§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Sir Walter Monckton)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the White Paper on Industry and Employment in Scotland, 1954 (Command Paper No, 9410).I count it a privilege to be allowed to speak on this occasion. I think I can say that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and I have sat through all the debates on these matters in years gone by, and if I have not as much acquaintance as I could wish to have with the area which we are discussing it is not because of my own choice. I have been frustrated on many occasions by circumstances which I have imperfectly controlled, but, at any rate, I have today a chance of looking at some of these problems.
The main part of what I hope to contribute to the debate is concerned with employment in Scotland, but, to put it in a proper setting, I should like to make a few observations about the general economic state of Scotland as disclosed in the White Paper and to do what perhaps would be more useful to right hon. and hon. Members who will take part in the discussion, bring these facts as far up to date as possible.
If one looks at industry as a whole in Scotland—there are exceptions, and I will deal with them—it is thriving and output is expanding. There has been a marked increase of activity in the engineering trades and that is an industry of prime importance to Scotland and of which I think we could find many pioneers in other countries who came from Scotland.
Then there are the shipyards, again of prime importance. Their output for last year—the year covered by the White Paper—is the highest since the war. There were fears—and I confess that I shared them—not only in relation to Scotland, but in relation to the United Kingdom shipyards as well at the end of last year about the low rate of new orders that were coming in. But it is good to see that the orders in the first four months of this year have been showing a welcome increase. A total of 130,000 gross tons and more has been recorded in the order 2120 books, so that the position is more satisfactory than we might have expected and is an encouraging sign.
I have said a word about engineering and about shipyards, and I will now say a word about steel. As right hon. and hon. Members will have seen from the White Paper, the output of steel in 1954 was a little below the 1953 high level. But, here again, the first four months—which is the period I can cover for 1955—show an output 7 per cent. higher than the corresponding period of 1954. Those are more satisfactory and very important signs of the state of industry in Scotland, but there is, of course, coal mining which we must take into account, where the situation is not so satisfactory.
The output last year was less by 300,000 tons, and, bringing it up to date as I have tried to do with the rest, during the first 24 weeks of this year there were half a million tons less of deep-mined coal produced than in the same period of 1954. When one searches around for reasons, that was no doubt due in part to a number of unofficial strikes which took place during that period and also due to the worsening physical conditions in many of the pits.
However, the signs are not all as bad as that. The programme of new sinking which the National Coal Board started is steadily going forward. The boring tower to prove coal reserves under the Forth is now in position off Kirkcaldy, and drilling is taking place many hundreds of feet under the sea bed. One has seen it in other parts of the world, in the Persian Gulf and in America, and it is good to see it as near home as this. So far as the position of labour in this part of the world is concerned the demands which the National Coal Board makes on manpower are able to be met. Therefore, that is not a hampering feature as it is, unhappily, in some parts of England.
That is a summary of the state of the principal industries in Scotland, but I want to relate that background to the manpower situation. In 1954, there was more employment in Scotland than ever before in peace-time. The numbers in insured employment rose by 26,000 to no fewer than 2,089,000 insured persons. That, as one would expect, found a parallel in a drop in the unemployment figures which in 1954 were considerably 2121 less than in 1953, and, in bringing the facts up to date, I am happy to say that the improvement is being maintained this year.
The highest figure of unemployment in Scotland in 1954 was in February when there were 74,620 unemployed persons, or 3.5 per cent. There were the usual seasonal fluctuations with the result that when we came to July of last year the figure had dropped from about 74,000 to about 49,000, or 2.3 per cent. To bring the facts before the House, I would draw attention to the comparable figures since the White Paper. In January, 1955, the number was about 65,000 compared with about 74,000 in February of the previous year. The percentage had dropped from 3.5 to 3.
To take the latest available date, if we compare the figure for June this year of about 47,000, or 2.2 per cent., with the figure for last July of 49,770, or 2.3 per cent., we see a movement in the right direction, although not a very substantial change. Therefore, looking at the figures of unemployment, which necessarily loom large in the eyes of anyone who holds my office, they show a maintaining of improvement in the early months of this year.
It is true that if we make a comparison between Scotland and Wales, the North of England or Great Britain as a whole, the situation is not so rosy. The percentage of unemployment in Scotland in January of this year was 3 per cent.; in Wales it was 2.6 per cent.; in the Northern area, 2.5 per cent., and in Great Britain as a whole 1.4 per cent.—so that Scotland had more than double the unemployment percentage for the whole country. The figure for June, 1955, in Scotland was 2.2 per cent.; in Wales, it was 1.6 per cent.; and in Great Britain as a whole, 1 per cent. Although one rejoices at the improvement, one has to remember that it is a relative one.
When we compare the various areas we are struck by some of the explanations. No doubt part of the situation is due to the geographical distribution of the industrial population in Scotland, and part to the special problem of the Highlands, to which I shall refer in a moment. Hon. Members know better than I how true it is that most of the industry in Scotland is concentrated round Glasgow and some outlying districts, including 2122 Dundee. In that area—which is known as the main Scottish Development Area—unemployment figures are of the highest. As I have said, the June unemployment figure for the whole of Scotland was 47,319. The area about which I am speaking accounted for 30,680 of that. The percentage there was 2.6 per cent. as against 2.2 per cent. for the whole of Scotland.
In considering why unemployment is as high as that in West and Central Scotland, several considerations have to be borne in mind. First, it is here that the heavy industries predominate, and some of the labour which is unemployed is not fit for the heavier jobs which may be available there. Secondly, in spite of the fact that new industries have been attracted to the area, there is still not sufficient alternative light employment. Many of the industries which have been attracted there have not yet reached maturity. When they get into full production it is expected that they will provide employment for some thousands more. That does not solve the problem, but it is at least a step in the right direction.
Another factor which must be remembered is that some of the industries find a lack of demand for their products in the home market at present. I have in mind such industries as the carpet industry at Ayr and the textile finishing industry at Paisley and Alexandria, industries where there has been a drop in demand. These are matters which should be borne in mind when one considers the unemployment problem in Scotland as it is affected by the geographical distribution of the working or insured population.
There remains the problem of the Highlands. Everybody who has to concern himself with that question realises that the Highlands have few towns, which are far apart from each other, and that employment is very largely confined to fishing, forestry and farming. It is difficult to attract light industries, which are discouraged by transport difficulties and distance, and the result is that there are pockets of unemployment which, although small, are troublesome.
For instance, in relation to the Development Area which comprises part of Inverness-shire and Ross-shire, the June unemployment figure was 412. 2123 Hon. Members may say, "That is not a very high total." It is not, but June is the best month, and it is serious enough because we cannot create new types of employment. Approval has recently been given for two small factories at Inverness—and in dealing with small numbers these small factories are of assistance—which may eventually employ about 42 people, according to the advice I have received from my officers there. That is a contribution, and a step in the right direction, but we must look about and consider how we can further improve the employment situation in Scotland.
One satisfactory feature which emerges from the White Paper is that there is a marked upward trend in new factory building. In 1954, that trend was more than maintained. Certificates were issued for nearly 5 million square feet of new factory space, which is the best figure since 1946—and that may well be exceeded this year. I want to put the position fairly, and not to exaggerate a good point, and I ought to say that about 20 per cent. of that 5 million square feet —I may not be quite right in the percentage—may be for Colvilles. If that is so, there will not be a proportionate increase in employment. We must remember that that proportion of the new factory space does not count to the good in the same way.
The projects which have been approved in the eighteen months which have elapsed since 1st January, 1954, will, we hope, provide employment for about 15,000 people—about half men and half women—when they reach full production. That is an important figure, because the unemployment figure for June, 1955, was about 47,000 and, going back further still in the year, it was somewhat under 70,000. These projects, which will provide employment for thousands of people when they are mature, will materially help to ease the position.
One welcome feature is that these recent developments are creating new employment in particularly difficult areas. Port Glasgow and Greenock is an area which is heavily dependent for employment upon shipbuilding and marine engineering, and where there is a marked lack of employment of a lighter character, especially for women. The number unemployed in June, 1955, was 1,000 fewer than at the 2124 end of 1953. Not only that; there are good prospects of further improvement in that area, because production has already begun in a factory making office machinery. This factory belongs to the International Business Machinery Corporation, which is an American concern. It is already employing 600 or 700 people, and will employ many more when it reaches maturity. It may be that a Sassenach should not—but others may—take credit for the fact that we are succeeding in attracting to Scotland American corporations which want to set up factories. Another American company is establishing in the same area a large-scale production of latex rubber products. That is on the industrial estate of Port Glasgow. It is hoped that that alone will provide employment for at least 500 workers, most of whom will be unskilled men and women, who are usually the hardest to fit into jobs.
I now turn to North Lanarkshire, which is the most heavily populated part of the county. During the last twelve months it has had a higher rate of unemployment than the development area as a whole. In January of this year the unemployment figure was about 7,900, or 5.7 per cent. of the insured population. In June last it was 6,098, which is 4.4 per cent. One must compare that with the overall figure for Great Britain, which is about 1 per cent, although the figure for June, 1955, showed an improvement of 1 per cent. over the comparable figure for the year before, when there were nearly 7,000 unemployed. I am told that, but for the railway strike, the figure might have been a bit better than it was. However that may be, I recognise that in North Lanarkshire there is a problem. Upon that problem my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland received a deputation yesterday, and he may wish to deal more fully with that matter himself.
A point that comes out is the desire of those who are specially interested in the area that there should be more apprenticeships and that young men and women should not have to travel undue distances to and from their work. Emphasis was also laid upon the figure of 4 per cent., which I have already given, and upon the fact that the area is declining in coal production. My officers, who have advised me on the matter and know the position, say that it is very difficult to look at a 2125 portion of the area in isolation and that they entertain hopes that there are jobs within reasonable distances which will account for thousands of people. They will not come all at once, but as and when they reach maturity. I do not want to say any more about that area. I recognise the difficulties and I did not have the good fortune to receive the deputation yesterday.
Another area which presents features requiring attention is Falkirk, where the principal industry is light casting. That industry accounts for some 25 per cent. of the insured population and is producing mainly domestic heating and cooking equipment, baths, sanitary fittings, and so forth. What has happened there is that the pent-up demand which existed immediately after the war has tended to fall off, partly because of changes in taste and partly because of the use of alternative materials. No doubt that industry in Falkirk is progressive and is experimenting with alternative lines of production. I understand that the housing department has been giving advice to housing authorities to use up-to-date appliances, which are, in fact, now made at Falkirk. If the industry were challenged I think it would say that it is confident of being able to work out its own salvation in that area.
I have been talking about the blacker spots and areas which are scheduled as Development Areas, but there are others which I want to mention. I will say a word about Caithness, where there are two important developments which, I hope, will help materially to provide employment in that isolated county. First is the atomic breeder reactor at Dounreay, near Thurso, which is making atomic fuel, which will provide a good deal of employment. The second is the experiment in generating electricity through the use of peat.
I have left over to this passage the problems of Buckie and Peterhead, where, it is recognised, there has been a decline in the fortunes of the fishing industry, where employment, in any case, is seasonal. Steps have been taken to provide alternative employment. Plans have been made to extend the quick-freezing industry which was established there after the war. There is a growing market for the products of that industry.
2126 There is no doubt that the problems of that area are partly due to its geography and partly to a shortage of manufacturing industries to provide all-the-year-round employment, with jobs for women and young persons. It is a place where the percentage figures are troublesome. In January, 1955, the unemployment figure was 2,796, or 11.5 per cent., while in June it was 1,275, or 5.2 per cent. The drop is no doubt largely for the reason I gave—seasonal employment. It is some comfort to me to know that the figures are better than those for June, 1954, when unemployment amounted to 6 per cent.
What can be done to help here? As long ago as October, 1952, the Government announced that to assist industrial development in this district financial assistance would be given by the Development Fund to suitable industrial projects. Two projects have been recently approved. One is at Peterhead, by the Peterhead Gear Company, Limited, which has been helped to extend its premises. The estimate that comes to my Ministry is that more than 100 people will get employment there. The second is at Buckie, where a new factory has been put up by Associated Electrical Industries, and where about 50 workers will be employed. These are steps in the right direction and show that those who are responsible for them are really trying to help.
That is the employment situation in the various areas in Scotland. In spite of the difficulties, and the high rate of unemployment, there is a continuous demand for certain types of labour. On 1st June, which is the latest date for which I could get figures, there were 23,000 unfilled vacancies at employment exchanges in Scotland. The principal shortage is, as one would expect, in highly-skilled engineering and shipbuilding. I hope that employers, with the active co-operation and assent of the trade unions, will do what they can to make available more apprenticeships for boys in Scotland. That is a way in which they can help to make up for some of the shortages in highly-skilled engineering and ship- building.
In agriculture, at the end of 1954, there were 1,000 more workers employed than at the end of the year before. In the distributive trades there is plenty of employment for women, for instance, in hotels and domestic employment and in 2127 the trade generally. One feature which has always pleased a Minister of Labour very much is that the number of unemployed disabled persons has fallen in the first five months of this year by no less than 545. It has come down to a total of 6,309. There is also a welcome decrease in the number of disabled persons who can only find work in sheltered employment. That is one of the good features of a happy employment position —and it is a happy one in spite of the difficulties which exist in the areas in Scotland to which I have tried candidly to draw attention.
The overall picture is that there are still many unsolved problems in the main Development Areas in Scotland, but that the general state of employment is satisfactory and the outlook is promising. I hope that in my small contribution to this discussion I have been able to bring the White Paper up to date, so that there is a more timely background to the discussion which will follow.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
No matter on which side they sit, all hon. Members are obliged to the Minister for his sweeping survey, for the care with which he has prepared his amplification of the White Paper and, in particular, for his being able to come here himself today, as the Minister with such considerable responsibility for employment in Scotland, to initiate this debate.
He preceded his survey by dealing very shortly with four of our main employment industries, excluding agriculture. He mentioned the engineering trades—a marked increase in activity; and shipbuilding, with the highest output since the war. Steel output, he said, in 1954, compared with 1953, was a little down. I pause there to say that it is a little surprising that a reduction of 90,000 tons —4 per cent.—should be described as just being a little down. The White Paper describes it, I think, as a slight decrease.
The Minister went on to say that for coal the picture was not so bright; production was down by 331,000 tons in 1954 compared with 1953. That was on the black side—no doubt due to industrial disputes and all sorts of things—but that fall represented a reduction of 1.4 per cent. in production. When we bear in mind the increasing number of 2128 miners in Scotland being taken from production and put on the opening and development of new mines and sinkings, one appreciates that this fall in production is not at all surprising. A great many miners are employed in the older mines in Lanarkshire, where the output per man-shift is bound to go down, is going down and must continue to go down until those collieries are completely worked out and closed.
Not many of the miners who are going into the new areas are yet being employed on the production of coal. A large proportion are employed on the redevelopment of existing collieries which have a considerable life ahead of them or on the opening up of new collieries. That coal production has gone down is not surprising, but I call attention to the proposition that a fall of 1.4 per cent. in this industry is a serious thing, whereas a fall of 4 per cent. in the steel industry—in the first year of denationalisation—is regarded as a small thing and apparently of not very great significance.
The purpose of our debate is to examine how far the Government and Parliament have sought, and should seek, to influence economic trends in Scotland. We are guided by what is told to us in the White Paper and by what the Minister of Labour has said today. I should like to carry the examination a little further. I suggest that there appears to be no Government plan for the economic wellbeing of Scotland. Interesting and informative as was the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, there did not emerge from it any policy or plan for the economic betterment of Scotland.
Perhaps I might deal with one or two of our industries. The biggest employing industry is agriculture, and it is true that the Government continue to give generous assistance from public funds to it. For the country as a whole, Exchequer subsidies to agriculture amounted to £246 million during 1954–55. Of that, I estimate that Scotland's share would be about £35 million. If that estimate is disputed, I and my hon. and right hon. Friends will be delighted—as, I expect, would hon. Members opposite—to know what Scotland's share is. Even more generous subsidies are, of course, being provided in the current year.
Let us look at this assistance. Let us remember, as we have a right to, that 2129 there are 97,000 workers in Scottish agriculture. As the Minister of Labour has said, employment rose in the last year by 1,000; it is also true that it fell by 3,000 in the year before. I think it is generally agreed that, including overtime and perquisites, earnings average 135s. a week. That works out at £350 a year. If we multiply £350 by 97,000 workers we arrive at a figure just a little less than £35 million. An annual wage of £350 for 100,000 workers would come to £35 million; but here we have only 97,000 workers.
It is, therefore, fair to say that in this industry the wages of the workers are more than paid for by subsidies from public funds. I have made that assertion before in agricultural debates. I have had it disputed in the country but never in the House—I wonder whether, today, the Secretary of State can tell us whether I am right or not. Despite this, agricultural production appears to be declining. Tillage went down last year by 56,000 acres or 3 per cent.—almost as bad as steel.
To offset this, the Government's policy is, of course, to increase the ploughing grant from £5 to £7 10s. Their only policy is more assistance from public funds of this private industry. Other private industries have been given generous help. The privately-owned fishing industry is one. It is hoped that the Crofters (Scotland) Act will give aid to those people who have to make a living in the crofting counties. Public and private afforestation costs a lot of money, and there are other industries which receive quite a lot of help from public funds. Our concern is whether those payments from public funds are part of a carefully-thought-out integrated plan to promote the economic welfare of Scotland.
My own examination leads me to the conclusion that they are not part of any such plan. In the main, those subsidies are paid in response to pressure from private profit-making interests. Some of the subsidies are, of course, desirable in the national interest. We ourselves supported many of them and indeed, when we were in power, initiated some of them. I think that that is particularly true of agriculture, but I am bound to add that, in my view, the merchants and middle men take an undue proportion of them.
2130 After all, they are much sharper witted than the farmers of Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] Yes, they are much sharper witted. If hon. Gentlemen opposite take the view that none of this £35 million goes to the merchants and middle men but that it all goes to the Scottish farmers, it is all the more difficult to justify paying an amount which is more than the workers' wages out of public funds. Those hon. Members can have it whichever way they like.
I ask the House to compare this generosity to private interests with the niggardly help given to public enterprise.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
Surely the hon. Gentleman will agree that the Government Department of Agriculture is the biggest landowner of the lot in Scotland.
§ Mr. Fraser
I cannot appreciate the relevance of that interruption. Those subsidies are not given to the landowners, but to the farmers.
I invite the House to recall how the Government have treated an industry which is essential to the economic wellbeing of the whole of Scotland, and particularly the rural districts. I refer to the nationalised transport industry. I trust that when we get this statement from the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation about the lorries which have not yet been sold—a statement which, we understand, is soon to be made—we shall hear that those lorries are not to be sold. The Caledonian transport group has done magnificent work in recent years in South-West Scotland, and has been praised by private interests on all sides because its service has been so much better than that provided by private enterprise. It is a great tragedy that that group, with its lorries, garages and all maintenance equipment, was sold off at a give-away figure to private enterprise the other day. No one in South-West Scotland expects to get better service from the private enterprise firms than he gets from the Caledonian group.
§ Captain J. A. L. Duncan (South Angus)
The hon. Gentleman said a "give-away" price. What was the price?
§ Mr. Fraser
Perhaps the Minister will tell the hon. and gallant Member and me what the price was. I know that it was impossible to sell this group of the 2131 size which it was at an economic price, and, in due course, pressure was put on the British Transport Commission to sell it at a give-away price. There were no competitive offers. It was a negotiated matter, and I assert that it was sold at a give-away price.
In any case, the Caledonian group was not sold to private enterprise with a view to improving the rural road haulage service in South-West Scotland. That was not the purpose behind it. I am not saying that the Caledonian group would not have improved its service in the next four or five years. One would expect that it would go on improving, but no one can claim that the sell-off was calculated to improve the road transport service in that part of the country. We have had Questions in the House quite recently from Conservative back benchers already asking for public subsidies for private enterprise in rural transport.
I turn from the rural areas to the industrial areas, and to some of the issues raised by the Minister of Labour. He told us that there was a great need for skilled engineers. The White Paper says, in page 7, paragraph 12:Marked shortages of skilled men persisted in various industries, particularly engineering.In paragraph 18, one reads:Greater difficulty is being experienced in obtaining apprenticeships for the increasing number of boys now desiring to enter skilled trades, particularly in the engineering industry.I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman appealed this afternoon to employers to take on an increased number of apprentices. But that appeal has been made for two or three years, and it has not been responded to. The Government do not seem to be thinking any more about it.
If this is a problem in Scotland as a whole, it is a particularly grievous problem in Lanarkshire, and in North Lanarkshire, about which the right hon. and learned Gentleman spoke. Boys leaving school there cannot get apprenticeships in engineering. I have often heard complaints of parents of school leavers sending boys into blind alley jobs because they can get more money, but in Lanarkshire, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, the position is that parents are anxious for their boys to take up apprenticeships; but they are not 2132 available to them. If we are short of skilled engineers today we are no less likely to be short of them tomorrow, and if all that the Government are doing to get skilled engineers is to make another appeal to the employers, I think that that appeal is likely to fall on deaf ears.
§ Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter, because I am interested in this question of the use of apprentices, which my right hon. and learned Friend also mentioned. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that the shipbuilding industry, for example, is extremely anxious to get welders and would be very glad to have a larger number of apprentices, but is handicapped by trade union rules which say that there shall not be more apprentices than one to every five journeymen. So the number of apprentices is limited by the trade union restrictions to one-fifth, or sometimes one-fourth, of the number of journeymen which a firm can afford to employ. That ties down the number of apprentices when the industry would be very glad to have more.
§ Mr. Fraser
I will tell the hon. Gentleman, because he was not there, that the deputation which saw the Secretary of State yesterday, and which was referred to by the Minister of Labour, put some interesting comparisons before the Ministers concerned. They showed that the number of apprentices to journeymen was much higher in other counties than in Lanarkshire. I know that shipbuilding does not take place in Lanarkshire, and I was speaking particularly of Lanarkshire. It does not seem to be trade union restriction which is stopping the increase in the number of apprentices, because we get a higher proportion of apprentices in other parts of the country.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
Very often the ratio of apprentices to journeymen is decided by agreement between the engineers' representatives and the employers on the principle that in many trades the number of apprentices which the journeymen can handle in training them in the craft or trade that they desire to pursue is limited. It is doubtful whether five journeymen could handle more than one apprentice.
§ Mr. Fraser
I appreciate my hon. Friend's greater knowledge of this industry. But this does not apply only to engineering It applies in coal mines and elsewhere. The more time that is employed in training young men to a higher skill, the less time the journeyman can devote to production. I think that the reason for this low intake in Lanarkshire in particular and in Scotland in general is probably due to the employers' insistence upon getting the most out of their journeymen in the short term.
