§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
The matter that we have decided to raise today is one of importance not only to the men and women who are living in the Development Areas, but to the whole nation. Between the wars these areas were known as Distressed Areas, a name which was, indeed, most apposite. Thousands of families who lived there were in distress year after year. They knew hardships and suffering and, indeed, the tragedy that accompanied the long periods of unemployment. They also knew that the break-up of homes by the heartless means test applied to those who were seeking unemployment benefit.
Thousands of men and women—and I knew many of them in my own area—suffered not only from poverty and misery, but they had the hopeless feeling that they were on the scrap heap, tossed aside by the nation and were the care of no one. I saw time and time again this distress embittering the soul of many people.
Between the wars, the Labour movement was very much aware of all that was happening in these areas. We sent to them teams of our people to examine the position and to report to our National Executive Committee. As a result of those examinations we were ready with plans to ensure that those areas would, in future, no longer be known or deserve to be known as Distressed Areas. It was in the Coalition Government that those Ministers who were from our party urged the making of plans so as to be ready, immediately the war was over, to bring hope to thousands of men and women in these areas.
As a result of that urging we had the Distribution of Industries Act. We in the Labour movement can claim much credit for that Act, and particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who was completely untiring in his efforts to bring work and hope to those many people.
I want now to turn to what is happening in our country today. The latest figure that I have been able to get for unemployment in Great Britain is 1. 3 per cent. of the insured population; in Northern Ireland, it is 7. 8 per cent. I 1355 will not speak about Northern Ireland, because the problem there is to be discussed in the House later this week. But in my country, Scotland, unemployment is 29 per cent.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) is not at present in his place. I listened carefully to his party political broadcast on Saturday night in which he made great claims for the Government which he supports. When he talked about full employment, I wondered what the people in Lanarkshire and other areas in Scotland, or the people in Wales or Lancashire, were thinking of this vaunted full employment. I wondered what the people of Bellshill were thinking, a place I know very well. When I went to school there, between the wars, the steel works were closing, the pits were closing and there was misery everywhere. Today, in Bellshill, almost 7 per cent. of the registered population are unemployed. I wonder what their answer would have been and what they were saying some under their breath—and some not under their breath—about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman.
In Wales, there is a high level of unemployment compared with the rest of Britain. It is 23 per cent., which is not as high a figure as that for Scotland. But in the London and South Eastern regions I find that the unemployed figure is 09 per cent., in other words, lower than that for Great Britain as a whole. I have tried to get some other figures. I find that when we left office in 1951 the unemployed in Scotland totalled 53,400. The latest figures I can get for unemployment in Scotland is for February, 1955, when there were 62,100 unemployed. That shows an increase of 8,700. The figure that I have given for 1951 was an average for the year, not just one month.
Possibly, I shall be told, as we have been told in previous debates, that more people are in jobs. That is true. I know that from the figures. When we left office there were more vacancies than there were unemployed, so that this Government would have been less able than I think they are if more people were not in work. But the fact is that there are 8,700 men and women unemployed in Scotland now, and there are many in 1356 Wales and in the Development Areas in England.
There is another question we should like to have answered. We objected very strongly to annulling Section 62 of the National Insurance Act, 1946. The annulment of that Section meant that some men and women were transferred from the employment exchanges and are now no longer shown as unemployed. Some of them are receiving National Assistance, others are receiving nothing in place of unemployment benefit. I raise that question because my area is particularly affected, as are all mining areas and areas of heavy industry, by industrial injuries and pneumoconiosis.
The figures show that in Scotland unemployment is higher than it was, on an average, in 1951. This means that 8,700 men and women are living, with a rising cost of living, on benefits which make it quite impossible for them to get, not only for themselves but for those whom they hold dear, even what I would term the necessities of life, far less the luxuries.
At the end of September, 1954, in the London area there were under construction 12,333,000 square feet of factory space and in Scotland there were 6,210,000 square feet. In other words, in the London area there was under construction double the amount that there was in Scotland, yet our figure for unemployment is 2. 9, compared with 0. 9 in London and the South-Eastern area. In London, 18,212,000 square feet of factory buildings have been completed since the end of the war. For Scotland, the figure is 40,240,000 square feet.
From those two sets of figures it will be seen that there has been a complete reversal of policy by Her Majesty's Government. Under a Labour Government every effort was made to take work to the people in the Development Areas. The result was that Scotland got more than twice the floor space of new factories compared with London. Under the present Government the London area, with a very much smaller figure of unemployed, is getting double the factory space that Scotland is getting.
I am sure that our people will be very interested, especially after the broadcast they heard on Saturday, to compare these figures which show that when Labour was in power we had a Government who put 1357 the needs of Scotland very high. The present Government have done a great deal of window dressing which has not brought a job to Scotland or given the area any greater control over its affairs.
Often the problems of Scotland, Wales and the Development Areas of England have been brought to the notice of the Government. I want to deal with Scotland, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) will deal with Wales and other hon. Members with England. Scottish Members, by Question and in debate and deputation to Ministers, have brought the problems and needs of Scotland forcibly before the Government. Time and again we have had no answer to bring any hope to these areas. I am glad to see present the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who has not given to our people in these areas the hope that they had when Labour was in power.
There are four special problems in Scotland which ought to be discussed in this connection. First, there are the Highlands and Islands, some parts of which have a higher rate of unemployment than the 29 for Scotland as a whole. The second problem is that of the Development Areas, including one which has the largest population of any Development area in Scotland, Lanarkshire. The third is the area of the expanding coalfields in Fifeshire which is also posing great difficulties. The fourth is the overspill of population from Glasgow.
Whatever Government may be in office, these are four great problems which must be tackled if Scotland is to play the part it can play in bringing real prosperity to Britain. In the Highlands and Islands security for the farmers and the crofters was ensured under the Labour Government. Great plans of afforestation were carried out and great strides were made in the hydro-electricity schemes. Nothing on a similar scale has been done for the Highlands since the present Government came into office.
On the second problem, Lanarkshire is not only a Development Area, with all the problems which that presents, but it is a place where the one staple industry, coalmining, is every year providing work for fewer people. The Government can be in no doubt about these problems, which have been raised repeatedly in the House of Commons. The Government, 1358 a Government who boast of their great business acumen, have shown themselves to be either unwilling or lacking in ability to deal with these difficulties.
