§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Hannan
Just before that interruption, which was to enable the House to discharge its constitutional duties, I referred to the Westwood Committee, appointed in 1949 to deal with the subject of minerals in Scotland. In addition to that, the Scottish Council for Industry has a committee examining the prospects and deposits of talc, silica, lead and zinc. I should like to know whether there has been any co-ordination between the two reports and what the prospects of development are. All of us will feel that the resources which can be procured by that means, would relieve us of the necessity to go elsewhere to search for them.
I want to draw the attention of the Committee to a very valuable Report which was referred to by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) in the debate last year. It was the Paley report of the United States Materials Commission. Its main purpose is to point out that both for the United States of America and for the industrial nations of Western Europe, the coming years will bring forward a growing problem of shortage of raw materials and that our capacity to produce goods is far outstripping our capacity to produce the raw materials. For example, the report says:The demand for a non-metallic mineral like fluorspar is typical of why there is a materials problem. Fluorspar used to find its principal use as a flux in steelmaking. As steel production increases, there is more and more demand for fluorspar but, over and above this, modern technology has found additional uses for fluorspar as a source of material for refrigerants, new types of plastics, propellent gases, oil refining reagents, in the production of aluminium, and the fluoridation of water supplies to prevent dental decay.1942 This report indicates that, as our industrial processes change, so does the demand vary for various minerals and materials. Therefore, if something tangible could be done in this connection if would assist the future of Scotland.
Turning from those general considerations to one nearer my home, may I refer to the stubborn problem of unemployment in Glasgow? My right hon. Friend said that most people have now come to the conclusion that the cure for thickly populated cities like Glasgow is an overspill into surrounding areas. These areas have not yet been defined, but we are all hoping that as a result of the Report of the Clyde Valley Planning Committee, which is due soon, some consideration will be given to it by the Government. Naturally, I cannot ask the Government to accept the recommendations when, at this stage, no one knows what they are, but I can ask that consideration should be speedy and that a decision should be made as quickly as possible.
The real problem is that in the congested areas of Glasgow there are a number of small industries which are not to be under-rated since they constitute a large proportion of the industry of that city. If the overspill of population goes outside some industries will follow, and they will become the responsibility, I assume, of the development corporation in the new area. But what of those industries which have no desire to move out and are left?
As I understand, the idea of the Scottish Council was to have one industrial estate in the north, south, east and west of the city. We have one in the south and there is one proposed in the northwest, which happens to be within my own constituency. I want to ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the position of the Balmore Industrial Estate? I am informed that recently negotiations were about to be completed for the purchase of the land. In view of the likelihood of small industries in the congested area of Glasgow being without workers, will urgent consideration be given to this matter?
This area is practically a new town because, as the right hon. and gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) knows, in Milton and Lambhill 4,000 new houses have been built, with a consequent influx of population. It is a dormitory 1943 area with no large units of heavy industry, but next door, in the neighbouring constituency of Springburn, there are large units of industry entirely dependent on Cowlairs Locomotive Works, the St. Rollox engine works, and the Atlas Contraction Company. Therefore, because of the urgency of this matter, I ask that consideration be given to this development in the north-west.
The percentage of unemployment in Scotland to its insured workers is, at 3 per cent., heavier than in any other region of the country, except Wales. In February of each year, from 1950 to 1953, the percentage of unemployment in Scotland in relation to the United Kingdom was 19, 21.2, 19 and 18 respectively. That is heavy by any standard, but the percentage of Glasgow to Scotland varies between 28 and 30 per cent. In short, Glasgow has one-third of the unemployment of Scotland and something ought to be done to relieve that problem. Even when the overall total was low, as in 1951, when it was 42,000, it represented 31 per cent.
I know that the Ministry of Labour have a sympathetic interest in the disabled persons register, and I want to put one or two considerations to the Parliamentary Secretary. In the Report of the Ministry of Labour for 1951, on page 86 it appears that the total number of disabled on the register has fallen. I accept that. It goes on to say, however, that the number of unemployed on the register has also fallen. On the other hand, it is significant that the number of disabled persons placed during 1951 were 22,800 fewer than in 1950.
Reference to the Scottish Report, paragraph 20, page 10, indicates that in December, 1952, the increase in the number of unemployed disabled persons was 10,018 more than in 1951. A figure of 8,800 unemployed is also mentioned. That represents 10 per cent. of the total, but the disabled unemployed related to the total number of unemployed in Scotland is 12 per cent. My point is that there is a hard core of disabled persons on our unemployed registers in Scotland, particularly in Glasgow, and if we can break it we shall bring the number of unemployed in Scotland more into relationship with the rest of the country.
1944 While I may not have developed sufficient facts to prove my case, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary appreciates the point I am trying to make, that he will look at it and that the Department will ask themselves whether they could not consider increasing the quota. Last year, consideration was given to whether that ratio should be increased to 4 per cent. On balance, the Administration thought it was better to leave it as it was, because many employers were taking more than their ratio at the moment. All credit to them.
Government Departments should get some credit, for they are taking more than their share. They are actually employing 5.6 per cent. Government training centres serve a good purpose. We have only two. One in Granton has been closed and I should like to know why. The resources have been transferred to Hillington. Perhaps Remploy offers, the best opportunity for dealing with this problem. I note from the Ministry of Labour Report that five new Remploy factories were built in 1951, but that not one was built in Scotland. Yet there have been representations by all the local disabled persons committees in the areas. They have pleaded with the Ministry for action, and especially for a tuberculosis employ factory in Glasgow.
The Remploy people have two sites in Glasgow. They are ready to go ahead if they can get sanction. I note in our own Report that restrictions have been lifted on factory building where the conditions merit that action. I hope that the Committee will agree that if we are to break the back of the problem more Remploy factories must be built. It is true that there have been two extensions at Motherwell and Stirling, the one at Motherwell having been recently completed.
After the recent debate which we had on the Health Estimates the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland was good enough to send me a copy of the Second Report of the Advisory Council on Handicapped Persons. That points out that under Section 29 (4, c) of the National Assistance Act, power is given to local authorities to provide special workshops for handicapped people. The Report deals especially with spastic and epileptic cases. I will not trouble the Committee with quotations from it. It is 1945 sufficient to say that it points out that out of 1,800 known epileptics in Scotland only 1,285 are on the disabled persons register. Nearly 500 are unknown, and of the 1,285 who are registered 250 are unemployed. The Report suggests that local authorities should be asked to provide special workshops under the powers given to them by the Act.
I wish to say a few words about the development of the Forestry Commission. This is one of the great hopes for Scotland. If we can encourage the Commission to go ahead in building associated industries such as cellulose, wood treatment, sawmills and the rest, that will go a long way to augment the possibility enunciated by the Secretary of State today.
I had the great privilege recently to visit another small country with a similar population—Finland. As the Committee know, it is white coal that they use. Their product is timber. It seemed to me, in visiting some of the places and seeing the homely, friendly communities which are developing in isolated areas, with beautiful homes being built of the timber which they fell, that there was a great example which we should do well to follow. I realise, of course, that there are many things which we contribute to the happiness of the world.
My remarks have been mainly devoted to Scotland's well-being. It is a well-being which cannot be measured in a balance sheet. It will be measured in the happiness and health of our people. We should provide more opportunity for the handicapped and the disabled to participate in community life. It is not always an uneconomic proposition. I am told by employer friends that many who suffer disabilities are, in fact, better workers than some who have all their faculties. The provision of employment adds dignity and gives them an opportunity to develop their self-respect. They have a feeling that they are wanted and needed.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) said on the Second Reading of the National Insurance Bill—and here I paraphrase—it is not security that rots the fibre of men and women; it is insecurity. By building up these industries and providing these opportunities we shall help to contribute to the making of a better Scotland and a better people.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. J. N. Browne (Glasgow, Govan)
I am sure that both sides of the Committee join with me in thanking the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) not only for his constructive speech but for the spirit behind his words. We are all trying to help Scotland. We all have a contribution to make. It is without apology that each of us will have to deal with those points which are of special interest to us as individuals. I want to start by talking about shipbuilding, and to get the facts in perspective I wish to quote a few figures.
In 1952 Britain had a record order book. We had over 7 million tons of shipping on the order book. Today we have 6,250,000 tons on the order book. In 1952 the completions in Britain represented 35 per cent. of world completions; but after the war the completions in Britain represented 50 per cent. The British shipping picture is that, while we are breaking records on the one hand, we are losing a proportion of world trade. Scotland has about 40 per cent. of the British proportion, so shipbuilding is a most important industry and we must examine its future.
I must draw the attention of the Committee to one or two Government pronouncements on this subject. On 26th of June an adjournment debate was initiated in this House by the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. F. Willey). In reply to the debate my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty said:I assure the House that the industry is in a very prosperous state. It is extremely satisfactory to have four years of orders on the books.The hon. Member for Sunderland, North had been worried about the future of shipbuilding, and that was the reply that he received Again, in a publication issued by the Treasury, called the "Bulletin for Industry, No. 52," we have this statement:In mid-1952 a decline in orders for ships set in, but this was to be expected after the heavy influx of orders in 1951 and early 1952, which broadly booked up capacity for several years ahead.In the interests of the industry, this Committee should examine this "four years ahead" and this "broadly speaking booked up to capacity." My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland spoke with greater accuracy of three years ahead.
1947 I draw the attention of the Committee to my last quotation which is from another remark made by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty in the same debate to which I have already referred when he said:I am sure that the House will be glad to have noted that the President of the Shipbuilding Conference, Mr. Connell, has been appointed to the new Iron and Steel Board, so that the views of quite an experienced shipbuilder will be available there."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June, 1953; Vol. 516, c. 2337–9.]What were the views of this quite experienced shipbuilder? He wrote an article on Monday, 6th July, in the "Financial Times" in which he said:The tanker building firms have work on hand for two, three and in some cases four years ahead; but many builders of other types of vessels—the smaller types of cargo vessels and tankers, coasters, tugs, trawlers, dredgers and barges—are not booked so far ahead. …I have made a personal examination into the position of shipbuilding orders in Scotland, and I find that what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said is substantially correct, and that what Mr. Connell said is also correct. Those of us who represent Govan and Tradeston and places like that, where there are the big yards, have no need to worry, because the large firms have plenty of orders on hand, but that is not the case with the smaller yards, some of which have very little work in hand beyond 1954.
§ Mr. Rankin
The hon. Member mentions the fact that some of the smaller yards have no orders on hand beyond 1954. Can he indicate the names of some of these smaller yards?
§ Mr. Browne
Yes, here they are. Ardrossan, Greenock, March, 1954; Port Glasgow, nothing after December, 1954; three yards in Renfrew, the latest orders go up to June, 1954; two in Aberdeen, and one in Bowling, March, 1954; Inglis of Pointhouse, according to my information, nothing after 1953.
§ Mr. Rankin
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that information. Will he use his position with his Government to see that they face up very seriously to that grave state of affairs?
§ Mr. Browne
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity of 1948 saying that nothing that I say this afternoon has anything to do with my position with the Government.
I was referring to the smaller yards, and I think that the English smaller yards will also be in much the same position. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that a Government publication should give a wrong impression, and, while I have no desire to embarrass the Government, I must say that foreign yards are quick to act on the impression that we cannot take work in this country. We must make it quite clear and send out the message from this House that we are ready to take orders and to fulfil them in a proper workmanlike manner.
The second point that I want to raise concerning shipbuilding is about steel. The output of the shipbuilding industry has been affected all along by the shortage of steel, and that shortage is not yet cured. We have got the berths and the manpower, but what has been the effect of the shortage of steel, especially in the smaller yards? It has been, of course, that they have been slowed down to walking pace, and, if we can get more steel, the speed of output will increase. We can then get more goodwill, more orders, cheaper prices and better deliveries. This is a very competitive trade. Not only do foreigners buy from us, but we also buy from foreigners. As an example, the Shoreham Harbour Trust, in association with the British Electricity Authority, recently accepted a Dutch tender at a substantially lower price and with better delivery dates than could be given in this country, so that we must not think that this is a one way trade for the Scottish shipbuilding industry.
I have mentioned costs, and lower costs are very necessary indeed, because shipowners are beginning to look with apprehension at the level of shipbuilding costs. They are hesitating about placing further orders, and, what is more serious, are hesitating about proceeding with the contemplated orders which have already been given. The Government—and I praise them for taking the right action—scrapped the old allocation scheme which led to stock-piling, and formed the new voluntary steel plate scheme, which must be made a reality. The steel-makers must take a long view, and keep shipbuilding in the forefront of British industry.
1949 I do not want to bring any party politics into this, but it would not be right to mention shipbuilding without raising one little party point. I do not think that the Labour Party realised that the shipbuilding industry, which is basic to this country and a highly competitive industry as well, would suffer seriously by being flung into the cockpit of party politics. I am sorry that, in their "Challenge to Britain," the Labour Party are proposing to impose a Development Council on the industry when it does not want it, and I think that every side of the industry will agree with that view. One can say that we have full employment, but we cannot continue full employment by means of wishful thinking, and, if we are to maintain that full employment, it will only be done by speedy, economical and efficient production.
Now, I want to raise another point, and say something that I have been wanting to say for a very long time. I am not going to talk about shipbuilding, nor even about the sea, but rather about the fish that swim in the sea, and, in particular, about white fish, Scotland's pride. Fish in Scotland is as good in its class as the very best Scotch whisky, and I make no apology for talking about white fish. We do not catch any fish in Govan, but it is a constituency in which much fish is eaten. I challenge any country in the world to say that the best white fish is not obtained in Britain, and I challenge anybody in Britain to say that the best white fish in Britain is not caught in Scotland. We do not realise in this country how fortunate we are in the fish we have.
I remember having lunch with a nice family in Chicago, and I asked what sort of fish was served. The reply was, "Just fish." I went to the fishmonger, and he also said it was "just fish." When I was in Buenos Aires, what was the most expensive item on the menu? It was smoked haddock, about which we say to our wives, "Oh, not that again." When I was in Cyprus, I passionately desired fish, and all I got were little bits of octopus. We are fortunate in the flavour and quality of the fish, which makes Scotland a gourmet's paradise, a piscatorial paradise for those who enjoy white fish.
There is one interesting point about white fish, and it is that the tastes of the 1950 last generation have altered. We used to eat fish on the bone, and now we eat it filleted.
§ Mr. Browne
My hon. and gallant Friend says "Shame." But he is quite wrong; it is a very good tendency indeed to eat filleted fish. It helps the filleting at the docks, and that saves transport and makes the fish cheaper, and it also concentrates all the by-products in one place.
