§ 10.0 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Henry Strauss)
I beg to move,That the Distribution of Industry (Development Areas) Order, 1953, dated 22nd January, 1953, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22nd January, be approved.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
Before we begin the discussion on this Order, it might be as well if I reminded the House of the Ruling which Mr. Speaker gave on 30th March, 1949, with regard to Orders of this kind. He pointed out that to refer to other areas not in the Order would be out of order.
§ Mr. Strauss
The debate can be all the shorter because of the debate which we have just concluded. The reasons for adding this area to the Schedule were put very briefly by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in his statement of 29th October last year, when he said:The area in question is remote, the rate of wholly unemployed persons in the area has steadily increased, it is abnormally dependent on a single section of a single industry, and thus is peculiarly liable to severe unemployment in bad times."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1952; Vol. 505, c. 1927.]All the local authorities concerned have been consulted and they welcome the inclusion of the areas named in this Order. The criterion that is to be observed in adding an area is laid down in Section 7 (2) of the 1945 Act. It is the special danger of unemployment.
The area covers 67 square miles with a population of 190,000 and serves an area with an insured population of 96,700. It is the smallest of the Development Areas in size, but it is not the smallest in population, both West Cumberland and Wrexham being smaller. As the House is aware, it has had a chequered history in unemployment. Its prosperity is dependent on the textile industry. In the years between the wars unemployment at one time rose to 26 per cent. and after the war there was an actual shortage of labour, but when the slump came at the end of 1951 and the beginning of 1952 2222 unemployment rose again to more than 16,000, or 17 per cent. When the improvement set in after May of last year, the numbers of wholly unemployed did not come down for a period.
In the area covered by this Order 46 per cent. of the insured population is in the textile industry and almost all in the weaving section. Twenty-eight per cent. are in the general service and distributive trades. The numbers in any other manufacturing industries are 26 per cent. so that the relationship between textile and other manufacturing industries is as 46 to 26. In other words. there is little chance if there is serious unemployment in the textile industry for those out of work to be employed in other manufacturing industries.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that in adjacent areas the percentage in the textile trade is higher than the percentage he has just quoted?
§ Mr. Strauss
In view of what is in order in this debate, I am not going to discuss the adjacent areas.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
May I follow up that point of my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) by asking the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he is aware that in the area covered by the Order the percentage of workers employed in textiles is less than in some areas not included? I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman could reply to that.
§ Mr. Strauss
It would not be in order to try to avoid a very definite Ruling on the Order that has been given by Mr. Speaker and his predecessors.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
The Parliamentary Secretary is now giving a Ruling which does not seem to be his function. As I understand it, he is saying to the House that on a discussion on a Motion to make an order for a Development Area it is impossible for him to give particulars relating to that area which show that it is in a worse condition than other areas, which can be the only justification for making the Order. If that be so, what is there to discuss? How can we assess the value of the Order? How can we decide whether to approve it or not, or on what grounds can we possibly arrive at a decision approving of it?
§ Mr. Speaker
The answer to that point of order is that there is very little to discuss. That is the truth of it. All that can be discussed is the area comprised in the Order. It is out of order to argue that other areas are either worse placed, or should be in the Order, or anything of that sort, because the discussion is limited, as I have said.
§ Mr. Hale
The question that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) put was simply: Is there in this area any unusual unemployment to justify the making of the Order? The Parliamentary Secretary said: "I shall be out of order if I answer it," but surely that can be the only reason which he could put before the House for the making of the Order.
§ Mr. Speaker
It would be quite in order to say: "There is no unemployment in this area and therefore this Order should not be made." Once the House proceeds to a comparison with other areas, the discussion is in danger of becoming out of order.
§ Mr. Greenwood
We are discussing an Order to be made under Section 7 (2) of the Act of 1945, and the President of the Board of Trade has to establish that in the area he is proposing to schedule there is likely to be a special danger of unemployment. It is difficult to see how the Parliamentary Secretary can establish that without relating the area to other areas which surround it.
§ Mr. Joseph T. Price (Westhoughton)
Would it be consistent with your Ruling to argue that the advantages of scheduling this area are not likely to be those represented to the House because of experience in areas already scheduled?
§ Mr. Speaker
I could not give a hypothetical Ruling. I will wait and see what the argument of the Parliamentary Secretary actually is. It is quite in order for the House to direct any argument against approval of this order which is confined to the contents of the Order.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I am in a great difficulty about this matter and that is why I should like 2224 your reply to a further point. I am in favour of this Order and would like to support it. I hope that my constituency will benefit by it. The question whether the Government's decision is right or wrong in making the Order can only depend upon whether the Order is, in the sense of the Section, special. I think it is special and I would defend the Order on that ground. It would be a very great limitation upon the House if an Order which can only be made if there is something special with regard to unemployment danger can neither be attacked nor defended on the ground that it is or is not special.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is rather an abstract way of putting the point. It is quite open to the House either to support the Order because the Order includes a certain area or to reject it because it includes a certain area. Those things would be quite in order. I understand that the constituency of the hon. Member would benefit by the Order, and he is quite entitled to defend it on that score.
§ Mr. Silverman
The difficulty is not in saying that the area should be or should not be included but in saying why. The question to be determined under the Act and by the Order is not geographical, but whether we should select this area as against that area because, on a fair view of all the areas together, this one has and that one has not a special incidence or special liability to unemployment; and it is impossible to explain those reasons except in terms of comparison.
§ Mr. Speaker
I do not think the hon. Member will find himself much embarrassed in defending the Order if he approves of it. On the other hand, in accordance with the Ruling of my predecessor, I think it would be quite out of order to conduct the argument on the basis of comparison with other places. We should be straying far beyond the content of the Order.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I was putting the argument to the House why in this area there was special danger of unemployment within the meaning of the Act. The decision to add this area to the Schedule implies recognition of the desirability of diversification of industry. In response to the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Thornton), I wish to 2225 make it quite clear that it does not imply the acceptance of the view that the textile industry must face permanent decline. The remoteness of the area and its isolation would not in themselves justify adding it to the Schedule, but it means that, where the risk of heavy unemployment arises from dependence on a single industry, new industrial developments would be less probable without Government help. That is the reason for making this Order.
In every speech we have made on the subject of the distribution of industry, my right hon. Friend and I have been careful to say what could and what could not be hoped from adding an area to the Schedule and not to excite undue hopes. In that we are following the example of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) who said:The formal act of scheduling will not result in immediate large-scale industrial development. The process is likely to he a hard and slow one."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1949; Vol. 463, c. 1351.]We believe in the wisdom of the Order we are making but do not believe in exaggerating its effect. It is a useful Order, approved I think in every section of the House and supported by the local authorities.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I am sorry so early in my few remarks to disagree with the Parliamentary Secretary. He thought that this Order would be welcomed in all quarters of the House, but, for reasons which will become apparent in the concluding sentences of what I hope will be a short speech, I oppose it. I can assure the Parliamentary Secretary, however, that we are none of us feeling encouraged to place undue hope on the effect of the Order.
I oppose it for the simple reason that it does not accord with the wishes of the Lancashire Joint Advisory Planning Committee Number 2. All along that committee has said that any Development Area which is created should relate to the whole of the weaving belt; that is to say, the whole of the area of North-East Lancashire. Throughout their discussions they have been unanimous in taking that point of view. I should like to read to the House the comments they have made upon this Order. The report says:
2226The decision of the President of the Board of Trade to schedule a part of North-East Lancashire as a Development Area, while acceptable so far as it goes, is considered to be a decision which will not satisfy the economic requirements of the area as a whole, as it is the considered opinion of the Committee that North-East Lancashire is interdependent and should be treated as an economic unit because of (a) the bad communications and isolation of the area; (b) the fact that it comprises what is known as the weaving belt, having a high percentage of textile and allied trades in its industrial structure; and (c) the considerable number of workers who travel within the different towns in the area to work each day.The committee came to that conclusion quite unanimously and in the light of their discussions about the tasks placed upon them by the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947.
The committee is one which is entitled to have the respect of the House. It comprises the Lancashire County Council, the county boroughs of Blackburn and Burnley, the municipal boroughs of Accrington, Clitheroe, Colne, Darwen and Nelson, a number of urban districts of great importance and with a population equal in some cases to those of the municipal boroughs, and also three rural district councils. In addition, the three municipal boroughs in the Rossendale Valley Bacup, Haslingden and Rawtenstall—indentified themselves with the work of the committee and have helped in its deliberations.
