HC Deb 10 April 1952 vol 498 cc3061-77

3.50 p.m.

Mr. Harold Watkinson (Woking)

Before the last war it would perhaps have been unnecessary for a matter of this kind to be raised on the Adjournment of the House. It would probably have been felt that a matter of production efficiency was, above all, one for industry itself to deal with.

But today things have changed, and any Government, whatever its political colour, is inextricably mixed up with the problems of productivity and production efficiency in industry. The present Government cannot evade its responsibility, and I am very glad of the opportunity of raising the subject because we have had singularly little time so far in this Parliament to discuss it.

I believe that it is a very important and very grave matter, and I hope to show in the course of this very short debate that upon the question of production efficiency and productivity depends the general future of our country in the difficult years ahead. It is not my object to make some sort of plea for more pious exhortations to greater productivity or lip-service to the cause of production efficiency. In many cases we have had far too much of that sort of thing over the past six years. What we want now is a new and more practical approach to the problem in view of the very grave need for an increase in production if we are to get over our economic difficulties in the next few years.

My hon. and learned Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade told me, in reply to a Question the other day, that his Department is now taking a rather greater responsibility for production problems, and I believe that the Anglo-American Council of Productivity is now in the care of his Department. Yet on the same day the Chancellor of the Exchequer told me that he still presides over the National Production Advisory Council on Industry, the general body which has in the past dealt with these productivity and production efficiency problems.

I hope that this does not mean that the important matter of production efficiency will fall between two stools; I hope that it may be possible for my hon. and learned Friend in his reply to tell us that the general responsibilities of his Department and of the Treasury for production efficiency and productivity are settled, and certainly that the division of responsibility does not in any way show that the Government is paying any less regard to this most important matter.

I believe that there is a risk at the moment that, because of shortages of materials, including steel, and the shrinkage of foreign markets, regrettable enough in some industries like the textile industry, we may adopt a somewhat defeatist attitude in this country and say that, although the ideal of greater production efficiency is a very desirable one, in the present difficult conditions it is just not attainable.

If the present division of responsibility means that the Departments concerned are adopting any sort of defeatist attitude, that would be of the greatest disservice at the moment to the economic future of our country, and the debate will be valuable if it gives my hon. and learned Friend a chance to clear up that point. I am sure that there is no desire not to press on, as much as ever our resources will allow, towards increased production and greater production efficiency.

If it is believed that the need for it is any less, perhaps I might point out that almost every year since the war this country has attained a rather greater increase in output than we had anticipated. Part of it was due to the fact that the working population during that time has gone up by some 7 or 8 per cent., but, however it was achieved, we achieved in those years an average of some 7 or 8 per cent. increase in production each year. As a rough guide, 1 per cent. increase in production equals £80 million, so it can be a very valuable bonus to our national production each year.

Sadly enough, however, in latter years the total each year has tended to fall. In the Budget debates last year I warned the late Chancellor of the Exchequer that I thought that at that time we had come to a point where he could not count on any future increase in production and in the total of the national production. That warning has certainly been fulfilled, because it is obvious at the moment that we are not getting increases in production this year. In fact, I am gravely concerned that by the end of the year we may see a decline in the level of our production, and that is something which at this time we just cannot accept.

I notice that in his Budget speech the Chancellor was very careful not to define any figure for an increase in production for this year. We have not yet had the Economic Survey, and it may well be that that will give some sort of forecast, but on the whole we must accept the fact that for the moment we are only just holding our own in the level of production when we ought to be making material advances.

Let us look at it from another point of view. There is another reason why we must not in any circumstances at this time be defeatist about trying to increase our efficiency in industry and in every form of activity in this country. Increased output and efficiency is the only short cut to lower costs. As my hon. and learned Friend is to reply to the debate, I should like to mention two points which show the dangers and difficulties we shall face in the foreign markets if we cannot reduce our costs as well as increase our efficiency.

There is a review published by Lloyds Bank which always contains a very valuable statistical analysis of our trading position. In the current issue there is a series of graphs and tables showing the position with regard to German and Japanese competition. I hope hon. Members who are interested will study those graphs. They will see that in every case the United Kingdom graph is falling—in other words, our exports to India and Pakistan, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Indonesia or Sweden are falling—but in each case the exports from Germany and Japan are rising.

Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)

They are not re-arming.