I will not bore the Committee with all the answers that hon. Members on this side have received to their representations, but I would say that anyone reading them would agree that the sum total of all the answers shows quite clearly that in this great problem of the Development Area of Lanarkshire, and the dwindling number of men employed in the coal industry, the Government simply have not a clue to a solution. If they have one, I hope that we shall be told today. In two major debates the problem has been posed and certain methods of dealing with it have been suggested from this side of the Committee, but in each case the Joint Under-Secretary of State has been able to give us no hope whatever.
The third problem is that of the area of the expanding coalfields. It is one which the Joint Under-Secretary should know very well indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) has raised the matter frequently in the House. Miners are being forced to move from the West of Scotland to the East of Scotland. I accuse the Government of building up an area which will be almost wholly dependent for employment on coal getting. We know of the suffering caused by that in the past in the Welsh mining villages and the Scottish coalfields, and we do not want it ever to happen again in any other area.
In the old mining areas we knew of homes broken up because girls of 14 were obliged to leave home in search of work, and because boys were forced either to work in the coalfields, which was uncongenial to them, or leave home to find work elsewhere. Yet, when I examine what is happening in these developing coalfields in Fifeshire, I have the greatest fear—as have other hon. Members interested in that area—that again we shall see growing up an area dependent almost wholly on coal getting to provide work.
The fourth problem is the overspill of population from Glasgow. I wish to ask the Minister, what are the plans for Cumbernauld? Is it to be a dormitory area for Glasgow, and if not, what steps do the Government propose taking to ensure that in every sense Cumbernauld 1359 will be a new town, not only with houses, but with jobs for the people who go there? We know that in Glasgow there are a great number of what might be termed slum factories. Many of the owners are desirous of finding new factory space and are willing to go outside Glasgow to new factories, taking their industries with them. Will help be forthcoming from the Board of Trade to ensure that some will go to Cumbernauld?
There are many areas in Lanarkshire where people would be delighted to welcome families from Glasgow. What steps, if any, have the Government taken to ensure that where great planning needs to be done, industrialists in Glasgow will be assisted to take their factories to places where they will receive a welcome and where there will be a good life for the people? So far, there has been no indication at all that the Government are ready with plans to deal with this problem.
In their last three years of office the Labour Government built over 15 million more square feet of factory space than did this Government in their first three years of office. In the Development Areas the picture is even blacker. When the Labour Government were in power, 30 per cent. of all factory building in Britain was in the Development Areas. Under this Government, only 18 per cent. of new factory building has taken place in these areas. I obtained these figures from the Ministry of Labour Gazette. In other words, where it is so necessary to bring work, this Government have cut down the share of new factories for Development Areas by almost half.
I wish to touch upon another matter about which I have often asked Questions in this House, to which I have received no adequate answers. While the Labour Government were in power, over 1½ million square feet of advance factory building was completed in Scotland, in addition to much more completed in other areas. We knew then, as we know today, that a modern new factory is a great incentive and encouragement to an industrialist to set up business in a Development Area. I am sure that the fact that we built so many of these advance standard factories in Scotland brought thousands of new jobs to our people which might have been missed had the Labour Government 1360 waited until there was a tenant before starting even to prepare the site for a factory.
I have repeatedly urged this Government to continue the policy of the Labour Government and build advance factories. The answer has been a quite definite, "No," and not much more than that. No reason was given, except that the Government did not think it a wise thing to do. Yet all the history shows how wise it was for Wales and for the Development Areas in England and in Scotland. I understand that in Scotland—and I expect that it applies also to other areas—there is an unsatisfied demand for factory space, particularly for small factories of about 20,000 square feet. Recently, about a dozen applicants were trying to obtain the tenancy of the only vacant factory in Scotland. What a different position would obtain had this Government followed out Labour's policy. Then, instead of getting one industrialist into that factory, advance standard factories would have been ready for the other eleven, which would have meant bringing to those areas the jobs so desperately needed for some of our people.
I say—and I am sure the message will be conveyed—that the President of the Board of Trade has proved himself a failure to the people in the Development Areas. The people in Bellshill and in some parts of the north of Scotland and of Wales—
§ Miss Herbison
Yes, and in Lancashire. In all the Development Areas and the textile areas people are in no doubt about their assessment of the President of the Board of Trade as a failure.
We have watched carefully what has been happening and it has been clear that the President of the Board of Trade has either been content to take a back seat, or has not been strong enough and has been pushed into a back seat by other members of the Government, particularly by the present Foreign Secretary. Having had a little experience of Government committees, I can well understand what has happened to this poor failure of a President. It would seem clear that the limiting factor resulting in the things of which I have spoken is the amount of capital investment that the President of the Board of Trade has been able to 1361 secure from the Chancellor for new factory building.
That there is a queue for vacant factory space shows that there is no risk in investing capital in advance factories. I hope that the Minister will stress that fact to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course, I have a much greater hope, which I am sure will be fulfilled, which is that it will soon be a Labour President of the Board of Trade who will know not only the problems of Lanarkshire, but of Lancashire, and will be ready to take steps to deal with them.
There is one question to which I should like an answer. Has any area, and particularly have the Scottish Industrial Estates, made representation to the President of the Board of Trade about the building of advance factories? My information is that they have, and I want to know what is the answer of the President of the Board of Trade or the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter. Those responsible for the Scottish Industrial Estates cannot be dubbed as Socialists, yet they realise that unless pressure is brought to bear upon the present Government the need for building new factories will not be met by them.
When in opposition, the Government told the country quite clearly that they did not believe in planning. They sneered and jeered at the very word. But they had nothing to put in its place except the old Tory laissez faire, which brought misery to so many between the wars and which is today bringing misery to many in Lancashire, to the people in my cotton factory in Lanarkshire, and to people in Development Areas all over the country.
I began by saying that this was a matter of importance not only to the men and women in Development Areas, but to the whole nation. As the Government know, we are living today in a highly competitive world, and our factories require the most modern up-to-date machinery that can possibly be obtained, and new factories. In other words, if there is to be future prosperity for our people we must use to the full the whole of our industrial potential.