§ Mr. Hutchison
That cannot be so in the shipbuilding industry, because the employers are extremely anxious to get production up and to be able to train more apprentices, so that they can have more welders. The employers' whole interest is production.
§ Mr. Fraser
I repeat that I was talking about Lanarkshire, and that there is no shipbuilding in Lanarkshire. The shipbuilding happens to be elsewhere. I say to the hon. Gentleman that, shipbuilding apart, there is no one who will deny the importance of engineering to the future well-being of our country. That future is being prejudiced by the inability of the Government to provide for adequate training to be given to the young people who want to become engineers and develop their skills.
May I take this matter a little further? The Government's distribution of industry policy seems to me to have gone wrong. It appears that the Government have given up any idea of pursuing a well-thought-out distribution of industry policy. There is no doubt that the Labour Government's distribution of industry policy, as implemented in the years after the war, changed the whole face of Lanarkshire. [An HON. MEMBER: "Of Scotland."] And the whole face of Scotland. The Secretary of State reminded us yesterday that 20,000 workers are now employed in Government-financed factories in Lanarkshire. We find in the White Paper that 88,000 workers are so employed in Scotland. That is no reason whatever for complacency.
In Lanarkshire, our old industries are still dying out. Collieries are still being closed. In the next ten years, more than 6,000 miners will be displaced in Lanarkshire. Please do not let hon. Members 2134 think that when a colliery closes, rendering 600 or 1,000 miners redundant, only 600 or 1,000 workers are thrown on to the labour market. The number is very much greater, for there are the other industries that are wholly or partly dependent upon coal-mining. There are very many ancillary industries and there is a reduction in employment in them, also. And so the figure of 6,000 men to be displaced in the next ten years may very easily be 10,000 or more industrial workers who are displaced from those coal-mines.
Let us not think for one moment that the Coal Board will take all those miners in the new coal areas. Even now, in those areas it is exceedingly difficult to get face room for the skilled miners who are being displaced, and it will continue to be difficult. The more the new mines are mechanised and the higher output per man employed at the coal face becomes possible, the more difficult it will be to find places for those miners.
In any case, many of them are not so young by the time that the colliery is closed. Many of them are not wanted in the new areas or are not altogether fit. They have suffered a certain amount of demotion in the collieries in which they have been working and they are not persons to be transferred. Still others have members of the family who work in industries outside mining and they choose to live the rest of their lives in Lanarkshire, in the hope that they will be able to find alternative employment for the last ten or fifteen years of their life in the county of their birth and in the county where other members of the family are employed. Whole communities in Lanarkshire are threatened with dereliction. The hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) has been calling attention to one community. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has been calling attention to many. There are many such communities in Lanarkshire.
In dealing with the figures of unemployment, the Minister has given them as about 1 per cent. in the country as a whole, 2.2 per cent. in Scotland and between 4 and 5 per cent. in Lanarkshire. I put it to the Minister of Labour and to the Secretary of State that if the Government are serious about dealing with the position in Lanarkshire, they must resume 2135 the building of advance factories. It is no good saying that it is far better to wait until there is application from an industrialist who wishes to develop before we build him a factory to meet his requirements. Had we pursued that policy from 1945 onwards, we would not have been employing 20,000 people in those Government-financed factories in Lanarkshire today.
We find that when a Government-financed factory in the industrial estates or elsewhere is vacant, there are many applications. The Board of Trade considers applications from eight or ten or a dozen industrialists, of whom only one can be successful. But the other seven, nine, or eleven do not place orders for a factory to be built in Lanarkshire in the next eighteen months or two years. They go elsewhere, and very often they come to London. They make their applications here and get their industrial development certificates, and the factories go up in the South. Sometimes those industrialists go to the Continent. The fact that we are not getting those industrialists to come to Lanarkshire or to Scotland in any sufficient number is evidence enough that the present policy is not a success.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman admitted in his speech that the industrial development certificates issued last year, although they covered a bigger floor area than in any year since 1946, included Colvilles. They also included Dounreay, in Caithness. It really is too misleading. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did his utmost to avoid being accused of misleading us by bringing out that Colvilles accounted for probably about one-fifth of the total.
The Minister of State, Foreign Office, wrote a long letter to the "Glasgow Herald" during the Election campaign calling attention to the amount of factory space approved last year, but he did not say that Colvilles accounted for one-fifth of it. The public of Scotland have been encouraged to believe that there has been a great increase in factory building providing a great increase in employment opportunity last year, That is not the case.
Many people will be employed in the Colvilles development, which is a big thing—Lanarkshire welcomes it; we all welcome it. Twenty-two million pounds 2136 is to be spent in this great development—not for the purpose of employing more people after the development is completed. I understand that Colvilles hope to be able to increase their production considerably after development without employing any more people. I have heard it said that they will employ fewer people, but I do not make anything of that, because I do not know. I have, however, been assured that they do not intend to increase their working population as a result of this tremendous development.
A lot of the new developments in Scotland are more or less of that kind. They are not providing additional employment opportunity. No amount of debating or setting out figures can contradict what hon. Members see for themselves as they move around their own areas and make their discoveries and as they have consultations with the local office of the Ministry of Labour, with the regional office of the Board of Trade, with the employers and with the trade unions in the areas they seek to serve.
I have mentioned those industrialists who had looked to Lanarkshire, but who came South. Let us look at what is happening in Scotland and in London. According to the Digest of Statistics, new factory building approved in the six months from September, 1954, to March, 1955, the latest date to which statistics are available from the Digest—was as follows: in London 10,121,000 sq. ft.; in Scotland, over the same period, 3,580,000 sq. ft. In Great Britain as a whole the figure was 43,861,000 sq. ft.
I remember that when it was my privilege to be a member of the Government, we in Scotland were getting three times the new factory building that London was getting. We stopped London getting it. But now London is getting three times the new factory building that Scotland is getting. What is the unemployment in Scotland as compared with London? The right hon. and learned Gentleman called our attention to the unemployment in Scotland. It has come down from 62,000–63,000 at the beginning of the year, when it was 3 per cent., to just under 50,000 now, when it is 2.2 per cent. But in London it has come down from 48,000 when it was .9 per cent., to 35,000 when it is .7 per cent. So, with .7 per cent. 2137 unemployment and 127,000 notified jobs with no workers for them, London is still getting three times the new factory accommodation that Scotland is getting.
That is a terrifying picture. I have listened to many debates in this House about the desirability of overspilling London's population into other parts of the country, into the new towns, and so on. We have listened to arguments on economic and social grounds for the better dispersal of industry and, when we have finished our discussions and when all have agreed that it would be a grand thing to have this greater dispersal of industry over the country, we find the Government issuing industrial development certificates to ensure that, instead of spilling out its industry and population, London goes on building up its industry and becoming bigger and bigger, sucking skilled workers in from every corner of the island. That will not do.
If they have the will, the Government can prevent these industries from developing in the South and can encourage them to go to Scotland and into other Development Areas where they are most needed. They are certainly needed nowhere more than they are needed in Scotland at present. We have the highest unemployment among all the Development Areas.
There are other areas in Scotland which require assistance, but before I leave the Development Areas I want to call attention to an answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) by the President of the Board of Trade on 4th July. My hon. Friend asked the President what percentage of Great Britain's total industrial buildingunder construction was being carried out in Scotland at the end of each of the years from 1950 to 1954.In reply, the President of the Board of Trade said:According to the latest information available to the Board of Trade, the figure at the end of each year was:
|1950||…||…||…||9.0 per cent.|
|1951||…||…||…||10.3 per cent.|
|1952||…||…||…||8.3 per cent.|
|1953||…||…||…||6.9 per cent.|
|1954||…||…||…||6.0 per cent.|
§ —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1955; Vol. 543, c. 73.]
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
Could the hon. Gentleman carry his figures back to 1946? Does he know them?
§ Mr. Fraser
If I had them I should be delighted to give them.
Hon. Members will recall how we got into great trouble for refusing permission to impending developers who wished to develop in the South. I could name a great many industries which came into the Scottish Development Area after they had tried hard and long for permission to develop in London, Birmingham and elsewhere in the industrial South where we were already over-developed.
The Labour Government operated Section 3 of the Distribution of Industry Act with a view to assisting local authorities in the Development Areas to improve basic services. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) asked a Question of the Secretary of State on Tuesday aboutthe number and value of the schemes in Scotland, approved each year since 1948, for grant in aid under Section 3 of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945; and … the amount of the Government contribution.The answer was:
—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th July, 1955; Vol. 543, c. 162.]
Year Number of Schemes Approved Cost Government Contribution £ £ 1948 … … 18 1,059,877 562,756 1949 … … 18 1,743,185 587,089 1950 … … 18 2,881,448 1,019,412 1951 … … 23 7,245,636 3,599,010 1952 … … 1 10,816 2,750
We had a change of Government in 1951 and down came the Government contribution from £3,599,010 to £2,750.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. James Stuart)
Hon. Gentlemen opposite had nearly bankrupted the country.
§ Mr. Fraser
Since 1952 we have had no schemes at all. The Secretary of State said that we had nearly bankrupted the country, but on any test hon. Members like to apply the economy and finances of the country improved when Labour 2139 were responsible for government in a way in which they have never improved before or since. In any case, does the right hon. Gentleman intend to defend this withholding of the powers under Section 3 of the Distribution of Industry Act? Does he intend to defend this refusal to build advance factories in 1955, after four years of this Government, on the ground that the Government cannot find the money to do it?
§ Mr. Stuart
The last Labour Government had a limited scheme for 1950, I understand, but they scrapped it on financial grounds in 1951.
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not know what point the right hon. Gentleman wishes to argue, but I will take him further back and say that we discontinued making new factories to a large extent in 1948 because we had so much advance building under way that we wanted to complete it before we started any more. There seems nothing wrong with that. The right hon. Gentleman will find nothing in his records to suggest that the Labour Government took a decision in 1951 to discontinue advance factory building with the intention of never resuming it again.
In any case, I tell the right hon. Gentleman plainly that the Labour Opposition—indeed, this has been our policy since 1951, and I am taking him right up to July, 1955—take the view, having examined this matter very closely, that advance factory building must be resumed if Scotland is to be saved and, in particular, if the future of Lanarkshire is to be saved.
I have already spoken at great length and I must draw my remarks to a close. I ask the Minister of Labour and the Secretary of State to consider the need to introduce alternative employment in areas which are building up their mining labour force. There has to be a balance of industry in those areas. We have been told before today that that is inconsistent with Development Area policy, but it is nothing of the kind, because it is for the 2140 well-being of the county as a whole. We have to provide alternative employment and amenities in Fife and the Lothians if we are to attract my constituents to work in those areas.
There are other parts of the country where it is highly desirable that the Government should make themselves responsible for the provision of additional opportunities of employment. The Government ought to take the Cairncross Report out of the pigeon hole and dust it. They ought to consider the recommendations made in the Report that the Government should go into the areas where it is socially and economically desirable to provide factories and should take the necessary steps to have them provided.
I have spoken about the generous assistance given to private industry and the little assistance given to the public enterprises. Hon. Members should bear in mind the burden imposed upon the mining industry in Scotland which has to carry these hopelessly uneconomic collieries in Lanarkshire, the operation of which has to be continued in the national interest. The coal industry has to carry the cost of that without any assistance from public funds. It has to carry the cost of entering the new areas, finding locations and making new sinkings. That cost has to be borne by the mining industry without any assistance from public funds. Of course, no one imagines that a private enterprise mining industry could ever have undertaken this work with or without assistance from public funds.
Now, to add insult to injury, the Secretary of State proposes that the cost of housing the miners moving from the old mining areas into the developing areas shall also be borne by the mining industry. I understand that he has made quite clear that the scheme introduced by the Labour Government some years ago, under which about 10,000 houses were built by the Scottish Special Housing Association for miners in these developing areas, is coming to an end, and that, as it comes to an end, the mining industry will have to carry any financial burden arising from the housing of miners in these new areas.
When we compare that treatment of public enterprise industry with the treatment of free enterprise industry, to which 2141 I referred earlier in my speech, there will emerge, so clearly that anyone is bound to see it, the fact that there is no overall plan for the economic development of Scotland. Generous assistance is given to private industry under pressure. No assistance at all is given, even when the case is made out for it, to public industries. To the railways, the mining industry no assistance at all is given, nor even to the great redevelopment which those industries are to undertake.
In point of fact, and as I hear one of my hon. Friends whisper, the coal mining industry has been required, and will still be required, to subsidise these private enterprise industries, but the Government will not tell us by how much the public enterprise mining industry is called upon to subsidise other industries. The best that could be said for the Government is that not all of the good work started by their Socialist predecessors has been abandoned.
I have not covered the whole field, for that would take far too long, but I think I have laid the basis for a useful debate, and if the advice of the Opposition is taken in today's debate I think it will redound to the credit of the Government and will certainly be for the benefit of Scotland.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland
Will the hon. Gentleman clarify one point that he made? He referred to the Cairncross Report, and suggested that it should be taken out of its pigeon-hole and dusted. Does he think that there should continue to be a kind of priority for the Development Areas, or that those areas ought to be considered on the same level with the rest of Scotland?
§ Mr. Fraser
I thought I had made myself clear. In the Development Areas, we need these advance factories to be built, and I think that Section 3 of the Distribution of Industry Act should be implemented. When we talk about the BuckiePeterhead area and other areas where there is a need for employment, and where unemployment is rising to between 3 and 9 per cent., I say that the Cairn-cross Report was absolutely right in suggesting that the Government should assume responsibility for steering more industry into those areas.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I am sure the House is greatly indebted to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour for the thoughtful contribution with which he opened the debate. May I say how much we welcome English Members to our debates, especially when they are of the calibre of my right hon. and learned Friend?
I think it is true that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) did his utmost to put before us a picture of the position of Scotland as he saw it, but it is not a picture with which we completely agree. The hon. Gentleman did his best to focus attention on those things that seemed to him to be of primary importance, but he seemed a little grudging in the appreciation which he gave to the position in which Scotland is placed at present.
After all, let us not forget the very high level of production which we are seeing in Scotland, the remarkable expansion which is going on in many fields in our country, and the fact that this has been continued during three or four years of a Government of which the hon. Gentleman politically disapproves, and which he and his right hon. Friends did not hesitate to prophesy would be absolutely unable to keep up to the level laid down by himself and his hon. and right hon. Friends.
It is clear that in Scotland we are dealing with a rapidly developing and advancing country which owes its prosperity, not to one party or the other, but to the efforts of its people and to the new spirit which is abroad in our land, and I think it would be a thousand pities if we attempted to denigrate that or to say, for one reason or another, that the position in Scotland was declining or was not hopeful from almost every point of view.
That is the first point from which I wish to start—that we have a prosperous country in a state of high employment. I do not say that that employment is as full as it might be, but I do say that it is very much fuller than the employment which we have known in Scotland for many years past.
The hon. Member for Hamilton complained that there is no overall plan. Surely, the very existence of a high state of employment and the present prosperity 2143 of our country indicate that the steps which are being taken are working and are evidence of a plan. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I am as much entitled to argue that, on this side of the House, as are hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to argue the other, and I will call one or two lines of evidence in support of my case.
I was most interested in the theme that ran through the speech of the hon. Member for Hamilton to the effect that our private industry was being assisted and public industry was being cold-shouldered. I am not, I think, summarising the hon. Gentleman's argument unfairly. Yet, from the beginning to the end of his full review of Scottish affairs, never did he mention electricity. Surely, nobody is suggesting that the electrical development in our country is being undertaken under private enterprise? It was taken away from private enterprise by what some of us thought were ill-judged measures on the part of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now, nobody can say that the industry has not received support in the way of investment and to an extent utterly beyond that given to any other industry in the land.
§ Mr. Thomas Steele (Dunbartonshire, West)
There is a difference between a subsidy and capital expenditure.
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member for Hamilton was talking in terms of the channelling of the capital resources of this country in one direction or another.
Nobody denies that the channelling of capital resources is one of the factors with which every developing industry has to reckon. The channelling of investment, making great capital developments possible, is a matter very large within the discretion of the Government. There has been great capital investment in electricity. It is made possible by the extremely favourable line which has been taken, by Governments of all political complexions, towards the development of the electrical industry, and more particularly the development of the hydroelectric industry in Scotland.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I think we would agree that in Scotland the major capital developments are in coal, electricity, and perhaps eventually in atomic energy 2144 development. I think the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) will agree that the Labour Government could claim a considerable part of that as being a hangover from the planning of the Labour Government, and that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that some hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite have persecuted the Hydro-Electric Board and prevented any more capital development taking place.
§ Mr. Elliot
Now I think the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) has knocked the bottom out of the case which was so carefully built up over a considerable period by his hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton. The right hon. Member says that the major capital investments have been in electricity and coal, two great publicly-owned enterprises of our country. What becomes of the accusation that public industry has been crippled and confined as against private industry? By that single phrase the right hon. Member has disproved the whole case of the Opposition.
Hydro-electric development has certainly been criticised by hon. Members on this side of the House. That development has certainly been subjected to close review, and rightly so. Everyone agrees that it should be so subject to close review. But that attempts have been made to destroy or hamstring the electricity industry I totally deny. Much of the criticism has been launched by my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) who, goodness knows, is as anxious as anyone in this House to see the development of hydro-electric schemes in Scotland.
The right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire, then, has stated—and we on this side of the House agree—that the major capital investment in Scotland has gone into coal and electricity. We all agree and, therefore, there is not really so much in the case built up by his hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton as would appear.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Did not the right hon. Member hear me when, towards the end of my speech, I said the best that could be said for the Government was that they had not discontinued all the works started by their predecessors?
§ Mr. Elliot
I heard that, and I thought it scarcely fair to the hon. Member to 2145 repeat it. That is all very well for the hustings in Hamilton, but it is a little out of place in this House.
A hangover which has gone on through the whole period of office of one Government into the period of office of the next and that can hardly be a hangover. In my student days I had experience of hangovers, but one that went on four years and showed signs of extending to a fifth I should regard as a permanent feature of my life rather than as a hangover. It is in fact the development of a plan such as the hon. Member was demanding. There is the plan, that we should do our utmost to develop these prime movers in Scotland.
As the old miners' proverb goes,It a' comes aff the point of the pick.Unless we have prime movers, the whole of the rest of our development rests on sand. Therefore I say we can quite rightly claim to have continued—if the hon. Member wishes to use that word I use it—the development of what was previously undertaken. We have not only continued it but have extended it. These great developments are going with full vigour. No one can complain for a moment that they have been limited by us in any way. Our only difficulty is to find sufficient material and skill for these developments, which are vital to the existence of our country.
I come to atomic energy. I do not think even the hon. Member will claim that plans for developing atomic energy are a hangover from the previous Government.
§ Mr. Fraser
Yes, I most certainly would. I would certainly assert that the plans for development of atomic energy are a hangover from what was planned by the Labour Government.
§ Mr. Elliot
There is nothing like bold assertion, especially when one's claim is not very sound. We know the achievements in atomic energy for which the Government of the hon. Member was famous. They were famous for the development of the atom bomb—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh yes, £100 million on the development of the atom bomb was the great achievement for which that Government will always be famous in history. They not only developed the atom bomb, but did so without reference to the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I take it that the right hon. Member has made that assertion in good faith. I was a member of the Government during the development of atomic energy. I was an Under-Secretary in the Ministry that was developing it and, during all the time I was there, until I left office, the atom bomb was not part of the programme. It is quite true that atomic bombs can be produced out of atomic energy, but in the early part of our initiation the investigation and development at Harwell was done not for atom-bomb purposes but solely for the development of atomic energy.
§ Mr. Elliot
The right hon. Member claims that whilst he was in office the Government were only interested in the use of Harwell and other stations and when he disappeared the Government changed their views—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] No one can deny that the atom bomb existed, and that we found it there when we came into power. Someone must have produced it. Is the right hon. Member going to suggest that it was produced by mice? Let us discuss this matter in sober earnest.
The great new developments in atomic energy were certainly not the sole fruits of the undertaking of hon. and right hon. Members opposite. A great proportion of the enormous sum spent then was spent on energy which subsequently was found to be for warlike and not peaceful ends.
We have been developing the prime movers of Scotland, coal, electricity and atomic energy—[An HON. MEMBER: "Peat."] I do not regard peat as one of the great prime movers in Scotland. That is a delusion which has led to many fortunes being lost. There are more solids in milk than in peat, and for us to carry out today what the Almighty did, hundreds of millions of years ago, when He piled six or seven thousand feet of alluvial rock on to peat and compressed it solid, seems a work of supererogation. If it were not possible to get at remunerative agricultural soil beneath, I do not think that peat development would mean very much for the development of Scotland. But that is only my private opinion.
I am not anxious to enter into too much controversy with hon. and right hon. Members opposite. Therefore, I will only say that no one can deny that in the development of coal, hydro-electricity, 2147 and atomic energy, the present Government have at any rate maintained and extended the work which their predecessors set out to do. There is a very generous offer to hon. and right hon. Members opposite. If they will close with that we can go on to further stages of the argument.
The hon. Member for Hamilton attempted to prove too much. He hankered for the full control and direction of resources and labour which he and his Government enjoyed in their time. I would ask him to consider whether in fact as a Lanarkshire man—he and I are both Lanarkshire born and bred—he does not think that argument might be turned against us with very great force if it were accepted as part of the political development of this country. The most congested city in the United Kingdom is Glasgow, yet we all feel that the further development of Glasgow is essential if Scotland is to flourish. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I say so as a Glasgow man. I say that the further development of Glasgow is essential if Glasgow and Scotland are to flourish.
I do not wish to see Glasgow become a decaying area feeding a set of decanted towns. This argument should be further perused before we try to write off the second city of the Empire as a city whose day has gone. The same argument used against London might be used against Glasgow and might be used against Lanarkshire. I tremble to think what would happen if the full rigour of the argument of the hon. Member were applied to our country, and if people were to say, "These places should no longer have further development. Every step should be taken to squeeze industry out of them and push it into other parts of the country where development is more needed." I do not think anyone in Lanarkshire or Glasgow would accept that argument.
A certain amount of development should take place in places such as Lanarkshire and Glasgow. The hon. Member was arguing for that. In one breath he argued against new industries being allowed to develop in London and in the next in favour of new factories being developed in Lanarkshire. It was an anti-English argument.
