministries. Nevertheless, I think the right hon. Gentleman, after his long experience, must sometimes have felt, good Parliamentarian as he is, that an occasional respite from this salutary process affords Ministers a welcome allevition from pressure without degenerating into an enervating immunity from criticism.
§ Mr. Sidney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
But the Government are asking for a rest before they begin.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I shall come to the precedents for that, but I think the hon. Gentleman will find that they will absolutely destroy the arguments which have been advanced.
Parliament, has, of course, three main purposes: first, to vote supplies; second, to deal with legislation, mainly that put forward by the Government of the day; but third, and of equal importance, what Mr. Asquith used to call the "Grand Inquest of the Nation." The right hon. Gentleman calls it "advice and counsel," and I think all of us know what it means; it means chivvying the Ministers. The 841 first two—Supply and legislation—are, broadly speaking, what the Administration asks the House; and the third, of course, is what the Administration has to take from the House. Of course, all this stuff about the absence of a well thought-out policy is just a smoke screen. It is just the usual Parliamentary language. What it really means is that the Opposition disagree with the Government's policy. Unless my memory serves me badly over all these years, that is really quite normal.
The next complaint is that the Parliamentary Recess which was proposed was excessive. From what was implied outside or even inside the House, and almost stated by the right hon. Gentleman today, it would be thought that we proposed to adjourn not merely for a matter of weeks or months but almost for years. Some of us, it was suggested, wished to govern without Parliament at all. A fancy picture was painted—and repeated by the right hon. Gentleman—of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister being likely to emulate the Stuart Kings. The other night I heard the cry of "Cromwell" and some Members were looking anxiously at the Mace. They thought perhaps it would be carried off by a squad of the Home Guard.
The story of this Amendment is rather bizarre. As first drafted by the leaders of the Opposition, it invited the Crown, for the first time in its history, in addition to the undoubted Royal power and prerogative of prorogation and dissolution, to take out of the hands of the House the right to settle its own adjournment. So, after all this talk of the breach of Parliamentary privilege, the Opposition leaders had to beat a hasty retreat and draft a new Amendment. They had to retreat from a proposal which even Archbishop Laud or Strafford would never have ventured to make.
After the Election of 1945, when leading Ministers had been in office for five years, with all the access to precise information at home and abroad which office brings and which is open only to Ministers; in 1945, Ministers decided that Parliament should reassemble for a period of eight Parliamentary days, in the first instance. [An HON. MEMBER: "It was August."] In August—I know the lure of the moors in August. The same reasons are still potent for Ministers, and yet we are giving not eight days but 842 24 days—that is if we succeed in getting the necessary business through by 7th December.
So much for the Parliamentary Sittings immediately following the General Election. Now about the adjournment after the initial meeting. In 1945 this was for a period of six-and-a-half weeks. Our original proposal was for eight-and-a-half weeks, so that we gave 16 more days in the initial period and we suggested 10 Parliamentary days longer by way of a Recess in the second period. Those are the facts, and I do not think they justify the charges which have been brought. Indeed, I think they might justify a counter-charge that this Amendment is itself a waste of a precious Parliamentary day and reveals the absence of well-thought-out and constructive policy.
However, since we hope to begin this long Parliament in a spirit of amity and conciliation, to carry us through these four or five years, we propose now to ask the House to agree to a Recess of seven-and-a-half weeks, or five Parliamentary days longer than in 1945. I remember we used to learn at school about the great cry of the 18th century after the reform of the calendar, "Give us back our 11 days." What a winner that would have been for the right hon. Gentleman! Now it all boils down to, "Give us back our five Parliamentary days," and this is called "stifling argument and debate," "destroying the rights of Parliament"—and almost of a free people. I really think that this particular Opposition gun was spiked before it was fired.
In the course of the main debate a number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have raised points of great importance to my Department—relative to my Department—some dealt with the local government and planning side, and some with the housing. Those speeches, all of which, I am afraid, I was not able to hear, I have most carefully read and have had scrupulously examined by my advisers. I am very grateful to Members on both sides of the House who have made such valuable and constructive contributions to these difficult problems. I think I shall be in order—I trust I shall—not in dealing with them in any great detail today, if I make some reply on the points that have been raised, because I think the House may wish to hear it.
843 The Department which has been entrusted to me is an immense responsibility, for it is one which deeply affects the daily life of every one of our fellow subjects. The people of Britain have a deep desire for two things above all other things. The first is for peace. That means not merely the avoidance of war, but real peace. And next to peace they long for homes. Of all the social services the most important is the provision of homes for our people.
I am very conscious that I take up this task with many disadvantages. As the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, our Parliamentary system is one of government by amateurs advised by experts. Of course, he may say that there are degrees of amateurism. I must frankly admit that the tasks now entrusted to me are not ones which have hitherto fallen within my experience. However. perhaps I have one advantage, that if I have little knowledge I have no prejudices; and in some respects the clean slate may be better than a closed mind.
We have now undertaken this huge housing programme, which is my main though not, alas, my only concern. Housing is something which makes not a party but a universal appeal. It may be that we have differences of approach; we may have differences of method; we may have differences of policy. But I cannot think that we have any difference of purpose and, therefore, I shall rely—and I think I can rely—upon all my fellow Members to assist me in this task. I can assure hon. Members on all sides of the House. wherever they may sit, that I am always anxious and ready to receive their suggestions and their help, whether in public or in private. I must, of course, expect their criticism, but I believe that I can also rely upon their co-operation.
I must first refer to those measures which the Government as a whole have had to take to grapple with the grave financial and economic emergency with which they were confronted on assuming office. This, of course, covers a very wide field and I can deal only with them in so far as my Department is concerned. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has done everything possible to safeguard the housing programme among so many and so grievous cuts our economy has had to bear. It is true that as part of the general regularisation of our financial structure 844 it has been decided that the local authorities should borrow from the Government at the appropriate market rates I know that arguments can be and have been presented to show that this is really pushing financial rectitude too far.
I think that the hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), when he was Financial Secretary, argued that since the loans made by the central Government to the local authorities are charged upon the revenue, and, so long as the Budget was in balance both above and below the line, there was no need to require the market rate for such loans. He argued this with great force—I think it was last year—but I must observe that his argument really proves too much. For if it be sound, then for the last six years the Government should have made their loans to the local authorities interest free. But if there is to be interest as between the Exchequer and the local authorities, then ordinary common sense must lead us to the conclusion that it should be at the current rate. Any other course involves a hidden subsidy, and, in my view, open subsidies are better than concealed subsidies.
Therefore, if we accept this as sound doctrine, for general application, with corresponding benefit to the national credit both at home and abroad, this question follows. What remedy can be applied to prevent undue pressure on the cost of housing? To this end we have already invited the local authorities concerned to enter into negotiations with us. As many hon. Members know, a review of Government housing subsidies normally takes place in June. We are bringing it forward by six months, and in the course of these negotiations, which comprise many elements for discussion and for adjustment, the rise in the cost of borrowing will have its place. I do not think that I can be expected to say any more while these negotiations are in progress.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
Are we to understand from that that the Government are entering the discussions with the local authorities with the understanding that any extra cost, due to this increase in the rate of interest, will be borne by the Exchequer by way of subsidies?
§ Mr. Macmillan
There are, as the hon. Gentleman knows, having been at the Department, reviews in which matters of 845 all kinds are discussed, and this will be discussed when the new rates of subsidy are being settled. I do not intend to, for I cannot, say more than that.
Another measure that was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarded the building programme as a whole, arising out of the position which we found. It has been decided that starting dates, in general, for all new projects are to be held in abeyance for three months. Those already granted will be reviewed in order that a more careful scrutiny can be made of the programme as a whole, and also to expedite progress with work already in hand.
But there are vital exceptions to this broad decision, and it is to the exceptions that I wish to draw the attention of hon. Members. Individual projects which are exceptionally urgent in the national interest will be excepted. The housing programme will be excepted altogether, en bloc. It will be left to those in charge of the housing programme to operate the machinery well known to my predecessors. The housing programme is a great programme, but since it covers not a small number of large projects but a large number of small projects it is obvious that the flow must be arranged to give the best continuity of production.
We shall, therefore, very properly be exempt from the general standstill announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Indeed, we stand rather to gain than to lose by this decision, for a standstill on other building proposals will be—or may be—of some corresponding benefit to us at the very point at which it is most important, for what I am interested in, and what the people of the country are interested in, is the number of houses completed from month to month, and it is towards an increase in those figures that we shall press forward, with all our concerted efforts. This, I think, deals with some of the points raised in the course of the general debate.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman just this, which I did ask the Chancellor before? In his programme, how many houses does he expect will be started in the year 1952?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am coming to that. I have dealt with the major point and the other fits in rather better later.
846 The next major point raised by several hon. Members was our attitude towards the private ownership of houses.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington) rose—
§ Mr. Macmillan
May I get on? I have rather a lot to get through and I do not wish to keep the House too long.
The next major point concerns the private ownership of houses. I would recall the declaration of the Government in the Gracious Speech:Their housing policy will have regard to the desire of many people to own their homes‥That is our intention. But this, like every other good thing, must be applied with common sense and moderation. There will always be a very large number of people in this country who are compelled to, or want to, live in rented houses; but there will also be, I hope, a growing number of people who both want to own their own houses and may be enabled by various means to do so. Since it is part of our philosophy that a wide distribution of property rather its concentration makes for a sound community, we shall pursue this aim wherever it is appropriate and can be done with due regard to the interests of those who need to live in rented houses.
I shall hope soon to give local authorities guidance in this matter, both in respect of the building of new houses for letting and for sale, and in respect of the sale of existing houses to the people.
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
Bearing in mind that the right hon. Gentleman intends to build for sale, and also the demolition of houses brought about by the war in the centres of our great cities, could he say whether it would be possible to rebuild in the centres of our cities so that people can be near to their work?
§ Mr. Macmillan
The hon. Gentleman who makes that valuable contribution could perhaps consult with those concerned in this subject which, as I know, he has in mind so dearly.
I hope to give guidance to the authorities on this matter, but in all this I do not believe in compulsion; I think much can be done by co-operation and by encouragement, for I feel sure, in this as in so many other fields of policy, we must 847 not seek a uniform or a rigid solution to a complex problem.
My predecessor, the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), speaking with great knowledge and authority—he held this office for a considerable period with great distinction—asked me three questions. I have dealt with the first, that of interest rates, to the best of my ability.
I come now to his question about building standards. On this matter I must at once express to him my thanks for the lead which he has given me on this subject, for it was he who, in the spring of this year, issued a most valuable circular to local authorities, known professionally as 38/51. This circular, very properly in my opinion, suggests that within the agreed formula—the so-called Dudley formula—designs for a house could be produced which would maintain essential standards within a smaller total superficial area.
It is he, therefore, who is the pioneer of simplification; he has shown the way; he has blazed the trail, and I am merely following humbly in his track, encouraged by his example. I certainly hope that the ingenuity of my advisers and of the local authorities will be able to achieve what must be our main purpose; that is, in the present conditions of our economy, to get the maximum result, in terms of good houses, out of the labour and the materials which we have or can make available from time to time. I am studying all aspects of this and hope soon to make a decision.
§ Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)
In the circular to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred I laid it down that the essential standards with regard to space in living-rooms and sleeping-rooms should not in any way be lowered or diminished. Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is maintaining that position?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I hope that it will be possible to maintain them within the Dudley formula—the formula of the Dudley Committee. We are working on plans—which the right hon. Gentleman started—to see how, by ingenuity, this scale can be maintained and yet simplicity achieved.
848 Before coming to his last question, I must thank the right hon. Gentleman for some valuable advice he gave me about methods. I agree with him about the importance of consultation within the industry and of the continuity of building. He also spoke about the importance of inter-Departmental consultation. We shall follow that course as much as possible; I have already made informal but valuable contacts with the representatives of both sides of the industry. I am grateful for his suggestions.
Now I come to his last question, in which he asks whether the Government stand by their Election manifesto, set out by the Prime Minister, that we shall "give housing a priority second only to national defence. Our target remains 300,000 houses a year." We stand on that. The right hon. Gentleman admits, and frankly admits, that this is a possible target if all other projects could be put on one side. But, of course, they cannot all be put on one side. We know that as well as he does. For instance, as the new towns and new housing estates develop they must have the essential services that they require; building work for defence and for essential industry must be done so far as resources allow. There will, of course, also be problems of balance between housing and other services, such as schools, to which we shall give due attention.
The right hon. Gentleman then asks: How shall we achieve our goal? May I, in reply, ask him to look at our starting point before we set out on our journey? In 1943, the Labour Party promised—the right hon. Gentleman was rather good on promises today—to build four million houses over a period of 10 years commencing at the end of the war. Of course, that was after research. I have a terrible lot to catch up at that rate.
§ Mr. Macmillan
It comes from a publication of the Labour Party on housing published in 1943. That was at the rate of 400,000 a year. When we came to the Election campaign of 1945 the late Foreign Secretary, Mr. Ernest Bevin, went a bit further, and said: 849I believe we could build four or five million houses, and knock down any amount of wretched slums, and rebuild our country in very quick time.What has happened since 1945? The highest number of houses reached, taking Great Britain as a whole, was 246,000 in 1948. The figure last year, 1950, was 198,000. The rate of completion today is running at about 190,000, the lowest figure of completed houses for four years. Almost as good as the 2—per cent. "Daltons". So much for the starting point as regards houses completed.
Now I must say a word about the materials situation which I found on taking office. The House will recall that in 1945 powers were taken by the then Government to deal with the problem of housing materials. "We shall go into this in a big way," cried the right hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson). We are, by the way, so glad that he has recovered from his illness. He was quite Napoleonic about it. The House unanimously voted £100 million for this purpose. Where now do we stand?
I start with the materials produced at home. As regards bricks, to reach the final target proposed would mean an increase in production of at least one-third and, if we are to take into account the needs of re-armament, perhaps more. As to cement, either reduction in exports; saving in use; or increase in production will be necessary. As to plaster board, our supplies are inadequate. In the case of cast-iron pipes, which are vital for housing, and especially for water and sewerage work, delivery dates are in some cases 24 months ahead.
On softwood we have a promise from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to maintain consumption at its present level, but it is clear that for more houses either imports must be increased or great advances must be made in the saving in the use of softwood for all purposes. It is important to remember that of the total imports of softwood more than half have to be used for other than housing purposes. It is, therefore, clear that quite a low percentage of savings in this sphere would give very great results in housing. As regards steel, the House was informed yesterday about the serious position which necessitated the re-introduction of allocation.
It is, therefore, undeniably true that we are faced with the same difficulties in my 850 Department my colleagues found in coal and food. We knew some of them, but we did not know the worst of them. Of course, we never had much faith in Socialist housekeeping. Why, compared with them as guardians of the national cupboard, Old Mother Hubbard was a prudent, not to say miserly, old lady.
The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland then asked when we should reach our target. He asked me if we should reach it in 1951. He asked me at that Box if we should reach it in 1951. My answer is, "No." Nor, I fear, in 1952; although I believe that we can make substantial progress in that year, for it will be our first task to press on with all that is now arranged and to make, so far as we are able, more ambitious plans for 1953 and succeeding years.
How far we shall succeed depends upon many things not in our control. The foreign sky may grow lighter or it may darken. The contributions that we may have to make in the field of armament may grow greater or, under Providence, they may grow less. All this lies in the future, but if we can, subject to the overriding needs by which our people must have their defence and their preservation, create throughout the whole country the spirit of a housing crusade, if we can get from everyone concerned the support which I think the country expects, and deserves, then I believe we may dare to cherish great hopes.
People say that it cannot be done. How I hate those words, "It cannot be done." It cannot be done is cousin-german to "I could not care less." If we had said in 1940 "It cannot be done," we should not now be sitting here today, freely elected Members of a free Parliament.
§ Mr, Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
If it had been said in October, the right hon. Gentleman would not be sitting there either.
§ Mr. Macmillan
It will need—hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with me upon this at least—skill, ingenuity, contrivance and determination to get the greatest possible results out of the resources that are or can be made available. It will need as great a contribution from the Departments not concerned with housing as from those immediately concerned with housing.
§ Mr. Dalton rose—851
§ Mr. Macmillan
Please let me continue. It will need the same kind of effort from all parties in the Government. We have had before all these problems of shortages and contrivances and of finding methods by which substitutes can be brought into use and ingenuity exercised. It will need the spirit of comradeship and partnership upon which we must rely in this and all the other tasks by which we find ourselves faced.
There are, of course, some in this House—I should be foolish if I were not conscious of the greatness of my task —who, no doubt, believe that we shall fail. There are some who fear that we shall fail. But I really cannot believe that there is a man or woman in this country, of whatever party, who could bring himself or herself to hope that we shall fail.
§ Mr. Dalton
The right hon. Gentleman was trying to close when I wished to ask him a question and he asked me to postpone it. I now wish to put it to him. We have heard the materials position described and that, particularly as was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, softwood consumption is to remain at the present level and cannot be increased. I asked the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of my remarks last week, whether he could give an indication to the House of what was going to be cut in the field of schools, factories and other building projects, in order to enable him to move towards—although he did not clearly explain how rapidly—the target of 300,000 houses. That ought to be answered.
§ Mr. Macmillan
That is a question which the right hon. Gentleman has, of course, the right to pose. It is exactly the question with which we found ourselves confronted 11 years ago at the Ministry of Supply when I first had to do with the right hon. Gentleman. All the statistics proved that within the materials available, within what we could get, the target was impossible to achieve. But we achieved it, and we achieved it by contrivance, by ingenuity, by the change of design and by 101 methods. If we cannot get that, then we shall fail, but if we can get it, to the extent that we shall get it we shall succeed.
§ Mr. Lewis
On a point of order. May I seek your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? At Question time today I had 852 down Question No. 30 to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, asking what controls on building it was his intention to introduce or to limit, and the Minister replied that he would be obliged if I would await his statement and answer during his speech tonight. He has not given me that answer. Am I in order in asking him now to give me the answer which he promised me, or is this another Tory promise which has been broken within a matter of two hours?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I very much regret if I have in any way been discourteous to the hon. Member. I gave him the reply which Ministers who are about to make rather long statements very commonly give. If he thinks that my statement has not met his point, I will do my best to answer him on Tuesday if he will be good enough to put his Question down again. Perhaps he will give me this grace, that when the 1945 Government was formed the then Minister of Health took 79 days before he produced his policy, whereas I have had seven days.
§ Mr. Lewis
Further to that point of order. I am asking you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I am entitled—[HON. MEMBERS: "No !"]—I am asking Mr. Deputy-Speaker and not hon. Members opposite—to ask the Minister to observe the promise and pledge which he gave me in the House about two hours ago. He then said that he would give me an answer to a specific question. I was then barred from asking a supplementary question. I now ask him to give me the answer which he promised.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
That is not a point of order.
§ Mr. Jay
I also asked the right hon. Gentleman a specific question, and he asked me to postpone it until a later part of his speech, which, out of courtesy, I tried to do. But he has made no attempt to answer it. Could he tell us, in view of the Chancellor's speech the other day about building, investment and so forth, how many houses he expects will be started in 1952? Surely he must be able to answer that question.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
No, I certainly could not answer it. I am not going to 853 risk a prophecy, but I can tell him what we hope to complete in 1952. I hope, by the various methods which I have in mind, to proceed on a rising programme starting in 1952. The hon. Gentleman's mind works upon rigid, statistical methods, and he assumes that when a certain number is started we can never get any more. We can if we try.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
We have for a long time regarded the Minister of Housing and Local Government as a great actor, and today we have had a performance which included both tragedy and comedy. We all hoped for a clear statement from him, but, unhappily, we have had nothing at all in the way of practical proposals. We have had many promises about housing from hon. Gentlemen opposite in the past. In fact, there is no field of activity where we have had more promises and where the performance in the way of any practical proposals has been less adequate. We hoped that this afternoon we might see a start of a better performance; but we have not been graced with that.
In past debates in other Parliaments we have had many contributions from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite on this subject. To us on this side of the House it was something of a surprise when we found that none of those right hon. Gentlemen was chosen to take over the responsibility for the housing effort in this new Government. The Minister of Housing and Local Government has explained very fully the reason why he was chosen. He has told us this afternoon that he enters upon his responsibilities with a clean slate. That means that he is not tied down to any previous speeches or announcements on the subject of housing, and one can see how desirable it must be to the Prime Minister that an appointment could be made of someone who had not taken any active part in housing debates in this House for some years.
We are all agreed that the Minister's speech is a rather bad first flight into housing. There has been no guarantee at all to local authorities—a guarantee which they are entitled to have—that the new rate of interest that has been announced will not seriously affect their housing work. Not only are we anxious to insure that 854 increased housing subsidies shall wipe out the effect of the higher interest rate for housing operations, but local authorities are concerned also about the effect of the higher rate of interest for purposes other than housing. We all know that housing activities proper are part of the wider field in which local authorities must engage. There is all the sewerage and other works which must be undertaken, and many other ancillary activities for which they have to secure loans. Are we to understand that these matters are not even to be taken into consideration in the discussions that are to be started with the local authorities? This is a very serious matter.