Part of that potential are the machines in the factories, but one of the most important parts of our industrial potential are the skills, the abilities and the talents of our people. As a nation we 1362 cannot afford to have unemployed 23 per cent. of the insured population in Wales. In Merseyside and in Lancashire many people are unemployed. In Scotland, 29 per cent. of the insured population are unemployed. These people want jobs and want to play their full part in building up a prosperous Britain. They are ready to play that full part, but they realise that, as a result of the policy of the Government in those areas, they will not be given the chance.
I have no doubt that the knowledge of this will make these people more and more determined to return a Government who not only focused the limelight on the distressed areas, but a Government who acted to ensure that hope and jobs would be brought to them, a Government who, when once again returned to office, will complete the job which they began so well.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Donald Kaberry)
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) has spoken in challenging language and has issued a challenge which I, on behalf of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, am very glad to accept. I wish, first, to thank her for initiating this debate on the Development Areas, because it gives me, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, for whose enforced absence this afternoon I apologise, a welcome opportunity of saying something about the Government's Development Area policy generally.
As a start, I do not think I can do better than to borrow words from and to quote a part of the introduction to the 1948 White Paper, which dealt with the aims and objects of the distribution of industry policy and which described these asso to distribute industry as to provide regular work for the greatest possible number of those seeking it in all parts of the country, especially in those parts which are known as the Development Areas, and so help to raise the number in work and the nation's total output to the highest possible level.The Development Areas possess two of the greatest assets of the British people, the capacity for hard work and the gift of craftsmanship, and it is our aim to see that those potentialities are used in the best way and in the best places.
1363 I do not think that Her Majesty's Government have any need to apologise for what they have done for the Development Areas. We have pursued, with a considerable degree of success, our policy of using fully the manpower resources of the country. In considering the details of the Development Areas and the specific measures by which we help them, we must not forget the main basis of their prosperity. This depends on the health of the economy of the country as a whole, for one-fifth of our workers live in these areas. No miracle can make them prosperous if the rest of the country is depressed.
Perhaps the greatest contribution made by the present Conservative Administration is that during the last three and a half years the country has experienced a steady expansion without crisis. If we can maintain that record, we can maintain general confidence, and there need be no fear in the Development Areas. If those men on whom British industry depends have confidence and faith in the future, and if they have a chance of earning fair rewards for their labours, industry will continue to flow in the direction of the Development Areas.
In this connection, I wish to make a point about Industrial Development Certificates. As we all know, the use of this control cannot compel industry to go to particular places. It would be quite wrong if it could. All that we can do is, in the last resort, to refuse permission to expand or to start an industry in a given area. That power must surely be carefully used, because it would be a very serious thing to say to an industry, "You cannot build here." The proper location of a factory is something far more complex than it looks on a planning map. There is an infinite variety of factors involved such, for example, as transport, access to raw materials, markets, the type of labour, availability of skilled management or managerial staff and technicians, and the nearness to other processes. These factors should never be, and have not been, brushed aside, and for that reason we have to be quite sure when we refuse Industrial Development Certificates. In our view far more is achieved, and far more good will is created, in the Development
1364 Areas, by persuasion than by compulsion.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
How successful has the Board of Trade been in the matter of persuasion in Blaenavon?
§ Mr. Kaberry
I hope to deal with specific areas later. I recall that I had the good fortune to hear last week a deputation led by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West) about Blaenavon.
I should like to give some concrete examples of what the Government have done generally, over the whole broad picture of the expansion of industry and the creation and maintenance of a high level of employment generally in the Development Areas. First, we must put upon record the fact that this Government have maintained a strong and expanding economy. This is as vital to the Development Areas—which contain one-fifth of our working population—as it is to the country as a whole. The powers of the Distribution of Industry Acts are not a substitute for all the many policies which go together to make up a successful economy.
I should now like to refer to one or two questions dealing with figures of unemployment, and I will take the Development Areas in general. In March of this year, the last recorded figures show that there were 12,500 fewer unemployed in the whole of the Development Areas than in March, 1951. During the same period, the rate of unemployment fell from 2. 9 per cent. to 24 per cent.; indeed, the figure for March of this year is at the lowest rate since the war, for this time of the year—no mean achievement.
Dealing with the question of employment and taking into account—
§ Miss Herbison
Before the hon. Member leaves the question of unemployment, can he state the relevant figures area by area? Some hon. Members are particularly interested in that aspect of the matter.
§ Mr. Kaberry
Yes. I said that I was dealing with the picture as a whole. I shall deal with individual areas later.
Coming to the question of employment; taking into account the fall in unemployment and the increase in the number of insured workers since 1951, it is 1365 estimated that there are now at least 50,000 more people at work in the Development Areas than in 1951.
New industrial projects approved in the Development Areas are running at a very high level. In the first quarter of this year, 3. 4 million square feet of factory space was approved, which is the highest figure for the first quarter of a year ever achieved in the Development Areas. Over 2. 2 million square feet of Government-financed factory building was started in the Development Areas in the financial year 1954–55. Expenditure in the year was £4. 3 million, and approvals involved the sum of £6¼ million, which was the highest figure for six years.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will now give us the figure of factory building outside the Development Areas, so that we can compare the two.
§ Mr. Kaberry
I shall give the percentage figures for comparison. I was hoping not to weary hon. Members too much with a long list of figures and statistics, but since November, 1951, the area of factory space started has amounted to 4,031,000 square feet and, of this, 2,208,000 square feet was started in the financial year 1954–55. Furthermore, in the last three and a half years the Government have spent £12 million on their industrial estates. Employment continues to rise in estate company factories, and by the end of 1954 it had reached the striking total of 182,000, which was broken down as to 93,000 men and 89,000 women. The estate companies themselves now administer about 41½ million square feet of factory space, which consists of many smaller types of factory.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am not quite sure whether the Minister has answered the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick). The Minister was talking about the overall figures of new factory space started, but what my hon. Friend wants to know—and what a great many of us would be interested to know—is how that figure breaks up, so that we can make the appropriate comparison between new factory space in the Development Areas and new factory space in the rest of the country.
