§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
This is the second day given to our discussions on the well-being, or otherwise, of Scotland. I am sure that my colleagues on this side of the Committee, and no doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite who are fortunate enough to catch your eye, Sir Charles, will try to maintain the high standard reached on Thursday. It was clear to me that very considerable thought had gone into the 987 preparation of the speeches made, and there was no attempt to score party points. In fact, thoughts were expressed and counsel given which, if hon. Members on the other side cared, could be used for that purpose.
The most bitter criticism of the Government came from the Government benches, and particularly from the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie). I am sure we were all impressed with the contribution which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot). I shall refer later to these speeches, as I also hope to refer to those of other hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, whom I am glad to welcome, showed on Thursday that he had an intimate knowledge of Scottish affairs, which I am certain is helpful. I have no doubt that the fact of his taking part in our debate last year and again this year has given him an incentive to make a closer study of what is happening. I have some knowledge of the work of his local managers, and if any Department has its finger on what is happening in industry throughout the country, I think it is the hon. Gentleman's Department. If employers consulted his Department about the filling of vacancies. I am sure that there would be less trouble in some of our industries.
§ Mr. Steele
When the hon. Gentleman referred to a certain upsetting experience which he had on visiting Loch Lomond, he was, quite unconsciously, supplying me with important evidence for something which I have always contended—that we ought to have a better road round Loch Lomond. I hope that the Minister of Transport will do something about that. The information which we got from the War Office was not contained in the White Paper on Highland Development, because if we look at paragraph 226 on page 48 of the White Paper, we learn that, despite the Coronation in the South last year, the tourist industry in Scotland had a better year than it had in 1952, and it is estimated that it brought about £7 million to Scotland.
988 What I cannot understand is that, when we are doing so much and spending so much time and energy in order to attract the tourist, we still continue to hide from the tourist our greatest scenic gem—Loch Lomond. In putting forward this case, I am not asking for any changes which would jeopardise the natural beauties of the district at all. All I am asking is that they should be allowed to be seen.
I developed this argument last year, and therefore I do not want to develop it now, but may I say that it is no longer a constituency matter? Last Wednesday, something took place of which we ought to take some note, because this type of thing has been happening with large estates all over the country. Last Wednesday, on the shores of Loch Lomond, a quarter of the Colquhoun Estate was sold in lots, and almost one-third of the shores of Loch Lomond was invoked. It is perhaps as well that we should recognise and consider why it is that this area has so far remained unspoiled. In my view, it is due entirely to the determination and resolute action of the Colquhouns. Let us pay tribute to them. Even the local authority have found some difficulty in negotiating with them.
Let us take the case of the lovely village of Luss on the shore of Loch Lomond. That village has the benefit of both telephonic communication and electricity supply, yet not a pole is to be seen. "Certainly," Colquhoun said, "the village should have these amenities, but they must put the cables underground"—and the cables went underground. When I go into many of our villages and see these overhead cables, I wish that such a determination to preserve natural beauty in Scotland were much more in evidence.
Another point comes to my mind. At a time when the Postmaster-General, in the interests of efficiency, is finding it more economical to take down so many telegraph poles and put the cables underground, the British Electricity Authority are busy stabbing the country with their unsightly pylons. It may be impossible to put the electric cables underground—I do not know; but I ask any Minister with any responsibility in the matter to ask the scientists to give more attention to this problem.
Loch Lomond and the area around it must be preserved for the future, and we must be ever watchful about changes 989 that take place to make sure that nothing is lost. We have already lost the Gareloch, and perhaps Hitler was to blame for that; but if we lose Loch Lomond, we can blame only ourselves.
After that important introduction, let me now take the opportunity of welcoming the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. I am sure that he has taken note of what was said on Thursday, and will have seen that examination of our trade and industry centred round the basic industries of coal and steel, and those that naturally flow from them. I hope the right hon. Gentleman has also noted that many hon. Members felt that the time has come to re-examine our distribution of industry policy.
First, however, let me say something about coal. The general picture that is painted is one of decline in coal production in Lanarkshire, with an increase taking place in the other areas. There is also a general assumption that a large migration of miners from Lanarkshire into those areas will continue to take place. It will be recalled that a committee was set up and later reported on the coal resources and housing needs, in order to enable local authorities to prepare their housing programmes after the war. Some mistakes have now been discovered in that direction.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power was good enough to supply me with the comparative figures, for which I had asked him, of coal production in Scotland in the years 1923, 1938, 1951, 1952 and 1953. May I say that the most disturbing fact which emerges, taking the year 1953 for a comparison, is that every area in Scotland without exception is down in coal production as compared with 1923. Every area is also down in production compared with 1938, and all are down in comparison with 1951, with the solitary exception of East Ayr, which is up by 48,000 tons.
Taking West and East Fife together, production in 1923 was 8½ million tons; last year it was 6¼ million tons. In the Lothians area, production in 1923 was 4¼ million tons, and it was 3¾ million tons last year. Taking West and East Ayr together, production in 1923 was 5½million tons and last year it was 4 million tons. In 990 Lanarkshire in 1923, taking the Central East, Central West, and Alloa areas together, production was 20¼ million tons, and last year it was 8¼ million tons. It is clear from these figures that Lanarkshire is down in production, and up to the moment there is no compensatory increase in any other area. Quite the reverse; which lays further emphasis on the speech made by the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove about the value of this commodity and how it has been, and still is being, used wastefully.
A point which requires consideration here is that it raises the whole question whether there will be a great transfer of labour to some of these areas for work in the mines. In 1923, the production of coal in what are now termed the "developing areas" was 18¼ million tons. Last year it was 14 million tons. Clearly all the new sinkings, and extensions of existing workings, which are taking place will have the benefit of the most modern methods, but can we be sure that these will not just mean a transfer of labour within the areas, rather than a migration of miners from Lanarkshire into other areas? This question requires a great deal more consideration, and I hope that it will be given.
There is no doubt that the biggest single factor which has caused so much concern is the decline in coal production in Lanarkshire. Production was 21 million tons in 1900 and it declined to 6 million tons in 1953. With the large deposits of ironstone and coal in Lanarkshire it was understandable that the iron and steel industry should grow up in that area. It was from this combination of raw materials that our heavy industries sprang, and it was because of this that there is such a heavy concentration of population in the Clyde Valley. The ironstone is, of course, exhausted, and the coal resources are diminishing. The industries, however, remain, and in fact expand.
We all welcome the decision to go ahead with the new major development by Messrs. Colville at Motherwell. Otherwise, let us not under-estimate the task which has been set our people. It is indeed a challenge to our native skill and ingenuity. There is no longer cheap coal or cheap transport, and less scrap will be required, so we are faced with 991 the necessity to import ore and to bring coking coal from England and to face competition, which gets keener with each year that passes.
My hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) speaks as an engineer, but it is clear to me, as a layman in these matters, that one of our tasks is to put all that skill and craft into the fashioning of raw materials and so to get what my hon. Friend so aptly describes as the "maximum conversion value." While we welcome the American firms to this country, let us bear in mind exactly what the American firms are doing. For many years this country led the world in developing and exploiting other countries. Now the New World comes to give us employment.
Let me now turn to what has been the central theme of this debate so far, the distribution of industry. Whether the Minister can say if any changes are contemplated, I do not know. He can be in no doubt of our intense interest in the matter. There is evidence that there are changes contemplated. In the "Glasgow Herald" of 29th June, I read with interest the speech of the Minister of State, Scottish Office, at East Kilbride. He was talking about the factories and shops that would go up in the new town. He said:The returns so far available in respect of land disposed for these purposes give an encouraging indication of the values which public development is creating here.I rather like that phrase. He went on:In fact, the stage has begun to be reached when, instead of having to give firms financial inducements to come here, as we have had to do elsewhere in the Scottish Development Area, industries are prepared to come themselves and pay very good prices for the sites which the corporation have to offer.The special correspondent of the "Glasgow Herald," writing in that paper on 16th June, and discussing the two conferences to be held by the Area Development Committee of the Scottish Council for the Development of Industry, said:The central proposal of the Cairncross Report was that the Government should have power to contribute the whole or part of the cost of the erection of factories in any part of the country where conditions warrant this step. Though it was rejected by the Secretary of State, he and the President of the Board of Trade have since ordered that their Departments make a careful review of the operation 992 of the Distribution of Industry Act. The results of this inquiry are not yet known.May I ask whether it is too early to have the results of the inquiry? We have no desire to hasten or harass what must be a very comprehensive inquiry.
Many tributes have been paid to the success of the Distribution of Industry Act. I am not so sure that, left to the Act itself, Scotland would now have all these new industries. The Act sets out incentives to industrialists to set up in certain areas. It contains no power of direction nor any power to prohibit an industrialist setting up somewhere else. The few teeth it did possess when it was introduced to give some effect to the labours of the Barlow Committee were duly taken out in Committee by the Government. All the planning for the location of industry was done by the Board of Trade with their powers to issue or withhold licences to go ahead.
What in fact was happening was something like this: A firm from America would go to the Board of Trade and make inquiries about the setting up of a factory, perhaps in the London area. Their representatives would be taken into the famous Planning Room of the Board of Trade and they would be shown all the sites in the development areas. They would then be informed of all the great financial advantages that would take place in going there. They would be told: "If you are prepared to go to a Development Area we will give you a licence within 24 hours," or something to that effect; but if they were not prepared to go to any of those areas, then they did not get any licence at all. In my view, one of the main reasons they are in the Development Area is because of that power held by the Board of Trade. Now, with the easing of controls—and soon their total abolition—no negative powers will be held by the Government at all. Of course, there is the Town and Country Planning Act, but that has no central direction.
I was reading the other day that there is likely to be a special meeting of the Town and Country Planning Committee of the Motherwell and Wishaw Town Council to speed forward the planning permission for this new development by Colville's. I wonder what would happen if this Committee refused to give planning permission for this project. It is an indication of what may happen, 993 and indeed has happened, that the whole of this project can be publicised and plans published in the newspapers as to its location without, as yet, the permission of the local Town and Country Planning Committee having been received. Of course, it is all right stopping Mrs. Smith putting up a sign to advertise her shop, but when it comes to saying to Messrs. Colville's "You cannot do that there here," then, of course, that is rank heresy.
In my view, we are really in the position outlined by Professor Abercrombie in his minority report to the Barlow Report of 1940. He said:In an examination of what has been happening, it is clear that, despite the great efforts of planning officers and committees, groups of houses and industrial zones are scattered broadcast over the face of the land.The purpose of the Distribution of Industry Act was to bring new industries and new life to the distressed areas. In Scotland, that meant the Clyde Valley and Dundee. Some question the wisdom as to whether this was the right and desirable thing to do, believing that a better approach might be to build up small towns outside the Development Area, thus reducing the population density of Clydeside.
Should we do that now? Let us look at the Clyde area. In Glasgow alone 300,000 people have to be rehoused outside the city, but, even at the moment, one-third of the total population of Scotland is living within 20 miles of the centre of that city. It is also true that half the factories in Scotland are located in the Glasgow area. If, therefore, we are to have a redistribution of population, where are they to go, and must they go alone? If it is only a question of finding living accommodation for people, there immediately arises the problem of transport. Here I disagree with the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne) about the reluctance of the Scots to travel some distance to their work. It may apply to some of his constituents—
§ Mr. Steele
—who are now being asked to move into a new housing area, but, in my view, this principle does not apply very much outside of that, and certainly not in any other parts of Scotland.
994 Before coming to the House, I served in the transport industry. One of the features of our day are the longer and ever longer journeys that people are prepared to have inflicted upon them. I use the word "inflicted" deliberately. It seems to be the last thing that builders of new housing sites and planners of new developments appear to take into consideration. What seems to be forgotten about transport is the simple fact that it is not the distance that a person has to travel which is so important, but the speed and comfort of the journey. Let me quote an example.
Two men whom I know work together in an office near Victoria Station. One of them lives in Brighton, 50 miles away, and the other in London. Both leave home at about the same time, and both arrive in the office at about the same time. But note the difference. On the one hand, one has had a comfortable journey in a fast electric train, has digested and discussed with his friends the morning's news, and arrives in the office fresh and without fatigue. On the other hand, the person who lives in London has, first of all, a five minutes' walk to the bus station, where he has to queue for a bus. He then travels in the Underground, in which conversation is impossible. He has to make one change, and does so, pushing and being pushed in the morning rush which is usual on London Transport, and he seldom gets a seat for the latter part of his journey. He does not arrive in the office in the comfortable state in which he should.
It is this latter type of transport which we are creating for everybody in the central belt of Scotland. Glasgow's new housing development is taking place along Great Western Road, on the one side, and Edinburgh Road on the other. Both of those roads were built and planned by the transport authorities as bypasses in order to avoid the main stream of Glasgow traffic. When I travel this road at night, as I often do, I see large queues of people waiting for transport, and every motorist being thumbed for a lift.
The south of England is well served by fast, clean electric trains. In my view, nothing would be more helpful or more desirable in order to assist overpopulated Glasgow and the redistribution of population in the Glasgow area than the development of new electric 995 train transport. And, may I say, keep the trains above ground. The London Underground may be speedy, safe and clean, but all its advantages are destroyed by its awful noise.
I should also say to the Secretary of State at this stage that there is nothing in the White Paper on the reorganisation of railways which stirs the imagination or gives any hope of men of vision and drive joining the new area authorities. First of all, the British Transport Commission explains the scheme in an explanatory statement to the Minister, and then, in a foreword, it has to explain the explanatory statement to the right hon. Gentleman. That is rather involved, but in fact that is what is happening.
In, my view, all that it is attempting to do is to add a fifth wheel to a coach and trying to explain in the White Paper how important is that fifth wheel, though indicating at the same time that it will not be allowed to interfere with the smooth running of the coach. The House will have an opportunity to discuss the White Paper in detail, but I would say this to the Secretary of State about his area authority and about the Scottish Transport Council which he will afterwards appoint.
I have always believed that bodies set up by Government Departments or nationalised industries should have a clear indication of the functions which they are to perform. For my sins, as a Minister, I made many appointments to advisory bodies. I took a keen interest in them, but, quite frankly, I now feel that we have far too many of these bodies with far too little to do.
The civil servants responsible for many of these committees are sometimes at their wit's end to know what subjects to concoct for the agenda. What is the result? It is that the efficient, able and intelligent person, who is usually a busy person, soon sees through the facade and just stops coming. Reading the White Paper on transport, I am afraid that the area authority, and no doubt the Scottish Transport Council, is to be just another such committee.
Not that it would be difficult to put things on the agenda, some people might say—but that is just the problem. The point is that if a matter goes on an agenda for discussion by any body of competent 996 people, they will naturally feel that they have a right to make a decision on it—not to advise but to decide. It is just this matter of finding something which is of sufficient importance to put on the agenda without its interfering with the rights of the British Transport Commission, on the one hand, and the authority of the regional area manager, on the other, that will provide the difficulty. I am convinced that these authorities will merely be glorified advisory committees. The right kind of pushing, progressive individual will soon be wrapped up in a mass of red tape thicker and more tangled than ever came out of a Government Department, and he will soon get out.
The only bright jewel about transport appearing in the White Paper on Industry and Employment in Scotland is to be found on page 51. It is this simple sentence:The organisation of British Road Services in Scotland…remained unchanged.My toast to the Secretary of State is, "Long may that remain the case."
The hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) quoted a letter in the "Glasgow Herald," written by Mr. John Anderson, managing director of James Templeton and Co., Ltd., of Glasgow. I propose to quote a small part of it. He says:U.S. industrialists have recently been invited to come over here with the offer of subsidised factories, which Scottish Industrial Estates, Ltd., provide at 1s. 6d. per square foot. We understand that earlier applicants got in at 1s. 1d. per square foot. The economic rent (as offered to us) is 4s per square foot.I think that we should be told something about that and about what the policy is. Are these favourable terms being offered only to new industries—new in the sense that the are starting from scratch?
What is the position of the industries in Glasgow which perhaps want to go to East Kilbride? I have already quoted from a speech made by the Minister of State in which he also said that it was the intention that 35,000 people now living in Glasgow should find homes in East Kilbride. If the 35,000 people from Glasgow have to go, or desire to go, to East Kilbride, have they all to find work in the new industries there? If we are to move 35,000 people from Glasgow to East Kilbride, we should at least enable some of the slum factories to move as well.
997 The new town corporation is not a charitable institution. The developments for which it is responsible are financed with money borrowed at market rates of interest. In the speech to which I have referred, the Minister of State tells us that at the rents charged the Corporation is making a profit. Why, then, is there this differential? I am certain that many of those small industries in which the men and managements are working in dirty. out-of-date and insanitary buildings would take a new lease of life if transported to new surroundings. I should be grateful to the President of the Board of Trade if he could throw some light on that matter.
It is also true that we have the regional plan for the Clyde Valley, but here I would again refer to what Professor Abercrombie had to say about regional plans. He said:However enlightened and farseeing regional plans may be, there must be some national guidance in the background.I want to know whether the Government are prepared to face up to that implication. Without it, and without the intention to carry out such a plan, I agree with the hon. Member for Banff that it is little short of an outrage to hold out hope to any individual area.
§ Mr. J. N. Browne (Glasgow, Govan)
The hon. Member has been referring to the Minister of State. I take it that he means the Minister of State, Scottish Office?
§ Mr. Steele
Yes. It was the Minister of State, Scottish Office, who was making the speech at East Kilbride on the opening of the 2,000th house.
I should like to put a pertinent question to the President of the Board of Trade about this matter. Last year my hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) put to the President of the Board of Trade a Question about Section 5 of the Distribution of Industry Act. His contention was that that Section of the Act was now a dead letter. This was denied, but when my hon. Friend pressed for some information, he got none at all. Is it true that the Lanarkshire County Council got a very substantial grant under the Distribution of Industry Act for their very large water undertaking, which it is hoped will be completed next year? Was this under Section 5?
998 Without this Government assistance, this water undertaking could never have been carried out and East Kilbride could never have been planned. Why do the Government refuse such assistance to Buckie? What is the point of all these visits and all the promises made when, the first time a request is made for something effective to be done, it is turned down? I therefore think that a review of the whole policy is called for.
The private individual is subject to all kinds of planning. The small private business is in the same category. Large private concerns have more freedom, but when it comes to Government Departments one gets the impression of careless abandon—although I may be entirely wrong in this. I would say to the President of the Board of Trade that if he wants to have some conception of what the lack of a plan really means, he should take a run out to Helensburgh, go right round to the Gareloch and look at what has been done to that beautiful district in the last 15 years. It was not the industrial revolution that did this. Government Departments have been responsible over the last 15 years. I see that the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. BroomanWhite) had to move his residence because of the ingrowth of industrialism, and he will agree that at least the President of the Board of Trade ought to go there to see what exactly is happening.
§ Mr. R. Brooman-White (Rutherglen)
I am afraid that it was the Chancellor who was responsible, but I also agree with everything that the hon. Gentleman says about amenities.
§ Mr. Steele
That may be for the record and I have no doubt that it will be helpful, but there are other reasons, as the hon. Gentleman will agree. This has been only over the last 15 years.
A great deal of capital expenditure is still being spent in this area but still there is no overall planning. I am certain that this area could be made to provide even greater facilities which would be more helpful for the future, but I hope and trust that this piecemeal approach will be stopped. This, of course, is leading up to my contention that, with the removal of controls and the Distribution of Industry Act being left with all its duties but without any powers, the Government should at least tell us what 999 they intend to do and whether they have any other plan in mind.
Turning to another matter, it has been said that in Scotland we provide all the facilities for the education of our young men in many professions, but that, having done so, there is no outlet for their talents at home. I rather differ from some of my hon. Friends about that. In my journeys I have been very warmly welcomed by colleagues in all parts of the world, and I do not believe that our friends from Scotland left its shores unless they were driven. Irrespective of whatever prosperity comes to Scotland, I do not think that we can keep them at home.
Whatever view one might have, I think we all warmly welcome the announcement of the Chancellor on Tuesday of the plans for the further development of higher technological education in Glasgow. But, as I understand it, the main problem in the past has been to get Scottish industrialists to take advantage of modern methods and techniques. Their indifference to advances in technology, new equipment and new knowledge has often been the subject of many complaints.
Not so long ago, when the Secretary of State for Scotland announced the payment of a sum of £2 million to assist local authorities, one of my right hon. Friends pictured him riding on a charger down Whitehall ready and all set for an attack on the Treasury. Let me assure him at once that we on this side of the Committee will give him every assistance if he wishes to lead a crusade among his own friends in Scotland for the modernisation of Scottish industry.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. James Stuart)
§ Mr. Steele
We will help him even if he leads by jet propulsion. Instead of assisting the employment of young scientists and technical experts in Scotland, it seems to me that the Secretary of State is losing ground and, what is worse, I think he is misleading the Committee.
Let us turn to paragraph 293 on page 61 of the White Paper. Dealing with the mechanical research station at East Kilbride, it says that out of the seven laboratories that have been planned, one has been completed and occupied; and another, for research in hydraulic 1000 machinery, was started and will be completed this year. It then informs us that two other laboratories will be started this year, and further gives us the information that under a five-year plan all the others will be completed by 1959. This is all very encouraging, and I would draw the attention of the Committee to the date of the White Paper, which is March, 1954.
Let me refer to another document, which was published in December, 1953, some three months earlier—and the information contained in this document about East Kilbride research station must have been known to the Departments. This is the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Civil Appropriation Accounts for 1952–53. In paragraphs 112 to 115 we learn, first of all, that the work here was planned in two stages. The first stage comprised site works, a general purpose building, workshops and a canteen; the second a wind tunnel and seven laboratories. As far as I can see, the wind tunnel has disappeared, and it has probably gone with the wind by this time. Work on the first stage was begun in 1949, and is obviously completed. It is the second stage which reveals an interesting story.
Here we read, first of all, about correspondence between the Ministry and the Treasury, who appear to be alarmed at the growing cost of the scheme. In fact, at one point after April, 1952, they asked what the total cost was likely to be and whether the amount shown in the Estimate for 1952–53 would bring the work to a point at which it could, if necessary, be stopped and still provide some useful buildings of some practical use. On a reply from the Department in September, 1952, the Treasury decided that the whole project must be reviewed.
Now comes the important announcement which I quote from paragraph 114:In October. 1952, the Department told the Treasury that they had regarded £2 million as an absolute maximum on the total estimate for this scheme. After discussion with the Ministry and the Department, the Treasury accepted this figure as a firm limit for the project, with the implication that this might mean that most of the laboratories previously contemplated would have to be cut out.As one finds on reading this Report, the site and the administrative buildings, and with the first two laboratories cost in the region of £1½million, there is not much money left for the other laboratories.