We know in our minds that whatever representations the local authorities are going to make—and they will be very severe representations indeed—they are not going to be compensated for the extra loan charges on their housing operations. What is more, they are certainly not going to be compensated in any way for the extra charges on the ancillary operations to which they will inevitably be committed.
What is worse, we have had no clear definition from the right hon. Gentleman as to what policy he intends to follow. We have had a very vague and general statement, including a great deal of humour which we enjoyed, but no clarity even as to whether or not more houses are going to be provided for sale with the resultant reduction in the number available for letting. We have had no clear declaration as to the policy that is going to be adopted about local authorities being empowered to sell the houses that they at present own. We have been told that some information is to go out to local authorities about this matter while Members are being packed off home to their constituencies, and we will not be able to criticise the matter on the Floor of the House.
I think it is a very reprehensible thing in the first speech which the right hon. Gentleman makes on this vital issue of housing that he should have attempted to mislead the House on so many issues that are of paramount importance to us. On this side of the House we are not only concerned with the number of houses that are built—we are most vitally concerned on that issue—but also with the quality of those houses and who will get them. We are concerned about distribution as 855 well as production. We still believe that it is need which should determine who should get the houses.
We suspect from the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, although there is no clarity in his statement, that what he intends to do is very largely to abolish the criterion of need. Unless he is going to insure that the local authorities are, in fact, the main agents of his operations, how can he insure that need comes before the long pocket?
I have said that to us the question of quality is of immense significance. I noted the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman about the standards of house building. They were very interesting. They were as vague as the rest of his comments, but he did say that he welcomed the arrangements which had been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) in encouraging local authorities to find whether they could produce plans for houses of a rather smaller superficial area while retaining—this was the important point—the same living space, the same amount of accommodation for both living rooms and bedrooms. This is indeed an important matter.
There is great danger, if, for the sake of expediency or what is regarded as expediency—I know that this is the view of many hon. Members on the other side of the House—we should sacrifice our present housing standards and in any way endanger the future prospects of good housing in this country. This is of such importance that I want to say a word or two about it now.
There has been pressure for some time upon the Ministry to make a general attack upon housing standards, and many different types of plans have been produced which, I am glad to say, have been universally condemned by the Ministry in the past. There is a very great danger indeed that this pressure for a general reduction of standards will now win its battle, and that we shall be condemned to see a steady fall back to some of the deplorable standards we experienced in the inter-war years. I hope that it will be quite clear, from this side of the House at any rate, and I should hope from the other side as well, that we shall not be prepared to see a sacrifice 856 of general housing standards and will insist at least upon the maintenance of proper living space for the people.
I know there are many people who, confronted with the tragedy of many individual housing cases in their own constituencies of people who are living in almost impossible circumstances today—overcrowded conditions, and bad and insanitary houses—say that almost any type of new building is more satisfactory than this. I know that kind of pressure can be put upon individual Members of this House, but I hope that we shall resist it. I am certain we are right to think of the future as well as of the present, and to remember that much of the bad property that we have all condemned in our country is there just because we were not prepared to stand for a proper, decent standard of houses at the time.
I hope that this House will not load on to the shoulders of a future generation the kind of tragedy with which we have been loaded and now have to attempt to deal. Whatever pressure may be made upon the right hon. Gentleman and his Parliamentary Secretary, I hope that they will try to ensure the maintenance of at least proper living space standards inside the houses.
In my view, and I think in the view of most hon. Members, existing standards are far from extravagant. All sorts of ideas have been put about at different times, largely due to misconceptions about what those standards are. A great deal of latitude is properly left to local authorities. A good many local authorities build to higher standards than the minima set down by the Ministry. It is right that we should have a great deal of variety in the attitude of local authorities, because circumstances change very much from one part of the country to another. Needs vary, and it would be wrong to insist upon local authorities building down to very low standards.
It is no doubt true that some of the standards adopted by housing authorities have been regarded by some hon. Members as extravagant in present circumstances, but I would defend local authorities against these charges because of the great desirability of variety in house building and the need for their trying out different methods of approach to their own problems. Those of us who have been associated personally with these problems 857 have always faced the need of avoiding waste and of cutting out superfluous projects.
I remember representations made by the hon. Gentleman who is today the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry. He put forward various constructive suggestions by which he felt that some extravagances might be reduced, but it was pointed out at that time that most of what had been raised by him had been dealt with many months before. There was a point about the desirability of building a higher proportion of one- and two-bedroomed houses instead of concentrating so completely upon three-bedroomed houses, but representations had been made about that to local authorities many months before the hon. Gentleman put his proposal to the House.
I should now warn the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman that there would be great danger in taking that proposal too far. There is a very real need, as the Royal Commission on Population showed, both for more houses which are larger as well as for more houses which are smaller, that is. to meet the needs of large families, and to meet the needs of old people and to try to secure the exchange of houses that we should all desire. Local authorities have been dealing with this matter, in the past, very effectively, with the encouragement of the Ministry, but it would be highly dangerous if we were now to press the matter beyond the present stage and to try to enforce upon local authorities the building of a higher proportion of one- or two-bedroomed houses than they deem necessary in their areas.
The position varies very much with each local authority, the needs of one being wholly different from the needs of another. Therefore, I most strongly urge upon the right hon. Gentleman and his Parliamentary Secretary not to put too much pressure on local authorities to go further than they have already gone, because the local authorities have already undertaken a very much greater volume of building of one- and two-bedroomed houses than was the case immediately after the war. I am very doubtful whether it would be wise or practical to go further.
Another point on which those of us who have been concerned in this matter have always taken a strong view has been the desirability of an increased building 858 of houses in groups—terrace housing, if you like to call it so—as part of the development of an estate; not as a return to the old, grim, mean streets that disfigure most of our cities today, but as an attempt by good planning to ensure that we have groups of houses, as well as pairs of semi-detached houses, on our estates. I have said this on many platforms on official occasions and others, on which I have urged upon local authorities the need to avoid concentrating on pairs of semidetached houses. Aesthetically I think they are bad. From the point of view of practical economy I think there is a need for an increased number of groups of houses, not a concentration upon them to the exclusion of other types of building but part of a proper development. Most local authorities have been doing this for a considerable period of time.
In considering these matters, I hope we shall be very chary of any general lowering of standards. We are proud on this side of the House, and I should hope throughout the whole House, that houses of a much higher standard have been built by local authorities than we had during inter-war years. All of us will have in our mind the magnificent estates that have been built by local authorities in all parts of the country. I have in mind at the moment an estate in the Durham mining district called Esh Winning. At one time, the development was so appallingly bad that people used to go there to see how grim a mining village could be. Today people go because of the new hope that a magnificent new housing estate has brought to that area, a whole new atmosphere and opportunity for decent living, brought by that magnificent housing scheme. It is a prize-winning scheme in that part of the country.
Take, if we will, the magnificent work in Bath, where a new council estate reveals the beauty of the old terraces of Bath and is something to be proud of. People go to see this new construction, which has borrowed much of value from the past, but also has new ideas and new skill. Do not let us, for any excuse, lower our sights. Do not let us destroy this long-term good because of any facile attempt to achieve an illusory target. Let us be sure that these permanent values are properly maintained.
Let me mention one final long-term aim, which was always in our minds on this side of the House. We hoped that the 859 new housing estates that were developing would be well-balanced communities; that we would try to avoid the segregation which was unhappily the tragedy of so many inter-war housing estates. I have in mind a housing estate in my own division, well-known as the slum-clearance estate, and that taint has been retained to the detriment of the lives of the people living on it ever since it was built.
I hope that we shall all be agreed upon the essential need and desirability of ensuring that local authority estates are not merely built for one section or category of person in the community. We want to see as widely-based a community as possible. I feel that there is a very real danger from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that now there will be an attempt to restrict the field of activity of local authorities to building for a narrowly-defined class or category of workers in the community. That, I think, would be a great tragedy for the future prospect of developing a healthy life and atmosphere for the people of our new estates in this country.
I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will realise that I am not merely fearful and critical of the dangers of the administration opposite so far as their dealing with the immediate practical problems of building are concerned; I am also fearful of the effect of their policies when they are finally presented to us upon the longterm aims which, I think, should be the concern of this House, just as much as the immediate needs of our people for actual buildings to shelter them. I think that this is a matter which affects everyone in the House, and not only hon. Members on this side.
I repeat that we have been disappointed in not having a clearer statement from the right hon. Gentleman, and we are fearful that during this interim period while the House will not be sitting administrative action will be taken which we shall have no opportunity of criticising, and which may not only endanger our immediate prospects of housing, but, indeed, endanger the whole future, and result in our losing the higher and better standard and better way of living which it has been our attempt to achieve on this side of the House.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), will forgive me, I am sure, if I do not follow him in his argument, since this is the first occasion on which I have had the privilege of addressing the House, and I ask for the customary indulgence of the House.
I wish to follow a point made by the President of the Board of Trade in his speech in this House last week. He said that he looked to the textile industry for a large expansion in our exports. The town of Darwen, in Lancashire, which I have the high honour to represent, is still predominantly a cotton town. The smoke from the high chimneys pours out over the terraced houses, as it has poured out for a hundred years. I am afraid that some of it blows eastward into the division of Rossendale, and that has caused the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) some concern over smokeless fuel. I share his concern, and I apologise for the invasion that my division causes.
So far from the prospect of a large increase in the export of textiles, the outlook at the moment is unfortunately very much the reverse. Order books are dwindling. There is talk in the weaving sheds of short-time. The explanation—a cloud which is a good deal bigger than a man's hand has descended on Lancashire—is the old explanation of Japanese competition. I have no doubt that years before I came to this House, years before I was capable of thinking of coming to this House, the arguments relating to Japanese competition were canvassed to and fro, over and over again. But they have to be canvassed once more, for although the argument may be the same, I feel in my bones that there is a somewhat different attitude; that in some quarters it is now thought that, somehow, Japan is right and Lancashire is wrong.
I was most interested in the observations of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) last week, when he said that the Asiatic peoples are on the march, and that it is the duty of us and the people of Europe to help them along that road. Those are noble sentiments with which we all agree, but I am wondering, and I think that all the people of Lancashire, including those who sent him to this House are wondering, how one 861 applies these noble sentiments here and now to the question of the under-cutting by the Japanese, using standards very much lower than we can possibly compete with, and again threatening our people in Lancashire with the evils which they have so bittterly experienced.
There is one thing certain in this difficult problem, and that is that in the effort to help the yellow man it is no good depressing the standards of the white man. We do not make a yellow man rich by making a white man poor. In applying these noble sentiments I hope that due regard will be paid to the effect of unfair competition from peoples whose standards of life, though they should be raised, as we all agree, cannot be raised here and now. Therefore, in the immediate problem we shall not allow sentiment, however noble, to cripple us in our endeavour to play our proper part in the world.
The people of Darwen are great people. They work extremely hard, perhaps because they are largely on piece work, and, by and large, they own their own houses. There is an old saying in those parts that everyone owns his own house and the house next door. Just how that truth is to be expressed statistically by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government I do not know; but there is a truth in it, and I think that it gives the lie to a certain amount of feeling that there is in all quarters that, somehow, the landlord is a big person. In the north, and certainly in my division, the landlord is a small man. He is as small, and in many cases smaller, than the tenant.
If it were not that I was advised by everyone that it was bad form to be provocative in one's first speech, I should be tempted to draw certain conclusions from these special virtues in the people of Darwen as reflected in their electoral behaviour over the last 20 years, but I resist the temptation.
No positive solution for even maintaining our textile exports, much less increasing them, has been yet put forward by anybody, with the possible exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher). His suggestion was at least positive, but rather gloomy. He suggested we might be driven back to barter arrangements, bartering our textiles for timber. Has it really come to that, that after 2,000 or 862 3,000 years of human progress, we must, to save ourselves, go back to the habits of our ancestors who, stained with woad, bartered their jet and tin for the spices of the East, or whatever they wanted? Surely some more positive and better proposal could be thought out, because no party has ever solved this problem and it is coming up again.
Five years after her total defeat, Japan is now taking away the markets that we captured in the Far East and in South America and lapping ever closer to our shores. With the very greatest respect to the President of the Board of Trade I urge him that something more than merely looking to the textile industry for a great expansion of our exports will be needed.
Another piece of advice that a maiden speaker is given on these occasions—one is given so much that one rises almost in a state of nervous prostration—and I as sure it is a good one, is that one should be brief. I wish to oppose the Amendment proposed by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), and hope that the President of the Board of Trade, who has the good will of all sections of the textile industry, will devote his young and virile mind to shielding us from the horrors that are to come upon Lancashire unless something positive is done. I do not think that our confidence in my right hon. Friend will be misplaced.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
I am sure that the whole House will join with me in congratulating the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) on an excellent maiden speech. I do so with more than ordinary pleasure because I know the town of Darwen quite well. When I say that the hon. Member will be aware that all hon. Members on all sides of the House share his natural concern about Japanese competition, he can be assured that this problem and others affecting Lancashire will he thoroughly discussed by the House if ever the prosperity and livelihood of the great Lancashire textile industry is again threatened by Japan.
The skill and ingenuity of Lancashire workers in the textile industry is something which this country cannot afford to lose. Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties has been that the class of goods manufactured by the Lancashire cotton 863 industry is so high that markets are not readily available, but the hon. Member can be sure that Members on both sides of the House have this subject very much at heart. He represents a constituency which I know very well—it is a lovely town, with lovely parks and gardens—and he may be assured that the problem with which he has dealt will not be forgotten.
I want to come back to the general problem of today's debate. I think the House now realises that the reason why the Minister of Housing and Local Government has been appointed to that office is because he demonstrated today, as on other occasions, that he is one of the most adroit and diplomatic speakers on the Government Front Bench. But before the life of this Parliament comes to an end he will need all his adroitness to explain away the promise of 300,000 houses made in the Conservative General Election manifesto.
I shall try to outline some of the difficulties. This great social evil, this No. 1 social question, is something which affects every hon. Member, no matter in which part of the House he may sit. Members representing city constituencies have their personal attention drawn to this problem more than any other. I receive many hundreds of letters and interview many hundreds of people in the course of the year, each one with a desperate housing problem and each considering that he is not receiving fair treatment from his local authority. All hon. Members know that the problem must not be treated lightly and I am convinced that after his discourse at the Despatch Box today the right hon. Gentleman is fully aware now of some of the difficulties of which he was not previously aware.
The general problem of more deficiencies which has been narrated, the general problem of pre-war neglect and the continuous problem of the building of new houses, are things which cannot be tackled easily, chiefly on account of the nature of the building industry itself. If we deal first with the materials supply position we will get a picture of some of the difficulties with which the Government are bound to be confronted before they can even attempt to reach the present target and achievement of the Labour Government, which was 200,000 houses, without 864 moving forward to the glib promise of 300,000 houses a year.
Cement is a vital commodity in all building operations. The plan of production and output of the cement industry was 10,500,000 tons for next year. There is enough cement there, according to the advice I have received from civil engineers, to take care of the whole of the housing programme for 300,000 houses. The present stocks of cement are 98,000 tons. From the basis of cement supplies there is no deficiency in regard to the starting point from which the Government can proceed. I am also informed there is a stock of 650,000 standards of timber at present in the country. How much of that stock is to be allocated to stockpiling, how much to re-armament—which is vital—and how much for house and general building, we cannot yet determine. That stock of 650,000 standards would also take care of the extra programme envisaged by the Government if every other programme were dropped.
When we get to bricks—another valuable commodity—we have a very different picture. Stocks of bricks in this country at present total 145 million. It is estimated by experts that before a completed programme of 300,000 houses could be achieved it would be necessary to achieve a production of 2,000 million bricks per annum, which is exactly the production of the brickyards of this country before the war.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
I think that the hon. Member is perhaps unintentionally misquoting, but present production is more than 6,000 million.
§ Mr. Tomney
I have got my information from a reliable source, which I am prepared to disclose to the hon. Member afterwards—a Conservative source—and the figure I was given was 2,000 million.
I have disregarded my own sources of information. I submit, on the basis of what the Government are to attempt to achieve, that in the case of the brickyards alone the necessary production cannot be achieved, because the labour force is not adequate for the job. The brickyards need 10,000 expert brickmakers. It is dirty, unhealthy, laborious work and in times of full employment men go to other jobs instead of to jobs of that character. That is a problem which the Government have to face.
865 There has been an attempt to recruit Italian labour. Two thousand Italians have been vetted for work in the brick-fields, but up to the present fewer than 1,000 have arrived to take up employment here. The reason, paradoxically enough, why more Italian labour cannot be recruited is because homes, hostels and lodgings cannot be provided for them. There is also in this industry a general shortage of all types of building skill. Members must know, as for instance I know it to be the case in my constituency, that men who are fully qualified as skilled carpenters and bricklayers are now employed on factory work, chiefly re-armament, where wages and conditions are better. That is another problem which the Government have to face.
There is also the problem of the inflow of new labour into the building industry. That is a most grievous problem, to which the Minister should direct his attention at once, with the trade unions concerned and the industry—the inflow of apprentices into the building industry. There is a shortage today of 27,000 apprentice bricklayers. This problem is one which is not only with us today but which will be with us in the future. Due to high standards boys are taking other jobs in commerce and industry. If that wastage is to continue the problem will not be solved in the lifetime of any Government, or it will be insoluble for at least a good many years.
In the area of any local authority there is all types of labour in small or large units, and the building industry is organised mainly on the basis of small units. That is one of its difficulties. The L.C.C. have a most grievous problem. They are mostly concerned with flat development, for which steel is needed. Four thousand tons of steel required for that development are at present behind schedule. As a consequence work or a start on eight schemes for 616 flats and a further 19 other schemes, representing 3,580 dwellings, is held up. It is when one examines the details that one gets some idea of the immensity of the problem involved.
Every local authority in the country has been concerned with this problem, whether the authority be governed by a Labour or Tory majority. One of the great difficulties has been that there are only a few contracting firms in the 866 country of sufficient size to undertake large projects such as that of the Hemel Hempstead Development Corporation or the Oxhey Estate, to refer to two L.C.C. projects. But only a few firms are sufficiently large to take on jobs like that.
By and large the housing licences issued for private and municipal development have been on the basis of the small unit—one building 10 houses, another 20 and one building perhaps five. It is one of the most grievous problems with which the building industry has to contend. If these firms could be organised into large units, there would be a chance of making some progress. Until that can be done or plans can be advanced for co-ordinating the builders in any one town to join in one united project of the local authority we shall come up against this problem of employer after employer attracting men from vital jobs by issuing extra bonuses, organising piece-work systems or giving extra rewards.
There is the small builder who tenders for say 10 houses and at the same time tenders for private work, for office building, and factory and hospital repair work or any other type of work, and who uses his housing contract or his hospital contract to keep his men employed when he has no other contracts. That has meant that in many towns in this country there is another evil which the Government will have to tackle to achieve anything like the housing programme they set out in their manifesto.
What effect the increase in the Bank rate will have on house building cannot at present be judged, but it will certainly lead to an increase in rent. That will add to the problems. In addition, wage claims are pending involving £60 million. What I have said may give the Government some idea of some of the problems with which they are confronted. In my opinion, there is no possibility of their ever achieving a programme of 300,000 houses.
The standstill for three months which the Chancellor has announced in the issue of new licences in order to clear up outstanding building projects is something at which the Government should look seriously because the repercussions of that step will be wider than they think. It is not possible, in the building industry, to disperse labour forces and recruit them 867 again quickly. It has not yet been clearly indicated to us what this standstill will involve. Will it involve a complete cessation of school building, no more hospital building, no more hostels for workers, no more clinics? All these things are necessary phases of the social life of the country and must be allowed for as we go along.
Only yesterday the Hertfordshire Education Committee, which is probably the most progressive education authority in the country, which has built almost 50 schools since the war, cut in half its programme for school development. That indicates that unless some early and resolute action is taken in regard to school building some 300,000 children will be unable to find school places. That is a problem which cannot be. overlooked.
In spite of the new techniques developed for building schools the same type of building labour is by and large still needed. Hon. Members should consider that estimate of 300,000 school children for when there will not be school places. The Government have got away to a good start—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—do not get excited. At present, there are 220,500 houses in the course of completion. So we can expect, starting from December until the end of the Recess, that if the Tory promise of 300,000 houses, as contained in their Election manifesto, is to be fulfilled we should have at least 47,000 houses completed by the end of January. That is what it means.
Perhaps the most contentious part of the Conservative election manifesto was the item referring to houses for sale, to which the hon. Member for Darwen referred. We on these benches have believed ever since 1945 that houses should go to the people who were in the greatest social need. By and large, they are the people who have not been able, for financial reasons or otherwise, to buy their own houses. They are the people who always have lived in other people's houses and lived by paying rent. That cannot be denied, because the housing figures will support it.