§ Mr. Kaberry
I appreciated what the hon. Member was asking, and I shall endeavour to answer it in due course, as I come to specific points.
§ Mr. Kaberry
If I miss anything I am sure that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will deal with it far more adequately than I can.
I turn now to individual areas, each of which has its own problems. We all know that many of them have passed through the hard school of adversity and, perhaps because of that fact, the wage earners in those districts can contribute much, because of their knowledge and the skill which they have acquired, and, by their work, can give service to the whole community. As I have discovered, especially in recent days, they have a great local patriotism, which adds to their strength, and I would assure hon. Members opposite that that is a character which we should wish to preserve. No one would wish to see the traditions, customs and culture of many of these places wither away.
I should like to give some examples of the success with which our policy has met. The hon. Member for Lanarkshire, North has been concerned with Scotland, and especially with North Lanarkshire—
§ Mr. Kaberry
I appreciate that the hon. Lady referred to the whole picture, but she was particularly concerned with North Lanarkshire.
I shall deal with one or two points which arise in dealing with the Scottish problem. Government-financed factories in this part of the Development Area already employ about 20,000 people, or nearly one-seventh of the insured population. There are still many jobs which will be available in factories already built, now under construction or which have been approved and upon which work will shortly start. Progress in the last year has been particularly impressive. From 1st January, 1954, to the middle of March of this year, factory projects in North Lanarkshire both in respect of those financed by the Government and those privately financed, 1367 total just over 1½ million square feet, or 35 per cent. of the total approved in the Scottish Development Area during that period.
§ Miss Herbison
Surely the Minister does not mean North Lanarkshire; he means the whole of Lanarkshire.
§ Mr. Kaberry
I apologise. I should have referred to Lanarkshire as a whole.
Among the major projects, perhaps I may mention in particular the factory for Ranco, Limited, at Bellshill. Work upon it is expected to start during the next few weeks, and it is likely to provide employment for up to 1,000 people. I think that answer ought to dispel the fears which the hon. Lady expressed about the future of Bellshill.
There are also large extensions, which will provide work for several hundred people, at the Newhouse Estate and new factories for the Sunbeam Electric Corporation and Waterlows, at East Kilbride. Our policy has also met with success in the Port Glasgow area, with its hitherto almost intractable problem of unemployment. Both the International Latex Corporation and the Vanguard Raincoat Company are hoping to occupy two Government financed factories. In 1954–55, we approved more expenditure on Government financed factories in the Scottish Development Area than at any time since 1947–48, the figure running at the rate of £2. 7 million.
In the Highland Development Area, where no Government financed building has been undertaken since the area was scheduled, we are now starting the first industrial estate to accommodate initially three small factories.
The hon. Lady asked me some questions about advance factory building. On this, I would point out that in all our Development Area policy it is essential to aim at matching industry with what a particular area has to offer. It is important to remember that firms do, in fact, prefer their factories to be what I might call "made to measure" or "made to fit." Factories built in advance will not necessarily suit those who come along or they may require extensive and expensive adaptations to meet their requirements. It is possible that they may have to be kept vacant for some time before they are let.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Would not the Parliamentary Secretary agree that modulated building can be procured which will suit a group of industries? If that is so, surely there is no handicap there. They can go ahead with it.
§ Mr. Kaberry
We all know the speed with which buildings can be prefabricated and put up quickly, but experience is that persons chosen or asked to go to sites in any area prefer, if possible, to put up their own buildings to suit their own requirements.
There is a risk that a building put up may stay empty for some time, involving expense, and this risk is, in fact, heightened if the area is a particularly difficult one. I assure the Committee of the difficulty which has recently been experienced in the factories in the Port Glasgow area, where, for as long as two years, factory buildings have remained empty, although, recently, we have had the good fortune to have them filled. We believe that in the matter of advance factory building it is better if the industrial concern which is to take a site in the area is left free to put up a building to meet its own particular requirements.
§ Mr. Collick
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again. I have been constantly pressing the Minister about an advance factory in my own constituency of Birkenhead. I have had all sorts of excuses given as to why it cannot be provided, but the one which the hon. Gentleman now offers to the Committee is quite a new one. I should like to know when this new one was made, because it is the first I have heard of it.
§ Miss Herbison
Before the hon. Member leaves the question of advance factories, can he answer a question that I raised—whether any representation had been made by Scottish Industrial Estates, because they know the needs in Scotland? The hon. Member did not mention factories standing idle at Port Glasgow. Can he tell us how many applicants there were for the last factory in Port Glasgow?
§ Mr. Kaberry
Perhaps I may be allowed to leave the whole series of questions fired at me for my hon. Friend to reply to at the end of the debate. I can assure hon. Members that the most careful note is being taken of these points, 1369 and that answers will be given. So far as I know no direct representations have been made, but I am open to correction on that point and I should like an opportunity of correcting my statement if I am wrong.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way again. I am sure he will bear in mind that many of us who represent these areas have to explain these matters to our constituents. The questions which my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) asked in her opening speech are not abstruse questions, invented for the purpose of puzzling the Minister. They are matters that arise directly in consideration of this problem, and it is unfair to the rest of us if answers to them are not to be given until the end of the debate.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
Can the hon. Member tell us whether the Government have abandoned the advance factory programme or not?
§ Mr. Kaberry
No. The Government have not abandoned it at all, for the reasons which I have been giving. It is believed that in view of the demands made for specific building to be up to the requirements of individual industrialists it is a far better way of introducing buildings into the Development Areas.
In the Development Areas generally, in South Wales the male unemployment figure was down in March this year to 7,500 compared with 13,800 in March, 1951. Total unemployment has fallen below 2 per cent., and this in spite of the fact that considerable redundancies in the old tin-plate works have been declared.
The Lloyd Committee, set up by the Government in January, 1953, recommended new road developments of great importance to South Wales, and these are being implemented by the Government. They also made a very careful survey of the industrial potentialities of the area. Modernisation of the area's steel and coal industry continues on a large scale.