That committee came to the conclusion that there was a need for getting a more balanced economy in what is called the "weaving belt." They reviewed the history of the area and said that there had been certain improvements before and during the war, but, they added:It was the cotton towns, particularly in North-East Lancashire, which had not benefited much from measures promoting a more balanced and diversified industrial structure. They remain greatly dependent upon a highly specialised industry which is sensitive to changes in world markets and in consumers' demand, and faces the competition of reviving and expanding textile industries abroad, and of substituting industries at home.
§ Mr. Speaker
I dislike interrupting the hon. Member, but it seems to me that he is now dealing with a larger area than that comprised in the Order. That has been ruled out of order.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I appreciate, Mr. Speaker, the point which you put to me. The argument which I was trying to deploy was that the planning authority 2227 responsible for the future planning of North-East Lancashire was of the opinion that it would be a mistake to treat the area other than as a whole and that it would be a mistake to go ahead on the very limited terms contained in the Order.
§ Mr. Speaker
The extension of the Order to larger areas could very well be argued on Supply. On a discussion of that sort, all these considerations would be in order, but they are not in order on the narrow ground which is provided by the Order.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I must, naturally, bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, but it is, surely, perfectly legitimate for hon. Members representing the area covered by the Joint Planning Advisory Committee to put forward tonight the argument as to why the House should not accept the Order, so that at a later date the Government can come forward with an Order more nearly approximating to the wishes of the local authorities in the area. But as you have ruled along those lines, Mr. Speaker, I will pass to the next point which I wanted to make, and which relates to the serious effects that there have been in the area as a result of the dwindling population over the last 40 years.
I have a number of figures relating to the changes in population in various parts of the area not covered by the Order. It would, however, be improper for me to bring them to the attention of the House. I would only say that throughout the area as a whole since 1911, there has been a drop of about one-fifth in the population of the area. It is broadly true that the towns contained within the area of the Order show a drop in population of something of the same order of magnitude. There are at the same time other towns not covered by the Order where the drop in population has been rather greater.
I hope that on this point, Mr. Speaker, you will allow me some latitude, because the labour problems of the area must be treated as a whole and it is very difficult to take them as applying merely to towns inside the area of the Order. The Registrar-General has estimated that the working population of what is called the "weaving belt" will decline by as many as 23,000 in the period between 1947 and 1962. It is estimated 2228 by the local authorities of the area that during the recession between 3,000 and 4,000 people left the area.
It is, I think, apparent that if the population of the area has dropped by that amount, an increased strain is placed upon those authorities which are within the area covered by the Order as well as those which are not. The effect of this dwindling population is that public services which were intended for a larger number of citizens are now being paid for by a considerably reduced number. That, in its turn, is having its effect upon the amount of Exchequer equalisation grant which is being paid out to the towns in the area and those covered by the Order.
In the earlier debate, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour said that it was not intended that the towns included in the Development Area should act as a magnet and attract industry from towns not covered. But, unless there is some special inducement to industries to go to the towns which are covered by the Order, it is difficult to see why the area is being created. If the Government are taking special steps to encourage new industries to go to the new area, it means that opportunities to get industries into the towns outside are being correspondingly reduced.
I turn to the question of concentration of industry, because I think it may be that in deciding which towns to include in the Development Area the President of the Board of Trade has perhaps overlooked the figures which apply to other towns in the area. Here I come back to the point, which I think is particularly relevant, that the President of the Board of Trade must really prove to the satisfaction of the House that there is a special likelihood of unemployment in the area covered by the Order. As I look at the figures for the year, which come from the Ministry of Labour, I find, for example, that Haslingden has 66.5 per cent. insured workers engaged in the textile industry whereas Nelson has 67.7 per cent. Haslingden, which is excluded, comes second in the list of towns engaged in the textile industry. One could go through other Ministry of Labour areas in North-East Lancashire and see that there are a number of cases in which towns excluded have a larger percentage of workers engaged in textiles than those included.
2229 In his opening remarks in the earlier debate the President of the Board of Trade referred to the inaccessibility of the area which has been scheduled. It is true that the area which has been scheduled is slightly further from Manchester, which is the centre of communications in that area, but there are other towns which, if it were in order, I should like to have suggested should be included within the terms of this Order. I only wish that the President of the Board of Trade had occasion to travel on British Railways to Bacup as frequently as I do. He would then realise that it is not the most accessible of towns in that part of Her Majesty's Realm.
The last point I want to make is on the degree of unemployment which was felt in the area which we are considering tonight. Here I go back to subsection (2) of Section 7 of the 1945 Act, which deals with special danger of unemployment. Perhaps I might be allowed to give the case of six towns, including three which are included in this Order. I find that Burnley, which is included, had a peak unemployment figure of 13.2 per cent. in June, 1952, whereas Bacup, which is not included, had a figure of 14.5 per cent. Colne had a maximum figure of 16.5 per cent. in May, 1952, whereas Great Harwood, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort), had an unemployment figure of 17.8 per cent. and was not included in the plans of Her Majesty's Government. The last two towns to which I want to refer are Nelson, whose peak unemployment figure was 23.9 per cent. in May, 1952, as against 24.7 per cent. in the case of Haslingden in June, 1952, a month later.
Figures of that kind make complete nonsense of the proposals which the Government are putting before us tonight. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite will talk about the present employment position in Lancashire and point to the great improvement there has been during the past year. That situation, according to the Joint Advisory Planning Committee, is largely accounted for because of orders placed on account of the Coronation and partly by defence orders which are rapidly making their way through the mills. and which soon will no longer be there to help the employment situation.
2230 The point I have been trying to make is that many of us cannot see why this area in Lancashire should have been singled out for this treatment. We believe this decision operates unfairly on other areas not included, which are placed under an added disadvantage. Here I return to my opening remarks. I have no animus against Nelson and Colne or Burnley or any of the areas included in the Order. On that account, although I express my great regret, I should not feel in a position to force this to a Division. I do not wish to deny to the towns more fortunate than those I represent the sort of hclp to which they are entitled, as are also towns in my own constituency.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)
As the representative of more towns mentioned in the Order than any other hon. Member, I shall have less difficulty in keeping on the right side of your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, than had some other hon. Members who have spoken. There is no doubt at all that in including Padiham and the surrounding villages and small townships nearby, of Hapton and Simonstone, and the villages, near Burnley and Nelson and Colne, of Briercliffe and Foulridge, the President of the Board of Trade has recognised the facts of the situation.
It is true that some other towns have suffered from as high or nearly as high figures of unemployment as those townships, but no one can doubt that the highest unemployment has lasted longer in Padiham throughout the past depression. Even today, when there is recovery, nearly 7 per cent. of the insured population in Padiham are still unemployed.
Let us not forget that these figures are only the official ones, and also an official admission they are 30 per cent. too low. The unofficial survey made in Padiham itself showed the real figure of unemployment to be even higher. The newly-scheduled area has not only had persistent distress for this past year, but even today Padiham itself has probably the highest unemployment of any township in England.
One of the problems we all wish to see dealt with rather more forcibly than has been possible under the existing Distribution of Industry Act is that of diversification. There are places in my 2231 constituency—the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) mentioned the most notable of them, which is Great Harwood—where there are more people employed in the textile industry than in Padiham. But even in Padiham itself about 60 per cent. of the insured population are working in the textile industry.
§ Mr. Fort
The area represented by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has an even higher percentage. Here is a belt of towns where the figure is about 60 per cent. In that belt the hon. Member's area and mine are two conspicuous examples. These towns have an experience of unemployment which, alas, goes back now over the most part of three decades. We welcome this scheduling in the hope that it will remove the fear of unemployment from the minds of our constituents.
Not only will this action bring new industries to the towns, though nobody expects that to happen immediately; in so doing will give hope to the operatives. They will know that if they accept new methods of work in the textile industry there will be other work available for those who may be displaced. Another effect will be felt by those employers who do not look too happily on these new methods of working. Unless they adopt the new methods and improve conditions in their sheds—a process which has been going on in a big way—they will face competition from other industries. They will have to think carefully about how to hold their own operatives.
An important result of the discussions which the Board of Trade had with the local authorities, is seen in the enthusiasm with which the local authorities in Padiham, Burnley, Nelson and Colne and the rural districts have welcomed this Order. Already they are beginning to take action to make it possible for those who wish to go there to move in quickly and to be provided with the services necessary for the establishment of new industries.
This Order will help to remove the fear of unemployment. It will stimulate generally industrial thought and activity 2232 in these areas. It will do also something which every hon. Member wants. It will assist in the rehabilitation of old towns instead of trying to move populations into the countryside where the land is needed for food production. I am glad that those who object to the Order on certain grounds will not make it more difficult for us to carry through what will not be any too easy a task in any event.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn, East)
I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) discounting some of the easy optimism on his own Front Bench about the unemployment figures in the Lancashire cotton industry. He warned the House—and in this I support him strongly—that the official figures are not representative of the true picture. He said that we should be betraying our trust to Lancashire if we were to assume that the worst of the trouble is over, the problem solved and everything in the garden in Lancashire is lovely.
