§ [SECOND DAY]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question—[9th June]:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.—[Mr. Simon.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 11.15 a.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
The debate which has already taken place on the Address has ranged very widely indeed. All hon. Members were gratified by the speeches made from this side of the House yesterday by two of my hon. Friends who were addressing the House for the first time, as well as by that of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) who seconded the Motion. It is already clear from the maiden speeches that have been delivered and from the further maiden speeches which I gather will be coming along during this debate that this is certainly a new Parliament in which there are to be many changes.
One of those changes has been announced this morning. It is one which not only we on this side, but the whole House, will note with great regret. It is the decision of my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Whiteley) that he is unable to carry on in the position of chief Opposition Whip. I am certain that the deep respect and affection which we on this side of the House feel for my right hon. Friend is equally shared by hon. Members opposite, not least by the Government end of the usual channels.
Although there are obviously changes taking place all the time, the Gracious Speech itself shows very little change either in its matter or in its tone. We have a large number of miscellaneous 145 Bills, some of which appear to be new. I can certainly assure the President of the Board of Trade that his proposals for countervailing duties will receive a hearty welcome from this side of the House. We shall, of course, want to see what is in the Bill, but I am quite sure that the Government are right to use the freedom which they now possess under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to make this change in our statute law.
Then there are quite a number of hoary old friends from the last Parliament, including some Bills which were introduced, but which were dropped because of the Government's decision to press on with the General Election. In addition to the Bills there is, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out yesterday, the usual assortment of pious aspirations and promises to continue studying problems to which the Government clearly have no hope of finding any solution.
My right hon. Friend referred to the passage in the Gracious Speech which relates to another place, and there is the usual pious aspiration, which I think we have had in every Speech from the Throne during the lifetime of the present Government, about the need to reduce Government expenditure. It is:My Ministers will not relax their efforts to secure the utmost economy in public expenditure …Of course, we all remember that when the Government were elected in 1951 the most lavish promises were given at that time that Government expenditure was to be cut by £600 million or £700 million.
There was the famous speech of the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Education which so impressed the then Leader of the Conservative Party that it was circulated to every Conservative candidate. It made the clear statement that it would be easy to cut Government expenditure by £600 million or £700 million without anybody noticing it. A commentary on that promise and indeed on the latest statement in the Gracious Speech was made by an answer given by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to a Question which I put on Budget day to see how much Government expenditure had been reduced since 1951. He told us that the increase in 146 Government expenditure in the last financial year compared with the last year under the administration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) was £1,048 million. So instead of a reduction of £600 million or £700 million, Government expenditure has increased by more than £1,000 million. We shall have to see how the Government will implement the pledge in the Gracious Speech.
The most serious thing about the Gracious Speech is the fact that it is characterised by a tone of great complacency about the economic situation. This properly follows the bloated, and one might almost say boastful, complacency which the Chancellor suddenly began to exude as soon as the date of the General Election was decided. We all recall his gloomy statement in February reflecting the gloomy trade figures which had just become available.
I am bound to say that despite the Chancellor's Election-time sunshine, the latest trade figures confirm the continued gravity of our overseas economic situation. I think that the Chancellor and his party—and this was shown by speeches of hon. Members opposite and unsuccessful Tory candidates all over the country—are too ready to assume that the measures announced by the Chancellor on 24th February have solved the problem we were then facing.
On that date, the right hon. Gentleman announced an increase in the Bank Rate which had taken place that morning; he announced that our gold and dollar reserves were to be used in the transferable sterling market in such a way as to introduce a sort of backdoor convertibility; and he announced restrictions on hire purchase. As far as I can see the only result of the restrictions on hire purchase has been short-time working and unemployment in the furniture industry.
It has become very obvious that had the Government really wanted to damp down internal expenditure they would not have concentrated their attention purely on the expenditure of that section of the community that buys some of its requirements by hire purchase methods—on deferred terms. Had they really wanted to damp down dangerous inflationary expenditure they would, I think, have dealt 147 with the provocative and flamboyant expenditure resulting from capital gains, particularly on the Stock Exchange—those very large capital gains which continued throughout last year and which, after being damped down for a short time, are still going on.
In this connection it would be right to commend to the Chancellor, though doubtless he knows of it, the minority Report of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Income, telling him exactly how to deal with this problem of capital gains. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will bring this section of the Report to the Chancellor's attention.
I should like to ask the Government—and perhaps the Chancellor at some time on his return from Paris will answer it—whether they intend to introduce a second Finance Bill this summer or autumn. I am not asking whether the Government intend to introduce an autumn Budget—that will obviously depend on the Chancellor's assessment, in a few weeks' time, of the economic situation—but it is fair to ask whether we are to have a Finance Bill this autumn providing for amendments to the administration and details of tax structure of the country. We have not, in fact, had a Finance Bill this year. We had, of course, this very brief and sketchy Measure just before the General Election, but it was virtually impossible to put down Amendments to it—and certainly impossible to move new Clauses.
It would be a very serious thing if the accumulated balance of amendments which, I am sure, must be in the minds of hon. Members on both sides and probably also in the minds of the Inland Revenue and of the Customs and Excise Department, had to wait yet another year. Next year there will undoubtedly be a pretty hefty Finance Bill to take account of the Report of the Royal Commission, but there are many other aspects of taxation which I should have thought needed urgent attention.
To turn once again to the measures announced by the Chancellor on 24th February, we have to ask whether this experiment of increasing the Bank Rate to the highest level in a quarter of a century has worked. The movements of prices on the Stock Exchange do not sug- 148 gest any damping down of internal activities such as he said he wanted. He claimed a short-run improvement in the balance of payments; that the serious bleeding of our gold and dollar reserves has been staunched by the measures taken on 24th February. In the debate which took place just before the General Election I was amazed at a speech made by the Minister of Supply, and at his extremely complacent attitude to the changes he thought had taken place with incredible speed as a result of those measures of 24th February.
In so far as there has been any improvement in the state of the gold and dollar reserves it has, I think, been due only to two things. The first is that, temporarily, more confidence has been given to the speculators, and therefore the run on sterling has temporarily stopped. It has been due secondly to a very sharp influx of "hot" money to take advantage of the high interest rates at present ruling in this country. We have seen evidence of that, not only as regards money coming in for the purpose of short-term lending but in the growth of long-term American purchases of industrial securities in this country—which I think is something to be watched.
Even so, since the main change that has taken place has been this influx of "hot" money, we are bound to agree that that creates an extremely vulnerable situation, and that money which comes in on the basis of easy-come can easily go—and go very quickly. It is very disturbing that even with this movement of short-term capital there has been no improvement in the state of our gold and dollar reserves. I was surprised yesterday when the Prime Minister described the fact that there was no change in the gold and dollar reserves as "a pretty satisfactory situation."
This is a time of year when we would expect, for purely seasonal reasons, that those reserves ought to be increasing. If we take the month of May, the latest Treasury returns show that for that month there was no change at all in the gold and dollar reserves—no increase and no decrease. May is always a good seasonal month, and if we look back to May, 1954, we find that the gold and dollar reserves increased then by 165 million dollars. In May, 1953, they increased by 48 million dollars. Even in May, 1952, when we were still facing a 149 serious foreign exchange crisis, in that month—unlike the months preceding it and certain months following it—there was an increase in those reserves of 16 million dollars. Yet, in May, 1955, there is no increase at all: I should have thought that that represented a very serious state of affairs.
Of course, the basic facts and the underlying tendencies in our economic affairs are determined not by movements of "hot" money at all but by the trade figures. I am sure that now that he has got over the Election, the President of the Board of Trade will be frank and will tell us of the concern he feels about the development of the trade figures. I know that in the first four months of this year exports are up by 10 per cent. as compared with the same period in 1954. That is the figure of which we heard most during the Election. We also heard a lot of it from the President of the Board of Trade in his speech at the B.I.F. banquet. We heard it again in the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday.
What we do not hear quite so much about is that in those first four months imports were up by 20 per cent. and that the visible trade gap—and we all know the snags about it—has been running at a rate of £74 million a month as compared with £41 million a month during the first four months of 1954. If the President has any gloss to put on these figures I hope he will tell us, but comparing like with like those figures suggest a worsening in the position by £33 million a month, which represents a worsening of about £400 million a year. One must ask the Government if this is the success we are supposed to be investing in at this time.
There is no evidence that the measures which the Chancellor took on 24th February are either reducing imports or expanding exports. There was a measurable fall in imports in April, and yesterday the Prime Minister seemed to take satisfaction in that fact, but the Board of Trade statisticians have pointed out that the fall in imports in that month was purely seasonal—due to a fall in food purchases—and that there was no basic change in the rate of imports into the country.
150 Then we must ask what prospects the Government see of increasing our exports. We have to increase our exports very considerably if we are to wipe out this increased gap of £400 million a year. We all, on both sides of the House, welcome the recent improvement in our exports to dollar countries. That is a tribute to the work of the Dollar Exports Council, a tribute to both Governments and to both sides of industry, but the overall balance still remains disturbing. We should like the President of the Board of Trade's assessment of prospects in every market in the Commonwealth. There have been import cuts in Australia. and one read last week that the Australian Government are still concerned about their balance of payments position. We must fear, or expect, the danger of further cuts, which will have a serious effect on our trade—because Australia is now our biggest overseas market.
I should like to ask what prospects the President holds out in regard to improvements to East-West trade. No doubt he has seen the recent statement by the President of the United States, in which President Eisenhower, at a Press conference, was much more positive than ever before about the desirability of increasing East-West trade, and in which, for the first time, he seriously rebuked some of the more hysterical American politicians who wish to continue the blockade of trade between East and West.
I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will take account of this very important and, I think, welcome statement from Washington, and tell the House that he is prepared to enter into new negotiations for amending the strategic list. If the American Government who, to speak frankly, have been the stumbling block in this respect, are willing to see an increase in East-West trade, I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will not be backward in following that up.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to do something about ending the now indefensible boycott of trade with China. I think it right to remind the Government that this question of East-West trade has not only a bearing on our economic position but on relations between East and West. We all welcome the improved prospects of high-level talks, and I hope that the 151 Government are not holding back East-West trade as a bargaining point in these talks. That, I think, would be an entirely wrong way to go about it. It would not help in promoting confidence between East and West if the West maintained a somewhat surly attitude about the question of trade across the Iron Curtain. I hope that the Government approach to this problem will be dictated much more than it has been by the extremely statesmanlike comments of the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) when he talked, in his speech in February, 1954, about the value of East-West trade as a solvent in world diplomatic relations.
It is essential also, as reference has been made to markets, to ask the President from what industries he expects the expansion in exports to come. There have been some industries expanding their exports and I think that we on this side of the House are entitled to claim a great deal of credit for these increases. For example, exports of petroleum result from the imaginative programme carried out when my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South was Minister of Fuel and Power. That was much criticised at the time but it has utterly removed the dependence of this country on imported refined petroleum and created one of our biggest export industries, The same is true of exports of chemicals, plastics and so on.
I think that we are all worried about the consequences in the export of engineering products. In April I drew the attention of the House to some very serious figures in the Economic Survey. They showed, that although there had been an increase in engineering output of capital goods of about £490,000,000 compared with 1951, whereas we would have expected most of that increase, if not all, to have gone to exports and capital investment, in fact, investment increased only by £25 million a year and exports of engineering goods had fallen by £30 million compared with 1951. That is a serious statement about the position of what is our major export industry, and these are Economic Survey figures.
When we inquire where the increase has gone we find that defence absorbed £190 million, but cars for the home market absorbed £135 million and consumer goods for the home market 152 another £80 million. If this trend continues, we must warn the President of the Board of Trade that it will have a serious effect on the long-term development of our export trade; because unless there is to be a spectacular increase in engineering exports, such as occurred between 1946 and 1950, I think that there is no hope of our exports expanding at the required rate.
I do not need to draw attention—because other hon. Members have done so—to the effect on the road problem of this production of cars and the rise in the home market. Certainly the pace of the development of the road programme for this country will be affected, and I think it wrong that the problem should be unnecessarily added to by this influx of new vehicles coming on to the roads.
One thing that struck me during the General Election was the repeated statements by workers in the road haulage industry that since denationalisation began there has been a serious relaxation of safety standards on the private enterprise side of the road haulage industry. If we are to have the roads cluttered up with more and more lorries and vans, and if there is to be a relaxation of standards both within and outside the law, the Government will have to tackle the question of road safety in a manner which far transcends any ideas they have so far expressed in the Road Traffic Bill which we had before us last Session.
In the Gracious Speech there is a reference to the Sugar Agreement and this appeared also in the previous Gracious Speech, although we do not know what legislation was proposed. Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will tell us something about it this morning. Although hon. Members on this side of the House are suspicious of what may be in that Bill, I think we welcome what appears to be the Government's acceptance now of the value of long-term contracts for colonial produce. Perhaps the President will say whether this new legislation means that the Government are now accepting that, in order to maintain colonial production and prosperity in the Colonies, it is desirable to have long-term contracts for their products. If that is what is meant, we must ask the right hon. Gentleman when he proposes to do something in respect of raw cotton and certain other materials.
153 Another important reference in the Gracious Speech relates to monopolies. We must ask the Government whether this means that they are really proposing to take action, or is it another of those annual bromides which we get from the Government? Yesterday the Prime Minister intervened on this question and gave to the House what I thought was a pretty serious distortion of recent political history. He informed the House that the Monopolies Commission was the invention of the present Lord Chancellor. Surely the Prime Minister remembers that it was under the war-time Coalition Government that this idea was first put forward, in the White Paper in 1943, as an agreed Measure. Why he should suggest that the present Lord Chancellor, who was then in a relatively junior capacity, should be singled out from all the Ministers as being the father of this particular idea, I do not know. If any Minister were responsible I should have thought it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who was at that time President of the Board of Trade.
Then we were told by the Prime Minister that the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Act, 1948, was an agreed Measure. He could not have been there to see the face of present Lord Chandos, then Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, or the very churlish way in which he accepted this attack on monopolies. Then Mr. Lyttelton seemed to be bitterly opposed to it and the present Lord Kilmuir, then Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, seemed on the whole rather to welcome it. But when it came to amending the Bill to give powers to the Government to make general references, such as the one the President made two or three years ago, that was bitterly attacked both by Lord Chandos and Lord Kilmuir, and was only forced through against the opposition of the Conservative Party.
During the Election campaign there was rather more enthusiasm from members of the Government on the subject of monopolies. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was reported as saying to his constituents, "You come along with any cases of monopolies which you wish to bring up, and we will refer them to the Monopolies Commission." That is a very significant change in monopoly policy. Indeed, a few cases have been brought out. The hon. Member for Lewisham, 154 West (Mr. H. A. Price), in a speech yesterday which was welcomed by hon. Members on this side of the House, gave some pretty powerful examples from the paper industry. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) keeps pressing his complaints about the "Daily Express," though he is much quieter about the motor trade.
Already hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House have referred to the tenders for cement in Bristol, and we heard about the tenders for steel girders for educational structures, and all the rest of it. If the Chancellor's statement is correct, and if he was correctly reported, I take it that at least we can expect that the President of the Board of Trade will now refer the oil industry to the Monopolies Commission. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us whether the Chancellor's speech during the Election campaign means a new policy, and with what enthusiasm the President will follow up this new policy, or whether it was simply a piece of electioneering designed to mollify the anti-monopolists of Saffron Walden.
Of course, at this stage it is difficult to know what the President has in mind about monopoly legislation. Are we to take it that, now that he has the Report of the Monopolies Commission, the Government intend to introduce legislation to implement the views of the Commission? The President was so severe on me in the last monopolies debate on the question of the calico printing industry that I can only deduce that it is the view of this Government that they must automatically accept anything reported upon by the Monopolies Commission.
Because of the very serious state of affairs of the cotton industry at that time, I gave reasons for going slow on the question of calico printing, but, if the President is enunciating the principle that we must implement every Report of the Monopolies Commission, then I hope that he is going to tell us what he intends to do in relation to the last Report of the Commission. If the right hon. Gentleman is considering legislation, I would ask him to go even further and to say whether he has studied the proposals put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South, by myself and by other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, 155 Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) for the registration of all trade associations which have restrictive practices.
On that occasion, we gave some details of the success of this experiment in Sweden, not only in gradually reducing the number of trade associations with restrictive powers, but, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, in the establishment, in the Swedish equivalent of the F.B.I. of an anti-monopolies department for advising industry on how to get rid of restrictive practices. That would certainly be a revolution in this country, and I hope that the President will tell us that he has made a special study of this Swedish experience and that he intends to follow it in the legislation which is to be introduced during this Session.
I now turn from the economic part of the Gracious Speech to some of its social aspects. There is no reference in it to the cost of living. During the election I for one got the impression that the Government had given up the struggle so far as the cost of living was concerned. They no longer sought to pretend that it had not risen, but they tried to counter it by their unworthy stunt about ration books. For the rest, they said that if the cost of living had gone up, wages had gone up even more.
That is a very strange argument for a Conservative Government. We have not seen either the Government or their supporters noticeably enthusiastic about increased wages over the last three or four years. There may be great advantage in a high wage economy. High wages are certainly one of the ways in which to enforce greater capital investment and greater efficiency in British industry. We should like to know whether it is now Government policy to let the cost of living rise and to meet it by a policy of encouraging higher wages.
Of course, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, there is nothing in the Gracious Speech which provides for those living on National Assistance, the submerged tenth in this period of so-called Tory prosperity, the million who require supplementation from National Assistance. This Government, which only a few weeks ago was handing out £150 million in tax concessions, have only been able to find 2s. 6d. a week for a single person 156 or 2s. a week for each of a married couple in addition to the National Assistance which they were receiving three months ago.