In the North-Eastern area, important Government financed projects include factories at Sunderland, at Peterlee and a large extension at Annfield Plain. In addition, important new tenants have been found for factories which were vacant at Team Valley and Sunderland. 1370 The new industry introduced into Sunderland will, it is felt, make a very considerable contribution to the special problems of this area. Another development of great importance to the North-East is the new factory of 264,000 square feet, privately financed, to be erected in Newcastle.
The West Cumberland area, which suffered very severely before the war, can, I think, be put down as one of the success stories of the Development Area policy. It has had many new industries taken to it, among them the vitally important atomic energy project.
In the Lancashire Development Areas nearly 5 million square feet of new factory space has been built, in the Mersey-side Development Area, during the present Administration. Nearly all of it is private building and unemployment is now down to 16,000, which is at a rate of 2. 6 per cent—the lowest rate ever recorded for March. In North-East Lancashire, the largest factory ever undertaken by the Board of Trade is being built. A London firm has just announced its intention of building a large factory there for the production of refrigerators.
§ Mr. Kaberry
In North-East Lancashire. Areas like some of the textile districts and Development Areas like that of Merseyside have proved attractive to industry and major developments are to take place at several points.
§ Mr. Collick rose—
§ Mr. Kaberry
Perhaps I may just say this. The figures that I have been giving show throughout that there is more factory space, more employment, and an overall lowering in the unemployment figures.
§ Mr. Kaberry
I have given the right hon. Gentleman figures and statistics area by area, showing the progress which has been made during the last three-and-a-half years by the present Administration. That is the policy that we have pursued. We have been determined to show that the Development Areas are not depressed areas. I have tried to show that the Development Areas themselves are able to give services and to provide the labour required for an expanding industry.
The debate coincides with the publication of a booklet entitled "Room to Expand." At the British Industries Fair, which opens today, copies of this booklet are available for all who go to the stand of the Board of Trade. Copies of the booklet are available also to hon. Members. Industrialists will have an opportunity at the Fair—and I hope they will take it—of seeing the Board of Trade's Distribution of Industry stand, which will show the facilities available throughout the country.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North emphasised, quite rightly, that these areas are not depressed, and have much to offer. They have every right to be proud of the many facilities which they can offer. It is the earnest desire of hon. Members to remove any fear that may exist because of what I might call the "Depressed area mentality." In conditions of full employment a proper distribution of industry is of economic and industrial consequence to our whole economy. Thus, the transfer of expanding industrial units from the congested areas to the Development Areas makes good commercial sense for them as well as good economic sense for the nation.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
I think most hon. Members would agree that the impact of the Distribution of Industry Acts upon the areas which, at one time, were depressed, and whose people had lost all hope, has been quite immeasurable and that, materially and spiritually, they have been completely transformed. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), who opened the debate so admirably, was quite right in saying that great credit is due to the Labour Government for the initiative and energy 1372 with which they tackled the difficult problem of the Development Areas. During the past few years we have heard much about the Tennessee Valley Authority in the United States, but in our Development Areas we see an even greater achievement accomplished with less resources.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North and those hon. Gentlemen who intervened during the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary that much remains to be done, but I think they would agree with me that the task of industrial development in South Wales is nearing completion. There are one or two difficult places, one of which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. West). Industrially speaking, the Development Areas of Wales are now "Developed" Areas. Factories have been built and others are going up. The old, dangerous dependence upon two or three basic industries has vanished. There is full employment, and the demand for labour now exceeds the supply. That is a source of satisfaction to all hon. and right hon. Members of the Committee.
I wish to refer to areas which, although not scheduled as Development Areas, nevertheless suffer from a very high incidence of unemployment. I have put this problem to the Government on many occasions. It affects Caernarvon and Merioneth, as well as my own constituency. Although the unemployment is chronic and has existed for a long time, those places are not designated as Development Areas. They derived no benefit therefore from the Distribution of Industry Acts. Let me give one example. In my constituency is the town of Holyhead. It is an industrial town and port, with a population of nearly 11,000.
In the 'thirties unemployment in that town averaged between 40 and 45 per cent. of the insured population, yet neither that town nor the county was scheduled as a Development Area. The Committee will find it significant when I say that between 1932 and 1939 the average unemployment in the County of Anglesey was higher than that for all the Development Areas of Great Britain.
Successive Governments have considered the problem, but have set their face against making them Development 1373 Areas. On 1st April last year I asked the President of the Board of Trade about the Government's policy towards unemployment areas as distinct from Development Areas. His reply was:The policy towards these areas of relatively high unemployment remains unchanged. The Board of Trade do what they can to encourage industry development, and these areas receive equal consideration with Development Areas when Government orders are placed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 2207.]That is all very fine, but there is a paucity of industry in the areas and it is extremely difficult to persuade Government Departments to place contracts. In areas in the counties of Caernarvon, Anglesey and Merioneth the argument that the Government give priority of contracts is not really effective. It sidesteps the issue.
I fully appreciate the difficulties lying in the way of designating as Development Areas these pockets of unemployment. Obviously, one cannot bring the whole of our countryside within the ambit of the Distribution of Industry Acts, but surely something more positive and constructive could be done to help these areas than has yet been done. I suggested in the debate on Welsh Affairs on 24th November last that the powers of the trading estate companies should be extended, in some limited degree, to these pockets of unemployment. I am quite certain that if the Government put their minds to it methods could be devised, short of scheduling them as Development Areas, to assist them.
The truth is that the present machinery is completely inadequate, although here I should like to pay tribute to the Development Commisison for the assistance which it has given in Anglesey. The Commissioners are deserving of the warmest praise. For example, the Commission is enabling us to erect two factories at Llangefni, in the centre of the island, which will alleviate the chronic unemployment problem which has existed there for upwards of thirty years. That apart, I would suggest to the two Ministers that something might be done to expedite or improve the machinery of the Development Commission. At present, it takes a considerable time for the Commission to come to a decision after an application for a loan has been made to it.
1374 Such an application was made to it from Anglesey last December, but the approval came through only two or three weeks ago; it took well over three months for a decision to be reached. I do not criticise the Commission—it is doing a very good job indeed—but the present machinery is somewhat cumbersome. It will be readily appreciated that the danger of such a delay is that industrialists who are interested in a certain site, might, in the meantime, find a site in another district, and we cannot afford to lose the slightest chance which may come our way.