Several hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn, East (Mrs. Castle), have made complaints about the difference in price of fish at the port and on the table, but what they do not seem to realise is the difference in quantity between the port and the table. They do not realise that the loss of weight in the filleting of fish, in Scotland, can be as much as two-thirds, and the normal for filleting fish at the port, on the average, is that 2½ lb. of fish at the port means only 1 lb. on the table. The housewife is doing a service by demanding filleted fish, and she need not be worried about whether she is paying the right price for it. Fish is indeed an excellent food, and I congratulate the Scottish housewife on appreciating what a good meal a nice piece of boiled cod can provide for a hungry man who does not want to put on too much weight.
Now about whiting, which is a most plentiful fish of most delicate flavour, half the price of lemon sole; what a lot of people say: "It's only good enough for the cat."
§ Mr. Browne
I am talking about whiting. Hon. Ladies who are housewives will confirm that many housewives do not know the difference between whiting and haddock. They might be buying whiting when they think they are buying haddock. I remember the way my granny used to cook whiting, with the tail put through the eyes. When it is baked you just cut it round the top edge and all the white fish just falls away. There is no finer way of eating it. If hon. Members want to have it like this, they have only to go to their fish 1951 mongers and ask for it skinned and turned, and they will get it that way.
§ Mr. Browne
No, my granny did not want the fish filleted. Perhaps the taste is better if it is not filleted. The flavour of the fish is improved.
I want to raise one final point. It is another bee that I am afraid is buzzing about my bonnet. If I am to get any criticism, let me say right away that this is a very narrow point concerning the direction of industry to remoter areas like Buckie and Peterhead. What is the problem? Direction, as my right hon. Friend says, is not to be considered; inducement has so far not been successful. The right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) referred to "the vague power of inducement." That a right term. We have to find a formula that will make it worth while for some firms to go to places like Buckie. We want sound and small firms, and firms that will stay in business and will not compete with agriculture and local industry.
What is the solution going to be like if we can find it? It will have to be of very limited scope and it may not be applicable to all areas. Consequently, there will have to be some feather bedding if we are to make it worth while for firms to go to places like Buckie. What will it cost the taxpayer to create employment for one man? My right hon. Friend will tell me if I am right or wrong, but I would say the cost would be £500 or £600 to create employment anywhere in Scotland for one man and for places like Buckie and Peterhead even up to £1,000. This matter has exercised my mind. The Government have made offers to industry which have had no success. Strictly as a private enterprise, I went to consult private industry. I did not say, "This is what we are going to do to attract you." I said, "Tell me what are the terms which would attract you to go to Buckie? In other words, on what terms would you go? Would you go on any terms at all."
I trust that my colleagues will not accuse me of being a visionary or a mug. I asked the question, and I got an 1952 answer, from a firm that has been in business for more than 100 years and makes a readily marketable commodity, the carriage on which from Buckie/Peterhead would not be more than 1 per cent. of the selling price. This firm offered to start a factory in the Buckie/Peterhead area to employ 65 men, and they ask three conditions. First of all, they want the factory not only to be built but to be equipped with plant and machinery. Secondly, they want to pay a rental which would allow them to trade at a profit. Thirdly, they want some arrangement by which they could acquire the plant and machinery after a period. What we have to examine today is whether it is possible to make any suggestion which will attract industry to those areas. As I said, I am neither a mug nor a visionary, and I am trying to be factual, even though it is not successful. Can anything be done on the lines I have suggested?
It is up to the Scottish Office or the Board of Trade to say whether they have the power and the facilities to provide the machinery as well as the factory. It may or may not be possible. If they have those powers, the rest is a matter of negotiation. Is it beyond the wit of man to strike a fair deal between the taxpayer and the industrialist who is proposing to go up there? It has to be a deal fair to the taxpayer and attractive to the industrialist. What is the cost of unemployment to the taxpayer? We must remember that very soon now the taxpayer will be paying money into the National Insurance Fund which will be running at a loss owing to the increased cost of retirement pensions.
It is right to ask the cost of an unemployed man to the taxpayer, not in terms of heartbreak but in terms of hard cash. I say that the cost to the taxpayer of 50 men in terms of hard cash is about £8,750 a year. Here we have the facts. The taxpayer might, if he can employ 60 people, have to spend something like £60,000 and save what might otherwise be an inevitable expenditure of £8,000 or £9,000 of the taxpayers' money in unemployment benefit.
I ask the Ministers concerned to look at this proposal sympathetically. If we can achieve direction by inducement we must be prepared to pay for it. If it means nothing more than the supply of machinery on some reasonable terms, 1953 surely empty factories and idle hands are worth more than that. I would rather pay for machinery than have echoing walls and factories with nothing in them.
When all is said and done, we are all going to make our little contributions to improve the welfare of Scotland. This debate is a challenge. The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire said that it was better for the Scottish people to develop their own enterprise. I could not agree with him more. Governments in the past, and the present Government, have helped and will help the development of Scotland, but in the end it is up to the Scottish people. There is no need for us to rely on the Sassenach firms Since 1937, firms coming into Scotland have created employment for only 2½ per cent. of those in employment. In the end, the continued development of industry and the further employment of our people will depend upon Scotland and the brains and skill of the Scottish people.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Balfour (Stirlingshire, West)
Thank you, Sir Charles, for giving me this first opportunity after eight years to take part in a debate. It is not the first time I have made an attempt to get in, but I have always found it was so difficult that it was hardly worth while. People get up here from time to time and keep us here for hours on end, and I have said, "What's the use of inflicting another torture upon the House?" Because of that I have never taken the opportunity, except on this occasion, to take part in a debate.
I am tempted to accept the invitation the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Browne) was extending to us. I did not know whether he was offering us a fish and chip supper washed down with whisky. I have come to the conclusion that he was only codding. That being so, I will turn to the point which I have risen to make. Otherwise I would not have spoken. My father taught me to hold my tongue. He used to say, "Keep in your place and don't you talk when anybody else is talking. Don't mimic others when they are speaking. Before you speak listen to others, and you may find it's not worth saying it at all."
We are having an important debate today. Rather, I would say that it is not a debate but a confession of faith. It is a confession or admission of failure 1954 on both sides. I am not condemning either side for that, because we are never a failure if we keep on trying honestly, with the intention of solving the problems which we come here to try to solve.
These debates serve the good purpose of bringing us back to the realisation of the functions which we are supposed to fulfil in this House. We are not getting far towards solving these problems, but there must be solutions to them. Today we are discussing industry, employment and well-being, and what a scope they provide for talk and for thought and what an opportunity for work. All that we need to solve these problems are those three words, because without industry there is no employment or there is underemployment, and without employment no well-being. These are the things which politicians set themselves out to provide. They try to reconcile these needs in order to serve the interests of mankind as a whole.
How far have we got with them? I thought that the speech of the Secretary of State for Scotland today was far too optimistic. He may have been optimistic with the best intentions in the world, but I think that he was wrong. We must go much deeper in trying to solve these problems than merely increasing imports or exports. That does not take us very far. We must solve the problem of rising unemployment and the rising cost of living. But instead of making progress in those fields we are retrogressing and, so long as that is the position, it is the measure of our failure.
The wealth of the nation, and I am repeating what was said by the great Scotsman, Adam Smith, depends on the proper utilisation of the national resources and the full application of the manual and mental energy of the people on useful work. Not on useless toil. Our problem is to bring that about. A nation measures its wealth not in jewellery and in finery but in the numbers of its well-fed and happy people. To the extent that they are happy and contented, to that extent we could use the energy and the industry of the country.
Where there is poverty, hunger and want and the dread of poverty through unemployment we shall never get that mental and manual power applied to industry to use the resources at our disposal in 1955 order to solve our problems. To do that we must never neglect the mental pabulum that is required. Food alone is not all that mankind needs. Intellectual development is more important in the age in which we live than porridge or milk, and in our complex environment a thorough education is more and more necessary for the child.
I am trying to put before the Committee the problems which we have set ourselves to solve. Having regard to what has been said and done I am a little apprehensive whether the Government are taking the right course in the economic interest of the nation. We talk a great deal about the development of the Highlands, which is a worthy subject. After the Duke of Sutherland cleared the people out we are trying to bring them back again. I do not want to bring in a controversial matter. I am merely trying to show that we were not responsible for what was done there.
We hear about the new towns, but we do not hear enough about the old towns that are becoming derelict. What is the use of building a new town to take the over-spill from Glasgow when derelict towns in West Stirlingshire are producing unemployed who fill up the places in Glasgow which the people of the new town have made vacant? Is that sensible? The Committee may like to know the position in West Stirlingshire, which is manly dependent on coalmining. The source of people's livelihood round Kilsyth will have gone in the course of 10 years as the mines are worked out. The same applies to other places from Kilsyth to Bannockburn where the battle was fought. Another battle will be fought there shortly unless we make some provision for the people of Bannockburn to live.
I have been concerned with this problem for the eight years that I have been a Member for West Stirlingshire. I am concerned about what will happen in the next 10 years. We Socialists were accused of driving families away from home, but that is what is happening in that area now. Kilsyth has a population of 10,000. The population of the adjoining villages of Banknock, Banton, Twechar, and Queenzieburn make, with that of Kilsyth, a total of 16,200. Out of Kilsyth and those villages 1,050 people 1956 travel daily to work. A total of 750 go to Glasgow, 125 to Kirkintilloch, 180 to Bonnybridge, Falkirk and Coatbridge and the surrounding area.
That is a waste of time and a waste of transport and a waste of people's earnings because they have to pay for that transport. It is an economic madhouse and we are tilting at windmills in building new towns. What is the purpose of building the new towns? Kilsyth Town Council own 1,600 houses, but in 10 years' time there will be no use for those houses because the people will become nomads and will leave for the big towns. There is at the moment still a great need for houses there because out of a total of 2,790 houses in the burgh 590 are below modern standards. But can the town afford to build any more? Is there any incentive or encouragement to build any more when in 10 years the property may become valueless?
We must solve the problems which I have enumerated. My intention has been to try to direct the attention of the Secretary of State to the need not to forget the old towns which have established communities and an established social life. They are five or 10 miles apart and the establishment of a little industry in between them would unite them and make a bigger community. That only wants a bit of imagination. We must stop the people from going into Glasgow. That is too big to be a healthy environment. Towns, like human beings, can be too big.
We must try to do something for these historical villages, such as Lennoxtown—which used to be a thriving little town before the great industrial revolutions destroyed it—and Kilsyth. All these little villages were a source of wealth, but in 10 years' time they will be despised, cast aside, unwanted. That will be a loss to Scotland and to Britain, because no country can thrive if it has people who are unemployed. Every man and woman who is unemployed, not fulfilling some useful function in society, is a measure of the poverty of a country.
We are drifting, and we must continue to drift unless we realise how much we depend on outside sources. This nation has the potentialities, the mentality and the guts to win through, given the necessary 1957 backing, but we must work as a team—all for the people, not for the individual. That may be Socialism, but it is also Christianity.
I could carry on indefinitely, but I do not want to be provocative, this being my maiden speech. The next time I speak I hope to say something objective. I have many things to talk about. Looking at the subjects we are discussing—industry, employment and well-being—what a scope for philosophy they provide; what an opportunity for an economist. What a glorious triumph it would be to solve the problem of those three words. That is our job; do not let us play about with it. There are fish and chips with whisky outside, whenever the Committee are ready.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
It is not very often that one has the privilege and pleasure of congratulating a maiden speaker after he has spent eight years in the House. That does not make it any less a pleasure; it makes it even more a pleasure than it would have been. When I realise that the hon. Member for Stirlingshire, West (Mr. Balfour) came into the House at the same time as I did, and think of all the times I have inflicted upon the House speeches which were good, bad and indifferent—mainly the last two—it makes one reflect. We should congratulate him most sincerely. He spoke with the obvious sincerity of a man who knows what he is talking about. We can promise him plently of interjections next time, if he wants them. My hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne) will very gladly give him the fish and chips, and if he will come to that great source of whisky—Perth—I shall be happy to add the whisky. I congratulate the hon. Member very sincerely, and we all hope to hear from him again in the future.
I hope I shall be in order in the few remarks I want to make. They are on a broad basis, but they definitely deal with the subjects under discussion—Scottish industry, employment and well-being. I am convinced that there are certain things which are very wrong in the set-up of our country today. There is a lack of balance between town and country. When I refer to industry, I am not referring to agriculture—which is the greatest of all industries, 1958 because all other industries depend on it—but to that kind of industry which I might describe as the transforming, by processing in factories, of raw materials into manufactured goods.
If I refer to my notes more frequently than usual, I hope I shall be forgiven. The subject is somewhat complicated, and I am not good at carrying facts and figures in my head. I want to make it clear that many of the points I shall raise are probably capable of being shot down in flames by people who know more about them than I do, but they are suggestions which I hope may be worthy of consideration in connection with the problem of Scotland's future.
It is obvious that industry, in the terms in which I have described it, is the magnet which is drawing people away from the rural areas and into the towns. On the other hand—and this is not so readily appreciated—it is industry which is swelling considerably the already overcrowded and congested cities and the large urban areas. The country is rapidly becoming ill-balanced, even if we cannot say that it is definitely ill-balanced at the moment.
On the one hand, we have the big rural counties, which are finding it immensely difficult to provide the services which our modern standard of life requires over the widely scattered areas, with small populations, with which they have to contend. On the other hand, the cities are finding it increasingly difficult, financially and otherwise, to rebuild and to house the ever-increasing population which is coming to them, and to keep those services going which we believe our people should have.
Owing to the restricted area of Britain, and the fact that it has a population which is far greater than we can support, we must import very nearly half our food and the vast majority of our raw materials. They can be paid for only by exporting manufactured goods. That may sound like a platitude, but I often wonder whether it is sufficiently realised that whereas, in days gone by, there were huge agricultural areas in other countries, and those countries were delighted to take our manufactured goods in exchange for the food and raw materials we wanted, nowadays, through modern developments, in which we have taken a leading part, and through our having exported to those countries large amounts of machinery and 1959 plant, they are now making those very things upon the export of which we depended for our food and raw materials in the past.
Whether we like it or not, that is the hard fact from which we cannot get away, and it is vitally important that everyone should realise that only by exporting can we live. If we do not export we cannot possibly continue as a great or even a small country. I have no doubt that we have 25 million people too many, but they are there, and we have to face up to the problem, which is becoming greater every single day.
Our first aim must be to produce more food from our very restricted land. The land of Scotland is not used to anything like its fullest extent in the production of food. We must also get ever-increasing industrial efficiency in factories and workshops. I often wonder whether industry which, I am assured, is so efficient within the factory, ever considers how efficient it is outside. With all the smooth running of a modern factory, do the people concerned really work out carefully what is happening outside the factory, in relation to the industry with which it is concerned? Do they ever consider how the raw materials get to the factory and how the manufactured goods get away from it, or how the workers get to and from the factory—and all those other factors?