The "Economist" said that what we wanted from the Government was a two-decker economy. I am frightened of what will happen under such an economy, because those on the lower deck are already having a very rough time on it. I remember, at a public meeting in my division during the Election, a woman saying that she was speaking on behalf of her husband who could not come along because he had not a decent suit of clothes to wear. He was a blind man. He had received an increase of 14s. 6d. a week, but now the Government had taken away 9s. 6d. of that amount by the cut in National Assistance. If that is the sort of two-decker economy that we are going to get then I hope that the Government will think again about it. [Laughter.] I do assure the President of the Board of Trade that there is nothing funny in this.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)
That argument might have gone all right on the hustings at Huyton, but it will not do here.
§ Mr. Wilson
I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that I felt so seriously about that question that I thought it should not be used in political arguments in Huyton, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman or one of his colleagues will take this matter a little more seriously. The right hon. Gentleman will certainly get no enthusiasm from these benches if the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes along next year with more concessions in company taxation if it is to be financed by taking 9s. 6d. from the benefits of blind men. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] I think that we are already getting some proof of the warning given the other day that we are not preaching entirely to the converted, but I hope that on this question we shall see some conversions.
Equally mean was the Government's decision to stop the intake into Remploy factories. I believe that both sides of the House would pay great tribute to the work done by the late George Tomlinson in developing this scheme for 157 Remploy factories. In all our constituencies we now hear of men refused unemployability supplements on the ground that they are considered fit for work even though there is no work available for them in ordinary industry. The only hope for them would be employment in a Remploy factory, but now, in order to save a few thousand pounds a year, the Government have decided that there is to be no new intake of Remploy entrants for the rest of this calendar year, or even for the rest of this financial year.
It seems that the Government's policy in social affairs is that of the old stagecoach proprietors. When the coach was going uphill, the order was "First-class passengers remain seated, second-class get out and walk, third-class passengers get out and shove. "We on this side of the House are not against privilege. On the contrary, we are all for it, but we have rather different views from hon. Gentlemen opposite as to who should be the privileged classes. We believe that if there is to be privilege, then it should be for the sick, the old, the children and the disabled, and that the duty of all the rest, whoever they are, is to get out and shove. I think all parties will agree that some very hard shoving will be required in the next two or three years.
Foreign competition has become more violent, and if, as we hope, there is some success in the Government's proposals regarding disarmament, that will mean facing more virulent competition in world markets. That being so, the first priority here must be more capital investment and greater efficiency over the whole of industry. Are we getting it? The Prime Minister said that there was an improvement in capital investment. But where is it going? As far as I can see, a lot of it seems to be going in petrol stations and new factories producing luxury goods. Of course, it is very nice to have all these packaged consumer goods, but it is much more important for the Government to concentrate on capital investment in those industries which can contribute both to exports and to dollar savings.
So far, the Government have given us very little idea of their manpower policy. Manpower in the agricultural industry fell by 21,000 last year, while the number employed in distribution rose by 77,000. The number of bureaucrats also rose. The numbers employed in professional, 158 financial and miscellaneous services rose by 46,000 last year. There has been this vast increase in the number of those engaged in miscellaneous professional services.
As my right hon. Friend has already asked, are we going to get any move from the Government on the question of National Service? During the Election there was a rather encouraging broadcast by the Minister of Defence. Are the Government going to follow that up? Do they hope to do anything in the near future by way of reducing the burden on British industry due to the present level of foreign competition?
The Government in this new Parliament have—and it is no good our making any bones about it—a substantial majority. We should have liked that majority to have been the other way round, but it was not. Most people in the country, whatever their party, will take some satisfaction from the fact that the Government have a majority sufficient to enable them to govern. We should have liked that majority for the Labour Party, but it has gone to the Conservative Party. I hope that the Government will use it to begin to work out a real policy for our economic security.
During the last 3½ years the Government have been content for too long to drift along on what has been, on the whole, a favourable tide. We cannot count upon that favourable tide continuing. There were adverse signs in February, and the trade figures which I have quoted today are further confirmation of a worsening trend. I hope that the Government will come forward with some really significant economic measures to increase our exports and secure a balance in our overseas trade; indeed, I hope they will provide the surplus which both sides of the House have said is essential if we are to play our part in developing the backward areas of the world.
If the Government come forward with public-spirited measures, designed to increase the economic strength of our country, I can assure them that they will be very warmly supported by the House. I hope that the Government are not going to use their increased majority—as they have done in the past two or three years—in producing factional and sectional measures. I appeal to them at 159 the beginning of this Parliament to give us new thought, new action, and new evidence that they mean to put the country's economy upon a sound and secure basis.
§ 11.51 a.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)
I should like to start by agreeing with something which the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) said. I also pay tribute to the maiden speeches which have already been delivered in this debate. I agree that they have all lent distinction to our discussions, and I have no doubt that we shall hear others during the course of our deliberations.
The right hon. Gentleman struck a rather sombre if not despondent note about the gravity of the future. I certainly do not propose to underestimate the difficulties which confront us, but I hope to be able to tell the right hon. Gentleman one or two things which will make him a little more cheerful. He said that the gold and dollar reserves had remained steady. We should, naturally, have liked to see them surging upwards, but when one compares the present situation with what we found when we took over in 1951, one must admit that there has been an improvement. We wish that our reserves had been steady then.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to develop various themes connected with the social services, about which I shall not elaborate today because I believe that we are to have a day devoted mainly to those themes next week—but I should like to say that the events which we have recently been through have demonstrated very clearly that the country appreciated the substantial advances made in social services by the last Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman ended on a rather interesting theme; a defence of privilege. That is a theme which we hope to see developed a little further as the debate unfolds. We should like to hear just how the right hon. Gentleman would develop this privileged society.
This debate is about a future programme; it is not a post-mortem. The post-mortem is taking place in the pages of the "Star" newspaper day by day. 160 We look forward to each edition with added interest. In some ways I think that the Socialist Members are going a little too far. The statement of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) that the behaviour of the Socialist Party in the last four years has been deplorable is an exaggeration. I found that we got on rather well together, and I have no doubt that we shall do so in the months that lie ahead.
We are here not to hold a post-mortem upon the Socialist Party, but to discuss a future programme of Her Majesty's Government, and the judgment that is formed upon it will depend, to a large extent, upon the kind of world in which we think we are to live. Is it a world in which we shall have to share scarcity, or one in which we shall be able to share abundance? If we are to share scarcity, of course we must go round saying "Do not put up a petrol station; we cannot possibly afford it. Do not let us have any luxury goods. We have to do something else." That is typical of the kind of decision forced upon a Government in time of war, but which, if it is at all possible, should be avoided by a Government in time of peace. It depends whether we are looking for equality or equality of opportunity—and there is a big difference between the two parties upon this matter.
The programme which we are discussing is unashamedly designed to secure abundance, and to see that all our people can share very fully in it.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
One thing that has interested me in the debate so far is that no real attack has been developed against the policy of Her Majesty's Government. I have heard suggestions that we might go a little further or faster—which is perfectly respectable opposition; it is quite right that such suggestions should be put. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, yesterday, said that he wanted a rather larger road programme. He asked for an assurance that the promised Bills concerned with health and safety in agriculture and forestry were not the end of that progress—an assurance which was given him by the Prime Minister.
161 There was no attack upon the main theme of our policy, unless one counts a rather nostalgic reference to the dismantling of controls. Professor Lewis has already referred to controls asputting the whole population at the mercy of Government clerks.Perhaps it is unfortunate that his remarks were published just the day when the Leader of the Opposition was asking for more of them. I am rather sorry that no real attack has been delivered, because a little controversy is a good thing in public life. If there is an alternative policy; if there is something fundamentally wrong with the policy of Her Majesty's Government, I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, in the course of this debate, will say so—and say quite clearly and positively what is their alternative. Then we shall have that clash of opinion out of which truth sometimes emerges.
The right hon. Member for Huyton asked me to provide a few facts about the existing trade situation. No one would deny that it has its problems; there always will be problems in the trade situation. A country as dependent as ours upon foreign trade, amid world markets as inherently unstable as they always are, can hardly ever expect to find a situation which does not justify some anxiety in the breast of any farseeing man. At the same time, the situation is not devoid of certain fairly satisfactory features. Production is up, and is rising. At the time of the Budget I remember the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) examining the figures which at that time, on the short-term—as he quite rightly pointed out—could not demonstrate entirely that production was still going up. I am not criticising him, because the figures had not been fully published at that stage.
The figures today show that production is 5 per cent. or 6 per cent. above that for the corresponding period of last year and perhaps 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. above the average for 1954. Exports in 1954 were a record—a satisfactory situation—but there were signs at the end of 1954 that the upward rise was levelling out. The right hon. Gentleman referred to that at the time. I am happy to say that it now appears that that was not so because exports are still going up. In the first quarter of 1955 the volume of 162 engineering exports was 10 per cent. above the average for 1951, if I may take up a point which the right hon. Gentleman made in his speech.
In April and May of this year our export figures were 9 per cent. above what they were in April and May last year. We are exporting at the rate of £10 million a day. I am not saying that these figures demonstrate that there are no problems ahead but they demonstrate that we need not despair of the situation. There is quite a lot going on, and a great deal of energy, enterprise, drive, and salesmanship in markets, including, as the right hon. Gentleman very fairly said, dollar markets, all over the world.
What about consumption? Do not let us be too afraid of our people consuming things. Sometimes, to hear the right hon. Gentleman, one would think it was terribly shocking for our people to be consuming things which ought to be all going into the export market. Nobody is keener about exports than a President of the Board of Trade. Both the right hon. Gentleman and I have had the privilege of holding that office. Consumption should still be permitted in a free society. Taking the figures of consumer expenditure at constant prices, the consumption of food for the first quarter of 1955 is 11 per cent. up compared with the first quarter of 1952, and household goods are 27 per cent. up. These figures represent, in statistical terms, real advances in the standard of living. They represent what is going on in every home, and they mean that housewives going out with wages in their hands are buying more than they did before.
The right hon. Gentleman might, and indeed should, say, "What about the trade gap?" If the House will forgive me I do not propose to enter into a great discourse about the balance of payments situation. We are to have a debate about that next week, when I have no doubt that the right hon. Member for Leeds, South will be speaking and, I hope, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I would like to say something about the visible trade position, because it is particularly my field.
In March, the visible trade gap was £92 million. It gave all of us cause for considerable concern although nobody attempted, certainly not the right hon. 163 Member for Leeds, South, to attach too much importance to the figure for a particular month. It was undoubtedly a substantial deficit. In April, however, the figure sank to £65 million, and in May the provisional figure for the visible trade deficit fell to £32 million. I do not wish to place too much weight upon those figures of £92 millon or £32 million, but I want to make one or two qualifications. Towards the end of May some lowering of the figure may have been due to anticipation of a strike. That factor might account for some of it, but certainly not for all.
If we look at the figures, not for one month but over the four or five months, we can say that they do not show a sort of runaway situation out of control. How far the movement of the Bank Rate will take effect or has taken effect is a matter for debate. At this stage, it is certainly too early to judge that particular matter.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
The right hon. Gentleman quite fairly mentioned the possibility of many exporters rushing goods to the docks in anticipation of a strike. Will he tell us, on the basis of obviously provisional figures, how far the improvement in the single month of May was due to increased exports and how far to a reduction of imports because of the strike at the Liverpool and other docks, which began in the last week of May?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
It is not easy to say. The export figures are up and remain up. It is not easy to judge the strike position at all. There may be a certain amount of delay in the returns, which, to some extent, discounts the extent to which the strike may have had an effect. It is not so much a matter of people rushing goods to the ports as that some ships, in anticipation of a strike, may have been diverted away. That may have affected not the exports, but the import figures. I do not want to overestimate figures for one particular month, but if we take the figures for the longer period they do not show a rapidly deteriorating situation.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
The right hon. Gentleman has given the figure of the trade gap for May. I am sure he will agree that it is most undesirable to have misleading conclusions drawn from them. Would it not be as 164 well if he were to give the actual figures for imports and exports?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Yes. The May figures were £290.3 million c.i.f. for imports and £249.4 million for exports, and for re-exports £8.4 million. That is the situation.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
Could the President of the Board of Trade say whether it is a serious matter or not that there has been an adverse change in the first six months of this year, compared with the first six months of last year, amounting to 581 million dollars?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I am not proposing to give comparisons from recollection between two periods. There is no doubt that the visible trade gap in that period has been a cause of anxiety. All I have wished to show is that on the figures the gap has been narrowing and not widening. The trend has, therefore, been in the right direction. I say that with all the limitations that one must necessarily place upon the figures of visible trade compared with the whole trade situation.
It is early to judge how far the various measures—restrictions upon credit, use of the Bank Rate and the like—have had an effect upon this position, but when comment is made upon it from the benches opposite—I have no doubt that right hon. Gentlemen will bear this in mind when they speak later—it is fair to ask them what contribution they would make. The policies they have advocated envisage increases in Government expenditure, reductions in indirect taxation and rejection of the use of the Bank Rate. That seems a combination of policies which could only very gravely worsen any difficulties which confront us at present.
In any event we must, in this debate, look beyond the immediate situation. There are always difficulties in any immediate situation. We must ask ourselves whether there are any inherent trade difficulties in our long-term position which will present to us an insuperable difficulty or which are bound to lead us into a critical situation. The answer to that is "No" My belief is that if the policies which we have pursued are continued there is no reason to suppose that we shall fail to meet with the same success as has attended our efforts in the last 165 four years. They have been remarkable: full employment, high wages, expanding imports, increased consumption and absence of any major crisis. If we can continue with a policy which brings advantages to all concerned in these sorts of ways, then, I think, we shall do a very great service to this country.
Let me indicate what we conceive to be the conditions of success. This is a very highly geared economy, the economy of this country; and action or inaction in any one part of it can have very marked effects upon the others. We depend, as very few other nations do, upon exports. We export about 20 per cent. of our gross national product, which is a very much higher percentage than that of most other countries. I know it is a commonplace to say that we need those exports to repay debt or to buy necessary imports, but it is sometimes forgotten that we need them to keep the jobs for our people and that our very full employment depends upon them.
The Leader of the Opposition thought that in some way the reimposition of controls and full employment were linked together. The retention of export markets and full employment are very much more closely linked than that. The job of exporting is speculative and uncertain and very highly skilled, and our job, as a Government, is to create the conditions in which it can be carried out, first, by getting a balance in the internal trade and, secondly, by creating the right conditions abroad. It is about the latter I want to speak, because it is very closely linked with the policies outlined in the Gracious Speech.
What an exporter needs is some security, if he can get it, in his business. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are trying in various ways, through the Export Credits Guarantee Department and other ways, to give the exporter some security amid these risks, and it covers, I think, nearly one-sixth of the exports of this country at the present time. What an exporter also wants is a stable framework. He wants to know what are the obstacles that will oppose him in the markets of the world. He wants stability in tariffs so that they do not swing up against him, and he wants some rules about the quota restrictions which can be used against him.
166 I do not propose to debate the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or any matter of that kind now, but the essence of any international agreements, whether in Europe or in the whole of the Western world, is to try to secure some stability for the exporters of this country. It is immensely to their benefit that today about 58,000 tariff rates are bound by countries doing nearly 80 per cent. of the world's trade. That situation brings vital advantages to the men who are trying to sell goods from the various factories o[...] the United Kingdom.
As to the rules about quotas, I am not arguing how strict they ought to be or what exceptions there ought to be to them, but what I do say is that an exporting country such as ours must have some agreement about quota restrictions. These are the kinds of matters about which we have been negotiating at Geneva, and these are the kinds of matters the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now discussing in Paris in the O.E.E.C.
There is in this scene one factor which is referred to particularly in the Gracious Speech, and that is the freedom to deal with certain forms of unfair competition. We must have stability of tariffs, but if any country can, by subsidy or by dumping, within the definitions laid down in our international agreements, override those arrangements, it is right that we should be able to take some action against it. I think that the House generally will approve our intention to introduce a Bill to that effect.
The Gracious Speech, therefore, emphasises in the clearest possible terms that we intend to go on pursuing in trade and payments the policy of expansion which has already brought such great benefits to our people. That is fundamental to the wealth of this country. If hon. Ladies and hon. Gentlemen opposite have any alternative it should be put from the benches opposite in the clearest possible terms.
It is said we ought to go back to a policy of controls. But for what? What goods do right hon. Gentlemen opposite want to control? What import restrictions do they intend to impose? Do they want restrictions on coal and steel? Those goods are vital to our exporting industries, and if it is proposed that they should be swept away we should be told. 167 [An HON. MEMBER: "What about cotton?"] What about cotton? Is it the policy of the party opposite, irrespective of our international obligations, for protective purposes to impose import restrictions? If so, they are entitled to say so, but it does mean a very large and marked departure from international obligations which right hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves signed, and it also means a departure from the structure and pattern of world trade under which, at this moment, not only are our exports expanding but millions of men and women in Britain are in happy, useful and profitable employment.
If it is the policy of the party opposite to put forward some alternative arrangements, some other form of external commercial policy, it is vital to ask them, in moderate, quiet tones, that they should put them forward during this debate.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
I am sorry to interrupt this outburst of impassioned piety of the right hon. Gentleman in reply to my hon. Friend who asked about cotton, but may I ask him why he is doing these wicked things in relation to the jute industry?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to ask that question, and it is a good debating point.
We have been continuing from the war in one industry a very closely integrated central purchasing arrangement. It is a good question to ask, if the right hon. Gentleman will accept the logic of it. If he were to argue that the arrangements in the jute industry should form the pattern of the trade policy of the Government over the whole range—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—it would be a fair point to take, but I will say this to the right hon. Gentleman, that if we were to try to carry on the export and import trade of a great industrial country such as this on the basis which we are using for the purpose of assisting some of the gentlemen in Dundee, that would not be a very profitable thing for the general national well-being.