Mr. Watkinson

That is possible. I am merely dealing with the facts of the case, and I shall come to the point about re-arming in a moment.

I am not sure that the country as a whole has realised that we are not only facing the need to increase production efficiency, but are also facing the need to reduce our costs if we are to hold our position in the markets of the world. I have here a letter dated 27th February, 1952, from the agent for Brazil of a company in which I am interested. It says: The first big Japanese industrial exhibition in South America since the war will be inaugurated on 18th March in Rio de Janeiro. The agent adds that the Japanese have taken a large building, and that there is to be a full-scale exhibition of some thousands of Japanese products, and that it is in anticipation of the shortly expected normalisation of commercial exchanges between Brazil and Japan.

That sort of thing is going on all over the world. The subject of production efficiency is vital, not only because of our internal position, but because of the need to produce more and to help to balance the Budget by getting an increase in production each year. It is also equally vital because unless we get our costs down and make our products more competitive, we shall find ourselves priced out of the markets of the world. I do not think there is any doubt that it is a suitable subject to raise, for it is an important subject to which any Government must give serious attention.

It may be asked, what is the Government's responsibility in this matter? Is not the matter one that can be dealt with by industry without any help or assistance from the Government at all? It is my belief and that of a lot of people in industry that if we are going to get through our difficulties we have got to do it by making a new approach to our industrial relations, and that has got to be on the basis of partnership. Partnership comprises three main groups; organised labour, including the trade unions; management, by which I mean technical management and the whole level of supervisory management; and the State itself.

The State is inexplicably mixed up with industry, and if it does not play its full part we cannot get the results we want. With all respect to the Federation of British Industries, the T.U.C., the National Union of Manufacturers, or any other organisations concerned with organised labour and management in industry, it is the Government's responsibility to save us from the financial crash which faces us at the end of this year unless we can carry out our essential tasks.

At the moment I am not concerned with assessing the responsibility for that state of affairs, but wherever the responsibility may lie we are faced at the end of the year with irretrievable financial bankruptcy unless we achieve the essential tasks laid before us by the Chancellor. If it is the Government's job to do that, it is the Government's job to foster it by the only way they can, and that is to increase efficiency and output in industry.

I do not think there is any argument, despite shortages of material and all the other difficulties of our time, that the time is ripe for a new approach to this problem. When I say a new approach, I think it is essential that we should bring a fresh mind to this task, and I hope the present changes going on in the handling of this question by the Government will result in that new and fresh approach being made. I do not think there is any doubt that if we could make such a fresh approach we could still obtain in this country, despite all our difficulties and shortages of steel, coal and other essential things, a substantial increase in production, particularly in the engineering industries where at the moment we have full order books for export orders and even fuller order books for essential commitments at home, such as for re-armament and other essential purposes.

If we could replace the idea of productivity by a new tradition and call it mutual aid—I will explain what I mean by that in a moment—we could pull out quite substantial reserves that I believe exist within industry, and I think that those reserves over three or four years might prove to be as much as a 20 to 25 per cent. increase in production. If we could do that at this time it would solve most of our present problems on the economic front.

To do that we must raise the general level of efficiency of all firms in industry to that of the most progressive, share out the scarce raw materials and design methods.

Mr. Hobson

More planning?

Mr. Watkinson

We will come to that in a moment. We will have to remove restrictive practices by labour and management.

Mr. Hobson

What are the restrictive practices by labour at the moment?

Mr. Watkinson

If the hon. Gentleman will content himself for a little while, we will come to that. If we could remove restrictive practices by labour and management and increase efficiency and output in the nationalised industries by a new approach in management and labour relations in those industries and get a general encouragement of new ideas throughout industry, I do not think that that target of 20 to 25 per cent. increase in output over perhaps three or five years is impossible. It is certainly not too high a target to set ourselves in the crisis we face. All these things call for action on the part of the Government, and I want to suggest briefly what that action ought to be.

To begin with, the regional boards for industry are sadly in need of an overhaul, because they do not work very efficiently. While I am not in any way reflecting on the members who sit on them, either on the side of management, or of organised labour, I do not think they are always able to provide the kind of service needed by the member firms in the area, or act as an efficient channel between Government and industry.