1001 I was interested in a report in the "Glasgow Herald" on Friday, in which I find that the Report of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. 1953, has just been published and. according to the "Glasgow Herald,"The Government's decision to resume after a two-year interval the programme of expansion planned for D.S.I.R. after the war will mean the completion of the major part of the building programme for the mechanical engineering research laboratories.That is interesting, but I think we ought to have some explanation of what all this means. Could we be told exactly what is happening, and—much more important—can the Joint Under-Secretary of State give us a clear assurance that the D.S.I.R. have now received full Treasury approval for the projects? In paragraph 115 of the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General we find:At about the same time I had asked the Ministry whether they had yet ascertained and obtained approval for the total commitments under the scheme They admitted that they had not yet done so.…The Government spokesmen have been making promises in the House. They made promises to the hon. Member for Banff about Buckie. The Scottish White Paper and now the Report of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research have promised many things for East Kilbride. But what of the Treasury? Could we have some information from the Joint Under-Secretary?
It seems to me that there is little point in either us, as Members of Parliament, or Ministers speaking on behalf of the Government, asking industrialists to modernise, to take advantage of new ideas, without assuring ourselves that undertakings such as those for industrial research at East Kilbride, for which we must hold ourselves responsible, are pressed forward with the utmost speed, so that by our example we can encourage and assist all those on whose skill and enterprise the future of our country depends.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)
I think it may be convenient to the Committee if I rise at this stage to reply to the very able and well-balanced speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele). I think it is appropriate that I 1002 should say a few words because, although this is a debate on the Scottish Estimates, it is more especially a discussion on Scotland's industry and commerce. That was the form that the debate took on the last occasion and I have no doubt that other hon. Members will be talking over much the same range of subjects today.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave a comprehensive account of Scottish industrial activity, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour elaborated on certain improvements which have followed in the employment situation. I have no wish to repeat their arguments or to take up in detail all the points which were made, although I shall deal with some of them, and I can assure hon. Members on both sides of the Committee that full note will be taken of every point which was raised in that debate.
My responsibilities are twofold—first of all, in relation to our commercial policy in general, and secondly, in regard to certain aspects of industrial policy which affect Scotland in particular. I think it will be proper if I say a word or two about both those aspects. May I start with the general picture?
Before turning in any way to what Scotland may deserve or may desire, may I mention what Scotland has contributed to the national effort? Not for the first time, we have been dependent not a little on Scots and Scottish assistance in our national recovery. During the past year Britain's industrial strength has shown a steady growth. In the main—and there have been points where this has not been so—the picture has been one of mounting production, of growing productivity, of increasing exports and of strengthening reserves.
I am not here, in this debate at any rate, to discuss the popularity of the Government at home, but I can say this: when we go abroad we do not have party politics, no matter on which side of the Committee we sit, and I think anyone who has been abroad could not fail to be impressed with the growing regard in which the strength of the British economy is held in foreign countries. That is a matter on which we can all share common pride.
1003 In all these achievements Scotland has played a notable part. It is not possible to measure Scotland's export record; I understand that that would be possible only if we established a Customs at Carlisle, which is a course, I am given to understand, which does not command universal assent at present.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
It is, however, possible to say that in a wide field of exports, from machinery to whisky and from textiles to electrical equipment, Scotland has contributed notably not only to her own wealth but to the wealth of the United Kingdom as a whole.
May I make the background to Scottish industrial activities: if I may be permitted a truism, what happens in Scotland depends upon what this further comment about Scotsmen and other people wish to do there. There is no magic tap of enterprise which Governments of any political persuasion can turn on or off at will. Scotland's prosperity, her levels of employment and business activity, depend upon the number of men inside or outside that country with capital to invest and on their judgment as to whether that investment is likely to be financially rewarding.
One of the most gratifying features of Scotland's industrial activity since the war has been the number of industrialists, not a few from the United States, who have thought it worth while to establish plant in Scotland. Excluding the war-time factories, factory building since the war totals £43 million in value and 20 million square feet in factory space, which is a very sizeable achievement.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
In making a statement about the United States industrialists who have established themselves in Scotland, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that a fair number of them—I could mention several by name—did not want to go to Scotland but wanted to come into the London area? The policy pursued in the immediate post-war years made it necessary for them to go into the Development Areas. We are wondering whether the present Government are as anxious as were their predecessors to discourage such people from coming into the London area and to encourage them to go to Development Areas.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I shall be saying a few words about Development Area policy, but I could not accept that American or any other industrialists do not wish to go to Scotland. The record of American industrialists in Scotland has been very high.
As I was about to say when the hon. Gentleman intervened, what has impressed me, and what impresses most other people who go to these factories and see these men, whether they come from America or elsewhere, is that they all express with equal fervour their appreciation of the co-operation which has been given to them in Scotland and of the vigour and enterprise of the men who are working in those factories.
Scotland has a very high record in this respect and, as far as I can judge, it has attractions of its own towards outside industry without our necessarily having to use any special procedures to attract industry into the area. At the same time, the hon. Member is quite right in this: under this Government and under previous Governments, the Board of Trade has been active in trying to attract industries by every means open to it. I shall be discussing it in detail in a few moments. The Board of Trade has been using various devices to attract industry into those areas, and if we take the field as a whole—and I am not making any party point about this, but referring to the Board of Trade under all Governments—we can say that the Board of Trade had had a large measure of success, not only on its own but in cooperation with its executive agency, Scottish Industrial Estates, and, last but by no means least, in full co-operation with the Scottish Council.
The main contribution, although not the only contribution, which Governments can make to the future prosperity of Scotland is to maintain a sound economic and commercial policy for the United Kingdom as a whole. What matters to Scottish industry and to the men who work in it is that the domestic market should be sustained at a steady but not inflationary level of demand, and what matters further are the openings which exist in foreign markets. Thousands of men and women in Scotland depend for their livelihood on what they can make and sell abroad, and the Government's 1005 policy of seeking wider trade and payments, of seeking to keep down the export barriers—and more especially, may I mention, the quota restrictions—is of direct benefit to very large numbers of Scottish workers.
I mention these points not because they conclude the whole matter but because I believe that it is impossible to examine the Scottish problems other than in the context of the highly competitive world in which we live. Prosperity is not determined by juggling with a few limited resources in a narrow area but by giving men the scope and the opportunity to expand their resources and by enabling them to make the maximum contribution to the outer world.
This brings me to the resources which are available in this great country which we are discussing, and they are not inconsiderable. I agree with what the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) said the other day—the prosperity of Scotland depends upon the prosperity of her basic industries. I think that must be the starting point of any study of this matter. A year ago I spent a little time in Scotland discussing these problems with people on the spot and I was impressed with the view which was expressed to me from all quarters in Scotland—that the starting point of every increase in industrial activity was in the basic industries.
We do not bring prosperity to an area which is basically dependent on coal, agriculture, fishing, or heavy industry by making, even if we could make, a few marginal adjustments in the industrial pattern of that area. First and foremost, the need is to tackle the foundations. If the foundations appear sound, industrial production in Scotland will go up. The industrial production of Scotland has been going up and that of 1953 was the highest ever reached.
One of the points mentioned to me a year ago when I was in the Clyde Valley was the need for a broader basis to steel production. I regarded that as one of the suggestions which went to the root of the problem, among the many which were made to me when I was in that country. Certainly the proposed investment of between £20 million and £25 million was a very sizeable step in that direction. That investment, and the £100 million planned for investment in coal 1006 between 1950 and 1960.65, as the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West indicated in his remarks, go to the roots of Scotland's problems. If those roots are sound and money is available for new investments and if the rewards are there to match the risks—and they will be big risks which have to be run—I am confident that other industries will follow suit.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I hope we are not to imply from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman that he and the Government are turning their backs on the developing mining areas and the need there for other industries?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
If the hon. Member could hold himself in check for a few moments, he would not imply anything until I have finished the remarks I have to make, as I am going to cover some other aspects of the matter in a moment.
I was dealing with the basic industries and I deal with them first because they are basic in more senses than one. Unless we get those right, nothing else will be right. As hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have mentioned, we should pay particular attention to the new industries which are starting—oil refining, chemicals, atomic energy and new forms of light engineering. I think it is a matter of satisfaction to all sides of the Committee to know how, alongside the older industries, these newer industries are coming into being. It is to many of these newer industries that we must look if we are to get the expansion of our exports that we require. Their establishment and growth are vital if we are to maintain the standards of living we desire to maintain in the United Kingdom as a whole.
I have spoken so far of the essential elements to success. I want to turn for a few moments to the direction in which we should seek to influence development. It is only in conditions of considerable activity that it is possible to influence the direction of new industry. In the main, the Government can steer, but they cannot create, new enterprises and they certainly cannot direct enterprise, nor, I think, was that ever attempted under any Government.
The first thing I would say on studying what has been said in this debate is that no one seems to wish to abandon the policy of helping the Development Areas. 1007 I think that is the common view on both sides of the Committee—that we should not now abandon the policy of helping the Development Areas which we have held in the past. The circumstances in those areas, always quite beyond the control of the individual inhabitants, have created special problems. After all, this is not the fault of anyone. For example, the strength and energy of the men who live in Lanarkshire has worked out many of the great coal mines which in the past contributed largely to our industrial wealth and prosperity. Of course we must develop new resources as the old ones become exhausted.
I referred just now to new investment in the new coalfields, which obviously is a very good example. Those new coalfields will need new men as well as new investment and some of the men will move there from the old ones. It would be a sorry day for Scotland if they did not move, because we shall undoubtedly need their skills and energies to develop the new coalfields in the way in which we should develop them. In addition, we must aid the process of change a little and diversify the activity of certain areas a little.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West mentioned the question of some inquiry into Development Area policy. I think the inquiry to which he was referring was whether certain areas should be de-scheduled. That inquiry was completed, and I announced the result. It was that there should be no de-scheduling of any area, but on the general development policy, naturally, we keep the situation under constant examination. I am now announcing my views about it.
If it is agreed that we should help the Development Areas, there is only one way in which that can be done. It can be done only by giving them some advantage over and above other places to compensate for the disadvantages they suffer in other respects. That is the only way in which we can help the Development Areas. It is no service to the Development Areas—indeed it is an end of any advantage to them—to maintain that all areas should be treated the same. I hope that will be generally accepted, because I think it would be a wrong principle to adopt the idea that we should try to please everyone in this respect.
1008 That does not mean that development should be restricted to Development Areas; nor has it been so restricted. Since the war, two out of every five factories or factory extensions have been built outside the Development Areas. Of course, many will still be built outside those areas.
All we do in regard to Development Areas is to influence industry towards them. Under no Government have we been able to do more than influence industry towards them through the system of industrial development certificates, through which we get advance information of all the industrial moves and expansions which are contemplated. We can help development through Government-financed factory building and certain other methods with which the Committee are familiar. During the post-war period the Government have spent £19 million on Government-financed factories in Scotland, the highest figure for any Development Area.
I wish to say a few words on certain aspects of development in the light of what has been said in the debate. First, the Highlands and Islands present a rather special problem to all Governments in the field of distribution of industry. As the Secretary of State mentioned in his opening remarks on Thursday, the past year has shown some useful progress. Continued progress has been made with hydro-electric power and with forestry. More money has been spent on the Highland roads and further progress has been made in the "power from peat" project, while the first atomic breeder reactor is to be established in Caithness. If these modern developments are welcome, so, too, is the continued success of the Harris tweed industry, with a record output of 5 million yards stamped with the orb hallmark last year. That is progress not only of benefit to Scotland, but of substantial benefit to the export trade.
I think the Committee will want me to say a word about the controversial question of Buckie and Peterhead. In 1952 I mentioned special arrangements for factory building in that area with the assistance of the Development Commission. I may say that I have been active in publicising the needs of Buckie and Peterhead. I do not think that anyone could suggest that the Board of Trade or the Scottish Industrial Estates have 1009 been slow in bringing the needs of that area and its advantages in front of those who might help. We have worked together with the Scottish Council, the Development Commission, the local authorities, through the Press and through meetings—perhaps this is the most effective possibility of all—with the industrialists themselves. I may frankly say that the only real achievement that there has been is a 10,000 square feet modern manufacturing unit built as an extension to the Peterhead Gear Manufacturing Co., which I announced on 8th December last.
The area is primarily dependent on fishing, to which the Government have given assistance which is common knowledge to the Committee. But there is the real problem in this area which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour announced the other day, and it is not a solution about which we are completely happy. In Fraserburgh there is a temporary closing—I hope it will be temporary—of the factory which is there, but all I can say on behalf of the Government is that we shall continue to do our utmost to help to steer some suitable industry in this direction, always remembering that there are many others helping in this matter.
§ Mr. Steele
It seemed to me that the central part of the argument of the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) was not a criticism of the Board of Trade for their assistance and their efforts to encourage industry to that area, but that he was arguing that in Buckie there would be no real facilities until it has a sufficient water supply. That seemed to me to be the problem. Can the right hon. Gentleman say anything about it?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will deal with the question of water supplies when he winds up at the end of the debate.
§ Mr. Steele
I only wanted to make the point that the water supply to which I referred cost £5 million and there was a 47½ per cent. grant from the Government towards the cost. Has the right hon. Gentleman anything to say about that?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I am not debating the point. I have fully in mind the point which the hon. Gentleman made, but it 1010 will be discussed by my right hon. and gallant Friend. He has agreed that it would be more convenient for him to deal with that problem, and he proposes to do so when he winds up.
§ Mr. W. S. Duthie (Banff)
Can my right hon. Friend say whether he made every possible investigation before his announcement on 29th October, 1952, to establish whether Buckie was capable of industrial development?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
We have certainly given full consideration to these matters. I do not think my hon. Friend would be wise to suggest that Buckie is incapable of industrial development, because I do not think that that would help to attract industry. I think it is capable of industrial development, and Buckie is one part of this particular area extending along the coast which would be materially helped, not by large-scale industrial development—one has got to be practical about this—but by an infiltration of certain industries preferably connected in some way with the fishing industry, which must be the main basis of employment in that particular area.
If I may, I should like now to leave Buckie and refer to Lanarkshire, which presents certain special difficulties. A great deal of development has gone on in North Lanarkshire and a large number of firms, representing a wide range of industry, have gone there over the years. Since the war some 7½ million square feet of factory space has been erected in that area, providing work for one-seventh of the North Lanarkshire working population.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
The right hon. Gentleman is not referring only to North Lanarkshire, which I know very well indeed, but to the other parts surrounding it.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
It is the whole of Lanarkshire, but I take it that the hon. Lady welcomes what I am saying?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
In addition, I am happy to announce that we are negotiating arrangements for a new Government-financed factory of 100,000 square feet for an American firm engaged in electrical engineering near Belshill. This will meet the point made by some of my hon. Friends on the need 1011 for further development in this patricular area.
At the end of 1953, factories administered by the Scottish Industrial Estates employed in Scotland some 60,000 workers, which is 7,000 more than at the end of 1952, and of the 350 factories administered only one of any size at all is vacant, which is a very satisfactory position to contemplate at the present time. On Thursday some hon. Members suggested that the figures for approvals for new factories were lower in Scotland in the first quarter of this year in relation to England. It was suggested on the figures that were quoted that Scotland was only getting 5 per cent. as its share of factory buildings. I would say in reply that it is unreal to make comparisons over a short period. I must add that the hon. Member for Dumbartonshire, West did not make such a comparison in his speech today.
I would refer hon. Members to the fact that in 1952 Scotland had 13 per cent. of all the factory approvals, and in the second quarter of the present year the factory buildings approved were more than double those for the first quarter of this year. I think we have to take the matter over a longer period. I am sure that is the right way to look at it, and it will be seen, when looked at in that way, that Scotland continues to get on average about 10 per cent. of all new approvals.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
I think my right hon. Friend is now moving from the question of the Development Areas in general. The figures he has given about the success of Scottish Industrial Estates are most satisfactory, but what we have been asking—and I do not think he has answered us—is about two problems which are concerned with Scotland. One is the need for greater diversity of industry in the industrial areas, and the other is a greater spreading of industry over the country as a whole. We all want to go ahead with getting greater diversity in the Development Areas, and in present circumstances many of us would like more flexibility either in the Scottish industrial estates or by getting industry spread wider over the country generally. I do not think my right hon. Friend has met that problem in his speech.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I think I did say that if we looked at the figures we would 1012 find that two out of every five new factories or factory extensions have, in fact, been built outside the Development Areas.
Some people suggest we ought to use special inducements. I hope the Committee will face the reality of this. Do we or do we not want special advantages for the Development Areas? If, in fact, there are such special advantages, it is unreal to suggest that we extend them everywhere, because if we did they would cease to be special advantages at all.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
In the Highland area there is a high rate of unemployment and it is not a Development Area. A special inducement of great advantage there would be some help in reducing freight and transport charges. Would it be possible to introduce such a scheme into certain areas where the problem is one largely of sending goods?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
To attempt to extend the Development Area policy to cover freightage would be a very great departure indeed. I was limiting myself to a very much narrower field than that.
So far in 1954 one important firm has been approved, namely, Sunbeam Electric, for which we propose building a Government factory of 200,000 square feet at East Kilbride. This is another instance of where the Scottish Council has played a useful and important part in attracting enterprise to Scotland. Also, I think that general satisfaction will be found in the fact that William Hollins, Ltd., manufacturing "Viyella," have taken up the lease of the empty "Vactric" factory of 300,000 square feet on the Newhouse Industrial Estate, which is another great enterprise proceeding in Scotland.
Whether or not new industry can be found in the Development Areas or in Buckle or Peterhead or outside depends not entirely on the Government but on whether industrialists in England or Scotland or outside this country consider it would be worth while to start them. At the moment the opportunities and outlook are favourable and we all hope and wish that these opportunities will be taken advantage of to the general benefit both of Scotland and of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)
May I ask a question about shipbuilding, because a very pointed question was put to the Secretary of State about it on Thursday by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)? In reply, the right hon. Gentleman said:I do not want to say anything premature on that subject. It may be possible for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to say something more about it on Monday."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 720–1.]I refrained from interrupting the right hon. Gentleman because I expected him to come to the point.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
If the hon. Gentle. man will tell me what the question was, I will try to answer it.
§ Mr. Hoy
I said it was about shipbuilding. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire said there were orders that could be obtained, that Russia, as one country, was prepared to place orders, and would it now be possible for them to be accepted? The Secretary of State replied that he did not want to go into this matter as the President of the Board of Trade would probably deal with it on Monday. As the President of the Board of Trade said that he had read the report of those proceedings, I thought I need not recall it to his mind.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I only wanted to know the point. As far as I know, there are no orders held up in Scottish yards by strategic control, but obviously the existence of strategic control might bar the taking of orders. It depends on the type of ship and, until one knows the type of ship, it is impossible to go into details. Nor would it be profitable to do so, because at the moment we are engaged in negotiations with 16 countries on the re-shaping of these control lists, and therefore it would be wise to leave them to it.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
I am rather sorry that the President of the Board of Trade will not be winding up this debate, because there are a number of points that we would like to put to him. Much as we appreciate the right hon. Gentleman the Secre- 1014 tary of State for Scotland on his right, and the hon. Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on his left, we do not often have the presence of the right hon. Gentleman himself.
My first point is that of the hard core of unemployment which exists throughout Scotland. By that I mean those who have been unemployed for eight weeks or more. Searching through the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" one finds that a constant feature of Scottish unemployment is that the hard core is heavier and more constant in the Scottish regions than in any of the others. For example, I notice that the rate of unemployment today is around 51,000. We get that at the end of June when employment is most favourable, but unemployment has fluctuated as high as 72,000 and, when it was 72,000, the hard core, for more than eight weeks, was 35,000.
In other regions, the highest was the North-Western with a hard core of 23,000 out of 61,000 unemployed. The remarkable thing is that at 15th June, 1953, the unemployment figure was 56,000 and the hard core was 30,000, so it seemed difficult, even when the figure dropped from 72,000 to 56,000, to get the hard core below 30,000. Similarly, in the same figures in the "Gazette" I notice that the London and South-Western region had a hard core of 18,000 out of 51,000. I want to know what is being done about this permanent sore in Scottish unemployment.
I come now to my own constituency, and I wonder if here, in the complaint I am about to make, there is an indication of why there is a hard core and why there will always be one. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has had one or two letters from Coatbridge Town Council, Airdrie Town Council, Airdrie and Coatbridge Area Youth Employment Committee, and also from the Lanark County Education Committee and others, expressing concern about what is happening to the youth in my constituency.
They have expressed grave concern at the position which has arisen whereby the number of boys entering jobs as apprentices or trainees has decreased over the past three years, while the number of those entering jobs as labourers or routine workers have increased, and they have asked for information. They have provided a rather valuable memorandum. 1015 It is curious that the number of boys leaving school at Easter, 1952, 1953 and 1954, was practically the same; indeed, in 1953 it was 251 and in 1954 it was 253. As for the occupations entered, there were only 15 apprentices in building and only 20 in engineering. This is a steady decline because in engineering we had 42 in 1952. In coalmining there were only seven, whereas there were 22 in 1952.
In the blind-alley occupations, however, works, factories and shops, there were 176—the right hon. Gentleman has the consent of the hon. Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie to leave the Chamber if he wishes to do so.
§ Mr. P. Thorneycroft
I very much appreciate the courtesy of that remark, and I intend to return as soon as I can.
§ Mrs. Mann
These bodies say that the shrinkage in the number of apprentice vacanies is a serious matter for the community. They say thatThere is already in certain trades a shortage of skilled men.There is no doubt about that. The large number of unemployed in Coatbridge does not result from there being no work available. There is still work available; but we have great numbers of unskilled men. We are afraid that that is a portent for our future, because our youths are not having the opportunity to enter apprenticeships to skilled trades.
The memorandum which has been submitted to the right hon. Gentleman states:…in a few years the shortage will be more acute unless apprentices are recruited in greater numbers. This is a matter of some concern to employers and Trade Unions. For the boys and their parents the present lack of progressive employment is a very real worry.The second point relates to semiskilled and unskilled work.For boys, the majority of these jobs are in steel works, tube works, brickworks and quarries, all calling for a considerable degree of physical strength. For the undersized or less robust boy who has not the mental equipment for shop or office work, this is the only work available and it is work which in many cases is far too heavy for him.It is also true that for the physically or mentally disabled, in addition to these boys, the area has hardly any suitable job to offer.