§ Mrs. Barbara Castle (Blackburn)
Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that it is part of the Government's international trade policy to try to get international agreement to stop unfairly subsidised exports to this country?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Perhaps the hon. Lady did not hear, but I referred earlier to using anti-dumping and countervailing duties, and I emphasised that it was within closely defined terms. If we were to draw that definition too widely we should find that all of us would be regarding one another's imports as unfair.
What are the other conditions of success? Plainly, one of them is to use to the full the skill and enterprise that we have. In the General Election which we have just been through what was the contribution of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to that? In the case of the engineering industry, it was to take it over into public ownership. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South shakes his head. If it was not so in his part of the country, it was in mine. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman found it more prudent not to mention these things in his area. Let me break the news to the right hon. Gentleman that there was quite a lot of this talk going on. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton did not mention this once in his speech. We are entitled to ask, is this part of the policy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite or is it not?
The engineering industry, despite all that they are saying, is making a really substantial contribution to the export trade of this country. It is a romantic story in many ways. The manufacturers in our engineering industry are competing in the United States of America, over 3,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean and over the American tariff wall. Is it really proposed, at this stage, that we should take that industry, or sections of it, over into public ownership? Is that really the contribution which is to make full use of British enterprise and effort? I think that the right hon. Gentleman is prudent not to press that point.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
I am fascinated by this romantic story. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will go on to recall that when I was pressing exporters in 1948–49 to invade the American markets in Canada and the United States in engineering goods, the leaders of the Tory Party were ready to say that we were wasting our time and that it could not be done. Time and time again, they said that it could not be done. I am delighted that it is being done.
169 If the right hon. Gentleman wants to know what our policy is, I suggest that he should read it and not expect us to put forward the whole of our policy in every speech from our Front Bench. Our proposals were related to the machine tool industry. Our concern is about the machine tool industry in connection with home investment. Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that the machine tool industry is facing up to all the country's needs for investment?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
This is interesting. I wanted to hear whether it really was the contribution of the right hon. Gentleman to the all-out use of our enterprise and effort that they should take the great machine tool industry into public ownership at a time when it is at full strength. In the Commonwealth it is making a great contribution, and in the export markets it is vital. Is it really the Opposition's policy to take that over, or some unspecified section of the chemical industry?
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pursue the articles in the "Star" newspaper, they are really worth following. I like particularly the one by the hon. Member for Bermondsey:I think it would be wise first to confess to early mistakes—we churned out plans for State ownership from 1945 to 1950, and, with the exception of the miners, they were not well received by the workers in the industries concerned.I think that was the case with the workers in the chemical industry during the course of the recent election.
I want now to refer to another form of monopolies, but I do not want to keep the House for more than a few moments longer. The right hon. Gentleman referred to another type of monopoly which I should like to say a few words about. The development of monopolies during the twentieth century does, I think, confront any Government called upon to deal with them with very considerable major and controversial problems. May I take a very benign monopoly to start with—the monopoly of the trade unions. Let us face the reality of this situation, which sells labour or skill—I am using the words in the same terms—at level prices, and which during the 'thirties, like many monopolies on the employers' side, developed a great number of practices, many of them restrictive. That is really 170 a difficult problem which confronts the trader at one section.
I am not saying that it is wrong. I am saying that it is a fact and that we must face the facts. Let us take raw materials. Coal is a monopoly; electricity is a monopoly. If the right hon. Gentleman had his way transport would be a complete monopoly. There is quite a ring of monopolies around us. Some people, certainly the Communists and probably the National Socialists at this stage of the argument, will go on to say that all the others ought to be monopolies in some form or another. Yet it is at this very stage when enterprise, initiative, managerial skill and competition can often make their biggest contribution. So, for our part, Her Majesty's Government reject the views of those who say that just because there are some monopolies all the others ought to be monopolies as well. We reject that.
Equally, we reject the view of those who say that all monopolies and all restrictions upon output ought, by a massive piece of legislation, to be swept away. Both these extremes are really untenable positions, as I think that the right hon. Gentleman, on reflection, will realise. Instead of that, what we are doing is to adopt a policy about which there has been a great deal of argument, namely, that we should inquire into the facts, examine where the national interest lies, and, when we have done that, take action upon it.
I do not know how many hon. Members read the reports of the Monopolies Commission, when it is said that we take no action upon these reports. Take the supply of electric lamps. It requires a little bit of examination before we sail into a large industry of this kind and sweep away practices which have been developed in it over many years. The report on dental goods was the only one on which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman took action. Whereas in the case of the reports on rainwater goods, the supply of cables, the supply of insulin, matches and match-making machinery—every one was acted upon by Her Majesty's Government. It is intolerable that it should be said that we have done nothing about these things. The network of practices concerning the supply of imported timber has been dealt with and eliminated.
The right hon. Gentleman will also remember the Report on the Supply of 171 Buildings in the Greater London Area. It is easier to condemn monopolies than to have the courage to implement the reports in certain cases. There was the Report on the Process of Calico Printing, the major theme of which was the percentage quantum arrangement which Her Majesty's Government announced, before the Election, they thought ought to be eliminated, but about which the right hon. Gentleman was a little more cautious.
During the last Parliament we doubled the size of the Commission. We enabled it for the first time—because it was very necessary—to act in groups so that it could get through more reports. We put to it, among other things, the first general reference, which dealt with the great network and system known as collective boycott and exclusive dealing. These are linked with the private trade courts which have been very much in the public mind.
Let us read the reports before making final pronouncements of policy upon them.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I have read the report myself, but other hon. Members have not had the opportunity because it is in the process of being printed. We propose, as soon as it is printed, to publish it, and then, no doubt, the House of Commons will get the opportunity of examining it and Her Majesty's Government of pronouncing their policy upon it.
I hope that I have dealt, in the main, with the arguments which have been advanced so far. In conclusion, I would simply say this. There seem to me to be in this country very great opportunities ahead. I have no doubt that there are difficulties, too, but there are many opportunities. I do not believe that they will be solved by a rigid network of controls, or by an attempt to take all the large decisions at the centre. Most of these problems are being solved in the factories—some on the factory floor, some in the board room, many by the management and some in the research departments. We want to give freedom to this vast variety of men to get on with the job and earn some reward for the work which they do. It is on the basis of a sound foundation in the home economy, expanding trade abroad, and 172 the imaginative programme of social and other Bills outlined in the Gracious Speech that we believe that this country can move forward.
§ 12.29 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
We have listened both to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade today and the speech of the Prime Minister yesterday with a great deal of disappointment, because it appears to many of us—certainly on these benches—that the criticism is true that the Government are facing the very real economic problems ahead in a state of complete complacency and self-satisfaction. They have been encouraged in that view by the temporary majority that they gained in the recent Election.
It is quite clear to the great majority of our people that we are facing a great industrial revolution which calls for new skills and techniques on both sides of the industry. It is not sufficiently appreciated that on the trade unions' side and on the workers' side there is immense need for new thought, and undoubtedly there are immense opportunities for new leadership. But that new thought and new leadership can only develop in a new social setting.
At the moment, the trade union movement is faced with enormous problems in trying to recognise the very greatly changed responsibilities which it has to face in a period in which all kinds of new techniques and developments are taking place, probably more rapidly than at any other time in our history. We think sometimes of the Industrial Revolution of the past and the tremendous social problems which it brought about, but I am not at all sure that the industrial revolution which we are now experiencing is not just as significant and does not call for just as much change in the views of both employers and workers.
It seems overwhelmingly clear that the trade union movement cannot hope to deal effectively with this new situation unless there is an atmosphere in which the trade unions can work. That means that the Government must help in giving trade unionists and others a sense of fair play and of equality without which trade union leaders cannot possibly effectively carry out their responsibilities. It seems to me that it is there that the Government are, above all, failing in their 173 responsibilities and duties to the country as a whole.
It is often suggested that the problems which arise in industry, the problems of the introduction of new machinery and of its consequences, can be settled on the shop floor. The President of the Board of Trade seemed to be saying that in the concluding words of his speech, but I do not believe that it is true. Some of the general problem, of course, can be settled on the shop floor, but a great deal of it is a problem which can only be looked at on the national level. If full advantage is to be taken of the new processes which are developing in industry, there are overwhelming social problems to be solved in the employment of men who have been engaged in more old-fashioned processes in the years gone by. That change-over is not just local, it is a national change. The Government must play their part in providing the atmosphere in which it can take place.
It is in their attitude towards these wider social responsibilities that the Government are failing. One practical problem, for example, is the fantastic anomaly that today, when new machinery has been developed which can take away the load of much of the physical labour endured by working men and women for centuries, we are working longer overtime than for many years, with the exception of the war period. It is as astonishing and a blind thing for the President of the Board of Trade to say that now there is an opportunity for happy useful and profitable work for great masses of our people.
Those great masses, certainly in my constituency, are not indulging in happy employment. They are working more overtime and are having less opportunity of real living than possibly at any time in their lives. They are being forced into that position in order to keep pace with prices and to secure any kind of economic improvement for themselves and their families. Therefore, so far from this period being one in which the general public are enjoying wider benefits, it is one in which they have less freedom to enjoy their lives than they have had for many years past.
This is true of many of our industrial areas. I do not suggest that that brings political advantages to one side or the other, but these are facts which confront 174 us with very severe problems. These are some of the problems which trade union leaders are discussing and about which they are very anxious. It is fair to say that many trade union leaders are anxious about the way in which overtime has become the one issue that matters in industry. The first question that is asked by a worker when seeking employment is, "What is the overtime?"
The concentration on overtime as a necessity for the creation of any social advancement or improvement is a matter which should have the serious consideration of all of us at a time when new developments in every industry should be-offering a wider opportunity of living, even of gracious living, instead of merely existing, which is the inevitable alternative if, as my constituents do, one is working until 8.30 p.m. on most nights of the week in order to afford some of the advantages of our present society. We can overcome this very real social problem only if the Government can give much more real evidence that they are anxious to ensure a fairer deal for the community as a whole than we have experienced during the last few years.
I do not believe that this problem can be isolated and settled on the individual shop floor. I believe that it is a much wider problem than that. We must turn our attention to the human problem which faces the average worker when he comes home after 8.30 p.m. on completion of his overtime to a house which is in a state of disrepair in many cases, especially in the shipyard and heavy engineering areas.
The worker returns home to a house which he may have been forced to purchase as part of the Conservative policy of a property-owning democracy. The Conservative interpretation of a property-owning democracy is that houses which are semi-slums should be sold off to the tenants, who cannot afford to maintain them, whereas the real advantages of the ownership of property are reserved for those who have a very much larger income. That is not the interpretation of property-owning which Professor Arthur Lewis was talking about in his article in "Socialist Commentary," which was so badly misquoted by the Prime Minister yesterday.
I call attention, therefore, to this one example of social abuse which the Government are doing absolutely nothing 175 to correct. In many cases ordinary working people, to find somewhere to live at all, have been obliged to purchase houses which were not fit to be bought and which private owners in the past had allowed to go to general ruin and disrepair. They are now faced with expenditure which they cannot meet. Many hon. Members are being consulted by these people, who cannot get rid of the houses in which they are living. They have had to purchase them but they cannot afford to maintain them, and they cannot get into new houses because they are already owners of a house of some sort.
In addition, a large number of houses which are occupied by tenants are in disrepair. They may be houses capable of being put into a decent condition, but they are houses which have had precious little done to them by the private owners over the years. The Government, rather more than a year ago, brought in a Measure which they said was going to deal with this specific problem. It was called "Operation Rescue." It was suggested that by bribing a few individual landlords it would be possible to get the older houses repaired, but the bribery has failed. For one thing the bribe was not big enough, and this particular programme of trying to deal with a social evil has collapsed completely. It is condemned on all sides. Yet there is no reference to the problem in the Gracious Speech.
Only a matter of a year ago it was suggested in this House that the way to tackle the problem of the housing conditions of a large section of our working people was to give the private landlord a greater incentive to do what he should have done over the last few years. It was argued that provided that added incentive was given he would properly carry out his obligations. But it has proved to be utterly untrue. The whole of that approach to this problem has manifestly failed.
The cases in which the landlords have applied the procedure and have carried out a scheme of repair are, in fact, those cases in which the tenant himself has done the greater part of the work which he has not been obliged to do by law. In such instances the landlord has come along and added an outside coat of paint which was not needed, has charged the extra rent, 176 and has got away with it. That is the only direction in which the Act passed a year ago has had any result at all, and the only effect has been to increase the rent without doing anything to improve the condition of the property.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
As my hon. Friend says, the type of case in which the rent has increased is where the tenant is in receipt of National Assistance and the landlord has taken advantage of the fact that the Board will pay increased rent, so that the public are being held up to ransom and an extra rent is going to private landlords without any repairs being done. It is a fact that on all sides there is agreement that this Act is a complete washout.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Private owners are buying space in the Press to demand that the Act should be wiped out and that there should be complete abolition of rent control in its place. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) argued that that would be the rational Tory policy, and I expect that the Government sooner or later will completely abolish rent control. That is a rational argument from the Conservative point of view. What the Act has completely failed to do is to relate profitability for the private owner to social responsibility.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
The hon. Gentleman has stated that certain landlords have increased the rent without carrying out the repairs. But they cannot do that under the Act.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
We can answer that very easily because my hon. Friends and I have been raising these cases in the House. I am surprised that the hon. Member is not aware of it.
We certainly have been urging the Government to make it possible for the National Assistance Board to act on behalf of the tenants and to impose the conditions which are provided for in the Act. But the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance refuses to take any 177 action, and the tenant concerned, who is the only person under the Act who can take action, is not prepared so to do because he is reimbursed by the National Assistance Board out of the pockets of the taxpayers.
These are day-to-day anomalies, and the fact remains that the conditions which the Government set out to right are not being righted. I am merely quoting these cases as one example within my knowledge—because this is a matter with which I have had a good deal to do over a long period—of the sort of human conditions in which our working people are having to live, and unless action can be taken to correct them we cannot hope to build up the social atmosphere in which trade unionists and others can face their changed responsibilities for the future.
I am arguing that we cannot hope to get the required new attitude in industry towards these great industrial changes unless at the same time we are prepared to face the need to provide a new social atmosphere in the community as a whole, and what I have just been dealing with is one example of where a change is needed in the daily lives and experiences of the great mass of the working men and women on whom we depend for the real future of our land. Unless the Government are prepared to take vigorous action in this field they will never be able to achieve the social climate in which great industrial changes take place and of which full advantage can be taken.
So I would urge upon the Prime Minister, the President of the Board of Trade, and the other Ministers who are responsible, the vital need to clear their minds of any past prejudices they may have and to recognise the importance of issues of this kind. I thought it was rather odd that the Prime Minister yesterday should quote with so very much appreciation the article by Professor Arthur Lewis from "Socialist Commentary." I think I understood him aright to say that he welcomed that article, which means that he welcomed it in its entirety and not the few selected passages which he read to the House.
I hope very much that that is true, because Professor Arthur Lewis, in that 178 article, includes, for example, this reference to public ownership:Public ownership must be extended to all enterprises in all forms of industry which can operate efficiently only on a very large scale.I think we would all accept that as a very sound statement. I would be very interested to know whether, in fact, the Prime Minister, in announcing the policy of the new Government, has accepted that part of this article as well as the rest. He probably did not read all the article but only the section that was blue-pencilled and referred to him. But is he prepared to accept Professor Arthur Lewis's argument of the democratisation of property and its wholesale redistribution?
§ Mr. Leather
Is the hon. Member suggesting to us that I.C.I. and the great aeroplane companies are not efficient?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
No, but I do not think the hon. Gentleman heard what I said. I said:… operate efficiently only on a very large scale.That is the point.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I am afraid the hon. Member cannot have heard clearly.
What I am quoting is what Professor Lewis said about public ownership being extended to all forms of industry which can operate efficiently only on a very large scale. According to Professor Lewis it is the size of industry which is the criterion for judgment about public responsibility, and that is an argument acceptable to many of us on this side of the House. I was not at all clear that that was the argument which the Prime Minister accepted yesterday, although he quoted with approval part of the article. It is, therefore, important that we should have some expression of view there.
179 At this time, when so much that is revolutionary in industry is taking place, it is surely a matter of concern to us all that both the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade should have made speeches completely disregarding the vital fact that, if we are to take full advantage of these great industrial changes, it must be in a wholly changed industrial atmosphere, which can only come if there is much greater appreciation by the Government of their social responsibilities.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Mr. H. R. Spence (Aberdeenshire, West)
In following the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), I do not wish to become involved in a long discussion on housing, but I should like to say this. The best answer today to the questions which the hon. Member raised on housing is the fact that the present Government have produced 100,000 houses a year more than the Socialist Government ever did in any one year. That is a better answer than the hon. Member's niggling about the question of repairs and whether the Act is working well or badly. To suggest that the Housing Repairs and Rents Act is a burning question that will affect industrial relations is quite wrong when, today, people see the houses going up and know how the Government are getting the job done.
The hon. Member referred at the beginning of his speech to the necessity for the ordinary working man to work overtime to earn a living. I merely draw his attention to the fantastic rise in the amount of small personal savings. That is the answer so far as this side of the House is concerned.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
The hon. Member will find, I think, that the very small savings have not risen but, in fact, have declined. It is the larger savings which have risen, and for obvious reasons.
§ Mr. Spence
I now proceed to a point of general interest which, I hope, will find support on the other side of the House, also. Since the Representation of the People Act was passed, there have been three General Elections and we have all had experience of how that Act works. 180 In many ways it is a good Act, but in certain aspects it has worked in a restrictive and unfair manner. The part of the Act to which I want to direct attention is that dealing with the postal vote and the regulations that have to be complied with before a postal vote is permitted.
I hope that the Government may find time, in the programme of legislation which was outlined to us yesterday, to include a short amending Bill that would make the main Act a better one for the future. This, surely, is the right time to discuss a Measure of this nature, when we are all fresh from the hustings and when we remember the way in which the Act has worked in our own constituencies.