I agree substantially with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood). I differ in one particular. I am not so sure that, despite our desire to help certain areas which are represented in this House, we ought to accept this Order tonight. We are taking a serious step. It would be wrong of us to allow ourselves to be steam-rollered by the Board of Trade, with the very easy appeal "Do not hit the other chap just because you have not got what you want," into accepting an intolerable solution or so-called solution to a very urgent problem.
I came to the House tonight prepared to listen to the arguments of the Parliamentary Secretary, for he knows that there has been a great deal of agitation about this matter going on for many months. There has been, as he knows, deep feeling in North-East Lancashire about the attitude of the Board of Trade to the representations made. He knows that he has been flooded with protests about the way in which the Board of Trade is handling the scheduling of Development Areas in North-East Lancashire.
Therefore, he has the express duty to give hon. Members very good reasons why they should accept this Order. But I must say that, having heard his reasons, there is not a single one which is acceptable. I do not wish for a moment to 2233 make use of an un-Parliamentary expression, but perhaps I may be allowed to say that there is not one of the reasons which is true or correct in any particular. The House should not be asked to accept this Order.
Let us remember that during the whole of today we have heard arguments against rushing in and scheduling another bit of territory without good reason; and, therefore, we should have very good reasons for taking such a step as the Parliamentary Secretary asks us to take tonight. There has been no reason put forward which I can accept as accurate. What is the hon. and learned Member's first reason for asking us to endorse this Order? He said, first, that each little group of districts represented an area especially liable to unemployment. That, on the figures, is not true; this area is not so subject.
The right hon. Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton) pointed out earlier today some figures which are unanswerable when he mentioned the latest returns for unemployment in the Burnley district. At 12th January, the latest date for which I have been able to get figures, we find, as the right hon. Gentleman correctly said, that the figure of registered unemployed in Nelson and Colne was between 2.7 and 2.8 per cent. I agree with the hon. Member for Clitheroe that that is not a completely representative figure, but it will do. The areas we are asked to schedule this evening have an unemployment state of 2.7 to 2.8 per cent., and that is exactly the same as in Blackburn. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say tonight that this area is especially liable to unemployment; can he really say that that is true? If he does, then he really should produce something by way of proof.
Let us consider the area of Burnley. For 12th January the percentage of registered unemployed was 3.6, exactly the same as at Great Harwood.
§ Mrs. Castle
I think the hon. Gentleman is quite right. I have not the full schedule of figures here and in any event 2234 I do not wish to trespass on the rules of order or to violate your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I think I am entitled to take the latest figures because, after all, we are dealing with the present situation. We are scheduling now, not last summer. Hon. Members opposite have told us that the cotton trade is now back to normal; after a little meander off the normal path, they said, we are now back to normality. And this is the moment they have chosen to schedule the areas, so I think I am entitled to deal with the figures as they are at present.
As another reason why we should accept the Order, the Parliamentary Secretary told us that these areas were specially dependent on the cotton industry. Here again, I shall take figures for some of the areas which we are discussing. The percentage of insured persons in Burnley engaged in the textile and allied industries in June, 1951, was 32.6 per cent.—and we are being asked to schedule Burnley as specially dependent on the cotton industry. In my own constituency, which is considered to be much more diversified, the figure was 26.5 per cent.—a smaller figure but not much smaller. In Darwen it was 37.4 per cent., yet Darwen is not being treated as specially dependent on the cotton industry. I should like to know what is the Parliamentary Secretary's definition of being specially dependent on the cotton industry —
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I said, "a single section of a single industry." That was an important part of what I said. I did not say the textile industry as a whole, for we are concerned here entirely with the weaving section.
§ Mrs. Castle
That is rather an academic argument. Those who represent constituencies with industries associated with the textile industry know that when the textile industry slumps, the associated industries slump, too. My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) could make a burning speech on that issue on behalf of the machinery industry, for example.
The third reason which the Parliamentary Secretary gave for the acceptance of the Order was the most insubstantial of them all. He said the local authorities concerned welcomed the Order. That was misleading the House for. as my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale pointed out, there has been 2235 a remarkable unity and co-operation among the local authorities in the area on this question. My hon. Friend read some of the statements made by the Lancashire Joint Advisory Planning Committee No. 2.
It is interesting that the clerk of that Committee is the town clerk of Burnley, which the Parliamentary Secretary is trying to detach from the rest of the area on the principle of divide and rule. But the hon. and learned Gentleman has failed to this extent: even after the announcement of the areas to be included in the Order, the Joint Planning Committee remained united and the town clerk of Burnley, the clerk of the Committee, still circularised Members of Parliament for the whole area to the effect that the Committee were still, as they had always been, unanimous in favour of scheduling the whole of North-East Lancashire.
§ Mr. Strauss
I know that the hon. Lady wishes to be fair to me. I referred to the consultations with local authorities which we were bound to have under the statute. Section 7 (4) of the statute says thatAn Order under this section shall not be made except after consultation with every local authority whose area includes any land to which the Order relates.A later section defines "local authority" for that purpose. My statement was that the Order had the unanimous approval of the local authorities concerned with it.
§ Mrs. Castle
I certainly do not want to be unfair to the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I do not want him to be unfair to the House. The impression that he was leaving with us was that this arrangement that he is offering tonight was satisfactory to the local authorities concerned in the North-East Lancashire area. That is a very different thing from saying that he has statutory acceptance after statutory consultation with the local authorities, to whom he is offering a crust on behalf of their own citizens, and who cannot refuse that crust even if it means that somebody else is denied it.
That is not an answer to the point I am making, that the local authorities of the North-East Lancashire area do not agree that this is a solution to their Problem. They have worked as a team 2236 and they have a vision of what the area needs both industrially and economically if the drift of the population away from the area is to be stopped and the very life blood of the district is not to be drained away. They still remain of the same opinion, but, of course, being offered this on behalf of their citizens they must accept it. I merely wanted to make it quite clear that they do not think that this is the answer to the problem at all.
Therefore, I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary, before we vote on this Order tonight, what guarantee he can give us that the operation of this Order will not have an actively detrimental effect on the industrial development of the rest of the area. The right hon. Member for Blackburn, West raised an important point during the debate which preceded this one. I have been astonished to find myself in such harmony with the right hon. Gentleman. It is an exceptional experience, but far be it from me ever to oppose any words of sense that he says in this House if I have the opportunity of hearing any.
The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon did raise a very pertinent point when he gave us an example of a Blackburn firm that was being actively directed out of Blackburn into one of the areas in this Schedule. If that is to happens, then some of us are being asked to cut the throats of our constituents. I raised this question before when the first indication was given of the Board of Trade's intentions in this matter. Last November I put Questions to the Board of Trade as to what would be the effect of this Order on the diversification of industry in the area as a whole, and I got very poor satisfaction.
I was supported on that occasion by the hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke). We all felt deeply disturbed and alarmed that we had no guarantee that other areas outside the favoured few were not going to experience a worsening of their position. We have the right to fight for the survival of our areas, but in this matter we are not taking a narrow, constituency interest. There was a team working together and taking a broad regional view. They put forward positive regional proposals to the Board of Trade, and they have been cast 2237 aside and ignored. We think that this splintering of an area, which is finding its concrete realisation in the Order before us tonight, is no real answer to this problem.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
The hon. Lady talked just now about a broad regional view. There is no broad regional view mentioned In the Order, which mentions certain specified urban districts. Is what she says, therefore, in order, Mr. Speaker?
§ Mr. Speaker
I thought I followed the hon. Lady's argument. When I last understood her, she was arguing that the Order would do harm to her constituency. I think that is a valid point of criticism against the Order.
§ Sir W. Darling
Would I, Mr. Speaker, representing a Scottish constituency, be in order in taking a broad regional view?
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot conceive of a regional view broad enough to include the hon. Member's constituency in the words of the Order.
§ Mrs. Castle
It was very gallant of the hon. Member to come to the rescue of you, Mr. Speaker, in this fashion. I am prepared to rely upon your guidance and Ruling, Mr. Speaker, upon the conduct of the debate. I have tried to keep within the bounds of order which you laid down. I am glad to find that you agree that an expression of alarm lest the Order may harm one's constituency is a debatable matter; otherwise one's constituency could not have any redress.