I wish to quote an example. The City of Birmingham went into this problem in 1949, when the same outcry was heard about people wanting to buy their own houses. The authority received replies 868 from 6,000 persons; 3,000 were on the waiting list, and of the remaining 3,000, over 700 already had a house. The waiting list in Birmingham at that time was 60,000 people; so hon. Members will see that the clamour which is supposed to come from the general public about houses for sale is not a true and right proposition. The demand is. and always will remain, for houses to let, and every local authority in the country knows it. If it is the policy of the Government to depart from and upset the ratio of licences for private sale and houses to let, then, at the next election, they will certainly have something to answer for.
Houses are most needed in the centres where production is most contemplated, in all the big cities and towns concerned with the production of the wealth of the country.
§ Mr. Tomney
I am saying that with a full recognition of the rights and requirements of the rural areas. But it is in the big cities and towns where there is the most misery, and it is in those cities and towns, where labour has to be concentrated in connection with re-armament and the export drive where, if there is any change in the present arrangements about licences, the people will feel it most heavily—not in places like Bournemouth or Brighton, or even Worthing. But if there is any alteration in the system of licensing, those towns which have been so foolish on this occasion as to return a Tory Member of Parliament—although they are very few—will certainly re-adjust the balance at the next election.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Major W. J. Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)
I cannot claim the indulgence of this House this evening, because I exhausted that claim when I made my maiden speech 20 years ago, but I can follow the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), in warmly congratulating the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) on his excellent maiden speech.
I wish to deal with just one simple point. It is the suggestion put across deliberately by hon. Members opposite that in allocating a longer period than usual to the next Recess, the Government are acting contrary to the best interests 869 of the country. I do not think that can be borne out. Certainly it is not unconstitutional in any way. There are ample precedents. I think nothing could be more conclusive than the reply given by the Minister of Housing and Local Government to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who opened the Debate.
People will be very ready to appreciate the claim that Ministers should be allowed every opportunity to get down to the business of their Departments—not only their Departments in London, but their business throughout the world. I take this opportunity of welcoming the decision of the Prime Minister to proceed to the United States of America without undue delay, and I also welcome his decision to take with him a strong team of his Parliamentary and Cabinet colleagues.
I am very glad that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has decided to fly to Malaya so as to see at first hand the grievously rough stuff which is going on there and which has been permitted to continue for too long. It should be grappled with at the highest level. I should be glad if the Secretary of State for Scotland could spend more time up in Scotland, although, in saying that, I am confident that the new appointment of a Minister of State in the excellent person of the Earl of Home will be of considerable assistance in dealing with Scottish affairs on the spot.
I have no doubt that it is in the public interest, so far as the Government are concerned, to have this slightly longer Recess. There is another interest, and I am not ashamed to speak up for it. There are occasions when the interests of Parliament as a whole should conflict with the interests of the Government. To put it bluntly, as the Minister of Housing and Local Government put it, the duty to chivy Ministers is one which must not be neglected. That stands good for backbench Members on this side of the House.as much as on the Opposition side.
I will examine for the moment whether in fact this rather long Recess will do any serious damage in that direction. I do not think it will. Any urgent question of foreign affairs will certainly be brought before us, the whole House being summoned for that purpose. So our duties in that direction will be safeguarded, and the discussion of any question will not 870 be prevented; it will merely be postponed.
There will be all the more time for general discussion by reason of the fact that the present Government have a smaller programme of legislation for the future than has been the case in the past. I very much welcome that, and I believe that people in the country will welcome it too. It is good administration which is required rather than fresh legislation, and there is a need to comb out unnecessary waste in the Departments. That is what people would like to see done. The position of private Members is easily more favourable than it has been in the few years since the war. The time to be granted for Private Members' Bills and Motions compares favourably with what was allowed before.
The only point in which I think that there is substance is the matter of Questions in Parliament. The loss even of a week of Parliamentary Questions is to be deplored. There is nothing like a Question in the House to stir up not only the Minister but the Government Department. It helps the Minister to stir up his Department. It puts the searchlight of publicity on any scandal, and it can bring to any local problem the fair share of national attention which is required. But there again, there are very few Questions that cannot wait for a period of days. After the postponement, the searchlight will in due course be applied and public attention will be drawn to whatever subject requires it.
There is one point which I should like to put to the Government. Perhaps they will be kind enough to take note of it. I refer to the subject raised in this House a few days ago affecting the position of Questions on the Order Paper. It is the fact that Questions on Scottish affairs will not reach the top of the list until well after the Recess. Today Scottish Questions were behind the War Office, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Labour and, of course, the Prime Minister. Therefore, they were not reached at all. Next week, Scottish Questions will go up one place, and so on, but it is not until after the Recess that we shall reach the top of the list. As a Scottish Member, I cannot pretend that I feel that that is entirely satisfactory.
To conclude on a point which is purely incidental, I would say that one advan- 871 tage of the Recess is that it will give supporters of the Government in this House no less an opportunity than opponents of the Government to put their case to the country. I always speak with feeling on this point, because, going back to the time when I was turned out of this House in 1945, I have always believed that the fact that the Socialist Party won that election with such a sweeping majority was largely because many of their supporters were working at party propaganda, while during that time so many of us were confining our activities entirely to trying to win the war.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)
I trust that the House will show to me the usual kindness which is customarily offered to a Member making his maiden speech. I know that I am expected to be reasonably uncontroversial, but I should find that very difficult indeed. For example, after having listened to the Minister of Housing and Local Government this afternoon, it would be extremely difficult not to comment on the fact that the 300,000 houses, once an object to be achieved, then a target, has now become a "great hope," and only that.
In the major part of my speech I want to be as fairly "cross-bench" as I can. However, I support most warmly the Amendments moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) regretting the absence of a well-thought-out and constructive policy in the Gracious Speech.
I want to deal mainly with the problem of the balance of payments, which was discussed last Wednesday. At that time the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that we were facing the problem of a sudden blizzard. A gap of something like £500 million to £600 million had emerged in our balance of payments. That was the kind of figure which we could expect in 1952. The solution which he advanced was one of cutting imports and, to a lesser extent, the expansion of exports. I believe this to be a totally inadequate approach to the problem. It conceals, or at least fails to examine, the fundamental world conditions which have caused this crisis and which, as far as I can see, will cause yet another economic blizzard 872 another six months hence unless some very strong and firm decisions are taken by the Government.
Let me begin a more fundamental diagnosis of the problem which the Chancellor put to us on Wednesday. We are faced with a double crisis—the balance of payments of Great Britain has gone awry, and the balance of payments position of the whole of the rest of the sterling area has also got into difficulties.
In the case of Great Britain, the fact which seems to me to have been completely concealed, or had insufficient regard paid to it, is that the main cause of this position is that, in the first nine months of this year, our imports cost something like £2,900 million compared with £1,900 million in a similar period last year. That is a rise in the cost of imports of about £1,000 million, but a rise in terms of volume of only about 14 per cent. Therefore, in adjusting our economy to the movement in the rest of the world, we are faced with a sudden demand, a sudden bill, for another £1,000 million to be paid by this country—and for nothing much more in terms of volume. That is the position in Great Britain.
The position in the rest of the sterling area has hardly been discussed in this House, but, of course, we are in the position that the rest of the sterling area is also in debit balance with the dollar area. The effect of that is shown in the depletion of our gold reserves. Why is this happening in the rest of the sterling area as well as in Great Britain? We must remember, first, that about one-third of the income of the rest of the sterling area comes from four commodities—rubber, tin, jute and wool. It is in those commodities that there has been the greatest fall in world prices in the last few months; and it is those commodities particularly which have suffered from the ending of United States stockpiling.
When we add to that the effect of rearmament, we have the greatest part of the explanation of the debit balance of the rest of the sterling area, which has got into debit balance primarily because of changes in the prices of raw materials. The net result of all this, if we take the present financial crisis which is affecting this country and the sterling area, is that two-thirds of our adverse position today is due to this change in the terms of trade.
873 I should have thought that in these circumstances the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have dealt with the world position and its impact on this country. I was expecting—and I am sure many other hon. Members were also expecting—that we would have in this debate some indication of the discussions on materials and supplies which, for example, are now going on in N.A.T.O. I was expecting some words about the International Raw Materials Conference. I was expecting to hear what is happening about the Commodity Boards, and to hear something about what the Government have in mind in regard to the discussions with the Commonwealth Finance Ministers when they meet in London in January.
The fact is that Britain and the whole sterling area is in debit balance, not because of profligacy on the part of Great Britain, but because of the changes in world prices, capricious movements in world prices and stockpiling. Not one word about these matters was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I suggest that the Government have come here quite unprepared and without any policy, because they have given no indication whatever of how they are going to deal with the need for international action in order to help to keep this country out of the "red." I believe that without this international action there will be another enormous crisis in the internal economy of this country.
I am a supporter of the late Government's target of £4,700 million to be spent on re-armament. I am not advancing my own ideas of measures to meet the world situation as a means also of cutting down our re-armament programme. I want measures so that we can re-arm up to that full limit.
Why is it that there is this enormous problem of the capricious movements in the terms of trade and raw materials prices? It is, in fact, more fundamental than that; it is the problem of the weight of the United States in the world economy. I suggest that the effect of this giant in the world economy on the smaller countries is now so enormous that the slightest capricious movement in the amount of trade between the United States and the rest of the world will continuously and repeatedly throw us into the "red" at an unexpected moment, 874 unless something is done on an international scale to keep the flow of dollars to the rest of the world on a more even level.
What is the weight of the United States in the world economy? I think the figures are insufficiently realised. To some extent, we have been living in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land so far as this issue is concerned. The weight of the United States in the world economy is enormous. Even in 1929, when some of these international comparisons were made, it was true that the national income of the United States was as high as that of 23 other major countries of the world combined, and, of course, they included Great Britain, France, and even the Soviet Union. I repeat that already in 1929 it was as high as that of 23 other major foreign countries combined.
Indeed, the history of economic activity in the rest of the world between the wars can be traced quite simply as the ebb and flow of dollars outwards to the rest of the world in international payments in which the United States was concerned. If there was a certain withdrawal of dollars, there was unemployment in the rest of the world; with an even flow, there was the maintenance of a higher level of employment.
But now the situation is even more alarming. May I give some figures which have a bearing on our present position? The United States today is consuming over half the world supplies of copper, lead, zinc, tin, and aluminium, and its national income is going up at such an enormous rate that, instead of being half of the world economy, it is probably now somewhere between 50 and 75 per cent. of the whole world economy.
The result is that, if we have a slight proportionate change in the next 12 months in the flow of dollars outwards by international purchases in the dollar area, the whole sterling area, and Great Britain in particular, may face another economic blizzard which may amount almost to wrecking our economy. The position, therefore, is that the size of the gold reserves which would be needed to enable us to balance out over the year is so enormous that we cannot expect the British economy to be viable in the world in present circumstances so long as there is no even ebb and flow of dollars to the rest of the world.
875 When we add up finally not only the fact that the weight of the United States is so enormous in the world, but the further impact of our re-armament on the prices and supplies of raw materials, and particularly of non-ferrous metals, which are going to be very short indeed, we can see that in six months' time, if we have another movement or change in the flow of dollars, plus re-armament and world shortages, we shall be faced in this House with further demands from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for enormous cuts in our imports and the gravest danger to the whole of our economy.
The final point, before I come to my own solution of the position, is this. We are faced also with the problem that the whole sterling area is in danger of breaking up. It is already true that India, Pakistan and Ceylon are conducting the financing of a great amount—indeed, a growing amount—of their trade through direct relations with the dollar area instead of through London, because they do not rely on the sterling area building up sufficient dollars and gold to maintain economic stability in all emergencies. In the course of last week we have had some details of the Copland Plan which is now being discussed in Australia as a possible means of Australia contracting out of the sterling area and maintaining direct relations with the dollar area.
On all these counts, I believe that we are in a situation which is fraught with great danger for the whole of the sterling area. The danger lies in the slightest movements in world purchases by the dollar area, further movements of world raw materials prices under re-armament, and finally the prospect that the sterling area will rot from within because of these dangers, and a continuation of the trend which we now see in India, Pakistan and Ceylon in building up their own dollar reserves.
What is the solution for all this? I said earlier that I honestly expected the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come to this House with some details of what is going on in the International Raw Materials Conference and in N.A.T.O., and to tell us what, in fact, he is going to talk about in the meetings of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers, because the only possible solution, first of all, is to get world raw materials under 876 control. That is the only possible thing to do; otherwise we shall be faced with these cuts in this country again within six months. The first solution must be to improve the stability of the prices of raw materials and to provide a flow of raw materials for the different re-arming countries of the world—but it must be a steady flow and at reasonable prices. Otherwise, we shall be in chaos.
There is a second solution which personally should like to offer in all humility. To have a buffer against any movements at all, we should need an enormous gold reserve in this country which we have not got. A slight proportionate movement in the dollar flow makes an enormous difference to the price or earnings of our sterling area imports and exports. I believe the second basic solution is an Atlantic payments union. I believe that in the coming years we can deal with international payments in the sterling area only if we advance to the United States the idea that we must in some way link the sterling and the dollar areas in some such Atlantic payments union which will give us a buffer, with a certain supply of dollars in addition to any gold reserves we have, and will enable us successfully to breast the waves of any crisis of the kind we have been facing repeatedly in this country over the last few years.
I support the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South, regretting that the Government have not given to the House any indication that this is a problem facing this country. In his speech on Wednesday last, the Chancellor of the Exchequer talked about these developments in world trade which cause crises in this country. He said:For an exposed island living, as we do, upon imports, they are our normal pattern of life, like our weather, or like the seas which gird our shores, now rough now smooth.And here is the significant sentence:We must always be ready at very short notice to make the required changes in our economic rig."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 195.]With great respect, what humbug that is. In face of the economic blizzards which can hit this country owing to the weight of the United States in the world economy and to some capricious change in its economic activity, it is going to be 877 impossible, except at the sacrifice of the whole of our standard of living, to make what he callsthe required changes in our economic rig.The Chancellor's speech, I believe, shows no understanding whatsoever of this fundamental problem which is facing Great Britain and the whole of the sterling area.
If I may have one more dig at the present Government, I would point out that the situation was more than bluntly revealed by the Foreign Secretary when he made his well-known faux pas on television over the famous Tory Party graph on the Cost of Living which was used during the General Election. Anyone who reads the "Economist" this week will see how that graph has been corrected by people who understand statistics. It shows, in fact, that prices of raw materials were levelling off before Korea and have since shot upwards owing to re-armament, whereas the Foreign Secretary was telling his television public, "You can see that the rates of increase in world prices have been exactly the same ever since 1945."
He did not understand; he did not know. He paid no regard to the fact that prices were levelling off very nicely before Korea and that re-armament has now pushed them up to a sudden increase in the gradient of the curve. Those are two pieces of evidence. I do not believe the Government understand fundamentally that this is the problem facing Great Britain—the enormous problem of increased world prices. They have certainly come to this House with no solution for it in the past few days.
I want to end on this note. In pleading for an Atlantic payments union and for drastic top-level international action on the question of raw materials, I am not disregarding the necessity for combating inflation in this country. That, of course, must go hand in hand with whatever other action is taken; but to combat inflated prices, the kind of cuts which the Chancellor has proposed in the House during the past week are no solution whatsoever unless something on the lines I have indicated regarding international action is pursued.
I am in abysmal ignorance of what are the Government's plans on this topic in the coming months. I believe it is monstrous that we are to be sent into Recess 878 without knowing before we depart whether the Government have any plans for something which they must in any case tackle while we are away. I believe that this international action is something on which the whole prosperity of this country, indeed the survival of the British economy, depends in this new and economically hostile world. I have yet to be convinced that the Government know and realise the fundamental nature of this problem, or that they have any solutions for meeting it.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
I have no doubt there have been occasions in this House when compliments paid to a maiden speech have been more a matter of form than of truth, but I know that I shall be voicing the views of every hon. Member when I say that this is not such an occasion. The hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman), who has spoken with such confidence and with such information in putting forward his point of view, has made us all thirst for more, and it is not merely a form of words when I say that we shall look forward to hearing the many more contributions that he will make in the future.
If I may at this stage, I should like also to pay another compliment which up to now has been sadly lacking. I should like to pay a real compliment to the new Minister of Housing and Local Government. After a matter of 10 days he has come along and given us the basis of a policy which was not forthcoming after 79 days when the Socialist Government first took power in 1945. I believe that his reply to the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), completely demolished any suggestion that, so far as the Housing Department is concerned, hon. Members are being sent on a Recess, whether long or short, without knowing the policy the Government intend to pursue.
I am delighted to have a chance of following so closely after the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) because he has caused me to throw on one side the speech I had prepared. I feel that it is perhaps a good thing to use this debating Chamber for what in the first place it was intended, that is, to debate. I will answer the points the hon. Member made. He said that we cannot 879 achieve the target of 300,000 houses, that we have neither the material nor the labour, nor, in his opinion, the heart to get on with that problem.
I believe that 300,000 houses a year is a proper target and one which can be attained. I also believe that under this Government it will be attained within three years. I think it reasonable to accept the Ministers' explanation that it cannot be attained in 1951, and I believe we all understand that we cannot expect to attain it in 1952 because we want a full buying season as well as a full building season in order to have the full circle of any scheme. I believe that at the end of 1953 we shall see this target attained, or very nearly, and certainly attained the year after.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North, suggested that the materials and the labour were not available, and he quoted figures which I do not believe are the true figures today. He picked out timber, cement and bricks. What was the position? In 1949 we had 1,080,000 standards of softwood timber coming into this country. Now I believe the quantity is more than 1,100,000 standards. If we could get 200,000 houses from the 1,080,000 standards imported at the time, when only one-third of the total softwood imports were being utilised on new houses in that year, then now we need only one-sixth extra of the total softwood imports to secure the extra 100,000 houses. There is no question at all of cutting out all school building, all hospital and all industrial development.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I am very interested in the hon. Member's description of the situation, but one thing puzzles me. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when describing the cuts, said very definitely that while the Government would endeavour to complete more houses next year, they would not start so many. I am not clear how in 1952 and 1953 this programme will be accomplished if houses are not to be started this year.
§ Mr. Nicholls
The right hon. Gentleman is a little out-of-date in his information. Since the fleeting explanation given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we have had a more detailed explanation from the responsible Minister and he 880 made it quite clear that at the end of 1952 he expects to be well on the way to this figure. It is up to all of us to see that he attains it. As to the problem of timber, to which the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North, has referred, one-sixth of the total extra devoted to new housing will achieve the housing figure we have in mind.
The hon. Member mentioned cement. The production of cement this year is about 9,750,000 tons, and only 2,000,000 tons have been allocated to new housing. Therefore, to obtain the extra 100,000 houses requires roughly one-tenth of the total cement production extra to new houses. He referred to bricks and said that production was 2,000 million a year. I am sure he did not mean that, because production is from 6,500 million to 7,000 million.
§ Mr. Nicholls
I knew it was an inadvertent mistake. One must confess that there will not be sufficient left of brick production to secure an extra 100,000 houses if one builds on the basis of a size of 1,050 square feet, which is the position at the moment. The shortage of bricks for the time being is a good reason for advocating not a lower standard of house but smaller houses. Instead of using 20,000 bricks per house, it would help for the time being if we went back to the Dudley type of house, using something like 17,000 bricks. There is no question of completely shutting down other departments to obtain these extra houses, which need one-sixth extra timber, one-tenth cement and a matter of 20 per cent. of the remaining half of bricks not being used for—
§ Mr. R. Ewart (Sunderland, South)
Would the hon. Member tell us where the labour is to be obtained?
§ Mr. Nicholls
Certainly. On that point I will quote no other than the General Secretary of the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives. At the Socialist Party conference on 5th Ocober, 1950, which was a month before our Conservative conference at which we gave our figure, Mr. Richard Coppock said that 300,000 houses would be within the 881 capacity of the building industry if it were organised efficiently; and since he made that statement he has been knighted.
He is right, of course. Common sense tells us that the building labour is there. We have almost the same number of people in the building industry today as we had before the war when 350,000 houses were being built, and we had luxury building in addition and a certain amount of unemployment. If we could afford the sordid luxury of some unemployment—which I do not want to see again—and still have those extra houses and all the luxury building and now, with the new mechanics and technique brought into the building trade, we say we cannot build as many houses as we built at that time, then we are back in Bedlam. We must give first priority on all labour and materials available up to 300,000 houses and after that number has been obtained the priority needs of other Departments can have the share of what is left. I repeat that the extra houses involve only one-sixth of timber, one tenth of cement and the percentage of bricks I have mentioned.