§ Mr. Bence
What the right hon. Gentleman appears to be suggesting is that because in a certain area with a large population there exist, let us say for the sake of argument, five million square feet of factory space which is capable of modernisation and development, there shall be no more factory space allocated in other areas of the country where there is plenty of room.
§ Mr. Elliot
The hon. Member and his hon. Friends cry out when an attempt is made to apply exactly the same argument to Lanarkshire. They cannot have it both ways. If they wish to limit factory development in area A, they must be prepared to follow the limitations in factory development in area B. I am not willing to write off the industrial dumbbell of Scotland as a place where no further development and no further new construction should take place.
§ Miss Herbison
Does the right hon. Gentleman then agree with things being as they are at present? Does he agree that there should be this great expansion in the London area, where the unemployment figures are much lower than they are in Scotland? The whole of the right hon. Gentleman's argument so far is that he is quite satisfied with things as they are in London and with the lack of work for our people in Lanarkshire and some parts of Glasgow.
§ Mr. Elliot
No. One of the difficulties that I experience is that hon. Members in all parts of the House feel an absolutely irresistible impulse to join in any speech which I may be making. It must be my fault. I will do my best to make my speech less attractive, because it undoubtedly prolongs the period in which I find myself addressing the House.
I do not say that I am satisfied with the present layout. I do not say that there should not be development in Scotland. I was coming to that point later. What I say is that the development in Scotland should to some extent be in areas in which 2149 the hon. Lady and I are both interested, in Lanarkshire and in Glasgow, and that we should not allow this argument that development should not take place in certain areas simply because the Government desire, for purposes of distributing the population, to push people and enterprises into other areas. A certain amount of discretion must be allowed to the people who are carrying out these developments.
I will go further. The hon. Member quoted with approval the Cairncross Report. The basic finding of that Report was that the future of this country depended upon the private enterprise of this country. That was its most interesting conclusion, and it is to that conclusion that I would ask hon. Members opposite to direct their main attention.
We must work together. Nowadays, ten years after the war, we cannot work by the methods of compulsion which were appropriate during and immediately after the war. We must allow for a certain play of enterprise and initiative, and that was the conclusion of the Cairncross Report. That is the conclusion to which hon. Members opposite should give more weight than they have done.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
Will the right hon. Gentleman state the number of the paragraph in the Cairncross Report which contains that conclusion? I can give the right hon. Gentleman a copy of the Report now. I should be interested to know what the paragraph is, because I have always understood that the recommendation of the Cairncross Report was that the Government should assist in guiding industry into certain locations and should contribute to the cost of erecting factories.
§ Mr. Elliot
I have not the Report with me. I carry most of its contents in my head, but not all of it. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that it referred with the utmost approval to the findings of a previous Report. It quotes with approval the findings of the previous Report which said that in private enterprise lies the future of Scotland.
§ Mr. Fraser
The right hon. Gentleman must not complain that so many of us wish to join in his speech, because his speech continues to invite hon. Members in all quarters of the House to interrupt him. Surely the right hon. Gentleman is aware that right hon. Friends of his have 2150 said at the Box that they are unable to accept the recommendations of the Cairncross Report. He said that the recommendations of the Cairncross Report had been quoted with the utmost approval——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
These appear to me to be matters for debate and not for intervention.
§ Mr. Elliot
I shall do my best to confine my remarks to limits which will not invite the enthusiastic chorus which is heard whenever I attempt to address the House, although I may say that I take it as a great compliment because it seems to indicate that what I say is not without interest.
I must try to compress my remarks. We Scottish back benchers do our best to limit ourselves to a reasonable allocation of time, and therefore I shall leave out a great many of the things that I had intended to say, not because I think them of less importance, but because other Members may have things to say of far more importance.
The Government overall plan was a plan of inducement rather than a plan of compulsion. While a plan of compulsion was essential during the war, and may have been appropriate in the years immediately after the war, the plan of compulsion must give way to a much less vigorous set of orders than was possible in the war years. Indeed, the hon. Member for Hamilton admitted that in the concluding part of his period of office the Government schemes started were much fewer than the Government schemes which were started in the early stages of his period of office.
After all, we cannot get away from the fact that the country was financially in a very difficult position when we on this side of the House took office. I will say no more than that, but I am sure that it will be agreed by everyone, for, after all, it was the statement of a Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was speaking to the bankers. He admitted that the state of the country was very grave indeed, and such steps as had to be taken were inevitable.
However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. High employment has continued; so has capital development. Hon. Members opposite complain of the expansion of Colvilles.
§ Mr. Elliot
Very well, they complain that in the figures relating to the expansion of factories the space given to Colvilles mentioned by my right hon. and learned Friend occupied a disproportionate share of the total.
§ Mr. Elliot
I listened and I wrote down what the hon. Gentleman said. He said that my right hon. and learned Friend had mentioned the expansion of Colvilles, but that although a fifth of the expansion in factory space was due to the development of Colvilles alone, that development was reflected, not in expansion of employment, but in the re-equipping of existing labour. However, that is partly what investment is for—the re-equipment of existing labour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."] Then we agree that the expansion of coal mining and the electricity industry was good and that the expansion of investment in existing industries for the purpose of bringing them up to date was also good.
Therefore, in these things the Government have been absolutely right and have the enthusiastic support of hon. Members opposite. We move towards agreement. If that is so, the denigratory tone of the concluding passages of the speech by the hon. Member for Hamilton were very unjustified. If he had ended upon that note I think that none of us would have had anything to complain about.
§ Mr. Elliot
Investment in another of our great industries—agriculture—has gone on at a very great rate. The amount of machinery that has gone into the agricultural industry is colossal. It is to that that we owe the progress which we have been able to make in the industry. In that respect, I do not think that the argument of the hon. Member for Hamilton as to the proportion of the income of the agricultural industry which comes from public funds was at all justified. The income of agriculture is devoted in part to new investment, in part to the maintenance of a return on 2152 capital already invested, and in part to the payment of those who are employed in the industry.
The hon. Member has no right to earmark a particular section and say that this or that has been found from public funds. The nation chooses to find the price of a portion of its food out of public funds, but agriculture is developing as a whole, and increasing its investment as a whole. That is the way in which it is making itself more and more capable every year of fulfilling the further demands for food which the country makes upon it. When the programme of national investment, the planning of national investment, is being considered, the national investment which is going on in agriculture, should not be omitted.
There are many other things that might properly still be done in our country. There is the question of education at school or university or technical college. The part which is to be played in our national life by those institutions and by apprenticeship are topics to which we may reasonably devote a considerable amount of time. I shall do no more now than mention it, because I understand that we are to have an opportunity of debating these matters at length later. I agree, however, that no more important subject could be discussed on the Floor of the House, because on the increasing skill of our people the whole future of our industries depends.
In a new and developing country, such as we have in Scotland, there are certain matters to which we should give attention. There should be a touch of magnificence in the projects which we lay before our people. Nothing more far-sighted has ever been done than the great development in Edinburgh which the New Town represents. That has been an investment from which the whole of Scotland has profited for a hundred years. It seems to me that there is a place for development along similar lines in Glasgow. I think of a High Glasgow. There is a series of sites down the Firth of Clyde which is unparalleled in Europe. Developments along the lines of models of development in London which have been shown to us in the Palace of Westminster could be completely outdone by possible development in Glasgow.
Glasgow should move seawards. There, along the shores of the Firth, is the 2153 expanding line, the great open space, the vista—and the employment. I am not so sure about all this suggested development of light industry. It was by means of heavy industries that Scotland made her fame and will stand or fall. It may be necessary to have ancillary industries, but the day we lose our pre-eminence in heavy precision engineering will be the day when our country falls.
The heavy precision engineering of Scotland is that of the Clyde. People want to dwell beside their work. They do not want to be removed, in the evening of their days, to remote parts of the country. They want to live near their friends; where they can be visited by their relations, and see their grandchildren. The great open spaces are on the Firth of Clyde. There are the natural air spaces besides which high-building development could take place.
I beg my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to consider whether we might have prepared a series of models such as were made for High Paddington, for some of the old building areas of Glasgow. My right hon. Friend should consider whether we should not have an imaginative model of Glasgow constructed to show how we might take again the road to the sea and develop the shores of the Firth of Clyde in a way worthy of a great city, and not find ourselves marching out further and further into the nearby agricultural land.
If Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, had been laid out in a mass of small cottages, we should not have the reverence which the whole world has for the City of Edinburgh. It would be worth while developing Glasgow if only as a shop window for Scotland on the Atlantic, as the second city of the Empire, rather than that it should be a place from which population can be drawn to the inland counties such as Lanarkshire.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland has taken a great deal of trouble and devoted a great deal of attention to the further development of another big industry in our country—tourism—and in particular to the access to the North which is so badly lacking at the moment. His proposed road to the North, the autobahn for the Highlands, has a double interest. It has an interest not merely as a great new engineering project in Scotland but as a 2154 pilot scheme for the motorways which are to be built south of the Border. These will involve many difficulties, and take fifteen years to build.
The new road to the North is a project which can be carried out in a matter of months as against years for the projects in the South. Land has been bought, and the severances effected. The people are anxious to see the road instead of struggling against it.
In Scotland we have space, scenery and rain to sell. We have sold the rain in our hydro-electric schemes. Let us be as imaginative in selling the space and the scenery. Do not let us regard them as things to complain about. Do not let us say that we live in a remote area. Let people say, "Here is space and air. You are fighting for air in your congested cities. We will give you a road to travel on safely, at speeds which modern vehicles make possible." These are schemes which Scotland might well consider and might properly put into effect.
It would be easy to continue at length on the subject of the development of Scotland but it would be unfair to those hon. Members who wish to follow me. Our country is already prosperous. But, for all that, a touch of imagination, of magnificence in its new development, would and should be undertaken. That will be a task for this Parliament as well as for those which are to follow.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
Of the many free-running hares started by the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), I liked the last one best. There is a great deal to be said for a touch of magnificence. I also thought, however, that the right hon. Gentleman's closing remarks drew attention to the need to think again about town and country planning. In the earlier part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman was slightly critical of planning yet, if he compares what he said earlier with his peroration, he must come to the conclusion that we cannot have these magnificent projects in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and other great cities unless we have some planning and some new ideas about it.
It is not only Edinburgh that has a magnificent situation. It is indeed not only Glasgow, because Dundee has a wonderful site on the banks of the Tay, 2155 and so has Aberdeen on the spur between the Don and the Dee. We have in our countryside wonderful opportunities for the touch of magnificance for which the right hon. Gentleman asks.
I myself believe that we must also have a certain amount of planning, and I rather think that planning has fallen too deeply into disrepute, possibly because some of the very ambitious plans started after the war went haywire and people became frightened of the subject. For my part, I think that in the North of Scotland we must have some planning. If, however, it is to be good planning and if it is to be effective it must meet four requirements. First, it must take account of national development. No one wants to plan against the tide of human development. National change should be guided and made to serve the end of human happiness.
Secondly, planning must be imaginative. The great atomic project at Dounreay is an example of imaginative planning. "Planning" may be the wrong word. Perhaps I should have said "imaginative development." On the other hand, I think the development area scheme in Easter Ross, in which up to date no development has taken place, is a bad example of quite unimaginative planning.
Planning must also take account of human happiness. I doubt whether there has been a more destructive political idea than the idea that the purpose of government is the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Acute unhappiness caused to a small number of people is not compensated for by a small increase in the general happiness of many.
Lastly, to my mind planning must not be too centralised. I think that was the fault of many well-meaning efforts which were started after the war. They tended to treat Britain as exactly the same all over, so that Sutherland and Shetland were treated as suburbs of London. I was rather pleased to see the Minister of Labour here today because I am continually in correspondence with him about the application of the law regarding the call-up, which I think is one example of the fatal result of applying the one set of regulations all over the country.
The Regulations allow for the postponement of call-up on the ground of 2156 hardship long enough to enable the person called up to make arrangements for his croft to be worked. But we all know that no man in the Highlands can afford to have his croft worked by hired labour, and the only arrangement he can make is to leave the croft—to get rid of it. Yet summer after summer we have Ministers coming to our part of the world and telling us that we must keep the people on the land, especially the young people, and that we must keep the crofts in cultivation. Yet the call-up arrangements make it certain that a proportion of the young people will be called up and will leave the Highlands.
Another example of the same sort of thing is the levy which is charged to make good the losses on sales of nationalised lorries. So far as my constituency is concerned, the whole controversy about the nationalisation and denationalisation of road transport passes over us right out to sea. We did not have either, but we have to pay this levy because everybody else has to pay it. I suggest there is no possible ground in common sense for that type of legislation.
This project at Dounreay does give the Government an opportunity. I have always said that when we got effective development in the Highlands we ought to have a Highland Development Authority. Whether the House agrees with that or not, certainly this great source of power which is to grow up in the constituency of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) is an entirely new factor, and it should be treated with the type of imagination and the type of magnificence which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove.
It could, I think, be an immense blessing to the whole area, and I think most hon. Members from the Highlands will agree on that. It could, however, also raise considerable difficulties. I should like to ask the Government some questions about what they visualise will happen. I believe the labour force which was originally required for the building was round about 2,000, but the project has been increased in size and I do not know how many more men will be employed. It would be interesting, too, to know the up-to-date estimates of the number who will be permanently employed once the project is in operation.
2157 Where is this labour force to come from? As far as the building of it is concerned, the labour force will be housed near the project and will be in permanent employment for a number of years. Will the crofters who register for employment be directed to do that work? As the Secretary of State knows, there are many crofters who must take seasonal employment but who rely on going back to their crofts for part of the year. Are they to be taken for the work at Dounreay, and if they do not go will they lose their benefit?
This is a matter of particular concern to me because Shetland is one of the black spots in Scotland with a high rate of unemployment, although that rate varies a great deal according to the seasons of the year. Then what is to be the effect of this scheme on the agricultural labour force in neighbouring counties? As the right hon. Gentleman knows, in many parts of the Highlands agricultural labour is very short. What is the Government's estimate of the effect of Dounreay on the supply of agricultural labour?
These problems are very difficult, but I do not believe that they are insoluble. I believe that this is the type of problem which deserves some planning and some forethought, and for which the Government should assume some responsibility and do so in time.
On the other side of the picture, where are the technicians, etc., to come from? There is at the moment throughout the North of Scotland a lack of technicians of various kinds, and I very much wish the right hon. and learned Gentleman had developed his theme of technical education, because it is not only in Glasgow that we need such education. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland has asked about the possibilities for Caithness in connection with training in atomic science; and in all sorts of ways we need a great development of technical education in the North if we are to make the most of the possibilities that the Dounreay project will open before us.
I think that if the most is to be made of it, the Government must look at the general picture and see that two conditions are fulfilled. First, I should certainly like to see subsidiary industries growing up all round Dounreay. To my mind it should be the broody hen which 2158 is hatching all sorts of subsidiary industries, which presumably would be prepared to spread over the North of Scotland once the power and by-products are available. I suggest also that it should afford marketing possibilities for commodities like vegetable produce, lobsters, and so on.
Secondly, I think we must see that this development is not too one-sided. One way in which, as we now know, things went wrong in the last century was that too much concentration of industry was allowed in certain places. If we could have relived our history again, we should have diversified employment in a place like Glasgow at a much earlier date, and also tried to stop Glasgow from draining the surrounding hill districts and collecting all the people into that close conglomeration on the Clyde.
In a small way, there is a similar lesson to be learned for the North. Apart from encouraging subsidiary industries, the Government really must see, if they are to make the most of the prosperity of Dounreay, that there is a complementary increase in agriculture, fishing and other employment which is now available in the area.
At this very moment we are still waiting for a freight policy, still waiting for better and cheaper transport. I do not want to pursue that subject today because I have pursued it so often and other hon. Members may mention it. Yet freight is a stumbling block to all kinds of development in the Highland area, and it is the principal reason why the population is leaving Orkney, the Shetlands and the Western Isles.
Also there is a grave lack of capital. In my experience crofters and small farmers cannot now get the capital which they need. The banks will lend immense sums of money to people who have security of one kind or another but there is not the confidence in the North to enable capital to be readily available to small enterprises. It is no use for the Government to say that that is no concern of theirs, because they have the greatest influence over financial policy and at present that influence is used to curtail advances.
In the North of Scotland there has been, if anything, too much attention paid to annual subsidies and too little to 2159 long-term capital investment in land reclamation, in drainage and in enlarging holdings. The Treasury in this country has a long tradition of annual finance but in many ways it is a wasteful system. If we are to get what we need in transport and roads and development to bring new life into the far North, it means capital investment, and it may mean something like a land bank such as exists in countries with similar problems.
Then there is fishing. I am rather alarmed to hear talk of the need for curtailing the size of the fishing fleet, and in the new Orders there are signs that the Government are prepared to cut down on the grant of loans if it is shown that the fleet is expanding too rapidly. I regard that as a dangerous attitude. The comparison between Faroe and my constituency is remarkable. In Faroe the population has gone up by 8,000 whereas in the Shetlands it has fallen by 6,000. This is largely due to the fishing, which the Faroese learned from the Shetlanders in the first place.
There may be an ultimate limit to the expansion of traditional methods of fishing, but if we had better transport, refrigeration, new marketing methods, and quick freezing, there is still plenty of scope for more white fish to be landed. If fish is put into the shops in good condition in the South, there are plenty of people to eat it. But although there may be an ultimate limit, there are other methods of fishing and there are other fish to be caught, and if we must reduce the size of the traditional fleets, the answer is to try these new methods.
I am often laughed at for continually talking in this House about the need to exploit the catching and marketing of basking sharks and dog-fish, but Norwegians come over by the dozen to my constituency and make thousands and thousands of pounds out of catching dogfish and basking sharks around the shores of Shetland. We do not touch these fish and we shall never do so until the White Fish Authority does more about the processing and marketing of them. Then, there are ling and cod, which are caught by the Faroese, who are in no better position to do so than the people in Shetland or Caithness or on the North-East Coast.
2160 However, that requires capital, and I agree that under the present share system, which is good in many ways, it is difficult to build up the capital for new developments. Yet unless the Government are prepared to build up the complementary industries we shall not get the full benefit from industrialisation in Caithness, and we shall find ourselves faced with difficult problems of concentration of the population.
The present Government have only just come into office and presumably they expect to have four or five years ahead of them. They should not be scornful about planning. They should look at some of the lessons that have been learned. They should plan for a free enterprise economy, in which I am a believer. The two things are not antagonistic, because it is apparent that in any economy today there has to be a degree of planning, but that should help, not hinder, a free economy.
There is plenty of money for investment of certain kinds today, and we have a great area in the Highlands needing development. There is no other area in Britain comparable to it. If we can get, in conjunction with Dounreay, Caithness, the White Fish Authority, and the Herring Board, a real drive for the development of agriculture and fishing in ways suited to the conditions in the far North, we may see a new era, but it is for the Government to supply the drive and the imagination in an area which requires a different system from the rest of Britain.
I hope that the Government have not dropped the Crofters Commission with a sigh. Great importance is attached in the crofting districts as to how that Commission will work, and it will be the first sign from the Government of whether they mean business in the North or not. We do not yet know who is to be the chairman, but he must be a man in the prime of life and ability.
§ Mr. Grimond
There have been rumours about it. All I say is that he must have the full support of the Government because we shall succeed only if the Crofters Commission is integrated into a general plan of development and employment for the whole area, and if it works with the White Fish Authority, with the Atomic Authority, with the 2161 Herring Board, and the various other agencies which should be carrying out their various projects in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland under the general plan for the area.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. David J. Pryde (Midlothian)
I thought it was a great compliment to Scotland to have the Minister of Labour open this debate in person, but a queer thought struck me: why was it essential to have one of the finest legal intellects in Europe to paint the clouds with sunshine, or otherwise try to put a face upon the White Paper? There is no doubt that the Minister presented the White Paper in a very good light. To follow him by that most astute right hon. Gentleman, the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), who is a past master in the art of laying a smoke screen, was a technique on the part of the Government worthy of a great deal of respect.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), in examining the national position I always begin on the land. Every good economist begins on the land, because everything springs from the land. In examining the White Paper closely I found that when we considered the land there was room for a great deal of apprehension.
As my hon. Friend pointed out, the tillage area in Scotland in the past year decreased, the oats acreage fell by as much as 5.6 per cent., the barley acreage fell, and the potato acreage fell. When we take into consideration the fact that the manpower in Scottish agriculture is tending more towards casual labour and becoming more dependent upon child labour; when we take into consideration that the area of hill land in Scotland is more than twice as great than in England and Wales and that the Hill Sheep Subsidy has been cut out; when we take into consideration that our agricultural workers are leaving the land because of low wages, bad housing conditions, lack of educational facilities for their children and lack of amenities for themselves, we must think about the position very carefully indeed.
It is true that the White Paper says that there is an improvement in rural water supplies, but everyone knows that any such improvement is attributable to the work of the Labour Government. 2162 Consequently, in taking exception to any credit which the Government try to claim for an improvement in rural Scotland, we must point out that their policy for high interest rates, with 4½ per cent. loans to local authorities, does not hold out any hope for the repopulation of our countryside.
The Minister of Labour mentioned the Highlands. As I have previously pointed out, the Highlands problem arises from private ownership of land. As with the coal industry, we have these days to reconstruct Highland life, because it is part of our country, and we can only redevelop it on the basis of an adequate transport system. The welfare of the Highlands is based upon transport. The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove spoke about a great motor road. Such a road would be of great assistance in redeveloping our glens, but more than that has to be done. There must be a Forth road bridge and a Tay road bridge and a great road right round Scotland for not only civil but also military purposes. We must recognise that industry is the key to the welfare of Scotland.
I turn now to the problem industry, mining. Here again, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite try to find a scapegoat. We can again trace the industry's present grievances to private ownership. It is in its present state because of the damage inflicted upon it by private owners between the two world wars. For ten years I have spoken about the stupendous amount of money required to be poured into the mining industry to enable it to meet the demands of the country's industry, the expansion of which was begun by the Labour Government.
The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove spoke about Scotland getting into a bad condition. It was bound to be in a bad condition in 1945, after the greatest struggle that ever shook the human race. The first Labour Government faced political and Parliamentary problems unrivalled in our history. Nevertheless, we brought the country further along the road to recovery than any other country in Europe which was engaged in the Second World War. We found that the mining industry had to be nationalised because, as Sir Charles Reid pointed out, private enterprise could not possibly find the 2163 money for the machinery and equipment required to reconstruct the industry.