1016 The memorandum continues:The solution to the serious employment problem in this area is (a) to increase the number of apprenticeship and traineeship vacancies. (b) to obtain a wider variety of light semi-skilled jobs.The third point which I wish to make concerns the development of Colville's and its great expansion. It is causing some concern in Coatbridge because the Gartsherrie Ironworks were proceeding to modernise their plant. The modernisation of existing plant was to include the building of blast furnaces. I am told that the first stage was almost completed but that now everything has come to a halt. There are no signs of future development and the management is very non-committal about whether, when and where the modernisation is to take place. I am told that decisions regarding this plant must come from the Iron and Steel Board, and I should like to have from the Government some information about the Gartsherrie Ironworks. Unless Gartsherrie is modernised, the future of the area is very bleak indeed.
I had intended to speak about the wider subject of industry and the replanning of industry in Scotland, but I know that other hon. Members wish to speak and that long speeches can be very boring. I am sorry that there are still only a few of my own hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, because I think that they, as well as Members of the Government Front Bench, are very much involved in the subject of the overspill of the Clyde Valley population.
Why is the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland taking so long to designate the new town at Cumberland? Why are the draft orders not forthcoming? The right hon. Gentleman has been informed that this is a matter of very great urgency. This, however, is not the reason why I said that I wished that more of my hon. and right hon. Friend's had been present on the Front Bench. It is because the over-spill from Glasgow, numbering 340,000, can only at present be dealt with under the New Towns Act. Scotland has no other Act.
Only a fortnight ago two of my hon. Friends the Member for West Lothian (Mr. J. Taylor) and the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), speaking on the Motion for the Adjournment, drew attention to their areas which 1017 were decaying. The curious point about the decay was that my hon. Friends were not complaining of unemployment. The president of the Board of Trade and I think the Parliamentary Secretary also reiterated that in these areas there were no substantial unemployment figures, yet the areas were in a state of decay.
The New Towns Act would be of no use to those areas, but England has an Act, the Town Development Act, which would enable the Secretary of State to give a blood transfusion to the areas which my hon. Friends mentioned, if an area can show no substantial number of unemployed, would it not be very difficult for the Board of Trade to direct, persuade or cajole industry to go to those areas? The first thing that industry looks for in a new area is a reservoir of unemployed.
How can the areas that I have mentioned expect to obtain new industries if there is no reservoir of unemployment there? The case of those areas seems an admirable one for the application of the Town Development Act, because that Act would permit 5,000 people or more he settled there. If they were settled there those areas would have a chance of attracting some of the diversity of industry that is required.
The same thing might happen in Doun-reay. It is very far to Caithness. It might be that Glasgow could have a share of the accommodation for overspill in that area. She cannot under the present Act, but if the Town Development Act was extended to Scotland, Glasgow could send 5,000 or 10,000 people to Dounreay. I know that there are opponents of such a scheme who sneer at the idea of people going from Glasgow to Dounreay, but people went from Glasgow to Corby in thousands when Stewart and Lloyd moved to Corby.
The Town Development Act was explained on its introduction by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. It was claimed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) as his child. The Minister of Housing and Local Government was very glad to adopt it. He explained the need for the Act when he said:The unhappy feature of the first attempt to deal with overcrowding was the development of the purely dormitory area. This involved 1018 immense transport problems and created almost as many new social problems as those which it attempted to cure. Following these early, and in some respects unfortunate, experiments there is now general acceptance of the idea that not merely should a population be exported, but that its industry should be taken with it.…To the cynics, even on these benches, who have said that the Act does not include any provision for industry, I repeat what the Minister said:that its industry should be taken with it or fresh industry attracted so that the new organism may be a balanced and healthy creation capable of varied life and employment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1952; Vol. 496, c. 725.]That Act is on the Statute Book. There have been critics against it in Scotland whose criticism has been uninformed, and I think it is time that the Minister or his Department got busy and explained what they intend to do.
If the Town Development Act is not to be extended to Scotland, what do the Government intend to put in its place? My right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), who opened the debate on Thursday, talked of the extension of existing towns. He wanted small towns to be built up, and he thought that a great overspill from the Clyde Valley would lend itself to building up these communities which are decaying. I do not think that hon. Members on these benches understand that there is no Act on the Statute Book that permits that to be done. They talk about the New Towns Act and say that it ought to be extended to places like Shotts and Falkirk, but that is utter nonsense. If my hon. Friends read both Acts, they will find that the development must be substantial, amounting to a new town.
In proof of that, I turn to the Department's publication in 1947 on the new town at East Kilbride. This is particularly applicable to my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, who will recall that when they proposed a new town at East Kilbride the great objection came from the City of Glasgow. That booklet detailed the eight objections. The first of them now is rather laughable. It was the contention thatas the City of Glasgow could rehouse its population and resettle its congested industry entirely within the present administrative boundaries of the City, the new town was unnecessary to serve Glasgow.1019 Some of those who carried their objection are now in the House of Commons. The part that I wish to emphasise is that Point 8 of Glasgow's objection was the contention thatinstead of proceeding with a new town on undeveloped ground which is most valuable agriculturally, the better plan would be to rehabilitate and expand derelict areas in Lanarkshire particularly in the sixth district of Lanarkshire and especially Bellshill and neighbourhood.I said that hon. Members imagine that the New Towns Act contains what they want and what my right hon. Friend suggested when he opened last Thursday's debate. Proof that the Act does not contain it is given on page 14 of the Departmental publication to which I have referred. It replies to Glasgow's contentions, and in regard to the suggestion of developing the sixth ward of Lanarkshire it says:This contention has been sympathetically examined by the Secretary of State but he has reached the conclusion that it would be impracticable to carry out the planned development of a new town on the necessary scale in these areas. The great bulk of the land in these areas is so broken up by past mineral workings or is so liable to subsidence or flood by reason of such workings that there are no sites sufficiently large to accommodate the developments required.It may be that where a transfusion of 7,000 or 10,000 people with accompanying industry is required, the New Towns Act would be most suitable. I most earnestly beg the Front Benches of both sides to get down to a study of the Town Development Act.
I have been trying to do something for a number of years and I am meeting with the same hostility as I met in 1931 when I began asking for new towns for Glasgow. It took 20 years to convert some people to the idea that new towns are quite a good thing. Now, I must really ask that the Town Development Act be studied. There are in the House men who can tell us how it is proceeding in England. We have my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), who is so well versed in town and country planning. As to how an overspill like that of London can be accommodated 60 miles away in Ashford or in Bletchley, we have the evi- 1020 dence of my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson), who also is a member of the London County Council. We have in the House, therefore, those who have experienced the operation of the Town Development Act.
The organisation with which I am connected in a purely voluntary capacity would bring those three hon. Gentlemen to Scotland so that much of the misrepresentation already made in Scotland regarding the Town Development Act can be dealt with. We quite expect to see a change in the Government Front Bench. I know that the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) does not look forward to this with any great exhilaration, but nevertheless it is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Neither of the Front Benches here tonight would agree to the Treasury advancing the whole of the money for a new town—for four new towns, in fact; for new towns for 340,000 people. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire will not do so as long as he can build up towns which already possess the roads, sewers and other services and which need simply the addition of people and industry. It is really time that both Front Benches got down to a further study of the next stage in the overspill problem of the Clyde Valley and indicated the trend that they wish to pursue.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
Like the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann), I also shall try to be brief. I wish to put certain considerations before the Committee regarding an industry which, while it is of great importance to my constituency in Aberdeen, is of even greater importance to that city of which the hon. Lady the Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie was once a most distinguished bailie. I refer to shipbuilding and shiprepairing.
I should like, however, first to make one reference to something of importance which was stated by the Secretary of State regarding a second industry vital to Aberdeen—fishing. I refer to the announcement that he made that there would be a subsidy for the white fish industry. It will, of course, be of great 1021 assistance to Aberdeen. I need scarcely tell my right hon. Friend, however, that Aberdeen trawler owners do not think it is enough. They asked—or the industry as a whole asked—for about £1 million altogether, which was equivalent to about 8d. a stone. The £250,000 which my right hon. Friend has announced is equivalent to about 2d. a stone.
As this was announced as a temporary measure, to use the Secretary of State's own words,to tide over the period until the full effects of the Overfishing Convention are felt, until new trawlers can be built and until other necessary measures can be taken to improve the conditions of the industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 724.]I feel, on consideration, that that is fair. That is so, particularly as one remembers that Parliament as a whole authorised only £10 million altogether for the period up to 1958 for all sections of this industry. I do not intend to go further into the other major problems confronting the fishing industry, such as transport and reorganisation, because we had a chance to debate them about two weeks ago.
But the factor which would be of the greatest assistance to fishing would be a substantial building of new trawlers. That leads me to the question of shipbuilding and shiprepairing, and I would ask the Committee to consider that problem now. Of course, Aberdeen has smaller yards, and in that way is very much more vulnerable than are the larger yards in the West.
We all know perfectly well that the general survey given by the Secretary of State on Thursday of the Scottish position was very good indeed; but there were one or two bad patches, and the purpose of these debates is not only to welcome what is good but to examine what is bad. When the Secretary of State spoke about shipbuilding and ship-repairing, he spoke gravely of the position as a whole. Although we all know that the prospects of orders are falling off, and that there has been a considerable cancellation of orders, I submit that we should not look at the position of shipbuilding and shiprepairing as one in which there is disaster just around the corner.
First, I do not believe that is true, if certain things are done. Second, we should also recognise that the real factor 1022 is that we have reached the end of the seller's market. If we recognise that we might perhaps consider the problem in its right proportions and not discuss it as if the matter is so serious already, because I believe that would make a bad atmosphere for those who work in the industry.
Nevertheless, let us consider what is the position now that the seller's market has come to an end. Lloyd's Register of Shipbuilding Returns tells us that after the war United Kingdom yards—we cannot divorce Scotland from the position of the United Kingdom as a whole—completed 50 per cent. of the world total of new shipping. In 1952, we completed 30 per cent, and in 1953 25 per cent. We had, in fact, a larger and longer post-war boom than could naturally be expected, owing to Korea, when freight rates rose and there was also an inflated demand for new ships.
We are now facing the fact that Continental shipbuilding yards have not only put their yards in order after the devastation of the war, but have also had the opportunity of using the most modern plant. We are, therefore, facing the fiercest competition which we have had for a long time. All this general background is well known. I should like to ask the Committee to consider what should be done in future under three main heads, first, that of delivery dates, second, that of costs and, third, that of general fiscal policy.
The first is the responsibility of the suppliers of the industry the second is the responsibility of the industry itself; and the third is that of the Government. All these factors have to be considered against the background that, while it is true to say that some order books are full up to about two years ahead, that does not give an entirely true picture, because a third of the yards supply roughly about two-thirds of the current output and two-thirds of the remainder supply a smaller type of craft. It is these smaller yards which can only live on early deliveries which are at this time searching somewhat anxiously for new orders.
Taking the first head—delivery dates—it is obvious that the most important factor is an adequate and even flow of the right materials. I think the Committee as a whole should be encouraged by what the Secretary of State said on 1023 Thursday regarding steel plates. As I understood him at the time, and on rereading his remarks in HANSARD, he said that the supply of steel plates was now adequate to meet demand. All of us very much welcome the development of the new plant at Colville's, because it will make Scotland very much more independent, and, without doubt, the shortage of steel plates has meant slow building, and slow building means costly building.
To take the next head—that of costs—I think we all realise that shipbuilding, as an assembling industry, collects the cost of manufactures and supplies of materials as it goes along. Therefore, perhaps almost more than any other basic industry in Scotland, it needs stable prices. I would say that this Government have been more successful in keeping the wholesale price index steady than, I regret to say, did the previous Government, although we recognise the difficulties there were after the war. In 1952 the index fell three points, and in 1953 it fell two points; whereas in 1951, I regret to say, it rose 38 points.
Hon. Members on all sides of the Committee have in this debate appealed for greater output and greater efficiency. This is extremely important in repair yards. I say that because it is disturbing when this country finds that we have lost an important order to a Continental yard. I refer to one which caused quite a stir in the early part of the year when we lost a repair contract for the "Duchess of Athens." The Continental yards quoted a quarter less cost and said they could do the job in five and a half weeks instead of our quotation of eight.
I was interested at the time to read the comment on this of the special correspondent of "The Times," who stated:Some believe that the cause lies in the Continental use of the shift system, rather than the day shift practised here;…I am not qualified to discuss the merits of either one or the other system, but it would be interesting, in a debate such as this, to know what the industry itself thinks of this, and whether it is possible to have any information, because obviously there are good arguments on both sides and the matter has been pretty carefully gone into.
I understand that, generally speaking, relations in industry are good. I was 1024 interested in the speech made on Thursday by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). He spoke on this matter with considerable knowledge and, I thought, with a lot of courage. I agreed with him when he said that it is important that industry really understands that a greater output is the only answer to the problem of achieving a higher standard of living. The unfortunate result of an otherwise fortunate development, of having a long post-war boom in shipping and ship repairing, is that it has been accepted as normal that there should be full order books and ships at any price for a long period of time ahead.
When times are beginning to get anxious—as I submit that they are now—I feel that those who have influence within the industry have a vital part to play to insure that the outlook of working oneself out of a job does not mask the need to secure the maximum efficiency not only in but between all the various trades concerned. That is the only way that British shipbuilding can maintain its position in the face of competition which daily becomes more aggressive.
I wish now to refer to the third heading, that of fiscal policy. We talk of it here in a debate on Scottish industry, because we know that the Secretary of State for Scotland has the reputation of having considerable influence in certain quarters in the Cabinet and, therefore, we wish to ask him to use his powers of persuasion to get the most that he can for Scotland. We all know that there are statutory shipping subsidies in West Germany, in France and in Italy, and there are also other tax devices in other countries. I have never heard of a direct demand for a shipping subsidy, as such, for the United Kingdom. But I have heard of overwhelming demands for tax relief of all kinds, and it is upon that point that I wish to put some considerations before the Committee.
The 1953 Budget gave back the initial allowance, which is a help to shipbuilders, and the 1954 Budget gave a new investment allowance which also could be a stimulus. But, in spite of all this, we know that the costs of new building are simply immense. Under present taxation, and with the fall in the value of freight rates, it takes a very long time to save sufficient to replace ships, or to build new ships. The result is not only 1025 that orders for new ships have been cancelled, but—although the figures reveal that this year we repaired more ships than last year—if there were less new orders coming in our repair work is bound to fall, as the less economic ships are laid up.
Regarding taxation, I submit that there are two things to remember. First, that fiscal policy is also an instrument of economic guidance, and secondly, the immense defence burden that we carry. Arguments have been advanced from time to time advocating some form of specialist treatment for ship owners, to permit the replacement of capital assets. Looking at the industry by itself one can entirely agree, but it should be remembered that there are a great many other industries capable of putting forward special pleas. I suggest to the Secretary of State, who is responsible for all basic industry in Scotland, that he should press the Chancellor to consider substantial taxation reliefs in the next Budget. Or if he likes, my right hon. Friend might even persuade the Chancellor to bring in an autumn Budget—which would make hon. Members opposite think that we were going to the country at any moment.
We cannot be irresponsible when discussing the question of fiscal policy, because as long as we play our part in the defence of the free world we are bound to bear a very heavy financial burden. But nevertheless, I submit that there are times when it is necessary to take a risk. A nation which is taxed up to 40 per cent. of its total earned income cannot produce its best in general industrial production. Those who consider the present position of German shipbuilding and shiprepairing, and who also are equally fundamentally opposed to German rearmament, should probe very carefully and ponder on the clear advantages which they therefore hand to our chief competitor. Because a German State, relieved of all obligations to take a fair share in the common defence of Western Europe, has the whole industrial market at her feet.
I would say therefore that, so far as the fate of our own shipbuilding industry is concerned, the Government can do only so much. But if in the sphere of their own responsibility, they will ease the financial working conditions, I believe 1026 that the industry itself has the ability and the courage to get on with the job.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. John Taylor (West Lothian)
By a coincidence, I find myself following the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) today, as I did in a similar debate last year. Then she made a similarly thoughtful speech. Perhaps it was a little less partisan than the one she has delivered today, although her views today were expressed in terms of thoughtful moderation.
The President of the Board of Trade today echoed a sentiment stated last Thursday on several occasions, that Scotland's industrial future depends fundamentally upon the help of her basic industries. That statement seems to have gained such universal approval that it would almost now appear to be axiomatic. So widespread has been the agreement about it, that it is with some hesitation that I venture to question it. I think that the truth of such a statement depends upon what we regard as the basic industries of Scotland.
I think that the feeling in the mind of those who made the statement was that those industries are coal, iron and steel and shipbuilding. I believe that if we allow ourselves to be hypnotised by that theory, to be lulled by that theory, it will be a dangerous thing for the future of Scottish industry. We should not allow that belief to condition our thinking about our industrial future. After all, coal is a wasting asset, and nowhere is it wasting more rapidly at present than in Scotland. In spite of all our projected developments and our new pits—which will not come into full production for another five or six years—it is not an industry in which we may have permanent confidence or upon which we can base our hopes for a prosperous future.
Our steel production depends largely on the supply of scrap. It was geared and developed for the purpose of exploiting our plentiful supply of scrap. There are circumstances which I need not go into which would endanger that supply. The shipbuilding industry was mentioned by the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South, and I agree with her that we must not be alarmist about its future. Nevertheless, when we take a long view we are 1027 bound to have some misgivings about the future of the industry if we have to rely upon it as one of our basic industries upon which our economy depends.
The development of air freight transport, the increasing ability of aircraft to carry over long distances heavier, bigger and bulkier loads—a development which must be progressive—already constitutes the greatest threat that the industry has ever known. The development of air passenger transport has already numbered the days of the big liners, the floating palaces, the "Queens." Not many more of those great liners which were a source of justifiable pride to the workers of Clydeside will go on the stocks.
It is our duty to look ahead, not merely for a few years like industrial and political Micawbers, but for decades. The secret of good government is intelligent foresight. I expect that that has been better said on many occasions, but it is true. The most important economic consideration in the world today is not so much the emergence of a competitive Germany but the fact that the latest census in China showed that there are 602 million people there. They are highly intelligent, or at least they are led by highly intelligent leaders.
These 602 million people are fired with a political and industrial renaissance, with an urge, an ideal and a vision which forces us to recognise the irrefragable fact that the day of the heavy industries is passing. The age of electronics is upon us, and new nations are entering this new age well equipped to cope with its problems and to understand its technical advances.
If we allow ourselves to be lulled by the theory that Scotland's future lies with the traditional heavy industries, we do a disservice to our people. The traditional heavy industries upon which our prosperity has been built up since the Industrial Revolution have had their day. They are on their way out. The future is with what we now call the new lighter industries.
The President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour produced a very good picture of the present state of our industry and showed the extent to which the new industries are coming to Scotland. 1028 Of course, it is the job of Ministers to do that. In a much humbler capacity it was my job for five years to present the most glowing picture I could of the improving state of Scotland in the immediate postwar years as compared with the position in the inter-war years. We produced a most remarkable picture, and it was all true. The industrial development and the diversification of industry was remarkable, and we have continued the process. It has been a steady continuing process.
The Minister who concludes the debate tonight has every right to dwell on this theme, because it is an encouraging picture and it is a good theme. Nevertheless, the beauty of the picture depends upon the extent to which we expect new development of the type of industry which we must have. I do not believe that we are keeping pace with other regions, in spite of what the President of the Board of Trade told us today. I may be wrong but, looking at comparable districts such as South Wales, Tyneside, Wearside, Teesside, Merseyside and industrial London, I doubt if we are having our share of the new industries—electronics and so on—on which we depend to enable Scotland to play its part in the industrial future of the United Kingdom.
We have much to offer. There is no harm in advertising our own wares. I do so blatantly and unashamedly. We have much to offer to this new type of industrial development. We have steadily increasing reservoirs of cheap power which will become cheaper. We have an incomparable labour force, both for skill and reliability, as both the Ministers who have spoken in the debate have said in their unsolicited testimonials which we were pleased to hear. We were always confident that it was so but it is encouraging to have the statement from Sassenach Ministers.
We have an abundance of sites in established communities. We have dispersed positions for industries of strategic importance. It seems to me that the only disadvantage, the only feature which might appear to an industrialist contemplating siting his industries to be a disadvantage, is the transport costs bogey. I describe it as a bogey deliberately. I think that it is grossly exaggerated and never ought to be taken seriously. It never ought to be seriously advanced in 1029 an island as small as ours. When we consider the distances with which industrialists in other countries have to contend our puny distances never ought to be advanced as an argument against siting an industry away from the geographical centre of the island.
In any case, the certainty of cheaper power in the future more than offsets the small increase in transport costs from Scotland compared with Merseyside or South Wales. For these reasons I submit that the time is more than due for a complete review of the Development Area structure. It has served its purpose well. It was an excellent idea. It has served Scotland and the nation well; but it is now out of date. Scotland, indeed the whole of Britain, must be a development and a developing area if we are to survive as an industrial nation.
Several speakers have advocated the need for a drastic review of the Distribution of Industry Act. That is long overdue. Indeed, if we could have the Measure revised as it was originally drafted that would be very helpful. It should be in the form in which it was originally drafted by the Coalition Government before the Caretaker Government came into office.
The Government ought to have more powers to steer industry. I am not necessarily advocating deliberate direction of industry, but there ought to be more powers to steer industry so that the nation's economy can be more evenly balanced, so that industrial skills can be reasonably evenly distributed and so that areas threatened with decline may be infused with hope.
These are cogent reasons, reasons of sufficient national importance to supersede our natural reluctance, whether we are in Government or Opposition, in industry or out of it, to enforce direction. Such a policy would benefit Scotland, and it is for that reason that, without apology, I am advocating it.
I have deliberately confined myself to a single theme, the need for the strengthening of the Distribution of Industry Act, the need for more vision, the need for a broader view by the Government of the day—whichever it is—in approaching the problem of the future of Scotland's industry, and the need not to be mentally hamstrung by a continued 1030 belief that coal, iron, steel and shipbuilding are our main hopes for the future. I believe that those industries have a limited life and that Scotland's need is to have a wider range of industry. The vision, the skills and the enterprise of our people will be better encouraged and directed into the field of the new and exciting industries which this nation must develop if it is to survive.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. J0hn Maclay (Renfrew, West)
There has been an almost fascinating unanimity of view during the debate today and much of the debate last Thursday on the question, above all, of the Distribution of Industry Act. We still have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade with us. I am sorry that the President has had to leave us, but I can understand that he has a lot of trade to do in other parts of the world besides Scotland, However, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will have noticed that practically every speaker on both sides has urged the Board of Trade to have a very careful look at the Distribution of Industry Act to see if it is not time for a wise revision or, at least, for greater flexibility to be introduced into its application.