Also, it is high time that the Anglo-American productivity teams should be stopped. We have sent quite enough to the United States and every one of them has brought back the same lesson, apart from various technical details which are helpful. The major lesson is that the difference between our industry and American industry is one not of plant and equipment—which is important, but not vitally important—but of the climate of opinion. In America there is the will to produce the maximum at whatever cost; in this country we have not always today got that will. That lesson stands out to everyone who reads the valuable reports of the productivity teams. It is up to us to learn and apply that lesson. It is obvious enough.

I am disappointed to find that more has not been done to apply to British industry the lessons learned particularly the main lesson, that nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of increased output and efficiency in any industry. We should make every attempt to use the valuable services provided by our American friends in the Mutual Security Agency, but we should not waste any more of their time by running off to America and looking at their industries. We should do more ourselves to put our own house in order.

When the Anglo-American Council on Productivity is wound up, it should be replaced by a small, efficient, streamlined body which might be called for the sake of convenience the Production Efficiency Board. I would like to see such a board set up with a dozen or so members equally representing management and the trade unions. It is only by those two working together in efficient, friendly and comradely concert that we shall do this job.

The board might be presided over, as in the case of the N.P.A.C.I., by the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Financial Secretary or, if it is to devolve on the Board of Trade, we should be delighted to see my hon. Friend presiding over such a board. Its task would be to work through the trade associations, to arrange full mutual aid within every industry in which it is desirable at the moment that we should increase production, and that is practically every one. Its function would also include the nationalised industries.

In my own industry, the machine tool industry, we have had such an arrangement for many years. We have had our own production efficiency panels. We have interchanged foremen and managements and have held meetings in one another's works and freely disclosed to one another any ideas which we thought would help the general level of productivity over the entire industry, even when we thought those ideas were giving us a start over our competitors. We have lost nothing by it, because in raising the general level of efficiency of the whole industry we have, incidentally, raised our own level of production and profitability also. That is something which I should like to see carried out over the whole sphere of industry.

The way to do that is to have a small efficient board dealing with the question of productivity and able to say to an industry, "You are not helping yourself enough. You have not applied the lessons of your own productivity team. You are not willing to share out your own bright ideas amongst yourselves to help yourselves. You are not sharing scarce raw materials, or good design ideas to save steel or materials or to help you to get greater output per man hour." That is what this kind of board should do on the level of management.

On the level of the workers in industry it could do a great deal also, because it could help to sweep away some of the practices which still restrict output. If the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) wants an example, take, for instance, the Sheffield file industry, where the hand grinding of files is a very skilled operation and where the trade unions, for reasons best known to themselves, restrict the entry into the industry, as they do in some sections of the printing industry. I think that that is done through a quite genuine fear of redundancy at some future time.

The matter could then be well thrashed out by a board of the kind I have suggested, which could have high level trade union representation on it. Let us see whether there is anything in that attitude and whether it is wise to restrict the entry of apprentices, or whether it would be wiser to allow a greater entry. I am not expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, but it is desirable that these things should be brought out into the light of day.

It is equally desirable that restrictive practices by managements, where they exist, should be brought into the light of day. If one is fighting for life—and the country is fighting for its economic life—it would be very unwise to let anything at all stand in the way. Only a board of this kind could bring these things to the surface and have them swept away if they are a hindrance to greater standards of production and efficiency in industry. There is always a great temptation when talking on something which is very near and dear to one's heart to elaborate at too great length, but I hope that I have given my hon. and learned Friend some idea of the importance which I and a great many of my colleagues in industry attach to an absolute refusal to accept that we cannot get still more efficiency and output from industry, whether it is in coal, steel, engineering or anything else.

I hope that whatever changes are to be made in the set-up that deals with production efficiency and productivity, they will be such as to help this work rather than to take some kind of defeatist attitude and to accept that in present circumstances, because of shortages and difficulties, we must for the moment let it go by. That would be the greatest possible mistake in present circumstances.

I hope we shall tell our American friends that we thank them for the enormous assistance they have given in receiving our productivity teams, but that we are now concentrating all our effort on applying the lessons we have learned. In any case, our leading firms, in any industry, are equally as efficient as, and very often more efficient than, their counterparts in the U.S.A. In many cases, we have nothing to learn from America, particularly in our machine tool industry.