Sixty-three collieries in Scotland have been shut down since vesting date. In 1953, eight collieries, which, between them, produced 277,000 tons of coal per year, were closed. Lanarkshire, which used to produce the bulk of the coal output of Scotland, is practically a desert. Last year £8 million was allotted to Scotland for reconstruction and redevelopment in the industry. The National Coal Board recently showed hon. Members from both sides of the House exactly what has been done since vesting day and what has to be done. This clearly showed that coal production in North Lanarkshire would be blotted out in the near future. This means that the workers there have to go into other areas, such as Ayrshire and the Lothians, if they still wish to earn their living by coal mining.
We have a geological phenomenon in the bed of the River Esk, in the Lothians. In that valley are more seams than anywhere else in Scotland. In the western portion of Midlothian, two parishes in the Calder area have been scheduled under the Distribution of Industry Act. Although the Coal Board has pointed out that by 1965 there will be 17,000 miners in the area, the Government have made no attempt to introduce subsidiary industries to Midlothian.
The miners of Lanarkshire, especially the ageing ones, are reluctant to uproot their families from places where they have been for generations and go to Midlothian, even to new houses, when they know that the Government have made not the slightest effort to provide alternative employment there for the members of their families who do not earn their living by coal mining. If there is no incentive, how can the Coal Board be expected to obtain the necessary skilled men?
Today, fewer than 36,000 skilled face workers in Scotland are producing more coal per man at the coal face than ever before. Many people are under the impression that miners are producing less than they did previously, but that is not so. The output per man-shift at the coal face is greater in Scotland than it ever has been.
The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove referred to Edinburgh. Midlothian 2164 County Council is building at Easthouses, eight miles south-east of Edinburgh, the largest mining town in Scotland. There the miners are showing how they can adapt themselves to the new mechanical apparatus installed by the Coal Board in an endeavour to meet the need of our expanding industry. Has not Scotland increased her distribution of coal to households and industry? Is it not true that coal is being shipped from Scotland yet being imported from England simply because it has not been possible to pour the required amount of money into our mining industry to develop the necessary coal-faces?
About £8 million is totally insufficient to meet the great demands of the industry, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite want to find a scapegoat. Last Monday they picked on the Minister of Fuel and Power but he has no more responsibility in the matter than my dog. He is also the victim of circumstances and history. Like the Board, he is faced with an impossible task.
The Board is being asked to do something which is financially impossible. It is asked to purchase and import coal and then sell it at less than the purchase price. It is asked to build houses. It is asked to provide amenities. Hundreds of men who had gone to Midlothian returned to Lanarkshire before the last General Election. I had to contact them and have their votes recorded by post. They returned to Lanarkshire simply because no amenities were provided in the Midlothian mining areas. I accuse the Government of having failed to provide the necessary amenities and the necessary subsidiary employment in the Midlothian area.
I want, next, to refer to shale. Here is a curious position. Here are two parishes, Kirknewton and Mid-Calder, scheduled under the Distribution of Industry Act. Here are womenfolk who travel greater distances to work than do people anywhere else in Scotland. It is quite a common occurrence for people in the industrial belt to travel as far as from Edinburgh to Glasgow, or Glasgow to Edinburgh, rather than be unemployed. The shale industry has been declining for many years and no provision has been made for the womenfolk. There is no chance of holding up incentives for recruitment to this great industry, which is 2165 haunted by the fear of altogether disappearing.
It is haunted by the fear of the impingement of crude oil. Is it not ironical that the natives of the Persian Gulf and Red Sea areas can look forward with equanimity to oil development, while the people in the area where the oil industry was born, because the oil industry of the world was born in the Lothians, should look forward to it with the greatest fear? It will bring the inhabitants of those savage lands riches and luxury.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned carpets. He said that the carpets which he had in mind were woven in Ayr. I have in mind carpets woven in Midlothian. Here I accuse the Board of Trade. Years ago I pointed out that in Oxford Street, in London, carpets were being sold at a price which undercut carpets woven in Midlothian. These are tapestry carpets and tapestry is the working man's carpet. Until recently we were able to export them all over the world and then cotton carpets from Belgium intervened.
I investigated the position to find out how it was possible for the Belgians to export carpets to this country and undercut our prices. I was assured that it was not because of low wages. I was assured that wages were comparable with those paid in Britain. Where was the difference? Was it in the raw material? Is it a fact that the cotton which goes into the Belgian carpet is produced by the slave labour in the Belgian Congo? I do not know, but I would be interested to have that information and I am sure that the Government can supply it.
I have dealt with the land, but I have omitted to point out that £2½ million less will be spent in agriculture, forestry and fisheries in Scotland next year than was spent last year. That does not hold any hope to the farming industry. In open-cast working we have a problem which is troubling agriculture, because farmers ire bitterly complaining about the damage done by and the loss of income from opencast operations. I draw the Government's attention to the fact that compensation afforded to the farmers is cased on wartime legislation passed in he early 1940s, when the value of money vas very different from what it is today. It is time the Government turned their attention to this problem. If they do not, 2166 the National Farmers' Union in Scotland will be called to the assistance of the Midlothian farmers.
We require coal and the farmers know quite well that we do, but there is no reason why the Government should boast that they are the friends of agriculture and of the farmer while, at the same time, driving him into the bankruptcy court. I have shown them that their policy about mining needs to be considerably reviewed and accelerated. I have shown them that they will no longer be able to boast of building 300,000 houses a year, because local authorities are saying that it is impossible for them to take on the financial obligation of loans at 4½ per cent. I doubt very much whether the Government seriously intend to build more houses at the rate they built them recently. They were urged to do that by their own back benchers and rank and file. They did build 300,000 houses, but they have to neglect the building of hospitals, schools and halls for amenities.
That is why the Scottish Office officials are going round local authorities and getting on their knees and saying that the local authorities must try to repair old prefabricated houses to give them another five years life, because the Government are now to turn their attention to schools and hospitals and cannot possibly keep up the rate of building. The output of the building industry is a fixed quantity and not a piece of elastic that can be stretched. I think I have given the House sufficient data clearly to show that Scotland does not approve of the present Report.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
The debate is ranging wide, as one would expect a debate to do when one has representatives from such divergent types of constituencies as Scotland sends to Parliament. We had the interesting contribution by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), who said that Glasgow should go up in the air. We had the equally interesting contribution by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), who invited us to follow him in what seemed to me to be the rather dangerous waters of basking sharks and dog-fish. We then had a contribution 2167 by the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Pryde), in the following of which I do not want to go into too much detail except to say that he was very inaccurate in a good many of the facts he gave us in pleading his case.
He said, for example, that coal output per man-shift at the face was higher than it has ever been. That is just not so. Official statistics show that in 1938 it was greater than now, and that is in spite of all the machinery that has been put into the mines to develop production. Then he criticised Her Majesty's Government for not having done much about hospitals and education. But I should like to point out that the previous Government were doing no more and were building far fewer houses. So it falls ill that it should come from his lips that he should criticise the Government by an argument which will rebound, and does rebound, with greater force upon his own party.
Through most of the speeches, nevertheless, there has run a theme, and that is particularly true of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser). That theme is of transcendental importance to Scotland. My arguments are not quite the same as his, although we arrive at nearly the same conclusion. As I have already argued in this House, I believe that the time has come when the restrictions and regulations governing industry in the Development Areas needs to be revised. The purposes of the Development Areas scheme were originally not only to absorb the unemployment rife and in existence at a higher rate there than elsewhere, but also to try to spread industry all over Scotland for the better advantage of Scottish industry in general.
We have arrived at a point where, happily, the unemployment figures for Scotland, both in the Development Areas and elsewhere, have fallen to a very small percentage of what they used to be. They are still double the figures for England and that I think is a justification for Scotland being, in this matter, treated somewhat differently from England. It is also true that the Development Area unemployment figure is, overall, not much greater than the figure for the unemployment in Scotland as a whole. There are, perhaps, pockets——
§ Mr. Hutchison
No, 2.6 per cent. unemployment in the Development Areas, compared with 2.2 per cent. unemployment in Scotland as a whole. Those are the figures which I have been given, and I understand that they are official.
Whether my figures be more favourable or the hon. Gentleman's nearer, I think it a fact that there are parts of the Development Areas in which the excessive unemployment has been largely reduced. There are other areas, as has been indicated, in Lanarkshire, and perhaps in Port Glasgow, where unemployment is still higher than it ought to be in relation to the general unemployment figure for Scotland.
I should like to see the Secretary of State for Scotland given the power to attract industry into an area where it would do the greatest good. It may well be that such an area would be a Development Area, were that area suffering from great unemployment. But it may well be not a Development Area at all. There may be places where we have what has been described as a single-horse industry —a single-horse town—where it would be an advantage to have another industry. Such places as Midlothian have been mentioned, and Glenrothes, where diversification would be of value.
At present, my right hon. Friend can offer several advantages to industry in the Development Areas. He can offer advance-built factories which have largely been absorbed. There has been an argument about whether they should be continued, but under my plan it would not be practicably possible to do so. I am asking for this power of the Secretary of State to be applicable all over Scotland, so we could not have factories all over Scotland waiting and ready for someone to take a fancy to them. The Secretary of State, as I understand, has not the power to build a factory after a site has been chosen outside a Development Area and give the facilities such as subsidised rent which he could give were it within a Development Area. I think he should have that power and that it should be left for him to decide whether it would be to the greatest good of Scotland as a whole to place a factory at, for example, Arbroath, Midlothian, or Port Glasgow.
Other advantages possessed by the Secretary of State are priority in Govern- 2169 ment contracts and the granting of loans on attractive terms. My right hon. Friend should have the power to use all or any of these advantages to attract industry to a non-industrial area. It may be that he could do so merely by offering priority in Government contracts. He might not have to go to the length of building a factory. I would leave that decision to him. But I think that his hands should be loosened in that matter.
I wish to pass to another theme and to touch on all these things rather lightly and quickly because my remarks are mostly of an interrogatory nature. I wish, first, to refer to the question of peat. This matter seems to be lagging behind. I brought up the question five or six years ago and asked what progress was being made in obtaining electrical power from peat. I was told that investigations were being made at that time. The production of energy from peat has been going on in Ireland, in Denmark, and in the Soviet Union for a number of years. It is true that we are told that experimentation is going on in connection with gas turbine plants both by John Brown and Company and Ruston and Hornsby.
We were told that also a year ago; but the situation brooks of no delay; whether it be atomic energy or—as would be the case—only a small contribution from peat, or the production of coal, or however it may come. One of the hungers from which this country is suffering, and will suffer in greater measure in the near future, is the hunger for energy: electric power. So I wish to know how we are getting on with this. Particularly I should like some information on the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove about What is being uncovered in the areas from which peat is being taken. I have heard rumours about disappointment with the soil beneath the peat.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that it becomes a doubtful proposition if after having taken five or six feet of peat and gone through the dewatering process, and used it for energy, we find nothing worthwhile underneath. I have not heard anything from official sources about what is being found beneath the peat and I should be glad if I could be enlightened. Is it land which will serve agricultural purposes or is the land of no value?
2170 The next matter to which I wish to refer is the question of nuclear power: I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House have already realised the importance of this in its peaceful uses and, alas, at present in the threat of war. We cannot afford to lag behind in this matter. I believe that this is one of the activities in which Britain might accept supranational control. I do not wish to develop that theme now, but it is one of the things in which the road can more clearly be seen for an international authority controlling all the nuclear energy produced for peaceful purposes in Western Europe.
I should be out of order were I to go further in discussing that subject. I throw it out to underline the importance of this production of electricity from nuclear energy. How are we getting on with it? I have heard it said that Dounreay is to be expanded further and I have read about a new power station at Annan. But I have only read of it unofficially. Is there to be a new station at Annan? May we hear something about that?
I wish to plead for some of the railway locomotives to be built in Scotland under the new dieselisation plan in the modernisation of our railway system. We are the only country, except India, which does not buy its locomotives from expert manufacturers. In the past, we have manufactured some, but not all, of the steam locomotives in the railway workshops. About 90 per cent., perhaps more, but certainly 90 per cent., of the activities of these workshops is concerned with repairs, research and development and I believe that the proper rôle. I plead with my right hon. Friend to steer to Scotland some of the orders for the diesel engines which are to haul the trains with increased efficiency and speed between Glasgow and Edinburgh so that the engines may be manufactured in Scotland. I am informed that that would cause no risk of redundancy in the railway work shops. The repairs, research and development with which they would still be concerned would occupy, if not 100 per cent., very nearly 100 per cent, of the labour there.
Now a word about shipbuilding. I think it was the secretary of the Boilermakers' Society who said the other day that there was the threat of boycott on ships built in Germany. That is a purblind attitude to adopt in these modern 2171 days. To begin with, when we have got, as we have, about two years' work for the stocks in our shipbuilding yards, then we must expect shipowners to go to those yards where they can get quicker delivery. I dare say that the prices are about the same, and, therefore, it is not reasonable to expect a shipowner to wait perhaps two or three years when he can get delivery quicker in a German yard at the present time.
An interesting article was written by three trade unionists who recently paid a visit to Germany to find out how it was that the Germans were able to build up their shipbuilding industry in the way they have been doing. Of course, I could have told them that one of the advantages which the Germans had was the question of delivery. Another is that they are getting much more flexibility in the internal economy of the labour in their workshops.
That is exactly what these three trade unionists came back and reported. They said that the German plant was more modern. Of course, that is true, because the Germans started from scratch owing to the fact that their shipbuilding yards had been demolished. It is a great advantage to be able to start an industry from scratch for a certain period, but, if the plant is not kept up to date, then somebody else may later start from scratch with that same advantage.
There are some archaic restrictions which, I believe, the T.U.C. and some of the unions are trying gradually to break down, but they are still extremely rigid and make for very expensive work. During the Election campaign, a riveter asked me why he could not become a welder. I said that I thought he could if he went the appropriate way about it. He said that he was not allowed to become a welder, that the workers are all trade-departmentalised. They are all in the Boilermakers' Society which caters for caulkers, burners, riveters and welders. According to this man, the interchange was almost impossible because if all riveters were able to become welders there would be an excess of welders. If I am wrong about that, I should like to know, because then it would show that an old demarcation which has existed for a very long time is disappearing.
§ Mr. Hutchison
Yes, but with very strict limits on it, I understand. If the demarcation is disappearing, all well and good, because that is what I want to see. It is something which has almost completely disapeared in German yards, and its disappearance has made for the lowering of costs.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
To take it a little further, would the hon. Gentleman agree that if the welder is able to take up the paint brush, if necessary, and if the blacksmith is able to do the work of the joiner, some other employee should do the work of the director when he is away hunting, shooting and fishing?
§ Mr. Hutchison
Whether or not that is provided for in the article written by the three trade unionists, it is, nevertheless, a fact that the demarcation between one trade and another in the shipbuilding industry is far too narrowly drawn. Of course, it would be ridiculous to say that a man who had never handled a paint brush could paint a ship. I am not trying to destroy a protection which has been built up in the past, but I think that in many ways it is now archaic and wants to be made less rigid.
§ Mr. Hutchison
I do not know any-think about the Law Society. That is not a red herring to be followed in the course of this debate.
I will conclude by making one more appeal, and one directed chiefly to hon. Members opposite. I believe—and I said seven or so years ago—that the trade unions have a great rôle to play. It will be well for the country if they play that rôle wisely. In my view, the trade unions have not moved as fast as the power which they have achieved in the last few years should dictate. Power has out stripped them. With power inevitable goes responsibility, and it is that sense of responsibility which I think they need and are trying to develop. We cannot have responsibility without also incurring criticism. I have already criticised one aspect of trade unionism and I want to add another.
2173 I appeal to hon. Members opposite to try to do something to stop the victimisation of men who want to work in spite of unofficial strikes. No one likes victimisation. It is one of the things which hon. Members opposite have fought against continuously for years.
§ Mr. Hutchison
Yes, I do. I think that the nation hates to see the sort of thing that occasionally happens, where a man, and his family, are "sent to Coventry" because he wants to work. I agree that one has the right to withhold one's labour, but, equally one must have the right to give one's labour. I believe that it is a form of cruelty to "send people to Coventry," something which is bringing the trade unions into disrepute. I believe that if hon. Members would do what they could to try to stop this practice, they would be doing a great service to the country and to humanity, because this sort of treatment smacks of what goes on behind the Iron Curtain.
§ Mr. Hutchison
I hope that hon. Members will not regard this as being a controversial or a political argument. It is not. It is an argument in favour of humanity. Those hon. Members opposite who doubt that should read the article written by that very big-hearted individual who was the Minister of Labour in their own Government, the right hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs). The article appeared the other day in the "Sunday Dispatch," and the right hon. Gentleman ended it by pleading for the same thing as I am asking for, the casting out of hatred. He was talking about hatred and bitterness.
Britons are bad haters. What did we do in the First World War? We fought the Turk and called him "Johnny Turk." We fought the German, and we called him "Jerry.'" The French called him "Sale Boche," with a spit. Why should this sort of treatment be meted out to a man who wants nothing more than to be allowed to carry on with his work? The right hon. Member for Southwark ended his article by saying: 2174Cast it out. Every decent man and woman should have nothing to do with it.I hope that all hon. Members will help him and me to do that.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
I do not wish to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison) at great length, but I should like to say a word or two in relation to his final appeal. No one can properly understand trade unionists and trade unions unless he knows something of the background of the Trade Union movement and the efforts which ordinary working people have put into it in order to uplift their status. For many generations they were the degraded section of society; the hewers of wood and the drawers of water; the people who were treated so often as mere scum, to come and go at the orders and beckoning of the fellows at the top.
I put it to the hon. Member for Scotstoun that the position has changed so greatly during the last few years precisely because of the immense power which trade unionists have gathered unto themselves. This immense power arises out of the virtue of solidarity and of loyalty one to the other. Hon. Members opposite would probably say that the greatest crime that a man can commit is that of disloyalty; they would say disloyalty to his country, because for so long they have taken it upon themselves to be the spokesmen for the country. They regard high treason as the greatest crime.
I put it to them that as so many people regard high treason, so do thousands of others amongst the working class regard the practice of the blackleg. It may be unfortunate, but there it is; it is something which is ingrained in the viewpoint of working people. It is something from which they have suffered so much in the past. What they have built up by their efforts has been broken down; their status has been reduced, and their power weakened, because some men would rather crawl to the boss than stand by their fellow workers. In the eyes of many workers it is a crime that this practice should go on.
I am not trying to excuse it, but we must try to understand how it arises. If we are to change the situation we must establish a position in society which will endure for a considerable time. The existing position has lasted for only a few 2175 years. Only in the immediate post-war years have workers been able to feel that there were more jobs than men. Workers have not yet been able to get it out of their minds that they might soon—perhaps very soon—find themselves in the old position, with many more men than jobs.
The demarcation practices which the hon. Member laments have grown up as a result of the experience of working men in conflict with employers. The employer will always try to break the rate and to get his labour force so much cheaper. Why should not the working men say, "If we can establish a claim for this particular skill we shall establish it"? It is a means of monopolising a given kind of skill in order to get the best reward for that skill. Trade unions were compelled to do this in the society in which they grew up. They are a product of the private enterprise system.
§ Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison
I realise all that. The hon. Member is treating the matter very reasonably and broadmindedly. I know a good deal of the background to the problem, because I have had something to do with trade unionists for many years. But trade unionism has now grown up; it is no longer adolescent, and it should be able to leave behind many of these practices.
§ Mr. Lawson
I wish I could say that I think our present position, which has existed only since the war, will endure. During this period trade unions have shown extraordinary restraint. I did not take part in the recent debate on industrial relations, but I should like to point out that the most significant change which has come about—and which was never mentioned in that debate—is not the growth of unofficial strikes, but the return of official strikes. Trade unions are beginning to feel that they must once again resort to a weapon which they were growing out of the habit of using.
A few years ago it would have been unthinkable that an organisation such as the A.S.L.E.F. or the N.U.R. could dream of calling a strike. These strikes were called because of the change in social circumstances which has arisen very recently. Hon. Members opposite are making a virtue out of those things which trade unions have found themselves 2176 combating, and trade unions are not to be blamed if they feel that if the policies advocated by hon. Members opposite are allowed to work out they will find themselves where they were before.
Full employment—which is that situation where there are more jobs than men —is a product of Government action, and if it is to continue it can only be as the result of continuing Government action. Broadly speaking, this action takes the form of pumping into the stream of demand a huge volume of purchasing power —the vast pouring out of orders from the Government in one form or another. Local government and the nationalised industries are certainly pumping into circulation over 50 per cent. of the capital investment in our society.
This huge volume of Governmental expenditure in one form or another is the principal cause of the high level of employment, and to that can be added the fact that in some ways we are still living in a state of preparation for war. Take these activities, and add to them the very many other secondary ones which the Government or some other form of Governmental agency engage in, and we have the possession of full employment. The point of view expressed by hon. Members opposite, however, is, "Slash this expenditure; wipe it out as far as possible." Knowing that that is their point of view, and knowing that it is only through the force of circumstances that it is not given full rein, how can we turn to our fellow workers and say, "Scrap all those practices which you built up in the past to safeguard yourselves"? If our organisations were to be broken in power we should very quickly find ourselves being treated as we were in the past. We are not prepared to see these organisations reduced in power until we have sufficient guarantees, over a lengthy period of time, that the party opposite has changed its point of view and is acting very differently.
I now turn to my main reason for wishing to take part in the debate. I want to hark back to the closing remark made by the Minister of Labour. I do not want to attack his speech, which was quietly and reasonably delivered, but his statement that the outlook for Scotland was, on the whole, a promising one, struck me as very important. I wish I could say that I felt it was true.
2177 I represent a constituency which is the heart of the steel industry in Scotland, Motherwell. We have heard a great deal about a huge development taking place in Motherwell, but even when that development is completed the steel industry of Scotland will be producing proportionately less steel than now. In 1953, Scotland produced 13.1 per cent. of the United Kingdom's output of steel. In 1958, when the tremendous Motherwell scheme is completed, Scotland will be producing 11.4 of our total steel output. We want the scheme, but we must not read too much into it, because we shall not even maintain Scotland's proportionate position in steel.
That 13.1 percentage is low compared with previous percentages in Scotland. We welcome the development that is going on, but development will be more rapid elsewhere. It is not much good producing steel unless it is to be used. The principal user of Scottish steel is the shipbuilding and marine engineering industry. In 1954, this industry used 21 per cent. of Scottish steel output. I am not talking of the many ancillary industries but of the industry producing ships, which is consuming more than one-fifth of Scottish steel production.