I will conclude by asking the Parliamentary Secretary what guarantee he is going to give to those who have expressed concern—to Blackburn, Darwen, and other areas. What guarantee can he give to areas struggling with similar problems —problems of the dependence upon cotton, the problems of unemployment which keep on recurring, problems of an ageing population and people driven away; what guarantee is he going to give us that this Order will not harm these constituencies? Upon his answer will depend my decision on how I vote tonight. I have sympathy with Nelson, Colne, Burnley, and the rest; but I have a duty to see that my constituents' interests are not being surrendered.
§ 10.52 p.m.
§ Mr. G. B. Drayson (Skipton)
I am glad for a moment to be able to draw the attention of the House away from the chaos exhibited in Lancashire to the West Riding of Yorkshire, where four districts in my constituency are included in this Order. I feel certain that if those considering establishing new industries in any of these areas will read any of the speeches made by hon. Members opposite tonight, they will unanimously decide to establish those industries in my constituency.
During the war a number of cotton mills in this area were converted to the manufacture of aircraft engines. I am glad to say that the Rolls Royce company continues to make some of its best jet engines in my constituency. That is a point of which industrialists ought to take note, because it shows conclusively that this area, which in the past has been predominantly in the weaving section of the textile trade, and still is, has operatives who can readily turn their hands to the most skilled types of engineering.
§ Mr. Drayson
The industry is not expanding at the rate we would like, but it does give an indication that we are capable of doing the most highly skilled work. That ought to be an encouragement to industry to come into our area and derive the benefits which will be conferred on them by this Order. We appreciate that all these matters will take time, but the local authorities in this area have wasted no time in ascertaining what sites are available for industries which might propose to go into the area.
I have a letter from the clerk to the Earby Urban District Council, an area which is mentioned specially in the Order. It tells me that the council have made a thorough survey of the area and have reached agreement as regards the price and availability of a number of sites, not only for small industries but for much larger development. That is an important point because many people find, when embarking on development plans, that there are difficulties about the 2239 acquisition of land which often result in the necessity for a compulsory purchase order. When they know that agreement has been reached with landowners and that plots will be available, that is another reason for looking closely in this direction.
Often an area contains a good deal of agricultural land. In Lancashire and Yorkshire are derelict factories and mills which might be pulled down so that land can be made available for industrial development rather than good agricultural land being taken. There is a strategic aspect. Towns in the West Riding are situated on the edge of the Dales, and were never located by enemy bombers during the war. They were able to proceed unmolested with the manufacture of aircraft engines. I would draw this point to the attention of the Government again for them to advise firms who wish to expand armament production to look at this area, which enjoyed such immunity.
I would express thanks on behalf of my constituency to the Government for what they propose to do. We appreciated very much the immediate action taken in March last year when the textile industry was going through a difficult time, and the special visit paid by the Minister. We cannot expect immediately beneficial results from the Order, but we appreciate that the Government have decided to include us in it.
§ 10.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
It is inevitable that in an area and an industry that have had so chequered and often so tragic a history there should be considerable disappointment in many places which are hard hit, and in others not so hard-hit, that they are not included in the Order. Nothing is so worrying or disturbing as a state of industry in our country in which Members of Parliament assemble in a debate of this kind and apparently scramble and compete for the crumbs of comfort that the Government are able to afford. I have every sympathy with the disappointment they have expressed, and I should like to express the gratitude of my own constituency to those which have been disappointed for their very good comradeship in not seeking to take away any benefit from those who have got some out of this Order merely because 2240 they are so grievously disappointed themselves.
It is not often that I find myself on the same side of the argument as the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson). Whether it was due to the fact that we were once fellow-travellers together to an international economic conference in Moscow, I do not know. At any rate, on this particular economic matter we are not in disagreement.
§ Mr. Silverman
I came back with the opinions about trade that I took there— and whether others have extended their trade or their ideas it is for them to say and not for me. Nobody tried to convert anybody. What we tried to do was to get the trade of the world going again. It would be very much to the advantage of everyone concerned if we could get it going again without its being impeded by ideological and political differences which have extremely little to do with it.
I think those who criticise the geographical boundaries of the areas included in the Order do less than justice and pay less than the proper amount of attention to the difficulties that the President of the Board of Trade was in. A great deal has been said about pressure being brought to bear on the President to make the whole of this area, or a wider area, a Development Area—but there was a great deal of pressure brought to bear upon him to make no Order at all.
It is worth recording and not overlooking in this debate that in order to make any Order at all the President had to stand up against the almost united opposition of all the cotton manufacturers all over this area, who did not mind having the old conditions and did not mind a pool of unemployment, and who worried themselves a great deal about where they were to get labour from if ever the days of cotton prosperity that the Labour Government established between 1945 and 1950 returned. It took a certain amount of courage on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, in the face of the opposition of so many of his most influential friends and supporters, to be able to make the Order at all— and for that, at any rate, he is entitled to the gratitude of us all.
§ Mr. Ralph Assheton (Blackburn, West)
What is the hon. Gentleman's evidence for saying that all the manufacturers in the area were opposed to this Order? I appreciate that there was some opposition by the Cotton Board and Sir Raymond Streat, but I do not think there were representations from the manufacturers at all.
§ Mr. Silverman
Perhaps I should have not said "all"—if I did so, I withdraw— but it was certainly a preponderating body among them. So far as the manufacturers in my constituency were concerned, they desired rather that the Order not be made than that it should be. There is no doubt about the facts, although I do not want to take up time in going into the details.
If an Order is to be made, particularly if it is to be made against opposition, it should be one which will be effective. If there is not much which can be done, obviously the little which can be done should not be wasted by being spread too thinly over too large an area, otherwise no one will benefit. Points have been made about a number of places outside the area where the weight of unemployment is as great, or almost as great, as at places within the area. In almost every case those are isolated places. A Development Area must be a defined and integrated area geographically. That is the reason for what would otherwise be the rather anomalous inclusion of one or two smaller districts in Yorkshire, although they are not suffering from a lack of diversity —
§ Mr. H. Hynd
Surely my hon. Friend knows that areas contiguous to the scheduled area are in that category. They have large figures of unemployment and could become defined areas.
§ Mr. Silverman
I agree. I am not saying for a moment that the law of the Medes and Persians, or some immutable law of nature, made it necessary to draw the borders precisely. But wherever they were drawn there would still be areas beyond—
§ Mr. Drayson
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that thousands of his own constituents have drifted to seek employment in my constituency, which is the whole point?
§ Mr. Silverman
Yes. That is one of the considerations to be borne in mind if there is to be a Development Area at all. We prefer that industry should come to our labour rather than our labour should support industry elsewhere.
But when all possible effect has been given to those considerations, there is left the necessity of having a well-defined area which is not so large that the aid to be given is spread so thinly as not to make it worth while to have a Development Area at all. We have to be satisfied that in the area selected the special conditions contemplated by the Act are to be found. When my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) said there were no reasons for making the Order now before us she intended, I am sure, to convey that there were no better reasons for making this one than for making others which it might be possible to make. Obviously there are certain reasons for making it in respect of this area, having regard to its present fortunes, its immediate past, and the varying circumstances—
§ Mrs. Castle
I did say there were no special reasons—not that there were no reasons using the word "special" in the sense of comparison, for instance, with the claims of Blackburn.
§ Mr. Silverman
I fully appreciate that, and I have already said that everyone who will get some benefit out of this Order will be grateful for the generosity and support of those who will not, and who think they might have had some.
§ Mr. H. Nicholls
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, particularly when he is in such an urbane mood, but there is a slight contradiction in his argument. It is rather a pity he put one point of view. Surely his suggestion that the manufacturers were against this, and that it was because of that opposition that the President of the Board of Trade had to confine the benefits to only a small area, does not square with his main point that the area is small because to spread the benefits over a wider area would weaken the good to those areas which are worst hit. To try and let both those arguments stand would perpetuate a contradiction.
§ Mr. Silverman
I hope there is not much contradiction, and it is not for me to say. I do not know what was in the 2243 President's mind. He has not spoken. What I said about the opposition of the manufacturers is true. It is quite true there are other arguments for keeping it small, but I am sure the manufacturers did not urge the extension of the area that the President was going to specify.
The Parliamentary Secretary, moving the Motion, quoted the previous President of the Board of Trade and said that the road to improvement consequent upon the making of this Order was hard and slow. I quite understand that in face of the opposition and disappointment of other places he was no doubt extremely anxious to persuade those not able to get the grapes that they were, after all, rather sour. I hope he is not going to make them too sour, or the road too hard or slow. We hope that we are going to get some benefit out of this Order.