Is the outside as efficient as the inside? I do not think it is. I believe that here we can help very much to improve the condition of Scottish industry today. It is another truism to say that we must induce people to leave congested areas and to go into the rural areas so as to build up the economies of the counties, the small burghs and the larger villages. To induce people to leave the overcrowded congested cities is easy on paper but not so easy in fact, and I think we have to do it without requiring the costly and artificial and, to my mind, crazy idea of building new towns—and here I agree with the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire. I think these new towns will lead to trouble in the end and I very much regret that we are continuing the policy.
The new crafts, trades and professions which arose out of the industrial revolution, which in my humble opinion was in some ways the greatest disaster which has 1960 hit the human race in the whole of its history, demanded standardisation and, in its turn, standardisation demanded mass production; and that is very largely based on what I may term the conveyor belt principle, materials being carried from worker to worker, or group of workers to group of workers, eventually turning out as the completed article.
No one can deny that the system has worked well and that the great wealth of this country has been built by these developments, but the system has led to large plants covering even acres of ground where hundreds of workers are employed under one roof. As I understand—and I am open to criticism here—when the industrialist considers it essential to step up production he thinks in terms of streamlining even further this system of production in his factory. If new premises are required, I imagine that he visualises the space, the area, which will be required for the new streamlining process, and his factory extension is designed on those lines.
I believe that it is this conception of the large multi-process factory, involving, as it does, heavy expenditure and requiring land which is ever more valuable today, requiring buildings and machinery, which is the chief factor working against the true distribution of industry. If the industrialist thinks about this I think he will agree. It is causing the towns, where these big factories and extensions are built, to continue a wasteful form of development, even if the development is on an orderly basis.
Looking at the country as a whole, can we say that materials flow smoothly into the factories in the same way that they flow smoothly around the factories? Are not too many hours devoted to transporting goods up and down, across and along and through congested bottlenecks—and I apologise to my hon. and learned Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade for the use of the word "bottleneck," to which I know he objects. Is it efficient to have public buses and staff kept waiting so that they may be available in the peak period when the workers come out of the factories?
Is it efficient to take cattle from the Highlands of Scotland on the hoof, hundreds of miles south, instead of taking meat products south? Is it efficient to 1961 carry tree trunks from the Highlands of Scotland to some factory in the south where they will be turned into pulp and other things made from wood? Is it efficient to carry out one or two processes of the aluminium industry in Fife and then to take the result of them across to Fort William, and then to take the result of that down to Coventry where it is turned into gear boxes, pots and pans and other excellent things?
Is that really efficiency? As an outsider, I ask myself, is it efficient to take all the materials required for ice-cream, which seems to be a large proportion of the nation's diet in these modern times, from all over the countryside down to London, where ice-cream is manufactured and then send it to Inverness to be sold? Is that efficiency? It may be efficient for the men doing it, but from the point of view of the country's economy and of spreading industry throughout the country, I very much doubt whether it is.
Those are only a few examples. I believe that the same principles which the industrialist applies inside his factory ought, with adaptations suitable to the problem, to be applied very largely outside the factory. I want to make one or two practical proposals—at least, I hope they are practical proposals, but, as I said at the beginning, I am not an industrialist and I am open to be shot down by anybody with greater knowledge. Nevertheless, we must not always assume that those with the greatest knowledge are necessarily those most susceptible to change, and I think that is perhaps where the humble outsider can make a contribution.
I wonder whether it would not be feasible to consider the country as a whole. If we look at the map and see, North to South, the great main road and railway system, could we not look upon this as if it were a conveyor belt for the country, so that when materials leave Scotland, in the form of raw materials of some kind or another—it may be meat, or milk or eggs or——
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
Whisky is in a line by itself. What I was saying was that along these roads lie cities, towns and villages, four or eight or ten or twelve miles 1962 apart, and surely each could be doing something on the lines of the wartime shadow factory production—making components. Is it not possible that down this line between Inverness and London or the Midlands certain parts of the finished product could be made en route? The container which brought the materials in could go out again with the completed components, which would be passed on to the next process. Work could be done by small factories employing 20 to 40 or possibly 100 people, but no more, in existing villages or towns along the route, where transport could move freely.
Is this impossible? It seems to me that it is worth examining, because we should have the conveyor belt conveying goods along the route, being manufactured and added to as they went along, instead of the present system of transporting raw materials to distant places, creating the tremendous road and rail problem which we face at present. I do not think my suggestion is impossible. The aluminium gear boxes and crank cases begun in Fort William could flow South in various stages of manufacture to Conventry there to become the completed machines. The aluminium has no greater distance to travel but the amount of transport and labour needed is surely very much reduced.
I maintain that meat—fresh, chilled or canned—and leather, adhesives, glue, bone meal, and not cattle, should be on the move if we are to use to the best possible advantage the transport system of our country and the materials which are available. Then, of course, the cakes and jam and ice cream which feed London could perfectly well be made en route, very largely where the food is grown.
I realise that this solution is immediately met by experts telling me that I do not understand the huge additional expense of divided management. During the war, one of the greatest successes in producing our armaments was the system of small factories which made small components all over the countryside. They were very efficient and they worked well. I do not believe that method should be confined entirely to wartime.
I do not think it is possible that the mineral and other resources of the land in the North of Scotland can be economically 1963 developed if it means costly, longdistance transport, hauling such things as crude rock, tree trunks and even meat. I do not think that is possible. I ask my hon. Friend in his reply whether some consideration can be given to what I have very simply and rather amateurishly tried to describe as making a conveyor belt system work as effectively and smoothly outside the factory as it works inside the factory.
In conclusion I should like to say, as I started by saying, that I believe our country is faced with and will face an enormous problem in this matter of our population, and that it is essential that not one acre more of good agricultural land should be taken for any other purpose than food production, otherwise disaster is inevitable. I was horrified to read in the report of a debate in another place last week the remark of one noble Lord, speaking for the Government, I rather think, though I may be wrong, who said that we must get used to the fact that within the next so many years, 20 or 25, I think, another 2 million acres of agricultural land will be taken for other purposes. If that is so, disaster is certain. I cannot say that to the Committee with too great emphasis, and I do hope that some redistribution and change in the methods of industry that I have endeavoured to put forward may contribute towards a solution of the problems of the land and of our industry in Scotland.
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Mr. David J. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles)
I was very pleased indeed to hear the Secretary of State tell us that the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour would take part in this debate. I fear, however, that not only will the Secretary of State require their co-operation, but also the co-operation of the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Works and the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself if the problems of Scotland are to be tackled, as they should be tackled, efficiently and to some purpose. I think my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Balfour) is perfectly correct in what he says about the decanting of our people from our big cities 1964 into the rural areas, and that the places in the cities are filled again by the people from the rural areas.
I have read several reports about the problem of Scotland, Cmd. 8797 on Industry and Employment in Scotland in 1952, and also the Mears Report. I find that there is a general tendency nowadays to forget the great work which was performed by Sir Frank Mears. I do not want to bore the Committee with statistics, but we find from these Reports that we have a population of 5,114,000 in Scotland, of whom 2,352,000 are the working population, and we have a very dangerous factor in this, that nearly half a million, 427,000 people, in Scotland are over 65 years of age, so that we have an ageing population. I fear very much that if there were 25 million less in these Islands we should be back again in our country with a standard of living of the painted people. There was a great deal in what the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) said about the concentration of industry and its organisation, and I am certain we want some development along the line he suggested.
I was pleased to learn that the President of the Board of Trade will visit Scotland next month, and I hope that when he does he will pay attention to one report which is invaluable in studying the position of Scotland. I refer to "The Social and Economic Problems of the Scottish Border Counties," and I am going to speak now of the forgotten lands with which it deals. Cmd. 8797 surveys only part of Scotland, that part West of Grangemouth with one desultory incursion into Edinburgh, with a mention of Ferranti's, to which I shall refer again, and to a colliery in a certain glen in Midlothian which does not exist.
There was no such thing in this world as Bilston Glen. The colliery is named as being in Bilston Glen. That name surely originated out of the spirals of tobacco smoke in a back room of the National Coal Board's offices on a summer afternoon, because there certainly is a burn called Bilston Burn which wimples through a glen, but it is not Bilston Glen, but Dryden, the seat of General Sir Simon Lockhart of the Lee. We have little in the Report about the East of Scotland. There is one 1965 mention of a water scheme in Edinburgh, Fruid-Menzion, but Edinburgh was always futurist in relation to its water affairs, and that does not employ a large number of men.
Our task today is to examine the East of Scotland as we find it, because we know perfectly well that private enterprise in the coalfield in Scotland left us many uneconomic collieries, and it has been necessary to shut down something like 44 collieries since vesting day. I am not going to develop the coal position on this occasion. I hope to do it on a more appropriate occasion, but let me remind the Committee that four collieries were shut down in Lanarkshire last year, and the men had to be transferred. We cannot transfer them to Midlothian any more because the Government's policy in finance has prevented the local authorities from embarking on that policy of housebuilding which they had intended to do. True, we are building in Midlothian a new town without the assistance of the Government, but the Government's financial policy is really impeding us. We certainly need the assistance of the Minister of Transport in regard to roads.
I would draw the attention of the Committee to the Report, "The Social and Economic Problems of the Border Counties," because this Report not only portrays all the difficulties in the rural parts of South-East Scotland but also gives the cure. It tells the Government what they should do and what they cannot do. For instance, we in Midlothian have no alternative industries to employ the womenfolk being transferred from Lanarkshire along with the men. It is perfectly true to say that a year ago we were faced with unemployment in the carpet industry, the tweed industry and our paper industry. While the tweed industry in Peebles-shire and the carpet industry in Midlothian has picked up, after, of course, an intervention by our Board of Trade with the Colonies, the paper industry has not recovered, and we do need the introduction of new industries, especially in the western portion of the constituency, to correct the unbalance which at present exists.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire gave another illustration of wasted effort in transport in West Lothian, and 19 buses leave a little 1966 village before 9 o'clock in the morning, taking people all over the country to earn their bread and butter, with consequent cost to us of the transport.
It is perfectly true to say that Ferranti, Ltd., did intend utilising this reservoir of labour which they knew existed in the area, and it is also true to say that the Board of Trade did not direct them, or the Ministry of Labour either. It is also true that Ferranti's were not granted licences to build. They were frozen out of Midlothian and they were told that a factory existed in Dundee which was ready for occupation.
We built, from 1945, 1,016 new factories in Scotland. That was one of them. I was glad to hear an hon. Member say that new factories were not just the solution to the unemployment problem. The unemployment problem is still a sore point. We have some 57,000 unemployed in Scotland, and in July, 1948, we had 48,300, representing 2.5 of the working population. On 14th July, 1952, we had 68,500, or 3.2 per cent. of the working population unemployed. So long as there is that amount of unemployment in Scotland, we are going to have a thorny problem, because our people are congested as between the Forth and the Clyde. It is true to say that something like three-fifths of our population in Scotland is in the Clyde Valley.
I think that not enough attention has been paid to South-East Scotland. In their first Report on South-East Scotland, the Electricity Board made clear that this was the last area to introduce electricity supplies to its rural areas. That Board has performed wonders, but it is not receiving sufficient money in order to undertake its obligations, although it is doing its best. The supply of electricity to our rural areas, especially in South-East Scotland, would indeed be a great boon. With one-twentyfifth of our people in the Forces, it seriously depletes our labour power.
In the Tweed Valley we are dependent on the well-being of one industry alone. It is true to say that there is a spirit of adventure among some of our young manufacturers. Often I have heard it said that the Scots have no initiative. Often I have read that from the pens of English columnists. In the Tweed Valley we have young men who have branched off from the parent organisation, tweed 1967 weaving, and have commenced to adventure in a new industry, hosiery and knitwear, and today they are making a splendid contribution to our export trade.
The schedule for the new Development Areas is calamitous indeed, because unemployment is worse in those areas than in the old areas. What is the good of coming to Westminster and putting on the Statute Book the Distribution of Industries Act if it is blinked at and no attention paid to it. I suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that he should take note of the fact that two parishes in Midlothian are scheduled under the Act, and that he should at least do something to get industry to that particular area.
The Government policy of the day is absolutely opposed to the policy as recommended by the Committee which gave us the Report on the Social and Economic Problems of the Border Counties. In dealing with forestry, this Committee tells the Government that the school at Glentress should be used to reforest the very high altitudes in the county of Peebles and in the Tweed Valley. What do we find? The Government are moving the Glentress Forestry School away to Perthshire, thereby militating against our chances of employment. This Committee tells the Government what industries they could set up in the Tweed Valley to act as balance against the solitary tweed industry upon which the majority of the people are dependent. It also tells us what industries could be introduced into Midlothian. Only on one point do I disagree with the Committee.
The Committee recommend that paper-making should be introduced into the town of Peebles. I deprecate that. If there is one factor which will ruin a river it is the introducing of the paper-making industry. With the lack of vigilance shown by the Government in regard to the enforcement of the Pollution of Rivers Act there is no hope that the Tweed would be kept free by special plans in order to see that the water used in the paper-making process was returned pure to the river. I do not think that paper-making would be a success in the Tweed Valley, but I think that other industries would be a success there, and I hope that the Midlothian position will be examined with the greatest care.
1968 The Secretary of State for Scotland painted a glowing picture, but I regret to say that there is a reverse side to that picture. When he mentioned the great improvement in productivity, I want to remind him that from 1948, basing production in that year at 100, we find that by the second-quarter of 1951 there had been a steady increase to 116 per cent. The figures show, however, a marked decline since then right up to the third-quarter of 1952. It is true to say that there has been an increase in manpower in the coal mining industry which is the basis of all industry in Scotland. But it has not, for instance, improved the Port of Leith, where we used to ship abroad thousands of tons of coal every week. I am afraid that we must take cognisance of the fact that Scotland is not playing its part in regard to coal production.
A certain member of the National Coal Board once stated that 600,000 men were quite sufficient for the coal industry of this country. I suggest that that is all nonsense—just sheer nonsense. Let us consider it in regard to opencast coal. There are certain areas in East Scotland where there is not sufficient cover on the top of the coal to allow men to operate it from the point of view of deep-mining. It has to be opencast. I regret to say that there has been considerable opposition towards the opencasting of coal. I believe in deep-mining and I believe that our opencast operations should not be terminated as they are being terminated today.
I firmly believe that once a coal face is open it must not be lost sight of. It can be quite simply followed because all that is required is to build from the coal face when the coal face begins to take the dip to deep working by building two or three reinforced tunnels. There is plenty of clay in Midlothian ready to be made into bricks, and these tunnels can be reinforced and the land reinstated correctly. The coal face can be followed by the old miners, no longer physically fit to go down deep pits, and they can train our young fellows and give them a thorough apprenticeship. Thus they would open out face. Instead of the Ministry of Labour saying that no more recruits will be trained at the Fife Colliery, which is a training centre, we would have any amount of coal opened out ready.