I speak with some feeling on the subject. I began talking about it in 1945, and I have been talking about it to my own boredom and to the boredom of the House ever since. I now pass the torch to the many hon. Members who have at last appreciated that we made a mistake in the original Distribution of Industry Act. I said so at the time, and I still think so. There was an over-concentration upon the old distressed areas.
I agree that valuable work has been done by the Act, and I agree that special attention had to be paid to the old distressed areas, but it has always seemed to me that it was most unwise to treat the future of industry in Scotland on too narrow a basis and thus risk continuing the over-concentration of population in a relatively small industrial belt. Certain basic industries have to stay there. Representing West Renfrew-shire, I am very grateful to the Distribution of Industry Act, which has made possible diversification in an area which 1031 needed diversification. Nevertheless, I believe that the time has come for us to look at the Act again in order to determine whether we can extend the benefits which are made possible by it outside the areas to which it at present applies.
The President of the Board of Trade put the problem in the form of a question when he turned round in answer to an intervention and asked whether we wished the special inducements available to the Development Areas to cease. The implication was that we probably did not. I am not so sure that that implication is correct. Since 1945, special attention has been paid to the Development Areas. In my constituency at the moment one good factory is lying empty. There are certain parts of the Development Areas which cannot provide labour for new industry without interfering with existing industry.
If a new industry is looking for a site and is prepared to consider Scotland and to go outside the Development Areas and would like some assistance of the kind which an industry can get inside Development Areas, flexibility to meet that case should be introduced into our distribution of industry policy. That is what my hon. Friends and I mean when we ask the President of the Board of Trade to treat the whole matter with greater flexibility than has been done in the past. I am glad that so many hon. Members have realised this need.
My vision of Scotland in the future is not of great industries scattered all over the moors and up in the far North. What one would like to see is the smaller coon-try towns throughout Scotland having light industries suitable to those areas, thus gradually bringing the population back from Dundee, Glasgow and the South. I am not frightened about the development of light industry in the smaller country towns taking labour from the land. Over a period of years labour will begin to go back to the land.
In many families at the moment the second and third sons and perhaps the daughters do not stay in the country districts but go to the big towns. If there was a possibility of local employment for them, they would not leave their home towns, but would marry in those areas. Then their children would grow up in those areas and probably find engineering 1032 employment in the light industries. Not all those children would want to go into factories; many would want to go on the land. That is what we should try to encourage. We ought to try to get the population moving away from the old over-concentrated areas.
The danger about indefinitely maintaining the present distribution of industry policy is that we are perpetuating the congestion of certain areas. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has been paying keen attention. I hope he will tell his right hon. Friend that practically every speaker on both sides of the House has spoken on this subject and feels strongly about it.
Another matter of great importance to Scottish industry is transport. The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) referred to it, the latter making some passing references to the new transport White Paper as it affects Scotland.
If we are to get industry developed away from the existing areas, transport costs are a tremendously important problem not only for new industry but, as my hon. Friends for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) and Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) have pointed out often enough, for existing Industries in Scotland, above all for agriculture and other industries in the North, and for the fishing industry.
I believe that real hope is developing. I believe that the Transport Act, 1953, provides an opportunity for the Scottish transport problem to be tackled properly for the first time for a great many years. I am an unrepentant believer in competition between different types of transport and in competition within the different types of transport. I recognise that the railways must remain pretty well on their present structure, and I recognise that they are very important from the point of view of all our Scottish industrial work. It is in the light of that that we should study very carefully the railway reorganisation scheme which is now available in the form of a White Paper.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how the Scottish railways can compete with the Southern Region?
§ Mr. Maclay
I think the right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I said that I accept that the railways have to remain more or less under the present form of single structure over the whole country, and I thought I said that. It is when we come to the existing organisation under the present structure that I am in favour of the maximum possible amount of decentralisation, and I do not think that any hon. Member would disagree with that.
I was sorry that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West spoke rather lightly of the possibilities under this new reorganisation scheme. What the scheme really does, coupled with the changes made in the 1953 Act, is take away from the railways the fetters which have been there for years preventing the railways competing for traffic. The people of Scotland will be able to get the benefit of the new scheme, because the powers of devolution are very considerable, though the hon. Gentleman rather brushed them aside as if they were nothing at all. We shall have an area manager, who will clearly have more definite decentralised powers than has ever been the case since nationalisation. The interim scheme, which is already in operation, has given much more effective powers to the area manager than any previous scheme.
§ Mr. Woodburn
When I was Secretary of State, I inquired of the railway authorities in Scotland whether they could use any more powers than those which they have, and I was given an assurance that they did not need any more powers. Therefore, I am not quite clear what are the now powers about which the right hon. Gentleman is talking now.
§ Mr. Maclay
Probably at that time they could not use any more powers than those which they had been given, because of the functional structure of the Railway Executive which has now been abolished. The right hon. Gentleman says that they could not use more power, which, in my view, proves the need for a proper board of directors to be behind the area manager in order to advise him and help him to use those powers. [Laughter.] It is no use laughing. I do not see how a single man, with certain powers handed down to him from the centre, and with the functional setup of the Railway Executive, could use 1034 the powers which he had; certainly, no single person could do that for an area the size of Scotland.
We now have the new possibility of a chief regional manager with certain powers, backed up by a board composed of part-time members, which I think is very desirable, and comprising people who have wide experience of the problems of transport users in Scotland, who will be able to see Scotland's needs more effectively than under the present structure. Until the 1953 Act was passed, the railways could not go out for traffic in the way in which in modern conditions they must, and I would draw attention to the fact that the new powers of the area board make it quite clear thatin connection with the quotation of individual rates, the areas will have freedom to act, within the limits laid down, according to the nature of the traffic.That is very important. The area hoards will be expected to go out and get traffic, and I hope that under that system some of our problems in the remote areas will become more manageable.
If that does not produce results, then we may have to do something which I think everybody recognises is undesirable and treat certain areas in Scotland as subsidised areas. I have expressed that view in regard to the Western Isles before now, because we cannot burden the whole transport structure with uneconomic traffic. I trust that that will not prove to be necessary.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
What has happened to the Scottish Railway Board, with equal status with the others, which was mentioned in the election programme of the party opposite?
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not think the hon. Gentleman wants me to go into that. If he will look at it, he will see that this scheme provides for a Scottish Area Board with equal status with each of the others. There will be area boards all over the country, operating in complete equality, while at the centre there will be the British Transport Commission. [Interruption.] There is no point in arguing it. As long as Scotland is unable to accept complete financial responsibility for its own railways, so long are we going to have a central transport organisation. What we need is a much more effective 1035 method of decentralisation than heretofore, subject to that general overriding financial control and certain other things. Do not let hon. Members imagine that we shall not get a new intelligence and drive in Scottish transport matters, which we simply have not got today. They should remember that it is up to us to see that if we do not get that result from the new scheme, we obtain it through the medium of the Floor of the House.
My last point is one which has already been dealt with in a speech of great ability by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir). It concerns shipbuilding. I was rather concerned when I read the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) in the debate last Thursday—unfortunately, I was not able to hear him—because he put his case with great enthusiasm. While I admire his enthusiasm, which in his younger days must have taken him over many difficult fences, I fear that occasionally it may have landed him in one of the bogs which exist in the country over which he used to ride so well.
The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke with considerable understanding of some of the facts, and he made great play of quoting authorities for what he said, but one point that I noticed was that most of the authorities—indeed, all of them—were statements made before the last Budget. In that Budget one very important change was made in fiscal policy. What many of the authorities which the hon. and learned Gentleman was quoting were saying was that somebody must do something about depreciation allowances. That is a matter for the Government, and only they can deal with it. The new investment allowance is a very good start, however, and it will affect ship-building and ship-owning rather more than any other industry, although I agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that it is not the whole story. However, investment allowances have arrived, and it is the first move of recognition by a Government that something ought to be done about this vital industry.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. The right hon. Gentleman said that I made great play in quoting authorities. Does the right hon. 1036 Gentleman repudiate any of my authorities? Does he not admit that they are all deadly accurate, and that the inferences which I have drawn from them are logical?
§ Mr. Maclay
I think the implications are another matter; I merely said that these statements which the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted were made before the last Budget, and that the hon. and learned Gentleman had forgotten the fact that that Budget made some move to show that the Government realised the seriousness of the situation.
Ship-building orders are the subject of considerable concern at the moment, not only in Scotland, but all over the world. If any hon. Member wants to know what is the present problem regarding shipping orders, he should look at the tramp freight market and at the tanker market. The industry had a period of post-war prosperity, prolonged by the war in Korea, but today it is very difficult to find employment for an uneconomic ship and it is even difficult to employ a ship that is economic in operation. But that is a question of world trade. and until that situation clears itself, we shall get no substantial progress.
What is of great importance for British ship-building is that ship-building firms should be ready to seize their chance when it comes. What is also important to British ship-owners is to know whether the Government is moving towards a policy of reduced taxation or one indicating a more realistic view of what depreciation allowances should be, because that is the only hope of solving the problem in a time when money is changing its value as it is.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I did not want to interrupt him again. Does this not prove the complete fallacy of the argument he was advancing that world conditions are having a different effect upon the German and Japanese and other foreign shipyards from that which they are having on British shipyards; in other words, that British shipyards are the only sufferers?
§ Mr. Maclay
For some years after the war, German and Japanese shipyards were not functioning. When they were allowed to start, naturally they were able to give quicker delivery and therefore 1037 they got orders which we could not get. For the bigger type of ship we are still quoting about two years' delivery. For the smaller vessels the position is different.
The hon. and learned Member told us that production was held up by a shortage of ships' plates. He also said—of all the astonishing things—that denationalisation was responsible for the shortage of steel plate. [Interruption.] If the hon. and learned Member looks at his speech tomorrow, he will find that he said that. The shortage of steel plate stems right back to the period immediately after the war and the careful estimates of rolling capacity requirements made at that time. Hon. Members will recall that that was above all, the age of the planners, with a 200 majority in the House for the party which, above all, believed in planning.
They made some bad mistakes, and one of them was on steel plate. I am not entirely blaming them. The shipbuilding industry did not underestimate its requirements of steel plate. What went wrong was that the planners badly underestimated the conflicting demands of oil pipeline and refineries for the same rolling capacity. That is the way in which we got into trouble, and not through denationalisation. I give hon. Members opposite the very grave warning that they should not believe too much in the power of planning, uncorrected by the price mechanism, lest they run into another mess like that which has prevented our shipyards from building many more ships than they have done since the war.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
The right hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) has injected a little life into this debate and caused some of us to realise what is going on. The Committee recognise, of course, that the right hon. Gentleman is an authority in the field of transport and shipbuilding. I would only remind him of one thing in connection with what he said about the planners of 1946. He will remember that between the two wars Shipbuilding Securities, Ltd., closed down shipyards and threw thousands of workers idle. That was the penalty we had to pay for the lack of planning.
When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of a great shortage of raw materials, may I also recall that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour referred 1038 only on Thursday to one of the uses that the planners made of the dollar loan. Where did it go? Was it spent headlessly or needlessly? One of the results was that Grangemouth and Fawley were built up to save dollar expenditure, a situation which the present Government are now enjoying.
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not quarrel with the last part of the hon. Member's remarks. The former part, referring to the 1930's, comes up in my constituency at every Election. Hon. Members will realise that there was a world depression and goods were simply not moved. It is the policy of the present Government to see that goods do get moved about the world, in accordance with the liberal trade policy of the Liberal Nationals.
§ Mr. Hannan
It has taken a long time for that section of the Conservative Party called Liberal Nationals to agree on that point of view. Another Liberal National or National Liberal is to reply to the debate and will no doubt make quite dear what the distinctions of policy are.
It is just to this very point that I should like to devote the first part of my remarks. In common with many of my colleagues on this side of the Committee, I believe that it is the abandonment of the planning of the Labour Government that is going to land us in trouble in the future. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour said that we were enjoying a prosperity hitherto unknown in this country. It is merely fortuitous because of a change in terms of trade. That is admitted in speeches, and particularly by the chairman, not of the Labour Party, but of the Federation of British Industries, who said some time ago, apropos the Budget:Any suggestion that a feeling of optimism or buoyancy is justified by the Survey is not borne out by the figures or by its final conclusions. Our true position is precarious in that we have not a safe margin against contingencies such as an American recession or a further rise in German or Japanese competition—or even an unfavourable turn in the terms of trade.…The figures in the Economic Survey, however, show that Britain's balance of payments surplus on current account is only £123 million, excluding American aid, having fallen by £11 million since 1952.We have had to listen to the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and the President of the Board of Trade carrying on the sunshine stories that the people of this country were told 1039 about in the Budget discussions. The President of the Board of Trade said that the welfare of Scotland could not be separated from that of the United Kingdom and that the welfare of Great Britain itself would colour very largely what would take place in Scotland. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as well as the Secretary of State for Scotland in his speech on Thursday, admitted that the present Government had failed in their policy of investment, in that we had not invested sufficiently in our industries.
In the Budget of 1953. tax remissions of £192 million were made, money that could and should have been used for investment but was in fact used for consumption and so bedevilled the situation last year. To talk, as did the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, about unemployment being the lowest for the past five years, with the exception of 1951, surprises me, because I should have thought that after three years of office their policy would have produced an effect at least comparable to that of the Labour Government of 1951.
On the question of investment, it was made perfectly clear during the Budget debate—and this is part of the reply to the right hon. Member for Renfrew, West and to the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir)—that it was only the public-controlled industries that had, in fact, invested at all to the extent of £88 million. Table 13 on page 23 of the Economic Survey makes that perfectly clear.
The public industries are discharging their duty to the nation, but the private sector of industry is not, even though it constitutes 80 per cent. of the total industry of the country. Therefore, far from being critical of the workers of this country, it is only fair to direct attention to the inaction of the Government and of employers, and of employers in Scotland in particular.
It is not merely a matter of the amount of investment, but the direction in which that investment is made in industry which matters most to the survival and to the progress of Scotland and of its people. Indeed, one of my hon. Friends facetiously said that this Government are more interested in investment in Coca-Cola than in investment in the basic industries of the nation.
1040 When we talk about the balance of overseas trade, we should remember that even today our gold and dollar resources are not equal to what they were in 1950. It is too often forgotten that this nation under a Labour Government was the first of the countries of Western Europe to balance its overseas payments. At that time, hon. Members opposite were making speeches crying out for newsprint and for the easing of restrictions of the foreign travel allowance. It was then that Sir Stafford Cripps was really giving a lead to the nation, which hon. Members opposite did not relish then and which has been distorted since.
It was precisely to meet the conditions which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour outlined to the Committee on Thursday night—the conditions of increasing competition from Germany, Italy and the United States—that the Labour Government's proportion of investment nationally was so high. That policy has been departed from, and I ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to see that a higher proportion of investment in Scotland is restored and maintained. I agree with those who say that the right hon. Gentleman has an influence in higher places. I ask him to do this in order that we in Scotland may not suffer the worst effects of any possible recession in America, an important feature which has also been overlooked.
The Parliamentary Secretary also said that this nation was never as prosperous as it is today. Would any hon. Member opposite care to tell that to the old-age pensioners of Scotland? In 1950, 50,000 old-age pensioners in Scotland were on National Assistance. In 1951 the number was 59,000, in 1952 it was 66,000 and in 1953, according to a reply given to a Question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson), the number was 71,000.
It all depends on what yardstick we measure prosperity by. Many of us measure it, not merely by the overall economic situation of the country, but by how the cake is divided and by how the sick, the aged, the halt, the maimed and the blind are looked after. If last year was a prosperous year, then we have precious little to show for it. I rather 1041 agree with the opinion of the "Observer." which on 4th April last said:The true picture of Britain's economy in 1953 indicates not so much a prosperous year as a year of lost opportunities.I profoundly believe that.
I agree that we start from the common basis that full employment depends on meeting the needs of our foreign customers at prices which they are prepared to pay. But where we on this side of the Committee disagree with the Government is in the method of producing that situation. We welcome any international cooperation that will avoid the struggle for world markets which, we believe, is the principal cause of international strife. If we cannot achieve that—not because of any fault of ours—then let us recognise we shall gain and hold foreign markets only if we are efficient and competent.
It is part of my case that the present Government are not aiding the process of producing efficiently, quickly and cheaply. We shall not increase our overseas trade merely by asking the manual workers to work harder, but only by the introduction of more machinery and by making more use of science and technology. It was along those lines, of course, that we welcomed the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week.
I now wish to deal with technical education. To employ our resources in the best possible manner means, of course, planning. However much hon. Members opposite might sneer, it means just plain planning. Some hon. Members react to the word "planning," as Mr. McCarthy reacts to the word "Communism." Moreover, they distort their opponents' meaning of the word "planning" with equal ease and facility. It is a wonder that even now some hon. Member has not got up to ask me whether by planning I mean rationing. They know, even before they ask, that the answer is "No." However, if they wish to exploit it politically, then of course we must meet the challenge on public platforms and elsewhere.
We must expand those sections of industry from which we shall get the greatest return from the work of our people. We must produce the goods for which the world is likely to be seeking for some time to come, and for which the demand is likely to increase. As was 1042 hinted in earlier speeches, it means, too, certain sacrifices of habits and traditions. I join with those who say that, but it also calls for sacrifice on the part of those employers who, because of prejudice and tradition, will not introduce up-to-date methods of production in their factories. It means making the best use of our scarce and dear raw materials, so that we gain the maximum return from them.
I was interested in the speech of the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot). It was a profound speech to which I found it most easy to listen. He had been looking at documents which I myself had been studying, the Parliamentary Report and that of the Church and Nation Committee. What the right hon. Gentleman said was perfectly true. I had the privilege of addressing this Committee last year, and referred to it then.
It is pointed out in the Parliamentary Report that our production is outstripping the rate of production of our raw materials. The importance of our raw materials, principally coal, is outlined there. This is something which the Government must look to for the future, for it means, as I have said, using such raw materials for making those goods from which we can get the best returns. It means spending more on science, on research and on technical education, but, alack and aday, the Government last year encouraged consumption by tax remission. That was a policy which a Labour Government was urged to follow. It was said that by reducing taxation money would be invested in industry. It has been proved a costly failure. We are all glad to hear that this year some steps have been taken to rectify the position.
Because of the importance of production, I welcome the many new industries which are now coming to Scotland. I believe that in shifting the pattern of industry they will help Scotland to meet changing economic conditions. The position of precision engineering was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn). I am a layman in that regard, but from my engineering friends I know that the wider engineering industry provides one quarter of our national output, one half of our industrial output, and contributes 40 per cent. of our exports.
I am informed that, despite the expansion of the machine tool industry, engin- 1043 eering is handicapped in many ways because of our inability, even now, to provide all the machine tools required. A country like Scotland still has to import them. From the Anglo-American Council on Productivity, which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour mentioned on Thursday, comes the warning that unless we can do something in this field we shall be beaten by Italy, Germany, the United States and Sweden.
The difficulty in Scotland is this—and in this regard engineering is not the only industry that is suffering. Firms train many men who, after a costly training, are leaving them to go South because of greater attractions. Houses are offered and jobs are offered at £2 and £3 a week more than obtains in Scotland. I recognise that somebody might ask, "Are you suggesting there should be direction of labour?" I am not suggesting that at all. I am trying to highlight a problem which I know exists. If in its consultations with trade unions and others the Ministry of Labour can do something to help here, I know that those engaged in precision engineering—which is vital to the expansion of the whole range of engineering in Scotland—would be very grateful indeed.
The paragraph in the Report which speaks of new industries says that the total number employed in new industries in Scotland is probably 50,000. At first glance that seems quite a respectable figure, but when related to the working population of Scotland it comes to only 2.2 per cent. of the insured population. There must, therefore, be no complacency. If the Secretary of State can encourage conditions in which precision engineering can take root and flourish, he will be serving Scotland well indeed.
Indeed, the whole of the science-based industries must be encouraged in Scotland. Reference has been made to electronics. In his speech on Thursday, the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove said that the industrial revolution of the 19th century had, as men and women thought, fashioned the pattern for the future. But in truth, are we not now on the verge of a new industrial revolution opening up even greater possibilities than ever we have known before? That throws up great social consequences and great social 1044 problems. The diminution of labour employed, the threat of unemployment, possible social dislocation, are things to which even now any Government should be devoting some attention.
The period of the industrial revolution was accompanied by colonial wars—not by "so-called" but by actual imperialist wars. What about this new period? There were then the Luddites who, taking one extreme, saw in the machine an enemy. There were those, on the other hand, who went to the other extreme—the greedy and the grasping who exploited not just normal human but child labour to a base degree. It is with regard to such things that we should even now be searching our own minds to avoid the errors of the past.
I am informed that one firm—a Scottish firm, we are proud to note—has developed a device for the tooling up of a whole factory in one operation. The possibilities of these things are astounding and amazing. Are we on the verge of seeing a completely automatic factory? Neither the Government nor responsible people like ourselves can escape the fact that atomic energy is possible within the next five or 10 years. That, too, will have its effect.
Having regard to some of these things and to the possibilities of the future, we have to ask ourselves whether we are training sufficient young men, interesting sufficient young men to play their part in the future? The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove suggested that, with regard to the lack of interest in technology, the principals of the universities should get together. As he will probably agree, much more than that is needed, and it is to technical education that I want to devote my remaining remarks.
The Estimates Sub-Committee on technical education made a Report in which it pointed out certain deficiencies—gross deficiencies, I think was the term used—in the provision of technical education in Scotland. The T.U.C. evidence before that Sub-Committee indicated that more co-ordination between employers, trade unions and local education authorities was needed. The opinion was expressed that, even after the Anglo-American productivity committees had made available the valuable information 1045 which they brought back, it was not made use of in the councils of industry itself. Summed up, the main deficiencies were lack of places, inadequate buildings and inadequate equipment.
I would be the last person to deny that there are several firms in Scotland who have taken up this matter very enthusiastically. They are providing accommodation in which the workers can study, and they even employ full-time education officers, but the Scottish Education Department cannot escape responsibility in this matter of technical education. On the 18 central institutions in Scotland only £819,000 was spent in 1953.54. The year before that the amount was only £811,000. It is impossible, and it was impossible for this Sub-Committee, to find out how much the local authorities are spending on technical education.