The postal vote is a benefit that is given only under certain fine and close restrictions. A wide section of people were deprived of votes at the recent Election because of the harsh operation of the Act in a way which I do not believe was ever intended by the House of Commons. I can illustrate my meaning by quoting three examples. First, there is the person who is away on holiday. No vote is allowed. Then there is the business man who is making a journey for a particular purpose. Again, no vote is allowed if the man does not habitually travel in the course of his work. Thirdly, there is the person who attends a conference. No matter how important the conference may be, no vote is allowed.
Surely, when the Government are encouraging staggered holidays, as they are doing, and when industry is responding, as it has done, it is only right that a vote should be allowed to people who are on holiday. It is no crime to go on holiday. Why should somebody have to return home—perhaps a long distance—to record a vote? We must think in a far wider way about how postal votes should become available and, if necessary, set up additional machinery to effect a wider application of the postal vote.
Let me give an example of the way in which the business man is unable to vote and how unfairly the Act operates. In my own constituency, during the recent Election, there were three people from one English firm who had come to do a particular job. Two of the men were technicians and the third was the driver of their car. Because the technicians were not habitually away from their parent works on business, they were disallowed 181 votes and had to go south. The driver of the car, because the nature of his business took him away from home, was allowed a vote. Yet all three men were employed by the same organisation. Surely that is an absurdity.
I pass next to the question of conferences. It will be within the recollection of the House that the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland took place at the same time as the General Election. At that Assembly, which is a statutory obligation, about 2,000 or 3,000 people were actually concerned in the business of the Assembly and a further 4,000 or 5,000 members of the Church Women's Guild from all over Scotland arranged to meet and carry on their annual business at the same time. But with the exception of a few of the Ministers of religion, no one who had to be away from home could get a vote. I submit that those people should have been entitled to a vote had the Act been drafted as it was originally intended.
The case of the Ministers in Scotland was, in fact, referred to the Court of Session before finally a vote was allowed. That was put through only within a week of the Election, and many Ministers were disfranchised by the operation of the Act. I believe that the House never intended the Representation of the People Act to debar a broad section of the community, who are carrying out their normal and proper actions in the social structure of the country, to be ruled out at the time of an Election because of the entirely artificial regulations provided for by the Act. I hope that the House will agree, on both sides, that that the question of the postal vote requires revision.
I turn now to a perhaps minor point: the use of motor cars on polling day. Whatever may have been the impelling motives when the Act was passed, I suggest that they are now antiquated and out of date and are now merely restrictive and an intolerable interference with personal liberty. We all know the argument which was used during the passing of the Act—that only one party owned the motor cars. That is not true today and I hope that the House will agree that if an amending Bill were presented to put right the regulations, it would be broadly agreed legislation which both sides would gladly support. One man, one vote, is the governing principle of 182 the Representation of the People Act, and I suggest that it is the duty of the House to see that that vote can be exercised.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom (Sheffield, Brightside)
I do not intend to go into the intricacies of the Representation of the People Act, but I want to reply to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Spence) in respect of the effect of the Housing (Repairs and Rents) Act, 1954, upon certain of the people who live in my constituency.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) made a certain assertion which it seemed was being challenged by hon. Members opposite. I want to reinforce what my hon. Friend said.
The fact that the Conservative Government have built 300,000-odd houses a year during the past three years is no reason why there should be this curious injustice whereby people are being asked to pay increased rents in cases where the landlords have not complied with the new Act and have done no repairs during the past three years, and the National Assistance Board has been compelled to make grants to enable the increased rents to be paid. I could give innumerable illustrations of this. If any hon. Members who question this statement care to come to my constituency I will give them chapter and verse for what I say. Furthermore, as a result of the Act, Members of Parliament are powerless to do anything about it.
Before I turn to a constituency problem, I want to deal with a point raised by the President of the Board of Trade, who said that action or inaction in any one department of our economy can have a marked effect upon the whole of our economy. That was about the wisest sentence in his speech. It is true. Consequently, I am prompted to ask a question about a paragraph in the Gracious Speech which begins,My Ministers will not relax their efforts to secure the utmost economy in public expenditure,"—Then follows the part about which I wish to speak—and by sound handling of financial affairs to check the dangers of inflation.I presume that that means that the Government are going to deal with the problem of capital inflation.
§ Mr. Winterbottom
I am not sure that this very broad and nebulous reference to inflation should not include, in the interests of the national economy, something to implement the statement by the President of the Board of Trade, and to check the tremendous capital inflation which is at present taking place on the Stock Exchange. Or is that something which was not intended by the writers of the paragraph? Perhaps the Government will tell us in due course whether the proposal includes Government action against the speculators in risk capital on the Stock Exchange.
I believe that the unjustified inflation of capital on the Stock Exchange will be one of the most serious challenges to our complicated economy. As a result of the issue of bonus shares, additional scrip and measures of that description on the part of companies who have had no new capital equipment, the values of risk capital shares have risen to a very great extent, and some day, somehow, somewhere, someone will have to pay.
A great deal has been said this morning about the cotton industry. I was born in Lancashire. I recollect the tremendous boom in the cotton industry after the First World War, when share values rocketed to an alarming extent, in some cases to five to seven times their original value. There had been no development of the cotton industry in terms of capital equipment, and yet that is what occurred. In spite of what has been said in this House about Purchase Tax and foreign competition, I believe that the cotton industry is today suffering more as a result of the capital inflation which occurred between 1919 and 1921 than from any other single factor associated with the industry.
I want to utter the warning that the inflation on the Stock Exchange at present is something which will have to be paid for, and I have no doubt that those who will have to pay in the last analysis are those who toil in the factories which pay the increased dividends entailed by the unjustified enhanced values resulting from speculation on the Stock Exchange.
My main object today is to mention two matters arising out of the Gracious Speech. The Gracious Speech says:Legislation will be introduced to safeguard the health and provide for the safety and 184 welfare of those employed in agriculture and forestry.The Prime Minister said yesterday that certain sections of the railways would be added to the contemplated legislation.
This is a very poor way of approaching the recommendations of the Gowers Committee. We have to remember that the Gracious Speech covers legislation for, probably, the next 18 months. Consequently, shop and clerical workers can look forward to inactivity on the part of the Government in respect of their conditions of labour for the next two years despite the fact that the Gowers Committee recommendations were made in 1947.
Surely it is time the Government seriously considered implementing those recommendations in respect of the people in shops and offices who have been neglected for so long and have not got legislative protection such as is given to manual workers by the Factories Acts. It would be a good thing if the Government implemented the Gowers Committee recommendations on a broader basis than in respect of agricultural, forestry and railway workers, and applied them during this Session to shop and clerical workers.
I want to say in terms of praise to the Government—I know that this is unusual—that I am delighted to read:My Ministers will bring forward legislation to reduce the pollution of the air by smoke and other causes.However, we must not be delighted too soon; there is a sting in the tail. I am very glad that such legislation is to be introduced, but I must utter a warning to the Government. I want to issue the warning before the actual text of the Bill is published, and perhaps before the text has been fully considered.
The Beaver Report on air pollution exempted certain processes, metallurgical works, power stations, gas works, coke works, ceramic works, lime works. That means that even if the Government implement in full the recommendations of the Beaver Committee, these scheduled processes will still be left under the control of the Alkali Inspectorate. At present we have seven alkali inspectors to look after all the industrial processes in the country. It is much easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than to get an alkali inspector to do anything about air pollution, especially in heavily industrialised areas.
185 I should like to give one experience about the famous Brightside village. I know that Brightside is misnamed. The village is perched on a hill, and down at the bottom is a great gas works. The gas works has been re-equipped with the oldest material that could possibly be found. That is quite different from some gas works in certain suburban areas of the country, where there are new vertical retorts and the quenching of the coke from the making of gas is done in contained chambers so that sulphuric acid is not discharged into the atmosphere.
If hon. Members had been with me last Sunday morning standing on the hill in Brightside village they would have seen a quantity of yellow smoke containing sulphuric acid pouring from the gas works. They would have seen it spreading all over the village. In spite of many protests to the Alkali Inspectorate, nothing has been done about that. Behind the houses is a concrete mixing factory which in dry weather spreads its dust all over the house tops. The dust penetrates into the houses and percolates into the suites of the people who live there. On the side of the village is a tip and in front of the village is a corporation yard in which all the street sweepings are dumped.
Those are the conditions under which the people of Brightside, who produce the finest alloy steel in the world, have to live, and nobody seems to have the ability, the control or the authority to remove this injustice. At present the responsibility rests with the Alkali Inspectorate, and the Beaver Report proposes that it should remain there, but no satisfaction can be obtained from the Alkali Inspectorate.
Therefore, I suggest that in drafting the Bill the Government should pay attention to our experts on air pollution in all these large industrial cities. They can deal with these matters if the Government are prepared to do what the Beaver Committee was not prepared to do, and that is to ignore the line of least resistance. The Beaver Committee made its report on Sheffield as the result of a visit lasting from nine o'clock in the morning until three o'clock in the afternoon. The members of the Committee did not see the conditions under which people live in the district which I have the honour to represent.
186 I suggest that the Government should consider these matters before bringing a Bill before the House of Commons, because the people of Brightside are utterly sick of the conditions in which they have to live. They look to the Government to provide legislation to make the air of Sheffield and other industrial centres as pure as the air of Bournemouth, Southport, Harrogate or any of those well known seaside or inland residential spas. They are as entitled to as much of God's clean air as are the people who live in those towns.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. R. E. Winter-bottom) for further expanding the topic of repairs to houses, which was raised by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop). I must say that this is the first time I have heard that the Housing Repairs and Rents Act, 1954, is being abused. I am certain that every one of my hon. Friends would agree that it is an abuse which ought to be stopped. After all, we all know that that Act laid it down that no increase in rent could be charged before the repairs were carried out. Indeed, we know that the tenant can obtain a certificate from the local authority to show that repairs have not been made.
§ Mr. R. E. Winterbottom
I agree that that is what the law provides. But the law does not provide for an old couple with no one to help and advise them to have the knowledge of the law to circumvent the wiles of a landlord who has not complied with the law to get his increased rent.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
I fully appreciate that point, and I agree that it is one which should be given further consideration by the Minister responsible for these matters.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Brightside will excuse me if I do not pursue his remarks about a capital gains tax. As he will know, the final Report of the Royal Commission on the Taxation of Profits and Incomes has just been issued and this subject of capital gains tax, which has been a subject of controversy for many a long day, was still the subject of controversy between the various members of the Commission. I 187 have not yet had the opportunity of studying the Report, but that is what I gather from the various comments I have seen in the Press.
I listened with much interest and attention to what the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East said. I did not agree with a great deal of it, although there was one suggestion with which I heartily agree and which I propose to make the main theme of my brief remarks. The hon. Gentleman said that what we wanted in this new age was rethinking and a re-approach, particularly to industrial problems.
The Gracious Speech covers a wide field and there is no question but that we should look forward, in the next 15 months, to a good deal of hard work. However, that condition will appertain throughout the whole five years' life of this new Parliament. There will be plenty of work to do and many problems to face. Therefore, it is worth while for a few moments to consider whether the present machinery of Government is the right one for dealing with all the problems which will arise and for dealing with the many tasks which arise under modern conditions. I have one or two suggestions to make, and though perhaps they will not be accepted, if they encourage thought on these matters it will have been well worth while mentioning them.
Before coming to that, however, may I refer to that paragraph in the Gracious Speech, which reads:It will be the aim of My Government to strengthen the balance of payments and to extend overseas markets for our goods and services … they will work for a further advance towards a free flow of international trade and payments.That that is absolutely essential to the life of the country we all agree, but I was a little disturbed by a report in yesterday's issue of "The Times" under the heading:Preparing for convertibility. Subjects for E.P.U. talks in Paris.I shall not read the article, but will only say that while I agree that, ultimately, our goal is full convertibility I doubt whether we are at present in a position to adopt it. We must recognise that for some years our financial and economic position will be delicately poised and I feel that before we reach full convertibility we must increase 188 our gold and dollar reserves to a far greater figure than they now stand. I hope there will be no rush to try to achieve full convertibility. Since 1945 we have had ample experience of the dangers of any precipitate action of that kind.
My main theme is whether the Government machinery today is properly constructed, and where it could be improved to carry out more expeditiously, and perhaps more efficiently, all the hopes and aims expressed in the Gracious Speech. At the beginning of the last Parliament in November, 1951, in the course of a very interesting debate on foreign affairs I suggested that as we had a new Government and a new Foreign Secretary it might be worth while to look at the structure of the Foreign Office. I suggested that because of the enormous burden that the Foreign Secretary has to carry, and will carry for a long time, the ministerial staff at the Foreign Office might be increased. During the lifetime of the last Parliament the Foreign Office staff was increased to a certain extent.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
No, not jobs for the boys. I am sure that the hon. Member would not accuse me of that sort of thing.
In that debate in 1951 I expressed my certainty that the untimely and unhappy death of the late Ernest Bevin, which we all deplore, might well have been due to the heavy burden which he carried for so long. I used that to reinforce my argument for further help for the Foreign Secretary.
I will not presume to suggest that the increase in the staff which took place resulted from my remarks; nevertheless, I think there is room for further help on the ministerial side. Some hon. Members will recall a discussion we had on Foreign Office expenditure a few months ago. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who was then the Foreign Secretary, talked of the innumerable cocktail parties which the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers had to attend. Apart from anything else, it would be a good thing were the Foreign Secretary relieved of having to attend so many cocktail parties, particularly when, from our experience of the last war, we know that some "Molotov cocktails" can be very potent indeed.
189 I do not want now to dwell on the Foreign Office aspect, but wish to refer to another matter arising from page 2 of the Gracious Speech. It there says:My Forces will continue to play their full part in maintaining peace and stability in the world.My Ministers are reviewing the problems of Home Defence and the measures required to meet new forms of warfare.In his speech yesterday the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition specifically mentioned the Ministry of Defence, and to that Ministry I have given a good deal of consideration. I am not quite sure what the functions of the Minister of Defence and of his Ministry are. We all know that he is this country's representative at N.A.T.O., but so far as I know the Minister of Defence has at present no jurisdiction over the Service Ministers. With respect, I think that that is worthy of reconsideration, particularly in the light of modern conditions of war with all its well-known horrors and extensions.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
Then I should be very glad to learn what the position is and am glad, therefore, that I have raised it, because I may well gain wider knowledge. If the fact is that the Minister of Defence has practically no jurisdiction over the Service Ministers there is a very strong case for altering it. The Minister of Defence should be a Minister of Cabinet rank, as he is at present, responsible to this House for all Service matters. That might well mean a complete reorganisation of the Services and might be a very radical departure from tradition. If the Minister of Defence should assume this supreme position, as I think he should, it might be advisable to abolish the ministerial posts of the Secretary of State for War, the Secretary of State for Air and that of the First Lord of the Admiralty.
The title of "Secretary of State for War" is certainly a misnomer, because he is not in charge of warfare and is not responsible for the conduct of war. The Secretary of State for War is responsible to Parliament only for the Army. His colleagues in the Air Ministry and the Admiralty are responsible only for their Departments. It may well be advisable to abolish these posts and have Minis- 190 ters of State for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force. I would add a further Minister of State to deal with home defence, which is specifically mentioned in the Gracious Speech, and which, I believe, is not a proper subject to be dealt with by the Home Office. I know it may be said that there are local government problems, but I do not consider them insuperable.
I have already commented on the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East. He said we needed rethinking on the industrial side in the light of modern conditions and I heartily agree with that statement. The Gracious Speech says:The full employment of my people will continue to be the first care of my Ministers. To this end they will actively seek the cooperation of employers and workers in ensuring that full employment and expanding output shall not be jeopardised.That is a sentiment with which we all agree, no matter upon which side of the House we may sit. But do we have the machinery of Government to play its right and proper part in attaining that desirable objective?
As many hon. Members know, before I became a practising barrister I spent many years in industry and commerce. I have always taken the view that the attitude of there being two sides to industry—"they" and "us"—is entirely wrong. We must realise now, as never before, that there are no sides in any particular industry or firm. We are all part of the same team, working for the prosperity of our country. If one section is unhappy, it affects the other, and, therefore, we must do everything we can, as the Prime Minister indicated yesterday, to bring about a spirit of co-operation and real team work in industry.
Here, I have certain suggestions to make. At present we have a Ministry of Fuel and Power. We know that one of the tasks of the Minister of Fuel and Power is to exercise some control. Here again, I am bound to say that I do not know exactly what he does so far as the nationalised coal industry is concerned. I am not being disrespectful or critical of my right hon. Friend when I say that he has not succeeded in producing coal during the last year or two. That is not his function. But when trying to get this new spirit in industry I feel that we should consider whether we 191 should abolish the Ministry of Fuel and Power and replace it by a Ministry of Industry, in charge of a Minister of full Cabinet rank who would be responsible to the Cabinet and to Parliament for the general "atmosphere." It is difficult to define the right word, and I do not want to go into too much detail. I merely wish to indicate how my mind is working.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
The hon. Member is introducing a novel thesis. Is he proposing that the new Minister of Industry should be generally responsible for industry, both private and public?
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
Yes, indeed. When I say "responsible," that is not quite the right word. In the brief time at my disposal I find it difficult to explain exactly what I have in mind.
Perhaps I might explain it in this way. Let us call this great country of ours, "Great Britain, Limited." In every industrial enterprise there is the production side and the sales side. It would be one of the duties of a Minister of Industry to keep in touch with the whole of the productive possibilities of industry, whether public or private.