1969 It will be apparent from what has been said that we have much in Scotland to which to apply ourselves. I trust that the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade will ask the assistance, not only of the Ministry of Transport, but also of the Treasury, because unless we get sufficient money with which to finance our operations, then, as the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire said, disaster will face us in Scotland.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
This debate has varied between wide-ranging speeches, covering the whole field of our activities in Scotland, and comparatively narrow and limited points. I propose to address myself rather to the narrow and limited points than to the wide-ranging speeches; although they also have been very interesting, because we are now changing over from a period of shortages to a period of surpluses, and that is exactly the thought behind a great many of the speeches which have been made and behind a certain amount of the apprehension which exists in our country, both in industry and, to some extent, even in agriculture.
I would only say, when we are considering this problem, that for most of our history there never were more than a million of us and even today there are only 5 million of us, and we did not get where we are now merely by working. There are many other people who work pretty hard, too. We got there by thinking. I do not believe that efficiency merely comes by exhorting the miners to work harder. There are a great many other things we have to do. I am sure that modern industry is not merely a question of capital and labour. It is a question of capital, labour and invention. The necessity for thinking out our problems is just as vital as the necessity for working hard at our problems once they have been thought out.
There is one relatively small point, but still one of considerable importance, where, I think, a positive suggestion for greater efficiency could be made. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) spoke of the out-door conveyor belts, our roads running through the country, and asked, indeed, whether the movement outside the factory was as 1970 smooth and as efficient as the movement inside.
I am sure that is not always so, and there is one example of it which is very close to my own constituency and to my own heart, and that is the congestion which exists on either side of the Clyde. This enormous industrial centre was brought into being by the great Firth running up through it, and afterwards by the work of the whole community of Glasgow in digging out the river and making it fit to carry the great ships launched on it. But we have six-and-a-half miles of water frontage with only four bridges, and the congestion is becoming intolerable.
There is no question as to the inefficiency of what is going on there. It takes as long to get from Newton Mearns to the Central Station, a distance of about seven miles, as it does to get from there to Edinburgh. The traffic piles up until the traffic lights have to be switched off and the traffic controlled by the police by hand. The ferries which are running to capacity carry 3,000 vehicles a day each. As for the bridges, the Victoria Bridge carries 7,418 vehicles a day, the Glasgow Bridge 9,030 vehicles a day, and the King George V Bridge 12,884 vehicles a day. All these are choked, and further relief of that congestion is urgently necessary.
There is only one way in which relief can be secured and that is by a Clyde tunnel. That project has been brought forward and agreed to time and again, but it is always said, for one reason or another, that it cannot be proceeded with just at this time. We have not one but three great Firths in Scotland, the Firth of Clyde, the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay. On each of these it is necessary to improve our communications if we are to take advantage of both our industry and our scenery. Both are great assets which we must use to the full, but we cannot so use them while vehicles pile up for miles on each side behind what is literally a bottleneck and where indignation and frustration of all kinds flourish to a most regrettable extent.
Then there is the capital waste involved. We make the most beautiful motor cars; we drill great holes in the earth. We bring up crude oil and we carry it to Grangemouth, where we refine it and put it into the tanks of our 1971 vehicles; then they stand for half an hour at a time grinding away this machinery and puffing this expensive oil into the air and doing nothing for anybody except to poison the air in the countryside.
To remedy this is not such a great task. It was computed some time ago that £3 million would build the Clyde tunnel. The figure may have gone up since then, and I should like to know what the figure now is. It is said that it would require raw materials. It would require 3,000 tons of steel, but that figure scarcely represents three days' consumption of steel in the shipyards alone. We could enormously accelerate the general traffic, both north and south of the river, by using that small amount of raw material.
I do not speak of the strategic desirability of this tunnel, although that is also important. I do not even speak of the necessity of this tunnel for the passing through it of such things as new water supplies which are urgently necessary south of the river. We are building 15,000 houses south of the river all requiring water, which is present in unlimited quantities to the north. Here is a positive construction which could be set in hand forthwith and which could enormously increase efficiency.
It is no use raising the speed limit of heavy road vehicles from 20 to 30 miles an hour if all it means is that one arrives quicker at this gigantic bottleneck and has to stand for the next half hour grinding the bearings of one's lorry and blowing oil-fumes into the air. The city engineers have calculated that £1 million a year is wasted at that point, much of it in foreign exchange, because a great deal of that oil is bought with dollars. We use up these expensive examples of modern machinery to destroy £1 million worth a year of the most valuable thing in the world—skilled men's time.
We all, of course, also support the necessity for the road bridge over the Forth at the earliest possible moment. In my view, a road bridge over the Tay is even more necessary. For one thing, it would solve the problem which we discussed yesterday at some length, the question of the University of St. Andrews and of the University of Dundee. If we built a road bridge everyone would see 1972 that it was ridiculous to have one university at one end of it, and another university at the other.
Let us not, however, forget this enormous waste which is going on in front of our eyes in Glasgow and which could be so easily and quickly disposed of. These matters have been before the authorities time and again, and time and again they have been shelved, postponed and pushed off from one Minister to another, from one Government to another and from one century to another. It was, in fact, in the last century that these things began to be discussed. The name of the last bridge alone is a condemnation—the King George V Bridge. It was in the reign of King George V that the last bridge, the only big, wide, modern bridge across the Clyde was built. There should be some other method of transportation. Let us have for our time a Queen Elizabeth Clyde Tunnel or, if there is some argument about the numeral, let us call it the Princess Margaret Tunnel. There is a good Scottish name on which we could all agree, and no question of a numeral enters into it.
Let us get something done. Of all the simple steps which can be taken to improve the efficiency of our country, on which everything depends, there is nothing more immediate than to start now and finish as soon as possible a new, safe, speedy and efficient method of transportation between the north and south banks of the Firth of Clyde.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I was rather surprised when the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne) said that the issues which had been raised this afternoon were not political and that this matter was outside the party political conflict. I cannot agree. I think this debate on industry, employment and well being of Scotland is a matter in which party conflict does enter. What was said by the right hon. and gal-land Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) can only lead one to believe that they agree that the future depends on looking into the future and planning properly for it.
But the party opposite does not believe in planning. It is no use imagining that 1973 the industrial and economic problems of Scotland can be settled other than by conscious planning, in order not only to repair the damage of the past and the failings of the present but to prepare Scottish skill and the use of Scottish raw materials for the future, because we must not forget that engineering in all its branches is moving very quickly indeed—much faster than it moved from 1794 to the 1900s. We are moving at a tremendous pace, and Scotland should be well in the forefront of the new industries which may come into being in the next 50 years.
It was in 1794 that James Watt went to Birmingham and took the steam engine and Murdoch came from Dumfries with the gasometer. Paterson came down long before that and started the Bank of England. Since he started the Bank of England it seems to me that the thrifty Scottish people's savings drifted inevitably to London, to the great neglect of industrial development in Scotland. I suppose I should not be surprised because I have lived in Scotland for 2½ years, but I am surprised when I see in the statistics how much more thrifty they are than people south of the Border, because they save almost £1 per head of the population more than do people in England and Wales.
But the investment of these savings was on a greater scale in England and Wales than it was in Scotland, until the return of the Labour Government in 1945. Some of that tendency was reversed in the Distribution of Industry Act, and there was more conscious industrial development in Scotland than there had ever been before in relation to the capital resources available.
The hon. Member for Govan quoted from Mr. Connell, the President of the Shipbuilding Conference. I represent a constituency in which, as hon. Members know, we have a very important shipbuilding yard, and I am sure that from the point of view of quality there are no shipyards in the world which can successfully compete with the Clyde. Indeed, Mr. Connell takes the view that in matters of price, the Clyde can hold its own with any foreign shipyard in the world.
The only way in which the Clyde is feeling the effect of competition is in dates of delivery, which has a great deal to do with steel supplies and terms of 1974 credit, very often provided by Governments of other countries to the shipowners and shipbuilding contractors. Indeed, the Japanese shipowners are making proposals to their Government, which may well be accepted, that they shall have grant loans—that is, loans free of interest—for the period of construction and on fulfilment of contracts on ships for shipowners.
I notice that some chairmen of British shipping companies at their annual meetings inform the shipyard workers that if they ask for increases in wages to which they are entitled because of the increase in the cost of basic foods, they will cancel their orders. I would remind hon. Members that bread, butter and jam are of no use to a rivetter or a boiler worker or shipwright in the shipyard. They want first-quality high protein food, and that is the very food the price of which has gone up since this Government has taken office. As I say, they have been told that if they persist in asking for this 5 per cent. increase in their wages, the orders will be cancelled. That is blackmail.
Mr. Connell in his article in the "Financial Times" says quite plainly—there is no ambiguity about it—that it is not in price that they are finding the competition hard, but in delivery dates and in the credit facilities provided by Governments of foreign countries where shipbuilding takes place. Yet merchant shipping owners in this country ask shipbuilding workers to forgo their legitimate claim, in face of all the competition which will defeat them unless we in this country adopt similar techniques in financing shipbuilding construction. Mr. Connell says that the prices of our shipbuilders are still competitive in comparison with other shipbuilding countries, but he says that their difficulty is the shortage of steel which has made the costing of shipbuilding almost impracticable.
There has been a great advance in the technique of shipbuilding. I am not a shipyard worker, but I know something about the light engineering industry, and I have taken the trouble to go to the shipbuilding industry. I find that they are becoming increasingly compelled to watch very carefully the sequence of delivery of components and sections in order to continue smooth working in the construction of ships.
1975 By prefabrication and by an ever-increasing division of labour in the shipbuilding industry, as we have in the engineering industry, the maintenance of smooth working. The greatest factor in driving up the cost of shipbuilding today is not the workers' wages but a failure by the steel companies to fulfil their allocations of steel to the shipbuilding industry in appropriate sequence to keep the different bodies of men completely active in the construction of the ships.
The position is exactly the same in the light engineering factories. One can have the cheapest labour in the world, but if there are bottlenecks within the unit whereby bodies of workmen are unemployed because they have not the particular material required to continue their stage of the process of development costs mount enormously. With the intensive division of labour in the industry it is vital to see that that industry is provided at the right time with the right quantities of essential units of the ultimate product. That can be done only by intensive planning covering the whole shipbuilding industry.
The Government in power have accepted the resignation of Sir Edwin Plowden. No one is to take his place, and when the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), who is well supported in these matters, says that he is glad that these planners are going, I do not really understand how hon. Members opposite can come here or go to Scotland and talk about rehabilitating or rebuilding Scotland on the basis of no planning and completely free enterprise, because it just will not work in modern industry. It was all very well in the 19th century, when there was small unit production, in which a product was manufactured straight out in a small factory. That was comparatively easy, but today in the engineering industry, which is the industry I can speak of, it presents almost an insuperable problem to the individual concerns.
I put the simple proposition that we are, in Scotland, faced with the need to attract industry there—the engineering industry. There is, in my view, no industry which could possibly, on its own initiative, build in Scotland except in Glasgow or very close to it, a unit which would within itself manufacture a product from beginning to end. Not that I 1976 approve of that sort of unit, such as one finds in the case of Ford's at Dagenham, where the whole process takes place under one roof—the iron ore, the steel bar, the steel sheet, the engine and body components and the motor car. There is a town dependent on one cumulative process. If the motor car industry flops the whole concern flops. I am not arguing in favour of that sort of enterprise, although I know that is the tendency in modern industry.
In my constituency we have Singer's, who manufacture the product right out, with one exception, which they buy in Worcester. Why it is not made in Scotland I do not know, but it is not. The fact has to be faced, however, that the conveyor belt inside a factory will defeat economically any form of transport between one factory and another by road or rail. For many years I worked for a company which had 11 factories the maximum distance between which was about seven miles. Components were carried from one factory to another by vans, low-loaders and lorries of all kinds. The activities of those 11 factories were put under one roof, in one unit, and every component was moved from its source of manufacture along a conveyor belt and was not touched by hand until it reached the assembly line. The cost of production was reduced tremendously compared with the previous system of conveyance by road.
I have in my constituency the area from Kilsyth to Cumbernauld of which the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Balfour) spoke earlier. We have there 22,000 people. The area is scheduled for factories, but the county council of Dumbartonshire requires a considerable increase in the grant to do something about roads in that area. If there is to be any industry which is complementary to industry in Glasgow or maybe in Falkirk or Denny, or Bonnybridge, something will have to be done about the roads because they are hopelessly out of date, and yet they will have to be used by traffic for which Class I roads are required whereas these are Class III roads. But every year the grant to Dumbartonshire County Council for the repair and maintenance of the roads and their development is being cut far below the minimum estimates which they submit.
I do not believe that industry will come to Scotland merely by our asking the 1977 industrialist if he will come. I would strongly resent—as was proposed by the hon. Member for Govan—saying to an industrialist, who, presumably, would be a chartered accountant or a man of money—most industrialists today are chartered accountants—that they can have the premises, the machinery, the land and everything, and that the universities of Scotland, publicly supported, will supply the trained technicians, and that the financiers and directors will have the labour and skill of the people and will have their undertaking run almost for nothing or very cheaply, when large profits can already be made.
I see no reason why, if we have to do all that for these people, we cannot do it for ourselves.
§ Mr. J. N. Browne
I am sure that the hon. Member and I see eye to eye. What I said, and prefaced my remarks by saying so, concerned a very narrow point. If the hon. Member is referring to all the industrial areas of Scotland, I agree. I was referring particularly—and only to some extent—to featherbedding in areas like Buckie and Peterhead, where it seems impossible otherwise to get industry. That is all I was referring to.
§ Mr. Browne
Will the hon. Member make some other suggestions about providing employment in those areas?
§ Mr. Bence
Yes. I would make a suggestion that the Scottish Office should become the initiator of these enterprises, feeling confident that it can get the labour, skill and technicians as easily as any featherbedded private industrialist. I think it is quite unnecessary for Members to chase round the United States or down the East Coast of England for people with money to invest their money in Scotland. I have already pointed out that Scottish people are more thrifty than the English and save more per head of the population. Why not use their savings and not create another batch of absentee property owners in England or the United States? I do not think that is necessary. I am not in favour of featherbedding any of these people. I believe we can only 1978 do it through conscious planning on the part of the Scottish Office in the interests of Scotland and not for the benefit of some private company.
I did not expect to be so long, but before I sit down I want to examine the vital statistics for Scotland. It is alarming to see that while the proportion of children to adults in Scotland is far higher than it is in England and Wales the proportion of men and women from 25 to 64 is lower. There is to be seen here the result of the concentration of investment of capital south of the Border, which is drawing from Scotland the most productive section of our community. This process will not only have to be stopped but reversed, because it is leading in Scotland to a complete unbalance in the population.
Unfortunately, since this Government came to power the figures have shown a tendency to get worse. They are renouncing planning. Whereas, in 1951, there were over 300 applications for sites for new industries, today the figure is 150, a considerable drop. In these circumstances, one can understand the tendency of the people between 25 and 64 to drift southwards, and they are doing it now at a faster rate than for some time.