The two industries that are to settle in Anglesey are coming as a result of the initiative and enterprise of local authorities in the county, and not through any action by the Board of Trade. I am afraid that the Board of Trade is not acting effectually in inducing industries to come to these unemployment areas. This is because it has abandoned the necessary instruments whereby it could prevail upon industrialists to establish in places where there is a real need of work. The Departments concerned with this problem—the Board of Trade, the Treasury and the Ministry of Labour—should study the position carefully to see what may be done.
I recently asked the President of the Board of Trade about a survey which had been conducted in this area and which had taken over twelve months to prepare. His reply was not really satisfactory and did not tackle the heart of the problem, or point to any permanent solution. During the past few years unemployment in Anglesey has fluctuated between 5 and 10 per cent. of the insured population. In April, 1952, it was 5 per cent.; in April, 1953, it was 65 per cent., and in April, 1954, 98 per cent. It will be seen that the figure is rising progressively from year to year; but another significant point is that in 1954 the insured population of the county fell by 1,000. Nor does that latter figure take account of an annual average of 500 school leavers, many of whom leave the county to work without going on to the register at all.
The position is serious. We do not want to be a county of children and elderly people; we do not want to lose the cream of our young people. Nevertheless, that is the present trend and it is causing a great deal of concern. I 1375 think that the Committee will agree that these areas represent a serious flaw in the boast that we have full employment. I hope that the Government will look at this again critically and consider what can be done to assist these parts of Wales which are so rich in culture and which can make so great a contribution to the country as a whole.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
May I first refer to the speech made by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and congratulate her, if it is in order for me to do so, on the fact that she has been chosen to make one of the party political broadcasts. It is always attractive, and sometimes useful, to have a preview of what she is likely to say on that occasion.
I think that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary answered with skill and conviction the criticism that little had been done for the Development Areas; nevertheless, I feel that there is something in the hon. Lady's argument and, indeed, in that of the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) that these Development Areas were designated, and the Distribution of Industry Act was devised, at a time when circumstances were rather different from the present.
The advantages which the Distribution of Industry Act gives to an employer, and which act as an added attraction to him to settle in a Development Area are, first, that there is a supply of skilled and unskilled labour there which is easily accessible, and which, to an industrialist, is a very important consideration. In many cases, there are ready-made factories at low rentals, and a third advantage is the priority in Government contracts, under certain rather closely defined circumstances, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and, finally, in some cases there is the advantage of being able to obtain a loan.
Unemployment is a very different problem, and, happily, a very much less acute problem, than it was at the time when the Distribution of Industry Act and the conception of the Development Areas was first thought of. To show how close, in Scotland—and it is to Scotland, in particular, that I wish to refer—the unemployment figures in the Development 1376 Areas and outside them have now come, I may say that, in December of this year, the unemployment figure for the whole country was 27 per cent., and that for the Development Areas was 29 per cent.
That shows a very narrow difference, and I am sure that, if one analysed particular parts of Development Areas, we should find some better and some worse. There are some like Greenock, Port Glasgow and Bellshill, which were mentioned by the hon. Lady, where all the advantages of the Development Areas conception should continue to be applied, but there are others in which I think we shall find that unemployment is no worse, and perhaps even better, than in the country as a whole.
If one goes on pumping all available industry into Development Areas merely because they have been scheduled as Development Areas, we may end up by pumping it into places where, in fact, there is less need of it than there is outside the Development Area itself. There are all kinds of different problems connected with it, to some of which the hon. Gentleman referred, and one might easily make out a considerable case for a particular industry being settled in some other area rather than in a Development Area itself. We may even arrive at the paradoxical situation in which, by persuading industry to go and settle there, we—and this is claimed to be the case in Scotland in some instances—hurt the rest of the country.
There are, for example, and I have mentioned this matter before, the expanding mining industries. The conception there was that places like Glenrothes are in need of some form of employment for the daughters, and perhaps for the wives, of the miners—some lighter form of industry which would employ the whole of the employable population in that area. That is just the sort of place which, I think, needs special attention.
Then there are small and remote communities living in a declining economy. Instead of waiting until pockets of unemployment have shown themselves, it surely would be wiser to try to find out and mark down particular places—towns or areas—of that kind, and try to persuade some industry to go there in order to stop the decline, or even to prevent it before it has started. There is the 1377 example of the Dundee Development Area, where, I understand, for a time—and, perhaps, it still is so—there has been a shortage of labour for Dundee's historic jute industry. Yet, despite that fact, new industries were being persuaded and attracted into the Development Area, thereby injuring the jute industry, because there was not enough labour to go round the whole lot.
Though, perhaps, not endorsing exactly the same kind of machinery which has been indicated by hon. Members opposite, I would join with them in asking the Minister and the Government to review the whole situation. Whether it can be done by amending the Distribution of Industry Act, whether it can be done by giving limited, or perhaps all, advantages of that Act to other areas, whichever be the system employed, the Government should have the power to attract industries to that part of the country. I am speaking particularly of Scotland, though I have no doubt the same arguments apply to England, in preferring places where such action will do the community the greatest amount of good, whether it be in a Development Area or outside.
The whole of the picture which rests in the mind of the Government, which was originally painted many years ago, ought to be looked at again. We should be assured that such attractions as we are offering just now to foreigners and our own industrialists to settle down should have the effect of bringing industries to those places where they will be of the most benefit to the community, whether that community be inside or outside a Development Area.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
I confess at once that I was exceedingly disappointed by the first speech made on behalf of the Government in this debate. I suppose that it is a disadvantage that the debate comes at the end of a Parliament, and I am conscious of the difficulty of trying to impress upon the Minister to do this, that or something else because of the feeling in my mind that, within a few weeks, he may not be there to do anything of the kind—and I certainly hope that that will be the case.
§ Mr. Collick
I am quite certain that, if the people in the Development Areas could have been in the House and could have heard the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, they would have noticed what I confess I thought was a complete lack of any constructive policy for the Development Areas for the future. I should have expected, and I submit that it is not unreasonable, that the Government today would have taken the opportunity of saying exactly and clearly to the country what was their policy for the future in relation to the Development Areas. We have heard nothing of the kind.