If I may carry the illustration a little further, I would regard my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade as the director in charge of the sales side of "Great Britain, Limited." It would be the job of the President—as it is largely now—to create conditions of trading with other countries so that the productive capacity of this country may be fully employed. That, broadly, is what I have in mind. We are all disappointed—let us be frank about it—with the amount of capital investment which has taken place in certain sections of private industry in the last year or two. A Minister of Industry would encourage that sort of thing. It would encourage firms to introduce schemes of profit sharing, co-partnership and the like. I have in mind the need for an over-riding review of industry as well as the necessity to keep in touch with it, and to be responsible generally to the Cabinet and to this House.
These may be considered rather revolutionary proposals, and, as I said when I commenced my speech, I do not believe for one moment that they would 192 ever be accepted by the Prime Minister and his colleagues. Nevertheless, I feel that there is room for re-thinking in the light of modern conditions. I believe it true to say that we all desire a continued improvement in the country's prosperity, and I believe that we must do some rethinking on the lines I have ventured to suggest.
Before I leave the question of industry, I would mention research. I have never quite understood why the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research should be under the Lord President of the Council, although there may be some strong historic reason for it. If I may give an example, all the medical research carried out by doctors in the United Kingdom comes under the Lord President of the Council. I should have thought it much better for that to be brought under the Ministry of Health.
Another task for my proposed Minister of Industry would be the control of industrial research. As we know, at present the spokesman in this House for the Lord President of the Council is my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works. I believe that some re-thinking or reorganisation on those lines might well play an important part in the expansion of industry.
I finish with a brief comment, as has been done by other hon. Members, on the General Election campaign. I do not wish to indulge in a post-mortem, but we have heard why the Opposition lost the General Election and why we won it. I would mention an incident at one of my own meetings.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
Quite a large number—over 200, in fact.
When I was asked what I thought of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I replied that, as far as I was concerned—and I thought that it went for all my colleagues on this side of the House—I had the very greatest respect for the right hon. Gentleman. But in this Election campaign I felt that he had earned the title of the gentleman in the play, "The Man with the Load of Mischief." He had voluntarily assumed a heavy burden in the interest of party unity, and that burden proved to be too 193 great for him. The load of mischief which the right hon. Gentleman took upon his shoulders was none other than the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan).
I now turn to the question of why we on this side created history by increasing our majority. I think that the answer is very plain. It has been suggested on many occasions, as it was at the beginning of the campaign, that there was very little difference between the two party programmes. However, the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) disagreed with that view and said that there was a very great difference between the parties. It is not often that I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South, but I heartily agree with him there.
There is a fundamental difference between the two parties which I will illustrate in this way. The philosophy of the party opposite is, "There is the broad highway. You are allowed to walk along it in twos, but you must not deviate either to the right or the left." We, on the other hand, say, "Yes, there is the broad highway. If you want to walk along it, or even run along it, you can. As you go along it you will see mountains on either side and in front of you. If you want to achieve those heights we will do our best to encourage you and to make it possible for every citizen to reach them."
As we all know, that was endorsed by the people of this country as the policy and the approach to our problems and as the way of life best calculated to suit the enthusiasm, the zeal, and, indeed, the genius of the British people.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ron Ledger (Romford)
As a new Member, I ask for the traditional indulgence of this House in what I propose to say. It may be somewhat surprising, particularly to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the hon. Member for Romford should now be sitting on this side of the House after Romford has previously been represented by an hon. Member sitting on the benches opposite. However, I think that a little history about Romford will make the position fairly clear.
As many may know, Romford is an old, well-established, thriving market town, and I think one can expect that people in a market town are 194 likely to recognise a better bargain. Romford has the largest housing estate in Europe, comprising some 30,000 people and representing between 8,000 and 10,000 families. In the main, these families consist of young people, and, therefore, it is obvious that in its selection at the hustings Romford was probably looking more to the future than many other constituencies, because, as I say, its people are concerned so much more with the future.
That being so, I was very pleased, when listening to the Gracious Speech, to note in it a reference to education which suggested a little more progress, and also a reference to full employment and the need to expand industry, especially as during the Election I came across a problem which seemed to be very rarely discussed by politicians. It was that many of these young married couples were either childless or had only one child and, because they were going through considerable financial difficulties, intended to have no more.
These young people told me that to enjoy a reasonable standard of living, as we understand it today, it was necessary for both the husband and the wife to work. They thought that it might be possible for them to maintain that standard for another year or two with one child, but that, after that time, they would be reduced to one income with an extra mouth to feed and an extra body to clothe. With the possibility that it might not be possible to halt the rising cost of living, they visualised a pretty grim existence in the future. Therefore, they say, "Either no children at all or we are going to limit the family to what we have."
It seems to me that we are going to be confronted either with the problem of larger families and fewer people available to assist in productive industry, or, if the present generation continues to go to work and to have smaller families, of this problem confronting future generations.
I would very respectfully remind the House that in the Education Act, 1944, the principle was accepted that nursery schools should be provided for children in the two to five-year age group. It was also envisaged that 50 per cent. of the children in that age group would use those nursery schools. In actual fact, however, only two or three children out of every 100 in that age group are at the present 195 moment able to receive the benefits of nursery schools or classes.
There are three reasons why the Government should consider expenditure on nursery schools as envisaged in the 1944 Act. The first is education. Because we are now thinking in terms of further education, I believe that we should have much better material to work on if we were certain that between the ages of two and five years every child had received all the educational benefits that it was possible to give them.
Secondly, there is the question of economics and industry. In future generations we must ensure that we have the right people in the right place in industry. Thirdly, and lastly, I come to the social problem with which we are concerned. Because of their struggle to maintain a respectable standard of living many families are making makeshift arrangements for their children. This is not good enough, and yet I am sure that every hon. and right hon. Member of this House would agree that it is necessary to maintain the present rate of employment, and that we could not afford to have a wholesale desertion of industry by every mother in the land, simply in order that she might look after her children.
There is a social problem, therefore, and I want to demonstrate it by a story. The story starts in 1923. In that year a certain family was already faced with a social problem, because the father of the family had decided that he could no longer stay at home. The mother was pregnant, and was left with the responsibility of caring for three young children. She wanted to go to work in order to look after them, but she was faced with the difficulty that there was nowhere to put them. If she did not go to work, however, her fourth child would have to be born in the workhouse.
The three children were, therefore, placed in an institution known to us all as Dr. Barnardo's Homes. Thirteen years later one of the three children went out into the world to fight the normal battles and, indeed, is today a Member of this House—but I have not the slightest idea where my brother, my sister, my mother, my father, or any other relative, might be.
196 The social problem of the bringing up of families is one to which we must give consideration, and the only way in which we can make a practical contribution toward solving it is by incorporating nursery schools into our developments in the educational field. This would increase the abilities and qualities of our people generally, assist in solving the industrial problems, present and future, that arise in respect of personnel, and go a long way towards seeing that the necessity for institutions such as Dr. Barnardo's Homes—which, of course, have done an extremely good job—becomes less and less.
§ 1.53 p.m.
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)
I am very happy to be called immediately after the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Ledger), because after a mere five years in the House I am thus given my first opportunity to congratulate a Member on his maiden speech. That is always a pleasant thing to do, and it is especially pleasant, to one who is only a few years ahead of the new Member, to have the opportunity of playing the elder statesman for the first time. No doubt it will be the last time for a great many years to come.
It is a traditional privilege which falls to me to congratulate the hon. Member and to welcome him to our House, and I should like to say how deeply moved we were by the sincerity with which he spoke. He talked in a manner which he obviously had not only inside him but in respect of which he has no doubt been well briefed by his friends. I too was told when I came to this House that the one thing above all which is appreciated is sincerity, and that clearly rang true in the way in which the hon. Member talked. We note that the representation of Romford has passed across the Floor of the House, but we on this side take comfort in the thought that, like Romford itself, the hon. Member may be open to conversion. One cannot tell what may happen in the future.
I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not follow him in discussing the very interesting topics of nursery schools and the birth-rate. I believe that the birth-rate is not falling, but I am not an expert upon the subject. No doubt he will pursue the matter further upon future occasions, and in the 197 meantime do all he can to improve the situation which he feels so deeply about.
I am extremely sorry that the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. R. E. Winterbottom) has had to leave the Chamber. I should have loved to follow him into the field of what he called capital inflation. Some hon. Members opposite often throw out invitations to hon. Members on this side of the House to go with them to their foundries, works or steel mills to learn something about their work. I extend a most cordial invitation to the hon. Member for Brightside to come into my office for a week or two. I may then be able to clear up some of his—to me—incredible ideas about the Stock Exchange and the economy of this country.
He talked about the enormous increase in share values. We are not debating that subject today, but it is important, in the light of several speeches which have been made about the necessity for a new outlook and attitude in industry. We shall not get a new outlook or a proper attitude in industry if reputable people go about making fantastically inaccurate statements about industry.
It is true that in the last two years share values on the Stock Exchange have risen appreciably, but surely everybody knows the reasons, which are perfectly legitimate ones. In the first place, it is fair to say that for 15 years share values have been artificially depressed. As hon. Members opposite found when they were in office, the price of something may be artificially depressed for a period, but after a certain time the pressure builds up and the roof blows off. That is why prices were going up at such a fantastic rate in the last two or three years of their term of office.
Secondly, share values represent nothing more than the value of the assets which the shareholders are supposed to own. If an hon. Member on either side of the House owns a business and ploughs back his earnings into that business he will be a little aggrieved if, at some stage, the Government come along and say, "From now on you do not own it any more." That is precisely the position with regard to share values. They represent the value of the business, including the earnings which are ploughed back into it. If those earnings increase, the total value of the business increases.
§ Mr. Leather
The answer is perfectly clear. In the remote possibility—and it is remote in these days—of their not being ploughed back, the business goes progressively downhill and the shareholders lose their money. That is precisely what should happen to people who make bad investments.
This picture of the workers sweating overtime in order to earn more money and so pay bigger dividends to the shareholders is a very touching one, but it does not entirely coincide with experience. I am interested to hear that the workers in the steel mills of Brightside have such a grave feeling of responsibility to their shareholders that they insist upon doing this extra work to make sure that the dividends are paid. It is a very new theory to me, and an unusual one, coming from an hon. Member opposite.
While listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) I shut my eyes once or twice, and I almost thought that Disraeli's great dream of an Imperial Parliament had come true, and that I was listening to a Member representing some depressed part of the world, in the midst of Africa—because the picture of workers sweating and toiling for these incredibly long hours and then going back to homes which are in rack and ruin and disrepair is certainly not true of Somerset. It may be true of Newcastle, but it is not true of Somerset.
People make more money by working overtime, but it is not true to suggest that the amount of overtime has fantastically increased in the last two or three years, because it has not. I have not the precise figures here, and I speak subject to correction, but I think it will be found that the average increase in overtime from 1951 until today is only about one or two hours per week.
I do not accept the thesis that an extra two hours of work a week is an incredible hardship which will ruin a person's whole life. In my humble experience, doing a little extra work a little harder than the other fellow is the only way to get on in the world. If there is another method I have not yet come across it. Most of the workers in my constituency are only too delighted to have the opportunity of doing a little overtime because they know 199 that is the way for them to raise their standard of living.
Surely no one will suggest that we want some kind of institution in which people are only allowed to work for a limited time while all the additional benefits are provided from goodness knows where? I do not deplore an extra hour or so overtime, and I am certain that the great majority of the workers in my constituency are only too happy to have the opportunity to do it.
This leads me to points in the speech of the hon. Member with which I am in entire agreement. He talked about a great industrial revolution. I can assure him that my hon. and right hon. Friends on this side of the House are most acutely conscious of it. He used the phrase "A new social atmosphere." I entirely agree with him. If we are to get the full benefit from the dynamic surge which is taking place at the present time we all need a new attitude. It is for that especial reason that on this side of the House we start from the premise that the nostrums and policies of 50 years ago must be wrong; they are hopelessly out of touch with modern conditions. The nationalisation of the X, Y, and Z industries may possibly have been a good idea in 1900, but it is totally irrelevant to the present industrial situation, which is completely different from that of 1900.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Would the hon. Gentleman regard the use of the Bank Rate as a comparatively modern development in technique?
§ Mr. Leather
No, of course not, but the method and purpose with which we are using it is completely modern.
The old-fashioned way, the pre-Keynesian basis of using the Bank Rate, was, I think, wrong. It was basically to keep foreign exchange rates stable, without any regard to the effect upon internal employment. The basis on which we work today is precisely the opposite. We are out to maintain full employment at home first, although it naturally makes the problem of adjusting foreign exchange balances much more difficult. We fully accept that. That has been the basis of the policy of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the last two or three years.
200 Use of the Bank Rate is not new, but the present technique dates from the time when the ideas of Lord Keynes became accepted, roughly, during the war. The policy of nationalisation is as dead as the dodo and is completely irrelevant to the present situation.
§ Mr. Sparks
Then why do not the hon. Gentleman's Friends denationalise the nationalised industries, if the principle is so dead?
§ Mr. Sparks indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Leather
If the hon. Gentleman does not know, I shall be happy to have the opportunity of enlightening him on the point, as I was able to enlighten several thousands of people in my constituency during the last few weeks.
The answer is that we have denationalised the industries which it is possible to denationalise. "Denationalise" is nothing more than a 10s. word with a mouthful of syllables instead of using just one. The word means "sell." If we want to sell something we must find somebody who will buy it. Is the hon. Gentleman willing to sell all his National Savings Certificates and invest them in a coal mine?
We cannot sell these nationalised industries. It is a question of size. In the transport industry and the steel industry we are dealing with comparatively small units. The largest unit sold in the steel industry was worth about £10 million, and it is a practical proposition to sell something worth £10 million. In the railway industry and the power industries the smallest unit is probably worth hundreds of millions of pounds, so it is not practicable to denationalise them. There is a clear division of practicability.
§ Mr. Leather
I thought that we were well on in denationalisation of the iron and steel industry, where the largest single unit is worth about £10 million. To the hon. Gentleman and myself £10 million is a great deal of money, but when we think of insurance and pensions funds £10 million is a comparatively small sum. Let me return to the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East, who referred 201 to the industrial revolution and the change in social atmosphere.
He went on to talk about leadership. I could not agree with him more. There are two fields for leadership, only one of which comes from the Government. The other is much more important, and comes from management in industry. Whatever a politician may say at Election times the worker gets a day-to-day experience of management for 365 days a year. I am not going to say that management in the past has always been good, but one of the great problems of management today, rightly or wrongly, is that hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House have spent the last 50 years preaching to the workers to hate and to distrust management. That is the basis on which they have acted, and some of them are still going about doing it.
I am not suggesting that every employer or manager is a paragon. There are good ones and bad ones, just as there are good workers and bad workers. I would not go so far as to suggest that there are good politicians and bad politicians, but the analogy is not a bad one. So much today depends upon management, initiative and enterprise and the other qualities about which the President of the Board of Trade has been talking. The great bulk of industrial management is efficient and is aware of its social responsibility.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite do great damage when they continue to go around shouting the nostrums of 50 years ago deliberately stirring up trouble and strife and endeavouring to create distrust in industry rather than trust and confidence. We put that charge squarely on the Members of the party opposite. The leaders of the Trades Union Congress at the present time, with very few exceptions, are taking a most honourable, responsible and moderate attitude, and I entirely support them in it; but they are not helped in their task of maintaining trade union discipline if the local Member of Parliament is going round making irresponsible speeches. That happened a great deal in the recent Election.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) was in a little television performance which gave my party so many votes. I will not say that he gave us so many votes. It was the 202 hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) who did us so much good. The hon. Gentleman was discussing the strike situation, and used words to this effect, "What do you expect, when the Government follow a policy of letting profits and dividends soar? Of course those people go on strike for more wages." The hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that that remark was irrelevant and was a very dangerous and irresponsible statement to make. It is a statement that has been quoted day after day in the "Daily Worker" and other Communist papers ever since, and with great glee, because that is precisely what the Communists say.
§ Mr. Leather
Of course it is not true. I thought hon. Gentlemen opposite were all aware that the docks and the railways were run by Government bodies and not by private enterprise. I thought they were also aware that the docks and the railways did not make any profits at all, and certainly have not, to my knowledge, paid any dividends.
§ Mr. Leather
That is not true? The hon. Gentleman does not think it is true? The hon. Gentleman does think they have paid dividends?
§ Mr. Leather
I agree that that is a technical point. At any rate, the hon. Member will agree the railways have not raised their dividends. I do not think we can argue about that.
§ Mr. Leather
It was the raising of dividends that the hon. Member was endeavouring to pretend—I say quite frankly "pretend" because he knows perfectly well it is a pretence—was the reason for the disputes in both those nationalised industries of the docks and the railways. The fact is that those disputes have very little to do with the employers. They are inter-union disputes of a most difficult kind.
203 I say to right hon. Gentlemen opposite that if responsible leaders of the Labour Party go about publicly making those kinds of statements, deliberately saying things that agitators, the "Daily Worker" and so on, can use as ammunition in industry and elsewhere to stir up the workers, they must not preach to us about not doing enough to create a more responsible attitude in industry.
I agree entirely with the premise of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East. I believe that a great revolution is going on inside our factories today. It is going on, however, precisely because of the economic policies which my right hon. Friends have followed during the last 3½ years, because, as the President of the Board of Trade said, under this Government people can get more consumer goods.
Miners in my constituency today are buying new motor cars. That has never happened before. It is a wonderful thing, and that is why their attitude to their life and work has changed. They are getting away from that planned austerity and gloom, and they are finding out, as, I believe, millions of our workers are finding out today, that what the party opposite has always been telling them is not true, but that, by gad, one can get on in this world if one does a bit more work—that one can get a washing machine or a refrigerator, and all those things that make life better, if one does a bit more work.