I should like to give a personal answer to the question put to the Minister of Housing and Local Government from the Front Bench opposite as to whether he was prepared to make cuts in education, hospitals and industrial needs. If cuts are necessary in order to get this diversion of materials, I believe that education, hospital extensions, and industry ought to make a contribution; and I do not believe that we would be working against the best interests of those three to ask that that contribution should be made. I do not believe we can obtain value for the millions of pounds spent on education if we have to send the children after school hours home to horrible housing conditions. Any schoolmaster would say that.
§ Mr. Nicholls
I think I am making my point perfectly clear. I have said it would be no hardship to ask education to make whatever slight contribution is necessary to obtain extra houses and make do with "pre-fab" schools, because I believe good education depends on good houses. I say to the health departments of hospitals that if they have to make do with "pre-fab" extensions, let them do so. I believe that 882 the long waiting lists in hospitals and the crowded doctors' surgeries today are due more to the mental and physical strain of overcrowded houses than to anything else. Therefore, I do not believe we are robbing the hospitals in asking them to do that, I do not believe we would be robbing industry.
Since I have been campaigning for this housing figure, I have made it my business to make inquiries throughout the country. I am a member of a local authority where at every meeting we have applications from various works for permission to extend their buildings. I have gone to the industrialists concerned and said, "Bearing in mind that what we want more than anything else is extra production, and knowing the difficulties within your works in helping production, if you had to choose now between having these extensions for which you apply or having some extra houses, which would you choose?" On every occasion they have said, "Of course we would like both, but if we had to make a choice we would prefer the houses because our difficulty with the immobility of labour shows that they are needed."
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Does the hon. Member bear in mind that other things are required besides bricks and cement? What about the metals for pipes, bathroom fittings, and so on? If there is priority for defence and rearmament in the case of these metals, how are we to have the houses?
§ Mr. Nicholls
That is a perfectly proper question with which I should have liked to deal in my speech. The quick answer is that the people responsible for producing those metals have placed it on record that, given 12 months' notice, they can improve output to provide all the housing equipment required for a further 100,000. Bearing in mind that it takes about nine months from the start of building before those things are required, one would not have a lag there. I believe we must have these diversions and that we should not harm industry by asking industrialists to do without extensions and make better use of the space they already have so that they might make their contribution to the extra houses we require. That is the other, brighter side of the picture which was rather dolefully presented by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North.
883 I wish to refer to the smaller house. The smaller house does two things. It means more houses from the same amount of materials, and it does another important thing—it is likely to produce a lower rent. Bearing in mind that the cost of living is one of the things which worries most people in this country, a lower rent would be attractive. My experience is that many people who are next in the queue for council houses are turning them down and going into converted slum houses because they cannot pay the rent. If we built smaller houses, it would mean the building costs would be lower and consequently the rents would be lower.
I sit on the urban district council of Darlaston in North Staffordshire, where 75 per cent. of the applicants for houses want houses with no more than two bedrooms. That is also confirmed in my constituency of Peterborough. I have here a report issued on 26th October which shows that out of a total waiting list of 2,055, 1,526 are people either with no children or with only one child and who, therefore, could do with two-bedroom houses. Therefore, the 75 per cent. in Darlaston would also fit in with the figures which I have given for my constituency in Peterborough. The smaller house will do two jobs. It will mean more houses from materials in short supply and it will also get them at a lower rent.
I believe that we can deal with this housing shortage, and at the same time make a substantial contribution to the solution of the financial difficulties which surround this country today. I accept at once that in allocating the houses once we have got them, need must be the real basis. Need must come first. But it does not necessarily mean that the people who are in need of houses because of physical conditions are necessarily the people who cannot afford to build them themselves or, at any rate, to make a contribution towards building them themselves.
Having said that the need should come first, it means that we accept the need for a ratio between renting and selling. My suggestion is that the ratio should be settled by the local authorities instead of there being a rigid settlement by Whitehall. A ratio of one to five may well suit some areas, but there are other areas where one to two would be better, and 884 who should know better than the local representatives who have to answer to their electors when they have their elections, which are usually more frequent than ours, although our Elections have been rather abnormally frequent over the past two years. If we can leave the ratio to the local authorities, we shall be saving the cost of the subsidy, administration and supervision which are part of the local authorities' expenses, and we shall still be providing the houses. That is my first suggestion, that the ratio should be settled by the local authorities.
The point has been made that in Birmingham and other places where questionnaires have been circulated to find out how many people would build their houses, it has been discovered that only one in five and sometimes one in 10 could afford to do it. I can well understand the terrific number of people in this country who would prefer to build their own houses but who are not able to afford the present high cost of building. They would not be able to afford to rent them if they did not have the benefit of the subsidy.
I believe that in between the house builder and the council house tenant there are some little halting places where we can help. I suggest that, providing there are people well up on the housing lists, we may be able to capitalise half of the annual £22 subsidy in order to bring the purchase price down to a level that they can pay. Let me give an example of what I mean. Take a postwar house the market price of which is £1,450. If we capitalise half the £22 subsidy, that helps to the extent of £304. That means that the selling price to the tenant would be £1,146, which to a building society or under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act they could repay at the rate of £1 2s. 6d. a week.
The advantage would be that the tenant would be getting his house, the council would be saved the maintenance costs and we should be saved half of the subsidy over 60 years. That would mean that the Exchequer would save £495 over the 60 years and the local rates would save £165. In an authority like the one which I know well, where the allocation is about 200 houses a year, if we applied my suggestion to half the houses and if half the houses were taken up in this 885 way, the Exchequer would save £49,500 and the local authority would save £16,500.
If the local authorities want some money to pay the extra rate of interest which they may have to pay for a short time, then we should encourage the sale of the pre-war houses that were built at £475. They could be sold now quite honourably at a market price of £1,100. [An HON. MEMBER: "To whom?"] To the people who are in those houses and who would be willing to take advantage of purchasing them. On a house costing £1,100, a reduction in respect of the capitalised subsidy would amount to £231, so that that house could be bought for £869 at weekly payments of 17s. 1d. That would mean that the local authorities would have a balance of £395 from the pre-war houses which would help them out of their difficulties.
I do not think that this is the last of the methods that could be used to get house ownership. I fully appreciate that some people could build homes without any assistance, whereas others would want the help of half the subsidy; but why not encourage some of the builders and farmers to build houses for their workers? They could be given half the subsidy for 30 years, providing they built the houses for their workers. We all know from our experience that quite a number of people who figure on council housing lists work in one or another of the big works in our areas, and they would be prepared to enter this scheme. I am not suggesting that the houses should be made tied houses.
I know from the contacts that I have made with industrialists and farmers that they would be prepared to build these houses and would undertake to rent them at the same level as council house rents, with the help of half the subsidy for 30 years, provided they had the choice of the first tenant. In many parts of this country the security of tenure in employment is such that people know that as long as they do their job they are going to be there for a good number of years.
These, I believe, are some of the practical points that should be borne in mind. I believe that in doing this the Minister will be obtaining the extra houses which we really must have in this country. I believe that in following the Tory policy of a property-owning democracy, he can 886 help the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the terrific task that lies ahead.
I hope that the whole House and, indeed, the country will follow the appeal which has been made from the Dispatch Box this afternoon to try and take this matter of houses, this social evil which cuts right across social distinctions and weekly incomes, out of the cockpit of party politics. If we settle this problem in a manner which is typically British, it can be overcome, and in overcoming this Teat social problem of housing we shall be helping to bring about a state of affairs which will lead us to greater prosperity in other fields.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfred Fienburgh (Islington, North)
I think it is astonishingly hard on this House that I should now inflict upon hon. Members another maiden speech. We have already had two today and I understand that there are possibly more to come. I apologise for doing so but, having once put down one's name for a maiden speech, it is rather like putting down one's name for a dentist's appointment; it is not the sort of thing one backs out of lightly, because one likes to get it over and done with so as to enter on other and perhaps more controversial debates a little later.
I want to try to be non-controversial. In fact, I think it will be difficult to be really controversial in this House. After I had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Housing and Local Government today demand a redistribution of the national income, I was convinced that the tenets of Socialism itself are no longer a controversial matter in this House. I want to perform not an antagonistic but a complementary service to the work which has been done by hon. Members opposite, because they have turned a very probing searchlight on to the ills and failings, so called, of the publicly-owned industries of this country, and I wish to do the same in respect of privately owned industry.
We are united in our desire that there should be a higher level of production and productivity in this country, and that can come only through a combination of the efforts of both public and private industry. During the past six years, with a rise in productivity and production unprecedented in this country, we have 887 laid the foundations of a creative and expansive economy, which will serve the present Government very well in the current economic difficulties with which they are faced. I would point out, however, that there is very great room for improvement in both private industry and public industry. Although it is very difficult to outline a policy for private industry for an increase in productivity, there are one or two points which, I suggest, would create the sort of climate which will enable the workers in private industry to give further of their best in the national cause.
I make a plea for a greater degree of incentive, for more flexibility and for greater efficiency in privately-owned industry. I think it is now clear from the statements which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made to us that we have little to hope for by way of material incentive for harder endeavour during the next few months and years. The ham which made the incentive in the Yorkshire high tea has now been removed. The consumer goods which provoked a woman to provoke her husband to greater productive efforts have now been removed, or are being restricted, as a result of the re-armament drive. Consequently, material incentives will not be forthcoming in the required amounts, and that is why I suggest that if we can harness the good Socialist incentive of service to mankind and service to the community we can extract a greater contribution from the working people of this country in both public and private industry.
This is not just a shibboleth from Socialist text books. It was proved during the past year when the miners were asked to give up their free time in the open air and the sunshine in order to go beneath the ground to hack out coal. They did it not for bigger pay packets, not for larger overtime payments; they did it because the country needs the coal and they were the only people who could get it. That was national service in response to a national appeal. But there is a moral which I think the House must draw. The miners knew that not one penny piece of unearned increment would go to any other section of the community as a result of their increased endeavours underneath the ground.
888 This is not controversial. It is not controversial because, by their proposals to introduce an Excess Profits Tax, hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the Front Bench opposite, have realised the truth of the proposition that if we are to ask people to increase their already great endeavours we must agree that their enthusiasm will be dimmed if others are to enrich themselves at their expense and at the expense of their labour. I am, therefore, very pleased indeed to welcome the Chancellor's Excess Profits Tax proposal.
There is only one difficulty in which I find myself; it is generally known to be a bad tax. I am too new a Member—and hon. Members have already had one economic dissertation this evening—to go to the lengths of explaining why it is a bad tax. Suffice to say that two Chancellors of the Exchequer—now ex-Chancellors of the Exchequer—have described it as such and, if hon. Members want any further support, Geoffrey Crowther, of the "Economist," thinks it is a bad tax, as well. Faced by the reality of saying that no more unearned increment is to be obtained from the hard work of the British people, why not limit dividends clearly and crisply, as was proposed by the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer in a Labour Government?
The question does not end there. There are other ways of exacerbating the feelings of people who are working hard, than the distribution of excess dividends. Extravagance is as rife in private industry, I suggest, as it is alleged to be in some sectors of public industry, and it is very annoying indeed for people who are working hard to find more motor cars being bought out of covenant to ferry about people whose journeys are really not necessary even in the interests of private industry and private business.
It is very hard indeed to confront them with extravagant directors' fees—extravagant measured by the salaries paid to right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite; it is very difficult to ask them to work hard if they are to see these extravagant directors' fees paid—and that is why I welcome the signal given by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite, even perhaps though I alone on these benches welcome it.
I am very sorry indeed, that, after searching the public Press, I can find only 889 two instances of that signal being acknowledged as received and acted upon. One was the case of Montague Burton's firm, which reduced payments to their directors, and the other was that of a town council in the North of England which denied to the superintendent of its cemetery 3s. of a 7s. rise which he had been promised—and the excuse they gave was that they were acting upon the signal which had been transmitted from this House.
I ask for flexibility in private enterprise. Again, I regard this as complementary to speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite who have asked for flexibility in public enterprise. I suggest that the greatest difficulty in obtaining that flexibility is the existence of the restrictive practices, the semi-monopolistic arrangements, the price rings, and the re-sale price maintenance arrangements which have hamstrung the native genius of our people and put our productive economy in a strait-jacket ever since about the 1930's.
I think it is fair to point out—and I am being non-controversial here, because this has been pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the President of the Board of Trade—that the growth of monopoly in this country in the interwar years was a very serious thing for our economy as a whole. Knowing that the right hon. Gentleman is now a member of His Majesty's Government, I think we can look for some really trenchant and firm action from him to deal with monopoly and restrictive practices among the country's industrialists.
I charge it as one of the failures of the late Government, a Government which I supported, that it was not strong enough in dealing with monopolies, and I am glad to see—and I hope this will be borne out—that hon. Members opposite enjoy the greater confidence of the industrialists. If that is really true they will, then, perhaps be able to persuade them to perform that act of self-immolation which we were unable to force upon them as a Labour Government. The only difficulty I think we shall be in seems to arise from a shrewd suspicion that the reason why Lord Woolton is not prepared to publish the funds of the Tory Party is because it would provide a short and comprehensive guide to the nature and extent of monopoly in the country.
890 We demand an increase in the efficiency of private industry. A great deal of it is very efficient indeed, as is a great deal of public industry—a point which I do not think has been adequately made during the course of this debate. We admit that there are new problems now. There is the shortage of raw materials; there is the shortage of machine tools; but these things should act as a challenge to ingenuity and not as an invitation to despair.
Within this community we have enough enterprise and initiative and endeavour to be able to solve a great many of the problems—not all of them, because some of them are well-nigh intractable; enough enterprise and initiative to lighten some of the burdens imposed upon us by the shortage of raw materials, if only we can cut out waste from a great deal of private enterprise and private industry.
There is a grave charge here. I will not read out the full indictment because I think it is a good thing—I am told it is a good thing, which is forcibly impressed upon me—that a maiden speech be short; but there is a great deal of evidence from the working parties reports, from the Anglo-American Productivity Council's Reports. I could quote them all, but I shall not. However, I will take the liberty of quoting from the words of Sir George Schuster, not a protagonist of Socialism, but a very able man who has devoted a great deal of time to public service. They are words on the subject of efficiency and the demand to improve efficiency in private industry.
Sir George said, in a letter to "The Times," in October, 1949:Progress is much too uneven and too slow. There are many cases where progress is disastrously slow even when the way ahead is clear.There, I think from a purely non-controversial source, is a fair pointer to the state of potential danger in private industry, and it is up to private industry, encouraged, as I am sure it will be, and aided, and, I hope, prompted, and, I hope, provoked by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to improve its methods, to tighten up its efficiency, and to cut out waste.
I think that one of the major steps which could be taken in this direction is to harness the great reserves of skill, knowledge and craftsmanship which exists among the workers in private 891 industry. That is another failure of the late Government. They did not, in my view, do enough to institute joint production and productivity councils throughout private industry. That was because, I am afraid, of the die-hard resistance of some of the hereditary managements in private industry, because those people were content to do as their fathers did before them. Quite frankly, it is not good enough, in this new and expansive age, to run private industry as one's father or grandfather ran it.
I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have the ear of private industry, and who have influence with private industry, will use it to ask the private industrialists throughout the country to draw upon this great reserve of skill and of good will to institute real joint management, institute real joint production committees. I am sure that in that way quite a lot of waste will be cut out, because, believe me, the people who work on the shop floors know where waste is.
There is one final factor which, I think, is needed in creating this climate which will enable the workers in private industry to give of their best. There must be no more talk of the need for a pool or reserve of unemployment to stimulate the people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that hon. Gentlemen opposite are agreed with me in that. They will not attempt to deny that there have been many statements which have implied, suggested or frankly stated that there should be the whip and spur of unemployment in order to make people work hard in private industry.
That incentive is not only barbarous, but it does not work, because if people feel they are working themselves out of a job, then, naturally and protectively, they will introduce restrictive practices to protect their jobs. Because not only do they protect their jobs, but they protect the lives and livelihood of their families, by so doing. The only basis for a really productive, creative, expansive economy is that every worker should be assured of security, assured of full employment, assured that if he is sick or ill the State will come to his assistance through the social services and in other ways.
The new dynamic in the economy can come only on the basis of a socially secure 892 system in which social justice and the elements of fair play and human decency are the guiding principles. If we can go along those lines, if we can manage to create that kind of economy, and if there is anything which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite can do to influence the industrialists who have resisted us for many years, and persuade them to a change of heart, then not only will they qualify for a high place in the history of this country's Governments but they will be performing a tremendous service in raising the standards of the entire community.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (Angus, North, and Mearns)
It is always a privilege to be able to follow an hon. Member making his maiden speech in this House, and I certainly appreciate that privilege greatly tonight. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh), has taken his plunge early into the icy and and somewhat forbidding waters of Parliamentary debate. If he will allow me to say so without any presumption, he has done so with great confidence, with great fluency, and with great vitality. He spoke about the need to create a climate for proper relations between the management and the managed in industry. If I may borrow his own expression, by his maiden speech he has created a climate which will make all hon. Members who have had the privilege of hearing it anxious to hear him again in this House.
Let me, at the outset of the remarks which I want to make tonight, challenge the assumption which seems to me to underlie the Amendment which the House is debating, that we ought to invest Parliamentary Recesses with the kind of rigidity which is afforded to school holidays. I am a great believer in flexibility in these matters. It may well be that on some occasions it is desirable that this House should sit well into August, and that it should meet again in September; but it may well be, too, that at other times there will be no reason more valid than a desire to make party political points why we should not absent ourselves from this House for the greater part of the month of January, provided that—and it is an essential provision—the House should be able to be recalled, in case of necessity, at very short notice.
893 I read a speech made by a very prominent public figure not very long ago in which he said that:We want to preserve the British genius for experiment and innovation. We do not want to impose any drab uniformity, either of habits or of thought.I wonder whether the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), recognises that extract from a recent speech of his. I have never myself been attracted by the idea of membership of this House of Commons being a whole-time occupation. In the 12 or 13 years in which I have been privileged to be a Member of this House, almost always it has seemed to me that the contributions to debate or to the framing of legislation which have been most worth while have been those which have been made by hon. Members who, from their own practical experience in the professions or in the trade and industry and the commerce of the land, did know what they were talking about. I am not a great believer in the professional politician.
Whatever we may have been in the past, we are now a nation of working men and women. It is true that we may not all work hard enough—that is indeed one of the causes of the troubles which face us at the present time; but by and large we all have a job to do; we all have work to do. The more representative of the professions, of the trade, industry and commerce of this country the House of Commons is, the more likely it is that this House will reflect the desires and the aspirations of the men and women of Britain.
It follows from that, I think, that a Government which is truly democratic will concern itself less with compelling the maximum attendance of Members for the greatest possible number of days in the year than with a constant endeavour so to conduct its business and its affairs as to enable hon. Members to have an ample opportunity of maintaining their contacts, both with their constituents and with the commerce and industry of this country. The thing that we have been suffering from in the last six years—and this is no new thought, as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have given expression to in the debate today and in the past week—is not too little government but too much government. I believe so much in the words spoken by Pope:For forms of government let fools contest; Whate'er is best administered is best.894 In recent years there has been far too much tendency that we should be bossed about by officials; there have been far too many regulations, and far too much centralisation of government. What we have got to do is to get back to sound administration.
For the short space of time that I wish to detain the House this evening, may I give an example taken from one Government Department, the one to which most attention has been rightly devoted in the debate today, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Since the days of the old Victorian Local Government Board there have been many changes in the functions and responsibilities of that Department. Now, unless there are to be other changes, of which we have had no notification, the Ministry has to deal with all local government matters: with rating and valuation, with public health, with all housing matters, with rent control, coast protection, with all town and country planning matters, including responsibility for the new towns, and for the national parks.
I think we all agree that housing should have first priority, and the very welcome appointment, if I may say so, of my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), with his great expert knowledge of housing matters, is an indication that housing is to be given that importance which the whole House, and indeed the nation, wants it to have at the present time.
But the Department has other pressing problems to face at the present time, of which I will mention only four. First, there are the rating revaluations under the Local Government Act, 1948. The former Minister announced in August that the Board of Inland Revenue found that it was quite impossible to complete the new rating valuation lists by April, 1953, which was the date laid down, so valuers have been told to concentrate first on nonresidential properties. The intention of this Part of the Local Government Act, as I understood it, was to promote uniformity in rating valuations. Since about 75 per cent. of the rateable value in this country is attributable to dwelling-houses, the problem has only to be stated in that way to show how very far we are from that goal which we all want to achieve.
895 The second matter with which this great Department has to deal is the reform of local government boundaries and functions. It has to set up a new Boundary Commission which will review local authority boundaries and functions, in accordance with principles laid down by this House.
Thirdly, there is the immensely difficult question of the review of the Rent Restrictions Acts—a review which is long overdue. I see from today's paper that the Council of Sanitary Inspectors is now urging my right hon. Friend to undertake a measure of reform in the interests of preserving the houses, some of the greatest assets of our country—and that is the point of view from which we look at it, for we regard houses as perhaps the greatest physical assets of this country. There is no doubt that many houses are falling into disrepair and becoming slums because the amount that owners are able to devote to the repair of property is now, owing to the rising cost of repairs, quite inadequate to keep them in order.
§ Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
The hon. Gentleman is talking about a review of the Rent Restrictions Acts and the question of property repairs. If landlords had looked after their property in the past—and I know something of this in the great City of Birmingham—property would not be in such a bad state of repair now. They have drawn enough rent already to pay the increased costs without taking more rent from tenants.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I am most anxious not to make a party political point in the short time at my disposal. I simply say that one of the things which this great Government Department has to face is a review of the Rent Restrictions Acts. I shall not suggest how it should be done, or even why it should be done, except to say that it is a problem which, I think, is admitted by all parts of the House—certainly it is widely recognised in the country—as one of the problems which has to be tackled at the present time.
The fourth problem and the one with which I want to deal particularly is that of the amendment of the financial provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. Now I do not go as far as the writer of a letter in the "Daily 896 Telegraph" the other day, who said that when he considered the delays in making application for housing development and the incidence of development charges, itmakes one wonder if the Act was not passed to prevent housing.I would not go as far as that, but there is no doubt that the development charge procedure both retards house building and increases the cost of houses, and it is a part of this problem of achieving the maximum number of houses which must not be overlooked.
I would not stress this unduly, but we as a party are pledged to amend this Act. Successive Conservative Party conferences have pledged themselves unanimously, or by very large majorities, to undertake a review of the financial provisions of the Act, and to bring in an amending Measure at the earliest possible date. The point I want to make is that, if we are to amend the Act—and I am sure we are all in agreement about the need—then it ought to be done this Session. Let me say why. First of all, we are tied by a very awkward date in the 1947 Act—the date 1st July, 1953, by which all the payments under the £300 million Compensation Fund have to be completed; we are tied to that date.
In passing, I would observe that it has always seemed to me quite unnecessary and quite wrong that the Treasury should be asked to make an inflationary payment of that kind at a time when it may be most inconvenient. I can see no reason at all why we should make this inflationary payment of £300 million by July, 1953, when I submit it can be done in quite another way. Many of the recipients may have no need of the money at all or will have no need of it until they are denied the possibility of development. That is only one reason why an amending Act is desirable.
In order to achieve this task of making all payments out of the £300 million by 1st July, 1953, the apportionment of that fund between Scotland, on the one hand, and England and Wales, on the other, has to be made by the Treasury. When that apportionment has been made, the Treasury have to draw up a scheme, which has to be approved by both Houses of Parliament to provide on what basis the amounts are to be divided. That scheme must be through next summer if we are to get the money divided out by 897 1953. Until we get the scheme, and until we know whether there is to be an amending Act, there is the most fantastic waste of time going on.
I confess to an interest in the matter, because, as a chartered surveyor I have spent a great deal of time worrying about claims and discussing them with overworked officials of the Inland Revenue, claims which may never have to be considered at all. There is the waste of time also by district valuers, and this is much more important because they have a great deal on their plates under the Local Government Act. I quite understand that an amending Act of this character must not be rushed. It would be absolutely wrong if it were hurried unduly.
I know how difficult it is to secure agreement on highly technical problems of this kind. I have sat on more than one committee, one of which considered for months, and almost for years, how the Act could best be amended. On one committee we produced almost as many minority reports as there were members of the committee. It is no easy problem, but I am sure, nevertheless, that it must be tackled.
In politics the compromise solution is not seldom the surest wisdom. We must find a solution which will command sufficient general acceptance in this House and in the country to ensure its permanence. Nothing could be more unsettling to the practice of planning and to the enlightened management of our land than failure to achieve an agreed solution of the problem of compensation and betterment, which has always lain at the heart of this problem of town and country planning.
Many of us in this House and in the country who believe in the immense importance of planning the right use of the diminishing area of land in this country, have observed with some dismay the successors of the Government which, in 1943, in some of the darkest days of the war, had the vision and the foresight to set up the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and the wisdom to appoint you, Mr. Speaker, as its first Minister, confining its functions in 1951 to a Ministry which is likely to be busy enough in all conscience with other matters and which is not at present adequately equipped to answer to this House for the proper and efficient discharge of those functions.
898 This House is to be asked very shortly to approve a Measure for setting up additional Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales. I do not deny the need for that. Indeed, I know how important it is in the case of Scotland, at any rate, that there should be an additional Under-Secretary of State, but I believe it is scarcely less important that there should be an additional Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I am convinced that sooner or later that Ministry will have to be strengthened by the inclusion of someone who is versed in planning law and practice, and who will be responsible to the Minister for all town and country planning matters.
Such a Parliamentary Secretary could apply himself at once to preparing the outlines of an amending Bill and discussing and agreeing the details with those who would have to work it. There are many of us who are desperately anxious that we should not forget the planning of the right use of the land of this country and who pray that such a Bill will be one of those "other Measures" which will be laid before us here in due course.
May I say, in conclusion, that every student of politics must have noticed how often history repeats itself. A correspondent in "The Times" some 10 weeks ago called attention to a quotation from Macaulay which is so relevant to our situation today that I cannot forbear from quoting it before I sit down. Something like 100 years ago, Macaulay wrote:Our rulers will best promote the improvement of the nation by strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties, by leaving capital to find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price, industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and folly their natural punishment, by maintaining peace, by defending property, by diminishing the price of law and by observing strict economy in every department of the State. Let the Government do this; the people will assuredly do the rest.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
We have just heard from the hon. Member for Angus, North, and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), some suggestions which would, if put into effect, mean not a saving of Government money, as the Tories suggested in their manifesto, but additional Government expenditure. I understand from him that he wants an additional Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and an additional Parliamentary 899 Secretary for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. By that means he may feel that we shall be able to reach, not the target. as the Deputy Leader of the House quoted this afternoon—it has ceased to be a target—but the definite pledge of a minimum of 300,000 houses per year, which the Conservatives promised at the recent Election.
I doubted at the time of the Election whether it would be possible, with the men and materials available, to carry out that promise unless there was some system of maintaining and, in some instances, extending controls. Therefore, I put a Question this afternoon to the Minister of Housing and Local Government asking him to tell me what controls it was his intention to retain, what controls he intended to introduce, and what controls he intended to remove altogether. The right hon. Gentleman promised that he would let me have an answer when he made his speech. Up to now, I have not heard any answer to these questions. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went further, and asked the Minister to give to us some tangible explanation of the ways and means by which the Government intended to implement their pledge of a minimum of 300,000 houses a year.
I am very interested in this housing problem, because, with my colleague, the hon. Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones), I have the somewhat doubtful honour of representing the worst bombed borough in the whole of the country. I would like to point out to the Minister that there are peculiarities in the housing problem which vary from town to town and borough to borough. When I tell him that in West Ham we had completely destroyed, during the last war, 14,000 houses, and 38,000 damaged, and that the total number of buildings either destroyed or damaged was 56,700, I think he will appreciate what difficulty our local council have in dealing with the problem of housing.
It is not only a question of the loss of the houses; it is a question of the loss of the rateable value to the council, because of the destruction not only of the houses but of factories and shops. It is, in fact, true to say that we have in West Ham lost over £1,400,000 since the blitz. If we are to deal with the housing problem on a fair and proper basis we have not only to build 300,000 900 houses but we have to see that the blitzed towns, which have already lost, in some instances, as much as 10 to 15 years of housing progress, receive special priority in men and materials—because that is important—but also special financial assistance to help them out of their economic difficulties.
I am hoping, therefore, that the Minister will see that blitzed cities or towns have allocated to them by a system of control, additional materials and additional finances which will allow them to encourage building trade workers into those areas, and enable them to make up the leeway that has been lost over the last few years. I hope the Minister will appreciate that it is no good. from the public point of view, having, say, 1,000 houses built in an area such as Worthing or Bournemouth, and only one or two houses built in an area like West Ham or Southampton, or wherever the problem is great.
I am asking him this evening to see that when he starts on his implementation of the pledge of 300,000 houses a year houses are erected in the areas where they are most urgently needed. We have 14,600 people on our urgent priority list, and I do not want to see the Government introducing a system of building houses for private purchase for people who may be living in quite reasonable circumstances where a reasonable number of houses is already available. I want to see a system whereby we are to have both houses to let and, if the Government insist, for sale, on the understanding that there will be no suffering in the areas such as I have quoted, which will suffer if men and material are taken away to build houses where they are not so urgently needed.
I believe that there must be not only the continuance of controls but an extension of controls, and a system of finding out what is the need of a particular borough or area. If it is found that an area has not an urgent problem, then I would suggest stopping house building in that area, and directing the materials into areas where there is a more urgent need. I think that it is immoral for people to have more accommodation than is really necessary, when there is a deplorable shortage of houses in industrial and rural areas.
901 I suggest three things which the Minister should do. First, give a pledge that there will not be any suffering caused to those who want houses to let because of his system of having houses for sale; second, give additional financial assistance to those areas which really need such assistance to carry on and to implement their housing programme; and, third, provide some incentive to building workers to work in areas where houses are most needed.
I have not the time, because.I promised you. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to be brief, to deal with all of, what I would term, the false promises and false pledges contained in the Tory Party Election manifesto. But the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, when he made his speech, must, I think, have been under some misapprehension because he spoke, at least I thought he did, as though he really believed that the Tories intended to carry out what they said during the General Election. That comes very strange from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, because I know him to be a very astute and capable politician, and a very capable man.
For him to believe that the Tories intend to carry out any of their Election promises surprises me, because he was present in the House, sitting on the Government side, when the present Prime Minister, who was then the official Leader of the Opposition, said in this Chamber on 7th February this year:I do not admit as democratic constitutional doctrine that anything that is stuck into a party manifesto thereupon becomes a mandated right if the electors vote for the party who draw up the manifesto."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1951; Vol. 483, c. 1748.]The Deputy Leader of the Opposition had fair warning, so did the people and the electorate. When the next Election comes, as it will, and the electorate find out that none of the promises of the Tory Government has been carried out, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be back on the benches opposite with a Labour Government with a bigger majority than we had even in 1945.
§ 7.51 p.m.
Mr. Nigel Fisher S5CV0493P0-13Nov1951 (Hitchin)
In following the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis), I hope he will acquit me of any discourtesy in not dealing with 902 his later remarks because I want to concentrate my speech on the question of the physical capacity of the building material producers and also on the question of the design of houses. I do not want to go into the labour position, for, after all, we have approximately the same labour available as there was before the war. I see no impossibility from the labour point of view of building 300,000 houses, as before the war 350,000 were achieved, provided we have proper incentives—
§ Mr. Fisher
I am coming to the question of price. The essentials would be an adequate supply of cement, timber and bricks. With the record output of cement under private enterprise I hope there will be no difficulty, and I was encouraged by the confirmation of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) on that. There is no world shortage of timber, if housing is given first priority after defence. It was never really accorded that priority by the last Government. I think we shall be able to obtain sufficient supplies of timber from Canada and Scandinavia as soon as the national financial position we inherited is cleared up.
The main difficulty will be experienced in the supply of bricks. The production is only 6,000 million a year as compared with 8,000 million a year before the war. There are a good many reasons for that short-fall, none of which, I submit, is due to any failure on the part of the chief brick producers. I believe I am right in saying that the Labour Government of planners gave first priority in demobilisation to bricklayers but quite forgot to accord the same priority to brick makers, which was an unfortunate start. Nevertheless, the brick companies made great efforts after the war. Works were put in order, machinery renewed, labour attracted back to the industry and night shifts were started. By the autumn of 1947, the difficulties had been largely overcome, and the way seemed quite clear for an all-out productive effort.
Then, like a sudden frost in springtime came the sudden cuts in capital expenditure in October, 1947. If an unforeseen frost destroys the blossom, one cannot blame the trees if, later in the summer, they do not bear enough fruit 903 to meet the demand. That is what happened to this and many other industries, and the repercussions were extensive and prolonged. The brick makers were told that the demand would be curtailed. In fact, the demand fell to under 50 per cent. of the productive capacity of the industry during the winter of 1947–48. Works were closed down and night shifts ceased to be operated, and the labour force, which had been very carefully built up, began to drift away.
Some of the larger companies continued to produce in excess of demand in order to retain their labour against future higher production for which they hoped. They stocked bricks for as long as space and financial prudence permitted. But there is a limit beyond which one cannot go because one has not enough space or finance, and even the biggest companies were soon forced to adjust their production to the demand. Development programmes, on which future production entirely depended, were abandoned and works were closed down.
I wish to call attention to the cause and to the lesson of all this. I do not want to be too controversial, but I think the cause was the reckless financial policy of the Government in the two years after the war, which resulted in 1947 in the abrupt slowing down of production in the industry. Sudden changes of that sort in Government policy are bound to have that sort of effect. The lesson to be learned is that it is quite impossible to build up productive capacity by suddenly alternatins policies, first of boosting production and then curtailing it. What is wanted is a steadily expanding programme of development and, to ensure that, Government targets, once decided upon, must be adhered to, or at any rate not drastically reduced.
Another vital factor in the brick industry is the present shortage of labour, due at least in part to shortage of houses in the brickfields. I hope the Government will begin by building more houses in the brickfields to attract more labour there and thus be able to step up production of bricks in order to build more houses for the country generally.
We all have an enormous constituency correspondence in these days. I suppose it would not be an exaggeration to say 904 that 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of it is on housing cases. It is frustrating and heart-breaking to be unable to respond, and I know that hon. Members opposite feel the same. Let the Government targets be settled and then kept to, so that all the resources of the industry can be mobilised and all the officialdom minimised as far as possible. As my right hon. Friend said, there is much talk about social services to which all parties subscribe, but this is the greatest social service of all and the one which has been most neglected by the party opposite, who have done so little in more than six years, with plenty of opportunity, to redeem their election promises of 1945.
Lastly, there is the question of design. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend or his Parliamentary Secretary have inspected two houses which have recently been designed and built by private enterprise at Ipswich. They are of traditional brick and tile construction and took only five months to build. The cost was £1,106 per house and the selling price, including land, is £1,226 per house. I ask the House to compare these figures with prices, which vary in different parts of the country, but are no less than £1.500, for council houses.
§ Mr. Fisher
I am not making a controversial point. Moreover, over and above that price, councils have to pay architects' fees and surveyors' fees so that the price is at least £1,600 per house, whereas the plans and specifications of these two houses at Ipswich can be purchased by any local authority for the sum of two guineas, so that architects' and surveyors' fees are saved. This large saving of £500 in the capital cost of these houses would naturally be reflected in lower rents.
Of course, one readily admits that this has not been achieved without some simplification in design and some loss of amenities. There is only one lavatory, there are fewer cupboards, there are no picture rails, there is no outhouse and the living space is 17 square feet less than the requirements of the Ministry Circular 38/51.
These are disadvantages, but I sincerely believe that there are many thousands of 905 people in this country who have been waiting in growing desperation year after year for a roof of their own over their heads and who would willingly submit to these disadvantages if it meant getting a house cheaper and quicker.
There is one interesting feature which I wish to mention. I was talking earlier of the brick shortage. These houses require only 16,000 bricks per house, compared with approximately 20,000 for an ordinary council house. The houses are designed in multiples of standard brick size so that the bricks do not have to be cut. That is very important, as it means a tremendous saving in man hours on the site because in the time it takes a man to cut one brick he can lay two. The actual saving in man-hours is over 500 hours per house, which is one of the reasons these houses are built more quickly and cheaply than the ordinary sort. There is also a saving in timber. These houses take 1.3 standards per house compared with 1.6 standards required for the ordinary house.
If we on this side of the House win in the Lobby tonight, which if last night is any criterion looks rather like a pushover, and if Ministers are thus granted the easement to which I think they are fully entitled, and are permitted a little study in their Departments while we go on vacation, I hope that my right hon. Friend will occupy one day of his time in visiting these houses and considering whether or not it might be advisable to issue licences for their construction. I believe they represent an advance in technique which might speed up the supply of houses and which might also tend to reduce their cost. That is an objective which on both sides of the House, whatever our politics, we are all earnestly seeking and most earnestly desire.
I do not for a moment suggest that these Ipswich houses are the whole of the complete answer, but I hope that there may be some way of retaining the better features of them, because there are many good features, and perhaps of avoiding the disadvantages which one acknowledges do exist. If there is such a way, I feel sure that my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary will find it.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I hope that the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Fisher) will forgive me if I do not try to follow him into a debate on housing on this occasion, because, interesting and important as that subject is, that is not the issue before us tonight. But the fact that it has developed so much in the course of the debate is only one other illustration of the importance of giving as much Parliamentary time as possible from now on to debating the very highly important subjects which are causing the people so much concern; and it indicates how necessary it is that this Amendment. should have been tabled.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Angus, North, and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) has left the Chamber, as I should have liked to say a word or two about his arguments in regard to rents of and repairs to houses. As one of my hon. Friends has pointed out, it is true that while landlords are complaining about the cost of repairs and the impossibility of carrying out some of the very expensive repairs which are necessary in the case of very old property under the rent restriction arrangements, that state of affairs is in most cases almost entirely their own responsibility, because it is precisely those houses which have been neglected for many years which involve the high cost which would now be necessary to put them into a habitable condition.
It is interesting to note that even though the King's Speech does not mention the Conservative proposal to interfere with the existing Rent Restrictions Acts the hon. Member made a very strong plea for that proposal to be brought into operation this Session. That is merely another one of the many items which have been concerning many people, which will continue to concern them and which they will place against the Conservative promises to reduce the cost of living.
We have seen nothing so far in this Parliament to indicate that there is to be anything but a very greatly increased cost of living in regard to rents and many other items. The Election will go down in history as the great betrayal, because I do not think that anyone has ever seen anything like it. Not even the notorious Baldwin Election of 1935, when the then 907 Prime Minister went to the country on a disarmament programme, and, when returned to power. planned a re-armament programme and bluntly said in the House of Commons that if he had stated his policy before the Election he would not have won it, was not a patch on what we have seen during the last week.
It was repeatedly thrown at us last week that we are still living in the Election period, that we could not leave the Election behind. It is quite true. After all, why are we here if not because of the Election and the fact that millions of people are thinking very much about what was said during the Election? They are perhaps thinking more than they did during the hectic days of the Election itself.
References have been made to the "dishonest" campaign carried on by the Labour Party, when a number of our people were, I understand, charged with calling the opposite party warmongers. We were told that that was unfair. I did not call them warmongers myself. All I did was to quote some of their own speeches and leave it to my audiences to make their own decisions. It was one of our Conservative opponents in Sheffield who spoke of dropping an atom bomb on North Korea in the early stages of that conflict.
I quoted the Conservative candidate, for, I think, Bridlington, or one of his sponsors at his adoption meeting, when he said that we ought to have punched Persia on the nose even if it meant war. He went on to say that the Socialists would never have war because they have not got it in them, but that the Tories—I like the word "Tories"—were made of sterner stuff. It was not for me to accuse these people of any motives or to accuse them of being warmongers; it was sufficient to quote what they themselves said.
If we are talking about unfair charges, was ever a more monstrous charge made in the course of this Election than that made by every Conservative candidate and in every Conservative broadcast and publication to the effect that the troubles that the country found itself in at present, the cost of living among other things, were due to the mismanagement of the Socialist Government.
§ Mr. Hynd
Surely the hon. Gentleman has not been listening to his own Front Bench speakers. In the course of the last week they have specifically denied that, even if those denials were unnecessary.
Never in the history of this country has there been such an increase in production and in the export trade. Never before has there been full employment during the industrial age. All that has been achieved during the period of the Socialist Government, and the hon. Member knows it is monstrously unfair to make any such charge.
§ Mr. Hynd
I do not require to repeat everything which was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I refer the hon. Member to the speech of his own Minister.
I could give instance after instance of how the position, generally and in particular, was grossly and deliberately misrepresented not only by candidates individually but by the Tory Central Office. A particularly mean example, which was repeated all over the country, and I think, even on the wireless by one leading Tory spokesman, was that the Rowntree Report, which was very much discussed during the Election, proved that there was a greater measure of poverty among our old people of pension age than there had been in the comparable pre-war period.
I checked up on that to see precisely what it was they were talking about because I knew that the Report said nothing of the kind. It was a twist, a clever and a cheap twist, because although there is a lower number, a very small number, of people under the poverty line today as compared with pre-war, there is a bigger proportion of people over pensionable age among that small number than there was among the millions which existed before the war when there were probably hundreds of thousands of old people. That is the kind of cheap, dishonest propaganda that one notices from the Tory Party which accused this party of calling them warmongers during 909 the Election. I could give more instances, but I do not wish to take up too much time on that matter.