What is wrong, and our trouble tonight, stems from the fact that this Order is being made 25 years too late. All of Lancashire, and not just this narrow circumscribed part, ought to be scheduled as a Development Area owing to the bitter, difficult years of the 1930's. If that had been done we would have got some diversification of industry when that was possible instead of leaving it to be done in 1945. We could have had as much diversification as we needed then, but we chose to be patriotic. We did not take advantage of that opportunity. We accepted the view that cotton had a great contribution to make—which only it could make—to the restoration of our balance of trade and the filling of the dollar gap. For five years we were content to do without diversity. It is because this Order was not made long ago that we find ourselves in our present position.
§ Mr. Assheton
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that just less than 25 years ago, when the Labour Party were in power and Mr. Thomas and Sir Oswald Mosley were dealing with these matters, they made no proposal of this sort.
§ Mr. Silverman
If it is any satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman I give him his point. It is true that there was a minority Labour Government for 18 months between 1929 and 1931, and that they could have scheduled the area among all the other things that they might have done as a minority Government during 2244 that 18 months. I give him the point for what it is worth, but if he attaches any blame to them for taking no action in that limited time in those circumstances, perhaps he will support me in my censure of his Government for not having done it in the longer time, under much easier conditions, which they have had since then. I do not want to develop that argument, but I had to reply to the point put to me.
I say to the Government that at last they have done the right thing. They may have done it in too limited a way, though I confess that, for my part, I do not see that they could have done more at this time than what is done in this Order; but, having done the right thing now, the Government should ensure that this is not an empty gesture. They should ensure that something is done to bring some diversity of industry to areas which have suffered so badly from having only one industry on which to depend in good times and bad.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
Members of the Opposition are never better than when they are begging and pleading and this, of course, is a piece of special pleading and special begging. I remember the history behind this Order. There was a period of uncertainty and calamity in the cotton trade. There were two remedies offered by the Opposition. They were in a state of panic. One remedy was that Purchase Tax should be removed from all cotton goods. The second was that the cotton areas which formerly were the pride of industrial Britain should be turned into Development Areas.
Fortunately, the Chancellor resisted the first proposal, but the second one, months after any necessity has been proved, comes before the House tonight. The whole theory of Development Areas is a theory of charity. It is asking something from the whole community which individual communities should do for themselves. There was a Member of this House some 15 years ago who said that all Scotland was a distressed area. It might be from the point of view of some hon. Gentlemen who have spoken tonight.
This kind of niggling with the problem will provide no solution. The need for 2245 this Order may have been apparent some six months ago, but the need has gone. We learned from one hon. Member that one of these areas is one which not only rejoices in a Rolls Royce factory but which had complete immunity from any danger during the whole of the war. This is a class of community which is said to be in a desperate position and it demands the eloquence of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) to support its plea. The whole thing is contemptible.
Soon we shall have Brighton asking for special support, and the City of Edinburgh demanding eloquence to put forward its claims. This attitude of going about with the begging bowl is all very well for the friends of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne—
§ Mr. Silverman
I am willing to come at any time to the City of Edinburgh and explain why it should not be scheduled if the hon. Gentleman will come to Nelson and explain why Nelson should not be scheduled.
§ Sir W. Darling
I did not think the opportunity would ever be presented to me of having the hon. Gentleman's support. It is such a valuable offer that I hope that he will permit me to consider it very carefully. Anything to be said to the advantage of the City of Edinburgh has up to now been exceedingly well said by myself. It may be that we will fall on hard times, as the hon. Member is falling on hard times in his constituency, and have to come begging to the House of Commons. When that happens I shall consider the kindly offer he has made on this occasion.
I will not encourage the hon. Member in seeking special treatment for the particularly poverty-stricken constituency which he represents. That is what the House is being asked to do tonight. It is being asked to give something special to the hon. Gentleman's constituency and deny it, very ungallantly, to the constituency of the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will qualify his words a little for he did not, I am sure. mean anything unpleasant by attaching to these parts of Lancashire the description of a "poverty-stricken area" or by claiming that we were begging. This area for which we plead is an area on which the prosperity of this country as a whole has depended for 150 years, and we only want enough work for that contribution to the national benefit to continue.
§ Sir W. Darling
I certainly do not mean anything unpleasant, but because of mismanagement, or through labour troubles, this area is asking for support from the public purse; that is how I interpreted the remarks of the hon. Gentleman, and if he agrees, he will join with me in opposing this extension of this type of legislation to the area. If this area is not in a state of poverty, what is the object of our passing this Order tonight? The area, we are told, cannot support itself, and if that is not a misericordium from the hon. Gentleman I am at a loss to understand what be has meant.
The case is not made out. I am surmised at the Government attempting to parry the clamours of the Opposition for something of this sort to be done and I say that it is quite unworthy of them. I could put up just as good a claim for the port of Leith, where the unemployment figures have presented a tragic picture. This great port used to export goods to the Russias, and receive imports from the Russias. Now, its coal trade has gone; its importations have disappeared. A case for this port could be made, but other plans have been put forward and there has been no demand up to now on the public purse. No, this clamour should not be surrendered to by the Government for such action is a return to the unwise inflationary policies of the past.
We should have a better idea; not the strange policy of economics put forward by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne and the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East. No greatness will return to Britain by the making of such an Order as that before the House tonight. Prosperity will not come to Skipton and Barnoldswick by the making. of Orders of this type.
§ Sir W. Darling
The whole policy of surrendering to clamour from the Opposition on behalf of these manufacturing areas in difficulty, and living under great difficulties, is embodied in this charitable plea of the depressed areas. This should be the opportunity for us to say, "Let us have no more depressed areas." Let us have a country which will rise to meet its responsibilities. This, I say, is a miserable piece of work, and for my part I hope that the House will not pass it.
§ Mr. Blackburn
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the House if, in view of his remarks, he intends to vote against the Order?
§ Mr. Blackburn
The hon. Member really should indicate what he means by making a speech of that kind if he is not proposing to vote against the Order.
§ Sir W. Darling
Other of my hon. Friends have spoken, and they have not indicated the way in which they intend to vote.
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I should not have intervened but for the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling). I would remind him that the clamour for this Order came, earlier in the year, as much from his side of the House as from this side. I wonder what the right hon. Member for Blackburn. West (Mr. Assheton) felt while his hon. Friend was giving his exposition of pre-Victorian economics.
§ Mr. Assheton
I always feel extremely pleased when my hon. Friend speaks. It is always most exhilarating.
§ Mr. Ede
It is undoubtedly exhilarating, because hearing what one knows is wrong is always an exhilaration in a place where so often one finds people saying agreeable things. The right hon. Gentleman earlier gave an indication that his views were quite different from those of the hon. Member for Edinburgh. South.
It is not for those who live in areas which have never known the problems 2248 which confront my hon. Friends in Lancashire—and hon. Friends of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South—to make the cheap gibes which he has made about the poverty in those areas. I speak like this with some feeling because I have spent the whole of my life as a resident of Surrey whereas for a quarter of a century, on and off, I have represented, in this House, South Shields, a special area.
I was a little surprised by the eloquence with which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) defended the Government. He made a better case for the Government than did the Parliamentary Secretary, but two of the things which he said in support of the hon. and learned Gentleman I do not find in the Act on which the Order is based. It is not necessary to have a small, limited area for these benefits. The first of the scheduled areas under the Act of 1945 was the North-East Development Area, which includes the whole of the administrative county of Durham and the five county boroughs therein, the county boroughs of Newcastle-on-Tyne and Tynemouth, several urban districts and municipal boroughs in the county of Northumberland, a great area in the North Riding of Yorkshire and the county borough of Middlesbrough. That is a very wide area—far larger than the whole of the area of the Joint Planning Committee to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) referred.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I think there is a misunderstanding, for which I am no doubt to blame. When I said "limited" I did not mean necessarily small. I meant a defined area—with its limits defined. It is quite true that it could be a wide area. Had this Order been made when it should have been made, in the middle 1930's, I expect it would have been much wider.
§ Mr. Ede
That was the second point which the hon. Member made—that we must not pick little places here and there, with country in between. Take the South Wales and Monmouthshire Development Area. In the administrative county of Pembroke, they picked out the tiny borough of Pembroke and linked it with places not connected with it in any way. 2249 In the administrative county of Breck-nock they picked out isolated places and fitted them in. In the same way, places in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale could have been fitted into the Order. I do not think either of those pleas excuses the Parliamentary Secretary from not having included certain isolated but well-defined local government districts in Lancashire in the Order.