A general grant of 60 per cent. is made to the local authorities, but no return is made by the local authorities as to what proportion of that is spent on technical as distinct from ordinary education. The S.E.D. estimated that the amount spent by local authorities in the year 1952.53 was £1,098,000. Adding that to the sum that I have already mentioned, it means that the total spent was £1,917,000 in a year. I should like the Secretary of State for Scotland to ask for a report on this matter and seriously to consider whether that sum is worthy of the people of Scotland in this field of technical education. Compared with the total amount of £34 million spent on education, it is 4½ per cent., or Is. in the £, and that is a totally inadequate sum to be spent on technical education.
The accommodation for students in Scotland is quite inadequate, and the report for Glasgow is shocking in the extreme. In Glasgow use is being made of Nissen huts, disused factories and churches, model lodging houses converted for the purpose, and even a converted slaughterhouse. This is the sort of thing which our people have to put up with. It is no use saying that the local authorities have complete power in this matter. In the pressure of post-war work, they have been concentrating and spending money on primary and senior secondary schools, and no one on either side of the Committee would blame them for that.
1046 But there is one thing that the Secretary of State can do. He can consider making an extra grant over and above that which goes to the local authorities at the moment and earmark it for technical education and for the provision of these classes. It is a shocking commentary that in Glasgow, the shipbuilding industry provided 535 apprentices for training classes but could not provide accommodation for them. That is made quite clear in the Report on Technical Education.
Further education in telecommunications, electronics and electrical installations has not reflected modern development. There is only one fully-equipped electrical engineering laboratory in existence, offering 15 student places. There is no functional accommodation for radio or television, two of the most important industries that we have. There are 300 prospective evening students at first-year courses who have no opportunity for practical work at all.
I ask the Secretary of State to consider the recommendations in the Report itself. The Joint Under-Secretary has a special responsibility in this matter, He was a member of the Advisory Committee on Education which reported in 1947. He chided me the other morning and said that I had unearthed a very good speech of his. Indeed, I have unearthed two or three. He complimented my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) on accepting that Report and adopting its recommendations at an early stage. Now the Joint Under-Secretary is in a position to act.
One of the recommendations of that Report was the establishment of an advisory committee for effectively coordinating the efforts of the existing regional advisory councils. There are five of these councils in existence throughout Scotland, and I am sure that he can do something there. The Under-Secretary has said that there is evidence that these councils have done good work, but there is considerable scope for development. Is he satisfied that industry is doing all it can in this field of technological education? Can they do even more than they are now doing? Can they not provide some part of the accommodation, to which local authorities can send tutors? Scottish Industrial 1047 Estates are responsible for the provision and the renting of the accommodation. Is it not possible to provide a site or accommodation in these estates into which students can be invited to participate in technical education? Is this suggestion not worth while considering, in order to overcome this dreadful backlog of work which is vitally necessary if Scotland is to play her full part in the progress of industry?
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)
I hope that the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his thought-provoking speech and do not challenge his remarks about planners and old-age pensions. I want to maintain the tone which was so well adopted by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), who opened the Debate, and others.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State touched on fishing in his interesting and very informative speech on Thursday, and I should like to refer to what he said:We regard this subsidy"—he was referring to the subsidy for near and middle water trawlers, which it is hoped to give shortly—as a temporary measure to tide the industry over the period until the full effects of the Overfishing Convention are felt, until new trawlers can be built and until other necessary measures can be taken to improve the conditions of the industry. The Minister of Agriculture and I are keeping the whole position under review.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 724.]I want to draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that, so far, the Overfishing Convention has brought no appreciable results. I think the Convention was disappointing when it failed to provide for international agreement on the protection of the fishing grounds. It is true that an agreement was reached, and subsequently ratified, for the enlargement of the trawl mesh, but that in itself is a very small contribution, and it is doubtful whether it will have any worthwhile effect. It is so easy to stretch a trawl net in such a way that the mesh becomes smaller. The mere fact that the diamond is made bigger is no guarantee that it will always be in the correct position when the net is used for fishing.
1048 Until the Overfishing Convention stops overfishing by protecting the fishing grounds, which are just as well known to our fishermen as Sauchiehall Street is to Glasgow people and Piccadilly is to Londoners, we shall never get anywhere. These waters are international waters. I urge my right hon. Friend to use his powers to induce all the other countries whose problems are the same as ours to face this situation.
After agriculture, fishing is our greatest food producer. The Moray Firth still remains a plundering ground for foreign trawlers, and while Britain, for the benefit of the world at large, abides by the three-mile limit, outside of which the waters are international, it seems to me wrong that Belgian trawlers can come inshore off my constituency, which has a very big coastline, and plunder our grounds at a time when our own trawlers are hard-pressed to make ends meet.
This is a real problem because during the war and in the post-war years the fishing industry has carried on mainly without subsidy. The distant water people receive no subsidy whatsoever. As food becomes more plentiful, fish prices must fall, and on that account I feel that every effort should be made to bring about protection and, in particular, to see that foreign trawler owners are subjected to the same rules and regulations as our own trawler owners operating in that area.
A good deal has been said about shipbuilding, and I have observed one very encouraging fact which is of great importance to Scotland. It concerns the latest and greatest trawler, "Fairtry," an entirely new departure in a factory trawler, of large size, capable of catching fish in large quantities and of processing them, filleting them, boning them, freezing them, packaging them and trade marking them, as well as using all the offal for fish meal which is so urgently needed by agriculture and bringing home a worth-while quantity of fish.
"Fairtry" was built in Aberdeen for a very enterprising Leith firm, Salveson & Son, who have done so much for whaling, originally in the Antarctic and more recently in the South Antarctic. She was built by Andrew Lewis and Son, Aberdeen, also a well-known firm, and was launched a few weeks ago. She is on her maiden voyage, catching fish 1049 and freezing it right out of the sea. She has already had over 500 tons on board, probably of the finest fish—none finer except perhaps some which has just been caught off Largo or Newhaven and has been landed within an hour or two of capture. This is the finest quality fish.
The ship is coming in to Immingham, which is an ideal centre of distribution right in the middle of the great consumer areas, the Glasgow-Edinburgh line in the north and the Plymouth-Dover line in the south. It must be a matter of satisfaction to Scottish Members that this venture has been conceived by a Scottish firm and that the craft and all the auxiliaries have been built in Scotland. I am sure we all wish it great success.
I must return to the main theme of the debate, which is the distribution of industry in Scotland. It is a long time since I left our native country. I have lived in this great city for two-thirds of my years—and that is a considerable number of years—but I well remember the Scotland of my youth, and when I look back upon it I see many of the evils which have followed from overcrowding. I have said in the House of Commons before, and I will say it again, that we Scots have not made a very good job of our country.
I am not blaming anybody for it, but the fact is that we have a narrow industrial corridor running from Greenock to Leith with a small fringe in Dundee, a smaller one in Aberdeen and another on the Borders, but the rest of the country remains principally agricultural. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) told us earlier that about three-quarters of our population, or at any rate a very large proportion of it, is concentrated within 20 miles of Glasgow. It must be true to say about three-quarters of the population must be in that industrial belt between Leith and Greenock.
I think we have paid a high price in human well-being and human health for this overcrowding, and I gravely doubt whether it should be allowed to continue without some effort being made to bring about a dispersal. Of course, I realise that heavy industries, such as the coal industry and others, cannot easily be moved. No one can shift coal mines, and I think the same comment applies to the steel industry and to ship-building, but there are many other industries which could be dispersed.
1050 My right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) touched on a subject which I have mentioned on a number of occasions—the siting of some of the light industries and some of the new industries in the smaller country towns throughout Scotland, because the populations of many of our country towns have been declining; people have been leaving and moving into the densely populated and overcrowded areas, where ill-health has been predominant.
I recall the late Mr. Arthur Greenwood, speaking either on the Beveridge Report or in one of our early National Health Service debates, of the money which Britain was spending on preventable disease—£300 million on diseases which should never have occurred. I remember the Glasgow of my youth and the epidemics which every year ran through the school which I attended—epidemics such as measles or German measles or scarlet fever or diphtheria. Because people lived in tenement buildings, frequently with two or more families on a landing, using common facilities, these diseases spread.
I believe that the standard of health is better now, but I am quite certain that those people would enjoy a much better and healthier life away from this over-concentration of human beings. They would enjoy it better in some of the smaller spaces, such as those which are known to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), my hon. Friends the Members for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod), the Member for Inverness (Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton) and myself. I am not suggesting that they should all be moved but I am asserting that in places like Inverness, Fort William, Lochinver, Wick, Helmsdale, Thurso, Lairg and many other places in the Lowlands, where industry has declined, they need new industries.
On Thursday, my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) spoke of towns in his constituency where industry had either failed or the resources on which it was based had disappeared. In such places, non-agricultural land is available and people are available, and I feel that they should be used. I sometimes feel that the Scottish Grand Committee should go on tour instead of sitting in a basement here.
§ Sir D. Robertson
We should go on a fact-finding survey of our own country. This morning 10 of our colleagues left for the Ruhr to look at the German coal mines. I am all in favour of that; the more we travel and the more we see elsewhere, the better.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
Is the hon. Member not aware that a group from this side of the Committee made that tour of Scotland five years ago?
§ Sir D. Robertson
Then all I can say is that the hon. Member's visit brought no rare and refreshing fruits, because we have not noticed the results. I am merely throwing out a concrete suggestion—and I am sure the hon. Member will not quarrel with me, because the fact that he did it five years ago will mean that he will want to do it again.
We come here week in and week out, we grow very tired and exhausted by this time of the year and we want a rest—and I am all in favour of that; but if the Secretary of State invited us to sit in Glasgow for a day or two, or in Edinburgh for a day or two, or on the Borders or in Inverness for a day or two, we should be able to have a fact-finding tour of our own country. [Horn. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that there is no dissentient voice.
§ Sir D. Robertson
I had not observed any Sassenachs present. Apparently one had escaped my eye. I do not blame them for not being present in these debates because, naturally, we have a lot to say and we want the debates to ourselves.
In his very fine speech, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) referred to the energy per man-hour which is more freely available in some other countries than it is in our 1052 country. It may be that we are moving into an age in which we shall have similar energy put at our disposal. In that connection, I was at an inaugural ceremony at Lairg 10 days ago with Mr. Tom Johnston, who has rendered such distinguished service as the Chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board and whose services in the House as Secretary of State for Scotland we all remember.
There, there is a great source of power. Waters that have run to waste for centuries are about to be harnessed to produce power. We also have the peat scheme, which has been referred to by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other hon. Members, commencing at Altnabreac, a scheme full of prospect for turning this waste product into energy. And we have the great Dounreay project near Thurso, which will shortly commence construction.
§ Mr. Steele
Does the hon. Member not now agree that it was a good thing that, despite his opposition to the Bill for the extension of hydro-electricity, the Government put it through?
§ Sir D. Robertson
The hon. Member is wrong. I have always been in favour of hydro-electricity for Scotland. I was one of the two hon. Members who, when the decision of the Scottish Procedure Committee was challenged, fought the case of the Grampian Co. My only difference with the party opposite, who were then in power, was that I preferred that the Grampian Co., who had pioneered this great work and operated it for 11 years without a dividend, and who had succeeded in using all their powers at Loch Tummel, Loch Rannoch and Loch Ericht, should be given more powers. However, I am quite satisfied—
§ Mr. Steele
I was referring to the 1953 Act, when the hon. Member and his hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) opposed the scheme.
§ Sir D. Robertson
The hon. Member is not quite correct. I was opposing a one-Clause Bill for ventilation purposes, and I made that very plain. How else can the House do its duty? It is the duty of Government or Opposition Members to criticise, and I did criticise, but it was constructive criticism. The theme of my remarks then was the same as it has 1053 always been. I wanted more power for the Highlands but I wanted more control and more efficiency. I wanted more rural workers, more farmers and more crofters to get the same light and power as the Glaswegians had, and now we are getting it; but I do not want to be sidetracked by all these interruptions, which I greatly enjoy.
To return to the question of abundant power in the North, it seems to me that industrialists of the progressive kind so typical of Scotland may well be attracted up to the sources of power, in the same way as their predecessors were attracted to the sources of power when coal was used in the early days of the industrial revolution.
At that time industrialists who had machines to move went in to use that mineral because of its reliability and cheapness at the pits. If we trace the industrial history, not only of Scotland but of Britain, we see that it has all been built around the pits. Now we are moving into an era in which we are told that reserves of coal are diminishing and a great new power will be at our disposal. The first breeder reactor in Europe—perhaps in the world—will, we hope, be built at Caithness.
The Highland Members have a promise from Mr. Tom Johnston that favourable terms will be given for electricity at the source. That is not a favour. I am all against favours for the Highlands. That would be a perfectly good economic decision, because no great mileage of transmission lines is required; it costs £2 million to take electricity from Sutherland up to Caithness. If electricity is used near the source of power or at the power stations, there would be a lesser need for transmission lines and the wastage which ensues in transmission would be avoided. Wastage is going on all the time that electricity is being transmitted to the South. While I want it to go to the South, I think that in the interests of Britain, and particularly of Scotland, the more that we begin to use that power the more we begin to disperse our people—the overspill as it is called.
I do not want to force anybody to go anywhere, but I think it is right that some part of our population should be moved away from the densely packed and, as I see it, unhealthy town area into the country, where a fuller and better 1054 life would be enjoyed. I was born in a big city and spent most of my life in another big city. City life can be tremendously overrated. When I was in Glasgow, we used to look forward to the few weeks when we could escape to the sea.
Most of our people live a fairly drab life, leaving home in the morning, for months in darkness, to go to work, and coming back home in the darkness at night, to get sufficient money to pay their rent, for food and clothing for the family, and for going to the cinema. But I do not value visits to the cinema very highly. It is a good thing in its way, but I am looking back over all the years that I lived in towns. If the Scottish Grand Committee goes on the fact-finding tour which I have suggested, perhaps it will come to the same conclusion.
A tremendous task lies ahead of us. I agree that transport is an obstacle, but I also agree with someone who asked, "Why should it be an obstacle in a small country like this?" It has been the main obstacle to the distribution of industry in Scotland for a long time and I think that it must be mastered. I am doubtful whether the new arrangement will achieve it. It has not has a very good Press. It has been suggested that control is still being maintained in one place, but even so, I doubt very much whether we will be much worse off than at present.
The Minister of Transport takes the view, "We are sympathetic and we realise that the man in the North is subjected to penal rates, but that is a matter for the Transport Commission." The Commission says, "That may be so, but Parliament has approved rater which are 150 per cent. and 179 per cent. more," and as we in the Highlands paid more to begin with, so the resultant percentage increase is much more; and the Commission says that it is a matter for the manager in Scotland. That is where we become unstuck, because the manager in Scotland says, "But I have to apply the rates that are approved by Parliament." The result is that people in the North are fleeing from the railway that was built for their use, because traffic cannot flow at the rates that are demanded.
A senior railway official told me recently, "If we lose any more traffic, we will have nothing to carry on the 1055 line north of Inverness and the answer will be a subsidy." I do not agree. The answer is to reduce rates and to let the traffic flow. As the people in the North have failed to get satisfaction from Parliament, from the Transport Commission or from British Railways, they will use the competitive methods of transport to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) referred.
No one is willing to see his cattle and his sheep remain unsold. They have to be moved, but no one can afford to move them at a loss. That is the position we are in. If Parliament does not take up the problem, the people will do so themselves. They will go back to the old method of shipping their freight by sea, or a combination of sea and road transport.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Is not the solution a flat freight rate in transport for the whole of these islands, so that they can be treated as a unit in peace as they are treated as a unit in war and so that the North of Scotland would not be penalised in favour of the South of England?
§ Sir D. Robertson
That is a kind of Socialistic planning argument which could never be sustained. The great mass of the people, who are situated in the South, are not sending the traffic so far to the consuming markets as is the man in the North. We do not mind paying an additional rate. What we object to is the percentage increase system. We had no grumble until the skilled rating system practised by the old railwaymen was abandoned. In the old days the basis of fixing freights was what the traffic could bear.
Nowadays, it is a question of percentages and if a farmer in Swindon moved his goods to London for 10s. before the war it was increased 150 per cent., which cost him an extra 15s. We were paying £5 when the Swindon farmer was paying 10s. Now we are paying £12 10s. a ton. We are paying £7 10s. more and not 15s., which is why traffic cannot afford to flow by rail. We are finding other means of delivering our goods.
It is a tragedy that a railway which is losing thousands of pounds per week is pricing itself out of business and is depriving the people, for whose use it 1056 was built, of the facilities it was intended to afford. More transport is going on to our already overcrowded roads. A committee was formed in Inverness a fortnight ago with a leading chartered accountant in charge. His instructions are to get competition going, because goods, whether they are from agriculture or fisheries or any other source, have to flow. I am giving this information to this Committee because it is right that right hon. and hon. Members should have it. It is the duty of the House of Commons to see that transport is available for our people and that the railway is used. It is not being used today.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) will forgive me if I do not follow him too closely, although I could not help feeling that it would be profitable if he had a talk with his right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay)—
§ Mr. Hamilton
—because it is quite clear that the policy being advocated by the hon. Gentleman could not be put into effect without some positive Government initiative. If it were left to private enterprise and to the profit motive to redistribute industry and population from central Scotland to the rest of Scotland, it would never be done. In fact, such redistribution as has taken place has been on the initiative of the Government.
I want to refer to one or two things which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade omitted to say. First, let me say a word about the unemployment figures, about which something has been said from the Government side in terms of complacency which I think are unwarranted. On Thursday the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland said that the figures now were an all-time low record. We all applaud that as far as it is true.
If we take the monthly average rate of unemployment in Scotland since the war, we find that for the six years between 1946 and the end of 1951 the 1057 monthly average was under 62,000. In 1952, 1953 and the first half of 1954 that average figure is 67,000, so that, in fact, the overall rate of unemployment in Scotland since this Government came into power has been on the average 7 per cent. more for each month of their existence. That is worth pondering. I am not saying that the figures are terribly serious, but I am saying that it is not a case for very much congratulation when compared with the record of the previous Government.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
I said most particularly in my speech—and so did my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade—that there are no reasons for complacency at all.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am glad to hear it. I am just putting the figures from our point of view, and incidentally the average figure I quoted for the period from 1946 to 1951 included the 1947 fuel crisis, when the figures rose to over 100,000 during one or two months. Including this, the average monthly rate for unemployment under the Labour Government was 4,000 per month less than under the present Government.
I want to say a few words about the coal industry, because, however much atomic energy and other sources of power are developed, it is quite clear that for the foreseeable future this country in the main will depend basically on coal for its fuel and power. However much we mechanise the coal industry—and it has been mechanised to a tremendous degree in the last few years—we shall still need manpower in the pits.
It is true that at present—and this will be increasingly so as the years go by—the miners are seeking new outlets not only for themselves but for their sons. I speak as the son of a miner when I say that there was a time when the miners in general had no alternative but to put their sons into the pits. It was the miner's greatest ambition then to keep his son out of the pits. That is not so true today, but there is still a large element who possess that ambition. They want to see their sons outside the mining industry if possible and increased opportunities for placing them elsewhere are there as compared with pre-war days.
1058 That is one of the reasons we have to accept the fact that we cannot expect recruitment to the mining industry to come exclusively from the mining villages and communities. The greater educational facilities that are provided now and the greater opportunities in other industries are all tending to lead to a switching of the labour force in Scotland and in the United Kingdom. We would all be prepared to admit that mobility of labour has never been very great at any time. It is a difficult thing for a family to take up its roots and go elsewhere, and for that reason, if mobility of labour is to be increased, there must be greater attractions for those who have to pull up their roots and go and live somewhere else.
That is precisely the problem we are facing in Scotland today. We have the developing mining areas in Fife, Midlothian and Ayrshire and we have the declining areas in the west. We have to attract the labour from the west to those developing mining areas in the east. Where that has been done, there has been a relatively small degree of discontent, largely because it has been carried through by planning organised by the National Coal Board, the planning which hon. Members opposite deplore. There has been very little upheaval, and the smoothness of the switching has been largely accomplished because of cooperation between the National Coal Board, the Government and the local authorities.
We have got to the position in the east of Scotland—and now I am referring particularly to my own constituency in Fife—where coalmining development has gone fairly smoothly, although here there is no room for complacency or basking in the sunshine of the present period of prosperity without any attention being paid to the clouds on the horizon. It is as well to remember that fundamental changes have been taking place in the thinking of the miner in the last few years. The miners and their wives have been tasting the fruits of security and social justice in a way undreamt of in years gone by. They like the taste and they are asking for more. Without necessarily holding the nation up to ransom, they are asking for the rewards of their labour, not necessarily in wages, 1059 alone. When I speak of the mining community and improved conditions, I have not in mind only the wages of the man who digs the coal, I am thinking also of the working conditions, the living conditions, the social conditions of his wife and children, because to my mind the wife of the miner is more important than the miner himself.
Time was when those people lived in isolated communities. To a great extent they were regarded as an inferior class apart. The community in general regarded the sons of miners as automatic recruits to the mining industry, whose only hope was that a slump would not come next year or the year after and make it a distressed area, as we used to call the Development Areas. I happen to have come from one and I know what it is like to live there.
The mining communities are now rightly demanding more variety in their surroundings, more variety amongst their neighbours. It is not good for a miner or his neighbour, or even for the nation, that his next-door neighbour on either side should be a miner also. Indeed, one of the awful things about the old mining community was that the only topic of conversation was shop. They could only talk about the mining industry because there was no variety in the social set-up of the community—
§ Mr. Hamilton
Yes, as my hon. Friend says, the same applies here; we are always talking shop, and it is not a good thing. The mining communities, therefore, are asking rightly for diversity in industry and in opportunity, and if we are to increase the mobility of labour in Scotland, those things must be provided in increasing quantities if recruits to the mining industry are to be brought in from outside.
The National Coal Board cannot do all these things, although it has done a good deal, nor can the local authorities, nor, indeed, can the Government. The co-operation of all three bodies is needed, as well as action by all three, and conscious planning. I will take an example from Fife, not as a constituency point but because it has a lesson for the nation. In Fife we have one of the most important developing coalfields 1060 in Scotland. That coal is recognised on all sides as being of vital importance to the economy of the United Kingdom, and miners must be attracted into Fife to an increasing degree.
It is essential to attract them, first, by houses, and we have done well with providing incoming miners with houses. Secondly, they want social amenities. One of the first questions a potential incoming miner asks is what the amenities are like and whether they are as good as those he is leaving. Far too often he cannot be given that assurance. He then asks about employment for his family and about the educational facilities. It is the ambition of all of us, miners and Members of this House, that our sons and daughters shall have a much better opportunity, educationally and in every other way, than we have had ourselves. So that is one of the questions that the incoming miner into Fife is asking.