I wish to indicate the reasons why I think it is an unfortunate thing, to put it mildly, that we should be asked to break up for such a long period so soon after this most significant Parliament has taken up its responsibilities. In looking at the Tory document, "Britain Strong and Free," which is a statement of Conservative and Unionist policy—not a statement of the Liberal and Conservative policy, or Liberal National and Conservative, or National Liberal and Conservative policy—I found that on page 4 it says this, under the heading "Socialism has failed the people:"Socialists hate criticism. In their own eyes they can do no wrong. Their mistakes and follies are always somebody else's fault. If only wars left no problems, if only other countries were more reasonable, if only weather had been better, if only the Press were more understanding, if only the Opposition would stop opposing them—then everything would he all right.How familar that is, because we have had precisely that from the opposite side of the House all last week. If only the Opposition will stop opposing us they said. After carrying on the policy of harassing the Government and driving them night after night until Members collapsed; after months of that kind of policy, they now appeal to us for unity in order to help them get over their difficulties.
We have heard about the weather from Ministers; that if it were not for the weather they would be able to do a great deal more. We have heard this afternoon about how much more we could do if it were not for the war in the Far East. The Tories have had to eat their own words, but that they should have charged us with these things as crimes during the General Election and caught votes in that way, and should then come to the House immediately afterwards and ask for the support of our party to carry out a policy under cover of that kind of excuse, is asking too much.
I do not need to go over the Tory promises. The House is familiar with the fantastic situation we have seen unfolding itself during the past week, and the country, also, is familiar with it. Many examples could be given, but I think that one of the clearest last week was regarding the Liverpool Cotton Exchange, par- 910 ticularly coming, as it did, from the Minister who had to put that one over.
We also had one from the Prime Minister yesterday. He was dealing with the Tory policy of cutting down the number of Government Departments and Ministers—the key to the present Tory policy. The Prime Minister was arguing how he could reconcile an answer giving the number of Government appointments at the present time, compared with the previous Government, with the suggestion made by his hon. Friends. He said:We must not lose sight at all of our main objectives At the same time, the point of view somewhat alters as events develop."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 647.]That, of course, merely paraphrases what was said by my hon. Friend about the famous statement about shoving promises into election addresses and then being expected to carry them out—
§ Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
The hon. Member may not have been in the House when the Prime Minister made that statement. I would like to remind the House of the occasion on which he said it. It was being put forward by the then Government as a pretext for not doing something, because it had not been contained in their election address and in their election programme. That is the reply given by the then Leader of the Opposition. The fact that it was not included in the election programme was no reason why they should not do it.
§ Mr. Hynd
I gather that the hon. and gallant Member is referring to the quotation made by my hon. Friend. I was in the House on that occasion, but my recollection was that it was made in reply to a claim that the Government, having been returned at two General Elections, and having promised to nationalise steel, considered that that was a mandate and it was the reply of the then Leader of the Opposition that it was a new doctrine that because someone stuck something in an election manifesto—[Interruption.] Yes, hon. Members can check that one up.
That is simply one more indication of how the Government has completely switched round. As a matter of fact, they are not switching their policy; they are running away from policy. Several speeches we have had have contained pleas for more administration and less 911 legislation. They have been answering criticisms that they are not doing this and that which they promised in the election speeches. They have said that we have been having too much legislation, that it is time we had a rest, that we want more administration. That surely means nothing more than they are prepared to carry on and administer the very policy they themselves have spent six years denouncing; the policy they have claimed was responsbile for bringing the country to its knees and wrecking the whole of our economy.
Their arguments in many cases are most remarkably contradictory. I will give as an example the strange argument used by the President of the Board of Trade when he told us that handing back the Liverpool Cotton Exchange to private enterprise meant keeping it under public control and ownership. That is the strange argument he used and HANSARD is well worth reading on that point. He said:There are differences about this, but I think there are solid advantages in favour of that free system, not least the invisible earnings we got from it.He went on:But it is also true that in fact our present foreign exchange position makes it impracticable at present to allow the free use of dollars in trading in cotton.…In other words, the advantage of it is that we get more foreign exchange and the reason why it cannot be done is that it costs too much foreign exchange. That is a very curious argument and I would like an elaboration of it.
He went on to say that the reason why they did not do it was that our present foreign exchange positionmakes it impracticable at present to allow the free use of dollars in trading in cotton and that fact alone would prevent a return to the free working or completely free working of the Liverpool Cotton Exchange."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 585.]If that is not a complete answer to the suggestions we repeatedly hear that private enterprise is concerned with the national interests I do not know what is. The Minister was saying that private enterprise, if it got the chance, would go abroad and spend dollars irrespective of what might be the interests of the country, entirely in the interests of their own personal profit and trade. [Laughter.] I 912 do not know why hon. Gentleman laugh. That is precisely what their own Minister said, that they could not trust private enterprise to look after the national interest.
§ Mr. Hynd
It is not a question of interpretation. The Minister's words were that it wasimpracticable at present to allow the free use of dollars in trading in cottonbecause it would cost too many dollars.
Yesterday, we had a debate on iron and steel and here again we had the fantastic position that our great key industry, on which our whole defence programme depends, and which, of all industries, should be in the control of the nation and taken out of the interests of private profit makers, was being taken out of the control of the nation and handed over to these private profit makers. That, of course, is in accordance with classic Tory policy, but is a strange contradiction of the kind of policy that we have heard in other directions during last week.
I want to say something further about national unity and the peculiar bracketing of appeals for national unity with the kind of speeches that we have heard this afternoon, which are trying to charge all our economic difficulties on to the Labour Government. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. Either our present difficulties are difficulties arising from international conditions over which, as their Ministers have repeatedly said, they can have no control—in which case there would be a case for national unity and a case for an apology from the Tory Party for the kind of tactics they carried on over the last two or three years—or, alternatively, the situation is not due to the conditions referred to by their Ministers, but entirely due to the policy carried on by the Socialist Party.
If there is to be national unity then, of course, there would be some logic and some sense in the appeals that have been made for greater production, for the cooperation of the trade unions and the co-operation of the Opposition. As for international conditions, as some hon. Members opposite are not even now convinced by the speeches of their own Ministers of what exactly is the economic situation of the country, I should like to remind 913 them of some figures which are especially interesting and which I have not yet seen brought into the context of this argument.
After the 1914–18 war, we were, as we were after the last war, engaged on a reconstruction effort. By 1920 we had reached 92 per cent. of our 1913 production. By 1921 that had fallen to 55 per cent. of our 1913 production. Following the last war, by June, 1947, we had reached 107 per cent. of the 1938 production, and by June, 1948, we had reached 116 per cent. of the 1938 production. Surely, if any figures are needed to dispose of the suggestion that either the fall in the value of the £or the economic conditions of the country was due to any collapse of our economy or falling production, that is sufficient answer.
But, if it is not, I should like to refer to a statement made in April, 1951, by the present Colonial Secretary, who, speaking for the then Opposition, said:I should like to begin by saying how delighted I am with the financial results for 1950–51. I make no bones about it that they are far better than I ever estimated that they would be in my greatest moments of optimism. If we could ignore the causes which led to so much of the recovery, I think that we should all have solid grounds for satisfaction. Everybody in the House is heartened by the achievements of our exporters.He concluded:Every Member of the Committee, I am sure, feels great satisfaction that at the beginning of 1951 we can stand on our own feet and do not have to rely any more upon external aid."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 1045.]That was on 11th April, 1951—less than six years after the end of the war and only two years after we had been faced with a 600 million dollar deficit. By this time, the middle of 1951, we had wiped out the dollar deficit. We had created a dollar surplus. We had established a record of production and exports which enabled us, as the present Colonial Secretary said, at last to stand upon our own feet. It fact, we were in a better position vis-à-vis international trade union we had been for many years preceding the last war.
That was in the middle of April, 1951. It was just at that time—just immediately after that time—that the Korean war broke out.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
In a booklet issued by his own party for this Election, and called "Toryism—the road to chaos," the hon. Gentleman will find the statement that undoubtedly devaluation was a cause of a considerable amount of the rise in the cost of raw materials—and that was the action of the Socialist Government.
§ Mr. Hynd
I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not want to divert me into a discussion on devaluation, because I know that other hon. Members want to speak. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but we have had this argument before. There is ample evidence, not only from this side of the House but from the other side, as to the exact repercussions of devaluation upon prices in relation to the effect of the Korean war and the rearmament programme. Hon. Members know that very well. Their laughter and criticism in this respect is clearly dishonest.
§ Mr. Hynd
I am talking about the facts which everybody know—that the increase in world prices which hit this country in the middle of this year was not due to devaluation but almost entirely to the tremendous inflation in raw material and other world prices against this country. An hon. Gentleman opposite shakes his head, but what is the point of that? He knows very well indeed, as so does everybody else, that that is true. Therefore, I do not want to waste any more time upon it.
It is in face of this that we get these appeals for national unity and increased production from the trade unions, and are expected to take them without any kind of criticism. We hear a lot of talk about increased production but it is not 915 enough for hon. Members opposite simply to make appeals for that production without expecting a reply. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I will tell hon. Gentlemen. It is because the workers want to see that there is real national unity in both directions. They want to see that there is a real attempt to make a contribution from both sides.
I have here an interesting little extract from Don Iddon's Diary in the "Continental Daily Mail." Apparently Don Iddon had been visiting America's Cote d'Azur. He said:American businessmen, back from abroad, say to me: 'Why don't they wake up in Europe? They will all have to work a lot harder—as hard or harder than Americans—improve their salesmanship, regain their pride, become financially independent.' Some say: The unions and the Welfare State are making many people bone idle—they need a real dressing-down '.He describes the place where these people were talking:All the Hamptons—Westhampton, Southampton. Easthampton, Hampton Bays, on Long Island—seem to have a mint of money. This is becoming America's Cote d'Azur and is dedicated to idling, drinking, sunning, swimming, gambling, drinking, sailing, fishing, dancing, and—er—drinking. Many of the residents do not go into New York to work as they do not know what work is, but there is an earnest little hand, including your correspondent, that does.He also describesthe prosperous looking old men escorting dazzling blondes.This kind of appeal for more production, this kind of "dressimg-down" from American and from British business men, and from American and British "spivs," will have no effect at all upon our workers except to exasperate them.
Perhaps some hon. Members may ask why I quote America. I can quote some of their own friends. I am sorry that the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) is not here, because she took part in a television programme last Friday, when she spoke about the difficulties which the Government were having to face. To illustrate the economic position by a simple, homely illustration, the noble Lady said, "It is like when you get those little slips from the banker showing that you have got an overdraft."
The noble Lady was apparently unaware that many millions of humble 916 working people watch television programmes, yet this, apparently, was her idea of a homely illustration of the economic position. It did not seem to occur to her that there are many millions of people who have not got a banker and do not know what a bank overdraft is. We have to come down to earth if we are to get any response from working people to appeals for more production.
I should have liked to go into various other points, but I will curtail my remarks because other hon. Members wish to speak. We have been dealing almost entirely with home affairs, and what we have heard about home affairs—housing, production and all the rest—has given sufficient evidence of the need for the maximum amount of discussion in this Parliament and the minimum duration of Recesses.
In addition to home affairs, there are also foreign affairs, and, without wanting to go back into the Election arguments, I want to say that we have heard a lot about the "two-fisted policy"—the policy which the Tory Party would pursue abroad and the tremendous change that would take place in foreign affairs. In the Prime Minister's speech the other day, he informed us that he would be pursuing the policy which was adopted by the late Government, and, particularly, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison).
In regard to the wider situation, he did not admit that a third war was inevitable, and he went on to pay an astonishing tribute to the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, and not only to him but also to those who worked faithfully with him. Although there is not much sign of a change in foreign policy, there are one or two aspects of foreign policy which I think the House ought to have the opportunity of debating as soon as possible.
Very shortly, there is to be a meeting at Strasbourg of the Council of Europe. We have heard a lot in the last six years about real European unity, but the only contribution which we have had towards European unity so far in this Parliament was the statement that we are now to curtail a lot of our imports from Europe and many of the open licences which were operated by the former Government. Is that assisting European trade and a move towards liberalising European trade?
917 I have myself attended many conferences on this subject, along with the Minister for Housing and Local Government, who was an enthusiastic supporter of the idea, but this is certainly no contribution to that liberalisation of European trade. I wonder whether the famous green-and-white flag of the Council of Europe is now to be imprinted with the mark of the jackboot of the new exponents of European unity. This is something which we ought to have an opportunity of debating very soon.
There is also the question of the Colonies, and we ought to have the opportunity of debating the important and urgent questions of colonial administration which the House has not yet had an opportunity to discuss under the new Government. Apparently, we are to break up until February before we are given any opportunity of discussing them. The new Secretary of State for the Colonies has given us very little lead in this matter. He has said that the Government party do not intend to reverse the progress made towards self-government in the Colonies, but he has stated nothing positive at all.
May we not have some clear indication before we break up of what the Government intend to do about the proposal for the federation of Central Africa? I have heard it stated by Conservative hon. Members that they are prepared to go on with it whether the Africans like it or not, because they are convinced that it is in the Africans' own interests. If this is the intention of the Government, we should be told, because it is a direct departure from the policy adopted by the Government which has just gone out of office. One would also like to know what they are going to do about the trusteeship territories and about Basutoland.
It would seem that those who came to ask for an assurance that these territories will not be handed over to South Africa without the agreement of the inhabitants are going back disappointed. Is that true or not? If it is, then we ought to have an opportunity to discuss it before the. Government and this country become tied to that policy.
What about West Africa? What about East Africa? What about all this other development towards self-government which is going on? I see that in the "West African Pilot" there is an article 918 headed, "Good Night to Colonial Freedom." We are told that the appointment of the new Government has sent a wave of hope throughout the world. There is no such wave in the Colonial Empire. because they are asking what is to be the position regarding colonial policy now that the new Government have come in. They have reminded us that had the Tory Party been in power in 1945, we should not have made the progress towards colonial freedom which has so far been achieved. India would not have been liberated, nor would Pakistan or Ceylon. That is perfectly clear.
The colonial peoples are asking what the present Tory Government propose to do with regard to the other territories. Are they prepared to pursue the policy so well laid down by the Labour Government, or will they adopt the policy expounded by the present Prime Minister when we gave freedom to India and these other territories? Therefore, it is a very pertinent question we should be asking tonight—why are we being sent away for this long Recess? I know it has been said once or twice that there is no lack of precedent for this, and that it is not unconstitutional. Indeed, if it were simply to give time to the Government to think out a policy and to give Ministers an opportunity of discussing matters with their Departments, I do not think there would be very much objection from this side of the House. In announcing the Christmas Recess, the right hon. Gentleman said:This period will give Ministers the opportunity which we need of acquainting ourselves with every detail of the administration, and of shaping with knowledge and study the many necessary measures which must be taken to secure our livelihood as a community and our safety as a nation.He went on to say that they wanted to have full opportunityfor using the machinery of the Departments to aid us in framing and shaping policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1951; c. 72–73.]I wish the right hon. Gentleman had stated that at the top of the Conservative election manifesto because then the people would have realised that the Tory Party had no policy and that we are to be governed, apparently, by civil servants. As I say if that were the only intention of this long Recess, I do not think there would be much objection from this side 919 of the House. But I am concerned in case this is only the beginning.
I should like whoever is to reply to this debate to say whether or not the Government are proposing from now on to adopt this method towards Parliamentary discussion as a definite policy, and whether they intend to have short Sessions of Parliament and to curtail the Sittings of the House to round about four months of the year in order that they can pursue more delegated legislation and give less time to Parliament and the representatives of the constituencies to probe their policy and examine their administration. I should like to know whether that is the case, and I would emphasise that it is most important that we should know that, because on the answer to that question will be decided our attitude towards the proposal for an early Christmas Recess.
There have been some rather sinister signs during these last few days as to the intention of the Government. The other day we had the spectacle of the Liberal leader making a proposal. Apparently he got it wrong, and it had to be repudiated from the Government Front Bench as being extra-constitutional, unjustified and indefensible. Therefore, it is important that we should take every opportunity of demanding that the constitutional rights of the Opposition in this House should be maintained. Unless we get a satisfactory answer to the question whether this is merely the beginning of a new policy of ignoring Parliament, there is no question at all that we must take every opportunity, not of expressing the national unity that the Government are so fond of asking for, but of using every opportunity Parliament allows to show what we and the country think of a Government who are prepared to take such liberties with our constitutional rights.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
There is one thing, at any rate, on which hon. Members on this side of the House will agree with the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), and that is that he has taken ample opportunity tonight. I have been wondering where hon. Members opposite obtain their information on what was promised during the Election by hon. Members on this side of the House. I know—and I have been dis- 920 cussing the matter with many of my hon. Friends—that we went out of our way to make the very minimum of promises because we pointed out that we were faced with a very difficult economic situation on top of which there was re-armament and we had to pay for that re-armament.
We said quite clearly what were our objectives. We hoped for a really decisive result in the country so that we would have five years of settled government by the end of which time we said we hoped we would have achieved those objectives. But we made very few promises, and for my part I made only two firm promises. They were that we would repeal the Iron and Steel Act immediately and would deal urgently with road transport.
The Amendment which is before the House regrets that there is no time for the discussion of many immediate problems. The hon. Member for Attercliffe has been specifying some of the problems, with which I have no doubt my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will deal when he replies. No doubt he will indicate what matters can be dealt with before the Recess. But the debate has shown fairly clearly that, as the Leader of the House said or implied, what the party opposite really want to do is to go over the election all over again. That is why, they want to have a longer time before Christmas.
I am flattered but surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite should expect us to be able to perform miracles. Time must be given to work out policy, of course, but the astonishing thing is that some matters were not dealt with before. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer made it quite plain in his speeches at the beginning of October, both to the T.U.C. and at the Mansion House, that it would be necessary to cut imports. Why did he not cut imports right away and go to the country and ask, "Do you support us or not?" He had the precedent of 1931 when action was taken first and then Mr. Ramsay Macdonald went to the country and demanded a vote of confidence in his Administration. He obtained it because the country realised that firm action was being taken.
Instead of that, we now find the late Chancellor of the Exchequer saying that he is broadly in agreement with the steps that are being taken, but his right hon. 921 Friend the Member for Bradford, Central (Mr. Webb), does not seem to be in agreement with him. He considers that instead of our taking the drastic steps we regret so much of cutting food, steps should have, been taken to cut tobacco, petrol and films. I wonder whether he has examined what would be the effects of doing so?
Let us take tobacco, for example. Last year we imported tobacco to the value of £65 million, of which 42½ per cent. came from the Commonwealth. Let us suppose that we cut off some £37 million worth of foreign tobacco. It would have a number of different effects. One effect would be to make it very difficult for us to trade at all with Turkey, a country with which we are having increasingly close relations in other respects and whose trade with us in dried fruit we have already cut off almost entirely. But a major effect of cutting off that £37 million worth of imports would be to deprive the Revenue of £345 million. Where do hon. Members opposite suggest we could find that revenue if we lost it from tobacco?
Another question is how could we possibly ensure fair shares in the distribution of tobacco. Would that be done by raising the price further or by rationing? The hon. Member for Attercliffe knows as well as anybody that the surest way to establish a really riotous black market is to ration cigarettes.
Then it has been suggested that petrol imports should be cut. The value of imports of motor spirit, so far as I can find out, amounts to £60 million, of which something like one-sixth is used for private motoring. I can give another figure to test that. The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) in 1947 gave a figure of 30 million dollars per annum which could be saved through the abolition of the basic ration. We can say that the maximum which is likely to be saved would be a matter of £10 million and it would add enormously to the administrative costs in this country.
It has been suggested that a saving could be effected on films. I looked up the Trade and Navigation Returns and found that the total value of imported films is £800,000. We all know that profits are made in this country through the exhibition of these films. They are dealt with by agreement, and I think I 922 am right in saying that the maximum amount which can be remitted to the U.S.A. on that account is £17 million a year. Therefore, none of these measures would come anywhere near dealing with the cuts that have to be made.
In any case, if the right hon. Member for Bradford, Central, thought that these cuts should be made, why were they not made before the Labour Government went to the country? The truth is that the Labour Party, by its very nature, has the very greatest difficulty in taking any unpopular decision. It has always to remember that it pretends to be the friend of the workers, and therefore it runs away. When the ship is sinking, instead of jettisoning and patching up, it deserts the ship and leaves it to us on this side to patch up and take remedial action. It leaves it to the vermin to do. The rats have to come back in this case, instead of leaving the sinking ship.
I do not want to detain the House long, but there are three things that I want to mention. I think that the time the Government are taking to consider what steps are necessary in the national interest should enable them to re-orientate the country as a whole. After all, we on this side know how difficult it is for Members opposite to believe that anyone but themselves are fair judges of the national interest. We on this side, however, consider that the judgment of many skilled persons will always be better than the judgment of only one, and that it is desirable in the national interest once again to leave to those who are skilled in business and industry the task of pooling all their skill in the national interest. In fact nobody makes a livelihood except by giving service to the community.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
Is the hon. Gentleman now suggesting that the operation of the business of this country is based upon service and that the profit motive does not enter into it at all?