When we think of the output of steel from Scotland we should think in terms of the output of the shipbuilding industry. According to the figures, there was a pulling up in the latter part of 1954. That continued into the earlier part of 1955. Even then the industry will receive orders substantially less than the output at present. In 1954, shipbuilding output was about 1½ million tons. Scotland's share was about 40 per cent. of this total. We must, therefore, appreciate the importance of shipbuilding in Scotland. Lack of steel held back the shipbuilding industry for a long time. So much for private enterprise steel: but I will leave that point aside.
The shipping industry, when fully engaged, and with a plentiful supply of steel, can complete about 1¾ million tons of shiping. The rate of orders for that industry, even with the recent pulling-up, is less than 900,000 tons a year. The year before it was about 400,000 tons, and the year before that about 800,000 tons. The figures mean that the industry is obtaining orders for not much more than half the capacity of the industry to produce 2178 ships. We have to meet two years' backlog, due to a variety of factors, but that position is not likely to be repeated.
The future of the shipbuilding industry matters very much to the steel-making industry, and to most of the other industries of Scotland. We are confronted with no alternatives. We can cut out the question of orders going to Germany because it complicates and makes more difficult the position. Orders in 1954 were inadequate for the shipbuilding industry. What is to happen to this industry if, for example, the maximum orders it can get amount to about 800,000 tons per annum, although when fully employed it can produce about 1¾ million tons of shipping per annum? It is very difficult to escape the conclusion that the shipbuilding industry is due for contraction. If that is so, it will affect the steel industry in Scotland particularly.
I think that that is a reasonable standpoint. I wish I could say that that conclusion did not confront me, but it seems inescapable. There is no evidence that shipbuilding orders can bring us up to the level of 1½ million tons. I am speaking not of next year, but of three or four years ahead, and of the position that is working itself out. That is how the nation's economy, which is based so much upon shipbuilding and heavy industry, will be affected.
What measures are the Government taking to meet this position? I can find very little evidence of any measures to meet this rising difficulty, this very great problem that confronts us. We need, not small industries, little bits and pieces here and there, but a development of other basic industries. For example, what is happening with aircraft. I know that there is the Prestwick Pioneer aircraft, but how much can we expect from that development? To what extent can it meet the contraction in shipbuilding? I should very much like to be assured that this contraction in shipbuilding is simply a wild dream, but if it is not, is the aircraft industry able to replace it?
What about heavy road vehicles? The vehicle builder was an important tradesman in Scotland but he is disappearing from our country. Some of our best craftsmen are going, because heavy vehicles are ceasing to be built in Scotland. What have the Government to offer in this connection? What about 2179 locomotives? I know there have been substantial orders for wagon building, but when the change-over takes place from the steam engine to the diesel engine we want Scotland to get a fair share of the new type of engine. Such industries might, to a considerable extent, counteract any contraction in the shipbuilding industry.
What is the reaction of Government supporters to these possibilities? They say that we must rely upon private enterprise. What has Scotland obtained from private enterprise? I am talking as a Scotsman about Scotsmen. It is important to note what the Scottish business man is saying. Let me refer to some words by Mr. Ian Macdonald, who is General Manager of the Commercial Bank of Scotland. In February this year, addressing the Edinburgh City Business Club, he said:More money has flowed from Edinburgh into North America than from Edinburgh into Scotland.Let us remember that Edinburgh is the Scottish centre of finance, and should be a centre of enterprise. Mr. Macdonald went on to say, according to a newspaper report, that Scotland, and Edinburgh particularly, had been traditionally the home of a great many insurance companies and investment trusts, and added:They have undoubtedly had a most successful record of management from the proprietors' point of view. While that is true, it is also true to say that these companies have invested practically nothing at risk in Scotland. It is disappointing that so little of that finance has been used to help Scottish industry.That is the centre of Scottish finance, yet the money is going to America—everywhere except back into Scotland.
If we turn to the Stock Exchange Year Book and look at the record of new companies registered in Scotland, it will be found that the amount of nominal capital has steeply fallen. In 1951, it was nearly £8½ million. In 1953, it was down to £3,600,000. Based on the number of new companies formed that means less than £5,000 per company. In England, in 1953, which is the latest year for which I have figures, £83,700,000 was subscribed in nominal capital to companies newly registered. If my calculation is right, twenty-three times more capital was invested in new companies in England than in Scotland. That is how the Scottish business men are behaving.
2180 We can point to the fact that unemployment is only about 3 per cent.—sometimes a little above, sometimes a little below—but let us recognise that year after year Scotland is losing some of her best people. People come into the country and others go out, but every year since 1948 Scotland has lost between 22,000 and 28,000 of her population. Large numbers go to England and many to other parts of the world. When we are thinking of the unemployment level the jobs available in Scotland must be taken into account.
The prospects of the jobs offered in Scotland—especially the prospects for the youngsters—are not as good as elsewhere. On the whole, the work is much less well paid and more precarious. That is the reason for emigration. It is not the romantic nonsense about the Scots wanting to people the earth. People do not come from the Highlands to Glasgow for romantic reasons but for job reasons. Nor do they go from Scotland to Birmingham, to Australia and Canada for romantic reasons but for jobs.
Development has been taking place in Scotland over the last few years, but it was greater during the period of office of the Labour Government. What are the main examples quoted by the Government? One is Grangemouth, with its oil development. How much of that was due to Marshall Aid and how much to Government prompting and assistance? Had Scotland been left to the mercies of Scottish business men how much of that development would there have been? Very little, I suggest.
There is the £20 million scheme for Colvilles. That scheme was decided on when Colvilles was nationalised, and very little in the nature of new development can be attributed to private enterprise. I understand that there has been a great deal of initiative shown with the Prestwick Pioneer aircraft. I welcome that, but to what extent has the Prestwick Pioneer and the Twin Pioneer been due to the backing of the Government?
The same applies to electronics and to the efforts of Ferranti. I cannot call Ferranti a Scottish firm—though I should like to. They have been making efforts, in conjunction with the Scottish Council (Development and Industry), and the Board of Trade have also been to the 2181 fore in assisting Ferranti to develop electronics in Scotland. Dounreay, again, is a Government effort. Surely the Government must see that where there is a bright side to Scotland—and, of course, there is a bright side—it is due overwhelmingly to the recent efforts of this Government—and, more especially, of the last Government.
Of the whole United Kingdom, Scotland possibly depends more than any other country on continuing Governmental action. But what are we faced with? From the other side of the House we are faced constantly with pressure to reduce that action. There is continual effort to reduce the volume of Government action—not necessarily money spent by the Government, but efforts made on the part of the Government to develop the country. More and more we are told that Scotland must depend on its private business men. I say that we cannot depend on them and that we must have intelligent Government action. That is what we plead for.
I shall not enter here into any arguments about the Development Areas or the developing areas. I simply say that the whole problem must be approached from the point of view of making the best use of Scottish manpower and resources. If Scotland is to be deprived of continuing Government assistance it will surely become a derelict area. We ask for assistance, and ask that it be given in no grudging spirit. It must be recognised that Scotland has no future if it is to be thrown back to the wolves of uncontrolled private enterprise. We want planning. I know that word has become almost a term of abuse, but I do not think we shall get prosperity except by Government action.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
There is a great deal with which we can agree in the speech of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). The Government have been helping to attract industries into Scotland but, in a debate of this kind—and considering the position in which Scotland now finds herself—it is natural that we should have been concentrating more in the industrial belt. The object of the debate has been to get as much business and enterprise as possible into Scotland, and I think that a case has been made 2182 out that she is, perhaps, not getting as much as we should like her to have.
I should like to draw the debate back to the Highlands. I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) when he says that we must have some form of planning, together with private enterprise which has played, and is playing, a very important part and, of course, it must continue to do so.
My constituency is almost as large as the whole of the Scottish industrial belt. During the term of the Labour Government the Highland Development Area was formed. Most of the speakers I have heard so far have spoken of "the Development Area," but seem to have forgotten that there are two. There is the one in the industrial belt of which we have been hearing so much, and there is the other in the Highlands of which we have been hearing nothing at all. That is not surprising because, as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland has said, practically no development has taken place in the Highland Development Area. A little later I want to touch upon one development about which I am very disappointed—the development of an oil meal factory. I shall raise it a little later, and I shall not apologise for doing so.
What is happening in the Highlands today? I ask the Government, what is their policy for the development of industry in the Highlands? I believe, and I have always maintained—and in this I think that I am supported by most of my Highland colleagues—that subsidiary industries are needed in the Highlands. That has been said often before. Light industries are needed in addition to our basic industries of agriculture, afforestation and fisheries.
I believe that the hon. Member for Motherwell said that the Highlander goes to Glasgow and abroad for the reason that he cannot keep a family at home. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) is quite right when he says that every farmer's son does not want to be a farmer. That is very true. We have seen that happen over the years. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland said that if we could go back over history, Glasgow and the industrial belt of Scotland would not have been allowed to develop in the way it did, if the people in control at that time 2183 had appreciated just what would happen by providing this tremendous concentration in this narrow belt of Scotland and neglecting the large areas of waste land in the Highlands.
As nothing is happening in the Development Area in Scotland so far as industries outside the basic industries are concerned, I believe that the Government should spend more money on those things that are in the Highlands today and which are of great advantage and benefit to the Highlands. I do not want to make a rambling speech, so I will concentrate on one or two points. The right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) mentioned that it was the wide spaces of Scotland which were virtually selling the tourist industry. The tourist industry in Scotland today is tremendously valuable. People from abroad brought £9 million last year into Scotland. That is very valuable for Scotland, and particularly valuable for the Highlands. But I think everyone agrees that before we can develop an area, whether for tourists or for industry, we have to improve communications.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is keeping a very close watch on the development of roads in Scotland. In April of next year he will be responsible for the roads of Scotland. I believe that the present policy is quite inadequate. I read the other day that the Government are to spend £85 million on over 300 miles of roads which will go half way up England. At the same time, it was said by the Minister of Transport, or one of his officials, that the Government could not spend money on providing a double-track road in the Highlands, and that it was not needed. I have never heard anything so ridiculous or so ludicrous.
Look at what is happening in the Highlands area. Take the Hydro-Electric Board. I am not blaming the Board for spending money on making a new road to replace the road which it has done away with. The Board is building new roads 8 ft. wide, with passing places. I am not saying that we can at present spend money on all our narrow track roads in the Highlands by widening and providing passing places. I am, however, saying that it is absolute madness to build a new road 8 ft. wide, with passing places, today 2184 in the Highlands, when we are trying to develop the area. How can we expect tourists to come to the Highlands when buses cannot, and are not permitted to, come up many of the Highland roads today? Yet we want to encourage tourists to the Highlands.
If a new road is to be made, surely it would be better to make a proper double-track road now, because the expense of increasing the width of that road—and this will have to be done in the years to come—will be vastly more then than it is now, when all the machinery is there. I ask the Secretary of State in all sincerity if he is really watching future development. He will be responsible for all of it, and it will mean a great deal of extra expenditure if this sort of thing is allowed to go on in Scotland and in the Highlands today. I could give other examples, but I think that I have made my point clear.
§ Mr. McInnes
The Hydro-Electric Board is simply building a power station or an aqueduct, or something of that kind. If this road was to be utilised as a main road, with buses on it, obviously the proper thing would have been for the Inverness County Council to make overtures to the Hydro-Electric Board and come to some financial arrangement with the Secretary of State for Scotland.
§ Mr. MacLeod
The hon. Gentleman does not really appreciate what I am talking about. I am speaking about the main road from Fort William to the North—the road to the Isles. The Hydro-Electric Board is obliged to build a road in that area, because it is an area which is to be flooded, thus making a detour necessary. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there ought to be more co-operation with other bodies.
§ Mr. MacLeod
Yes, of course, more planning. I am not against planning. But I want good plans and not some of the nonsense produced under the Labour Government.
§ Mr. MacLeod
I am not muddled at all.
I support the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) when it says in its Report:It is the firm conviction of the Executive Committee that the Government distribution of industry policy requires modification to meet conditions which are very different from what they were at the conclusion of the Second World War.The Report says that the Government should continue to provide facilities for industrial development for the general advantage of the community as a whole, irrespective of geographical location. That is very true. The Government should have another look at the Cairn-cross Report. These small burghs can contribute outwith the Development Areas. They have got all the facilities at their command and they should be encouraged to develop more. The Government should think again, because the present system of Highland development has proved useless. The Government really must improve these facilities to encourage industry into the area.
I should like to mention once again the Hydro-Electric Board. If we are to develop our tourist industry we must consider the development of the various amenities on which tourism depends. All the small people in the rural areas can contribute much to national well-being in the Highlands and to tourism in particular. Most Scots people want to take tourists into their houses, because there is a great lack of accommodation in the Highlands. Without proper roads potential tourists cannot get there, and without water in the houses and adequate sanitation the local people do not like to invite tourists into their houses. Without electricity they cannot do what they would like to do.
The Hydro-Electric Board is asking far too high guarantees. Why should it demand these guarantees today? People in the Highland areas are using far more electricity than the Hydro-Electric Board expected. This is only natural, because as soon as electricity is installed in a house the housewife wants a new cooker, a hair drier, and so on. Therefore, the people are using more electricity than they were expected to use. But many 2186 people are frightened by the high guarantees which the Hydro-Electric Board demand. There is a school consisting of two rooms in my constituency, not away out in the blue. The Hydro-Electric Board was demanding a guarantee of £95 before it would bring the electricity to that area and to the school which needed the electricity badly. I know that the cost of bringing it to the remoter houses is high, but surely there is no need for the Board to demand any guarantee at all because it knows that the people will use the electricity once it is brought into the area.
§ Mr. Rankin
Has the hon. Gentleman approached the Chairman of the Hydro-Electric Board? If so, what was the answer?
§ Mr. MacLeod
That is all very well, but my point is that if the Board can reduce the guarantee why should it try to frighten people off in the first place? In many of these cases there is no need to demand a guarantee whatsoever.
Now I turn to a Development Area in which a very serious situation is arising. The Herring Industry Board was going to arrange to put a meal-processing factory in the village of Avoch, in my constituency. I think I have mentioned this before. Just as everything was going through, when a deep-water harbour was about to be made and the whole matter was practically settled, people about three miles away said that if the factory was erected and created a nuisance by its smell they would have the factory closed. The Herring Industry Board has now written to the county council saying that the Board will not erect the factory because of this strong opposition.
Is this sort of thing to happen all over the country? Is the Board to continue to be scared if people three miles or more away object? This is so important that the Secretary of State should tell us what the position is. What is likely to be the extent of the nuisance three miles away? If my right hon. Friend cannot tell me now, will he ask the scientists to look into this question and give him an 2187 answer? Surely it is not impossible for the scientists to give an answer on that point. It seems to be impossible for the Herring Industry Board to do so, because I have tried to get an answer from it for the last two years.
Here we have a potential development in an area where the local farming community all support it, because this meal oil can be used to make feeding stuffs. Yet the Herring Industry Board is running away because some people three miles away say that if there is a nuisance it will demand that the factory shall be closed, and I am told that by law the Board can do it. I hope that the Secretary of State will ascertain what the nuisance, if any, is likely to be from a modern factory of this kind. I have always understood that there is very little smell at all, unless one goes inside the building, and that the nuisance outside is not likely to be very great. The only nuisance which might arise is the smoke from the chimney stack, but let no one tell me that modern scientists cannot deal with that.
It looks very much as if the Herring Industry Board had no intention of developing in that area. I hope that that is not the case. It certainly seems ridiculous that the Board should be scared by this threat. There is no development in this area at the moment, and here is one industry which should be developed there. I hope that if the Secretary of State cannot reply on this important point tonight he will obtain the information as soon as possible.
The Highlands of Scotland can play a greater part than they are playing today. We have heard a lot about Dounreay, and so on, but if the Government are not prepared to spend money on providing facilities to attract people into these areas to create new industries, more money should be spent on what already exists. As a constituent of mine said the other day, when the Hydro-Electric Board had brought light to the area, "No development has occurred here for a hundred years, so surely we must have a great credit lying to our balance as against the rest of the country." The Highlands certainly have a great credit lying idle which should be spent in the development of that area.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow. Central)
I hope that the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the arguments which he advanced, because the problems of the Highlands and Islands are distinct and peculiar to those areas. I want to make some observations, however, on some points which he made. He referred, for example, to the lack of modern transport, electricity and——
§ Mr. John MacLeod
I have never complained about the Hydro-Electric Board, which I think has done a magnificent job. I have always supported the Board. I grant that communications in the Highlands are deplorable.
§ Mr. MacLeod
I must correct the hon. Gentleman. I said that I was not blaming the Hydro-Electric Board. It had to make this road, but surely the Government or the local authorities could have said, "We will play our part in the extra expenditure necessary to provide a reasonable road." I am not blaming the Hydro-Electric Board.
§ Mr. McInnes
That is one small aspect of the Board's activities to which the hon. Member referred, but he also condemned the excessive charge for installations. To that extent he was condemnatory of the Board. He gave an example of the road which the Board has made and which apparently is only 8 ft. wide.
§ Mr. McInnes
The hon. Gentleman indicated that the Board had made it or proposed to make it.
That problem could have been overcome by co-ordination between the local authorities and the Secretary of State, and that is what is required in dealing with many of the Highland problems. I must confess that I am not conversant with the problems which confront the Highland community, nor do I know the solutions to them.
I want to deal, next, with the comments made by the Minister of Labour when he opened the debate. He said that in his 2189 opinion 1954 was a fairly prosperous year for Scotland. Output and employment had been maintained and indeed improved, and the flow of industry into Scotland in post-war years had been remarkable. I submit that against the background of general economic buoyancy to which he referred there are some aspects which are bound to cause a good deal of uneasiness. Only a few months ago the President of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce uttered a warning and said there was no ground for complacency. He said that many sections of industry in Scotland would find it extremely difficult to obtain orders in 1955. He said that one industry after another had been emphasising the intensity of foreign competition.
We read in the newspapers statements from various sources that Scottish industries are beginning to suffer from insufficient capital resources for economic development. Capital is needed for pioneer undertakings and for raising standards of equipment in existing undertakings. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) pointed out that capital exists in Scotland, and referred to the position in Edinburgh, and to capital being exported to North America.
Despite the rosy picture which the Minister of Labour painted, it would be altogether wrong of us to ignore certain aspects of our industrial production. It would be foolish to ignore the decline in ship repair work in 1954 compared with 1953. The production of shale oil decreased in 1954, as did the production of crude steel. The production of the iron-founding industry has also declined and so has the production of the woollen and worsted goods industry. All these industries have shown a decline in 1954 compared with 1953.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the unemployment position in Scotland, giving figures for various stages in various years and stating that they represented 2.6 per cent., 3.7 per cent. and so on. We must realise—and I am taking the Ministry of Labour figures for April this year—that Scottish unemployment represents 23 per cent. of the total unemployment in the whole of Great Britain. That is a very serious figure. Some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have said that the position is 2190 better than it ever has been, but no one set himself the task of asking why the present condition of affairs should exist in Scotland, and no one sought a solution to the question why Scotland's unemployment should be 23 per cent. of the total figure for Great Britain.
Many hon. Members have referred to the distribution and location of industry. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison) dealt almost exclusively what that aspect. I want to deal with it because I think it is vital to the economic progress of Scotland. Since the war the entire influence, encouragement, assistance, and indeed policy, of the Government has been directed towards steering industry into the Development Areas. I think that policy was right at the time, particularly when we consider it against the background of our pre-war experience and of the very heavy unemployment in those areas before the war.
I must candidly confess, however, that in analysing the Scottish industrial position—and I have been fortified in my belief by several speeches made in this debate—I think the time has come to call a halt to the policy of concentrating our industry in the Development Areas. I concede that our Development Areas, our industrial estates, and our new towns, have provided an essential diversity of industry, and that they are indeed projects of immense value, but we must realise that if we persist in this policy of putting everything into the Development Areas we shall find that our new towns, Development Areas and industrial estates will have within themselves the seeds of a new unbalance.
Let me give one or two examples of what I mean. In the Development Areas we have placed 70 per cent. of the new factories that have been built since the end of the war, despite the fact that the insured population in the Development Areas is only about 56 per cent. of the total population. Of the 87,000 people in Scotland who have been found employment in the new factories, 63,000 are in the Development Areas.
I was somewhat astonished, on going further into the matter, to find that no less than 87 per cent. of our manufacturing industries are located in the Development Areas, and in three towns outwith the Development Areas. I think that that 2191 is altogether wrong. I take another figure, that of our insured population. In 1952, it was 2,116,000 in Scotland, and at the end of 1954 it was 2,138,000, an increase of 22,000. More than two-thirds of that increase found its way into the Development Areas.
From these facts, and the figures that I have submitted, one can realise that any further concentration in the Development Areas is bound to have a very serious effect indeed. Personally, I am somewhat perturbed about the concentration in Glasgow. If I understood the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) correctly, he rather implied that there was still further need for the development of the industrial resources of the great city. One must realise that Glasgow has decided, and the Secretary of State for Scotland has concurred in the decision, that it has an overspill of 300,000 people to get rid of. Yet here we are pursuing a policy of loading all available industrial resources that we have, and all the new industries we are able to attract to our country, into that area, while that city hopes to remove, in the very near future, 300,000 people from within its boundaries.
There is another aspect of the matter. We are told that the Lanarkshire coalfields will be worked out within the next year or two, and that will create a very serious problem for industry located in the West of Scotland. It will create a problem of great variety, and it will create a special problem for Glasgow, with its industries of heavy engineering and shipbuilding, in that those industries will have to get their coal supplies from the Lothians or from Fifeshire——
§ Mr. McInnes
—from Ayrshire, and that will have an effect on the industries located in that great industrial belt.
It seems to me that what we require is something along the lines suggested in the earlier part of the speech of the hon. Member for Scotstoun. We must think more about the industrial development of our country as a whole, rather than the development of any industrial areas. We require a more courageous policy that will produce a re-invigoration of our county towns and rural villages. Our 2192 policy must be designed, first, to accelerate the growth of industry in promising locations.
We have an example of that arising from the Buckie-Peterhead experiment. If we had not decided that Buckie and Peterhead should come under the Development Commission, I venture to suggest that not one single industry would have arrived at either Buckie or Peterhead. Many hon. Members on this side of the House have had the privilege of visiting Buckie and of obtaining a good knowledge and understanding of the position of the Peterhead Gear Company. In fact, I might indicate that the Peterhead Gear Company told us quite definitely that there was every possibility of further development and extension if we could attract industry into places like that by a policy other than the one we are pursuing at present. I think that is well worth the Government's consideration.