My constituency is largely a mining constituency. The co-operative society there, which deals with the miners, is saying exactly what my right hon. Friend said. To celebrate its immense prosperity it has not only doubled its dividend—which, I presume, was a shocking thing to have done, and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Brightside is not here to say what a shocking thing this terrible capitalist deed is—but has had a great sale for the benefit of the miners' wives. It featured three items in that sale—television sets, washing machines and refrigerators, things that five years ago, we were told, were only for the rich, and were not for ordinary working fellows like us. That is what the party opposite has been saying for years, but for the last three years the workers of this country have been finding out that those things were not true.
204 They have found out that overtime and extra work does pay, and they have found out that they can raise their standard of living in a free, expanding economy. I repeat that it is directly because of the economic policies of this Government that that has been brought about.
I turn to another passage in the Gracious Speech, and a proposal which fits exactly into what I have just been saying. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will continue with me in spirit, as, I think, he has continued with me up to now. I want to say a few words about monopolies and restrictive practices, a subject which he and I have discussed many times during many years.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) is not now in the Chamber, because he talked about a "revolution in ideas" on this subject. What a wonderful phrase, coming from him. I could not agree more. I know of no two gentlemen who have had a bigger "revolution in ideas" on this subject than have the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Huyton and his right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South—since they have been out of office.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huyton pressed today what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South wrote in an article some months ago, the proposal for registering trade associations. He pressed the President of the Board of Trade on the matter, and said he hoped that he would have this done. I hope he will, too. By a strange coincidence, about five years ago, in one of the first speeches I made in this House, I spoke on this very same subject.
I spoke then from the other side of the House. The right hon. Member for Huyton and the right hon. Member for Leeds, South were then over here. I spent a considerable time expatiating on the merits of forcing trade associations to register their rules. However, those two right hon. Gentlemen were much too high and mighty to listen to a mere Tory back bencher in those days, and did not think that mine was a serious contribution to a debate on the subject. That is what they said to me then. Many of my hon. Friends also spoke about it.
205 Now those two right hon. Gentlemen are singing a very different tune. We welcome this revolution in their thought. We asked them in those days to consider enforcing certain safeguards such as they are saying now should be enforced. Then they were much too busy investigating dental goods and drain pipes to do anything about it at all.
I refer again to the television show of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South during the Election. What did he say then on this subject? He said that the only thing my right hon. Friend had done was to "add a couple of vice-chairmen to the Commission." That was his statement. He knows perfectly well that that was grossly untrue. He knows perfectly well that one of the first things my right hon. Friend had to do when he came into office was to put through a new Bill to take powers which the party opposite had never taken; that it refused to take when many of us urged it, when it was the Government.
Those powers were to enable practices throughout the whole of industry to be investigated, instead of proceeding case by case. My right hon. Friend brought in a new piece of legislation, legislation which the right hon. Member for Leeds, South said merely added a "couple of vice-chairmen to the Monopolies Commission." The right hon. Member for Leeds, South knows, too, that the Report of the Commission is about to be published. We heard that officially a day or two ago, but we all knew during the General Election that it was to be. We knew it was coming. That was why right hon. Gentlemen opposite started that delightful propaganda drive, in the hope that when it did happen, when we did do something about it, somebody would be fool enough to believe that they had done it, or that we were pushed into doing it.
§ Mr. Leather
The President of the Board of Trade has said that he will take such action as may be required. That is stated in the Gracious Speech.
206 My right hon. Friend has a great advantage over all the rest of us here, for he has seen the Report, and none of us has. However, I am prepared to chance my arm a little. I do not think one needs a crystal ball to be able to guess what is in the Report. When the Commission investigated certain industries in the past, in almost every case, though there were a few exceptions, the Commission said that there were practices that were wrong and against the public interest. Therefore, I cannot conceive by what mental gymnastics the Commission is now likely to come to the opposite conclusion when it is investigating those practices as a whole. Therefore, I think we can guess what is in the Report, and I hope very much indeed that my right hon. Friend will take suitable action by legislation.
There are certain basic principles, such as the registering of trade associations, which I welcome. I welcome also the belated support, after five years, of right hon. Gentlemen opposite against such practices as collective boycotts, which are now pretty clearly known. None of us wants to go to extremes, as my right hon. Friend said, but I hope that we shall be able at long last to take action, and to make a stand on these issues, and I hope that my right hon. Friend is going to give us the lead we want.
There are two other items in the Gracious Speech to which I want briefly to refer, particularly as they relate to my own constituency. I am delighted, as everyone is, to see the renewal of the Government's pledge on slum clearance. I am also delighted to see that it says "in both town and country." In the countryside, thank goodness, in my part of the world we do not have vast blocks of tenements and slums such as still exist in some of our big cities, but we do have, in a smaller way, in every village a few broken-down decrepit, condemned cottages that would, but for the war, have been pulled down. I hope that my right hon. Friends will see that this kind of slum will get a very fair share of attention in the slum clearance programme.
I am quite prepared to admit the greater need of the bigger slums of the big cities, such as Glasgow and Manchester, but there are a few cottages in nearly every village of any size in the countryside which are similarly substandard and in a similarly shocking state 207 of disrepair because it never has been, and would not be, in anyone's interest to repair them. I hope we shall get our share of the new building.
In the Gracious Speech reference is made to the teaching profession and to the requirements of rural areas. The school building programme today is at least in sight of its end. It certainly is in my part of the country, and I presume that we are not particularly favoured. We are in a position now in which we can, over the next two or three years, see the plans actually developing on the ground for all the schools which we are likely to need in the foreseeable future. In many places most of these schools are already under construction. It may be two or three years before they are ready to take the children, but work on them has actually started in some shape or form.
That means, I pope, that in the lifetime of this Parliament the school building programme in so far as its adequacy is concerned—there will always be plenty of frills which we can add—will have been completed. That will mean, I trust, a considerable easing of the pressure on the Estimates of the Minister of Education. I am quite rash enough to say now, as I have said on many occasions before, that I hope very much that every penny that can be found extra will be used to raise the standard of the teaching profession, because I still believe that the teaching profession is a grossly underpaid profession.
I say to the people in my own industry and the workers in any other industry that it is utterly wrong that those who have the responsible and tremendous duty of teaching our children should be paid at much lower rates than many people doing semi-skilled work in the factories. I think that is a reflection on moral and social values, and is clearly wrong. God bless any unskilled worker who has a high wage. I am in favour of that, but I also say that it is quite wrong that the teacher should get less. I am not trying to drag anyone down, but I want to see the teachers pushed much further up the social scale.
I hope very much that as our school building programme comes to its conclusion there will be more and more sums made available out of the Estimate to raise the standard of the teachers. I 208 realise that this is a subject on which we have to consult the local authorities and other people who are very important in this country, but that is a matter of machinery; if this House takes it into its head to say that teachers ought to get more pay, it is surely not beyond our wit to provide it, without upsetting the local authorities.
I take my cue from my right hon. Friend and hon. Members opposite, and say that we are in the early days of a very real industrial revolution. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said on many occasions, there is no reason at all why we should not double our standard of living in the next 25 years. Three of them have gone, so that leaves only 22 years. I think that this estimate gives the Government plenty of room for manoeuvre. I hope that we can do it in less time.
§ Mr. Leather
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to share the benefits with us. I should be very happy to see him share the delights of those in the new world which the Tory Government are building. I am not being unkind to the right hon. Gentleman, I am sure, in suggesting that 25 years is a long time.
§ Mr. Leather
I do not quite know what the hon. Gentleman means. Is he referring to the programme or to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)?
§ Mr. Leather
I have already declared my faith that the right hon. Gentleman will not be kept waiting that long. I am sure that both he and I will enjoy the fruits.
The whole spiritual background of this is what is important—the attitude to work, the attitude to progress, the attitude to getting on in the world and having a real sense of social responsibility. That is what we are trying to build up. I am quite certain that the achievements of the last three years can be just a prelude if we proceed on that track and all behave responsibly in moving along it. I believe that in the Gracious Speech there is a very progressive policy. We put the social 209 and economic needs of our people first, and, therefore, I am certain that we shall be successful.
§ 2.26 p.m.
§ Mr. John Strachey (Dundee, West)
I rise to call the attention of the House, not so much to anything that is in the Gracious Speech, but to what I consider to be a grave omission from the Gracious Speech. That is the omission to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition called attention yesterday—the omission of anything like an adequate reference to the subject of defence.
All that we have in the Gracious Speech is this phrase:My Ministers are reviewing the problems of Home Defence and the measures required to meet new forms of warfare.I suppose that that is an allusion to Civil Defence, and, goodness knows, that is a difficult enough problem. Anyone can sympathise with the Ministries pondering on it. But, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, that hardly touches the fringe of the question of defence as a whole and of National Service in particular. I venture the prediction that as this Parliament goes on we shall find these two questions—defence as a whole and National Service in particular—one of the major pre-occupations with which this Parliament will be forced to deal.
What is the present position? Is it not really an intolerable one? We are now steadily spending about £1,500 million to £1,600 million a year on defence. I am not saying that that is an impossible economic burden. I think we have all learned that with modern powers of production it is quite possible to sustain even that level of defence expenditure without any catastrophic economic consequences. It is about 10 per cent. of the gross national output or gross national income. But, after all, it is no light matter to spend that year in and year out.
Above all, it is no light matter if we still impose—and the Government give no sign of reconsidering the imposition—two full years of National Service on the male youth of this country. And then add to all this—and this is, to my mind, the essence of the matter—the consideration that no one who is aware of the realities of modern warfare can pos- 210 sibly consider that we have achieved any real security for this country.
That is the really grave matter. We seem to be drifting into perpetuating this very high rate of expenditure and this system of two years of conscription very largely as a matter of habit without considering the real purposes and the real consequences of a defence policy of that size and shape in the new world which has come into existence. That we have got into this situation is not, of course, entirely the fault of the Government. It would be ridiculous to say that it is. It is the consequence of the nuclear revolution which has taken place. But it will be the fault of the Government if, at an early stage, they do not face the situation.
It is profoundly disturbing and disappointing that in the Gracious Speech they do not give the slightest indication that they are doing so. I should like to apply that general proposition to this particular question of National Service. The House knows very well how National Service came to be raised to two years. It was raised to meet the Korean War. It was raised to meet a particular situation of having to provide substantial land forces at the other end of the world. But now there is no doubt that in the minds of many of the Government's military advisers—and this is quite natural, and I am not blaming them—a two-year period of National Service is coming to be considered as indispensable and as the least which the country can do.
The Government ought to face the very great difficulties, in essence psychological difficulties, which they will run into if they accept that as a fact. Let us think of the burdens which we impose on our young men today. We ask our young conscripts to go out to the other end of the world and to fight in engagements of the kind that go on in Malaya and Kenya and recently in Korea. We ask something which the French Government, for example, have never dared to ask of their National Service men. They have always felt that they had to meet this kind of commitment entirely without drawing on National Service men, while we have had a wonderful response and a wonderful willingness from the youth of this country to accept that kind of obligation.
211 But what would be the consequences if the consciousness spreads among National Service men—and it is bound to do so—that two years of their lives, which they have to give in the very heavy burden of conscription, do not really make an effective contribution to national security? Hon. and right hon. Members are in touch with National Service men—our own sons are concerned in it—and we all have friends in that generation. I cannot resist the impression from my own experience that the real thing that matters in these young men's minds is whether the tremendous burden which we in the House impose upon them is really worth while. It would really dishearten them if they came to suppose that they were being trained and used in methods of warfare which are not the realities of warfare as it would take place in the world today.
There is, and there will be increasingly, among National Service men, especially in the Army and, I believe, also in the Navy, this suspicion that the whole thing has ceased to be a reality, that the long period of National Service is simply kept up out of inertia, out of failure on the part of the Government, of the House and of the military authorities to adjust their thinking to the revolution which has happened in the defence sphere. The failure in the Gracious Speech to foreshadow any attempt on the part of the Government to begin the tremendous process of national readjustment to a revolutionary new situation is a very serious matter indeed.
On this subject of National Service, I should like to deal with what is brought up always as the great obstacle to any curtailment of the period, and that is the overseas commitments which still face the British Army. I should like to go briefly through the main elements of these commitments, one by one. There is no doubt that the Government can fairly take some credit to themselves that in the last three years there has been a very substantial reduction in these commitments. The Korean War is no longer in progress. Trieste has been evacuated and, above all, we have had a great reduction in the Middle East commitment. Now there has also been a small additional reduction in the commitment in Austria. It is only of one battalion, but, still, it is one more reduction.
212 Therefore, we start with a very considerable reduction in this sphere. What is left? It is true that it is formidable enough. There is the major Malayan commitment. But can we really contemplate that indefinitely we shall continue with a large number of British infantry battalions carrying the main burden of the Malayan campaign? After all, Malaya is developing. I wish that one of the responsible Ministers were here to tell us the number of local battalions which have now been raised. It must run to seven or eight, and there are 10,000 Gurkhas in Malaya. At the same time, with the development of local forces there is the development of local self-government. Those political and military developments together make it possible, and indeed indispensable, to reduce progressively the commitment of actual British battalions in that area.
We have had one very great reduction in the Middle East. I do not believe that the new plans which are being put forward for the great Middle East base in Cyprus are realistic and that the purposes for which they were designed are still relevant to the new world of nuclear warfare. I believe that they need serious reconsideration.
Kenya, no doubt, is still a very heavy commitment, but it is one on which the commanding officer was able to make an optimistic statement in recent weeks, which I hope was justified. The other major commitment, which is often overlooked, is the distant commitment of Hong Kong. One does not want to say very much about that, but I think one can ask whether it is really clear why the particular size of the garrison in Hong Kong, very greatly enlarged for obvious reasons in the past, should still be required. Surely one is entitled to ask whether the purpose for which a garrison of that particular size is kept in that particular Colony is clear. Has the size of the garrison been realistically thought out?
Finally, we come to the major commitment of all, of four divisions in Germany. As I have said to the House before, they are now largely a psychological necessity but no doubt a necessity nevertheless. Not that they would decide a major world conflict. That would not be decided by four or by forty divisions or by any divisions at all. But 213 no doubt for psychological reasons some force of that kind, though not necessarily organised as are the present divisions, is necessary.
But when one has gone through the list of these major commitments in that way, can the argument really be sustained that the two-year period of National Service is necessary to sustain those commitments? I suggest that it cannot be; that we are still under the spell of an earlier period; that we have not readjusted our thinking to take account of the completely novel situation created by nuclear warfare.
I believe that in the new situation the rôle of the ground forces will be much more that of a sort of mobile striking force—not for great world war purposes but for the purpose of sustaining the obligations which would be sustained by these distant commitments—a force centred in the United Kingdom with very rapid air transport at its disposal so that it can be sent to any part of the world where the situation demands its presence.
We should also remember that up to the Korean War we had far more grievous commitments which we sustained on a period of National Service of 18 months. So that the argument that our present smaller commitments cannot be sustained today without the two-year period is completely untenable. If that is so, then we are faced at once with the question whether a two-year period of National Service, and the provision through it of mass reserves and a mass army, is the right form for our defence effort to take as a deterrent to a world war. Surely the answer to that argument cannot be in any doubt.
No one really can think that anything like the present proportions of our defence effort ought to go for the purpose of a deterrent to a world war, to the creation of a mass Army or, for that matter, the maintenance of a big ship Navy. It is these sides of our defence effort which absorb by far the greater part of our resources in terms of money and manpower, and this is simply irrational in terms of the agreed purpose of our defence forces. The Prime Minister and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), when he was Prime Minister, both emphasised so often that the real purpose of our defence effort was a deterrent to another world 214 war. So on this side of the House we ask the Government to show some signs that they are facing the enormous defence problem which undoubtedly lies ahead of this Parliament.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves this subject, will he deal with the point made by the Prime Minister during the Election, when he declared that this was not the time when we could possibly approve a reduction in the length of National Service because we were about to have discussions with the Soviet Union?
§ Mr. Strachey
That is a very relevant interjection. The implication of the Prime Minister's remark appears to be that the maintenance of the period of two years' National Service is a deterrent to a potentially hostile Power. That is what I am questioning. I believe that it is an irrational, unrealistic argument today. There is only one thing which can be considered as a serious deterrent today, and that is our capacity to strike back in the air with nuclear weapons if we are struck with them, a point repeatedly emphasised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford when he was Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Ian Harvey (Harrow, East)
But surely the right hon. Gentleman is not making a proper division between a deterrent in a cold war in which nuclear weapons would never be used, and a deterrent in a hot war in which nuclear weapons would be used. It is unfair to draw the conclusions he is making without making that division.
§ Mr. Strachey
I agree with that proposition, but I was endeavouring to make that distinction, because I spent a good deal of time going through what might be called our cold war commitments. I agree that unless one can see one's way to reduce them, then it is hard to argue for a reduction in the period of service. But I have come to the conclusion that it is clear that we can meet these commitments without a two-year period of National Service.
Having cleared that out of the way, then we have to think in terms of deterrents to a world war. In that connection, the period of two years' National Service is really an irrelevancy, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member 215 for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) that the Prime Minister's remark implying that it would be, as it were, a weakening of his diplomatic hand to reduce the period of service is simply old-world military thinking if it is nothing else. I do not believe it affects the psychology and policy of the Soviet Government in the very least what period of National Service we have here. It might be argued that what does affect them is the number of squadrons of V-bombers and the nuclear weapons which we are developing.
None of us can be dogmatic in this field, but I do suggest that it is profoundly disturbing that we see no signs on the part of the Government or in the Gracious Speech that they are going to face up to this enormously difficult and important problem of the re-fashioning of our defence effort, a problem with which the whole question of the period of National Service is so closely bound up. We shall find ourselves in this Parliament profoundly preoccupied with this issue. If the arguments which I have put forward are wrong, then it is time for the Government to tell us why they are wrong and in what respects they are wrong. If they think the present size and shape of our defence forces and effort can be rationally defended or if they think that there is a third course of reorganisation on quite different lines from the ones that I have indicated, then they should tell us about them. That is really all I am asking them to do. But as this Parliament proceeds it seems to us that we shall have to press the Government very hard indeed along those lines.