Through circumstances outside my control, I was not able to make this point on educational matters in Fife in our debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. The Fife Director of Education, who is not well known for his support of the Labour Party, said in early February that the staffing situation in Fife schools had reached a perilous position and that it was at its lowest ebb. I see the Joint Under-Secretary of State looking at you, Mr. Macpherson, in the hope that you will rule me out of order, but my point is that the incoming miner is anxious about educational facilities for his children and in Fife these are far from satisfactory and are no incentive to the incoming miner. That is why in the Scottish Grand Committee I pleaded for an increased allocation of capital for education in Scotland. Any other suggested solution to that problem is merely toying with it.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Henderson Stewart)
If by that the hon. Gentleman means a need for further schools, he will be aware that the education plan for the country, which I approved on behalf of my right hon. Friend, was regarded by the Fife Education Authority as highly satisfactory. I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows that.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Of course I know it. I am only quoting the man who knows the position probably better than the hon. 1061 Gentleman, the Director of Education, who said that Scottish education was at its lowest ebb at this moment. Therefore, I say frankly that if we are to get the miners into Fife one of the things that should receive increased attention is the educational facilities for miners' children.
Now I come to the question of the provision of increased social amenities in the mining communities, the provision of halls, of playing fields, of bowling greens, of tennis courts and the like. That is important, but most important is the diversification of industry, which has been the main theme of this debate so far.
As the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said this afternoon, in what I thought was a grievously disappointing speech, the prosperity of the country rests on our basic industries. That is true, but it is as well to bear in mind also that the social health and the spiritual health of the country need the provision of balanced communities. It is bad for the individual, it is bad for the locality, and it is bad socially for the country to have communities formed of members of one industry only, who are interested in and can talk only of one industry, and who never get outside it, for one reason or another. I think that is bad from every point of view—individually and nationally.
The Government have been provided in Fife with a wonderful opportunity to experiment in this direction. There is in Fife one of the two new towns in Scotland, Glenrothes, a bold social experiment which was embarked upon under the previous Administration. The present Administration are now reaping the benefit in the form of completed houses, but we do not begrudge them that, although I think it is fair to point out that the Joint Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson Stewart), who has momentarily left his place, was not too enthusiastic about the experiment and very often put Questions in the House about the use of valuable agricultural land that was being taken up by this new town.
I always felt that the answer to that argument was that we should forget about the agricultural crops that might have been produced from that land and think of the valuable crop of citizens who will 1062 be produced in these new towns. In Glenrothes we are finding that a community is growing up which is now 5,000 strong. The big question mark, and the big question being asked by the people in Glenrothes at the moment, is, "How long have we to wait for the Government to take action to get some new industry into the area?" The whole purpose of the new town was to make it a self-contained unit, with its own industry. Sites are available there. The town has a working population which is now fairly small but which it is estimated will eventually be about 6,000.
Assuming that the new colliery of Rothes will take 2,500, that leaves 3,500 working people for other industries, many of them women and young girls, maybe the wives and daughters of the incoming miners who are asking, "Where is my girl going to get a job?" There is not a very encouraging answer at the moment. I believe that the Government ought to take action now in this respect. It is no use for the Government to say that there is no unemployment problem there. Surely the Government must take a long-term view of these matters.
The colliery of Rothes, let me say in passing, was begun in 1946 and will not produce coal until 1956. It will have taken 10 years. Hon. Members opposite who talk about the terrific amount of capital sunk in the coal-mining industry with no very good return to show for it should bear in mind the fact that 10 years will have elapsed from the time when the sinking of the colliery was begun before any coal comes out of it. It will be the biggest colliery in Scotland and certainly the most expensive one there when it is in operation.
Although there will be an increased labour force there, there are private business interests in Fife pouring cold water on the idea of bringing new light industry into Glenrothes because they—the industrialists in Kirkcaldy and elsewhere—fear, rightly or wrongly, that if new industry is brought into that new town it will discourage people from going into their factories. They have a vested interest in the status quo. I hope that the Government will not pay too much regard to that kind of antiquated view and that the President of the Board of Trade will realise that these developing mining areas could and 1063 should have some kind of incentive to attract industry into them.
It is no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that if we are to have Development Areas and give them advantages, then we cannot have other areas with other advantages also. Of course we can. I am not saying that we must take from the Development Areas and give to the developing areas, but I do say that some kind of incentive should be given to private industry to go into the developing areas without necessarily making that advantage as great as is given to a Development Area.
The Development Area policy has been extended beyond reasonable limits. It is foolish to attract light industry into areas in which the main industry is obviously declining. The whole balance of the Scottish economy, the whole weight and focus of Scottish industry, is moving from the west to the east. I think of the developing mining areas of Fife, of Clackmannan and Midlothian. These are the areas on which the future of Scotland largely depends. That is why I urge the Government, the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Scotland to look now at the possibility of providing some incentive to industrialists to bring their industries into the town of Glenrothes, industries connected with the coalmining industry, light engineering, and clothing, it may be.
The right hon. Gentleman should take heed of the obvious disquiet now apparent in Fife, which was put quite clearly in the Cairnoross Report—the Government were far too off-hand in their rejection of the recommendations of the Cairncross Report—and I urge the right hon. Gentleman to pay greater heed to the prospects and future of the developing mining areas.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
This meeting of Scottish Members strikes me as being rather like the old-fashioned game of "musical chairs." Each of us says our little party piece and then disappears. It seems apparent that the greater proportion of those remaining in the Chamber are those who, like myself, have not yet made a speech; there are exceptions, and I am well aware of them.
1064 I congratulate the Secretary of State, despite what has been said to the contrary, on presenting the best report that we have probably heard in this House. Since we heard his speech there has been a good deal of comment in many directions, but I do not think that anything should dull our quite clear apprehension of the fact that it is the best report we have had on Scotland in the lifetime of this Parliament or of any Parliament. The position as regards employment, production and development of Scotland is set forth, quite rightly, in glowing terms.
I was glad to hear the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), who is not in his place at the moment, make a very fair and just appraisal of the circumstances. He indicated very clearly that this has not been a matter for which one party or another can claim the credit, that the present Minister based what he did on his predecessor and that they and their post-war predecessors based themselves on the very remarkable unity in Scotland originated by Thomas Johnston in the Scottish Council of Industry.
§ Miss Herbison
I am sorry to disturb the wonderful unity about which the hon. Member spoke, but is he aware that the unemployment figures in Scotland for June this year were higher than in 1951?
§ Sir W. Darling
That is quite correct, but the figure is not so serious as to warrant a depressing view even on the part of the hon. Lady. I say that the overall picture presented is agreeable and satisfactory, and if that view is not shared by the hon. Lady it was expressed by her right hon, colleague who spoke fairly and justly of the excellent picture which the Report presented.
I was grateful that the right hon. Gentleman was able to make reference to me. I was for seven years chairman of the Scottish Council of Industry. It was a very different business in those days. There was not the happy harmony between both sides of the House. The then Secretary of State, Mr. Thomas Johnston, asked me to be chairman and said, "You are the second choice of everyone, and the first choice of none. The Socialists will not have A; the Tories will not have B." The banks, the insurance companies, the chambers of commerce and lastly the trade unionists came forward to bring this practical piece 1065 of machinery into operation. It was conceived in the mind of a Socialist Secretary of State in a Coalition Government and the good time we have had in Scotland today is definitely related to it. I was glad, therefore, to hear the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for East Stirling-shire, make his reference.
I recall others that were with us in this matter. There was William Elgar who rendered invaluable public service. There was Willie Gallagher—not the former Member for West Fyfe—
§ Sir W. Darling
—but the man who, as the hon. Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) remarks, represented the Cooperative movement. We were supported by Lord Elgin, Sir James Lithgow, Mr. J. Gibson-Kerr and Mr. Christopher Macrae. I take this opportunity to mention these matters, because I think it a good thing to remember—although perhaps it was a fortuitous piece of fate—that Scottish development and the success we enjoy today takes its root from this event. I put it on record that in my opinion the efforts of the Scottish Council have been fostered by all the Secretaries of State for Scotland, including the present right hon. Gentleman.
I would emphasise that this success is due, not to a party view, but by the collaboration of industry, the trade unions, and financial and other interests. Because, in the first instance, it was the banks who put up the funds, for the benefit of Scotland. These things cannot be started without financial aid and the funds were provided by interests which are looked upon by hon. Gentlemen opposite as capitalist interests. I am glad of the opportunity to put it on record—
§ Sir W. Darling
Wherever the banks got it from, they provided it for the success of Scotland, and it is enormously to their credit, and I am glad—
§ Sir W. Darling
If the hon. Member for Tradeston thinks that banks lend money at 25 per cent. interest 1066 he lives in a world of his own imagination. Interest at 25 per cent. is usurers' charges, and I have never been familiar with that—
§ Sir W. Darling
I shall not give way to the hon. Member to listen to such nonsense. It is a lot of tommy rot. He knows quite well that the banks do not lend money at 25 per cent. anywhere, or for any commercial interest, and he will not get away with that—
§ Sir W. Darling
If I am misrepresenting the hon. Gentleman I am doing it less effectively than he does himself. The dividend paid by most Scottish banks is only from 16 per cent. to 18 per cent. interest on capital—
§ Sir W. Darling
I am giving this information so that the hon. Member may have on opportunity of learning something from my speech.
I come now to the speech of the hon. Member for Kircaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard), and his observations link up with those of the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) who, I notice, has just escaped from the Chamber. The last two speakers made a similar reference—it looks as if it is the party line—to the great troubles in the mines and the difficulties which the miners are experiencing. The hon. Member for Kircaldy Burghs warned us not to say anything to hurt the feelings of the miners. That is not my experience of the miners. I consider that they live in a more robust world than that of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy.
On Thursday he said:…although coal is a national question, the pay of the miners in Scotland is lower than in many places south of the Border."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 732.]Well, I was not responsible for the National Coal Board, or for the nationalising of the mines. I was against it all the time. But the hon. Member for Fife, West, as did the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs, complained that apparently nationalisation has failed; that it pleases no one. I learn from the newspapers that Scottish coal losses are £1 million, the 1067 worst in Britain. I think it unfortunate if the situation is as serious as the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs says it is. I agree with him. Let us denationalise the coal industry and do away with the National Coal Board. Let us do what we are endeavouring to do with the railways, and put the management a little nearer to the producer. Is that the drift of the argument of the two hon. Members?
This argument is very marked. It runs like a thread through the speeches of hon. Members opposite; the shortage of miners, the deficiency in the mining industry, its incompetence, and the undue losses, are somehow vaguely chargeable to anyone but the miners. I think it is the responsibility of those running the industry to run it efficiently. There is nothing to be gained by concealing this fact, and I am sorry that the bon. Gentlemen endeavoured to do so—
§ Mr. Hughes
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to losses in the coal industry. If there are losses they are due to the fact that high compensation was paid to the former owners.
§ Sir W. Darling
I shall not go into that, except to say that the high compensation paid to former owners was at the behest of the collectivists. I should not have paid them anything. The coal owners should have worked out their own salvation. I think they were doing it very well. If that had happened, we should not today have heard the complaints voiced by the hon. Member for Fife, West about the fact that it is taking 10 years, to sink a pit—which will not pay unless the wives of the miners have alternative opportunities of employment.
I should have left the mines with the coal owners and not paid them the extravagant price which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite paid them. We might then have had a healthier coal industry today. At any rate, I am entitled to say so, because we have not a healthy industry today. The whole of Scottish industry is bedevilled by this one unfortunate example. It is the one industry which is not doing what we should 1068 like it to do. Other industries seem to be going fairly well, but not that one. I regret the observations made by the hon. Member for Fife, West and the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs; and those which will shortly be made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). They will tell me that all is well in the coal industry and that nationalisation is a good thing—
§ Sir W. Darling
It is, of course, flattering to me to be asked questions of that kind. It reveals a faith in my ability to give to hon. Members financial figures ranging over the whole history of the mining industry. I must confess that I do not know the answer. It would have been known by "Datas" the memory man, but since then we have never had anyone like him.
All this talk by Socialist Members opposite about the disadvantages, and the difficulties, and the problems, does not camouflage the fact that centralisation has broken down. To use the words of H. G. Wells, mankind is at the end of his tether. I thought of that when listening to the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan). There he was, my gallant young friend, brought up in the Socialist manner, making a speech which lasted half an hour—but which seemed longer—engaged in telling us that the whole state of Socialism had broken down.
He was reaching out for the philosophy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) who, in his eloquent speech, dealt with a subject which was enjoyable to the hon. Member for Maryhill. My right hon. Friend dealt with the future. He referred to the fact that we were on the edge of a social revolution such as mankind had probably never seen before. That is the kind of heaven which the hon. Member for Mary-hill loves to live in—divorced from the complexities and difficulties of the world which he finds that six or seven years of Socialism have failed to solve. No wonder he enjoyed the speech of my right hon. Friend.
1069 I agree with my right hon. Friend that Scotland is uniquely placed. It has got coal. It can import oil cheaper than coal. It has peat and it has got wind. Very interesting experiments are being carried out in the Pentland Firth with wind. Also, it has water. In no such small area in the world is there such a concentration of alternative sources of power. These alternative sources are all in Scotland and all are being used in a lively and fruitful fashion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove was right to point that out, especially as we also have the other source of power—the development of atomic energy.
I come to the question of the development of industry, in which I have been deeply interested for many years. I fully agree with those who say that this is a matter in which public opinion is now ripe. We are fully informed. One-third of this island is Scotland. In that one-third there is only one-tenth of the population. This is what we have to bring home to—as far as the majority is concerned—this English House of Commons. The electors of England and the representatives of the English constituencies have not recognised that one-third of the land is occupied by 5 million people.
It is important that in any concept of the redistribution of industry we should have that fact continually before us. If there is anything to be gained, and some think that it is doubtful, from the unity of Government—the fact that England, Scotland and Wales are in one country—it is that we can look at this problem in a unified fashion. Here in London something like 15 million or 16 million people have been crowded together during the last 100 years to the detriment of the whole country. This folly as Scots Members know and agree, is being continued now and it has been going on in spite of two wars.
It is imperative on national grounds that we should convince this House of Commons—although very few representatives of English and Welsh constituencies are present—of the importance of spreading the population. The fact that one-third of the island is occupied by 5 million people is a national challenge. To place the brains, the wealth and the substance of the United Kingdom into the part of the island in which we are now is to stage a danger from every point of view industrial and strategic.
1070 One was struck by what was said by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) when he referred to the unhappiness and misery of people living in crowded towns. Will the Secretary of State for Scotland consult the Convention of Royal Burghs? There are over 110 burghs in Scotland with a population of less than 10,000. Why make any new towns and create the problems of Glenrothes? Why not revive the existing burghs. They all have their officials, their sewage systems, water works and apparatus of government.
In place of new towns have the Government any device in mind to stimulate these 110 burghs into health and happiness? If they had, distribution of the population would follow. In this connection I have two practical suggestions to make. One is that the housing subsidy should be used as an instrument of development and dispersal. If housing subsidies were withdrawn from the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh and given only to those local authorities with populations of 10,000 or less, the subsidies could be used as an instrument for the redistribution of population.
Where houses are provided population will follow, and if population follows then industry will follow. One must start somewhere, and that is one way in which it could be done. What created London? It was the vast ramifications of the so-called speculative builder. He built and built and, up to 25 years ago, there were always more houses than applicants. It was the vast amount of building which created this amazing wen which is now crowded and doubly crowded until no industry can exist unless it is based on London. The housing subsidy should be used as an instrument for the redistribution of population.
There are other methods. The Chancellor of the Exchequer heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton) that there might be a remission or a lowering of Income Tax in certain areas, as was done in the Isle of Man. That is the second suggestion.
The third suggestion is that there should be direct Government action. Why have we not got in Scotland a Salisbury Plain or an Aldershot, a Chatham, a Plymouth or a Portsmouth? 1071 Why have we got only Prestwick? The Government by placing their influence and resources in certain areas successfully lead to development in those places. I was delighted to learn that a section of the Inland Revenue is now at Worthing, and very happy there. I am glad to learn that there is some decentralisation. When the right hon. Lady the Member for Fulham, West (Dr. Summerskill) was Minister the Ministry of National Insurance moved a section to Newcastle. Why should not more Government Departments be moved out of London?
What is the Forestry Commission doing in Savile Row, where they make men's clothes? It should be in one of the largest forest areas of the country. It may be said that it would not be convenient for civil servants and Ministers to live out of London, but they should take their charm and personality into the Scottish burghs and the social standing of those burghs would rise accordingly.
For strategic reasons, we must spread out the population. We must distribute the population as widely as possible or calamity will follow and, in that day, the population will flee from Sodom and Gomorrah and find Coupar and Buckie. I feel deeply on this subject. Scotland has a contribution to make and we must tell the English people what we have to offer. We offer them a splendid climate. The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), with fine English eloquence, said that he had been happier since he left Birmingham to live in Clydebank. That is the story which we should spread.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State should tell his English colleagues that he will not sanction any further expenditure of Government money, except for the maintenance of the existing fabric, in this part of the island in which we are now, because the more he sanctions that the more he is adding to the dangers and burdens of the people of England and Wales and the more he is likely to attract the attention of the enemy. We have been told in another connection that we must redeploy our troops out of the Canal Zone. The Canal and the 60,000 troops form a terrible target which no enemy could resist. If the redeployment of the Army out of Suez in the South-East 1072 corner of the Mediterranean is desirable because it is a terrible target, what about the Valley of the Thames?
During two wars these brave Londoners stood up to it, but I doubt if they would stand up to it for a third time. We should think about the matter now and my right hon. Friend, when talking to the Cabinet about redistribution of industry, should say that the people should leave the tents of Sodom and Gomorrah for the security, safety and salubrious surroundings of Scotland. There we have plenty of space, and a great opportunity, a great culture and a great country.
The alteration in the Income Tax was successful in the Isle of Man. The population there has increased by 25 per cent. since it became apparent that Income Tax was being kept at a low level. If houses are provided and the Income Tax is altered, the problems of the redistribution of industry will be successfully solved.
I could say something about the Forth Road Bridge, but this and other problems will be solved when we get the surplus population from England safely housed in Scotland. Then industry will flow, success will follow, and the Secretary of State will add yet another to the distinguished triumphs presented in the Report.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. Forman (Glasgow, Springburn)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the remarks which he has made.
I want to put a very important constituency point to the Secretary of State for Scotland. The North British Locomotive Co. is one of the principal locomotive industries in Britain. It has had 80 years' experience, and turns out a very excellent product notwithstanding that I worked for the firm for about 17 years.
In one of its principal establishments it is faced with the necessity to pay off all the workpeople by the end of this year. Skilled craftsmen are at present being paid off and lost to this important industry. The British Locomotive Manufacturers' Association is so worried about the situation that it has met the Minister of State, Board of Trade, on two occasions within the last six months. I have had several interviews with the right 1073 hon. Gentleman, and he has been most helpful and has given me the greatest assistance and any information at his disposal.
The locomotive industry is faced with the situation that its traditional markets are freezing up and the new markets available to it have certain restrictions which I believe ought to be lifted as speedily as possible. The locomotive industry has worked for many years on orders placed by the Agentine, South Africa, India and Australia. Now Australia not only manufactures her own locomotives, but was recently able to accept an order from Pakistan for locomotives.
India recently had an order for 400 locomotives to place, and Germany was able to quote £3,500 less than the British figure. This is a mad world. Part of our war policy was to bomb industry in Western Germany. When the war finished, American interests went into Western Germany offering very good credits. The Germans bought the very latest machinery from America. They were thus able not only to plan their factories, a very important point in engineering, but also to use the very latest machinery for the production of locomotives. In addition, they had certain State assistance. We have been assured by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury that the State assistance will not be discontinued until the end of 1956.
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. Heathcoat Amory)
I think that my right hon. Friend said that it was the end of 1955.
§ Mr. Forman
I was present during that debate, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) put the point specifically to the Financial Secretary, who informed the House that the Chancellor had met the German authorities at Bonn and that the indication which he had got was that the State assistance would be continued until the end of 1956.
Not only are the Germans in a favoured position in having State assistance and the very latest plant; they have had no rearmment problem. The result is that they have been able to get material immediately they required it. British locomotive manufacturers have been in difficulties in this respect. They 1074 have had to quote delivery dates very much behind those of their competitors from Germany, Austria and Japan. The British price has also been very much greater. The North British Locomotive Co. has stated that the reason for the higher price has been that for days on end it has had to keep skilled men idle because it could not get steel plates.
The Ministry of Supply erred in not keeping a proper balance between rearmament and the exports which have been so necessary for the life of the country. It might have had to take a risk, but I think that if a better balance had been kept the engineering industry in general would have been in a very much better position and would have been better able to keep its delivery dates.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) accompanied the managing director of the North British Locomotive Co. to Moscow a year or 18 months ago. At talks on trade the managing director was assured that Russia was prepared to place an order for about 1,200 locomotives. He was also told by the Chinese trade delegation that it might be able to place an order for 500. If action had been taken to speed up such orders coming to this country it would have been of the greatest possible value to us.
The Board of Trade has since stated that Russia is no longer interested in placing such orders. There may be a reason for that. We have been tied up because licences have not been granted timeously. What happens is that orders are placed to await licences, the licences are not forthcoming, and the orders fall through.
We have had a statement from the President of the Board of Trade about East-West trade, and he went to Washington recently in that connection. The House ought to know that about £40 million worth of orders are lying with the Board of Trade waiting for licences. Russia is able to place many engineering orders. The Minister will know that Russia could place orders for compressors, but delivery dates cannot be given because we are unable to cope with the orders on the basis of the licences which the Board of Trade grants.
It seems to me that, in the interests of the locomotive industry in Scotland, we ought to do our utmost to speed up East- 1075 West trade. No wonder the Prime Minister, when discussing the question of East-West trade, spoke of the wonderful vista which just seems to be lying around the corner, and I am quite sure that he had in mind the fact that there is a tremendous number of orders for engineering and other products which Russia is prepared to place with this country.
Russia can, within reason, meet all the orders which she places here from her gold reserves, and we have also had the Chinese trade delegation at the House last week assuring some of my colleagues that they also can back up very many orders indeed with gold and dollars. That was the statement which they made last week.
I know it is not entirely the responsibility of the Government, because they must act with other Governments in connection with security arrangements and the granting of licences, but the sooner this stranglehold on British trade is lifted the better it will be for the locomotive industry in Scotland and for trade in general.