We must have a policy designed to make fuller use of our manpower and of our natural resources—natural resources that are probably in danger of being wasted. Let us have a policy that will tend to arrest the decline of communities and the waste of social assets in places where a little help might restore them to a thriving condition. There are towns that are seeking industries to replace those which have died out, there are towns requiring industry because of the drift of the local population, and there are expanding mining towns where no employment is being provided for the non-mining members of the family.
Glenrothes is a particular example, because Glenrothes found itself in the dual position of having miners drafted into the town without any employment being provided for the non-mining members of the miner's family, and being a new town to which little or no industry was being attracted. Surely, as the hon. Member for Scotstoun said, we can apply the Distribution of Industry Act, and all the facilities and advantages of that Act, to the attraction of industry into places like Glenrothes.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
My hon. Friend must be aware that it is the private vested interests around Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy which have the ear of the Government, and that is one of the many reasons why industry does not go there.
§ Mr. McInnes
I believe there is a good deal of truth in that. Indeed, I have heard it said by members of the new town corporation that they are experiencing the utmost difficulty with firms in Kirkcaldy and elsewhere. People have to travel considerable distances in order to get to their work in these areas.
The point I want to emphasise is that surely in places such as I have mentioned we should provide factories on the same terms as those obtaining in the Development Areas. We have to give inducements and facilities. Why cannot we apply the advantages of the Distribution of Industry Act by steering industry into the areas I have indicated?
Finally. I want to prevail on the Government to give advantages and facilities and financial inducements in dealing with the problem of slum industry. Slum industry is a very serious problem in this country. Perhaps it is more pronounced in large cities like Glasgow. There are hundreds of small firms, well-established firms with good, long-term employment prospects, housed in the most dilapidated, dingy premises that it would be possible to find. They have no space in which to develop, and are surrounded by slum tenement properties. They are anxious to obtain better accommodation but cannot find it on many industrial estates in and around the City of Glasgow. If we are to tackle this problem in the way in which it should be tackled we shall have to depart from the present static policy of steering everything into the industrial areas.
I hope I can prevail on the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the present policy of the Government, recognising that the day is now completed for the Development Areas and instead of having that flow of industry into the Development Areas he should appreciate the necessity, which is absolutely vital to the economic well-being of Scotland, for more flexibility. I hope that, in view of what has been said in this debate, the Government will adopt a policy of greater flexibility so that the country as a whole may reap the benefit instead of merely certain confined areas benefiting.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)
I should like to take up one or two points made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, 2194 Central (Mr. McInnes) with reference to the Cairncross Report and the development of country towns. With all he said on the latter I am in substantial agreement.
I think we have to face one point in the controversy about the Cairncross Report which has not been sufficiently stressed hitherto. If we are to put development outside the Development Areas on the same level as development inside those areas we may be in danger of wasting a considerable amount of fixed capital that is already invested in them. I refer to investment in houses, public services, and so on. When we weigh up the conflicting claims of the Cairncross Report argument and the claims of the Development Areas we might well come down in favour of the position argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun (Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison). He suggested that the Secretary of State should have wider powers and greater latitude and a number of weapons at his disposal for guiding the location of industry. But he did not suggest, and I do not think anyone would suggest, that the non-Development Areas should take priority. We should look at the two sorts of area alongside, paying due regard to capital already invested in the Development Areas in housing, services, and the like.
What I think is common ground in this annual debate on the state of the nation —unhappily only for one day this year—is thatSociety is barbarous until every industrious man can get his living without dishonest customs.That has been said, I think, wisely. We are on common ground that the level of unemployment in Scotland is 2.2 per cent. whereas in the United Kingdom as a whole it is 1.16 per cent. It has been generally overlooked that whilst that is the case unemployment in the Development Areas is anything from 1 per cent. to 4 per cent. worse than in the rest of Scotland. That is my case for continuing attention to the needs of the Development Areas.
In this annual state of the nation's review we all try, according to our background and prejudices, to avoid expressing purely party opinion. I listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), who was the opening speaker for the 2195 Opposition. I should like to take up a theme which he developed. I hope I am not misrepresenting him when I say that I understood him to suggest that Scotland's share of new factories built in the United Kingdom had declined since the present Administration took office.
§ Mr. Maitland
I do not dispute that, but if the hon. Member goes into the figures which are available at the Board of Trade I think he will be forced to the conclusion that that has been a continuing trend over many years. I looked into the figures and, if the House will bear with me, I will quote some of them in percentages.
Approvals for factories in Scotland in 1946 amounted to 16.6 per cent. of the United Kingdom figure for area of new factory space. In 1948 they were 11.9 per cent., in 1951, ..6 per cent. and in the first three-quarters of last year, 5.8 per cent. I submit that that is a continuing trend. If we look at the figures for starts we find they were 16 per cent. in 1947, 10.9 per cent, in 1951, 7.4 per cent. in 1953 and 5.6 per cent. in the first three-quarters of last year. If we take completions the same trend is borne out—18 per cent. in 1946 in Scotland as against the United Kingdom figure as a whole, 11.8 per cent. in 1948, 9.7 per cent. in 1953 and 6.8 per cent. in the first three-quarters of last year.
I submit that here we have a trend which has continued under the present Administration but existed before. The only point I make about that is that I was gratified to hear the Minister of Labour give a figure of about 5 million square feet of factory building authorised in the current year. I think I heard him aright. Even when we allow for the Colvilles development, that is about I million more than in 1954. In 1950 it was 2.2 million and in 1948 1.4 million.
§ Mr. Fraser
The hon. Member has wrongly understood the point. The Minister gave the figure of 5 million square feet which is stated in the White Paper as the figure for 1954, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman said he hoped that figure would be exceeded in 1955. The figure mentioned was the 1954 figure stated in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Maitland
I apologise for not having heard the Minister correctly. At any rate, the figure that we now have is a considerable improvement upon the figures for 1948 and 1950, looked at as absolute figures for Scotland rather than as percentages of the United Kingdom figures. What alarms me is that, although the absolute figure is encouraging in itself, the percentage share of the United Kingdom figure for factory space has been declining steadily since the war.
In this matter, I believe that we are not debating on party lines at all. We are looking at the matter as a Scottish council of state. I am reminded of the words of Sir Edwin Arnold:Pity and needMake all flesh kin. There is no caste in blood, Which runneth of one hue; nor caste in tears. Which trickle salt with all.We bear in mind very seriously the memory of the period of the depression. There have been cogent, serious words from hon. Members opposite to the effect, "Do not be too sure that this prosperity is going to last. We must look ahead." In this Council of State for Scotland we are all looking at the matter seriously. I believe we must so look at it irrespective of our party position. Naturally, we bring our own prejudice and background to bear upon the problem, but it seems to me that we are trying to think of it as a body.
I cannot help bearing in mind and stressing that the decline in Scotland's share of the United Kingdom factory space is not realy a party responsibility as such, because we have seen that happening under Governments of both parties. I hope that in all these matters we can develop an attitude which, while drawing its strength from the parties to which we belong, is also supra-party.
If I might, however, make one party reference in parenthesis, it is this. During the election campaign I was questioned about my view on the re-rating of industry. I said then, and I repeat, that if it is the intention of the party on the other side of this House to press for re-rating, I hope it will at the same time look sympathetically on the Sorn Committee's proposals for abolishing owners' rates; otherwise Scotland's penal rating system will do for factory building what it has already done for housing—make the Scottish position far worse than that of the United Kingdom.
2197 I cannot help paying particular attention to Lanarkshire's problem. I represent the relatively empty part of Lanarkshire, and I see the Development Area, as it were, from the rim. What worries me about development in Lanarkshire, and the policy pursued within the Lanarkshire Development Area, is that we have not been pursuing a balanced policy. We must make sure that when we site industry, whatever means we use to bring it there, we put it in the place most suited and most natural for it. Sir Thomas Brown once saidWhen industry builds upon nature we may expect pyramids.The new town of East Kilbride has seen a phenomenal development of industry during the past four years. My attention has been called, however, to a 10 per cent. gap between the number of houses completed at any one time and the number occupied. As the number of houses has grown the gap has remained at 10 per cent. but in absolute terms it is greater. For example, in March, 1953, 89 houses were empty; in March, 1954, 201 houses were empty; and in March this year the number was 311.
Do those figures not bear out the query put by some people associated with industry when they look at East Kilbride? They make the point that labour is now becoming hard to get on that side of Lanarkshire. This is a difficult thing to judge from the Ministry of Labour's monthly returns; but I raise the point because it is raised by industrialists looking at the new town.
The case that an unbalance of population is developing in Lanarkshire is easy to follow when one bears in mind that about 8,500 people have come to live in the new town and that in the landward areas on the opposite side of my constituency 1,500 electors, which must mean a population of about 2,500, have disappeared during the same period.
Towns like Carluke and Forth are clamouring for industry. During the past year two collieries, Castlehill and Wilson-town, have been closed. In parenthesis, may I say that while I agree with the case broadly made by the Opposition for advance factory building—I emphasise "broadly"—I am very grateful for an assurance which I received from the Board of Trade some time ago that it is prepared to consider a Government- 2198 financed factory for either Carluke or Forth, if a suitable project comes forward.
My attention was called recently to studies set on foot by the Clyde Valley Planning Advisory Committee and the Department of Health for Scotland into locations which might be chosen for the Glasgow overspill. I am glad that the Government have drawn the attention of the Clyde Valley Planning Advisory Committee to the English Town Development Act and that the Committee is studying the question of locating industry in, or encouraging overspill to go to, some of the smaller country places.
However, I am surprised that so far neither the Clyde Valley Committee, nor the Department of Health for Scotland in its preliminary studies, has yet given any consideration to the possibility of attracting overspill to Carluke, Forth, Law, Lanark, Biggar or Abington. In the overall picture of the prosperity or otherwise of this Development Area we would find that if some of the overspill from Glasgow were dispersed somewhat around the smaller places it would one way and another generate a degree of new local prosperity.
There is also the parlous situation in the mining industry. I profited, and I think we all profited, by some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Hamilton about it. I do not think that my hon. Friends are always quite frank about it. What is certainly true of the Scottish Division of the National Coal Board is that absenteeism is going down. It went down from 10.6 per cent. in 1953 to 9.98 per cent. in 1954. At the same time, for the reason which the hon. Member for Hamilton stressed so instructively and helpfully, output per man shift has also gone down, having declined from 1.12 per cent. to a little over 1 per cent. over the same period. One reason why it is going down is because many miners are engaged on development work which does not at once produce coal.
We must, however, bear in mind that there is a sense of human frustration in the Lanarkshire coalfield. It is, I think, the common experience, and I dare say that hon. Gentlemen opposite who have had experience of the mining industry will bear this out, that when seams get worse conditions get worse too, people become more frustrated and there is a greater incidence of strikes and difficulties of one kind and another.
2199 Having said all that, I would say that there is another side to the picture. In Lanarkshire we have a very considerable horticultural industry. I was told by a reputable authority yesterday that there are about 300 acres of horticultural glasshouses in the county, which represents, at 200 tons of coal per acre of glass, a considerable local consumption of coal by that industry alone. The rise in the price of coal announced the other day may amount to a ½d. a lb. on tomatoes, or even more. Taking all the other consequences in terms of freight charges and the like into consideration, that may make a considerable difference, in horticulture alone, to that element of the cost of living. Moreover, it reduces, and may eliminate, the value of the increased tariff protection which the Tory Government obtained for the growers.
There is a point about this matter which I should like very seriously to make for the attention of the Government. I have heard stories, not once but many times, from miners in Lanarkshire, who, for one reason or another, have said that they would like to work in a small licensed mine of their own as a private enterprise effort. I think that it is common ground that the smaller the mine, other things being equal, the bigger the output per man-shift, broadly speaking. Of course, the small licensed mines will never make a big contribution; but they might well make some. I have been told, not once but many times, of persons who have applied to the Coal Board for a licence to run a small private mine and have been refused.
I was told of one case recently refused, apparently for a not very convincing reason. So last Monday I put a Question to the Minister of Fuel and Power asking how many licences had been granted in Lanarkshire over the past four years, and the answer was three. I submit that here is a subject which merits inquiry. Is the common complaint that there is obstructionism on the part of the Coal Board to applications to run a licensed mine justified?
§ Mr. T. Fraser
I wonder if it is not the hon. Gentleman's experience that applicants for licences for small mines in his constituency, in which I live, are normally not turned down by the Coal Board, but are refused permission to 2200 work their mines by his noble Friend the Earl of Home?
§ Mr. Maitland
I am much obliged to the hon. Member. I know of one case in which there was an application to mine ground that was in fact owned by my noble Friend the Earl of Home, but it was granted to somebody else with better mining qualifications and I am not aware that that is the general difficulty in these cases.
§ Mr. Fraser
In my constituency, where there are many such applications, I have never once come across an applicant who had a decent field of coal who was turned down by the Coal Board, but I can give numerous examples of people refused permission to work the coal by the owner of the land.
§ Mr. Maitland
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman, because the cases of which I am thinking are outwith the property of the noble Earl to whom we are referring, and I have the word of the Minister of Fuel and Power himself, given on the Floor of the House last Monday, that only three licences have been given in the whole of Lanarkshire since the beginning of 1951. This matter merits thorough investigation; and I think the hon. Gentleman opposite will agree with that.
There is no reference in this White Paper to the stone-quarrying industry and to the stone-building industry. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary can tell us, when he replies, the employment figure for that industry for 1954. In 1953 it was only 4,730 for the whole of Scotland, and that was a decline. But, as I am sure the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central would confirm if he were here, the figure at one time was about 20,000 and this decline has been continuous over many years. I am disappointed that the White Paper makes no reference to it. When my hon. Friend replies, I hope that he will say what the Government have done about the Report of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research on this industry. The Report was received in 1953 and was at that time, according to the Government, discussed with the Scottish Council.
Moreover, in October, 1953, I was myself assured from the Front Bench that preference would be given to the use of 2201 Scottish stone in all public works in Scotland. Can the Under-Secretary say in which public works since that time Scottish stone has been used? I remind him that Portland stone from the south is taken to Scotland for use in the Rolls-Royce factory at East Kilbride.
I hear complaints about the industry—in a rather minor key, because the quarry-masters are depressed and the industry has almost vanished. I received a letter from a quarrymaster in my constituency only two days ago, however. He said:… is there any way of getting some work up our way and keep the good work going? sales are very poor and rents, rates and taxes are getting hard to pay. We do not ask very -much if only a little may be done to help us to get out of difficulty.One has heard that cry again and again. This time it comes from the neighbourhood of Abington. One has heard it from other parts of Lanarkshire. I dare say that the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) will bear out that there have been pleas of the same sort from her constituency. One reads of bricks being taken to Aberdeen, the city of granite.
§ Mr. Maitland
This decline has been going on since the war and before it, so we cannot blame it either on Tory or Socialist planning. Let us just blame it on neglect and agree that both parties have a share in responsibility for it.
May I also make a practical suggestion? I was much struck by something which came to my notice during the Election when I went to talk to men working on the Daer water scheme. Here is a scheme of direct labour in which the County Council of Lanark is the main partner. It employs 400 men who began as unskilled workers and are now semiskilled or even skilled. The job on which they are engaged, the building of a great dam, will be finished before very long. It is easy enough for the Government and the Ministry of Labour to assure me that of course those men will be kept in mind when the scheme comes to an end.
However, what they want to know is this. Can they, as an efficient, proud, self-confident team of proven worth, be taken as a team to other work? I know that the Scottish Office has been looking 2202 at that. We should look in every direction and study every possibility. The other day I read that the Hamilton Town Council was to extend its direct labour activities. As the hon. Member for Hamilton is here, I feel sure that he will not miss what I am saying. I say to him and to all who can read my words: "Please remember the Daer scheme and the men up there." There is a great road development scheme at hand. Is it altogether impossible to turn this team of men on to the building of roads?
I was greatly encouraged to learn from the Minister of Transport that at last his Department is prepared to help towards dealing with a dangerous hill known as Kirkfieldbank Brae, and has called for a scheme from the county council, including a new bridge. That will involve great and expensive works. Must this team of highly-skilled men be dispersed, the machines scattered and the management dispersed as well when there is such work around the corner? Has a new team to be gathered together and the men trained to work together as these great constructive operations are undertaken? I plead with the Government to have another look at this matter, and I plead with the Lanarkshire County Council to look at the possibility of keeping what I would call the "Daer team" together and in being.
One other matter which has an effect on the distribution of facilities in Lanarkshire is the project of British Railways to establish a mechanised marshalling yard south of Glasgow. When that was first mooted there was mention in the Press of a statement by a spokesman of the Commission in Glasgow, who named Law as a possible site. That aroused some anxiety in Carstairs.
Will the Scottish Office and will the Secretary of State for Scotland, where he has responsibility for other transport matters in Scotland, discuss with the Transport Commission the advisability of an early decision about where this marshalling yard is to be sited? Those of us who are interested in trying to attract industry or get houses built in particular places in Lanarkshire, want to know where that particular contribution to our economy will go.
Some reference has been made to nuclear power. All I wish to say is that I was disappointed, when the plan for 2203 the six new nuclear power stations was announced the other day, to gather that they are, apparently, all going to the constituency of my hon. Friend who is now promoted to the Front Bench as a Parliamentary Secretary. I was hoping that we should get at least one in Lanarkshire. The site which I had suggested, although scientists may disagree with me, is the triangle of territory bounded by Carluke, Forth and Carstairs. Whether that is a good place scientifically I cannot tell. No one in this House is competent to do more than advance a claim.
Obviously, we are to have more of these power stations, and may I, through the Scottish Office, remind the British Electricity Authority that we are in a strategic position close to trunk railway routes going east and west at Carstairs. We are on an historic route, I might almost say an historic invasion route. We are not far from the sea. We are close to the industrial belt, and since any nuclear power station should be within reach of many million gallons of water, such an area deserves particular consideration. For there will shortly be a great volume of surplus water from the Daer scheme.
I have read the 1954 Report and White Paper as well as I can; but I cannot compliment the Government upon it.
§ Mr. Maitland
It is anodyne. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) says there is dissention, but no one has said what I am about to say regarding this Report.
There are no comparisons in it as between Scottish figures and United Kingdom figures. The appendix tables have been getting steadily more slender since 1951, until now they have disappeared. The Report once amounted to 80 pages and now comprises 70 pages. There is nothing in it about licensed mining. There is nothing about stone building and the quarrying industry and little about horticultural costs. I invite the Government, which I support, and which gained such an overwhelming vote of confidence from the country——
§ Mr. Maitland
—not to imagine that we are not keeping a vigilant eye upon 2204 these matters. One is reminded of Dryden's linesSoothed with the sound, the king grew vain;Fought all his battles o'er again;And thrice he routed all his foes; and thrice he slew the slain.Let not the Scottish Office imagine that, because on this side of the House we are reinforced in numbers, we shall relax our vigilance, for vigilance is the price of prosperity and success.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
If the amount of dissatisfaction existing on the Tory benches at present is any indication of what the position will be at the end of the year, or in eighteen months' time, it is plain that this Government will not last for the expected period of four years.
I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) in his suggestion that the House of Commons is today more like a Council of State, seeking to draw up a blueprint for the future——
§ Mr. Rankin
If we are to draw up that blueprint it must be planned. There must be some form of control.
If the hon. Member for Lanark, who has just made a speech in which sentence after sentence has contained an appeal to the Government to step in and do something, has now become converted to the idea of planning and the need for control to make that planning effective, I think that his contribution in the Council of State will be of some value.
§ Mr. Maitland
For one moment. to correct a misrepresentation.
I am sure, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will not have misunderstood my words, which were no approbation of Socialist control. I will leave the matter there, because I know that the hon. Member would like to continue with his speech.
§ Mr. Rankin
At any rate, the hon. Gentleman does not believe in setting the people free.
2205 If the hon. Gentleman is not proposing to try to shape the future of Scotland along lines of planning and control we on these benches will have no truck with him, or if he imagines that we can ever return to the free and unrestricted economy which nearly wrecked our nation. Were I given the choice of putting Scotland under the control of a Government, even a Tory Government, which would plan its future, I would rather do that than put it under the control, or, rather, leave it under the control, that now exists in Scotland.
It is no use anyone imagining that the Scottish economy is free. It is controlled by a small group of people whose numbers do not exceed the number of fingers on my hand. I shall not name them, but I would ask any hon. Member opposite to look at the chairmen of some of our Scottish banks, or of our great shipbuilding and engineering companies, who are, in some cases, chairmen of our industrial estates.
If we examine what is going on in some of these industrial estates today we find that the Front Bench opposite appoints men occupying such positions as chairmen of the industrial estates; then, by some strange chance, the next thing we see is that certain of these individuals become directors of the companies who are allowed to trade on those industrial estates.
I do not know what to call that, but I invite the Secretary of State for Scotland to look into that aspect of what is happening in some of these estates today. These are the men who are shaping the future of Scotland, a small oligarchy, and we can name them. It is not untrue to say that the Secretary of State will hardly make a move today without consulting that little group, and one of them in particular. That is what is called a free and unrestricted economy, the kind of economy in which the hon. Member for Lanark believes.
§ Mr. Rankin
No, I am not going to give way, because I am seeking to set the hon. Gentleman a good example. He provided me with a very bad one.
The Minister of Labour today emphasised every word that I am saying. He told us that in the Development Area, 2206 which includes Glasgow and the areas surrounding it, the number of unemployed today is 2.6 per cent., the highest number in Great Britain. There is no area so sadly afflicted. The right hon. Gentleman said that the reason for that was that we had too many heavy industries.
§ Mr. Rankin
A mosquito can become a confounded nuisance at times. I was referring to the Minister of Labour, and I said so.
The right hon. Gentleman, as I said, pointed out that unemployment in the Development Area, of which Glasgow formed the greatest part, was 2.6 per cent. and that it was due to the fact that we had too many heavy industries in that part of Scotland.
That is only part of the truth. It is also due to another and more serious reason, the fact that in the period when our economy in Scotland was unrestricted thousands of people were walking the streets, idle and so unable properly to nourish their children. The children of those days of the depression are now the men, grown to maturity, who are working on Clydeside, and who, as a result of under-nourishment then, are physically incapable of working in the heavy industries there today. They are the direct products of the system from which we on this side of the House want to get away. As boys and girls they were half-starved, and now they cannot play their full part in the heavy industries—shipbuilding and engineering—because the only type of work for which they are physically capable is what are termed secondary jobs.
That is a very serious problem, and, therefore, as the Minister of Labour agreed, we must have more light industries in Scotland. Where are we to have them? That question brings me to my second point. It is over two years since it was decided that in Glasgow there were 300,000 people too many and that there would have to be an overspill. They would have to go to various parts of the country. It has been decided that about 30,000 of them are to go to New Cumbernauld.