If the Parliamentary Secretary had read the last debate which took place on the Development Areas, he would have been aware that the present President of the Board of Trade was himself discussing whether or not there should be a change in the Development Area policy. He was asking in what respect such changes should be made, and it was obvious to anybody who listened to that debate that the mind of the right hon. Gentleman was in a state of flux on this matter, and that he was inviting the House to put forward suggestions. I came to the House today quite expecting, in the light of that debate, that the Board of Trade, on behalf of the Government, would state quite clearly and specifically what its policy was in relation to the Development Areas, but that is not the position.
§ Mr. Collick
I think that point is answered by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Sir F. Messer), who makes the comment, "That is not policy." I should think it is an obvious comment. I shall develop the point about persuasion in a moment or two.
I have the honour to represent in this House the constituency of Birkenhead, the workers of which have produced some of the finest ships that sail the seas. It is almost wholly dependent on shipbuilding and on the docks for its livelihood, and the concern of anybody who has been interested in this question of 1379 development policy has always been that, where we have an area of the country primarily dependent on one or two big industries, there is an overwhelming case for doing all that is possible for diversifying its industries and bringing new industries into the area.
Everybody who knows the history of this matter is aware of the amazing success which attended the inauguration of this policy of bringing new industries into the distressed areas. That is now common ground. In Birkenhead we are in rather an unfortunate position, in that within the County Borough of Birkenhead there is not too much land available for the building of new factories. In fact, there are no new factories available for any industrialists who want to go there. But we have a very fine site near the docks which was owned by one of the old railway companies.
When the industrial development committee in Birkenhead speculated on whether we could get possession of that land with the idea of bringing new factories there, we discovered that it was tied up with a leasehold of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board. It was at the time when there were changes going on in railway ownership, from private ownership to the Transport Commission. It took us years before we were in a position to get control of that land on which to build new factories. In fact, it was not until private legislation was promoted that that land could be made available.
One could almost write a book on the history of getting possession of that land. Hon. Members who are familiar with this form of legislation can imagine all that could be said about it. We eventually got possession of the land, and we were looking forward to the erection on it of what was known as a communal factory. I do not think that that word is very popular on the benches opposite at the moment. The local authorities urged it upon the Board of Trade. I have done my best to persuade the Parliamentary Secretary, and the Merseyside committee which dealt with the matter has done its best. We have had all sorts of answers, but the one that the Parliamentary Secretary gave us today was quite a new one. The Department must have thought that one up since the previous ones were given.
1380 Years afterwards we got possession of the land and the Corporation of Birkenhead eventually made it available to the Board of Trade. That land remains as it was, undeveloped and unoccupied, and with no new factories. I did not want to interrupt the Parliamentary Secretary too much, but I wanted to ask him what had been done in Birkenhead. I have met the previous Parliamentary Secretary again and again. We have done all that we can to get what we now call an advance factory. I suppose the expression "advance factory" sounds a little more respectable than "communal factory."
We are still waiting for this advance factory to be built on this land, which is one of the finest sites in the whole of Britain. The Department has had this matter under its control, through Northwest Industrial Estates, for years. My criticism of the Government is that they have done nothing whatever about developing that factory in the Borough of Birkenhead.
I want to know what the policy of the Government is. When the Government made their decision to end the control of building, I could never see how anything could be done in these Development Areas. One of the great advantages that the Labour Government had was that they were in a position to say to an industrialist who wanted to build a new factory, say, in London or in Birmingham, "Yes, you can have your factory, provided you build it in Birkenhead or on Merseyside or in Scotland or in one of the Development Areas." Because the Labour Government had that power, the factories went up in those Development Areas. A few went up in my own division of Birkenhead.
The Government having abolished control of building, I want to hear how they propose to get industries into the Development Areas. I do not know, and apparently my hon. Friends do not know either. I am not at all sure that hon. Members opposite know.
§ Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison
I instanced four influences which had the effect of attracting industry into the Development Areas. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not notice that I gave four specific points.
§ Mr. Collick
I am still waiting for those to apply in Birkenhead. Why did we make Merseyside a Development Area? Because industrialists were reluctant to go there.
§ Mr. Collick
As my hon. Friend says, they were not attracted.
If industrialists had been attracted to what were distressed areas, there would have been no need for these Development Areas at all. It is because they were not attracted that the House found it necessary to introduce the Development Area policy. Now that building controls are abolished, I want to know how the Government propose to get industries into those areas. If someone can answer that question, I might get a clue as to how we can attract one or two more industries to Birkenhead. I expected the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us exactly how that was to be done, now that building controls have been swept away. I do not regard that as an unreasonable hope.
It is all very well telling us what building has been going on in the Development Areas, but it is of little value unless at the same time we are told what is the amount of building in other areas than the Development Areas. The Minister promised to give us the figures some time during the debate.
§ Mr. Kaberry
I was asked to state the relationship between the amount of building in the Development Areas and that done throughout the whole of the country. That figure was 18 per cent. For what it is worth, it coincides with a distribution of 18 per cent. of the employed workers in the whole of the country.
§ Mr. Collick
I am not sure that I understand the hon. Gentleman. We want to get this quite clear. Am I right in understanding that the Minister is now saying that of the total factory building going on in this country, 18 per cent. has been in the Development Areas? Is that correct?
§ Mr. Collick
The argument is mine, if my hon. Friend will allow me.
1382 The figure is 18 per cent., in which case the indictment is greater than I had presumed. If the Parliamentary Secretary will look at HANSARD of 25th February, 1953, he will find that his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said this on this very point of the figures of building in the Development Areas:Those figures were for the country as a whole. How do the Development Areas benefit from it? Of the 6,000 factories built since the war, 1,600 were in Development Areas. If we take the matter by area and value, the Development Areas, which contain about one-sixth of the insured population, have had about 40 per cent. of the building."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1953; Vol. 511, c. 2134.]Now the hon. Gentleman tells us that the percentage is 18. The Development Areas, instead of having 40 per cent. of new building, are now down to 18 per cent. under the present Government. If that is not a condemnation of Government policy, I do not know what is.