A very important delegation will wait upon the Minister of State, Board of Trade, the Minister of Supply and at least another Minister on Wednesday next to put to them many points relating to what I have been saying, and if the Minister thinks that he would prefer to wait until Wednesday, when he sees the full deputation, in order to reply to the points I have raised today, I am content to leave it at that. I certainly think that something should be done to assist the industry. The Export Credits Guarantee Department may be used, and the Ministry of Supply might assist whenever a firm receives an order by seeing to it that they are allowed to proceed, instead of being held up by lack of materials.
There is a new development in the locomotive industry. Some countries, for one reason or another, though they are probably very few in number, have decided to change from steam to diesel locomotives, and it has been suggested that sooner or later the locomotive industry as a whole will require to change over to this new form of power. I put it to the Minister that where we still have a demand for steam locomotives—and it will probably continue for some years to come—it is desirable that we should keep 1076 at least one good plant in operation so as to be able to fulfil any orders that might come in, and I would suggest that there is none which is better able to turn out this particular type of locomotive than the firm in my constituency to which I have already referred.
On behalf of the skill that lies behind this industry, may I say that I hope that the Government will see that the industry receives all the assistance that it is possible for them to give it.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
I am sure the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Forman) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his remarks about the locomotive industry, which very naturally is of considerable interest to his constituency.
I should like to return to the main theme of this debate, which has been the distribution of industry, and to take the Committee away from that over-populated area, about which we have heard so much today as well as on Thursday last, which is situated in mid-Scotland. to the wide open spaces of the Crofter Counties, which, after all, represent 65 per cent. of Scotland, and to Ross and Cromarty, which has only one-eighth of the population of the industrial belt of Scotland.
I do not want to see the Crofter Counties—indeed, I do not think they ever will be—turned into a black country, but I do believe that we should have more industry in Scotland, apart from the basic industries of agriculture, fishing and afforestation. I do not believe that it spoils the country to have a fairly large factory outside a burgh. We have heard a lot today about Loch Lomond, and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), who opened the debate today, spoke about its beauties. I do not think that we have spoiled Loch Lomond by having a hydro-electric scheme in that vicinity; indeed, I should like to congratulate the Hydro-Electric Board on the manner in which they have carried out the scheme and the splendid designs which they have chosen for their power houses, and so on.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) remarked on Thursday on the lopsided distribution of industry in Scotland. I supported the right hon. Gentleman at 1077 the time when he was Secretary of State for Scotland and was responsible for getting a Development Area designated in the Highlands, which is now known as the Highland Development Area. Unfortunately, we can leave out the word "development" from its title, because there has been virtually none in the area.
I believe that, if we must have—and we always will have—shipyards and coalfields in the industrial belt, our heavy industries will naturally be located there also, but now in the North of Scotland we have not only hydro-electric schemes but the new reactor station in Caithness. I think we have all agreed that there is a possible source of power for the future with tremendous potentialities, and that it is up to the Government to co-operate with industrialists and to advise them on what use can be made of that power nearer to the source of supply. We have heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvin-grove (Mr. Elliot) referring to the wastage that takes place in the use of coal, but, after all, there is also a considerable wastage taking place in the country in regard to electricity, although I support the claim that is made for the extension of electric power in the Highlands, which provides the amenities which are so necessary to get the population to stay, and consequently the industries. We must look ahead to the day when we can make more use of that electric power in the North.
Have the Government thought of what may happen when these hydro-electric schemes come to an end, in probably seven or at the most 10 years? Let us look at the labour position to start with. On the mainland of Ross-shire, one-eighth of the male working population is engaged in hydro-electric schemes, and so is one man in six in the principal burghs and villages. The cessation of these schemes will bring about a greater depopulating effect in the Highlands than we have seen in the rural areas.
The burghs are in a fairly healthy state at the moment, but it was shown in the last Census that most rural areas are becoming depopulated. It is in just those areas that a lot of the working population are employed just now. The Census figures included people who are working there and who came from the South. When these schemes finish, the depopu- 1078 lation will be greater than it is today. There are contractors in the localities who have built up their businesses because of the employment they have been able to get on the hydro-electric schemes. It is now time for the Government to look ahead and see how people will be employed in the near future.
I would make one suggestion. I direct the attention of the Minister to the pamphlet which has just come out and which was produced by the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) and entitled "Dolomite in Scotland." I will read one or two passages from this excellent Report. On page 6 I read:The most extensive dolomite deposits in Scotland are found in the North Western Highlands in a formation well-known to geologists all over the world.Further down, it says:There is a growing interest in Scottish dolomite, particularly in the Highland deposits. This is probably because it has been realised that the natural resources of the Highlands have better opportunities than hitherto of being developed as a result of the provision of electric power by the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, and that the establishment of permanent mineral industries would help to transform the declining economy of the Highlands and, in a wider field, would be an asset to the economy of the country as a whole.Those words excite the imagination. I am glad to learn that the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) have produced other pamphlets, from which we see that the mineral resources of the Highlands have great potentialities. I should like to read one or two other passages, and particularly one relating to fertilisers. It says:The Agricultural Lime Department (U.K.) allows dolomite to rank equally with limestone for agricultural use, and the effectiveness of dolomite for neutralising the soil is now recognised, particularly "—and this point is important in the Highland region—where the acidity is high.That refers to the possibility of using dolomite to spread on and to improve the land and thereby to obviate the tremendous transport charges now paid to bring fertilisers to the Highlands. Everybody knows that lime is one of the most necessary fertilisers for the acid land of the North.
I should like to quote one other passage which is tied up with the remarks which I have been making about the distribution 1079 of industry in Scotland. We have heard from the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) about the overspill from Glasgow. I read in this Report:Labour in this district is at present scarce, since most of the men have left to work on hydro-electric schemes, afforestation, and other projects. It is thought that many of them would prefer to return to work at Loch Kishorn if continuous occupation were offered in quarrying and transporting dolomite required for refractory purposes. A magnesium industry would require much more manpower, and this would involve the large-scale recruitment of labour from outside.We should try to get some of the labour from the South. After all, there is a tremendous amount of it in Glasgow alone among people of Highland descent who I know are only too willing to return to the land of their forefathers if they have an opportunity to do so. The Report goes on:Kishorn would probably be the most suit-table place in Scotland for establishing a magnesium plant and for obtaining a limited supply of refractory dolomite. The presence of quartzite deposits in the district … in conjunction with power supplies centred on Grudie Bridge would be of special advantage for the production of ferrosilicon for magnesium manufacture.These are exciting things and should be taken note of by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the President of the Board of Trade. Unfortunately, they are outside the present Development Area in the Highlands, but that will not detract from the possibility of encouraging industrialists to make use of the dolomite deposits. At the present time the Hydro-Electric Board is also helping to produce houses built of stone quarried in the area. I hope that will continue after the hydroelectric schemes are finished.
Quite recently, the Joint Under-Secretary of State came to my constituency and cut the first sod in connection with a housing scheme which is going forward in co-operation with the Forestry Commission, the Hydro-Electric Board and the county council. I would like to see more of that work being done in Scotland, and also fuller co-operation with the Forestry Commission concerning the use of its products.
I am glad to see that in his Report the Secretary of State says that he wants to see more wood-using industries set up nearer the forestry areas. This may be looking 10 or 20 years ahead, but it is up to the Government to look as far 1080 ahead as possible where the Highlands are concerned.
The things that I have so far mentioned are long-term projects, and I now wish to refer to one industry which we are trying to get started in the Development Area, that is, the fish meal industry at Avoch, in Ross-shire. The Secretary of State and the Joint Under-Secretary both know something about it, and one would have thought that they and the Board of Trade would be falling over themselves to get this industry going.
What has happened? A private firm from Hull were desirous of starting a fish meal factory in conjunction with an animal foodstuffs factory, but the Herring Industry Board appeared to put every obstacle in its way. When Inverness refused to provide the heavy plant, this private company came forward and said that it was willing to develop the industry in the area.
The Herring Industry Board agreed to a 10-ton per hour plant, and the private firm in question thought that it had at last got over its difficulties. Then it was decided to reduce it to a 5-ton per hour plant because the Herring Industry Board was using foreign-owned factory ships around our Scottish coasts. In view of that, the firm then said, "This is too much of a risk. We do not think that we can operate on such a small scale." However, I am very glad to learn that the Herring Industry Board has decided to put up a factory on condition that the local authority provides a pier in the area.
I hope that the Government will put no obstacle in the way of the provision of that pier, and that they will give a 100 per cent. grant in order to provide it, so that we can get this meal factory. I submit that the Herring Industry Board has placed itself under an obligation to the community in this Development Area. I know that the local farmers are prepared to co-operate. They hope that they will be given the "know-how" from the Board which they were to have obtained from the private company, and that the Secretary of State will do everything he can to encourage the development of this industry in the area.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) will forgive me if I do not 1081 follow him along the line on which he embarked. However, I wish to congratulate him on his conversion to Socialist effort, and I hope that, in due course, he will see his way to follow his convictions and to cross the Floor of the House.
I shall try to be as brief as I possibly can. I have listened to a great many fairly long speeches, but I shall try to break the record for brevity, although there are one or two things that I want to say. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) has not found it convenient to remain amongst us after delivering his speech. I hope that the wind to which he referred when he was speaking is not following him in the place to which he may now have gone.
Tonight I wish to make a non-party speech. I shall seek to offer as little provocation as I can, because on the two matters on which I wish to speak I hope to see both sides of the Committee united. I refer to the Renfrew maintenance base and to the Clyde tunnel. With regard to the Clyde tunnel, I thought that, although it is not his immediate province, the President of the Board of Trade might have indicated his view. After all, if we are seeking to produce more goods, it is surely obvious that we should try to distribute those goods more quickly than at present. From the agreement which he is manifesting in that regard, I should imagine that the right hon. Gentleman is a vigorous supporter of the Clyde tunnel project.
Before embarking on my major theme, I should like to deal with a constituency point. On page 36 of the Report the Government point out that ship-building this year has gone up by 3 per cent. on last year. Production has risen from about 454,000 tons to over 477,000 tons. Of course we welcome that, but when one reads that part of the Report more carefully there is a note in it which, quite frankly, I do not like. In the second paragraph it states that, of the total tonnage, that represented by tankers has risen from 45 per cent. last year to 54 per cent. this year.
So far as my own division and that represented by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. J. N. Browne) are concerned, that is a serious matter because the 1082 tanker does not provide for the finishing trades the work provided by the cargo ship. The chandlers and all the furnishers who are associated with the finishing work in connection with the cargo ship are not required for the tanker. Therefore, whilst in the Tradeston division we welcome the continued employment in the ship-building industry, I hope that the Government are keeping an eye on the fact that this continual rise in the production of tankers—while welcome from the general ship-building point of view—is not helpful to the great mass of small employers of labour in my division. It is about them that I must say a word tonight.
Here I want to dot the i's and cross the is of what my hon. Friend the Member for Springburn (Mr. Forman) said. This country is not only a great ship-building country but it has also played a major part in the carrying trade of the world, including the Far East. Anyone visiting Shanghai might imagine, on the water-front, that he was on the front at Liverpool. There are British shippers' offices all along the front there. That trade is carried in British cargo ships—I hope the President of the Board of Trade is listening—and it is obvious that if we are to place an impediment in the way of East-West trade, we shall slow down the building of these cargo ships and thus adversely affect the small people in my division.
Therefore, while I do not propose to develop that point, I hope that the President of the Board of Trade, in the agreement which he recently came to with Mr. Stassen, did not come to any decisions or conclusions which will be detrimental to the folk in Tradeston. I know that he will say that the committee that meets in Paris has the final say, but he knows that if Great Britain and the United States of America propose to define what strategic goods are, and ease the embargo, the other members of that committee will not offer any violent opposition.
I should have liked to refer to one or two other points, but time presses and I want to come to the question of Renfrew maintenance base. I notice in the Report this statement:A large establishment was set up a few years ago at Renfrew Airport to maintain and overhaul aircraft for the British European Airways Corporation.1083 That seems to be an exceptionally mild way of paying tribute to the great work which has been done by the maintenance staff at Renfrew Airport. I should have thought that a little more enthusiasm might have been shown about the maintenance base.
The whole of this debate has crystallised around two topics, one of which is that more industry should come to Scotland. Every speech that I have heard and read has emphasised the need for more industry to come to Scotland, and secondly, that it should be better distributed. I think it will be agreed that that has been the theme of these two days' discussions. While we are making that demand here from both sides of the Committee, the Government are actually thinking of taking industry away from Scotland—a big industry employing 600 men, an industry doing an efficient job and whose competence has never been challenged.
I do not want to indulge in too many quotations, but I think I am safe in saying that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation—I do not want to commit him—is now a little more convinced than he was in March of this year of the need for retaining the maintenance base at Renfrew. I do not want him to shake his head the wrong way; I do not want a circular movement. Nor do I want to put him on the spot. I want his co-operation, and I feel that we are getting it.
I know, of course, that the matter has now been referred to the B.E.A. and to the trade unions, but nothing can be done in the long run without Government consent—and the Government who say, "We want to bring more industry to Scotland and to distribute that industry more equitably throughout Scotland," will surely not be the Government who, at the same time, decide to take away a growing and important industry from Scotland. I leave it at that, because I am certain that the Parliamentary Secretary agrees with me in that sentiment.
May I next deal with the Clyde tunnel? Since the House had the chance of examining Scottish affairs a year ago just now, we have had the intimation front the Minister of Transport—in December—that the Government propose 1084 to go ahead with the construction of the Clyde tunnel. That was welcomed in all parts of the House. There is no disagreement in any quarter of the House about the need for that tunnel. The President of the Board of Trade, who must know the industrial side of Scottish affairs very well—I had the pleasure of his company in August when we looked at some Scottish projects—must have examined the need for the Clyde tunnel and must agree that there is a need.
This is the first chance we have had since the statement was made, of looking at the whole project. I do not want to go into the history in detail but briefly to point out some of the important things that have happened since the announcement was made in December. First of all, we had the trouble about the shields—how many shields were we to get? We had a great deal of argument about that and almost every Wednesday—or every Wednesday when we could get at the Minister—I put down Questions in order to find out the position.
The shields are no longer a problem. The Minister has decided that he will say no more about them. At the weekend he indicated that he would not persist in his attempts to get shields from Dartford, which means that the Government will now go ahead with the provision of shields for the boring of the Clyde tunnel, because we were promised that if we could not get the shields from Dartford the Government would themselves provide shields. The Government have accepted the position and have said to Dartford, "You say that you need your shields; very well, keep thorn." They must now fulfil the promise which was made in the House and must give to Glasgow the two shields which the consulting engineer, Sir William Halcrow, has said are necessary.
The consulting engineers have stated that if Glasgow gets only one shield, a distance of only 20 to 30 yards a month can be driven. This rate of progress would take three years and four months, and we have not yet even started the tunnel. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not take that view and that they will provide the two shields that are necessary if the work is to be done in a time that would be agreeable to the parties concerned.
1085 The second difficulty arose because the Minister said time and time again, "I am waiting for an estimate from Glasgow. I cannot do anything until I get Glasgow's estimate." Now the Minister has Glasgow's estimate and he has discovered as a result that the tunnel will cost £4,675,000, which is more than he expected. Why the figure should be more than the Minister expected is a mystery to me. Must we believe that when he rose at the Box on 19th December last year and said that he would give permission to build the tunnel, he never for one moment thought what it would cost? I do not believe that, and the Minister has no right to expect us to believe it.
The Minister should not express astonishment when the estimate that he gets from Glasgow is £4,675,000. Less reason has he to express astonishment because his officials must have advised him about the history of the matter. It is true that at one stage Glasgow said in its generosity, because of the shortage of steel and because of the difficulties in the building of the tunnel, that it would take only the one tunnel just then at a cost of £1,500,000; Glasgow said that in 1948. But it is also true—and the Minister knows this—that in 1947, the previous year, Glasgow submitted a firm estimate to the Minister that the twin tunnel project would cost £3 million.
The Minister has those figures. Surely he will not say that he did not know prices had risen between 1947 and 1954. These things were known, and it is not a matter of astonishment that something which in 1947 would have cost £3 million should cost £4¾ million in 1954. I hope, therefore, that finance will not be used as an excuse. The twin tunnels are absolutely necessary, and I hope that both sides of the Committee will unite and make this a Scottish question and will support the Secretary of State, who, according to my information, is carrying on a fight on behalf of Scotland to get the twin tunnel project endorsed by the Minister of Transport and the Cabinet. We must support the Secretary of State, for otherwise we will be landed in difficulty.
Let us look at what may happen. After the Whiteinch tunnel project there is another Scottish project that will demand equal attention—the Forth road bridge. 1086 Just as we have united east and west on behalf of the Whiteinch tunnel, I hope we shall be united on behalf of the Forth bridge.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
I hope that when my hon. Friend is developing this he will realise that an essential link in an east coast traffic system as well as the Forth road bridge is the Tay road bridge.
§ Mr. Rankin
The words of a well-known hymn come to mind "… one step enough for me." The tunnel just now is sufficient for my purpose. We do not want to get "… amid the encircling gloom." I wish my hon. Friend would not interrupt me, because I am batting against time. Time is not with me. I do not mind the debate going on, but my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) wants to start her speech at 9 o'clock and I want to conclude in time for that.
I want to say to my friends of both parties from the East of Scotland that, even when I was fighting for the Clyde tunnel project, every time I entered the ballot for a Motion in the House the subject I put down was the need for a Forth road bridge. We want to unite on that, and if we do not get the twin tunnel project now, then Glasgow is going to be faced with a battle for the second tunnel after this one is constructed. I do not think that in Scotland's interests we should allow a situation to be created where Glasgow will go on fighting for the other Whiteinch tunnel, while at the same time we are seeking to have the Forth road bridge approved for the east of Scotland.
We do not want to divide our forces. We want to remain united, and that is why I hoped to be able tonight to make a speech that would be non-provocative, that would unite both sides of the Committee in securing the attainment of two important Scottish projects, not merely local ones with mere local advantages, but something that will bring benefit nationally to Scotland. The Clyde tunnel will deal with traffic that goes right from the south of Scotland to the north and from the west to the north. It will relieve the streets of Glasgow of tremendous congestion, and it will preserve the lives of many citizens who at present go about these streets in danger of sudden and violent death.
1087 On Govan Road in my constituency there are 40 large vehicles passing every hour. Paisley Road has an even heavier rate of traffic, and these are the sort of places with which I am concerned. There is the commercial aspect, in which the Government and the Board of Trade are interested, but there is also this personal aspect of the matter. I hope that tonight we shall have a united expression from both sides of the Committee which will show that Scottish members on both sides are solid in their demand for the maintenance of the base at Renfrew and equally determined in their demand for the twin tunnel project under the Clyde.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
We are now nearing the end of a two-day debate that has covered many parts of Scotland, that has dealt with our basic industries and with our lighter industries, that has brought into it discussions of East-West trade and, finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Tradeston (Mr. Rankin) has brought again to the notice of the Government the two projects that we on this side of the Committee consider to be of great importance for Scotland.
During this debate praise has been given where praise is due, but I want to make it clear at the beginning that my speech will be anything but a non-controversial one. I say so because I feel it is of the greatest importance for our people that during a debate of this kind we should bring, as forcibly as lies within our power, to the notice of the Ministers in charge of Scottish affairs the fears, desires and the problems that are facing the Scottish people.
From both sides of the Committee there have been expressed clearly fears about the present and about the future. There has also been criticism which has come almost, but not wholly, from this side of the Committee. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) made a very good contribution to the debate the other day and I had the greatest sympathy with him, because during the past few years I have been in an exactly similar position as the one in which he has found himself in the last few months. Replying to the hon. Member, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour said: 1088I am sure that the hon. Member will go on pressing the claims of that particular area. From our point of view, it is a difficult area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 813.]Not another expression of hope came from the Minister of Labour and today, when the President of the Board of Trade spoke, there was still no hope of a solution of those problems that were expounded so well by the hon. Member for Banff. He was told by the Parliamentary Secretary to go on pressing. Whom had he to press? Surely the Government, but I would say from my experience of trying to press the Government on a number of issues that pressing the Government is like pressing a rubber ball—if you press your claims on it, immediately the pressure is eased the least little bit the ball resumes its round shape. Nothing else happens, no result comes, either for the North of Scotland or for the Lanarkshire area where these difficulties are so great.
I hope that in these next few months the people of Banff, the people of Lanarkshire and, indeed, all over Scotland, will press the ball so hard that it will not be able to resume its shape but will burst and, in bursting, return to the Treasury Bench Labour Ministers who will realise fully the problems with which they are faced.
We have so far in this debate listened to three Government spokesmen, not one of whom has done anything to dispel any of the fears that have been expressed from this side of the Committee. The Secretary of State spoke first, and he gave us little more than we had already read in Cmd. 9102; it was, indeed, just a survey of that Command Paper. I wish the Secretary of State would give Members credit for reading material that is available for debates. If he had done so, he could have used his time in the debate in a much more valuable way—to tell us what is the Government's policy for Scotland.
The very fact that he did not use his time in that way, but that he gave us information which we already had seems to me to show quite clearly that this Government have no policy whatever for Scotland. I then listened to two other Ministers, and they confirmed me in my idea that the Government have no policy for Scotland.
§ Miss Herbison
I shall deal with that point later in my speech.
Last year, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour said that what was wanted was new thinking. We all agreed with him. The Government have had a further year to think anew—[An HON. MEMBER: "One has to have brains to think."]—and the result today is there is not a single bit of evidence of the result of that thought. One of my hon. Friends suggests that one needs brains before one can think. I shall not accuse all the Ministers of having no brains, but I will say that if one is to think about a problem one has to get rid of old, preconceived notions, and we suspect that the preconceived notion of the Government is the great abhorrence they have of all forms of planning. It is because of that preconceived notion that anything which savours of planning is to be deprecated that we have had three speeches from three Ministers showing a dearth of any new ideas to deal with the problems that are facing our people.
No Government policy has emerged. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), who not only makes his own speech but sits and mutters in his place at the far end of the bench below the Gangway, suggests that the Secretary of State had a marvellous tale to tell. I would say to the Secretary of State—
§ Miss Herbison
I would say that it is much more by chance than by any good guidance on the part of the Government that the picture of Scotland today is not blacker than it is.
The Secretary of State had this to say last Thursday:… it is clear that we did not invest enough in our manufacturing industries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 15th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 718.]How true. It is a statement that has also had to be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it is mainly because of that statement, and what it means, that I criticise the Government as I do tonight. That statement means misery. It means hardship, and it may mean 1090 tragedy in the future for thousands of our people; thousands of honest, decent Scots people who want to do a good job, in spite of what has been said of them during this debate.