What we have to do is to bring the level of the less efficient units up to the efficiency level of the leading firms. In this way, we should get a great increase in production from this one task alone. We must face up to the fact that in the long term, payment in industry, whether to management or to operatives, must be keyed to production and that earnings must be related entirely to output; that the more a man can produce and, therefore, the more he can earn on that basis, the better for him and for the country also. We must have a direct relationship between earnings and output, and this should apply equally, whether on the floor of the shop or on the board of management, because there we get the direct incentive and the direct return for greater attention. That is something again which a small production efficiency board might well discuss with the trade unions, the British Employers' Confederation, the F.B.I. and all the other interests concerned.

My main purpose is not to suggest the details. I do not think that this is a party political matter. There are no political issues involved, but the Government have to come into this because they have to give a lead to both sides of industry to do this vital job. If, for example, we could get a 10 per cent. increase in efficiency this year—though that, I think, is impossible now—but if we could get it next year, it would do more than anything to solve our economic problems. It would lift the burden of re-armament, and that is a thing which the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and his friends have forgotten. The way to solve the re-armament problem is not by throwing it off our shoulders, but by becoming more efficient and swallowing it up by increased production efficiency. That is not at all impossible if we do the job in the way it should be done.

Nor is anything else impossible for this small island of ours if we could become as efficient as we should be were we at full efficiency with a partnership between organised labour, management and the State. If the Government can give us that lead nothing is impossible, and all the economic problems which seem so grave and so menacing today could be overcome in the next few years. I hope that, at least, my hon. Friend will say that this ambition is still one to which the Government will devote its most earnest attention.

4.17 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

I fully agree with the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson) that it is essential to get maximum production, but I deprecate his statement that we have not the will to do it in this country. That is most unfair. I appreciate there are modern methods of manufacture in America, but I do not think it will help very much to tell our people, who have increased production at a far greater rate since the war than before, that they are worse off than workers in America and that they have not the will to do the job. That is not the way to increase production.

Mr. Watkinson

I think that the hon. Gentleman, though quite sincere, is misrepresenting me, if he has read the productivity reports, he will have found that nearly all of them say that we work far harder in this country than the average worker in America. The trouble is that we do not get such good results.

Mr. Hubbard

The hon. Member said that we could do it if we had the will to do it. When reading these reports about American industry, we must keep in mind that there is no comparison between America and this country on the question of devastation of industry. We had a tremendous lee-way to make up and great credit is due to workers and management for the way that lee-way has been made up. Let us concentrate on how best to serve our own industry rather than make comparisons between American industry and our own workers.

This question of productivity is of vital importance to us, but I suggest that if some time had been spent on getting to the root causes of the difficulties in our own industries, rather than becoming so interested in the American industries, valuable though that experience has been, it would have served a much better purpose. When we consider the problem of production and efficiency in industry we have to get right to the very bottom and one cannot get any lower than the bowels of the earth, where the coal comes from.

I suggest to the Minister and his colleagues in the Government that, unless they study the root of the problem, they may set up as many joint committees as they like, but they will take us nowhere. Productivity and efficiency in productivity is a long-term matter. Such is the position of our basic industry, coal, that 19 out of every 20 other industries depend on coal. In another 10 years it may well be that we shall have the greatest difficulty in mining enough coal to meet our needs because experienced face-workers will be too old for the job. That is of vital importance.

There has been a tremendous change in mining methods during the last few years. At one time, before the introduction of a lot of machinery, the young miner was an assistant to the miner at the coal face. There he learned his trade, as most apprentices do. But there have been vast changes. Mines have been rapidly mechanised during the last 20 years. Some have been mechanised to such an extent that it has been possible to dispense with a large amount of manpower. The machinery not only cuts the coal, but lifts it into the conveyer. That is very good, but that state of affairs does not apply all over the country. There is another method by which the coal is undercut but an experienced coal face worker has to win that coal and manhandle it into the conveyer.

The point on which the Government ought to concentrate is that before mechanisation each face worker had an assistant. These young men were apprentices. Under the new system there is a wall of coal sometimes 200 yards long, and sometimes more, with no one at the coal face other than the experienced coal cutter. The young man rarely sees the coal face today. Because of that, we are losing our grip on the coal winner. We could not expect an apprentice plumber to become efficient if he never saw a journeyman plumber at work. We could not expect a young lad to become an efficient engineer or tool maker unless he saw the job being done.

In our colliery districts the coal winners are ageing. They are becoming far too old, and there are no young men to replace them. No matter how many men we take into the mines, whether from Italy or elsewhere, unless they have an opportunity to gain experience and to get what is described as "pit sense" at the coal face, we can have as many working committees as we like but in 10 years' time we shall not get the coal. No matter how we may plan ahead for co-operation between workers and management, unless we get the coal we shall be heading for disaster.