If that continues, by the time the Government finish wrecking the plans which the Labour Government had prepared and were carrying into effect, the position will be very serious. When we come back to power, which I believe will not be long, our difficulties will be increased, because we shall have to clear up the chaos created by the refusal of the Government in practice—they pay lip-service to the principle—to get down to some conscious planning, particularly by the Scottish Department instead of feather-bedding private industrialists.
I hope that the Under-Secretary will give us an assurance that action will be taken to destroy the impression among shipbuilding workers that they are being blackmailed by the chairmen of shipping companies because they are asking for a well-deserved 5 per cent. increase in their wages. We should like an assurance that if private enterprise fails to establish new industries in Scotland then the Department in Edinburgh will do it themselves.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Commander C. E. M. Donaldson (Roxburgh and Selkirk)
This debate has ranged from east to west, and I am delighted that I am to have the opportunity to say a few words before it starts moving from north to south, because I feel that once it gets north of the Tay it will be a very different type of debate altogether. The thing that characterises debates such as this, particularly during the last year or two, is the measure of agreement there is on all sides of the Committee, and the way in which Members of all parties address their thoughts and their words to the problems which face Scotland today. I want very briefly to bring the Committee back to a consideration of one or two suggestions which were made in the Report referred to by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde).
This Report refers to the difficulties which are faced in a dual measure in the South-East of Scotland, and I refer particularly to the counties of Roxburgh and Selkirk, which join those of Midlothian and Peebles. A very searching investigation has been carried out by the Committee, which sat at the request of the Scottish Council under the chairmanship of a distinguished border industrialist, Mr. A. D. Anderson-Scott. Time does not permit me, nor do I wish, to go into the matter in any great detail except to emphasise that the problems which face us in the South-West of Scotland, and particularly in my constituency are of a two-fold nature. One relates to the rural or landward areas, and the other to the towns and burghs and the textile industry connected with them.
The problem is a simple one, and is related to the steady but obvious decline in the population in the more remote rural areas, and on the hillsides of Scotland. That, of course, has been accentuated by the lack of amenity. Hill farmers are not long in telling about the difficulties they are up against in getting replacement of labour or additional farm hands for the farm. One of the first questions a farmer is asked when he interviews a prospective servant is, is there a bus service, then is there electricity and, thirdly, what amenities are available within a reasonable distance? If those things 1980 are not available generally the job is refused.
In my constituency where houses are available for farm workers they have been unoccupied for some months. I feel that we must do everything we can to see that the countryside is properly developed. In the valleys and on the hillsides, such as one finds in my constituency, there must be some enjoyment and incentive for the people, so that those who are there will remain and those who are thinking about living in the country will go there.
The difficulty may not altogether be with the Scottish Office, and certainly in the matter of electricity supplies there has been a lack of development in the southern sub-area of South-Eastern Scotland. I do not wish to elaborate that, and perhaps if I did so I should be out of order, but I wish to draw the attention of those concerned in the Scottish Office to the fact that there is a great demand for electricity, and while we realise that in many cases the areas are sparsely populated and the distances are long, thereby making it uneconomic to provide electricity supplies, nevertheless if we are to maintain agricultural production and increase the number of sheep on the hills we have to do something for these lonely and remote parts of the country. If we are to increase our beef stock we must make amenities available to the people who wish to reside and work there.
The tweed industry is the foundation of industrial life in South-East Scotland. It has long been felt—and this Report merely emphasises the matter again—that the industrial development in the border towns of Scotland has for too long been closely associated with the textile woollen trade and in later years with the hosiery trade and certain other manufactures associated with towns on the border like Galashiels, Selkirk and so on. To overcome that suggestions have been made by those who have piloted this Report. It is not necessary to enumerate the schemes in detail, but they are there for consideration, and I trust that my right hon. Friend, his colleagues and officials as well as those who are interested in the preservation and expansion of these great industries in South-East Scotland will study the Report.
Reports in themselves are useless. We have had many Reports in the past, some of which have been referred to, 1981 and it is essential that they should be studied and analysed. One of the important features of these Reports is the acknowledgment that the implementation of the suggestions contained in them depends upon the support of the burghs, county councils, private industries and the tweed and textile industries already established. Some reference has been made to Government support for increasing plant already in existence. It may be that other speakers will elaborate that point. It is necessary that producers in the tweed and hosiery trade and those of us engaged in our country's affairs should all be thinking about converting to action the suggestions made in these Reports.
I would pay a tribute to those who have compiled the Reports. In Scotland we are blessed with people who, in their desire to do the best for their country, give willingly of their time, ability and talents to do these things. But unless we implement the recommendations we shall not be able to establish and maintain the full employment we all desire in Scottish agriculture and manufacture.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
The Secretary of State for Scotland enlarged on the Government decision on the Cairncross Report. The right hon. Gentleman felt that if we had a certain amount of capital to distribute it would be better to reserve it for the Development Areas rather than to spread it over a wider field.
I wish to call attention to a district already in a Development Area, in order to prevent it from becoming as derelict as some parts of the Highlands are already. This area comprises the districts of Shotts, Harthill, Cleland, Salsburgh and Allanton. Those districts may be known to the Joint Under-Secretary of State. What is happening there and what we are told may happen in less than 10 years' time will have serious repercussions both on the people who live there and in other areas.
The vast majority of the workers there are miners. There is little or no alternative employment. The unemployed already on the register are what may be called long-term unemployed. In the main they are men suffering from pneumoconiosis or other industrial injuries, 1982 who are in receipt of partial compensation or pensions under the Industrial Injuries Act. These are the men who are affected by the decision of the Minister of National Insurance which we debated last week. They are cruelly hit by that decision. It was bad enough for them to be long-term unemployed in receipt of unemployment benefit, but they are now to have indignity added to indignity and will be handed over to the National Assistance Board.
The Lanarkshire coalfield has suffered immeasureable harm under the system of private ownership of coal. I shall not develop that theme today, because I consider my duty as the representative of the people of that area is to attempt to persuade the Government to make plans for their future. That seems to me to be a wiser course than to refer to the past. My deep concern is for the livelihood, well-being and happiness of those people among whom I have lived for the whole of my life and whom I have the honour to represent in this House.
In that area at the present time there is a population of slightly over 25,000. I say to the Ministers concerned that unless much serious thought is given to the prospects of these people, thought that will result in concrete action, theirs is a very bleak future indeed. A number of pits have closed in the last few years. Reorganisation in other pits has brought about further redundancy. The Secretary of State said that 82 per cent. of the men made redundant by closures and reorganisations had found work in the developing coalfields. I knew that was about the figure, and I know that under the procedure planned by the National Coal Board and the Ministry of Labour, it is easier for miners to get to a new area when a pit closes, than was the case in the past. All the old hardships have been mitigated so far as possible.
But that 82 per cent. leaves 18 per cent. of those redundant without work at all. These people are men in the older age categories and those who are immobile for one reason or another. These are the people still living in the area I have been describing and in the district which was described by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Balfour). It is a tragic situation for that 18 per cent. in this area. They have no hope of work for the rest of their lives.
1983 I do not think a worse fate can befall any man than to know that he has lost his job and that for the rest of his life there is no possibility of his getting employment. It means not only that he has to reduce his standard of living, but also that his loved ones are denied those things they have the right to expect, and which he could provide for them when he was in work. No; it is much worse than that. A man in that position feels that he is no use to anyone. It makes him very depressed, and the fact that he is so depressed means that time and time again great unhappiness is brought to a complete household when it could have been avoided if the man had some hope of work in the near future.
That is the position at present in the area which I have mentioned, the older men and the immobile men being without work, and it is with the object of preventing that position from worsening that I raise the subject today. I seek the support of the Secretary of State, who, as my right hon. Friend said, is ultimately held responsible for the well-being of Scotland, and he will also require the support of the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Supply. All these Ministers and their Ministries must concern themselves with this if the future of the area is to be safeguarded.
My information, which is from reliable sources, is that all the pits in the area except one will be closed in less than 10 years' time. I know that before a pit is closed there has to be close consultation between the National Union of Mine-workers and the management at pit level and that the consultation is carried from pit level right up to the Scottish Area of the National Union of Mineworkers and the Scottish Division of the National Coal Board. But if, after all that discussion has taken place, we find that in less than 10 years' time the position is as it is presented today, what then is the future of the area to be? We must remember that, although the population is just over 25,000, the vast majority of the men are miners and there are many miners from elsewhere who daily travel into the area to find employment in the pits which are threatened with closure. The problem thus affects a larger district than the area I have described.
1984 My people are intensely worried. One of their main topics of conversation when I meet them is: What is our future to be? They are rightly asking: What action will the Government take? They rightly ask me: What action are you taking to safeguard our future? I have been in constant contact with the Scottish Division of the National Coal Board—I have a number of documents and letters here—and I have explored the possibilities of further coal developments in and around the area. That exploration has proved almost conclusively that the prospects are nil. I hope that the National Coal Board itself will be absolutely certain that it has explored every place which can possibly be explored before it finally says that there is no further chance of development in that area or in any area round about it in Lanarkshire.
When the N.C.B. and the N.U.M. were tackling the problem of re-organisation in the Scottish coalfields they thought that work would be found in the Development Areas of Fife, the Lothians, and Ayrshire for miners made redundant in Lanarkshire. Even if that is feasible, it still leaves the problem of the older miner and the immobile miner and the problem of a great wastage of social assets.
On Tuesday, 17th February, I asked a Question of the President of the Board of Trade. I had originally put the Question to the Secretary of State for Scotland but it was transferred to the President of the Board of Trade. It asked the President what plans he had for new industry for Shotts and district in view of the report by the National Coal Board that all but one of the pits in the area would be closed within the next 10 years. The reply which I got from the Parliamentary Secretary was most unsatisfactory. It showed that there was a complacency in the Department and among the Ministers about this. The Parliamentary Secretary said:I understand that several pits in the Shotts area are expected to cease production within the next 10 years, but the National Coal Board are developing extensive deposits elsewhere in Scotland, where miners will be wanted. My right hon. Friend will carefully watch these developments and continue to encourage industrial expansion to provide sufficient employment in Shotts and areas nearby for those for whom suitable opportunities cannot be found elsewhere."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 17th February, 1953: Vol. 511, c. 100.]1985 I want to show why I think that answer is complacent. In the first place, they will "continue to encourage," but no new industry at all has so far come to the district, except a factory which provides work for about 800 women, and a very good thing it was that it came to the district.
I want to know whether the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State believe that there will be work for the redundant miners in the developing coalfields. If the President believes that, on what grounds does he base his belief? Last week in the "Glasgow Herald" there were three articles by a special correspondent headed:Scottish Development Policy on Trial.On Thursday, 9th July, in the third article I found these words which perturbed me very greatly:The intention is that the increase of output from the Fife and Clackmannan field should be attained with an increase of only 6 per cent. in manpower on the present total of about 24,000 workers. The massive transfers of miners from the West of Scotland envisaged in the report of the Scottish Coalfields Committee are no longer thought to be necessary. The new dispositions provide for a relatively small entry from Lanarkshire and a gradual movement of local men from one section of the field to another.If that is true, and I am inclined to think it is true, what a serious picture these words paint for Lanarkshire, and particularly for the area whose problems I am stressing. One of two things are bound to happen. The first alternative is that a great number of miners will be transferred from Lanarkshire to the developing areas, leaving behind the older men, the immobile miners and those who, for good reasons, do not wish to transfer. But if that statement is true, that alternative is not a possibility. What is the second alternative? That in a few years these pits will close and the majority of the men will be left unemployed in Lanarkshire, again especially in the Shotts area.
I realise that the two alternatives present great difficulties and problems to Her Majesty's Ministers, to the local authority concerned, to me as the Member of Parliament, and particularly to the men and women whose livelihood is jeopardised. All of us must work together to find a solution for these problems and the only solution is alternative industries. 1986 I am glad that the President of the Board of Trade is listening so carefully because this problem presents the right hon. Gentleman particularly with a great opportunity, in conjunction with the other Ministers, to prevent what is now a fairly thriving community from becoming derelict.
If every effort is made to plan this area, as is put into the planning of new towns, we shall have success in our planning. At the weekend I went through East Kilbride. It was heartening to see the development there—new factories, new shopping centres, new houses all being built. To ensure the future of the people in the area of Shotts would present fewer difficulties, than the building up of a new town, whether at East Kilbride or at any other place, because we have almost all the social assets that are necessary. We have the houses, the churches, the schools, the shopping centres and the halls. The local authority are much concerned about this matter. They own 3,035 houses in the villages I have mentioned; indeed, they own 55.1 per cent. of all the houses in the area. There has been an enormous capital investment by Lanarkshire County Council there. Since 1940 they have sunk in capital £172,000 on sewerage works alone, and they still have a total debt outstanding of £90,600 in respect of these works.
One can see then the great problems that would face the local authority if something were not done to ensure the future of this area. The local authority are also worried because they know that, if nothing is done to plan the future of this area, it will have repercussions in other parts of Lanarkshire. I can give the Secretary of State, the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Labour the assurance that Lanarkshire County Council will give every possible help in trying to work with them to find alternative industry for this area. In paragraph 52, page 28 of the Cairncross Report I find these words:Where the staple industry of a town has suffered a severe setback and it proves impossible to restore the fortunes of that industry, it would be desirable to try to prevent general distress by impressing on industrialists the desirability of putting new factories there.The staple industry of this area is not only suffering a setback; it will be almost completely annihilated. If that is the 1987 case the situation is worse than that envisaged in the Cairncross Report, and since the situation is worse, the Government must make their measures more drastic. We have the Distribution of Industries Act and that has been criticised today. Its powers are not nearly strong enough to ensure that the drastic remedies which must be taken for this area and the other areas will be taken. I could make suggestions, but I know that many of my hon. Friends wish to speak. I am willing at any time to discuss them with the Ministers concerned.
The Cairncross Report also says in paragraph 58, page 29:The community must have something more to offer than unemployed workers; it must have the facilities and the atmosphere that will let transplanted enterprise take firm root.I have shown that the facilities are there. Besides all those social assets this area is situated halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh on the main arterial road and on the main railway between both those cities. If we add this to all the other facilities, it will be seen that we have the facilities. I believe strongly that we have the atmosphere which the report suggests.
This is an area with a remarkable community spirit, as almost every hon. Member of this House who knows it will agree. It has a great cultural background which has been fostered by the people themselves. They have never depended either on Government or local authority funds to foster this cultural background. These people have shown time and time again that they possess initiative to a high degree. They are people who get together and, by their initiative get things done. Again I can give the Ministers concerned many examples if they wish to have them. These people have been congratulated on their great initiative by, among others, Lord Bilsland, Chairman of the Council for Development. Again I stress that the atmosphere is there which will let transplanted enterprise take firm root.