§ Mr. Macpherson
I am saying that unless a person is giving better service than his competitor, he will not make a profit. That is the test. In the long run, that is the only test which operates in the consumer's interest. It is only competition which, in the long run, can work in the consumer's interest and allow him 923 freedom of choice. Take away the consumer's choice and we take away part of his freedom, as surely as we take it away if we deprive him of a choice between candidates at an election. That is why we on this side of the House want a reorientation of our policy towards a free flow of trade. We want to achieve flexibility throughout the country, because whatever is rigid is far more vulnerable than what is flexible.
The next thing we want to do, which is absolutely fundamental, is to stop inflation. Quite clearly, the first action to take is through Government economy. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh), in an admirable maiden speech, talked about extravagance in private enterprise. There is extravagance in private enterprise because the whole system is wrong. If we set an example by Government economy, if we get the system right and restore competition, then once again there will be no advantage to anybody to have extravagance in his own concern.
Next, saving must be encouraged and not discouraged. This, again, is a matter which is fundamental. We shall never achieve this as long as prices continue to rise. As long as prices continue to rise, people will prefer to spend rather than to save. It is essential, therefore, to obtain stability in the purchasing power of the pound. What I firmly believe—and I do not think anybody in his senses can hold any other view—is that we shall never achieve anything like stability in the purchasing power of the pound so long as we have wages always chasing prices. At some point or another there must be a halt or we shall go straight downhill into full-scale inflation.
I believe that inflation is a condition arising out of an attitude of mind—an attitude of mind in certain sections of the community, and—not limited to any one section—that, come what may, their standard of life must in no way be affected, whether by a rise in import prices or from any other cause. That is an attitude of mind. It is a change in the hearts of men which is required if we are to stop inflation.
That is why, in my view, it is essential that we should have this breathing space for the Government. The Government have to reach the fullest understanding 924 not only with the trade unions in this country but also with Governments in other countries. I agree with many hon. Members who have said that this is not a matter which depends entirely on this country for solution. For example, so long as the French link wages and prices, as apparently they propose to do, it will be quite impossible in the world as a whole to get back to that stability of monetary values which gives something like security to the background of our lives, encourages saving and enables us. as individuals and as a country, to build up independence for ourselves.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
Having caught your eye so late in this debate, Mr. Speaker, much as I should have liked to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson), and the speeches of many other hon. Members who have taken part in the debate, I want to confine my remarks to two subjects in relation to the Department for which the Minister of Housing and Local Government now has responsibility. There is a change in the name of the Department, and the Minister said that the emphasis was now on housing. We are all delighted that it should be. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, so far as these benches are concerned and I am certain so far as the country is concerned—if he can get those 300,000 houses built, we shall all be delighted. It is perhaps because of our experience that doubt is cast on whether the performance will come up to the promise.
However, I want to make this point about the dropping of the word "Planning" from the title of the Department. I quite readily agree that the inclusion of any particular word in the title of a Ministry does not decide the function of the Ministry, but all the hon. Members who have spoken tonight, including the right hon. Gentleman himself, have dealt with the question of housing, and they cast doubts on housing standards, and no one has mentioned the question of planning.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
Did the hon. Gentleman hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, North (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), which was devoted to the consideration of the Town and Country Planning Act?
§ Mr. Lindgren
I am very sorry I was out of the Chamber when that speech was made, and so far as my criticism may seem to apply to that hon. Gentle. man, I halt it. However, it still applies to the Minister. Planning has not been mentioned; but it is just as important that houses should be built in the right places as that houses should be built at all. Indeed, many of the problems which now face local authorities are due to the fact that during the inter-war years houses were built in quite a haphazard way without provision for social services, and so on, in conjunction with the house building. Moreover, good planning can have the effect of reducing housing costs, or, at any rate, it is a factor in reducing them.
We have two vital projects at the moment in association with planning which were not mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. We have the projects of the new towns and the expanding towns. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the standstill for three months on all other building operations with the exception of housing. He made some qualification a little later on—I did not really gather how far that related to the work during the three months' period—about schools not being affected.
However, if we are to have a new town policy, if we are to have the decentralisation of industry away from London and the other large centres, it is essential that housing, provision for education, factories, and social amenities should develop simultaneously, otherwise we shall have nothing but an agglomeration of houses and a continuation of the old problem we have had throughout the ages—the problem of dormitory populations, with transport problems arising out of that; so that while we shall have houses we shall not have real community life or the opportunity for people to live as they ought to live.
I agree that the right hon. Gentleman could not in the confines of his speech tonight deal with every one of the vast number of subjects for which his Department is responsible, but I am concerned because one of the most important features of the Department's work at the present time is the new towns policy, and if the new towns policy has so far dropped back as not to be mentioned in a speech which was supposed to be dealing with the policy of the Department, then the out- 926 look for the future would seem to be a difficult one.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
I do not want to interrupt, but that part of my speech relevant to the Amendment was entirely confined to answering questions which had been put to me in the debate. I thoroughly agree that there is an enormously wider field covered by my responsibilities.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The right hon. Gentleman is very pleasant in debate, and is very disarming by agreeing with almost every piece of advice and information given to him. If we can accept his assurance that the new towns policy is to continue, and that the three months' break in the development of further projects does not apply to the new towns, no one will be more delighted than my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), myself, and others of my hon. Friends who have been associate with the new towns projects in the past.
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will also give an assurance on what is an equally important feature of planning and planning development, namely, the expanded towns. Within the next few months there will be coming into his Department a lot of development plans from planning authorities; he will shortly have in his Department, for the first time in our history, a plan of the likely trend of development for the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 years—something we ought to have had many years ago—which will now give us the opportunity of correcting the mistakes of the past and of ensuring that future development goes in the way it ought to go.
The expanded towns are just as important a feature of the de-centralisation of industry as the new towns. In fact, they are associated with local authorities which are already well established, and which have behind them, with Government assistance, sufficient resources to be able to develop on their own, whereas the new towns are in areas where the local authorities have not the resources or the capacity to develop and expand as quickly and as fully with their own resources. Therefore, in dealing with the over-spill from the already congested areas, expanded towns are one of the factors about which we are a little worried. Today, one hon. Member after another 927 has referred to the importance of housing and the development of housing in our already large cities. Over large areas what is required is a dispersal and not a development of population and industry.
We on this side of the House are anxious about the expanded towns policy, about which there has already been consultation with local authorities, and it is no secret that had the last Government been allowed to continue in office, that would have been a feature of this Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman very kindly gave us an indication of his new towns policy, but he should at the earliest possible opportunity make clear his expanded towns policy, for that would go a long way towards removing the uneasiness felt by a number of local authorities who are included in the development plans of planning authorities for expansion in the near future.
There are many other points I should like to develop, but in view of the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, have asked me to give sufficient time for a further speech, I close with an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to make clear his policy in the planning field as quickly as possible for the benefit of everyone concerned.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. John Profumo (Stratford)
Perhaps the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his remarks, because in the few minutes at my disposal I want to bring the debate back to the wording of the Amendment before the House. It regrets the lack of a "well-thought-out and constructive policy" in His Majesty's speech. Perhaps for a moment or two we might look back at the "well-thought-out and constructive policy" which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite presumably think they carried out during the time they were in power.
First of all, let us look at the financial and economic field. Was it well-thought-out and constructive policy which was displayed by the cheap money policy of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)? Was it well-thought-out and constructive policy that led Sir Stafford Cripps to say that the then Government were resorting to one expedient after another?
Let us look at another field. What about the field of defence? Was it well- 928 thought-out and constructive policy that caused the late Government to change the period of military service three times because their back benchers wanted it? Was it well-thought-out and constructive policy which was carried out in the Empire by the right hon. Gentleman who was afterwards made the Secretary of State for War? Surely his were policies which are now a joke all over the world. And what about foreign affairs? Were the policies carried out by the late Foreign Secretary with regard to Abadan well-thought-out and constructive?
No, it is merely criticism for criticism's sake which has caused the Opposition to table this Amendment. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), when he introduced the debate, talked about scare and alarm which the Tories had created during the Election. That is just what this Amendment is designed to do. It is supposed to create scare and alarm in the minds of people all over the world that the Conservative Party are not going to carry out their election pledges—[Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh, but it is wishful thinking on their part to believe that right hon. Gentlemen who sit here now will not be sitting, here for a very long time. What has happened is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have failed so far to realise that they have been beaten in the Election.
One thing that my right hon. Friends will not do is to emulate the actions of the party opposite when they were in power, for in 1950, in their official election manifesto, they promised the nation that they would nationalise the cement industry, the sugar industry, water supply, wholesale meat distribution and industrial assurance, and they did not do one—not one. They went even further than that, and in the King's Speech of October, 1950, they promised that they would nationalise sugar beet, and also that they would transfer shares to public ownership in the British sugar industry, and they did not do that either. Those are the people who come here now and tell us that we are not keeping our pledges.
There is an unfortunate idea on the part of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite that good goverment is some-how connected with passing laws as through a sausage machine. The more laws that appear on the Statute Book, 929 the better the government is. The truth is that the country is suffering from legislative indigestion and that the urgent need for the country is that we should give a rest to its system, and take as our primary job the clearing of the Augean stables which we have been left as a legacy of Socialism.
The second part of the Amendment deals with the length of the Recess. All this fuss and bother by hon. Members opposite is over a period of two extra weeks. That is all it is going to be. These are the very people who, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has already pointed out, instituted a longer period of Recess when they first came to power in 1945. At that time there were no more serious problems to deal with than there are today. I am reminded by an hon. Friend that we were at war at that time with Japan.
Do not hon. Members opposite realise how important it is in the national interest that the Prime Minister and other Ministers should have a period of time in which to create a well-thought-out and constructive policy? [Interruption.] Is it impossible for hon. Gentlemen to realise just how important it is, in the national interest, that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister should go and see President Truman in the Recess?
Before I sit down—I know that the Leader of the Opposition wishes to speak now—I want to make one reference to him. He said at the outset of the debate on the Address that the Opposition would be vigilant but they would not be factious. Many of us on this side of the House hoped that he made that statement after consultation with his colleagues, but it was an ill-founded hope because as soon as he had made that pronouncement we had a taste of things to come—[Interruption.] Oh yes, we have. We have had venom poured out; we have had nothing which could possibly make us believe that the late Prime Minister has any control at all over his colleagues. On this side of the House none of us really knows who is the real Leader of the Opposition.
All I wish to say in conclusion is that if this Amendment is typical of the opposition we are to get from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, it is going to do them no good at all. I make a plea to the party opposite to change their 930 tactics and while, of course, criticising the Government, to join with us in forming a united, legislative assembly where matters of national concern are at stake so that we can all strive to help the country to rise to greatness once more.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. C. R. Attlee (Walthamstow, West)
I do not think that the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo), who has just sat down, has added very much light to the debate today. He hurriedly threw out a number of charges, and I will mention only one, which is completely inaccurate. The Japanese war ended on the day that the King's Speech was introduced in 1945, so at that time there was not a war on our hands. The other points which he made were very much of the same kind.
I turn to the Amendment. We have had an interesting, although, perhaps, rather desultory debate, covering a fairly wide range of subjects. The Amendment deals with two specific points. The first part challenges the absence of any clearly-defined, thought-out policy on the part of the Government, and the second part objects to the dispersal of the House at a far earlier date than is customary in the autumn.
The Prime Minister, in his speech, struck a note of crisis. He pointed out that the country's situation was precarious. That note has been struck very many times in the last six years, and I was surprised that it should seem to come to him as something quite new. When I had the honour of being a member of his Government, the Ministers concerned discussed the future economic position of the country in very great detail. Everybody realised what was the situation which faced us, with the loss of our overseas investments and the destruction during the war of our overseas trade; everybody knew how difficult that problem was. Indeed, it has been discussed during the last six years with great knowledge by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I really cannot see why it came as such a great surprise to the right hon. Gentleman when he got a memorandum from the Treasury on this matter. The position has changed from year to year in accordance with external circumstances which are very well known. At one time, we had reached a balance of payments that had never been obtained before. There 931 then came the upset of the Korean war, and very heavy rises in price of raw materials. All that has been very fully discussed in the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister talks as if no one had ever studied this subject. He talked of the problems of the 50 million people in these small islands and the grave economic situation facing us in the modern world. That has been the theme of very many speeches. I should not like to say how many times I spoke on that subject during this General Election and previous General Elections. It has always been my endeavour to bring home to our people what are the actual facts.
But the trouble is that the Prime Minister has always ignored it and has always taken the line that the troubles are all due to the wicked Socialist Government. That was never taken by better informed hon. Members on the Opposition side. I can remember him clamouring against what was called Sir Stafford Cripps' austerity. He told us it was a monstrous thing and that we ought to bring in everything the people wanted. That was entirely to ignore the actual situation in the country.
In 1947 he was still talking as if the problem could be solved by throwing off all controls and leaving everything to free competition. He was reverting then to the beliefs of his youth, when he was one of the protagonists in the great Free Trade-Protection controversy. He was holding fast to views which the Conservative Party abandoned a very long time ago. When he talked like that he was really ignoring the conditions of the modern world.
Even in 1950, in a Budget debate, he talked of a glut of food in the world when every report that we have had from international conferences and meetings of experts and every debate in the House has stressed the enormous importance of the problem of the world's food supplies with a growing population, and that resources were not keeping pace.
As I said, the right hon. Gentleman is always ready to impute all the trouble to the Socialist Government. His own remedy was his return to power and he did not think it necessary to think out any policy. That is why, when the Treasury minute arrived to teach him the facts of life, he was so flabbergasted. I 932 am quite sure that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Colonial Secretary, and the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply—who had a very long time on the Treasury Bench—know all about these matters and are not in the least surprised at the conditions which face us. They have been present on many occasions when these matters have been debated in the House.
The fact is that the Prime Minister now wants time to work out a policy because he has not worked one out. We know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and a number of his colleagues worked very diligently to try to get an up-to-date policy for the Conservative Party. It was even produced, published and brought to party conferences, but as soon as possible the Prime Minister saw that it was shelved. He said he did not want a policy and did not believe it, and Lord Woolton only wanted something to put in the shop window. Therefore, the former Opposition all the time, without producing proposals, concentrated on attacking the former Government.
There was a very revealing passage in the Prime Minister's speech. He said:What the House needs is a period of tolerant and constructive debating on the merits of the questions before us without nearly every speech…being distorted by the passions of one Election or the preparations for another."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1951; Vol. 493, c. 68–9.]That is a very revealing confession. If that is needed in 1951 it was equally necessary in 1949 and 1950, but the right hon. Gentleman never suggested that that contribution should come from the Opposition. There was no tolerance by the Conservative Opposition; there was no constructive debating.
Now the Government are faced with realities, and what has happened? A retreat all along the line. The Chancellor of the Exchequer sounded the call, "Point after point our policy is abandoned," and not only the matter of policy but the whole principle on which they have gone. The Prime Minister has now found out, at long last, that in the modern world the old Liberal Free Trade, free competition business just does not work.
He has found out that though he was keen on it for a short time the conditions of the modern world do not allow 933 people to restore the Liverpool Cotton Exchange. Therefore, there has to be a continuation of the policy which the late Government had to continue, not because of any ideological prepossessions but because of the facts of the situation, such as controls, restrictions on dividends, public purchase. There is continuation of the arrangements for cotton purchase.
As I looked at hon. Gentlemen opposite as the Chancellor made his speech, and as other Members have made their speeches, I saw a gradual look of bewilderment spreading over them. They would all have echoed the famous conversation of Tadpole and Taper. The House will remember that then there was to be a Tory Government with Whig measures. We are now getting a Conservative Government that have to carry on Labour measures. The Government have to do that, which is really the reason for the speedy dismissal of Parliament. The Government need time—this was one of the best things which the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo) said in his speech just now—to find a policy. "Set the people free" is found not to be applicable to present conditions.
The right hon. Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), made some play with the question of the dismissal of Parliament. He made an enjoyable speech in his capacity of Minister of Housing and Local Government. I must say that I rather sympathise with him that so distinguished a planner should be forced to drop "planning" from the title of his Ministry just when he had achieved it. I was re-arranging my books last week and giving the correct geographical place in my library to "The Middle Way." I have always thought of the right hon. Gentleman as a very distinguished protagonist of planning. I think that he should make a fight to keep that word in his title, although it may be clumsy.
He drew a comparison between 1945 and 1951. But the conditions were not in the least the same. He will remember that in 1945 we had an early summer Session following the Budget and all the rest, and then there was the Election. Then we had a short Session and then we had the ordinary autumn Recess. But this Government had been refreshed by the Recess before the Election; and, therefore, they are all quite fresh. Having come back, we naturally thought that after six and a half years, which is 934 a long period of gestation, all their plans would be ready.
The right hon. Gentleman dealt considerably with housing matters and they were dealt with by hon. Members on the back benches. I would only comment' on one point. I gather that the proposal of the Government is to sell council houses to individual owners. I think that is a most retrograde suggestion. I remember very well in, I think, 1919, or 1920, discussing the problem of slums with the late Mr. Neville Chamberlain, who was then Lord Mayor of Birmingham and I was mayor of a London borough. We agreed that one of the things which made for slums was the possession by people of one or two houses which they were quite unable to keep in repair.
There is an idea that that is a good thing. People like to get possession of houses, and they hand them on to people who very often cannot keep them in repair. That is one of the most evident ways in which slums are created. Therefore, the idea of selling off publicly-owned houses seems to me to be one of the most dangerous and retrograde suggestions I have ever heard.
We still have no clue as to the main policy of the Government. We have had pronouncements on iron and steel and transport, but no definite policy. I wish to put a question to the Leader of the House who, I understand, is to reply. In the course of an exchange with the Home Secretary yesterday on the justification for the bringing in these changes with regard to iron and steel and transport the right hon. and learned Gentleman prayed in aid the votes of the Liberal Party. He justified his action on the ground that they now had a majority of votes for the policy with regard to iron and steel and road transport, because these items were included in the Liberal Election Manifesto.
The corollary of that, of course, is that the Government ought not to proceed with anything that is not in the Liberal Manifesto. I wish to know if that is so, because without the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) they are lost. He is really the master of the Government and I am not surprised that they made such a big effort to include him in the Government.
The Prime Minister claimed that what was needed was several years of quiet 935 steady administration. It is one of the chief functions of this House to discuss administration. I understand that the Government cannot produce any legislation, but they could give this House the opportunity to consider administration. Judging by the performance of Ministers, I am quite sure that they would be all the better for some instruction in this matter, and there are plenty of ex-Ministers on the opposite side of the House who would join with us in giving it.
We wish to know one or two things about this Government. We wish to know how it is going to function and I hope that the Leader of the House will give me an answer to a question which I did not obtain from the Prime Minister. It is: What is the responsibility of the co-ordinating Ministers? Who will reply on questions of major policy? Will it be one of the other Cabinet Ministers, or one of these Departmental Ministers, whose responsibility does not extend to general policy? I should like to know if there is anyone, and, if so, who it is, who is co-ordinating economic policy? I should like to know whether he is in the Commons or in the other place; whether it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Paymaster-General. Or perhaps it is the right hon. Gentleman himself. I should like to know.
I should also like to know what is the order of the hierarchy. Who will act when the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the family party go to the United States of America? Will the Minister of Supply, who is left out of the party, be left in charge, or who will it be? I think that we ought to know quite clearly what is the order of the hierarchy.
All kinds of things may be happening in the line of administration without the House knowing anything about it. That is why we object to the proposed very long Recess. I should like to ask a final question on this. It seems to me that the major problem is one which was developed in an extremely able maiden speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman). That is the problem of world prices of raw materials.
We began the discussions on this when I went across to see President Truman last December, and organisations have been 936 set up there. That is really a major problem. There is no reference in the Gracious Speech to any talks with the United States on economic matters. It is one of the points that was hardly dealt with at all—I do not think it was at all—by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech. I think that my hon. Friend was right in pointing out that this is one of the really big questions—an immediate question and a long-term question—which calls for decision.
It may be that matters of moment like that are being discussed in December and that we shall have to wait until about February before we are able to do anything about it. I think that we should have an opportunity of a very full discussion on all these matters. I think that we should get discussions on these matters when the Government are more fully informed. I think that they ought to be fairly fully informed by, at any rate, let us say, the second week in December, when we might have a fruitful discussion, or perhaps early in January.
But at present the proposal is that this extremely inexperienced Government, who know nothing of policy, should send the House away and that they should be left on their own. We protest against that, and we shall press our Amendment.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Harry Crookshank)
During the course of the afternoon and evening we have heard three very remarkable maiden speeches. I feel as if I were making one myself tonight. It will not be remarkable, though I hope that I may have some indulgence. The hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), from this side, and the hon. Members for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) and Northfield (Mr. Chapman), from the other side, spoke with such a fluency and self-assurance as I have never heard in maiden speeches, let alone three times in one evening. I am sure that I am voicing the wishes of the whole House in congratulating them on their speeches and in commiserating with those hon. Members who, unfortunately, could not be here when they were delivered.