I assure hon. Members that I do not accept the suggestion that the country belongs solely to those represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite or those represented by ourselves. This is our country and we do not want to see it go down into economic chaos. We are now reaching the stage when some coal cutters are no longer able to do the hard work which is necessary. Some of them have to manhandle up to 15 tons of coal per day. These men are leaving that type of job because they find it impossible to carry on.

Why cannot we have an investigation into the practicability of bringing in younger men to assist the older coal winners? That would serve two purposes. It would enable the experienced coal winner to work longer, because he would be getting some assistance. At the same time, it would be training the younger men to do the job. It is of tremendous importance, if we are anxious to secure the economic future of our country, that we should start at the beginning of the alphabet and not at the end. We should not waste our time either sending deputations or working parties to America or setting up committee after committee in this country who do nothing but talk. Let us study the root problems of our industry.

In the old days—and I do not want to make this a party matter—one of the things that was holding up production was the fear of unemployment. We, at least, have got to give a guarantee to workers in all industries—and, after all, they are the people on whom, jointly with the management and administrative staff, we are dependent for our production—that harder work will not result in them joining the queue at the employment exchange. It is tragic that we should be discussing greater efficiency in industry today, when, at the same time, there are people living in fear of unemployment. In the old days, the men in the mines knew that the quicker the mountains of coal at the pithead grew, the quicker would they become unemployed, and something similar is true in other industries.

Therefore, so that we may work together, let us give those in industry that guarantee. Let us assure them that the harder they work the greater they will benefit, and that they can dismiss the fear of joining those who are already signing on at the employment exchange. I think it is altogether wrong to separate—whatever tributes may have been paid to joint committees—two sections of industry. Industry requires a joint effort, and we have to ensure that those who are engaged in it will get a guaranteed return and that they can have a feeling of security. People will not invest in industry unless they feel they are assured of a return, and the other side cannot be expected to invest its labour in industry without some guarantee of a good return.

I have very mixed feelings today. I spent the greater part of my life working in a coal mine, and I have seen the weaknesses of the mines. I watched the mines deteriorating in the inter-war years to such an extent that the industry itself was in jeopardy of going to waste altogether, and it was a shocking thing for any man of ordinary intelligence to contemplate. I have seen the lack of security which existed in the industry, and, notwithstanding the fact that I have two sons, I had to admit that the last thing in the world that I wanted to see was those boys going down the mine, because of the lack of that very security.

Let us, therefore, in an endeavour to encourage men to go into the coal mines and into other industries, give them that guarantee of security. I say to the Minister and to the Government that they should think seriously how we can keep people in industry and encourage in them a sense of security in view of what we had to listen to yesterday and what we have been reading in the newspapers today about proposals to de-nationalise some industries, and the other side saying that, if they are returned to power, they will nationalise them again. That will neither reduce our difficulties nor increase the efficiency of industry, whether it is coal, steel or transport.

I have great confidence in the people of this country. I was not in the mines all my life, because I have had the opportunity of going abroad to many countries as a member of Her Majesty's Navy, and I have seen no people anywhere who work harder than ours. I have the greatest confidence in our people that they can do the job, but I think that the time has come when we can no longer afford to think of industry in terms of separate compartments.

If this economic clash does come, with all its horrible consequences, it will not be the Government who will be defeated. It will be all of us; not one side of industry, but both sides. Therefore, all those responsible for industry should realise that the best way of getting efficiency and greater production in industry is to see that those engaged in it are given this guarantee of security.

We are facing this crisis together. Let us get down to studying this question of coalmining. I am sure the House will excuse me if I return to that subject, because without coal we shall get nowhere at all. Unless we face the difficulties of the industry and the lack of facilities for training young miners to replace the older ones, then all the joint committees in the world will get us nowhere.

4.31 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Henry Strauss)

The House has listened to two speeches which leave it in no doubt as to the great importance of the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Watkinson). He speaks with a great and practical knowledge of his industry, and he has raised a matter of great national importance. On the importance of increasing productivity at the present time, there is, I think, no difference of opinion in this House at the moment.