Our nationalised industries cannot have the same criticism levelled at them. They have shown to the private sector of industry that they have accepted a social responsibility, and are providing the capital investment which will not only make those nationalised industries prosper of themselves, but will make them play their full part in ensuring a good social and economic future for our people. Indeed, in spite of the flamboyant statements of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South—
§ Miss Herbison
I am not afraid of the size of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South.
So many of us, not only on this side of the Committee but on the other side as well—and certainly many people throughout Scotland—dread to think what would have happened to our nation if the coal industry had not been nationalised. We know only too well that the £100 million that we were told would be invested—and some part of it is being invested at present—in the coal industry, would never have been found if the industry had still been under private enterprise.
I speak with some feeling about the lack of capital investment in the private sector of industry. We have had some experience of the misery and the tragedy that it brought about in the past, and that is why, when the Labour Party were in power, we did everything possible—in 1091 times far more difficult than this Government have ever experienced—to ensure that capital investment would find its way into those industries that were important to our country.
§ Miss Herbison
I am sorry, but it is quite impossible for me to give way tonight. I shall make my speech in my own way, and when I give facts, I give statements to back them up. I propose to give just two instances of lack of capital investment in my own area.
Since 1945, we have seen the closing down of the pig-iron production unit at Shotts Iron Works. Only last year we saw the closing of the Coltness Foundries. Why did both these concerns close? No one can refute what I am about to say. Each of these concerns closed because the owners did nothing to keep them up-to-date. In the times when they were making huge profits the owners of those concerns pocketed the profits, and left the plant to become obsolescent and finally obsolete. The foundries in Coltness, employing over 600 people, closed because they were unable to produce goods at a price which was competitive in the world market. They were not able to produce goods because the machinery was badly neglected by the private owners.
My hon. Friends—and hon. Members opposite if they were honest—could add to the two examples which I have given to show clearly why we have the greatest fears about what will be the result of this lack of capital investment in the private sector of industry. It is not something that we on this side have thought up. It is the only statement worthy of note in the speech of the Secretary of State. It is the statement which was clearly made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Perhaps it might be considered a platitude for me to say that everything possible must be done by us in Scotland to ensure that our industries produce goods that will sell on a highly competitive world market, but I do not think that at this stage in the debate anyone need be afraid of platitudes after the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. We had a right to hope that the 1092 right hon. Gentleman would give answers to the many questions asked on Thursday. He did not answer one question. Instead, dripping from his tongue, came platitude after platitude.
§ Miss Herbison
That does not alter in any way the fact that we are faced with the gravest problems when we consider the development of industry in Germany and Japan and the great development in the United States of America. This makes us afraid of what the future holds for our country. That picture is one which must make all of us anything but complacent. I am afraid that it does not arouse the Government into any state of urgency. The whole of the debate, especially the Ministerial speeches, has shown a complacency which terrifies me and my hon. and right hon. Friends.
During the debate there has been some chastising and castigating of the workers, but precious little has been said about the employers. I have been castigating the employers and the Government. I will say for the President of the Board of Trade that he paid glowing tributes to the Scottish workers, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour did not do that. Referring to our commitments in the export market, he said:We shall never do it if we carry on the old tradition of regarding the two sides of industry as enemies of each other; or regarding political action on the floor of the shop as being a slick and easy way to promotion in the trade unions or a slick and easy way of putting forward the fortunes of any political party.We do not regard that as a good thing either.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) interposed and asked about the attitude of the steel bosses when nationalisation was suggested and the present Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that any steel boss who co-operated was a quisling. There, indeed, was something that was worthy of criticism by every decent man and woman. In his reply to my hon. Friend, the Parliamentary Secretary said:Perhaps…I should say one or two things about the employers.The Opposition listened with interest, wondering whether he would castigate the 1093 employers similarly; but not a bit of it. Here are his weak words:… very often at least, there are bad workmen only where there are bad employers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 805–6.]There has been no castigating or chastising of employers by the Government. In their 1953 Budget, they gave the employers and the wealthy people a rebate in Income Tax of more than £340 million, and the Chancellor said that that was done to provide an incentive to industry. The noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen. South (Lady Tweedsmuir) has made a plea for further rebates in taxation. If she and the Chancellor look at what has happened since the 1953 Budget, they will find that the private industrialists have let the nation down badly.
In his 1954 Budget, the Chancellor did not castigate the employers. He came along with a further bribe and sop, initial allowances. I do not object to that in any way, but I do object to initial allowances being given indiscriminately. They are given to firms which are prosperous enough not to need them, but not enough is given to firms who do need assistance. Also, initial allowances are given indiscriminately to all firms whether or not the contributions which they make help to build up the economic well-being of the nation. So far from having any plan for industry, the Government merely hand out sops, subsidies and bribes indiscriminately, hoping that, somehow or other, we shall muddle through.
In June, 1954, the unemployment figure for Britain was 1.1 per cent. of the insured population. The Scottish figure was 2.4 per cent., more than double the British figure. We have also to take into account that the Scottish figure is included in the British figure, which shows that the Scottish position is very much worse than that in the rest of the country. In spite of the glowing tributes which are paid to the Government, the unemployment figures in Scotland are still higher than they were in June, 1951, a few months before the Labour Government lost office.
The most serious unemployment in Scotland is in the industrial belt of Lanarkshire. There, we find no sign of improvement between June, 1953, and June, 1954. That is a serious situation. 1094 Not a single word of hope to the thousands of people in that area has yet come from the Government.
§ Miss Herbison
As I have only a short time left in which to speak, perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will leave it to the Joint Under-Secretary to answer the points which have been raised.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour said:A great deal has been said about Lanarkshire, but that is balanced to some extent by the development in Fife and parts of Midlothian."——(OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th July, 1954; Vol. 530, c. 813.]We have asked—I asked a year ago—whether the National Coal Board, the Minister of Fuel and Power and the Secretary of State for Scotland are sure that the developing coalfields will provide work for the Lanarkshire miners. Are the developing coalfields merely to supply work for replaced Fife miners and perhaps a very small proportion of Lanarkshire miners? We have a right to expect an answer, because the President of the Board of Trade and the representatives of the Scottish Office have had that position clearly placed before them during a debate. I therefore hope that we shall be told something about it by the Government tonight.
Almost every part of Scotland and its problems have been discussed during this debate—the problems of the North of Scotland, of the industrial belt, of the East of Scotland and the developing coal areas—and, time and time again, the problems of the small country towns and the rural areas have been mentioned. Many questions have been asked about the Distribution of Industry Act, and about the policy of the Government. We have asked whether they have any plans or whether they are thinking of a change. If they are, we have a right to know, because the teeth have been taken out of the Distribution of Industry Act, which was the only way in which the Government could really help the development areas.
The teeth have now disappeared, so what is to be the policy of the Government? Do they think that they have really solved the problems that are facing us in the so-called developing areas? This question cannot be handled 1095 in a haphazard way. So far, there has not been a bit of evidence between last year and this year that there has been any planning at all.
There have been many questions about new towns and the building up of other towns, but has the Secretary of State decided that, in places like Falkirk, New Mains, Shotts and all the other places which have been brought to his notice, he will treat them, from the point of view of industry, as new towns, when they have all the necessary facilities and lack only industries? If not, what other plans has the right hon. Gentleman in mind? These are questions to which we have a right to an answer, but they are questions to which, so far, we have had no answer.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) raised a point about the number of approvals of factories in the first quarter of this year, and the President of the Board of Trade said that we should not worry too much about that, as a quarter of a year was only a small part upon which to base any argument. The facts are that, in Scotland, we had approval in the quarter for 37 projects costing £1½ million, whereas in the rest of Britain there was approval for 612 projects costing £30 million. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that it would probably work out at about 10 per cent. for the year.
The President of the Board of Trade does not in any way realise the special difficulties with which Scotland, as against the rest of the United Kingdom, is faced, because even 10 per cent. will not meet the problems that are facing us, and, quite definitely, I ask the right hon. Gentleman for a much bigger allocation. Lord Bilsland himself—and great praise has been given to him in the debate—said in his latest Press report that the areas needing new industries in Scotland are fairly widespread. Surely, if the Government will not listen to hon. Members on this side of the Committee, they will at least listen to Lord Bilsland, who is quite sure what these problems are.
I have many other points with which I wanted to deal, but time does not permit. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) asked some questions of the President of the Board of Trade to which we have had 1096 no reply. I will, therefore, put a few questions on the same subject to ensure that we get the replies that we want.
We want to know what is to be the future of the seven laboratories that were promised. Have permission and finance been given to build them? There seems to be a discrepancy between the Government's White Paper and the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the subject. I hope that we shall have the position cleared up. The Government can show to Scottish industrialists the need not only to help in industrial and scientific research but to apply to the industries the results of that research. Scottish industry has failed miserably, on the whole, both before the war and to a great extent since the war, to make the fullest use of scientific and industrial research.
Our universities and technical colleges do their job by producing students, but the students have to go forth from Scotland to find the jobs. We were told a few weeks ago of the decision that the Imperial College of Science would be helped to provide a centre of technological research for England. Why were we not told that the Royal Technological College in Scotland would be in the same position. Why had we to wait for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to class this famous technical college with the other technical colleges in the provinces? I ask this particularly since I know that this was the plan of a former Secretary of State for Scotland, and is now announced so belatedly.
Scottish working people should have the chance to provide the goods. If the Government will only do some social and economic planning I have no doubt that our working people will pull their full weight and will ensure a better future for Scotland.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Henderson Stewart)
Whatever one may think of the hon. Lady's speech, it certainly has produced a dramatic change in the temper of the debate. When the debate opened, with the benign, temperate and generous tones of the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) one expected, and rightly, that we were to have a careful, thoughtful and objective examination of the state of Scotland. That has been the characteristic of the debate until the 1097 chap o'nine of the hon. Lady. It is clear that the hon. Lady did not agree with the attitude taken by a great many of her hon. Friends. She felt that something had to be done to brighten up the party, to put a little more pep into it and a little more partisan examination. That is the hon. Lady; we know her and we like her and we expect that from her, and we do not take it too seriously. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]
I shall deal at once with two points mentioned by the hon. Lady, and the others I will cover later. First, she stressed the importance of infusing more capital into Scottish industry. Of course, she is quite right. We would all like to see more capital put into our manysided enterprises, but, if the Government were to pump another £500 million of capital into industry, that would have the most calamitous results on the whole movement of industry and commerce at the present time. If there is to be an expansion of industry, it must be done carefully. Private individuals must play their full part in it. We believe that that is the best way of advancing the general prosperity of us all, and the way in which we shall get the most lasting benefit.
Secondly, there was the point about the unfortunate closure of the Coltness foundry. The hon. Lady did not quite tell the whole story. The foundry closed partly because in the old days they had their own coal mines, which were uneconomic, and when the mines were taken over by the National Coal Board the economics of the industry collapsed.
§ Mr. Stewart
I did not say that it was the whole story, but the hon. Lady herself did not give the whole story. I am giving a very important side of it.
The hon. Lady tried, as we all do in these debates, to sum up her own impressions. May I offer mine very modestly to the Committee? Whether it is because we are getting accustomed to the technique of these two-day debates, or because of the excellent example set by the two right hon. Gentlemen who opened this debate, or, again, that economic and social conditions in Scotland are a great deal steadier this year than they were last—perhaps it is a bit of all three—my impression is that 1098 this has been a much better Parliamentary performance in every way than we produced last year.
I think it would be true to say that whereas last year most hon. and right hon. Members were mainly concerned with the then conditions of the people, unemployment, the difficulties of export trade, the still pressing need for social improvement and housing, and so on, this year, with perhaps the single exception of the hon. Lady, the burden of nearly every speech has been the problem of the future of Scotland. By and large, it has been generally realised that conditions this year are immensely better than they were last year.
For example, the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire said at the very start that, except in one or two disturbing spots, unemployment is practically nonexistent in Scotland. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard) said that at the present time there was no unemployment problem in his division. Other hon. Members said the same. All that is highly satisfactory for Scotland, and it is a considerable compliment to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and to his right hon. Friends in other Ministries, for what they have done in the course of the last two and a half years.
§ Mr. Stewart
It is no use the hon. Lady standing up and saying, "There is no policy." There is the result of the policy. [HON. MEMBERS: "What policy?"] I say that these careful, fair comments by hon. and right hon. Members opposite reflect a satisfactory state of affairs.
The outstanding feature of this present debate, as I have seen it, has been the concentration upon the problems that lie ahead. One hon. Member after another, on both sides of the Committee, has concentrated on the future. For example, on the distribution of our city population there was the hon. Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) who made, if I may say so, such a moving speech on that subject. The better deployment of industry was dealt with by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes), the development of transport was mentioned by the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire and the seizing 1099 in time of the vast potentialities of our new sources of power and our technological advances was referred by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot).
Those were the matters which have concerned the Committee during these last two days. On behalf of the Government, I want to say that we welcome unreservedly the enthusiasm shown on both sides of the Committee with regard to all these vital matters. I shall try to deal with each of them in turn, but I have not much time and if I omit to mention matters which hon. Members have raised—for example, the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Forman) raised a very important matter—perhaps I might be allowed to send a letter.
First, there is the distribution of industry. All of us here understand and share the anxiety there is on that score. I take the case put to us by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central. He tells us that this vast city has an overspill of 300,000 persons for whom homes and work must be found outside Glasgow. We all recognise that. The hon. Member was a little rough with us. He accused the Scottish Office of fiddling about with the problem, monkeying with the problem—certainly of dallying with the problem. I do not want to say anything unkind to anybody in this most difficult matter, but, as the hon. Member knows much better than I, Glasgow in this regard has not always been sure of its action. There was a time when his friends in the Glasgow Corporation took a different view from that which they take now.
§ Mr. Stewart
I just put it to the hon. Gentleman that in matters of this kind opinion in all parts of the country has changed. There was a time not many years ago when the considered opinion of Glasgow was against the creation of any new towns. And now, here is the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central asking us to build six new towns. I say to the Committee that in such a vastly important matter as this, with implications that will affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of our fellow countrymen, it would be foolish to dash into a solution. [Interruption.] With great respect, it was some 1100 of us here who had to fight the battle for the first new town, that in East Kilbride, against the armed array of the forces on the other side.
I will give the Committee the position as it is today. I was asked about it and I think the Committee is entitled to a reply. Until two or three years ago, it was, as I said, the accepted policy of the Glasgow Corporation that it would be possible to provide adequate accommodation for all its people within its then boundaries. On further reflection, that view has changed and it is clear that there must be a large overspill. How were we to proceed with that? We proceeded, as all Governments must proceed in matters of such importance. We sought the advice of those most capable of giving it, and consulted the authorities of the whole Clyde area. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that a special committee was created and was asked to advise us what to do. Last year it advised that there should be one new town established at Cumbernauld, and a little later it advised that it should be made under the terms of the New Towns Act. I am sure that every hon. Member will agree that in an undertaking of this size we have to consult the city concerned, namely, Glasgow.
I shall say no more now on this subject other than that my right hon. Friend is in very close contact with those concerned. Negotiations are going on, and we hope that in due course, as a result of pooling the wisdom of all concerned, including Glasgow Corporation, we shall arrive at the right policy. Meanwhile this committee of which I have spoken is studying the possibilities of development of other sites and also the question of whether the Town Development Act, 1952, or some modification of that Act could suitably be applied to Scotland. All these possibilities are being examined, but it is perfectly obvious to all of us that the matter must take some time. I think hon. Members would be ill advised if it pressed upon the Government and the local authorities too hasty a decision in this exceedingly difficult matter.
May I say a word about the broader question? My right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Maclay) and others have raised again the question posed by the Cairncross Report. Broadly speaking, this is the problem. It is said 1101 that these old country towns—I have them in East Fife; we all have them—are not advancing as much as they could. Some of them, in fact, it might be said, are decaying. The argument is that we should do something to infuse new life into them and bring more people and industries to them, that we should spread the population and industries in that way and thus partly solve the problems of the Great conglomerations in the cities.
The Cairncross Report suggested that there should be Government-subsidised factories established in such places. That is all the division there is between us. The Government are entirely in favour of the furthest possible development of these places outside the Development Areas. But we are not convinced, from all the evidence which we have, that it is right that the special financial arrangements provided for the Development Areas should be made equally available to the other areas. I think the Committee is agreed that the Development Areas deserve and need something special, but we do not feel that it is right to extend that special treatment to the whole country. What we feel is that every other method of advancing the economic life of these places should be undertaken.
The Committee is aware, although perhaps not all local authorities are aware, that local authorities have the power to buy land to erect factories upon it, and to let those factories at economic rents, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central asked us to do. He said, "I do not want my slum industries to be subsidised. I want factories to be built for them outside the city at an economic rent." I would merely remind the hon. Gentleman that local authorities have the right to do that if they so desire. That may well be the answer to this problem in some local authority areas.
The last thing that I want to say on this broad question is on the point raised by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland). We fully understand the case of those decaying towns within the Development Areas, particularly in Lanarkshire, and we want industries to be established there wherever possible. The figures given by my right hon Friend the President of the Board of Trade show that, by and large, since the war all Govern 1102 ments have done much for those areas. What the hon. Lady asks is that more should be done. I agree, and I give the understaking that we shall do everything possible to encourage whatever new industries are available to settle in these areas.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is the hon. Member aware that, even without spreading industry itself, by accepting the suggestion of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) and distributing orders he will see the industries develop themselves? If the orders from the Government are spread more than 100 miles from London, the industries will develop themselves.
§ Mr. Stewart
The right hon. Gentleman knows that we already have a large share of Ministry of Supply orders. Presumably he is asking for a little more, and I agree with him. But let us not forget that we cannot compel anybody to go anywhere; we have to persuade them, and that is not easy.
May I say one word to my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) under this heading? We all heard his moving appeal. There is no time now for me to go into this long story. I know the story from the start. I wrote to the Provost of Buckie a few days ago asking him if he would be so kind as to look again at the costs of this water scheme. My hon. Friend reckoned that it would put nearly 10s. on their rates to put this scheme into operation without Government aid, but I think my hon. Friend's figures are much too high and I have invited the Provost of Buckie to send his experts to meet our experts at the Scottish Office to go into this matter and to see whether it is not possible to arrive at a figure which is within the capacity of Buckie to pay. I hope that the Provost will find it possible to do so.
As my hon. Friend knows very well, other local authorities have had to carry through water schemes, and provided that the figure is not unreasonable, I am sure that Buckie would not wish to be treated in any way differently from other authorities.
§ Mr. Duthie
Would it not have been much better if this inquiry, now proposed, had taken place two years ago?
§ Mr. Stewart
I am sorry that my hon. Friend has raised that point because now I must reply to him. As he knows, it was not until January of this year, only six months ago, that a fully approved and agreed water scheme was arrived at, and it is not asking very much to ask for six months in which to consider all its implications.
I pass now—because I must hurry—to the question by my hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) about the Avoch fish oil and meal factory. The project is under review at the moment and consultations are taking place with the county council. The Secretary of State cannot at present anticipate the recommendation of the Development Commissioners on any application which they may make, but my hon. Friend can be assured that this matter is being pressed forward with all speed and I hope that very soon we shall have an answer to give him.
§ Mr. Stewart
There are two problems concerned with transport; one is that of the railway authority and the other is that of road transport. The right hon. Gentleman thought there was a mystery about both of them, but in fact there is mystery about neither—no mystery at all. Consider, first, the railways. A White Paper was presented to the House, which hon. Members have all seen; and there is already a Government assurance that it will be debated. This is, therefore, not the moment to go into detail but I have great hopes—and I have expressed these hopes at the Box before today—that, given a Scottish authority, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West said, a Scottish board, composed, we hope, of the best men we can find in Scotland, it ought to be possible to have a much closer contact between the railway authorities and the users and a much better understanding of Scotland's needs. It would be a place to which people from the Highlands and from other areas could come in Scotland to represent their problems—[Interruption]—that is, instead of coming here. I admit that I cannot prove anything; the thing must be started. But I ask the Committee to believe that those of us who have examined this matter with care are confident that a 1104 great advance will be made in Scottish transport services as a result.
As regards charges, as my right hon. Friend said on Thursday, the charges scheme will soon be made public. It will then be open to anybody and everybody—people in the Highlands, the farmers, or whoever they may be—to make proper representations. I hope, therefore, that everybody will get his chance.
As to road transport, again there is no mystery. The Disposal Board in its Reports has said exactly what it is going to do. The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire has always been afraid that the network of the parcels services which has been built up, whose value I have always recognised, would be smashed up. As I have told the right hon. Gentleman from this Box, I never anticipated that that would happen and it is not going to happen. [Interruption.] There is no doubt about that. Hon. Members opposite have merely to read the second Report of the Disposal Board, accompanied by the statement made a week ago by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, as to what will happen. What that means, in simple language, is that there is to be no destruction of the parcels services. As to the Clyde tunnel and the Renfrew base, these matters are very much under consideration and we hope very soon that an answer will be given.
I hope in the few minutes that remain to answer the other mystery that was raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele). There is no mystery, because the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, to which the hon. Members referred, dealt with 1952–53. As there have been developments since then, I am not attempting to comment on the figures in that Report. The figures in the White Paper represent the facts.
At the end of last year, agreement was reached with the Treasury on the money to be available for D.S.I.R. building in the five years from 1st April, 1954, and the White Paper that we are now discussing records what buildings it is hoped to complete at East Kilbride in that period. Therefore, any apparent discrepancy arises from the fact that the two documents deal with different periods.
§ Mr. Stewart
They have Treasury authority for an agreed programme as set out in the White Paper. That is an ample programme to keep us going for a long time.
Lastly, I should like to say a word about the appeal made to us by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove. Undoubtedly, unless Scotland rises to the immense opportunities open to it in the new fields of power, atomic energy and technology, we shall fall behind in the race. We will certainly consider the suggestion of my right hon. Friend that the vice-chancellors of the universities and perhaps others should examine the problem of whether the schools are providing the right kind of boys to go into this work. The trouble in Scotland is that we are turning out more highly-trained technologists than Scottish industry can employ.
§ Mr. Stewart
Very well—does employ. That is a pity, and I appeal from this Box to Scottish industry to make fuller use of the first-class technical ability that is available to it. The quality is there, the manpower is there, the institutions are there. All that is wanted is that Scottish industry should rise to the opportunity and seize all those splendid chances as they come.
I feel that at the end of this debate only one thing further needs to be said. It was said, oddly enough, by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) who wound up from the Opposition on the first night of the debate. From whatever angle we approach this problem, we have to face—
§ 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.