§ 2.48 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) will understand that it is quite impossible for me to follow him in the extremely interesting and provocative remarks that he has made, but I have no doubt that if other hon. Friends of mine succeed in catching Mr. Speaker's eye the subject will be pursued. I want to go back, as one refreshed from the hustings, to consider the Gracious Speech in the light of the observations brought to my notice by constituents who came to see me during the General Election.
216 I think that a great many people were mistaken in saying that this General Election would be one in which the appeal of television would largely do away with the hustings and that one would find meetings very sparsely attended. I do not know how hon. Members on the other side of the House fared at meetings, but we on this side found that they were better attended than ever before. I welcome this because I felt my constituents were doing their duty to bring home to me the points which had been troubling them during the three and a half years of the late Parliament, and I propose now to refer to the Gracious Speech in the light of some of the observations brought to my attention in that way.
First, I should like to endorse what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Spence). People are appalled to find that they are disfranchised by the fact that they have chosen to take their holiday during the period in which the Prime Minister decides, in the national interest, to hold a General Election. I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary will see fit to give very close attention to what my hon. Friend said and to consider whether it might not be possible to include in the programme of legislation an amending Bill to improve that situation and the others to which to my hon. Friend drew attention.
I want to refer, in turn, to various questions which are raised by the Gracious Speech, from which, I think, all hon. Members on this side of the House derive great satisfaction in general. I feel, however, that certain important and well-advised elements of our people have a certain misgiving when they consider together the two paragraphs which deal with foreign policy.
The Gracious Speech says that the United Nations, the Atlantic Alliance and the new association of Western European Union will receive the wholehearted support of Her Majesty's Government. The Gracious Speech then goes on to say:Fortified by the growing unity and strength of the free nations, My Government look forward, in a spirit of confidence and goodwill, to fruitful negotiations with the Government of the Soviet Union.These are unexceptionable sentiments, but it is time now that we looked ahead a little on the question of Germany.
217 We are now moving undoubtedly towards a position in which we can hold out to the German people some hope of a united Germany. My feeling of the temper of people in this country is this. We have not forgotten, and we cannot forget, those things which we remember about the German people. We welcome any change of heart that we may see, but we cannot help feeling that, however much we may accept and welcome the present arrangements for Western European Union and for allowing the people of Western Germany to take their part in the defence of the free world, we do have misgivings; and they are tempered only by the fact that we have managed to make a defensive arrangement which, so far as we can see, does not at present put within the power of any future German Government the ability to do to Europe what their predecessors have done.
If we are to move towards German unity, we shall need some similar reassurances of that kind. We feel that in German unity there are dangers. We must, therefore, encourage all that is best in Germany, but we should say now to the German people that we trust that any fulfilment of their ambitions for unity will not be abused and that the leaders of the united German nation will be able to restrain themselves from the temptations which have proved so overwhelming to their predecessors.
If we are to look forward to fruitful results from the forthcoming talks with the leaders of the Soviet world which might have these repercussions upon the future of Germany, there are very great dangers and great diplomatic and strategic considerations which ought to be borne in mind with the utmost seriousness. The people of this country are acutely aware of this and there is a deep feeling of misgiving that these considerations might be overlooked.
Turning briefly to the reference in the Gracious Speech to the establishing of the British Caribbean Federation, I should like to say two things. I have been surprised to find the great anxiety that exists in this country about the continued immigration of people from the West Indies. We know that this is a delicate question, but the great majority of people have come now to ask themselves whether it is in the interests either 218 of this country or of the West Indian countries that this state of affairs should continue.
I therefore welcome particularly the news, which has been brought to our notice in the last few days, that the head of the Government of Jamaica is himself instituting an inquiry in Jamaica into the circumstances in which some of his people leave the shores of that island. I hope that if we achieve the British Caribbean Federation, the Federation itself will look seriously at the problem which is being put upon us and upon the Commonwealth as a whole by these emigrants.
Secondly, I hope that the Governments of the various countries of the West Indies will approach the Federation as a West Indian problem, for I am afraid that we see emerging now in the West Indies a racialism and a division between the Indians or "East Indians," as they are called—people in the West Indies who come from India—and the population out there of African descent. We may well find that one of the great stumbling blocks to the Federation will be that Trinidad, which is now emerging as an "Indian" power, will be reluctant to assume the responsibilities that are bound to fall upon the more influential and powerful parts of the future Federation.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Would it not help if the Caribbean Federation, upon which we all set very great hopes, would either encourage, or, at least, permit, complete freedom of movement as between the different islands in the Federation?
§ Mr. Iremonger
That may well be so. I am sure the hon. and gallant Member will agree that there are many considerations of that kind which would come within the purview and, I hope, the sphere of responsibility of the Federation.
I want to refer to the paragraph dealing with full employment in which the Gracious Speech says:My Ministers …will actively seek the co-operation of employers and workers. …I was most struck during the recent Election by the loud and clear manifestations of public indignation at the continuation of what seemed to the public to be senseless and useless strikes. We all know that the public have reacted strongly to the tribulations which have been put upon 219 them during the past few years, and particularly the tribulations that are put upon them at the moment, however good-humoured may be their endurance of them.
I wondered whether the Government might not take a rather more constructive and radical view of the situation. The Government are always willing to help. However, perhaps something more than willingness to help is called for. I feel that the Government have a responsibility and that the T.U.C. has a responsibility.
I feel that the T.U.C. may well want to put its house in order. I think that the country has lost confidence in the ability of the Trade Union movement to serve its own members. The country is asking whether the Trade Union movement is justifying the very special privileges which it enjoys, and which trade unionists enjoy under the Trade Union Act Amendment, 1876, relating to conspiracy. The trade unions also enjoy the privileges of payment to their members under National Assistance when they are on strike.
§ Mr. Iremonger
If the hon. Gentleman will cast his mind back to the legislation dealing with conspiracy vis-à-vis trade unions, he will understand my point that the trade unions enjoy, by the decision of Parliament, special protection which would not be enjoyed by other people who broke their contracts in similar circumstances. The object of the legislation was to remove from trade unions disabilities which they suffered under the law as it had existed previously.
§ Mr. Iremonger
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should want to introduce this somewhat acrimonious note into the debate.
§ Dr. Stross
I will try to be less acrimonious. We heard from the hon. Gentleman just now the statement 220 that the public has lost confidence in the Trade Union movement; in other words, that the T.U.C. cannot keep its own house in order. But has he not noted that in strikes, both official and unofficial, since the war, the number of days lost has been less than half the average in the years between the two wars, leaving out the time lost during the General Strike? Also, has he noted that the total time lost through strikes, official and unofficial, since the war has been a good deal less than the time lost through the common cold?
§ Mr. Iremonger
What the hon. Gentleman says may be true. I am merely trying to bring to the notice of the House the impression which I have received—I believe it is an accurate one—of the public temper at the moment in relation to the Trade Union movement, which is an essential part of our institutions and the health of which is in the interests of the whole community.
I am merely asking whether the time has not come for a more radical approach to the problems and responsibilities of trade unions and trade unionists. I speak with the very greatest diffidence. I am merely putting forward the suggestion that there may be rather more to the responsibilities of the trade unions at the moment than there is to the rights which they have won and preserved in the past, and that the emphasis perhaps needs to be moved, now that so much of what has been fought for has been gained, from the rights which enabled the fight to be carried on to the responsibilities now put upon those who are enjoying the fruits of the fight.
I repeat that I say this with great diffidence. I know that if hon. Gentlemen opposite want to be "taken on the raw" they can be "taken on the raw" by me, but I ask them not to do that. To do so is to make bogus political points. If they choose to do that, I regard it as the inter-play of out-moded political badinage. Surely we are now able to look upon the responsibilities of trade unions in the way in which the informed public looks upon them, as having a very real bearing on the national prosperity and the prosperity of individual trade unionists. I have felt, and I know many other people have, too, for they have made their feelings known to me, that too many strikes occur which are, 221 from the point of view of the striker, a matter of cutting off his nose to spite his face. This is an absurd situation, for he spites not only his own face, but the face of the whole community at the same time.
What annoys the public most of all is the realisation that much action taken in the name of trade unionists is taken without their approval or assent. I think that the greatest problem of trade union leaders is to overcome the apathy and lethargy of their members. I wonder exactly how far it is possible now to justify the consistent refusal to make it obligatory, in the calling of strikes, for individual trade unionists to have to ballot, compulsorily and secretly, upon them. There may be a very good reason against it, but I cannot see it.
There may be administrative reasons which make it impossible, but I do not see that that can really be so, because if it is desirable to strike it must be desirable in the interests of those who are to strike, and they will then be only too willing to give their assent, and, therefore, use of the strike weapon will not be denied to any trade union. What is the virtue of leaders of trade unions being able to call strikes from which, if only their will were known and obliged to be made known, many of their members would wish to dissociate themselves? That is something which might be examined, and in this the Government might be able to play a part.
I also feel, and know, that the leadership of many trade unions is in the hands of men who. Fundamentally, do not wish our community to prosper, because they disapprove of our way of life. That is something which, I think, is not disputed and I know that it is something the majority of hon. Gentlemen opposite regret as much as I do. I am wondering what is so very objectionable in the principle of making voting in the elections of officers by secret ballot compulsory—and I emphasise the word "compulsory"—and the declaration of political affiliations an essential prerequisite of nomination for office.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Would the hon. Member be good enough to tell us the difference between his views and the views of a pure Fascist?
§ Mr. Iremonger
I do ask the hon. Member not to introduce these purely facitious political points. I am trying to to make a contribution which it is very difficult to make.
I have always thought that the term Fascist was an entirely bogus one. I have never been able to see the subtle distinction, which some people regard as being so clear, between a red Fascist a brown Fascist and a black Fascist. If I am to be put under cross-examination on the fundamentals of political philosophy, I should say that there are two differences between me and the Fascist. I believe that it is essential that any healthy society should be dominated by a spirit of liberal and Christian philosophy and, secondly, that philosophy should be maintained by the operation of compulsory, or at any rate secret and free, democratic elections. Perhaps I may now pass on after being asked, in this somewhat unnecessary way, to reply to an insult which I think was rather uncalled for.
That was the sum of what I wanted to say about the industrial problems with which we are now faced. I wanted to ask whether it might not be possible to examine the merits of compelling individual trade unionists to express their opinions upon those who lead them and wither they are to be led.
I want very briefly to deal with what I consider to be the most important single item of home policy in the Gracious Speech.My Government will actively promote the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.We have heard a great deal today about the industrial revolution of which we are about to see the benefits and I have no doubt that there is a good deal in this analysis of our industrial future.
If I may for a moment make a party political point—I should say, with great respect to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), that I was not making party political points before—the main distinction between the approach of the two parties to the problems that faced us at the General Election was that the Conservative Party as a whole looked forward and took a constructive view of the future while the Socialist Party looked back and took an entirely negative view.
223 That difference was pinpointed by the emphasis which we laid upon our intention of bringing about a doubling in the standard of living in the next twenty-five years, the way we welcomed in our party manifesto the progress that had been made in the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and the welcome which we gave to the plans we had for pursuing this development in the future. It is in that sphere that we find our justification for saying we shall double our standard of living in the next twenty-five years.
If we are to do so, it will depend, as has been frequently pointed out in the last few weeks, upon the standard of technology and the technical education of our people. These, in turn, will depend upon the way in which my right hon. Friend discharges his responsibility at the Ministry of Education during the next three years. It has been said that in our technological education we are a long way behind other, and competing, nations. Whether that is really so in regard to Russia one cannot be sure, but I think it is quite likely. We should, therefore, particularly welcome that paragraph in the Gracious Speech which refers to the encouragement to be given to the provision of facilities for technical education.
From that I turn to the expression of the Government's intention to examine… the problems of local government in England and Wales with a view to introducing legislation on this subject.I think that that is of great importance, first, because I am sure that many local authorities when they have more responsibility than they have at present for their own education problems will do a better job than is being done by the wider authority under which they at present act. That, I am sure, applies to my own constituency, and that, in turn, will have an effect upon the technical education which is so important if we are to fulfil our promise of development in the field of nuclear energy.
Secondly, on its own merits, I am glad to see this proposal in the Gracious Speech. In Ilford, half of which I represent, we have waited long enough now. The patience of my constituents is now quite exhausted. Year after year after year we have been promised that something would be done to make it possible 224 for Ilford to attain county borough status; year after year after year the hon. Members for the town have been fobbed off. We have now been fobbed off, I believe, for the last time. I hope that the local authorities will very soon be able to see the Government scheme for the reorganisation of the whole of local government, and that those boroughs which have waited so patiently and so long for their proper status will be able to achieve it.
§ Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon)
Before the hon. Member leaves that point, may 1 remind him that there are a number of other towns in the same position, one being my own constituency of Swindon? I hope that we will be borne in mind, also.
§ Mr. Iremonger
My right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General is in very much the same boat, at Luton. I am happy to associate myself with others representing boroughs whose patience is now exhausted. I hope that in the very near future we shall find that the fruits of their past labours will be reaped.
I wish to refer briefly to the Government's housing programme. From contact with my constituents I am quite convinced that housing still remains our major social problem. Ilford has the special problem that we have built on very nearly all the land we have and there are still many people who want to live in the town but cannot get proper accommodation. The majority of those who come to see me week after week come about housing. I am sorry to appear sentimental, but I find it almost intolerable when I have in my presence every week decent, self-respecting pople who are unable to tell me their story without breaking into tears.
I do not know whether this is peculiar to me, but every week I have young married people with children seeking my help about housing. I do what I can and tell them the position. They have no intention of making a scene; they speak in a most reasonable manner. It is usually the man who starts the story but, like most men, he is not very good at it and his wife takes over. She continues with the story and nine times out of ten breaks into tears before she has completed it. That is a simple piece of evidence, which we cannot ignore, to show that our greatest social problem 225 today is that of young people trying to bring up families without the accommodation they should have.
I am wondering, with reference to my own constituency—and there are similar problems in other constituencies—where nearly all the building which can be done has been done, whether flats might be provided by converting large houses which previously accommodated large families but are now occupied by only one or two old people who do not require the whole house. Many such people would be prepared to convert their property into flats acceptable to young people at a suitable rent. The one thing which discourages them from creating unfurnished flats of that kind is that the flats would come under the provisions of the Rent Restrictions Acts and the landlords would never be able to get rid of their tenants.
The hon. Member for Dudley, who is still in the Chamber, will probably suggest that I am now advocating the abolition of the Rent Restrictions Acts—
§ Mr. Wigg
The hon. Gentleman has been telling us about the tears of his constituents. Perhaps he will remember that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) was recalling the tragedy of a blind person, it was made the subject of laughter by the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Iremonger
The hon. Member for Dudley is really a very kind-hearted man, but I must say that there are times when he is not at his best in this Chamber. I was saying that I hope he will not now make the rather mean party point that I am advocating the abolition of the Rent Restrictions Acts, because that would be an easy way of misrepresenting what I propose to say.
I believe that it may be possible to encourage certain people to carry out improvements to their houses and let them in the form of unfurnished flats in the future free from the restrictions which would have fallen upon them in the past. I hope I have now made clear the distinction which I have in mind. I should like 226 to see such accommodation made available to many hundreds of people in my constituency, and I think it would be made available if property owners could let unfurnished ground-floor flats for a couple of pounds a week.
§ Mr. Iremonger
It would be entirely up to the tenants, of course, as to what they wanted to pay. We would then be getting what is obviously desired by hon. Members on both sides of the House, namely, a realistic economic level of rents for houses and flats. When we have a situation where a family desire to pay a rent, and a landlord is willing to let a flat to them, it is a pity that the landlord should be deprived of the opportunity of doing so simply because the tenant will enjoy a protection which he might not necessarily desire, and which means that the landlord can never get his flat back. But it is a matter for people who want accommodation and not a subject to be judged purely on party political debating lines. Either such an idea is acceptable or it is not, but I think it a pity that many people who might welcome it should be deprived of this particular service.
I have said that the greater number of people who come to my "surgery" do so to discuss housing problems. Of the remainder, by far the greatest number come because they require straightforward legal advice. They are in trouble, they do not know who to consult and they feel that their Member of Parliament may be able to do something for them. They present a problem to which the only answer is that they must see a solicitor. The moment one tells them that, they want to know what it will cost.
I much regret that the legal advice part of the Legal Aid and Advice Act has not so far been implemented. I am sorry to see that it is not included in the Gracious Speech. I am glad to note the extension of legal aid to proceedings in county courts. I think that will be helpful. But it would be far more helpful 227 to institute now the system which has been provided for free legal advice for those who need it. That would be most acceptable and I hope it will be given high priority in the next Gracious Speech.
I am particularly glad to see that an inquiry is to be held into administrative tribunals, because I think that the present abuses of administrative justice are the greatest single blot on our social system. I read with the very greatest interest the report of the committee presided over by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens). I am sure that it will receive the sympathetic support of many right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and I hope that the findings of the inquiry will be promptly acted upon. It should be possible to bring forward an agreed Measure giving every citizen at least the right to be heard by a body which is not a judge in its own case, which is one of the principal blots on the present system.
Finally, a word about civil aviation. I am not absolutely sure that the present system of public corporations and private operators running tied together in a kind of three-legged race is the best possible system for developing civil aviation. The essence of a successful civil aviation industry is that it should be able to compete internationally and should be able to raise the necessary finance.
I am not sure that those prerequisites are satisfied by the present system, and I am wondering whether right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House could not put their heads together and consider whether it would be possible to give rather more freedom to the independent operators, and, possibly, to move eventually towards releasing the public corporations from their purely public aspects and introduce an element of equity capital, privately raised, which may put them on a different footing and so allow more freedom for extension and development to private corporations.