I can only tell the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, that if he divides the House against this Order, I shall feel compelled to vote with him because I think the Order is far too circumscribed in its area. Although we should vote against the Government for different reasons, I should be very glad to see him for the first time follow one of his witty speeches by giving a vote in accordance with it.
§ 11.30 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
Like my hon. Friends who have spoken from this side of the House, I approach this Order with mixed feelings. I am very sorry for the areas mentioned in the Order and particularly sorry for those represented by the hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) and the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort), because those are places where the workers, in a period of full employment, were misled into voting for a Government which has raised the level of unemployment in the country from less than 1 per cent. to 2.2 per cent., as we have heard in the debate today. We are now discussing places with an average unemployment rate of about 3 per cent., but the Government have only been in office about a year, and although we still have a long way to go before we reach the percentages of the bad old days of the 'twenties and 'thirties, we dread what may yet happen.
The hon. Member for Skipton was quite right when he drew the attention of the House to the fact that many workers live in one area and work in another, and it is, therefore, most misleading to take the figures of unemployment at any one particular employment exchange as showing the unemployment in that area. With the travelling about that goes on in the weaving belt of North-East Lancashire, the figures are unrepresentative, as could be said for other areas as well.
2250 I was very pleased when the Ruling was given from the Chair that it would be in order to argue against this Order on the grounds that it might harm another adjacent area, because I hold strongly that the terms of this Order are likely to harm my constituency which is contiguous with the area scheduled. I will give one example of that. At Clayton-le-Moors there is a war-time modern factory, which, at present, is only partially used. We have heard a lot about building new factories and using old and out of date buildings, but here is a modern factory on the borders of this scheduled area, and it is being largely used for storage purpose. It seems fairly obvious that if the area proposed to be scheduled is going to get special facilities to attract industries into it, then it may well attract business that otherwise might have come to this building, which is so well-known to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blackburn, West (Mr. Assheton).
In saying that I do not want to say anything that will harm the area to be scheduled, because I wish this area well. I hope that the scheduled area will reap some benefit from the Order, but in saying that I do not think there is any question but that it will harm some of these adjacent areas. In the weaving belt of North-East Lancashire, which is a well-defined area, the population is drifting away, and it is no use thinking that this Order will restore the position.
Only last month the chairman of the body that has been quoted frequently today, the Lancashire Joint Advisory Planning Committee, No. 2, said this in a statement sent to the President of the Board of Trade:It appears to us, therefore, that we can look forward with certainty to textile recessions in the future, large-scale unemployment, continued emigration and a decline in the relative importance of our towns in relation to the economic structure of the country as a whole.It is fairly clear from that pessimistic forecast that these local authorities in the whole of the area concerned foresee a continuation of the drift of population that has, for example, reduced the population of Accrington from 46,523 in 1911 to 40,671 in 1951.
I could quote a whole list of figures for all the towns in my division, and in the area affected by the Order, showing that 2251 there has been this steady decline of population at a time when the population of the rest of the country has been increasing. That is a serious state of affairs for the local authorities, businesses and industries in the districts concerned. The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) and the hon. Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) said much more eloquently than I could many of the things which I was going to say.
There is one point to which I would specially draw the attention of the Minister and the House. When the President of the Board of Trade presented this Order, or promised it to the House, on 29th October, 1952, he did so with an important postscript. He said, when he announced that he proposed to schedule the area:…there are places in addition to the two areas I have mentioned, some inside and some outside Development Areas, where the outlook for employment is such that the attraction of new industries is clearly desirable. The main handicap at the moment is, of course, the stringent limitations on new building required by our existing economic situation. We propose to relax these limitations somewhat in a few places which appear to be in most urgent need."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1952 Vol. 505, c. 1928.]I do not think we have had a satisfactory definition of what the President had in mind by those words. But a reasonable period has now elapsed since that date. Can we be told whether anything has been done within the implication of that wording to give special facilities to any of those areas? We have heard about something which is to be done for Portsmouth. I would like to know about North-East Lancashire. A little earlier last year—in May—during an Adjournment debate when we were discussing this same subject, the President said that new industries would be steered into the area, and further development of some of the industries already there would be encouraged. Can we be told what has been the result of that promise?
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) showed a little dubiety just now about what the real value of this Order would be. Here is a test which we can apply to the intentions of the Government, for a few months have elapsed since the President announced that he intended to do this. It would be interesting to know whether 2252 he has been able to do anything. When he was presenting the Order tonight the Parliamentary Secretary gave some reasons which were inconclusive, and which left me puzzled as to what is the real reason for scheduling this area. For example, he talked about scheduling the area in accordance with the danger of unemployment. Those are the words and the intention of the Act. But as I understand, that is not the basis upon which these places have been selected for scheduling. So far as I know, the basis has been the figure of unemployment at the time the decision was made.
I want to draw attention to that phrase, "Danger of unemployment," because I think the intention of the White Paper, and of the Act, was that the Government should attempt to foresee possible unemployment, and to schedule places so as to obviate unemployment arising. Instead, they waited until unemployment occurred and then selected those places to be scheduled. That is the wrong way to approach the matter and that is why we find the Order not entirely satisfactory. There is more than that. It is suggested by our local authorities that the Act is not flexible enough. If the Minister finds that his powers are not sufficient to give special attention to the scheduled areas or to carry out the postcript I have mentioned, he should ask for special powers from the House, and he would get them.
The Parliamentary Secretary told us that it was the firm intention of the Government to carry out to the full the letter and the spirit of the White Paper of 1944. They are not doing that by giving us this very limited Order, unless they use their powers to the full within the Development Areas and stretch them to the utmost in the areas still not scheduled.
While we are disappointed in the adjacent areas that we have not been included in the Order, we wish the new Development Areas well and hope that the Order will have the desired effect upon them and will have no harmful effect upon their neighbours. I must tell the Minister that he is likely to get further representations from local authorities in North-East Lancashire who believe that the Weaving Belt must be treated as an entity and not be split up in this way.
§ 11.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I hope that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) will forgive me if I cannot congratulate him on his speech tonight as I did last night. Last night he was much more full of facts, reason, logic and argument. It was a humorous occasion. This time it was not. It was a very sad occasion.
It is a lamentable commentary upon the boastful, bombastic ebullience of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour that when he was talking about the conditions of employment, we should be asking the House for the first time to schedule as a depressed area an area which managed to maintain a high rate of employment up to 1950–51 when the change of Government came. I should have thought it was lamentable from the Parliamentary point of view that almost every speech has called attention to the fact that not merely are we discussing one small area but are facing the problems of an entire industry.
I was grateful to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South for his intervention, but I wondered whether his dissertation on the difficulties of Leith—my own political recollections of Leith go back for 28 years—permitted me to make a passing reference to Oldham. I have always longed to take part in a Scottish debate, and I shall be able to get over the reticence and nervousness which have hitherto restrained me from so doing.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)
I should perhaps have stopped the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) earlier.
§ Mr. Hale
The whole House would have regretted it if you had done so, Sir Charles. It is always interesting to see the Tory mind at work. I make no complaint of the fact that you did not stop him.
To come back to the Order, there are vital matters that ought to occupy our minds. The first is whether the Order is necessary. The principal reason for the Order appears to be that the constituency of Nelson and Colne is represented so ably and assiduously by my hon. Friend the Member for that area as to enable the Order to be secured in the face of competition from all over Lancashire. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale 2254 (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) asked the Parliamentary Secretary for facts, but though I listened to the Minister's speech with the greatest possible attention I did not hear him give any facts at all. When he was asked for the only relevant fact he shied off for a moment and was out of order: on the whole he would not take the risk of introducing even a figure of unemployment as regards this particular area.
What have the Government done? They must say what efforts they have made to solve the problem in every way. It is true that the hon. Gentleman for Edinburgh, South referred to Purchase Tax, and so on, in general, but the whole emphasis of my argument was on the necessity for placing orders here, keeping the wheels turning and seeking to maintain employment over the period of difficulty. It seems that that could have been done and this is the issue that came up at Question time today.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), when he announced the defence programme some years ago, said that we would spend £200 million on textiles in three years as part of that programme alone. He announced that that would mean a reduction of home consumption with a policy of developing exports. That programme had been announced only a few weeks before the General Election which had such lamentable results to the country. There is no doubt that with 250,000 extra unemployed and much short time working that urgent steps are needed. But following the programme for restricting home consumption and developing export trade, all that the Government have achieved is to restrict home purchases—and that is the prime reason —
§ Mr. Hale
The figures were given this morning. There was a planned expansion of £200 million in three years—it is in the Defence White Paper. The £200 million was not a casual statement; it was the production programme. The figure given to me in answer to my Question was just over £150 million—and there has been a substantial increase in 2255 prices since then. We were not able to get by question and answer whether that figure includes, as I imagine it does, orders said to be specially placed last year, but it is abundantly clear that this Government have starved the industry of orders. I am asking for the figure, and I will give way if the Parliamentary Secretary or anyone wants to challenge the figure I am giving. They have failed to maintain the stable policy of Government buying which would have helped to maintain employment in this area.