On page 13 the Cairncross Report says this:In Kilmarnock and Leslie a decline in the number of miners has been more than offset by the growth of manufacturing industry.1988 There is a live example of what can be done. Again I stress that, if it can be done there, and if we are all determined not to allow really fine people to be thrown on the scrap-heap, as some of them have already been thrown, then all of us must get together and find what alternative industry can be got there to make it another Kilmarnock or, for that mater, another Hamilton, because Hamilton used to be an old mining village.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
The first thing I want to do is to congratulate the Government on their representation on the Front Bench today. I have never seen so many Ministers on the Front Bench during a Scottish debate. In addition to the Scottish Ministers we have here the President of the Board of Trade and we have had the Minister of Labour and National Service and his Parliamentary Secretary, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power, the Minister of National Insurance and the Minister of Supply and I dare say that others have been present as well. I never remember having seen so many Departmental representatives present during a Scottish debate. It is greatly to the credit of the Government. It shows how seriously they take the problems of Scotland.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I support what the hon. Gentleman has said, but may I remind him that on this occasion the Opposition invited them?
§ Mr. Macpherson
I can remember occasions, to which references have been made in the past, when invitations were not accepted. It is to the credit of the Government that the invitations were accepted this time.
The second thing I wish to do is to follow the admirable speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). The problem with which she dealt is heart-rending. It is not peculiar to her area. It is one which is bound to crop up from time to time, because, unfortunately, coal mines do get worked out. This fits in with something which I have to say later. I can remember a poignant appeal by the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. Timmons), when the Labour Government were in power, to exactly the same effect. I am sure that 1989 the Government are doing, and will do, everything they can to deal with this problem. I hope to be able to give an indication of some of the ways in which I for one think that the problem ought to be tackled.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has indicated that, in general, there is a limited amount of aid to be given. The Committee have to consider what aid if any, financial or otherwise, we should ask the Government to give to industry in Scotland. We would all agree that it is most important that the aid should be concentrated where it is most needed and where it can be most effective.
It is important to realise that these needs are continually changing. Reference has been made to the pre-war needs of the distressed areas. As the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North indicated, the needs of the distressed areas, which later were expanded to become the Development Areas, have by no means been met. This is a continuing problem. There are some places in the Development Areas which still have high unemployment figures. On the other hand, the problem was to get peace-time industry into operation again in places which needed industry most.
After that came the problem of rearmament. The Committee would like an assurance that Scotland has received a proper share of the rearmament industry. We may argue whether it has been placed in the right locations. We would claim that, as the unemployment figures for Scotland are higher than those for the United Kingdom as a whole, it would be reasonable to place a higher proportion of the rearmament industry in Scotland, especially in those places in which unemployment is high.
It may be that the area represented by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North and the East Coast towns, where unemployment is above average, are places which have a special claim for rearmament industry. The report of the Clydesdale Bank indicates that three out of the four Government assisted industries that were started in Scotland in 1952 were rearmament industries. Undoubtedly, the Government are doing something in this respect. Initially, one of the limiting factors was urgency. It was imperative, in many cases, to start 1990 rearmament industries were the requisite basic skills already existed.
There is, of course, a very much longer-term problem. First of all, there is the fact that unemployment in Scotland is higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Secondly, there is the drift from certain areas such as the Border, the South-West and the Highlands. The post-war situation made it necessary for the Government to assume responsibility for the location of industry, and the Government can offer inducements to go to Development Areas which have not been referred to today. Among other things, they can give loans to companies setting up in the Development Areas. On the other hand, the Government could discourage industries from expanding in their own existing locations by the withholding of planning permission and building licences, or even of the supplies of raw materials.
Such negative controls are becoming less effective than they were. For example, in regard to raw materials, the necessity for such control has largely passed away, but, of course, planning and building permission is still a very effective control. Indeed, an example has been given in the debate today, by the hon. Member for Midlothian and Peebles (Mr. Pryde), of a case in which that control has been exercised. I was given the impression by a Scottish Office report that such controls were not being exercised at the present time. At any rate, it is certainly still not only desirable but essential for the Government to exercise general supervision over the location of industry.
The fact remains that the number of new industries started in Scotland has been dropping from year to year. We ought to recognise that it was inevitable that that should happen as the changeover to peace-time production progressed. On the other hand, it is quite essential that the impetus of new industry in Scotland should be kept up. There are still needs to be met in the Development Areas, but there are undoubtedly needs to be met elsewhere, and I want to deal with that problem. How should those needs be met? One suggestion has been made that the Development Areas should be enlarged or that their number should be increased, but it has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend that the more 1991 we expand the Development Areas the less becomes the incentive to go to them.
The Development Area really postulates, in my view, a fairly wide variety of skilled labour such as can only be found in the heavily populated areas. It may be that, where there is a special and isolated problem, where there is a high percentage of unemployment—in Stornoway, for example—a decision has to be taken either to encourage the population to go elsewhere, or, alternatively, to make it an "extra special" area, and for the Government to intervene more directly than it does even in the Development Areas to build up a new type of industry there. We on this side need not shrink from that kind of solution in such "extra special" areas.
The Cairncross Committee had some wise words to say on this subject, and made three propositions. They said, in the first place, that it was desirable—and I think it is most important and that it is desirable—that natural industrial expansion should be assisted and accelerated. Then they went on to say:Where a gradual contraction has been in progress and where no special advantages can be offered to new firms looking for suitable locations … so long as the contraction is gradual and no problems of top-heavy age structure or substantial wastage of social capital are involved, we see no particular reason for bringing pressure on industrialists to select those towns in preference to others.The other thing they say is that in prosperous agricultural centres some industry should be encouraged to develop.
It is important to realise that there is also the problem to which the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North referred, and that is of an industry which is dying or is, indeed, dead. Where an area is wholly or largely dependent upon one industry, substitute industries have to be found. In my constituency of Dumfries there was this kind of problem, and I will cite it because it is an instructive example. An industry was established there. One of the difficulties that confronted it was that the site that was chosen had insufficient room to expand. No doubt it was the industry's own fault. Anyway, that industry and other industries in Dumfries came to an end, and there was a serious unemployment problem.
1992 Two new industries of considerable importance were then attracted to the area, and other similar industries have since been started. So far as I know, the only special Government assistance that was given took the form of an allocation of additional houses, and assistance to the local authorities in the provision of adequate services.
There were, however, two factors involved in this matter, and one was most important. It was that both those industries had the capital available. I will develop that point in a minute or two.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I think I know one of the plants of which the hon. Member is talking. I may be wrong, and if so perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will put me right, but I think one of the factories was set up as the result of research and development carried out by a private enterprise firm, and that it was piloted by that firm at the request and under the guidance of the Board of Trade
§ Mr. Macpherson
I think the hon. Gentleman is right in that it was done in co-operation with the Board of Trade. I believe that buildings were in existence there which belonged to the Government. There has been a considerable expansion of building since.
§ Mr. Macpherson
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to the location or to the research and development, but I have no doubt there was co-operation with the Board of Trade. I am not fully informed about that matter, so perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will tell me about it. I am not making any point about that at all. It is really a side issue.
There are three things to remember where an industry is dying or is already dead. The first is timely action for new industry to take the place of the dying one. It must be timely. I would pay tribute to the splendid work that the Scottish Council have been doing. The second is that there should be an absence of any handicap imposed by the Government on 1993 new industry going there. It seems odd that one should have to say that.
The third is that, as I have already mentioned, sites should be prepared and serviced by the local authorities in advance of demand to attract the new ventures. I would go further and say that the sites should have room for expansion on the spot for an industry that succeeds, so that it should not have to go elsewhere. It is futile to create a new industry and encourage it and then do something to frustrate it. I do not say that the Government do anything purposely to frustrate the Ardil plant. I am sure that that is not so. Ardil is a wool substitute made from groundnut meal. I am told that, chemically and physically, it has much the same properties as wool. It can be blended with wool and can be used as a substitute for wool in blends with cotton, rayon, nylon or silk.
When the D Scheme was introduced the Government subjected this new product to a fiscal handicap. No doubt that was done inadvertently. I understand that if there is a 15 per cent. proportion of wool in the material it is placed in class A. If there is less it is placed in class B. In that case the D level is less than half of what it is in class A. Where Ardil is mixed with anything except wool that classification makes an artificial discrimination against Ardil. No doubt the home producer of wool may feel that Ardil may compete with home-produced wool. I think that that is a mistaken view because I am told that Ardil used with home-produced wool provides a finer and softer finish.
In any case, we are anxious to build in this country industries the products of which can take the place of imported products and, also, can contribute very largely to the solution of our export problem. In Ardil, the plant for which has cost a great deal of money to establish. I think that we have such a product. I am sure that the President of the Board of Trade will agree that it would be a mistake to hamper its development in any way. One of the most important prerequisites is that the Government at least must abstain from handicapping a new industry in any way.
It seems to me that there are two main deterrents to enterprise at the present time. The first is the difficulty in making a profit in competition with existing 1994 established enterprises, especially when those were established at a time when the capital cost was very much lower. That is a factor which no doubt will tend to diminish in importance, but will never wholly disappear. The second is the difficulty in building sufficient reserves for expansion with taxation at existing levels. It may seem odd, but a person with an inventive turn of mind, or one who is anxious to establish himself in industry, will be seriously deterred if he will never be able to get past the walls of the relatively small factory that may be established for him in a Development Area. It may be necessary, at some time, to do what is being done in other countries; that is, to consider tax holidays or differential taxation for the new enterprises in areas in which it is specially desired to encourage industry.
Then there is the very important question of obtaining capital. I differ to some extent from my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne). I do not think it would be desirable—and in this matter I share the views expressed by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence)—to present the whole thing on a plate to the industrialist. It is much better for him, on the basis of his reputation and his capacity, to go out and get the capital that he requires. But he must be able to get that capital.
§ Mr. J. N. Browne
My hon. Friend is not right in suggesting that it is necessarily the firms which need capital which should go to these areas. We want the firms with capital, who want to stay in business, to do that. We do not want those firms who have not got the capital. They are the people who so easily go down.
§ Mr. Macpherson
I did not understand the point of that intervention.
If local authorities are encouraged to establish factories there will be some rather unlooked-for results. In the first place, rating capacity is already being strained, and I doubt if it would be advisable to allow local authorities to build factories entirely with Government money. If they do so, in advance of inquiries, 1995 the factories may easily prove to be of the wrong size and type.
The situation in a relatively small area is entirely different from what it is in a large community, where many factories of different sizes can be built. In any case, it is wrong in principle that a local authority should have a vested interest in some industries within its area and not in others. It is essential that they should be impartial. To that extent, I disagree with the recommendations of the Cairncross Committee. It is obviously necessary that local authorities should have the sites and services ready. The Government have assisted and are assisting in that respect.
§ Mr. Macpherson
They are assisting by the grant they are giving under the Rural Water and Sewerage Acts, and other similar Acts.
§ Mr. Macpherson
I think I am right in saying that assistance has been given in a particular case in Dumfries, of which I am aware.
§ Mr. Fraser
Assistance has been given under Section 3 of the 1945 Distribution of Industry Act, and such assistance is being continued in respect of schemes which were approved some considerable time ago, but we have been informed by the President of the Board of Trade that no new schemes under that Section of that Act are being approved.
§ Mr. Macpherson
I hope that my right hon. Friend will deal with that point. I am sure that many hon. Members on this side of the Committee regard it as important that that kind of aid should be available. The question arises as to where the capital is to be provided. I was very struck by one observation in the Clydesdale Bank report. It was there stated that out of total advances of £24 million made to the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation, only £1 million had been advanced to Scottish industry.
I should like consideration to be given to the establishment of a finance corporation for Scotland alone, for such a finance corporation might well merge the 1996 functions of both the Finance Corporation for Industry and the I.C.F.C. I would only observe, in passing, that if the Clydesdale Bank think it necessary to point this out, that is a fairly clear indication that something more is needed than the existing banking facilities in Scotland. Scotland should not have to come to London for finance.
Lastly, I want to deal with diversity. There is, of course, a varying shortage of labour in agriculture and the coal mines and some consider—this view has been expressed today—that to establish new industries in agricultural areas will result in a further depletion of labour in agriculture. Some, I suspect, take the same view about coal mines. I believe exactly the contrary to be true, particularly in the mining areas. If a young man has to choose either to go into the coal mines or to leave the area altogether and seek work elsewhere, he will be more likely to go elsewhere than he would if the choice were wider and he will be less likely to go into coal mines.
We must also consider the question of the womenfolk. I want to quote an example from my own constituency, that of the Sanquhar-Kirkconnel area. Many new houses have been built there and many mining families transferred there from Lanarkshire and elsewhere. Yet, in spite of the new houses, many miners and their families have drifted back to their old homes—and we have to ask why. There is the normal homesickness, of course, but I am certain that it is greatly accentuated by lack of amenities. There has been great pressure for the provision of a miners' welfare centre, but capital restrictions apparently make that difficult In my view, capital restrictions should not be allowed to stand in the way in cases like that, and I urge the Government to give special consideration to such matters.
I asked a Question today about the closure of a cinema in the area because, although it is a rural area, the cinema itself is in a small burgh, and the small burgh is not entitled to the advantage of the tax relaxation, whereas the larger village nearby gets it. That is a most extraordinary state of affairs. Further, women have to travel long distances to get employment. I am told that one of the main reasons why miners go back home is because their womenfolk are accustomed to employment but cannot get it locally. It seems to me of the 1997 utmost importance that work for the women should be brought to that area.
It is also important from the social point of view because one day, inevitably, these coal mines will be worked out. It is essential, if we are to get a diversified pattern of industry in the area, to start doing it now and to establish the skills on which further expansion may be based. I am convinced that it is essential and that it is one of the ways of avoiding the very difficulties about which the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire (Miss Herbison) told us.
I apologise to the Committee for being so long, but these are matters of great importance. I believe that the real key to progress and prosperity in Scotland and the rest of the country lies in the provision of private saving and company saving, both of which must depend in the long run in lower taxation, and also in proper facilities for the provision of finance for industry.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)
In winding up this debate for tonight on behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends I would first put a question to the President of the Board of Trade. There seems to be some dispute as to whether or not Section 3 of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, has been cancelled, and I should be grateful if, before I proceed further, the right hon. Gentleman would inform us whether or not it has been.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)
The matter was dealt with at very great length in a debate a little time ago. It is rather complex, and I would rather deal with it in the course of my remarks.