The worst of an Adjournment debate of this character is that hon. Members who make their speeches reasonably brief, I agree, still manage to raise a great number of points with which the Minister cannot hope to deal satisfacfactorily, especially if he wishes to leave time for somebody who is going to raise a subsequent topic. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. Hubbard) will, I know, forgive me if I do not go into details of the coal industry, on which he speaks with knowledge, and on which he raises points which deserve a more considered reply than I can give today.

Let me say to my hon. Friend at once that I can entirely reassure him on one of the first points he made, namely that the fact that there may be shortages of raw materials does not mean that the Government think the question of productivity any less important. If anything, it is more important. I can assure him that there is no such feeling and no such attitude of defeatism as he feared there might be. I also agree very strongly with him when he says that if the less efficient companies and firms in this country were as good as the more efficient, our problem would be largely solved.

Mr. Hubbard

Then there would not be any less efficient, would there?

Mr. Strauss

I was dealing with the difference that such an improvement would make, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate.

I think the only possible difference of opinion between my hon. Friend and the Government would be on what were the respective contributions to this matter that could be made by the Government and by industry. I agree with him that both must make a contribution. If I were to give my general conclusion in a few words, I should say that the Government and this House can help and encourage greater productivity, but that it is for industry—and by industry I mean, of course, both sides of it—to get on with the job.

I agree with my hon. Friend that the Government can make—and I think I can show him that they have made—very considerable contributions, and certainly have no intention of standing aside and treating this problem as one with which they have nothing to do. If I might give a few examples, the first would be connected with this very subject of the shortage of materials. Particularly at such a time high productivity in terms of material is most important.

That means efficient workshop practice, what I might call good housekeeping in the factories and the general use of economy standards of production. As my hon. Friend is no doubt aware, the British Standards Institute and the Government are co-operating in this matter. The Government, of course, are major purchasers of stores and major users of raw materials in the Ordnance factories.

The B.S.I. are engaged in revising all existing standards to secure economy in the use of scarce materials. To give a single example, they are considering how much scarce materials can be saved by achieving the proper, and no more than proper, thickness of the brass tap. Many other examples will occur to hon. Members who are familiar with industry.

Again, there is the very important subject of standardisation and simplification which can produce great economies on a "long run," a term with which hon. Members who are interested in industry are familiar. There is also the economy, perhaps not so generally recognised, that can be effected by not having excessively great stocks. If there are too many sizes and standards it means that every individual firm has to have a large stock of everything, and that is very wasteful.

Then there is the encouragement of research. As the House is aware, the Government are giving financial help to research in the universities and in their own research stations, such as the Road Research and Building Research Stations and the National Physical Laboratory, and financial help to technological research in the great research associations, of which the Shirley Institute is an example well-known to all hon. Members. The Government also do a great deal through the provision of information.

If, dealing now with the past, I were asked to say what had been the main agency in recent years for doing the kind of thing my hon. Friend has in mind, I should name the Anglo-American Council on Productivity. My hon. Friend was quite right in saying that the time for sending teams to America is coming to an end. Very few more teams are being sent and I think none after June. But sometimes I think this body is not entirely happily named. People do not realise how much it has done by following up the work of these teams in this country.

Much valuable and useful work has been done in that direction, but I am afraid I am too pressed for time to give examples at this moment. Not only have there been reports on individual industries but also several useful specialist reports of general interest to all industries, bearing on such matters as simplification and specialisation and such topics as mechanical handling.

I know that my hon. Friend, and indeed the House, will want me to say a word about the future. As the House is aware from many statements in the Press and elsewhere, the Anglo-American Council on Productivity will come to an end as the work which it has been doing in collecting and transmitting the latest American techniques tapers off.

It has also been stated that conversations are now in progress between the constituent bodies of the Council to determine whether any purely British body can be set up to take its place and, if so, what should be its constitution and functions. The Government have been informed of the conversations and await the final outcome with great interest and a keen desire to help.

I think that my hon. Friend will find that, if agreement is reached on the formation of a new council, it will fulfil nearly all the requirements he has suggested and will be in a position to examine all the proposals for action which he has put forward. I shall certainly be prepared to bring the hon. Member's proposals to the attention of the people concerned.

So far as I can see, there is likely to be only one major point of difference between us. The Government would certainly not press, nor would they willingly agree, that the new body should have a Minister in the chair or that it should include Members of this House. This business of increasing productivity is non-party and non-political, and, though the Government and this House can help and encourage, it is for industry to get on with the job.