2207 There seems to be a strange silence brooding over New Cumbernauld, and I should like to know whether the Secretary of State has now reached the stage when he is prepared to designate New Cumbernauld under the New Towns Act. Until that is done, I fail to see what is the next step. If the right hon. Gentleman is to do that, then what will he do about industries? Surely New Cumbernauld is not to become just a glorified dormitory area for the City of Glasgow. We must see that it becomes a new town with new industries, because not only the future of those 300,000 people is at stake, but also the future of the whole of Scotland.
The places which are to house the overspill must become towns with new industries. I ask the Secretary of State to say what he intends to do about that. Has he any plan of any kind whatsoever for shaping the future of these new towns, towns which are absolutely essential if that overspill is to be properly cared for? If new industries have to come into those new towns, has the Secretary of State—who ought to be the guardian of the future of Scotland—given any consideration to their types?
I will suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the types of new industries that might go into the new towns. First of all, and this is where the power of the Government is important, there are Government-sponsored industries. We have the example of East Kilbride, where the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has established a unit. There are Government industries which can give a lead in the new towns which we hope to see established in Scotland. That is the first point.
The second point is that there is a type of industry which is rapidly expanding in England, but which, for some reason or other, has passed Scotland completely by. It comprises the civil aviation industry and the motor industry. The Government have a vast influence in this sphere. I would remind the Secretary of State that while the Labour Government were in power they used their influence through the Ministry of Supply to get the aviation industry away from the home counties in which it was centred and moved farther north. I think I am right in saying that owing to the pressure 2208 exerted by the Labour Government when in office we were able to move the civil aviation industry as far north as Preston before they left office.
We must remember that between £500 million and £700 million in public money have been poured into the expansion and the necessary maintenance of this new and ripening industry. We do not quarrel with that, but Scotland has contributed to that amount and there is absolutely no reason why she should not get a share of the work which that industry is now providing for great tracts of England. That is the second thing that can be done by a Government which are in earnest in their attitude to this problem.
The third thing which they can do I shall not elaborate, because my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) mentioned it. I am not a great believer in moving little businesses but there are very many of these in Glasgow, and we have to make a start if we are to have a new town. These businesses are housed in conditions which many of us deplore, and deal in commodities which ought not to be dealt with in such conditions. They could easily be encouraged to move out into the new towns in order to provide the industrial employment which will be required by the population which we hope to send there. This would also prevent our roads from becoming congested and our transport system being made almost unbearable.
These are the three things that the Government can do if they are in earnest and are thinking about the problem; if they are planning, or seeking to plan, the future of our country in a sensible way.
The next point to which I want to refer concerns my own division, which is one of the greatest shipbuilding areas in Scotland. It is known all over the world as a place which produces some of the finest ships that sail today.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am glad to have the support of my hon. Friend and rival, the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). We know that Govan is much ahead of Clydebank in this matter. Nothing that has gone down to the seas recently can compare with the "Empress of Britain," as we all know. What 2209 annoys me is the complacency which is being shown about the shipbuilding position. I know that for the next two years we have as much as we can do. The big yards are all right, but let us not ignore the fact that even at this moment the small yards are not as happy as they should be.
We must realise that in the City of Glasgow 68,300 men are employed in shipbuilding, marine engineering and non-electrical engineering. In my own division 12,000 of these men, with their families depending upon them, are employed in three shipbuilding yards—Harlands, Fairfield and Stephens. This is a substantial number, and if anything happens to the shipbuilding industry, which provides one of our greatest exports, the effect upon Glasgow will be something that none of us will like. We shall avoid it only by planning and by imposing a certain element of control.
Where does the danger lie? The White Paper says that we are quite comfortable; that we have two years' work in hand. I accept that, but dangers are arising at the moment. Germany has been quoted as one danger. I will not enter into another argument with the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison), but I am certain that in maintaining the position of our shipbuilding industry we are not going to adopt the methods which he advocated and which are outlined in the newspaper report of the three trade unionists to whom he referred, and which I have here. If I had time I would like to quote some of it. I am sure that not a single hon. Member would be prepared to support that method.
Where does the danger lie? It is not only in Germany. It is true that three vessels, of 12,000 tons each and worth about £4 million, have gone to German yards, but the greater danger is the Far East. Up to the end of the financial year ended March, 1954, the foreign orders booked in Japan reached 163,000 gross tons with a value of £14 million. In the financial year ended in March, 1955, the Japanese foreign shipbuilding orders had risen from 163,000 to 800,000 gross tons, and to a value of £50 million. In other words, Japan has in one year equalled the shipbuilding exports of this country.
That is a very serious challenge. The Japanese are doing it because they have 2210 a plan. We may not think much of their plan. They have a ship-export-sugar-import plan whereby the excess profits from sugar sold in the country are used to reduce the price per ton of shipping, so that Japan may get orders in the foreign market. We may say that that is exploiting the home consumer. I shall not argue the merits of the plan. My point is that Japan has a plan which involves looking ahead and involves control, and that it is working, although at our expense.
If we wish to shape the future of Scotland, look after our shipbuilding industry and see that we do not repeat what happened in the years of depression, and look after the housing and the industry of our people, we shall not do it by scattering people here and there, as the hon. Member for Lanark said. Fancy scattering people outside. We have to place them and plan for them, and to control the amount of investment that is put into their future. We must plan, we must control investment and the location of investment. The future has to be shaped in that way. It is only by planning the future that we shall win the prosperity that we all desire for the people of our country.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Sir David Robertson (Caithness and Sutherland)
I am sure that the House will understand the anxiety of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Rankin) and other hon. Members who represent ship-building constituencies at the prospect that may be realised when the backlog of orders is through. Most of us are old enough to remember the hard times that struck the shipbuilding industry after the First World War, and the scheme of survival that was entered into. That should be a warning to us to take time by the forelock, if we can. I do not think anyone suggests that any Government can plan prosperity in Britain through international trade in shipbuilding in a way which will affect Japan, but if we did what the Japanese are doing, exploited our own people, or the home market, as the hon. Gentleman put it——
§ Sir D. Robertson
Yes, and then if somebody else cut the price of ships and we joined the race, it would all come to 2211 a very sorry end. I agree with the hon. Member that it is a very important matter.
We all know that thousands of tons of shipping were lost during the war, that during that period there was no building for peaceful use and that afterwards there was a tremendous backlog of trade waiting to be tackled. That must come to an end at some time, and I think it is very timely that such hon. Members as the hon. Member for Govan should direct the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of Labour and the President of the Board of Trade to this matter.
§ Mr. Rankin
I only want to make it clear—as I thought I had—that I did not necessarily support the Japanese scheme, said that it was just a plan.
§ Sir D. Robertson
A fortnight ago I asked the Leader of the House if he would consider giving time for a discussion on the accounts of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board. He was somewhat facetious. He could not resist the temptation to make a joke when I said that the justification for having a debate was that the accounts had never been debated in this House. We are supposed to be trustees of the public purse, and all this money—or most of it—was money put up by the Development Board and subsequently converted into stock. I think that it is a reflection on the House of Commons—and I take my full share of blame—that we did not insist on time being given to discuss the accounts of this, the first of the national boards.
I am a strong admirer of the Board—I have seen its effects in my own constituency. I am a critic of it, too, where it fails. Tonight, I have to interpose these remarks into an industrial debate because it is my first opportunity since 1951. Three years ago the Board wanted more borrowing powers, and my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro) and I opposed the Bill just to get a chance to speak about the Board and its work. We did not want to harm the Bill but to help it.
Section 2 (1, a) of the Act which created the Board states: 2212it shall be the duty of the Board…to provide supplies of electricity required to meet the demands of ordinary consumers…of the North of Scotland….I stressed that point in 1951 because I found that many of the farmers and crofters in the hinterland were without electricity, although they had been waiting for it for years. In the debate in 1951 I asserted that the Board was doing what the old local authorities or private companies were alleged to have done in the past—running the lines up "main street" and connecting the populous areas, while the farmer and crofter—the mainstay of Highland economy—were being left without supplies because their homes were not close to "main street."
I met the Chairman of the Board at that time—he was a little disturbed about my criticism—and I said to him, "Why do you not face this problem of expensive connections in the hinterland? Agree to make a certain number a year over a period of five or ten years, but do not run away from the problem. That is wrong, because you are failing in your duty as laid down by Act of Parliament." Promises were made that that would be done, but I have received a letter from a landowner near Lochinver which does not confirm them.
During the Election, I held a meeting at Lochinver at which a crofter asked why electricity could not be brought to the Brackloch and Little Assynt area which, he said, was the largest livestock rearing area in the district. I said that I did not know, but that I would find out. When I got back I communicated with the Board and was told that the costs were high but that it would look into the matter.
This is the letter which that crofter got the other day—a crofter paying £5 or £6 a year rent and having probably a small flock of sheep and cattle. It reads:We have been examining the possibility of providing electricity supplies in the Brack-loch and Little Assynt area. Unfortunately, the costs are very high in providing any such supplies and would amount to over £8,000.To be justified in an expenditure of this nature the Board would require to obtain an annual revenue from the possible consumers in Brackloch amounting to £470 per year and you would be required to enter into a Seven Year Agreement with the Board whereby you undertook to use electricity to the value of £120 per year.This man's landlord, sending that letter to me, said, "It is fantastic." I could 2213 say something much stronger. No crofter could enter into an agreement of that kind. He could not use or pay for £120 of electricity a year.
§ Sir D. Robertson
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) nods his head in agreement. This Board earned £331,000 in the year ended 31st December, 1954. I rejoice in that. It is called upon to pay its way. It is a good thing that it is doing so, and £331,000 may well be a reasonable net profit after all the outgoings have been paid. In addition to that, in the years in which the Board has been in operation since the end of the war, it has set aside £5½ million out of profits for redemption of stock. With this £5½ million and £331,000 profit last year 5,331 miles of line could be provided at a cost of £1,000 per mile. Why has the Board to go to the crofters and impose impossible conditions like this? Why does the Board not take the cost out of its earnings, which are so considerable? I protested about this attitude, and I am certain that I shall have the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
The main reason for taking electricity to the Highland area was to do something which had never been done in bygone days—to give everyone an equal chance of getting it. That includes the crofter. There are 75 of the finest farmers in Britain in Caithness who have been waiting for a number of years to have their farms connected for electricity. This has been denied to them because it was said that the Admiralty Radar Station at Bower requires the lines to be put underground instead of their being above ground.
There was a rumour spread round that the Admiralty objected to the connection being made. We were told that the reason we could not get it was because the Navy would not stand for it. I found that was not true. The real reason was that the Board would not undertake the job because of the high cost involved. It did nothing about it. It left the farmers high and dry, without light and power. I went to the Admiralty, and was told, "We are perfectly willing so long as the lines are put underground."
I was sympathetic to the Board about having to meet the extra cost. I felt that 2214 it should be a defence cost. I raised the matter with the Admiralty, and I said so. The Admiralty said that the law of Scotland—and it made a long investigation into it—laid down very clearly that the first-comer had the right to say what the next-corner had to do. In this case, the first-comer on the site was the Admiralty at Bower. This is not an isolated case; it is happening throughout the Highland area.
The local authority consultative committee has been interested in this problem. It had a meeting the other day in Inverness, and it stated that it was costing about £1,200 a mile to lay transmission lines because of the high costs of the present day, and it said, "This is a matter for a subsidy." It is not a matter for a subsidy. It is a thing for the Board to do and it is well capable of doing it.
Kildman Strath, one of the great historic straths leading from the Pentland Firth down to the Lowlands, has no light and power except what is on the railway. I raised that point. The reply was, "Too expensive." That will not do. We have to face these charges, and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will help me to bring this about.
The Board, I think, has done well. I would much rather praise it than criticise it, and I did so during the recent Election on platform after platform. I stood behind it when there was almost a rebellion by the crofters because they were being asked to pay a guarantee of £3 for a living room. I held a public meeting, and I stood by the Board. I thought that was reasonable, and I still do. But £120 a year to a little crofter living one and a half miles from where there is electricity is altogether intolerable.
I have another Highland matter to which I want to refer. It is about the Herring Industry Board. I want to refer to the failure of that Board to conduct its operations in an orderly fashion. We had a strike of fishermen a week or two ago at Fraserburgh and Peterhead because the oil plant which was to be ready before the fishing began had not been built. That meant that there was no market for the fish. The quality at the beginning of the season was not as good as it was a little later. The curers were not ready to buy this poor-quality 2215 fish, and there was no oil factory to take it. Some of the fish was transferred to Wick, in my constituency, which was a perfectly proper course, but unhappily when the Wick fishing started the oil plant was unable to take the Wick supplies.
That is an unsatisfactory state of affairs and is a case of real mismanagement. These things are well within the compass of the Board to handle ten years after the end of the war. Much of this dissatisfaction among the herring fishermen is due to the lack of earnings, even when they are getting good catches, though perhaps not when they are getting abundant catches. I should be glad if I could have the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary of State, because he is responsible to his chief and his chief is responsible to Parliament for the herring industry.
There is a price structure for herrings. The minimum price for freshing is 91s. a cran. The price for any herrings going for freshing—that is for consumer use—is 91s. There is a price of about 70s. or 80s. for curing. There is a price of 70s. or 80s. for freezing. Then there is a drop to 40s. for oil, and that is probably where 95 per cent. of the herrings go. It seems to me that the gap between that top price, which attracts such a little sale, and this low price is far too great. There should be a buffer. Unfortunately, curing does not provide an adequate buffer for anything like an abundant catch.
Much greater exploitation should be made of the low-temperature freezing industry. I have said this before, and even today, years after I first said it in the House, one of the greatest developments in food preservation and in taking advantage of nature's bountiful crops and preserving them for the time of famine is not being used as it should be in Scotland.
Reference was made in the 1954 Report on Industry and Employment to the development of quick freezing, but the Report does not say to what extent there has been development. In Grimsby and in Yorkshire tremendous developments are taking place. At Yarmouth and Lowestoft, I am told, they are doing extraordinarily well. There are good prospects in the Moray Firth area where 2216 facilities for low-temperature freezing of herrings and other surplus produce ought to be provided.
If the Board wants peace in the herring industry it will have to provide more than a level of 40s. a cran for surplus herrings. The advantage of preservation and packaging in 8-ounce consumer packs is that there are not just four weeks in the year in which to sell the herrings fresh but eleven or twelve months to sell quick-frozen herrings.
Most of the green peas which we eat here and in other restaurants throughout Britain are frozen. The restaurant proprietor will not go to the trouble to unpod peas when he can get packets of fresh frozen peas. The development of quick freezing in horticulture and other food lines has been tremendous, and the only people who seem to be taking little advantage of it are the members of the Herring Industry Board. I urge the Minister to pay some attention to this matter.
There have been a number of references to Dounreay and to the development there, and the Government deserve great credit for having had the courage to go up to the allegedly remote Pentland Firth and create a breeder reactor for industrial purposes. Nothing has given me greater pride than to go, as I did at Easter, to see the developments there. I haunted Dounreay, both then and during the Election. When I should have been preparing ammunition to deal with hon. Members opposite, I was spending my time at Dounreay admiring the transformation which has come over the scene.
When I became candidate in my present constituency in 1949, having been Member for Streatham, unemployment in the area was running at the rate of four times more than the average for Scotland and the figure for Scotland is three times that of the figure for England. Now there are twenty jobs for every man unemployed. It is true that there is some unemployment among women.
Various hon. Members have asked how long the work will take. My information is that there will be five breeder reactors and that construction work will go on for twelve to twenty years, so that the prospect is good. There is no doubt that other industry will come into the area.
2217 There was a report in "The Times" on 25th June using the heading "Development plans threatened." It was a statement by leading officials, Mr. Rotherham and Dr. McIntosh, that their work will be hamstrung. They did not say "hamstrung"; that is my interpretation in order to save me from reading two or three paragraphs. They say they are unable to get skilled scientists, chemists, physicists, metallurgists, and development engineers, who are interested in applied research. They have vacancies at all levels from £300 to £3,000 a year.
I put down Questions to my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Works. I had to accept written Answers to them all and they all seemed inadequate. The Secretary of State referred to the fact thatthe Atomic Energy Commission has already recruited students trained in various Departments of the Royal Technical College, Glasgow, and the Governors of Robert Gordon's Technical College, Aberdeen, have indicated their willingness to provide higher level courses for any apprentices at Dounreay station who complete the more elementary courses which the education authority is planning to provide locally."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th July, 1955; Vol. 543, c. 85.]It seems to me that we have to do very much more than that.
The report to which I have referred complained of competition by industry, but I am sure we all rejoice that industry is employing scientists, even though rather belatedly. If the Atomic Energy Commission wants these scientists it will have to compete with industry and pay equal or greater salaries in order to attract the men. It should do so because of the vital importance of this new industry to Britain. We have heard that the Lanark-shire coal fields are almost played out and we know many others which are almost played out. We know that the nation's fuel reserves will not last for another 200 years, and we have to be off the mark with a new source of power. We shall not do that by saying that our salary list is not good enough. We must compete now.
Simultaneously, we must take the brains which are available in Scotland. We have always had bright young students but they have had to go to the ends of the earth to get jobs like these. Now the jobs are available at home, but we must attract suitable students through the education 2218 authorities, and technical colleges must be provided to train them. They need not necessarily be in Glasgow. Why not set up a college at Wick or Thurso for the northern counties, from Shetland to Inverness? This will take a long time. I imagine that the theoretical and practical training of the type of men we want will take at least ten years.
The report to which I have alluded is worth reading and these questions are worth considering. It will not do for the Ministers concerned to say that they are satisfied because they have talked to somebody in Aberdeen about it. Every university in Britain, including the major universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and all the technical colleges, should be told of this and asked what are they going to do about it, but the Government should produce the money for the technical college buildings and see that they are placed in the areas where they are most wanted.
That has happened already in the case of Cumberland. Lord Adams and the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Frank Anderson) have been very assiduous in that as in other matters, and the result is that we have turned Cumberland from a distressed area to a prosperous one. A new technical college has been built at Whitehaven. Why should we not have one? Let us have one in the North, or anywhere else, so long as we have it, but do not let us just sit and dither and hope for the best.
We have been hearing a lot today about the distribution of industry, and I have myself talked a great deal upon that subject. I have talked about it because I feel that we Scots have made very poor use of our country. [Interruption.] I am going on; I have waited for a long time to make my speech today. This question of the distribution of industry is vital to us because we have not made much use of our country. We have put 80 per cent. of our population into a narrow belt, and we are now paying a high price for it in ill-health. It is one of the reasons why Scotland has had heavy unemployment, which is not something that only happened during the war. It is a question of old buildings and structures that should have been cleared out a long time ago, and of the overcrowding and the concentration of too many people in one place, with consequent ill-health.
2219 I remember the late Mr. Arthur Greenwood standing at that Box and talking of the money which he spent as Minister of Health—£300 million a year on preventable disease; that is, disease that never should have happened. I think the City of Glasgow must have had a great deal to do with that.
When I hear various hon. Members say today, "Let us go out into other places, the old towns that have declined, but where all the public services are laid on," I think that that is a very reasonable thing to do. I rejoiced when my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) talked about building lovely flats overlooking the Clyde. New York did that, with a much less pleasant scene than Glasgow, but I feel that we cannot go on making Glasgow bigger and face taking away 300,000 people and putting them elsewhere. I think it is wrong to plant them in places like Cumbernauld and Houston. It seems to me that we are asking for trouble, because I can conceive of Glasgow growing bigger and bigger and absorbing them. When I was there in January, I looked for the football pitches upon which I used to play as a youngster, but could not find them because they have all been built upon.
Transport is the determining factor, and always has been. We have always had to pay far too much for internal transportation in Britain. We can bring things from Chile and Peru for less than it costs to bring things from Aberdeen to Glasgow. Transport is becoming our master, and increasingly so, but we could run six or seven-wagon road trains carrying 150 tons of goods, hauled by a diesel electric engine, and operated by two men —two men who might otherwise be driving a lorry to carry five or ten tons.
I do not think there is any need for pessimism. I think we have every ground for satisfaction that the results have been as good as they are, but, undoubtedly, we shall have to work a little harder, become a little more enterprising, and make better use of science, to enable us to derive the full benefits from nuclear energy.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)
The speech to which we have just listened has been extremely interesting because of two suggestions it contained. It was a complete 2220 departure from the old Tory policy. When the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) referred to the work of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board he mentioned Lochinver where, I am told, there are five potential consumers who will have electricity supplied to them at a cost of £8,000.
The hon. Member was arguing that here was a nationalised industry which should not pay too much attention to cost, but should provide a service for every section of the community. We would not dispute that altogether, but I beg hon. Members opposite to realise what the argument means. This is the sort of thing they seek to extract from nationalised industry and then, on the hustings, they tell electors that these services have failed because they have not made profits.
It may be a very good thing indeed that these industries should supply modern facilities to every section of the community. Certainly, from this side of the House it has always been the argument that there are certain services we may have to supply at a financial loss but which will prove invaluable if we are to retain in our remote areas those who are willing to populate those areas. Such people are entitled to services and amenities which those in the more highly populated parts of the country are able to obtain.
I remember my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) suggesting, a few years ago, that perhaps it might be essential, where private enterprise failed to do the job, for the Government to go into those areas and make investment so as to employ local inhabitants. Scorn was poured on that idea at the time, but that is the very argument which the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland has been presenting to the House tonight. He said that if the private fishing industry fails to provide low-freezing plant to deal with catches of herring, someone must provide it——
§ Sir D. Robertson
The hon. Member is misrepresenting me. He overlooks the fact that the Herring Industry Board was created by this House to provide plant for the industry. That being so, let it provide the plant.
§ Mr. Hoy
I am not dissenting from what the hon. Member says. He is arguing that the Government should undertake this work. I am not disputing that, but when my right hon. Friend suggested it a few years ago it met with scorn in the House.
The debate opened by the Minister of Labour started under circumstances which have changed with the years. I did not think of it until the Minister used the figure, but we are seeking to set up a factory in Inverness to employ 42 people. I do not refer to that in any derogatory sense but to mark the change which has conic over the employment position in Scotland compared with pre-war days when, if anyone had dared to suggest a scheme to employ so few persons, they would have been met with hoots of derision for making the most puny effort ever suggested.