What do they propose to do? Why are they now saying, "Let us schedule this as a depressed area "? The hon. Member for Skipton (Mr. Drayson) made an adroit speech and I congratulate him on the advertisement he got into it. He pleaded for orders to be placed for armaments to help the textile areas. I take it that he wants to sell jet aircraft abroad, or something like that, and to carrying on an extended defence programme by selling guns here, there and everywhere.
The bon. Member was appealing for armaments. But why not have a textile works? The whole world is full of people waiting for textiles. The world is short of textiles. It is short of purchasing power too, under the policy advocated by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South. If there was a plan for the development of purchasing power there might be some hope for the expansion of Lancashire's trade.
As I understand, the Parliamentary Secretary says that he will draw a little map of an area on a plan in his office. There will be red lines drawn on it, and that area will henceforth have special treatment. It can only have that special treatment in one of two ways. We could adopt a suggestion made before in this area, without much success, and say that we will give priority to orders. We could say, "When you want cloth, as far as possible you go to Nelson and Colne and the surrounding areas and place Government orders." We have to face the fact that that is a policy of discrimination against the rest of the surrounding areas.
I do not object to that. I think it is sensible planning to say that if one area is working full-time and another area is not, then Government orders should be 2256 switched to maintain a balance. But, unless orders are increased, that is a policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul, even though it happens that Peter is richer than Paul, and, therefore, no serious injustice is done.
The second proposal is that when the red lines have been drawn a number of green spots are marked on the area to indicate the spots where factories will be built. It is perhaps a lamentable part of this debate that if we look at the record of the Government with regard to depressed areas we find that their policy has been to depress them still further. The whole policy of building factories and introducing new factories into these areas, which were developing so well from 1945 to 1950 has been virtually abandoned.
Any reference to the figures of factory building, either in the depressed areas or anywhere else, shows the serious situation which is developing. I do not know how long it takes to build a modern factory. I must not refer to Oldham, but taking a hypothetical cotton town, I would say that I have heard it estimated that it takes three or four years to build a large factory. Further, the situation has materially altered in the past three months. This area includes a small area of the woollen textile industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) will develop that important side if he has the opportunity. Without anticipating what he will say, rumours are that, on the whole, wool is doing very much better while cotton is still doing as badly. I do not say it is doing as badly as it was last May, but it has settled at a fairly steady level with an overall employment level of between 16 and two-thirds and 20 per cent.
After the years of full employment that is a lamentable state of affairs, not only for the workpeople who are suffering, but from the point of view of the country. Time after time in every Command Paper, economic White Paper and talk about the planning and location of industry the emphasis has been on the necessity to increase textile exports because we have to diminish engineering exports in the interests of the rearmament programme.
One or two things really stand out. The first is the unfortunate fact that Lancashire has never got over its fears of 2257 the past. Development has always been haunted by the fear that what happened in 1923 will occur again, and that when it does the Government will be just as helpless as they were then. There are people today who are saying that those times are nearly here again. I do not think so. Even the lamentable inefficiency of the Government Front Bench in the last 18 months is not bad enough to secure that result. I believe the indication is that unless the Government take appropriate steps Lancashire's own initiative will just about maintain the present output.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary, out of courtesy to the House, will say what he proposes to do. Is he proposing to take no steps after the Order is made? What is the position in regard to factory building, after the Order is made? I represent an area greatly affected by the Order. I understand that the Lancashire County Council can, with the consent of the Minister, schedule land for factory building on the basis of one or two priorities. In one case it can be scheduled ready for building without further development, as has been done at Chedderton. Secondly, it can be allocated or reserved for the purpose as shown under the ordinary plans, and the right to develop is obtained.
The House will understand the problem confronting,, the urban district council. If industrialists want to come to Chedderton, or anywhere else, they want to come hurriedly, and not have to wait two or three years. They want to be able to start immediately, to know what the costs will be, what the terms will be, and what guarantee of tenure is available. What is the difference between that and a Development Area? I do not know. The Parliamentary Secretary ought to tell us. It is vital that we should know. Is it the policy of the Government to build factories first and to try to attract industries afterwards?
The case has been made that this area is almost exclusively a weaving area. That theory was destroyed by the hon. Member for Skipton, but we will overlook that. I do not think that anyone doubts that on the whole the great claim of the area is that there is almost no diversification.
§ Mr. Drayson
The town in question was a weaving town. What was one of 2258 the largest weaving sheds in England was converted into a factory.
§ Mr. Hale
That is interesting. That is the warning sign.
My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) referred to the diminution of population in Accrington. That is something which affects the whole of Lancashire. In Oldham, the population came down from 140,000 in 1922 to 120,000 and it remains there to this day. Even now there are signs that people are leaving the area. People have to travel by bus to work in Sheffield and at Squire's Gate, in Blackpool. This is far too grave a matter to handle in this casual way.
The Parliamentary Secretary is always courteous to me and I wish to treat him with every courtesy. I thought that the introductory part of his observations was a little sketchy and very much lacking in information on this vital matter. He laid great stress upon a section of the industry. He said that this area had only one section of an industry and the Department wanted to deal with it on the basis of sections.
This is the primary problem of the whole cotton textile industry. Of course, we must have weaving and spinning together. In every advanced country the processes are done in the same factory. Modern countries where there is plenty of land have factories where all the processes take place—the carding, spinning, weaving, dyeing, fashioning and printing—on the same premises. [Interruption.] I do not know why that comment causes dissent. I thought that that was the fundamental problem in Lancashire. A large part of the cost is incurred in transport from place to place. I come from Leicestershire and I know something about the dyeing process. We used to send lorries from Leicestershire to Lancashire to collect the stuff, bring it back and dye it—
§ Mr. Hale
It was a casual observation, Sir. We have had references to Leith and Moscow, but I will restrict myself to Nelson and Colne.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will remember that, as the necessity for Development Areas persists, we do not 2259 want to divide this great industry into tiny pockets with tiny processes in each one. That would be most harmful. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will realise that those hon. Members who are staying here late tonight are deeply concerned about the matter which is of great interest to our constituents.
It raises a matter which is of vital interest to every local government body in Lancashire, and especially to the Lancashire County Council. It raises a matter which has been a mental burden on people living in Lancashire for some months past. The industry is full of foreboding for the future. We have read with surprise some of the proposals that have been made in the last few days about employment in Lancashire.
We are very anxious to hear the Government's statement on that matter. The Parliamentary Secretary will know that it is not merely a matter of cotton spinning, or cotton weaving, great as these industries are. This industry was, in years gone by, the lifeblood of the country's prosperity; it was on the profits of Lancashire's industry that the prosperity of the South, in great measure, rested. It was on the industry and the labour, and the skill, of the workers of Lancashire that our great export trade was built and it is a most lamentable fact that we have to see it reduced to its present position.
I hope that, subject to what the Parliamentary Secretary says, my hon. Friends will not propose to resist the Order, because, although the proposals have some deficiency—and here I agree that it is ungenerous to give to this limited area these limited offers—I hope that the Order will be made. But I also hope that the Government will then, at long, long last, take action and do something in Nelson and Colne which will be a model for the other areas.
§ 12.6 a.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
I am grateful for the mention which has been made to Sowerby although, unfortunately, no part of it is within the scope of this Order. That is why I must, very regretfully, oppose it and if there is a Division I shall vote against it. I oppose it because a number of the areas in the Order have no stronger claim for 2260 being in than a number which are not in; indeed. not so strong a case.
The test to be applied under the Distribution of Industry Act, of 1945, is set out in Section 7 (2), where the material words are:where there is likely to be a special danger of unemployment.I have reason to believe that the President of the Board of Trade has felt himself bound very rigidly indeed by the terms of the 1945 Act in reaching his decision as to the scope of this Order. From whatever circumstances the danger —the special danger, as the Act states— of unemployment might arise, any firm anticipation of that danger would qualify an area for inclusion in the Order.
The test of a special danger of unemployment is, first, actual experience of unemployment. That, I think, is a fair test over a fair period; and a secondary test is the degree of dependence of an area upon one particular industry and, still more, if it is upon one section of that particular industry. When applying the test of actual unemployment experience, I would remind my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) that when the Distribution of Industry Bill was being discussed in 1945, a very strong case indeed was made out for the inclusion in the First Schedule of the Bill of a number of the areas now included in this Order.