§ Mr. Hoy
That is true: it was dealt with a considerable time ago. There is no use in the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) asking the local authorities to undertake this work because the local authorities have tremendous financial burdens, and there is no use in asking them to take over this work unless we tell them from where the money is to come. By Section 3 of the 1945 Act finances were made available to local authorities for this particular job. I thought that in the debate which took place here earlier this year the President of the Board of Trade made it perfectly clear that as far as he 1998 was concerned that Section of that Act no longer existed.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dumfries also referred to the fact that there are so many Ministers present. Of course they are present, because the Opposition took the precaution of putting their Votes on the Order Paper. That does not detract in any way from our gratitude to them for appearing, and we are glad that they are here, but that is the reason why they are here. After all, the Ministries the hon. Gentleman mentioned are national Ministries which deal with Scotland as well as the rest of the country, and because of that those Ministers have good reason to be here. When one raises problems which affect a Department's work in Scotland one must expect either the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary to be present, and I should hope that that would apply no matter what party was in office.
Now I would convey congratulations, as, I am sure, all hon. Members would, to my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Balfour), who braved the task of making his maiden speech tonight. I know he was pretty reticent about doing it. One has, I know, a feeling of great nervousness when one has to undertake the job. I am certain we were all impressed by the remarks he had to make.
When this debate was first mooted it was felt by the Opposition that we should give two days to it to allow every Member who wished to make his or her contribution, and it was hoped that by pooling all ideas we might find solutions to our problems. Prior to its taking place a deputation of my hon. Friends and I went to see the Ministers concerned. We said at that meeting that what was worrying us were the tendencies to unemployment in Scotland. I am not placing them any higher at the moment. We hoped that the Secretary of State might open by replying on those points.
I thought the Secretary of State was very disappointing in this respect. It is true that he told us what happened during the past year, and, indeed, it was a very difficult year, but I am afraid that he did not disclose very much of the Government's plans for the future. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will be able to do something about that when he winds up. 1999 I hope so, because my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) did in fact say that the Ministry of Labour had a special position in all this, and in fact it was the Ministry of Labour and the people there who knew all about these problems in regard to Scotland and what the unemployment figures were in each particular area.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will be dealing much more fully with this matter than did the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland said what I thought was a most remarkable thing. He said that the fall in the rate of unemployment was much greater than it was in the previous year. To substantiate his statement, he also said that, of course, we had 86,000 unemployed at the beginning of the year and so the run-down was much greater. If that is to be the argument, one has only to add another 20,000 and the rundown is greater than ever. That is no argument at all for the right hon. Gentleman to use. Today we got to know the final figure, which is greater than it has been for some time, and it is that which perturbs us.
I want to say that we were not very satisfied with the statement about the future policy of the Government or with the statement regarding the development of industry. I think that it was a pretty poor excuse which the right hon. Gentleman made when he said that it was really impossible to spread the jam over many more slices of bread as it would be all the thinner when it got to the last slices. Did it never strike the right hon. Gentleman that he might order a second pot. Maybe that would have proved the solution to his problem. I am sorry he did not think of it, but I make that suggestion to him for use the next time he goes to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Neither did I think his arguments were very strong about what had been done. In fact, he paid a tribute to actions of the past because all the things that the Secretary of State for Scotland mentioned were the result of action taken by the Labour Government. I defy the right hon. Gentleman to deny that. Whether it was the new towns at East Kilbride or Glenrothes, or whether it was the planned development of our mining fields, all 2000 these things were the result of planning and could only have been carried out by such planning. In fact, they were a tribute to the planning that was done, and tributes have been paid by hon. Members opposite to the transfer of the miners from the worked out areas to other areas and the provision of houses for them. That was the result of planning, and it ought to be a salutary lesson to hon. and right hon. Members opposite not to be so critical when they are in opposition and then when they become Members of the Government to seek to pay tribute to it.
The right hon. Gentleman also paid a great tribute to the output of the steel industry. He said that over the past two years it had made tremendous progress, and that the Government were not prepared to let it settle there and were taking steps to denationalise the industry which has given the results which the right hon. Gentleman was so proudly boasting about today.
§ Mr. Hoy
I cannot give way because I have to leave time for the Parliamentary Secretary to reply. I have sat here and listened to the debate and that is something different from what the hon. Gentleman has done. May I say this also to the right hon. Gentleman about the two announcements he made regarding development in the Highlands? We are grateful to the Government for carrying out this experiment, but I am sure that the Committee would also like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire who did set up the Appleton Committee to inquire into this problem. Indeed the result which the Minister announced today must bring him also great satisfaction. I think it will make a contribution, and I am certain that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are grateful for any contribution that can be made to the economic well being of the Highlands of our country.
I wish to refer to roads. The right hon. Gentleman was a little naïve in his announcement about the increase in the road grant. He said that over the next three years it was proposed to give an increase of 25 per cent. in the road grant or money for road work. I must say to him that a great part of that work—two 2001 of the roads concerned—was work which had been previously agreed upon and postponed. If my information is correct, the two roads that he mentioned were covered by the special grant of £750,000 made by the previous Government for this and construction work; the two roads which the right hon. Gentleman has now announced as being pushed on with were two that were discussed and agreed to under the previous scheme—[Interruption.]—and, as my hon. Friend has reminded me, were discontinued under the economy cut. That means that what we are in part doing is overtaking some of the work which was postponed because of the economy cut.
I do not intend to argue that at the moment because I am not certain about what comes within the Vote. The Secretary of State had some doubt about agriculture but he appeared to have no doubt about our gold and dollar reserves. If I might say so, that seemed to be a little further away from the Vote than agriculture in Scotland.
§ Mr. Stuart
I was not objecting to discussing agriculture but we had a debate in the Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Hoy
I am well aware of that; I was there. Nor was I complaining. It was the right hon. Gentleman who raised the doubt about it, and that doubt was objected to by his hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby). I do not want to spend any further time on that matter now. I think that the right hon. Gentleman was going just a little too far because he preceded that statement by saying, "I do not want to introduce any political warfare into my speech but. …"
2002 What we are discussing today, and why this Vote was put down was because of the fear in Scotland of unemployment. I am certain that no Member on this Committee would gainsay that fact. It is a real fear because whether we like it or not the people of Scotland have a continual fear that there will be a return to the days which we experienced in the years not so long ago. I am not seeking to slang the Government about this but we have to face up to the fact that since the end of the war Scotland's unemployment rate has been double that of the rest of the United Kingdom, and there is a natural fear that if a trade recession takes place we shall be less prepared to meet that situation than the rest of the United Kingdom. That is what determined us to raise this matter.
How are we going to provide for a solution to this problem? I think that we may get some help from a diversification of industry. That may be a help but I do not think that we should regard it as an alternative to our basic industries. We have got to expand our basic industries and, at the same time, get the assistance of new industries which we may attract by diversification. It is along that road that we may find success, and how we are going to do it is the question we have got to consider. Are we going to use all our energies and resources in a further extension of the Development Areas? That question has got to be answered by the Government of the day.
I would not seek to detract from the contribution that the Distribution of Industry Act has made to Scotland in our industrial belt, in Glasgow, and in the City of Dundee, where great rehabilitation has taken place. As a result of that there are thousands of men and women in Scotland tonight who are employed but who might well be unemployed if this action had not been taken. But is this going to be enough, or should we be prepared to consider taking in areas outside the Development Areas?
In this respect the Report of the Cairn-cross Committee was correct. I think they were right in suggesting that there were other areas which might well be provided with some Government assistance, and if I might say so without upsetting the Secretary of State for Scotland, I was a little astonished at the way he announced the 2003 rejection of the Report of the Cairncross Committee. He sent a little billet-doux by the courtesy of the OFFICIAL REPORT to one of his hon. Friends rejecting this substantial scheme, which I thought was peculiar treatment to mete out to this House.
§ Mr. Hoy
—and who presented the Report, but the right hon. Gentleman will not be unaware of the debate which took place in the House just a year ago, in which he promised to give full consideration to the matter. I remember a very excellent speech being made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) on this particular issue. Be that as it may, I still think that the Secretary of State will have to come back to this Report, as will the President of the Board of Trade, because there is a lot of truth in what was said by one of my hon. Friends about expanding industry in towns and villages that already exist.
The Cairncross Committee singled out as an example of this development what might take place on the borders of Scotland, and in Midlothian and Fife. These are things which cannot be shirked, because we have got to provide employment for the people in those areas who have been shifted there because of the change in coal production. Just as we move miners to new mines, so we have also to provide employment for the wives and families of the miners we have shifted. It is necessary to do this and also to make provision for adequate roads.
Though I was unable to hear the speech this evening of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove, the essence of it has been reported to me, and I support what he said. In Scotland one of the heavy items we have to face up to is that of transport, and the more we can ease the position of transport the better it is going to be for the industries 2004 that already exist in Scotland. These things can come only if we have the necessary expenditure road maintenance and the provision of new roads. If we are to get the best out of the new town in Fife I would remind the Under-Secretary of State, who is closely associated with that part of the country, that we must soon make up our minds whether we shall provide the road across the Forth to link both sides of the river. It may be that to complete the job we shall have to provide another bridge over the Tay, so that road transport can proceed from North to South.
I do not want the Under-Secretary to come with the same story about the cost of £30 million. He ought not to try to frighten people with the story of £30 million as though it had all to be spent in one year. That is the expenditure envisaged over a number of years. It was thought the Forth Road Bridge would take eight to 10 years to build and the £13 million involved in the £30 million mentioned by the Under-Secretary in a speech the other day represents building over 10 years and will not all be found by the Government. They will receive a fairly substantial contribution from the local authorities which should be taken into account when the hon. Gentleman is dealing with these figures.
I wish to say something about an industry in which I have a personal stake, the ports and harbours of Scotland. They have been going through a pretty rough period recently. I wrote to the Ministry of Labour on the subject and I acknowledge that they sent me a very courteous reply. At least I was able to read their reply without wanting to get on the phone immediately to respond to it. I cannot say the same of the Board of Trade. On 9th July the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour wrote reiterating the old story that if one is thinking of Leith one must also think of Edinburgh, because the two cannot be separated.
That is not true, because in 1946, under a Labour Government, we had Leith scheduled as a special area for special treatment outside the rest of Edinburgh and I do not think the hon. Gentleman should try to go back to that old argument which was disposed of in 1946. But his letter was a great improvement on the letter from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade who said 2005 that we should not only consider Edinburgh and Leith but Portobello, Loan-head and Dalkeith as well, and I wondered where we were proposing to extend to. I would warn the hon. Gentleman that he must never use that argument in an attempt to evade his responsibilities.
In the letter he said that I said the port was dying. I said nothing of the kind. I did say it was faced with tremendous problems, and I would give him a few figures to prove that that is true. In his letter dated 9th July he said:At the present time there is a shortage of dock labour in Leith.On the following day when I went home I found there were 117 men signing the register. I was informed by the Dock Labour Corporation that on the day the hon. Gentleman wrote to me 189 men were unemployed in the forenoon and 155 in the afternoon. When one thinks of that total out of a register of 786 people it is a pretty serious position, and I do not think it should be belittled.
This port has rendered yeomen service and was congratulated by the Inland Docks Water Executive on its tremendous out-put and turn-round of shipping.
§ Mr. Hoy
As my right hon. Friend says, there were no strikes. It is difficult to get men to go all out if they know at the end of the day that all they are doing is working themselves out of a job.
I would impress upon the Ministry of Labour and the Board of Trade that it is a very serious position in a dock like Leith—this also goes for most docks on the Forth such as Bo'ness, Kirkcaldy and Burntisland—to have, as Leith did last year, a drop of 200,000 tons in the cargoes carried compared with the previous year's total of 1,400,000 tons. A drop of one-seventh in the total cargo handled is a serious problem. It was that to which I was directing attention and on which I hope to get a reply.
The Minister is right when he says that a great deal of confidence has been shown in the Forth. The Docks Commission has spent a great deal of money in extensions, in the provision of new quays and in the erection, with Messrs. Ranks, of new granaries, but it expects some day to get a return for the money that it has 2006 spent. It cannot go on providing capital equipment if the capital equipment does not earn its keep. Figures which were probably announced today show that last year the Docks Commission had a deficit of £70,000 on its working. Every hon. Member will realise that such docks as these—it is general in the Forth—cannot go on for every earning less or increasing their dues and harbour rates on the remainder of the traffic because that will kill off the traffic, and, as a result, the ports may become derelict. I do not think I am over-stating the case.
I want now to deal with the coal shipped from these ports. The Forth used to handle a tremendous quantity of coal. My own docks handled 1,600,000 to 2,100,000 tons before the war, but today they are handling only about 10 per cent. of that. A smaller quantity is being exported from Burntisland, Bo'ness, Methil and elsewhere. Methil has made a better recovery than most of the other ports in the Forth. In comparison with best pre-war export figures, Leith is doing only 9 per cent. of its former trade, Burntisland 2 per cent., Grangemouth 11 per cent. and Glasgow 9 per cent. Methil has recovered 33 per cent. of its best prewar year.
What causes some perturbation is that the rest of the coal export ports, except for two or three in Wales are doing a very much better trade. One English port has now reached 84 per cent. of its former trade. It is against these facts that we have to consider the problem of our ports. It is interesting to recall that in 1938 Leith alone exported more than half a million tons to supply the power stations on the Thames. Sad to say, it does not do half that trade in a year now. This calls for action. It will not be news to the National Coal Board because I have already written to Sir Hubert Houlds-worth about the issue.
I should like to have said many other things but I must make way for the Parliamentary Secretary. Perhaps I might be allowed just to put two other points as shortly as possible. We are also interested in all these areas in the fishing trade. The Secretary of State for Scotland gave us some figures today about the catches of last year. We are glad that they have gone up, but there has been a serious decline in the number of people engaged in this industry, and 2007 I thought the right hon. Gentleman might have said that, despite these increased catches, out of a total of 14,500 in 1951 we have now dropped to 13,748. When we consider that the figure was 20,000 in 1938, we can measure the seriousness of the decline. The figure for the fishermen employed in the crofting counties alone has dropped from 4,067 in 1938 to 1,972 in 1952. These figures are serious. If we could make a contribution to the second figure I have mentioned, we should be making a real contribution towards solving the problem of the Highlands.
These are some of the questions which we should like answered and some of the suggestions that might help to solve the problem of making Scotland a more economic part of these Islands.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
First, may I perform a very pleasant duty and add my congratulations and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends to the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Balfour)? I think we all admire his self-control, and perhaps we all wish we could sit in this House for eight years and manage not to impinge on the debates.
If I may, I want to give the hon. Gentleman a little advice. I hope' he will not wait another eight years. I mean this seriously, because our counsels cannot dispense for that long period with the sound and sensible things which the hon. Gentleman said today. So I say to him sincerely that I hope we shall hear him again soon and, since he wanted a "bit of an up and a downer," next time perhaps he will get it.