We are dealing with an Amendment which the Leader of the Opposition has explained to us, though, oddly enough, his name is not attached to it. That, I think, is extremely odd, to put it mildly. Of 937 course, as has been pointed out, the first draft, to which the right hon. Gentleman did attach his name, had to be withdrawn. However, the Leader of the Opposition has wound up the debate and, by so doing, has expressed his approval of the Amendment.
This Amendment divides itself into two different parts. There is the alleged "absence of well-thought-out and constructive policy," and a complaint, again inaccurate, that for three months we are to deprive ourselves of "the advice and counsel of the House." There was never any suggestion of three months at all. So, again, inaccuracy; just as in the first draft, so in the final one.
This suggestion that we are depriving ourselves of the advice of the House for a long period prompts me to repeat what my right hon. Friend said at the beginning of the debate. Not only was there no suggestion, as there is no suggestion, of absenting ourselves for three months, but we are really doing what is the normal practice after a General Election, a practice which the right hon. Gentleman himself as Prime Minister adopted. He sought to excuse himself in his speech by saying that it was summer time, but I do not see that that affects the situation.
What occurred then, after the General Election, was that this House met for six sitting days and then adjourned for six and a half weeks. What is happening now is that this House, straight from the General Election, is to sit for 24 sitting days and is rising for seven and a half weeks. Taking the equivalent period, we find, in fact, that the difference is one week more in the Recess, which is balanced by 18 more sitting days, and the reason is really the same.
I was sorry that the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), who spoke earlier, was so ungracious in this matter, because the reason which the Prime Minister gave in 1945 was this:I may say that this interval will give new Ministers an opportunity of familiarising themselves with the work of their Departments." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th August, 1945; Vol. 413, c. 99.]That is what right hon. Gentlemen opposite had to do, although, in point of fact—and this is the difference—the leading Members of the Government, including the Prime Minister, the then Lord President and others, had been continu- 938 ously in office, except for the short period of the Caretaker Government, for years, and were therefore well acquainted with the general problems—finance, defence, foreign affairs and the rest. In fact, the present Cabinet contains only two Members who sat in a pre-war Cabinet at all, and for the last six years, of course, we have not and could not have—it is not our business in opposition, as hon. Gentlemen opposite will find out themselves —that intimate knowledge which can only come from being in office.
If it was so necessary for Ministers in those circumstances to have time to familiarise themselves with the work of their Departments, so it is today. I was sorry that the hon. Member for Attercliffe should complain, because he, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was one of the beneficiaries. The second reason which the then Prime Minister gave for the Recess was that it will allow many new hon. Members to arrange their affairs, and I expect that that is true of new hon. Members still.
The implications of a great deal that I have heard during the debate is that Parliament really ought to be in continuous session. Of course, it ought not, but the real trouble which underlies the whole debate on the Address is that the Opposition is on the other side of the House. That is really their trouble. They never expected to be there, and they are still dazed by it. They never expected it, and, after all, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the former Attorney-General was saying not so long ago:We are masters at the moment, but not only at the moment, but for a very long time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd April, 1946; Vol. 421, c. 1213.]Afterwards, he said:The Conservative Party is incapable of forming a Government. It has no Front Bench and no leadership.Well, the whole country and the whole world has had very good reason in the past for being thankful for the leadership of my right hon. Friend, and so it will be again. But it was not the former Attorney-General alone who spoke in this strain. There was also the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who said:If we have five years of power, we shall establish such achievements and we shall do such things that you will never see a Tory Government in Great Britain again.939 In other words, "Votes may come and votes may go, but I go on for ever." Votes did come to the right hon. Gentleman when they voted for the Party Executive.I am prepared "—said the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell)—to say that Labour will remain in office for at least the next 10 years. It is exceedingly doubtful whether the Conservative Party in its present form will ever become a Government again.So in the light of all these beliefs publicly expressed, it is no wonder that hon. Gentlemen and hon. Ladies and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are surprised to be where they are. They have not got over it yet. But they have left us a pretty grim legacy. During the election I remember saying—it was rather an obvious remark—that one could not foreshadow the future exactly for fear of what skeletons there might be in the cupboard. But it was not in the cupboards that the skeletons were; they are hanging like candelabra in every office and Department.
I remember very well years ago Sir Stafford Cripps saying that he could not imagine the Labour Party coming into power without a first-rate financial crisis., It is not a matter of coming into power; they cannot go out without one. It is the other way round. In 1931, there was a financial crash—but then Mr. Snowden did at any rate produce a form of moral restitution by stopping to clear up the mess. This time, in 1951, we have not had an apology or a word of sympathy for the new Government throughout the debate. One colleague after another from this Front Bench has exposed the situation in finance, food worse than 1941, said my right hon. Friend, who had been in the Ministry at that time—fuel, with the house coal stocks lower than ever, and that in spite of the fact that after the 1947 crisis the then Prime Minister said that a shortage of coal stocks in winter must never happen again. What was he doing all the summer with his colleagues to ensure that it would not happen again?
It is indeed a sorry legacy that we have found. Anyhow, what is all this talk that we should not have some time to devise our Parliamentary programme? What did the then Prime Minister himself say? He said that they had tried to do too much. After we had finished with the 940 mining Bill, the right hon. Member for Easington said that when the mining industry was nationalised they thought they knew all about it, but that the fact of the matter was they did not. Would it not have been just as well if there had been a little reflection then instead of rushing ahead?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his colleagues propose to move when we are sure of the ground, to make the necessary preparations and not to take false steps. They do not propose to rush into every kind of fantastic legislation, if that is the complaint. The postwar Parliaments have, I think we can all agree in retrospect, legislated ad nauseam, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo) was right. We ought not really to give the old Mother of Parliament legislative indigestion. It is not necessary. We have got to digest the legislation we have already passed.
Legislation, after all, is only one of the most important functions of Parliament. Careful administration and control of finance are equally important, and this House really should be, and is and has been in the past, the great forum of debate for the nation. It was the late Prime Minister when he was in office who said, and I heard him say it in this House:… it might have been better if we had had a greater concentration of effort. It may be we have tried to do too much in a short time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 6th August. 1947; Vol. 441, c. 1489.]As has just been pointed out by one of my hon. Friends, the failure to carry out the election plans of 1950 was probably a belated realisation of that fact on the part of the Government at that time. I think the late Prime Minister was right there. After all, one of his own supporters did go so far as to say thatImagination is not one of the great assets of our Ministers.He was right, because looking ahead was not one of the strong points of the late Administration. Their imaginative powers were not very highly developed. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are yours?"] I hope they are; those of my colleagues certainly are. A little imagination might have foreseen some of the troubles coming, shall we say in Abadan, or in Egypt, or in the financial crisis.
941 They did not have the imagination even to make use of the glittering opportunities left to them in 1945 by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. [An HON. MEMBER: "Bankruptcy."] They devoted themselves not so much to the national interest as to their squalid political schemes. We have only been here in office just over two weeks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] The wit of hon. Gentlemen opposite is really surpassing. We foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech three very important Measures, but they complain there is no constructive policy.
Well, foreign affairs have not been mentioned in this debate. The reason for that is the absence of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in Paris, and it has been decided that there shall be a debate specifically on that point. He is busy building again some of the weakened bridges—some of the bridges over which his predecessor never walked at all. If to try to re-establish that accord with our friends in the world and to re-establish the position which ought to be and, I trust, will be ours, is not constructive policy, then hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite can have it their way.
Defence has not been raised. That, too, is a subject which will be debated subsequently. In the King's Speech it is put down as our first duty, for without the safety of the Realm all else comes to nothing. It may not mean legislation but it does mean safety, and it is constructive work for peace. Is not that constructive policy?
Finance, of course, at the moment overshadows everything. We are in a desperately serious position. The Opposition jeered and sneered as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was speaking. I wish some of their constituents could have heard them laugh when they heard of the cut in non-rationed foodstuff imports. We have been told right throughout the debate that it is extraordinary that we should have been surprised at what we found because warnings had been given. Granted the former Chancellor gave a warning on 3rd October, but it was in October when the disaster occurred, after the warning.
Has the House forgotten the figures which my right hon. Friend gave of the dollar balances? We were plus $360 million in the first quarter, plus $56 million 942 in the second quarter, minus $638 million in the third quarter—that was the period which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind—but in October it was minus $320 million in one month; and on the European payments in the third quarter in the year it was minus £183 million and in the month of October it was minus £89 million. When my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. W. Fletcher) interrupted the right hon. Gentleman and asked about the deficit and when it was mentioned, the right hon. Gentleman said, "That is only a quibble." If a loss of £89 million in one month is only a quibble we had all better go back to school and learn the English language. It is not so.
It is beside the point for hon. Members to tell us that during the Election they were warning the country of the grievous financial situation. They did nothing of the kind. I looked through countless speeches and notes of Election addresses to try and find these warnings. I found the opposite. I found, for example, that such a respected Member of the House as the right hon. and gallant Member for Leads, South-East (Major Milner), was saying that this country was never so prosperous. I found the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who spoke earlier in this debate, putting into his Election address, "Each year the people, under the guidance of the Labour Government, have taken a step nearer solvency." This at the very moment when our financial resources were pouring away.
The restoration of our financial position is going to be a very great work and it has got to be constructive work, although it may not be legislation. Is not repairing the injuries done to our rights in Persia constructive work? Are not the defence arrangements in the Middle East constructive work? Are not flexibility in industry and the creation of a spirit of partnership constructive work? I not only hope that they are, but I hope that hon. Members opposite and their supporters will help us, because without that we shall find our country in a very parlous position. Are not searching inquiry into public expenditure, the restoration of our economy, Imperial co-operation and the support of the United Nations all constructive work? What is it that hon. Members opposite are complaining about?
943 The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who opened this debate, tried to make out that we had thrown over all our election promises because certain controls had had to be introduced forthwith. He forgot to remind himself that the general subject of controls comes into the Gracious Speech and we propose to review that, but for the immediate financial crash with which we are faced—[Interruption.] If the loss of 320 million dollars and £89 million in one month is not approaching a financial crash, there will never be one. He said we had thrown over all our promises because these controls had had to be introduced. and then he kindly said the Government would have to tell the electors why they had had to make a switch about controls. They will tell them all right—it was because of the legacy which we found that these steps had so urgently to be taken.
There are just one or two questions put by the right hon. Gentleman which I will answer. He asked about replies to Parliamentary Questions and about co-ordinating Ministers—who would answer for them? As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister yesterday gave a reply to that question and said he would make an announcement almost immediately. The Leader of the Opposition, on the other hand, considering the points made by my right hon. Friend, the Minister for Housing and Local Government, said it was a dreadful idea that anybody should think of making it easier for people to buy and own their own homes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Council houses."] My right hon. Friend said "their own homes"; the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition put the gloss on it and said "council houses".
During the six years in which he was Prime Minister, under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act, by which money is provided for would-be purchasers of houses, of which the majority are purchasing council houses—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] May I give the figure? Under that Act, £40 million worth of houses were purchased—and that is a very good thing.
944 We are coming near to the end of this debate, the first clash in this Parliament. In this Amendment the Opposition are playing with words. They know, as we know, that all of us want to do our best, so far as it is in our power to do it, to weld people together in these dangerous times. Just because foreign affairs have not come into this debate, just because defence has not come into this debate, that has not made our position in the world any safer. These dangers are crowding around us, as well as the financial dangers, and we know that nothing can get us out of our present mess except hard work and readiness to accept additional burdens. Unless we do so we shall never regain our economic independence, without which it is impossible to feel secure. I am sure hon. Members will agree with that sentiment, because it is one which was expressed by their own leaders after the last financial crash for which a Socialist Government were responsible.
The debate on the Address having been got out of the way, the cuts in imports which have had to be made having been accepted as inescapable, as the "Daily Herald" said they were, we now hope that perhaps in the dangerous world situation in which we are, in the dangerous financial position in which this country has been placed, we can now pull together in a spirit of harmony to try to restore our position, as the right hon. Member for Easington appealed to us to do in 1949, and as we did our best to do at that time.
There is much that this Parliament can surely do without quarrelling all the time. The Address is the set occasion for that quarrel. This battle is over. Let us, therefore, go forward and see how far we can make this a real forum for the nation, how far we can have a real meeting of minds—because, at the end of the day, I think we can all see that there are more fundamental things on which we agree than on which we differ.
§ Question put. "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 281: Noes, 318.949
|Division No. 4.||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Adams, Richard||Freeman, John (Watford)||Milner, Maj. Rt. Hon. J|
|Albu, A. H.||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworlh)||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||Monslow, W.|
|Anderson, Alexander (Motherwell)||Gibson, C. W.||Moody, A. S.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Glanville, James||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Gooch, E. G.||Morley, R.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)||Mort, D. L.|
|Baird, J.||Grey, C. F.||Moyle, A.|
|Balfour, A.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mulley, F. W.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Murray, J. D.|
|Bartley, P.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Nally, W.|
|Beattie, J.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Belienger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J|
|Bence, C. R.||Hall, John (Gateshead, W.)||O'Brien, T.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Hamilton, W. W||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Benson, G.||Hannan, W.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hardy, E. A.||Orbach, M.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hargreaves, A.||Oswald, T.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hastings, S.||Padley, W. E.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hayman, F. H.||Paget, R. T.|
|Boardman, H.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Bottomley, A. G||Herbison, Miss M.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Hewitson, Capt. M||Pannell, T. C.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hobson, C. R.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Holman, P.||Paton, J.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Houghton, Douglas||Peart, T. F|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hoy, J. H.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hubbard, T. F.||Poole, C. C.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon.George (Belper)||Hudson James (Ealing, N.)||Popplewell, E.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hughes, Cledwin (Anglesey)||Porter, G.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Price, Joseph T. (Westhoughton)|
|Burton, Miss F. E||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Hynd, H. (Acertington)||Procter, W. T.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Carmichael, J||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pursey, Cmdr. H|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Rankin, J.|
|Champion, A. J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Reeves, J.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Janner, B.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Chetwynd, G. R||Jay, D. P. T.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Clunie, J.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Rhodes, H.|
|Cocks, F. S.||Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Reberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Collick, P. H||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Cook, T. F.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Ross, William|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Royle, C.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Schofield, S. (Barnsley)|
|Crosland, C. A. R||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Crossman, R. H. S||Kenyon, C.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Daines, P.||King, Dr. H. M.||Short, E. W.|
|Short, E. W.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H||Kinley, J.||Shurmer, P. L. E|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lover, Harold (Cheetham)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Slater, J.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lewis, Arthur||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Deer, G.||Lindgren, G. S.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Delargy, H. J||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Snow, J. W.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Logan, D. G.||Sorensen, R. W|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Longden, Fred (Small Heath)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||MacColl, J. E.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||McGhee, H. G.||Steele, T.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McGovern, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Edelman, M.||McInnes, J.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R R.|
|Edwards, John (Brighouse)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Nets (Caerphilly)||McLeavey, F.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Mainwaring, W. H||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Ewart, R.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Field, Capt. W. J.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Taylor, Robert (Morpeth)|
|Fienburgh, W.||Manuel, A. C.||Thomas, David (Aberdare)|
|Finch, H. J.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Follick, M.||Mellish, R. J.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Forman, J. C.||Messer, F.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Timmons, J.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Tomney, F.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Turner-Samuels, M.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Usborne, H. C.||Wigg, G. E. C.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Viant, S. P.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Wallace, H. W||Wilkins, W. A.||Yates, V. F.|
|Walkins, T. E.||Willey, Frederick (Sunderland, N.)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)||Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)|
|Weitzman, D.||Williams, David (Neath)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)||Mr. Pearson and|
|Wells, William (Walsall)||Williams, Rt. Hon Thomas (Don V'll'y)||Mr. Holmes|
|West, D. G.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cuthbert, W. N.||Hope, Lord John|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Hopkinson, Henry|
|Alport, C J. M.||Davidson, Viscountess||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement (Montgomery)||Horobin, I. M.|
|Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton)||De la Bè e, R.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Deedes, W. F.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Digby, S. Wingfield||Howard, Greville (St. Ives)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hudson, Rt. Hon Robert (Southport)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J. (Plymouth, Sutton)||Donner, P. W.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Bucks, Wycombe)||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hulbert, Wing Cmdr. N. J|
|Baker, P. A. D.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Hurd, A. R.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M||Drayson, G. B.||Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Drewe, C||Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Dugdale, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)|
|Barber, A. P. L.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Duthie, W. S.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. D. M.||Jenkins, R. C. D (Dulwich)|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Elliot, Rt Hon. W. E.||Jennings, R.|
|Bell, P. I. (Bolton, E.)||Erroll, F. J.||Johnson, E. S. T. (Blackley)|
|Bell, R. M. (Bucks, S.)||Fell, A||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Finlay, G. B.||Jones, A (Hall Green)|
|Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston)||Fisher, Nigel||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Fletcher, Walter (Bury)||Kaberry, D|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Fletcher-Cooke, C||Keeling, E. H|
|Bevins, J R (Toxteth)||Fort, R.||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)|
|Birch, Nigel||Foster, John||Lambert, Hon. C|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lambton, Viscount|
|Black, C. W.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Lancaster, Col. C. G|
|Boothby, R. J. G||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gage, C. H.||Leather, E. H. C|
|Bowen, E. R.||Galbraith, Cmdr T. D. (Pollok)||Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Legh, P. R. (Petersfield)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Gammans, L. D.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt Hon. A T|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. B||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lindsay, Martin|
|Braine, B. R.||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G Lloyd||Linstead, H. N.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Glyn, Sir Ralph||Llewellyn, D. T|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)||Godber, J. B||Lloyd, Rt. Hon G. (King's Norton)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Gomme-Duncan, Col A||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Gough, C F. H||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Gower, H. R.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col J. C.|
|Browne. Jack (Govan)||Graham. Sir Fergus||Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T||Gridley, Sir Arnold||Low, A. R. W|
|Bullard, D. G.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Grimston, Robert (Westbury)||Lucas, P. B (Brentford)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Harden, J. R. E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon O. J|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||McAdden, S. J.|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||McCullum, Major D|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Harrison, Lt.-Col. J. H. (Eye)||McCorquodale, Rt Hon. M. S.|
|Cary, Sir R.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Macdonald, Sir Peter (I. of Wight)|
|Channon, H.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||McKibbin, A. J|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||McKie, J H. (Galloway)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Hay, John||Maclay, Hon. John|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Head, Rt. Hon. A H.||Maclean, Fitzroy|
|Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Heald, Lionel||MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Cole, N. J||Heath, Edward||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Macpherson, Maj. Niall (Dumfries)|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr Albert||Higgs, J. M. C.||Maitland, Cmdr. J. W.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Maitland, P. (Lanark)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hill, Mrs, E. (Wythenshawe)||Manntngham-Buller, R. E.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Markham, Major S F|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Hirst, Geoffrey||Marlowe, A. A. H|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Holland-Martin, C J.||Marples, A. E.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Hollis. M. C.||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)|
|Crowder, John E. (Finchley)||Holmes, Sir Stanley (Harwich)||Marshall, Sidney (Sutton)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Holt, A F.||Maude, Angus|
|Maudling, R.||Ronton, D. L. M.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Roberts, Maj. Peter (Heeley)||Teeling, W.|
|Medlicott, Brig. F.||Robertson, Sir David||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Mellor, Sir John||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Robson-Brown, W.||Thompson, Kenneth Pugh (Walton)|
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir Thomas||Roper, Sir Harold.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Ropner, Col. L.||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Russell, R. S.||Tilney, John|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Touche, G. C.|
|Nicholls, Harmar||Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Nicholson, G.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Turton, R. H.|
|Nield, Basil (Chester)||Savory, Prof. D. L.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Noble, Cmdr. A. H. P.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. (Rochdale)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Scott, R. Donald||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K|
|Nutting, Anthony||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Shepherd, William||Wade, D. W.|
|Odey, G. W.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Antrim, N.)||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (Marylebone)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon W. D.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Snadden, W. McN||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Osborne, C.||Soames, Capt. C.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Partridge, E.||Spearman, A. C. M||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O||Speir, R. M.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Wellwood, W.|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)||White, Baker (Canterbury)|
|Peyton, J. W. W.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Williams, Charles (Torquay)|
|Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Stevens, G. P.||Williams Gerald (Tenbridge)|
|Pilkington, Capt. R. A||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Wills, G.|
|Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Storey, S.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Profumo, J. D.||Studholme, H. G||York, C.|
|Raikes, H. V.|
|Rayner, Brig. R||Summers, G. S.|
|Redmayne, M.||Sutcliffe, H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Taylor, Charles (Eastbourne)||Brigadier Mackeson and|
§ 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.