Had the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) been able to be with us tonight, we should no doubt have had a reminder of the earnest plea last made in 1945 for the inclusion of Burnley and other parts of the weaving belt in the First Schedule of the Bill, and which are now included in the Order.
§ Mr. Houghton
I was using the parent Act, Sir, merely as support for my argument that the area included in the Order has received the attention of the House previously when applying the test of unemployment experienced as a ground for scheduling it under the Act. I pass to give an illustration from my constituency —that of the municipal borough of Todmorden, which is in the West Riding of Yorkshire, less than a dozen miles from 2261 Burnley. I quote it only as an illustration; I cannot ask for Todmorden to be included in the Order, following the Ruling given earlier by Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
When comparing the unemployment experienced in some of the areas included in the Order with that experienced in some places outside the Order—some have been mentioned and I now mention Todmorden—the claims of some towns in the Order to be included in it are no stronger, and in some cases not as strong, as those of some towns which have been left out of the Order. Nor can some of the areas in the Order claim to be as dependent as some towns outside the Order on one section of a single industry.
I submit, with great respect and much regret, that it is better not to make an Order at all than to make one which gives rise to serious dissatisfaction and a sense of grievance. There is no doubt that some areas outside the Order will feel not only unfairly treated but at a distinct and new disadvantage compared with areas in the Order.
May I underline the question put by the right hon. Member for Blackburn. West (Mr. Assheton), my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) and, I believe, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), who asked the Minister what steps are to be taken to prevent injury to the interests of areas outside the Order through the magnetism of areas inside the Order. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, who replied to the earlier debate on the wider issues, said it would make nonsense of the procedure if areas within the Order were to drain off development and employment which would otherwise be located in areas contiguous with areas in the Order but outside it. Todmorden is certainly such an area. It will be a ridiculous state of affairs if the unemployment growing in Todmorden is to be solved by taking unemployed workers by bus to Burnley in order that they may seek employment in developed industries in Burnley. That may well happen.
The cotton industry is indivisible. To draw boundaries in the way in which the Minister has drawn them is to create a particularly irritating form of economic and industrial boundary. It is to put something there which was never there 2262 before. At least one can walk across the boundary of Lancashire and the administrative county of the West Riding of Yorkshire without noticing it; nobody could tell it industrially or socially. The people at that end of my constituency are always in difficulty in knowing whether to support Burnley or Halifax, Yorkshire or Lancashire. The President of the Board of Trade under this area Order will draw a physical boundary between the two, and new business will be attracted to one side of it and discouraged from going to the other.
There is another aspect of the matter, and that is that businesses in the areas within the Order are in control of businesses in areas outside the Order. There are 1,400 workers in the municipal borough of Todmorden employed in textiles while employers reside outside Todmorden and for the most part are within areas scheduled under this Order. What might their policy be? Their policy may be to develop their industries in closer association with the parent company within the area, and in consequence very much injure the area outside the Order. I think there are weighty reasons against approving this Order without a much more satisfactory explanation given to those who represent areas outside the Order.
Some criticism has been made of the introductory speech of the Parliamentary Secretary. I think that when he heard the Ruling of Mr. Deputy-Speaker regarding the scope of the debate, he came to the conclusion that there could be no debate on areas outside the Order and precious little about the areas inside the Order. Therefore, there would be no debate at all, and there was no need to say anything very much about it. The Parliamentary Secretary has certainly had a salutary reminder since then of the determination of those of us who represent those constituencies which may be injured and who contrived within the Rules of Order to put the view of our constituents. We readily agree that the Parliamentary Secretary has listened with great patience and close interest to everything that has been said.
That is all I have to say about the narrow question of the scope of this Order. I do not wish to trespass on the wider question which was raised rather belatedly by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling). We are 2263 dealing with an Order under the Act, and whether the Act should be scrapped or modified is an entirely different matter. I think the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South has, by mistake, read today's leading article in the "Manchester Guardian," thinking he was reading the "Scotsman." There is some criticism of the general principles of the Act, and a suggestion that this Order is a form of industrial favouritism, which the "Manchester Guardian" leading article thinks is a reason for a major criticism of the whole purposes and operations of the Distribution of Industry Act. I am not, however, going into that matter, nor am I going to suggest for a moment that any scheduled area should be unscheduled to extend the scope of an area which is about to be scheduled.
The Parliamentary Secretary must give greater comfort than we have up to now received regarding the possible effects of this Order on the industrial stability and development of the contiguous areas engaged in the same industry and close to the areas scheduled, and we ask for some definite assurance that possible damage will be prevented. I think that is perhaps the most that we can expect in this unhappy chapter of growing unemployment in Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire.
§ 12.19 a.m.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I heard with no surprise the Ruling given by Mr. Deputy-Speaker at the beginning of this debate because it was the Ruling given by your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, on the last occasion when an Order of this kind came before the House. I hope that I can deal with some of the questions that have been raised, though I confess that after nearly nine hours continuously on the Front Bench I may perhaps have overlooked some points.
May I say at once that I regret that so many hon. Members who found themselves inhibited by the rules of order did not attempt to intervene in the debate this afternoon. [HON. MEMBERS: "We did."] All these questions could then have been fully considered. The hon. Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle) spoke about the present figures of unemployment. I think she will agree that everyone who has thought about this matter has come to the conclusion that, in 2264 deciding whether to add an area to the schedule, one does not consider unemployment figures at one moment of time; one considers something of the history of the area, in good and bad times. If consideration is given to that, I think the case is made out for adding to the Schedule of the Act every area mentioned in this Order.
The hon. Lady mentioned a fear, which was mentioned in some of the other speeches, that actual injury may be done in contiguous areas. One example was quoted from an earlier debate, on which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour suggested that particulars should be sent to the President of the Board of Trade so that he could look into the matter. If one is to have an Order, a boundary must be drawn at some point. There always will be contiguous areas. If it were true that such areas were liable to be injured by the creation of a Development Order, I think that some evidence would have been given that injury has been caused when Development Areas have been created in the past. I do not think there are examples of such injury.
§ Mrs. Castle
The hon. and learned Gentleman is overlooking the point that the local authorities in the areas which will benefit from this Order are in agreement with the local authorities who will not benefit, that the area chosen is not the right one, because there is a properly integrated industrial area which the whole planning authority thinks ought to have been scheduled.
§ Mr. Strauss
I know that opinion differs about where the line should be drawn. I do not think the hon. Lady's fears will prove well founded, and it will be the object of my Department to see that they prove to be groundless.
I now come to the question which was first raised, I think, by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). He wondered whether the remarks, which I deliberately made in my speech so as not to exaggerate, meant that we were not going to do our utmost to make the Order a success. He need have no fear on that ground. We shall do everything we can to make the Order a success. Another hon. Member asked what we were doing, or had done. I think he said, rightly, that Government-financed factories were perhaps the most important 2265 of the actions which could be taken as the result of making an area a Development Area under the Act. A survey of possible sites has already been made. Further action depends upon finding suitable projects for Government-financed building. We are doing our best to find such projects.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood
The hon. and learned Gentleman says that the Government will try to make this Order a success. That means, presumably, that additional industry will be guided into areas covered by the Order. Unless the Government are creating additional industry above the national pool of industry, it presumably means that these areas will get industry which otherwise would go into other areas. Is not the Order therefore militating against the interests of the areas to which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn, East referred?
§ Mr. Strauss
I have dealt with that point. I cannot go into it now.
There was a point of difference between the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne and his right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and I am bound to say that I thought the right hon. Gentleman was wrong, and had perhaps forgotten some of the documents published by the Government of which he was an eminent Member. He cited some areas scheduled in the original Act— areas to which the Act is made directly to apply. When we look at the new areas to be added to the Schedule the statutory wording that we have to consider is that in the Section referred to by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne.
The right hon. Gentleman's own Government produced a White Paper on Distribution of Industry in 1948, which has three paragraphs, Nos. 84, 85 and 86, which are very much to the point on "areas not at present scheduled." In paragraph 85 it is stated that some areas proposed are eithernot homogeneous units or their working population may be too small.for them to be scheduled. That was definitely a ground which, in the view of his own Government, was a reason for not adding small and scattered places to these areas.
Those are the main points that have been made. I think the House is willing 2266 to come to a decision. Every area mentioned in the Order can rightly be given the help of these Acts and, on that ground, without exaggerating the effect but also without minimising the benefits, I commend the Order to the House.
§ That the Distribution of Industry (Development Areas) Order, 1953, dated 22nd January, 1953, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22nd January, be approved.