One must, as a Sassenach, feel some diffidence in entering this debate all. I hope that even a Sassenach may occasionally study Burns, and perhaps I shall be at one with the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire if I remember the ode "To a Mouse" and say:Oh, what a panic's in my breastie.What I think the Committee would best like me to do and how I think I can best answer the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy), is to try to give as factual a presentation as I can of the unemployment and employment position as we see it in the Ministry of Labour. Before I do that, however, I will clear out of the way one 2008 point which the hon. Member for Leith and my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) raised, namely, the Distribution of Industry Act, Section 3.
As I said in the House on 25th February, as reported in column 2211 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, owing to the need of economy, grants and loans under Section 3 have had to be restricted to a bare minimum. But I want to make it plain, as I did then, that schemes of exceptional industrial importance which could not otherwise proceed are still considered on their merits. So it is not fair to say that this has been stopped entirely. It is merely that we are applying the test of exceptional importance.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Could we have any information as to the fate of those schemes that have been submitted in the course of, say, the last six months?
§ Mr. Watkinson
As my time is short, perhaps I may leave this to the President of the Board of Trade. [Laughter.] I am sure that the Committee would hardly expect me to expound on a lot of cases of which I have not even been given notice. The principle is that grants-in-aid under Section 3 can still be given. I think that that answers the point made by the hon. Gentleman.
Now I come to what I really want to talk about—the Ministry of Labour and its work and how we see the position in Scotland. First, I want to say that in Scotland as elsewhere Her Majesty's Government are determined to carry on the policy of full employment which has been supported by every Government since the war. I ask hon. Members to look at the national problem. We can all be proud that, after the end of the terrible buying spree to which the Korean war gave a further push, after the end of a world textile slump last year, the unemployment figure for Great Britain this month is under 300,000. Compared with the same month last year—and I admit that this is a favourable comparison—we have a decrease of no fewer than 142,000. That is something of which we all ought to be proud. There are no party politics in this.
Full employment today has to be looked at against an entirely different background from that to which we 2009 have perhaps grown rather too accustomed in the post-war years. As several hon. Members have said, the problem of the immediate post-war years was merely to turn the stuff out. It was one of supply. It was one of trying to meet the clamorous needs of customers all over the world who were desperately anxious for us to give them something. It was very nice while it lasted, but the position has completely changed. Today it is a question of demand, a world demand that is easing and shrinking, a world demand out of which other nations, especially Germany and Japan, now demand their share. The problem is one of exacting and precise demand.
I think that it is fair to say—because we must view the problems of Scotland against a realistic background—that full employment and our whole living standard depend perhaps not so much on the economic shifts and balances which any Government can put forward in their internal policy; what they really depend on, in the long-term, is our success or failure in meeting the increasingly exacting needs of our foreign customers. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) put that point very well.
Let us examine the employment picture in Scotland against this harsher and more exacting economic background. I want to try to be fair. We must realise that we can get some very odd comparisons if we carefully select our years. Last year we had the textile slump. Therefore, we can get a good comparison. In 1951, we had the combination of galloping inflation and the major onset of the rearmament programme. Therefore, we get a very bad comparison because that was a year of exceptionally low unemployment. The year 1950 was probably the last one where we had fairly average conditions.
I will try to relate the figures to each of these years and I hope that that will be a fair and unbiased comparison. The total figures have already been given. The figure on 15th June for Scotland as a whole was 56,556. That was a fall of 6,369 from the previous month and a fall of 11,955 from June, 1952. For the reasons I have explained, if we go back to 1951, it shows a rise of 14,246; so perhaps it is fair to go back to 1950. which is the last fairly normal year, and 2010 that shows that the figure is down by 1,991. So it is fair to say that the figure for June this year is a little better. Now let us analyse it in greater detail. I would point out, first, that Scotland has done a little better than the rest of the country, because for Great Britain as a whole unemployment is still a little above the June, 1950, figure, whereas in Scotland it is a little below.
Now let us look at the figures for some peak months. The figure for January of this year—81,535—was higher than in the previous three years, but, if we analyse it, we find an interesting thing, which is also worrying, because it largely arose from the exceptional increase in unemployment among women. That may have been partly due to the hang-over from the textile slump, but I think it is fair to say that this rather steady increase in unemployment among women is worrying, and I shall come back to it later.
Unemployment among men for June was 36,500, which is the lowest June figure for six years, excepting 1951. The women's position is not nearly as good as that of the men, and that is something of which we must take account.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
Has the hon. Gentleman any figures to show whether the women were married or single?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I have not got the details, but I would provide them if the hon. Gentleman would like them.
If we may go on with this factual appreciation, hon. Members have said that the position in Scotland is very much worse than the position in these islands as a whole, and I do not disagree. But another comparison we should make is of the Scottish Development Areas with other Development Areas, which is a perfectly fair comparison. If we take the figures for the month of January, 1953, a bad month, the Scottish Development Areas had 4.1 per cent. of unemployment, Merseyside had 4.7 per cent. and South Wales 3.4 per cent. Coming to June, a good month, the Scottish Development Areas had 3 per cent., Mersey-side 3.5 per cent. and South Wales 3 per cent. I am only making the point that the Development Areas in Scotland have about kept pace with the Development Areas in other parts of Great Britain; in fact, they have done a little better.
§ Mr. Manuel
The hon. Gentleman has given the Development Area figures for Scotland. Can he give us the comparable figures for England?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am coming to that. I always give way to hon. Members, but I have only 15 minutes left and I have quite a lot to say.
Perhaps I may come next to the point which has worried some hon. Members—the problem of the hard core of unemployed. For June, 1953, the percentage of the total of unemployed who have been more than eight weeks unemployed in Scotland is 59.1; in Wales 605; in the Northern area 55.9; and over Great Britain as a whole, 49.0 per cent. The position is unsatisfactory enough, but Scotland does not seem to have a much greater proportion of longer-term unemployment than other areas.
If the Committee would like me to analyse the total figures, which may be of interest, the average figure for January to June, 1953, was approximately 65,500. That comprises people unemployed for not more than two weeks: 19 per cent. of the total; and between two and eight weeks 24 per cent. These two percentages are not too worrying, because they are people changing jobs and transitional unemployment. The real figure of unemployed for more than eight weeks is 57 per cent., or roughly 37,000. That is the figure we have to worry about.
Out of that, there are approximately 8,000 disabled persons unemployed, constituting a very serious problem, which we are all the time doing the very best we can to meet. It is a most difficult problem, particularly where pneumoconiotics are concerned. Then there are the pockets of unemployment, such as the problem of the 1,200 unemployed in Stornoway, where we cannot bring work to them nor can we take them to work. Thus the total figure includes an intractable minority.
I am sorry to present so many statistics to the Committee. It is an inhuman way of presenting what is, after all, a human problem, but it is the only way of giving the Committee the facts. I want to make it plain that my right hon. and learned Friend and myself regard every man and woman who is unemployed as a human and urgent problem. If I deal in statistics it is not because I forget the heartbreak that lies behind them.
§ Mr. Watkinson
That is not my impression, but I will check the figure and let the hon. Gentleman know.
I want to say a word about the Highlands and Islands, where the figures are very much worse, and to give one or two typical examples. In the whole area, on 15th June, the proportion of unemployed was 5.2 per cent. Stornoway had the worst figure, 21.5 per cent. We all know the difficulties. I agree very much with the hon. Member for Leith, who said that the answer lay in building up the indigenous industries and making the most of them, and not continuing to try to bring in what I believe are called in South Wales "Doll's-eye" projects which last a little time and wither away at the first blast of competition. On that basis we can make Scotland a much more prosperous place than it is today.
Now a word about the North-East, because it so impressed me when I was there some months ago. There is an improved position in places like Buckie and Peterhead. We are trying to bring remedial measures there, in what the President of the Board of Trade is proposing to do in those areas. He may possibly say something about this himself tomorrow. At least, we have made a start, and we will look at any proposal such as that put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne). We will examine anything that will bring a solution to this sort of area, but I am afraid that their main enemy is geography.
In trying to make a forecast about the future, let me say that while there was a fairly big drop between January and June this year, due to seasonal factors, which, of course, will reverse themselves in the winter months, there is an interesting trend, because in the estimated number of persons in employment there was an increase of 21,000 between December, 1952, and May, 1953. What is more interesting is that in those 21,000 there were not less than 7,500 in manufacturing industries. That is a hopeful sign, because it means that it was not only a seasonal improvement but an actual improvement in employment by manufacturing industries.
2013 The figures would have been very much better but for the depression in the Falkirk iron foundries. There is another sign which shows that Scotland is, I am delighted to see, doing better than the rest of the country. Between February and June outstanding vacancies have risen from about 16,000 to 22,000. That is a hopeful sign for the future, a sign that Scottish industry is on its toes trying to pull itself up by its bootstraps.
Perhaps I may sum up these remarks by saying that on the whole, while there is no room for complacency, at least Scotland appears to be holding its own in relation to the rest of the country. The fairest measure of this, if I may quote this statistical item, is to take what I think the hon. Gentleman wanted me to do, a direct comparison of the percentage figures of total unemployment between Scotland and Great Britain. The Scottish figure is 2.7 and the figure for Great Britain is 1.4. That is the measure of the problem. Within that problem the position of women gives rise to anxiety.
I make no apology for turning for a moment to the competitive power of industry in Scotland. That is what our full employment policy must rest upon. It is disturbing to hear the sort of remark which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Govan about the possible cancellation of contracts. I am afraid that that is not only in the shipbuilding industry, at least not in my experience.
I will not say again what is obvious to all, that we must be competitive in world markets. But I think that we must search our hearts and take it particularly unto ourselves to see that nothing that can be done is left undone, whether in a closer relation between wages and output or in better encouragement of new ideas and projects. It is a great responsibility for managements, for trade unions, for the Government and for this House as a whole to take, if we neglect anything in these difficult and trying months ahead that will improve our competitive position. Whatever we do internally cannot possibly do any good if we fail to maintain the external position. We cannot have a Keynesian theory in a balance of payments crisis. That is perhaps what we have forgotten in recent years, and what we must remember again today.
I have said that the position is perhaps a little more hopeful. I must be fair and 2014 say that as the seasonal improvement declines and the winter comes on, the unemployment figures inevitably must rise. We must also expect a more undulating kind of economy and we shall have groups of industries which for a time will fall on difficult times. The Falkirk iron foundries are a case in point. In the course of an Adjournment debate recently the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm Mac-Pherson) did his duty in raising the difficult problems in that area. Whilst, as he knows, many of those registered as unemployed, are actually working short-time and are not wholly unemployed, the figures are not good. They rose from 2.7 per cent. in December, 1952, to 4.3 per cent. in April, 1953, but they fell away in June to 3.6 per cent., or 1,798.
This is an example of an industry which has had difficult times through no fault of its own. Its markets have gone. The hon. Member did his duty, and I hope that I do mine. Between us we went to each Ministry concerned, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Supply and the Board of Trade. Between us we made the most urgent representations and I know that my right hon. Friends did their utmost to meet the needs of this industry. It was no fault of the hon. Members, or of Her Majesty's Government, that we could not bring immediate aid. We may get more trade from Australia and more business through the modernisation of houses at home. But when an industry falls upon temporary depression it must take its courage in both hands and hold on. It must not get into a panic and disperse its labour by taking panic measures. Managements and Government together must do their utmost to find new markets.
I should like to look now at the docks situation. A few months ago we were all very worried about it. The figures of unemployment were very large. For example, for Scotland as a whole for the month ended 7th March the daily average percentage of those on the dock workers' register who were surplus labour was 21.1. Now, for June, the figure is 6.6 per cent. I did write to the hon. Member for Leith and I quite agree that I said there was a shortage of dock labour in Leith. The answer is to be found in the words of Lord Crook, in his report on 2015 the dock labour scheme, which has just been presented to my right hon. and learned Friend. He says that the whole scheme issubject to local inequalities inseparable from an industry of this nature.It is that kind of industry which has too many men at one moment and not nearly enough at another.
I am sure that the figures which the hon. Member for Leith gave are right, but in another week or so they may be different. It is fair to say that they have improved. As to the position of the port of Leith as a whole, I promise the hon. Member that we have looked carefully at it and that we shall continue to seek what we can do for Leith. The thing that would help most would be more coal for export.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I agree, and I think that that is almost a national disaster. It is a fact that if only we had a few more million tons of coal to sell abroad at present it would do more to put us on our feet than any other single thing that we could do. I am not saying that against the miners. They have a dirty and dangerous job which has not been well enough paid in the past. I hope that with the help of the House the mining industry will realise that it bears the future of this country on its shoulders.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I agree. I only wish that we had some more coal.
It is fair to end by describing a little of the work and the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour in Scotland. The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) was kind enough to say that he thought that my right hon. and learned Friend's Department was perhaps more closely in touch with the pulse of life in Scotland than any other Department. I think that is true. We have a unique network of local employment committees, which are all voluntary. One of the pleasant things about this Department is that we rely so much on people—trade unionists and employers—who are prepared voluntarily to give their time to 2016 help the country. Through these employment committees, and the local employment exchange managers, we are able to get a very clear day to day picture.
The point which the right hon. Member fairly put is, what do we do about it? Is it all consumed within the Ministry? I can tell him that it is not. The whole function of our Scottish headquarters office is to pass on that information as it is obtained to the Secretary of State, the Scottish Office, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Supply. We act as a sort of sounding board for the whole of Scottish industry, in a way that no other Government Department can do. We are constantly making recommendations to other Government Departments.
The point raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) is a very good one. The situation in Lanarkshire has to be watched most carefully and seriously, because in this ten-year period we have to solve that problem, and it is a heavy responsibility on the Ministry of Labour. As an Englishman in this debate, perhaps I may express my admiration for Scotland, as I have seen it in what visits I have been able to make. This country, which has to face grimmer problems than most, always seems to bring such a spirit against them that it is bound to overcome them in the end.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Perhaps I may get in touch with the hon. Member on that question. It is a very difficult point, and I could not possibly answer it now. I have made a mental note to write to the hon. Member, or to see him about it.
I believe that by good team work and devotion to duty, not only in the Ministry of Labour but in the Government, in the House, and among Members on both sides who represent the constituencies which are affected, we can meet the competitive demands in these sterner times. It will not be an easy job. In the Ministry of Labour we have our local contacts and experience, and it is right that I should say that this problem needs a lot of new thinking among employers, trade unionists and the Government as a whole, and also among Members on both sides of the House.
2017 The old, easy days are gone, and they will not come back—or, if they do, it will be as a result of war, which God forbid. We are up against the toughest competition that this country has seen for many years. I believe that we can overcome it, and we must overcome it, or the fringe areas will suffer the worst. That is the problem that worries many Members who represent Scottish constituencies. It is those areas which geography handicaps so greatly that must bear the greatest burden if we fall on really difficult times.
I end this debate today, from the point of view of the Ministry, not in a spirit of gloom. Scotland has done well to maintain her position, and I believe that she will come out of these tough and competitive times——
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.