There is one reason for all this. In simple terms, it is that since the end of the war we have gone in for a considerable amount of planning. Whatever jeers and criticisms there may have been at the expense of the planners, let the House realise that without their work Scotland would not have the 90,000 new jobs which Scottish men and women are now filling. Many hon. Gentlemen opposite used to make it part of their business to pour scorn and contempt on the planners, referring to them always as "Whitehall planners." Let us now give credit to the planners for having brought about this economic freedom in Scotland.
Never was it more reflected than in a report recently issued by the Clydesdale and North of Scotland Bank, which said:Business activity in Scotland was maintained at a high level in 1954, and the achievements recorded in succeeding sections of this survey suggest that the economic machine was functioning with steadily mounting rhythm. As post-war capital investment schemes yielded more of their expected benefits, most Scottish industries achieved further increases both in output and productivity, but the record was uneven.I am willing to say a little about what was uneven, but those remarks were a tribute to the Labour Government who, 2222 in the very difficult years just after the war, used 20 per cent. of our national income to create the industrial estates and sites which have given us the results we are enjoying today.
The Secretary of State, earlier today, interjected something about what had been left to the Conservative Government by the Labour Government. Let the Government tonight at least have the decency to say that the Labour Government left the Conservatives a heritage in industrial estates, plant and factories to which we ourselves would have been glad to succeed in 1945.
Despite all this, there is a feeling, not only in the House but in business circles throughout the country, about the future and increased competition from foreign countries. If I may refer to shipbuilding, the fears are not lessened when shipbuilding workers hear that British firms are sending orders for new tonnage to foreign countries. We rightly boast of our skill and ability to produce the finest ships in the world, so it is not very encouraging to the workers in the industry to learn that British firms are sending orders overseas.
It may be that there was some little time-lag in completing orders in the years immediately following the war, but that was a natural sequence to the war. We had a tremendous stored-up demand for new tonnage and a shortage of materials. As year succeeded year, the rhythm improved, and we were eventually able to overtake orders which had been on the books for a considerable period. It is true that Japan and Germany had certain advantages over us, but their order books are beginning to fill and the gap is narrowing.
We have some cause for concern here. It is suggested that in the shipbuilding industry we can look forward for two years. Only two years ago we were looking ahead for five years in respect of order books. There has obviously been a substantial cut. It is right that we should be concerned about it now. It is better that we should now plan to deal with the situation rather than postpone our inquiries until it may be too late. So, while I would not like to create any undue concern, all I suggest is that if we are in earnest now is the time to consider it.
2223 As one would have expected, the topic of development policy in this country was bound to arise somewhat acutely in this debate. In the years following the war we all felt it right to push into the worst areas all the new factories and new industrial assets to cope with the troubles which would arise. Let us remember that at that time those areas selected themselves, because of the appalling conditions which existed before the war. In fact, those conditions were the reason for these areas and it was right and proper that the Government of the day should give them a high amount of preference, so much so that we have provided the thousands of jobs which I have already mentioned.
It is true that over these years many of us have thought that some changes in this Development Area policy ought to be made. If I may use my own constituency as an example, we always thought that we got a raw deal by being left outside the Distribution of Industry Act. We have been arguing for a considerable time that the time has now arrived when the Act should be revised and reconsidered. Even the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) has said that it will press the Government to insist on having considerable changes made. In other words, greater flexibility is wanted and we should be allowed to put into areas which need them new industries which might we used, not only to the advantage of the area, but of the country as a whole.
I do not believe for one moment that this could not take place, because even while the Act has been in force there has been a subsidiary. I remember very well indeed that when unemployment rose by a certain figure in my constituency in the years after the war, the Board of Trade designated it a special unemployment area and gave to the firms within its borders supplies of materials at the same level as those within the Development Areas proper. If that could be done in those years, it should be possible for the Government to make that change today.
The decision rests with the Government, the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Scotland. Allied to it must be a decision which only the Secretary of State can make and on which we expect a comment this even- 2224 ing. That is what is to be the Government's policy in this respect and, certainly, what is to be the Government's new policy about grants under Section 3 of the Act. The Secretary of State this afternoon rode away on the suggestion that the Labour Government had cut down building advance factories. He certainly could not say the same about this particular Section, because even his own office confirmed this week, as we already knew, that the decision to withdraw these grants under Section 3 was made in February, 1952.
The reason the Government gave was that our economic position was such as to make it necessary to take that step and only grants which had already been approved would be paid, but from that date no further grants would be entertained. That argument simply cannot be sustained today, certainly not by the speeches of Members of the Government. The Government have been very happy to tell us that we are living in days of prosperity. If we have reached the state of prosperity, I suggest that now is the time for the Government to make their decision known.
I support my right hon. and hon. Friends, and some hon. Members opposite, who suggest that the Government should think again about this problem and that they should make arrangements for building a certain number of advance factories. I believe that to be a part of policy. All this means that some planning will have to be done. In view of the speeches made today by some hon. Members opposite, apparently they do not object to planning. It may be that now the election is over they are thinking differently.
If the Secretary of State for Scotland is in need of a little support for any action he may take, he may get it, even from the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who assured us in the Scottish Standing Committee last Thursday that the Tory Government even believe in control. So now we have planning and control supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I suggest that now is the time for the Secretary of State to take the action without which, we believe, no further progress may made in Scotland.
It is true, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) that as a result of this laissez faire policy, more and more factory 2225 building is going on in London and its immediate surroundings than in Scotland. The position is the reverse of what it was under a Labour Government. I suggest that if this capital expenditure is to be undertaken and the best achieved for the country, the Government must think again on this matter.
I wish to say a further word about the Hydro-Electric Board, which has come in for considerable criticism. It is true that when the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland is speaking, it is difficult to understand whether he is supporting or condemning it. We know that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro), with whom he had an alliance, has made some slashing attacks on the Hydro-Electric Board. We must remember that this public authority has brought the benefits of electricity to thousands of people in that part of Scotland who would never have received them but for this great public undertaking.
Even today the Board employs 12,500 people; 2,500 under its own control and 10,000 through contractors, thus making a distinct contribution to employment in Scotland. Its existence has resulted in the starting of new industries in Scotland which have been able to supply materials for sale overseas. Not only that, but in a short time 130,000 customers out of a potential figure of 200,000 when it took over are now receiving supplies. Here is a tremendous record of service to Scotland. It is unfortunate that one case, which might not be quite so good as the others, should be given all the publicity. A great deal of good work which has been done by this undertaking is lost sight of because some hon. Members of this House put forward a case which is an exception to the rule.
It is true that the Hydro-Electric Board has a quarrel with another public industry because it has to bear all the brunt of argument about the supplying of electricity in remote areas and has complained that it is being asked to supply electricity for those engaged in forestry work at a prohibitive cost. The Secretary of State not only has responsibility for matters of electricity but for the work of the Forestry Department. I suggest that an amicable agreement be reached whereby the Forestry Commission might pay a subsidy to the electricity authority when 2226 these services are provided for its workers.
One word about the argument which we had over Loch Sloy. It is true that a damning indictment was made by the hon. Member for Kidderminster, had it been true, but we have seen a denial by the chairman of the Authority. This matter is so important that, in fairness to the Hydro-Electric Board itself, I think it is only right that the Secretary of State should make a statement tonight to clear up the position.
I know that we have some things for which to be thankful, but there is one thing on which Scotland is dependent if it is to play its full part in contributing to the economic well-being of the country. There must be adequate road and transport services. We have some hope that, as a result of the Government's decision to hand back to the British Transport Commission a great chunk of the road services, we in Scotland shall be able to retain a service which will not only be of benefit to the people there, but will, in fact, make a contribution towards offsetting deficits in other sections of the transport industry.
I wish to reiterate the claim made today by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton about the Caledonian bus group which was sold in South-West Scotland. I am told that this was an absolutely first-class service. To those hon. Members who ask at what price it was sold, I would reply, let the Secretary of State tell the House tonight the price which was first asked for it and the price at which this important part of our communications was ultimately sold to the private undertaking.
I suggest to the Secretary of State that it is not too late to ask the people concerned to allow that important part of road haulage to go back into the nationalised industry. I am sure that they are men who want to play their part in the interest of the country. I am sure that they would not want to make a penny profit out of the deal, but would be quite willing to hand back the service to the Transport Commission for the price they paid for it. If we are to have a properly integrated service, then it is essential that we should have this undertaking.
I do not want to say anything about the roads and bridges that are required. The Secretary of State is well aware of 2227 the demands that we have made, and, whether it be a Forth Bridge or a Tay Bridge, he knows exactly what Scotland requires. As the right hon. Gentleman is soon to be the Minister responsible for them, perhaps he will give us tonight a preview of what his policy is to be.
On the whole, I think that this has been a very interesting debate. In a short time we have considered what has already been done for Scotland and what still requires to be done. At least one great lesson has been learned from the debate and that is that no hon. Member on either side of the House is now willing to argue that these things can be achieved without planning by the Government. For that reason, we are a little hopeful, but we certainly trust that the Secretary of State will be able to add a little more than hope.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. James Stuart)
At the outset I want to say how grateful I am to the House for the very helpful and thoughtful tone of this debate. It has covered a great deal of ground and I must not waste time, because I want to do my best to give a brief general picture of the position as I see it, and to answer as many questions as time allows.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) complained of a lack of statistics. That is not a thing from which I suffer, but I can tell him that the Digest of Scottish Statistics has now been published, which accounts for the fact that the White Paper is somewhat abridged in that respect.
After I have dealt briefly with the general position I hope to say something about the points which have been raised in connection with the distribution of industry and the Development Areas. I am fully alive to the fact that they are of vital importance. I also wish to deal with as many as possible of the other points which have been raised, and I can assure hon. Members that those which I cannot deal with now will be very carefully studied, and that I will endeavour to answer them by correspondence.
No maiden speech was made today, so I need not congratulate anybody upon that. I do congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), however, for a very interesting 2228 speech, which caused a certain amount of interruption. I can assure hon. Members who "took part" in his speech that when I entered this House, almost 32 years ago, my right hon. Friend was in just as good form as he was today. I am glad that he is keeping it up.
I am very grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Labour for taking part in the debate. He gave us an interesting survey which ranged over a wide field. I think it is right—and it is of interest to Scottish Members and to Scotland as a whole—that Ministers who are responsible for important United Kingdom Departments should take part in these reviews of our national State.
§ Mr. Woodburn
In case we do not have an opportunity of doing so later, on behalf of my hon. Friends and myself I should like to express our appreciation of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues have sat on the Front Bench during the whole debate today, and have taken part in it.
§ Mr. Stuart
I am grateful, as I am sure are my hon. Friends, for the usual courtesy displayed by the right hon. Gentleman.
I do not want the House to think that either my right hon. and learned Friend or I are endeavouring to paint a rosy picture or to be complacent, because that is not the case. We are both very well aware of the difficulties which are always cropping up and we realise that we must always be watching the position of trade and employment throughout the whole country, although I confine my activities to Scotland. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend did not—and I do not—wish to show any sign of complacency. My right hon. and learned Friend's review was, in the main, factual; he was dealing with the trade position as shown in the 1954 Report, and going a little beyond it in bringing the figures up to date. We are well aware of the constant difficulties which may confront industry throughout Great Britain in the future.
It is the case, however, that unemployment in 1954 was at its lowest level for a number of years. I am glad to say that the first half of 1955 shows a continuation of this position, although I admit that there are places where the situation 2229 is not as happy as we should wish. At some time yesterday afternoon I heard about the position in Lanarkshire, and this situation also applies in the other Development Area in the North, which was referred to by the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. John MacLeod). As my right hon. and learned Friend dealt with that position, however, I do not wish to repeat what he said. It is difficult to attract industry there.
The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy), who has just completed his remarks, referred to the fact that an industry employing 42 people would have sounded hardly worth while bothering about some years ago. It is difficult to attract industry suitable for an area where the labour force is scattered, but at any rate we will do our best in that direction.
I hope that the slight interruption in the rise of the index of production has stopped and that it may be corrected in the second half of the current year. In spite of this hesitation, it has been encouraging to see the continued advance in production in the engineering industry which is referred to in the White Paper. Hon. Members who wish to study that point in detail, if they have not already done so, will find it in pages 37–40 of the Command Paper.
I do not wish to cover the ground which was covered by my right hon. and learned Friend, so I will pass on to the three basic industries for which anyone in my position has to bear major responsibility. These are agriculture, fishing and forestry. Agriculture has not been mentioned in this debate to any extent, so I will only say a few words about it. I will begin by expressing sympathy with the farmers in the very hard weather conditions with which they had to contend in 1954. I hope that weather conditions will be all right this year, but he would be a bold person who said that there was a continued likelihood of good weather.
Although the farmers suffered they did a very good job. In spite of the fact that the area under crops declined slightly in 1954, yields were above the average and livestock production was well maintained. The number of cattle increased by 3.8 per cent. to 1,710,000. This was almost entirely in beef herds. Since the end of 1954, the proportion of attested cattle, it is satisfactory to note, had risen by 31st March to 72.6 per cent.
2230 Hon. Members referred in the latter part of the debate to the fishing industry. The position up to date is fairly satisfactory. White fish landings have been nearly 7 per cent. higher in quantity and more than 4 per cent. higher in value than in the corresponding period of 1954. Landings of herring are so far about 5 per cent. less in volume and 9 per cent. less in value than last year, but this was largely due to a reduction in winter fishing. Since 1st April, I am glad to say, landings of herring have increased both in weight and in value over last year.
The Fisheries Act provided an additional £750,000 in grants to the Herring Industry Board to continue the oil and meal subsidy for a further period until such time as the factory is completed and the scheme is able to support itself. Good use is being made of the grant-and-loan scheme for new boats and engines. During the present year grants have been approved for 47 new boats and 23 new engines. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) asked whether we thought the fleet was becoming too big. I could not answer off-hand whether it is or not, but I agree with him that there is need for greater landings of white fish. In this grant-and-loan scheme we must get an up-to-date fleet and efficient boats.
A scheme has already been laid before the House to extend the white fish subsidy until the end of this year. Before the end of the year the rates will have to be reviewed to take into account the increase in coal prices and the much improved trading results shown by the near and middle water fleets in 1954 as compared with 1953. More time is required for this purpose and the existing subsidy will, therefore, continue for the time being—that is, until the end of the year.
Reference has been made to forestry, about which I have an announcement to make arising from the Report of Principal Taylor's Crofters Commission which, I think, will be of some interest to the House. I can report continuing progress over the whole field. During the current season the Forestry Commission has planted nearly 23,500 acres and replanted 10,500 acres of old woodland. I regret to say that the bad winter slowed down the extraction of windblown timber, and as a result we have 2231 continued the subsidy payable on timber moved to the South for mining until the end of this month.
The Highlands, of course, will always be a rural area in the main, and in conjunction with agriculture forestry will play a leading part. The Commission already holds about 70,000 acres of plantable land and nearly 175,000 acres of plantations and is employing 2,197 people in the Highland area. As Principal Sir Thomas Taylor stresses in his Report, forestry in the crofting areas is more and more seen to be of greater value and importance as an ancillary source of employment, additional to normal crofting activities.
The Government have, therefore, been considering what should be done with this end in view, and came to the conclusion that the Forestry Commission should be authorised to extend its activities in these areas even if this means, in some instances, planting on land which will give a smaller return than it normally looked for. I am accordingly asking the Commission to embark on a new scheme of planting in those areas and to aim at planting 25,000 to 35,000 acres there during the next ten years. This will, I hope, be of benefit in bringing additional employment where it is so much needed.
Hon. Members have spoken about electricity as a basic service. It is, of course, of ever-increasing importance. Added to that there is the fact that under a recent Act of Parliament the responsibility for generation, transmission and distribution throughout Scotland—and not only in the North—has been transferred to the Secretary of State for Scotland. At the end of last year the stations now belonging to the new Board in the South had a capacity of 32 per cent. above that of 1948, and since 1948 the consumers have increased by about the same proportion. The programme of development is very substantial, and at the end of March approval was given to the project for a new station at Kincardine, on the Forth which, when completed, will be much the biggest station in Scotland.
The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board has added 141,000 consumers since 1943. I think it is a very good performance that only 63,000 out of 391,000 potential consumers in that area remain to be connected to the supply.
2232 The Board now has 12 schemes in operation. The construction of its schemes continues to provide employment for many people in the North of Scotland. At present, 12,500 are being employed of whom 10,000 are contractors' men on construction and 2,500 on the Board's staff. The present schemes and those which will come on in the future should keep this employment going until 1965 or later, because other schemes are still, of course, under investigation. Therefore, I think that we can claim progress in this work of electrical development. I hope that in saying what I have said I have displayed my appreciation of the work which has been carried out by the North of Scotland Board, to which the hon. Member for Leith, for one, referred.
I turn to the other basic service of housing. Over 38,000 houses were completed and, although this figure is not quite as high as the record figure for the previous year, it represents a very high rate of building and reflects great credit on the housing authorities and the building industry, to whom I am extremely grateful for their co-operation. The value of work on water, sewerage and other associated schemes was a record in 1954, and more schemes have been put in hand this year.
The hon. Member for Leith also referred to roads in Scotland. As tilt House is aware, the responsibility for highways is also being transferred to me and to the Departments of the Scottish Office. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation is, on course, still responsible, and he has announced and expanded roads programme of considerable dimensions. A a result of this, we shall be able to effec a number of much-needed improvement to our highway system. I realise to the full how necessary this is to benefit industry and road users generally. My, hon. Friend the Member for Ross and Cromarty seemed to be annoyed that we were not contemplating the building of dual track carriageways, as I think the are called, in the Highlands.
I would suggest to him that some consideration in these matters must, of course, be paid to the weight of traffic on the roads. It is a rather more different problem on the Carlisle to Glasgow road or the Glasgow to Stirling road from that presented by some of the Highland roads which he had in mind.
§ Mr. John MacLeod
We do not want a road like that. We do not want a narrow road with passing places, which are most dangerous and quite unsuitable for present traffic, let alone development.
§ Mr. Stuart
I agree. I was trying to answer my hon. Friend. I said that it does depend on the weight of traffic.
Of course, we want the best roads that we can afford, and I agree with him that they are an advantage to the tourist trade. I am not ignoring what he said. I realise the importance of a satisfactory road system in the Highlands, but we cannot, of course, embark upon schemes such as those to which I am referring at the moment, which are concerned with the main trunk roads.
Atomic energy has also been referred to, and that will be of vital importance to the future not only of Britain but of the whole world and the future of civilisation. I cannot pretend to be an authority on the subject of atomic energy and its development. But I will say this: the Dounreay plant has now reached a stage where it will provide work for substantial numbers and' will be of considerable benefit to the area.
At the end of 1956, employment should reach the peak of 1,700 persons. Thereafter, with the addition of more experimental reactors on the site, there is likely to be employment for a constructional staff of some size for several years to come. As a permanent employment, the position is that there will be 700 permanent employees of whom 250 will be recruited locally and the remainder, many of whom must have specialist qualifications, will be brought in from outside. Outside the Highlands the Authority has chosen Chapelcross, near Annan, as a site for four of the six new reactors to be built. These will provide employment locally and will also, as a side issue, provide a welcome addition to our electricity supplies.
As I have already indicated, the long-term value of these developments is of far greater importance than the immediate effect, although in the particular districts concerned they will be of great importance. Undoubtedly, we are seeing here the beginning of enormous developments, and I only hope—indeed, I am sure—that Scottish engineering firms and industrialists generally will be on the alert to see if they can attract to Scotland as 2234 many orders as possible in connection with these new developments. I understand that the requirements of the Atomic Energy Authority will provide orders for a wide cross-section of Scottish engineering firms. I know that the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) is well alive to this need, and I trust that the industry will also do its best to seek future orders in this field.
I think that in the time now available I ought to turn to the question of distribution of industry. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) referred to this matter, as did other hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I may say that I listened with considerable interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes), because he was striking out on rather a new line of country which seemed to me to be rather different from that to which I listened from several of his hon. Friends from Lanarkshire at a deputation which I met with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade and others yesterday afternoon.
I do not want to suggest that the Government have a closed mind to this problem, because conditions alter, but the hon. Member for Hamilton suggested that there was need for an overall coordinated policy for industrial development in Scotland. While I realise that planning has performed much in certain directions, I must say that I rather agree with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. One wants to do one's best to ensure that it is on sound lines. I cannot help thinking that it is very difficult to plan in advance all the things which are suggested here. After the war there was a great demand for goods of all sorts. In addition, there had been war-time bombing, and so forth, and there was a great demand for new factory space.
No one can say now, in advance, what type of factory may be wanted in any area. We must recognise that the days which I have described are past. The building of a factory which is not suitable for the industry which wishes to move into it may lead to expensive alterations in order to make the premises suit the business. In addition, a factory may remain empty, which is a bad national investment. In my personal and humble opinion, it is a very depressing 2235 amenity for an area, if amenity is the right word.
Nevertheless, a great deal of thought has been given to this question. I am not in a position tonight to make any announcement of a change in Government policy, but we will continue to use the facilities of the Distribution of Industry Acts to help industrialists to set up in the Development Areas, where unemployment is still relatively high and where diversification of industry is desirable. In other areas, obviously, we shall encourage industry which wishes to go there to do so, but it is clear that we cannot force an industry to do so. Lanarkshire is one of the areas to which the Board of Trade encourage industries to go when they are looking for new sites. One of the very first endeavours is to encourage them to go there.
Looking over the whole problem, I think the policy which the Government are at present pursuing is wise and right in the prevailing circumstances. It is obvious that when we have in, say, Lanarkshire, a higher rate of unemployment than elsewhere, then we want to encourage industry to go there. Of course, if we divide a loaf of bread into twenty slices instead of ten, the amount of bread which each person gets is less. We cannot suddenly, as if with a magic wand, increase the amount of industry seeking new premises. We are still of the opinion that the right thing to do is to encourage industries to go to the Development Areas if they wish to do so.
I was very interested to hear what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central said on the subject. I do not know whether all his hon. Friends are in line with him on this matter, but I can assure him that his remarks will be carefully studied. What I have said does not mean that there will never be any change in what we are doing. It depends on the circumstances, and we must review policy in the light of prevailing circumstances.
Turning to advance factory building, there has been no advance building since 1951 because of the need for economy in capital expenditure. In view of the time I can merely tell the House that present Government policy was explained by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in a debate on the Development Areas on 2nd May, 1955.
2236 In conclusion, I thank the House for the manner in which they have dealt with this very important and far-reaching topic. I am sorry that I have been unable to answer more of the questions. I do not pretend to be complacent and I hope that the House will accept the Motion.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the White Paper on Industry and Employment in Scotland, 1954 (Command Paper No. 9410).