That is all, I am sure, that hon. Members would want me to say, and I will conclude simply by saying that there is one thing which I have resented very much from the benches opposite. It is the accusation made by an hon. Member who said that we approached our task in this Session with arrogance. Hon. Mem- 228 bers must, of course, speak for themselves, but, quite frankly, the fact that we have achieved this most remarkable feat of deserving the confidence of the electorate in an increased measure after three and a half years of administration does fill me with some pride in the party to which I belong, but it fills me with a far greater feeling of humility.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
But for the fact that there are several points which I wish to make, I should be tempted to deal with many of those made by the hon. Member for Ilford. North (Mr. Iremonger). However, I must take him up on his reference to the trade unions. If I understood him aright—I did not take it down in shorthand—he said something to the effect that a great number of trade union leaders at the present time were people who had not the interests of the country mainly at heart. That is a very serious charge to make.
§ Mr. Iremonger
I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point because he may have misunderstood me. I would simply ask him whether he is absolutely satisfied that no power in the trade unions is in the hands of Communists.
§ Mr. Iremonger
The hon. Gentleman may disagree with that, but I am asking the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) the question.
If I have not made myself clear, I will try to remedy it. I was sitting down quite happily and prepared to remain seated for the rest of the afternoon. The hon. Gentleman should ask himself whether he is absolutely certain that some power in the trade unions is not in the hands of Communists, and whether a Communist trade union leader is concerned primarily with using his power in the interests of our community or of world Communism.
§ Mr. Hynd
If he stands by that he should, in justice to the trade unions, bring forward some evidence to support it. Having worked in the Trade Union movement for many years I have some knowledge of it, and I have no knowledge of the large number of people to whom he is referring. They must be working very secretly, because they are certainly not known to me or, I think, to my hon. Friends.
It was very undesirable for the hon. Member to deal with a subject like this without having greater knowledge of it. He seemed to think that it would be a good idea, and an almost revolutionary suggestion, if members of trade unions elected their leaders. He should know that members of trade unions do elect their leaders.
§ Mr. Hynd
This is a question of fact and not of opinion. I am telling the hon. Member something which most Members know of. Although the rules of trade unions vary, normally their leaders are elected by secret ballot.
I warn him that his further suggestion, that no strike should be called until there has been a ballot among the members of the union concerned, is a dangerous one. I give him credit for putting it forward in good faith—he is repeating what has been said in certain newspapers—but I warn him, with all respect, that his suggestion might provoke more strikes than we have at the present time. Contrary to general opinion, most of the time and energy of trade union officials is spent in preventing strikes, and not in calling them.
If the hon. Member puts temptation in the way of the rank-and-file members of the unions by giving them an opportunity, upon every conceivable occasion, to ballot whether or not to strike, I 230 warn him, speaking from practical experience, that we are likely to have more and not less industrial trouble. As to the rest of his remarks about trade unions, something more may be said about the subject next week, so I need spend no more time upon it.
As always, the Gracious Speech is framed in beautiful language, full of traditional phrases and admirable sentiments, which are, as usual, rather vaguely expressed. They are so vague in many cases as to amount almost to platitudes. Just as in the case of legislation which comes before this House, the second reading of the Gracious Speech is more important than the first reading. At first reading it sounds very nice, but when it is read for a second time we begin to detect certain deficiencies or double meanings in it.
Several hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, have already mentioned one or two omissions from the Gracious Speech, and I should like to mention two more. They are the big questions of gambling and capital punishment. Here are two questions which have been the subject of inquiry by Royal Commissions. The Reports of those Royal Commissions have been before us for a Very long time. and the only excuse that the last Government could have had for not implementing them before now was that they were so controversial as to be too dangerous to bring up when a General Election was approaching.
The time to tackle questions so highly controversial is now, immediately after the General Election, when another Election is far in the future. Both those subjects will arouse widespread controversy and it is better to have them discussed now rather than when a General Election is approaching. As we already have the Reports of those Royal Commissions, the Government are failing in their duty in not bringing forward legislation on those subjects here and now. It is no encouragement to busy, well-qualified people to give their time and talent to serve on Royal Commissions and to study important subjects if their reports are simply to be pigeonholed. The Government ought to bring those two matters forward.
Another subject, which may be considered of less importance, is the Report on the accommodation of this House. It 231 may have been a surprise to new Members, particularly those from Northern Ireland who know Stormont, to note the lack of facilities here for hon. Members. The Government have had before them for a considerable time an excellent Report on the accommodation of the House, but apparently nothing is to be done about it in the near future. That is deplorable.
A subject which came up at the beginning of today's sitting was the reintroduction of the Rating and Valuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. It was generally supposed that the Government would withdraw the Bill which lapsed before the General Election and would bring in a new one incorporating improvements to meet criticisms made by chambers of commerce and other bodies, but I gathered from the Leader of the House today that the new Bill is little, if at all, different from the old one.
That will disappoint many shopkeepers and business people, after what was said here and throughout the country. I suppose that every candidate in the recent General Election had the experience which I had of receiving detailed statements from chambers of commerce, receiving deputations, and going into the technicalities of this subject. The Government will miss an opportunity if they do not make alterations in the new Bill to meet those criticisms.
I come to a point affecting my constituency, and the President of the Board of Trade will not be surprised to hear that it relates to the thorny question of the imports of Indian cotton cloth. I know that he does not welcome this subject. It was evident when it was raised today that he felt uncomfortable about it. When the right hon. Gentleman comes up against a sticky point he always resorts to one well-known piece of technique. He turns his back on the Chair and addresses his own supporters below the Gangway, most of whom are now new Members. He raises his voice, abandoning those quiet, moderate tones which he advised us to use. He adopts a debating society strategy rather than the technique of a responsible Minister in the House of Commons.
He must have surprised the House and disappointed many hon. Members when 232 he replied to the question relating to cotton. The Gracious Speech talks about imposingcountervailing and anti-dumping duties on imported goods.I imagine most of us hoped that those words indicated action to stop the dumping of Indian cloth. I need not go into the whole story again—my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) has told it over and over again—of how imports are increasing at a tremendous rate and have alarmed both sides of the industry in Lancashire.
The Government owe a great debt of gratitude to Lancashire for the result of the Election. Frankly, I cannot understand it. [Laughter.] I do not think the Government can. I am sure they are as much astonished as we are. The only reasonable explanation is that Lancashire still has some faith in the Government despite the way they have let Lancashire down. If that faith is to be justified something has to be done about this importation of Indian cloth, because that is the big issue. So, if the Government are not going to let Lancashire down once again, they had better do something about it.
Here there was an opportunity for them to do so. The Gracious Speech mentionsLegislation … to permit the imposition of countervailing and anti-dumping duties on imported goods.When I ask the President in an interjection whether that applied to cotton he adopted the evasive tactics I have described, showing that he was uncomfortable about the matter. I gathered—I hope he will contradict me if I am wrong—that the net meaning of his shouting and gesticulating to the benches below the Gangway was that his answer was in the negative, and that the Government will do nothing about cotton under this heading. The right hon. Gentleman does not contradict me. so that apparently is the position. What a tremendous disappointment that will be to Lancashire, because it leaves us with no solution at all, with no suggestion that anything can be done.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about monopolies. He has still to answer a question which he has been asked by some of my hon. Friends, namely, what is the further action that is 233 foreseen in the Gracious Speech? I almost felt despair when, in dealing with this subject, the President of the Board of Trade referred to the trade unions as monopolies. If the response of the Government, in answering criticisms of rackets like the motor trade and matters of that sort, is to compare them with the trade unions, we shall get nowhere at all. That sort of reply is no reply.
The President of the Board of Trade has another trick in connection with monopolies, and we are beginning to understand it. Whenever there is any criticism of monopolies he says, "O.K., we will refer that to the Monopolies Commission." That is a new way of burying the subject. The old way used to be a Royal Commission. Now we have the Monopolies Commission. It reminds me of a certain public official, with whom I have come in contact, who never says, "No," but always says, "Yes, certainly, I agree with you. You are speaking to the converted. You are pushing at an open door." Yet nothing is ever done.
That attitude is similar to that of referring matters to the Monopolies Commission. We wait a long time, while a matter referred to the Commission takes its place in the queue of matters waiting to come before the Commission. There are long sittings of the Commission, and a report is published, but nothing then is done. I do not know how we shall get round that difficulty under this Government, but it is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
However, I am glad to tell the President of the Board of Trade that I am pleased to see the reference in the Gracious Speech to international trade, and the undertaking that the Government… will work for a further advance towards a free flow of international trade and payments.That is a sentiment to which both sides of the House can subscribe, but of course everything will depend on the way in which the Government implement their undertaking. There will be an important discussion on a non-party or all-party basis—
§ Mr. Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
In one breath the hon. Gentleman asks for protection against dumping but in the next breath he wants a free flow of trade.
§ Mr. Hynd
I am not so innocent as to suppose that there are not certain difficulties in implementing these policies. That is why we are here as legislators, to examine difficulties and to find solutions.
It would not be difficult to discuss how these things can be done without any of the repercussions which the hon. Member has in mind. These problems are not impossible to solve. Nothing is perfectly easy, but this can be done and should be done. What do we have a highly-qualified and clever President of the Board of Trade for? Otherwise we could have a normal human being. Instead, we have a superman to deal with these things.
We are to have a very important all-party discussion on this subject of the free flow of international trade at the coming conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the Summer Recess. I look forward to getting some assistance from the President of the Board of Trade in connection with that discussion, and I hope that the British Government will be able to set an example to the rest of the world as to how this very desirable aim can be implemented.
I have time to mention only one other matter. I refer to what the Prime Minister said about the Gowers Report and the Bill which he proposes to bring in, restricted, apparently, to agriculture. The Prime Minister talked about the necessity for dealing with the accidents which are taking place because of the mechanisation of agriculture.
Already my hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) has drawn attention to the urgency and importance of conditions in railway offices. The Gracious Speech indicates that the Government have not overlooked that matter and that they hope to bring in legislation about offices if time permits. I would urge as strongly as I possibly can that the question of conditions in railway offices is at least as urgent and important as the question of agricultural accidents. Too many railway clerks have been working for a very long period in unsatisfactory conditions, and I hope that the Government, in consultation with the Transport Salaried Staffs Association and the T.U.C., will see whether they cannot push this aspect of the subject forward and bring it at least into line with the agricultural proposals.
235 The President of the Board of Trade asked us today what was wrong with Government policy and said that if there was anything wrong we should state it. That is too big a subject for me to attempt to tackle at this time, but I do not want him to say that everyone shied off this question, and that, as it had not been mentioned, it went by default. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members provoke me I can go on talking about it, but I imagine that there are others who would like to speak.
The great difference between us is that, when the President of the Board of Trade and others on his side of the House talk about sharing abundance, they do not seem to have the same understanding of the sharing of abundance as we on this side have. All through the Election we were criticising the way in which the previous Government did not share abundance fairly. Our whole point in the Election was that there were unfair shares. [Interruption.] I think that I heard an hon. Member say, "That is why you lost it." We lost it because the public did not appreciate the fact. That is why. The public did not understand it.
I give the Government full marks for the clever way in which they cover things up—the way in which this year's Budget, for example, seemed to many people at first glance to be of advantage to the lower paid. If any of them take the trouble to examine it in detail they will see that it gives bigger advantages to those better off and lesser advantages to those not so well off. It gives the lowest possible advantage to those least well off. That is what we have in mind and that is the sort of thing of which we can give many examples.
It is no use the President of the Board of Trade quoting statistics. Statistics can always be operated to reach a certain conclusion, and they are not a satisfactory answer to hard facts. It is with the hard facts of life that most people are confronted. The big difference between the two parties is the tendency of the party opposite to go in for unfair shares rather than the fair shares for which we on this side of the House stand.
It was quite rightly said from the benches opposite that there was a vast difference between the approach of the 236 two sides of the House. It will be the whole object of Her Majesty's Opposition during the present Parliament to criticise all the Measures which the Government bring forward and, in the interests of the people, to examine them and try to suggest improvements. Although the Government have a working majority, and I am glad that there is a working majority, they must not run away with the idea that the Opposition will be overruled and kept quiet all the time. I predict that the Government are likely to be in for a very lively Parliament indeed.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Duthie (Banff)
I should like to draw the attention of the House for a few moments to the fishing industry. The Gracious Speech says:My Ministers will continue to promote the well-being of the fishing industry and to support the efforts of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board to improve the condition of the fishing fleets and enable them to operate on an efficient basis.Broadly speaking, the fishing industry of Great Britain—and in this connection I refer to the catching side—consists of trawling, great line fishing, inshore fishing by means of the seine net and herring fishing. The trawling industry is showing evidence of a distinctive improvement, and that applies particularly to the port of Aberdeen. I am very glad to note that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is concerned with fishing matters, is in his place. The catching of white fish in inshore waters by seine net is extremely progressive and very successful and to some extent great line fishing for halibut and the like is not doing too badly. I should like to concentrate on the herring industry, which is experiencing very great difficulties indeed.
The herring industry has achieved significance in Governmental affairs since it has become an important export factor. Scottish and English cured herring are now being received in Russia and the herring curing industry in this country has recaptured to a very large measure the good will which it formerly enjoyed among the Russian people. In each of the last five years we have had a Russian contract for cured herring and in no single instance have we been able to complete it. There have been various difficulties 237 in the way. One has been the meticulous manner in which Russian inspectors have been examining the cure. Herring which normally would have been accepted by any herring consuming country in the world have been turned down by these inspectors. I believe that their examination has been over-meticulous.
The major point, however, is that our catching potentiality is being reduced almost day by day owing to crew difficulties. At present, very few vessels engaged in herring fishing are fully manned. One of the principal reasons is that the herring fishermen must wait till the end of the season before he draws his emoluments or his share of the proceeds, although quite a number of skippers are only too happy to guarantee their crews a regular weekly wage to be supplemented by anything extra which may come at the end of the season.
But the chief difficulty—and this is something which I have brought up in the House time and again; I make no apology for bringing it up now, because it is really serious—is the continued classification of the herring fishermen as seasonal workers. It is obvious to anyone who has any knowledge of the industry that today our herring fishermen are fishing all the year round. They continue fishing as long as there is a market for herring, and there is an all-the-year market for herring.
True, there are long periods ashore, but that is inevitable because of the amount of gear the fishermen have to handle. For instance, in a trawler there may be two trawls standing by with only one in operation. A seine netter only uses one net at a time. But a herring vessel has up to 100 nets in the sea at one time, and, obviously, care is required in dealing with this gear and there must be considerable periods ashore for rehabilitation, repairs and the like. This position is extremely serious. If we are to continue to have a herring fishing industry playing its part in the export field, the Government must cease classifying the herring fishermen as seasonal workers. If that is done it will be a very material step towards achieving the aims which are so felicitously mentioned in the Gracious Speech.
There is only one other point I wish to bring forward in the short time at my disposal and that has to do with the 238 International Convention. This Convention was brought about at long last by all the countries using the waters in the Western area for fishing joining together. That was a signal achievement. One of the first duties devolving upon the Convention was to take some practical steps towards the prevention of the slaughter of immature fish.
Until this Convention fishermen could use any size of mesh they cared in fishing and the consequence was that enormous numbers of immature fish were slaughtered. One of the first jobs facing the Convention was to determine that a 70-millimetre mesh in seine and other nets was used so that the smaller fish could escape from the bag and so prolong their life and reach maturity. Though these regulations were agreed upon, no steps whatever were taken for their enforcement. There was absolutely no arrangement made for policing to see that the vessels of all nations observed the rules.
This is the state of affairs we are in today. It is largely for the skipper to determine whether he complies with the Convention or not. I have just returned from talking to some of our skippers in Scotland who are "playing the game," but they know that certain foreign vessels in the Moray Firth, the Minches and elsewhere along the Scottish coast, as well as along the English coast, are fishing with nets of a much smaller mesh than that agreed by the Convention. It is no good making these regulations unless they are carried out, and I submit that the remedy lies in the hands of Her Majesty's Government.
At the next meeting of the Convention we must put forward a proposal that each country should be responsible for the policing of its domestic waters and for that purpose it is quite a simple matter to accord to each country an area in which it is responsible for seeing the regulations are carried out. It should be in order for any fishery survey vessel to draw alongside a boat which is in the process of fishing and for the boat to haul up its gear and demonstrate the size of mesh that it is using. In addition, a considerable amount of work can be done ashore through fishery officers, and, indeed, through the police, to ensure that nets smaller than regulation size are not used.
Perhaps the most far-reaching suggestion of all is that net manufacturers 239 should be able to make nets of smaller than regulation mesh only under licence. Unless a licence is obtained, it should be illegal for any net smaller than the regulation mesh to be made. If I am asked why any smaller mesh nets could be made, the reason is that there are certain periods of the year when a smaller mesh is not only advisable, but necessary, for the catching of whiting. Whiting is the smallest fish that we have in the white fish category and is the fish that reaches maturity at the smallest size. Mature whiting can be caught in the Firth of Clyde and in other areas around our coasts, but a net smaller than regulation size is required. These are matters which are not beyond the capabilities of the White Fish Authority, with Government aid, to solve.
The White Fish Authority came in for a great deal of criticism from hon. Members in this House, of whom I was one, but I feel that the reorganisation of that Authority by the appointment of a new chairman and other changes also has resulted in a very considerable strengthening. I should like to pay tribute to the 240 splendid work which the Herring Industry Board is doing for herring fishing.
These are points on which I should have liked to have spoken at greater length. I feel, however, that if the Government will take steps to remove the herring fisherman from the classification of a seasonal worker and, also, will take steps to ensure that at the next meeting of the International Convention a method of international policing can be arranged, to ensure that only the standard mesh is used in the catching of fish in waters open to European fishing vessels, two very material steps will have been taken to secure the aims expressed in the Gracious Speech.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.