§ Mr. Collick
He said that that was what he meant. I am willing to give way if the Minister wishes to deny that, but I see that he chooses not to rise and, therefore, quite obviously he accepts the fact.
We had 40 per cent. of new building going on in the Development Areas and now we are told officially from the Government Front Bench that it is 18 per cent. That is my complaint. It is a shocking state of affairs. If we are to take it that the Government statement means that the Government accept that it is perfectly right and proper that the percentage should come down from 40 to 18, I can tell the Minister what my constituents will say about it when I tell them next week, which I certainly propose to do.
Is it not utterly wrong? If we are to have new factories built, why build them in London, in Birmingham, and in the centres of mass population, where problems of road transport, etc., are aggravated, when there are areas like Merseyside and Birkenhead in which these developments are wanted? It is not merely a question of diversification of industry but of another matter on which we have had no word at all from 1383 the benches opposite. Despite the reduction of the figures, which we all welcome, Merseyside still has one of the highest levels of unemployment in the country. The particular tragedy of Merseyside is that whereas for some of the Development Areas the problem is that of employing the more aged part of the population, 50 per cent. of those who are unemployed in Merseyside are under 40 years of age. That is borne out conclusively in a recent report on Merseyside.
There is every reason for going vigorously ahead with the building of new factories in these areas, particularly in Birkenhead, and I am exceedingly sorry that it has not been done. This had been urged upon the Government for a long time and then one fine day the present Minister's predecessor went to Merseyside to be made familiar with the problem. People began to think that something was going to happen now that the Minister had been there. In the following fortnight I put a Question to the Government to find out what had happened. I was given the usual sort of answer with which hon. Members are familiar, and still nothing happened. Until the Government—whether this Government or, as I hope, a Labour Government—do something, I assure the Committee that no Government will have any peace until the problem is tackled and some progress is made in Birkenhead.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
I feel tempted to tell the story of what a householder said to a representative of Birkenhead Brass Band Benevolent Fund, but it would scarcely be Parliamentary. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) knows it full well, and perhaps at a later stage he can tell the story to the Committee.
We had an excellent opening speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) and a good speech from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in his second effort at the Dispatch Box. While they were speaking, there passed through my mind the words of Lord Chandos, then Mr. Oliver Lyttelton, who, in a debate on the Address in reply to the King's Speech on 2nd November, 1950, said that if an industrialist borrowing money at 5 per cent. could not make a 1384 profit he regarded his investment as marginal and eventually discarded it.
Anyone on this side of the Committee who wants to win a seat in the Election will find a number of suitable quotations in that speech. The right hon. Gentleman restated in that speech a principle which is now, of course, out-of-date. The days when that kind of Tory economic philosophy was current are over, because the workers were then discarded along with the marginal investment—
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Watkinson) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Rhodes
—and we will not tolerate it today. The Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head, but he should know that better than anybody in the House if he has been doing his job and going round the country. He should know that where workings were exhausted in places like Workington, on the Cumberland coast, there was no employment for the people, and in the days before the war they were to be found leaning apathetically against their door posts. There is no disputing that that happened. The fact that an investor who could not make a profit after borrowing at 5 per cent. discarded the enterprise without due regard to workers is a matter of history, and is something which has gone with history.
It is also old-fashioned to talk about Development Areas. If modern Governments have been doing their job, the need to schedule an area as a Development Area should not arise because, according to the 1945 and 1950 Acts, distress is the criterion on which a Development Area is assessed. That is still the case. If the criterion for the scheduling of an area as a Development Area is distress, a present-day Government would be failing in their duty if they had not already removed the reasons for scheduling the area as a Development Area. I believe that that statement would be accepted by everybody.
The argument may be advanced that some of these Development Areas are already full, but that has nothing to do with my argument, because all areas should have full employment. The advantage which the Development Areas have had during the last few years is 1385 that they have had new buildings erected. The modern floor space which they possess will stand them in good stead for many years to come. That is a bigger advantage than is enjoyed in many places in Lancashire, despite the fact that full employment has been the rule in those places for many years.
I take exception to the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that private individuals and industrialists should have the choice of what type of factory they put up, if that means excluding the Government from erecting any factories at all.
There are areas where few or no factories are being built. Does the hon. Gentleman realise that in my division, embracing Mossley, Ashton and Droyls-den, all the buildings which have been put up since the war, either new or as extensions or improvements of existing buildings, would find employment for only 1,000 males and females? Buildings which have been in existence for 40, 50, probably 100 years, have only changed in proportion since the war to the extent of approximately 2 per cent. in terms of a working population of about 50,000.
That being the case, let us examine it from the point of view of an area depending on an old industry. We have to get down to this question sooner or later, sooner rather than later. I may say that it also applies to the division of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), as probably there are more cotton workers there than in my division. I do not know how many cotton workers there are in the working population of his constituency, but in mine the number is 9,000 out of 50,000.
§ Mr. Rhodes
Nevertheless, 9,000 out of 50,000 is a very serious matter to me.
I wish to try to persuade the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to bend his mind to the question. Perhaps he can give us his private view of what the Government intend to do with regard to areas such as mine and that of Nelson and Colne, where there are old buildings which today are not suitable for modern machines to go into, even for the industry for which those buildings are being used at present; they could not house the machines. If, because of the way in which they are situated, mills in my area cannot 1386 successfully house the modern machinery available, what on earth are we to do about the problem? The problem is there and needs tackling.
Let us think of the country as a Development Area instead of labelling different areas as Development Areas because at one time they were so regarded. It is just nonsense. My constituency is an area in which the buildings have not kept pace with modern financial investment and where buildings are not being put up to house new machinery available for its particular industry. Buildings should be put up to house new machinery and constructed to house machinery for future industry which may be attracted to the area. I suggest that either this Government or the next should get down to the problem and begin erecting the advance factories which have been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North.
I have been raising this question over a period of three years now. The Parliamentary Secretary will remember that I dealt with it two years ago in a Budget debate. I think that had some little influence on the Chancellor when, last year, he brought forward the investment allowance for buildings. To a certain extent that has worked, but it is no use the Parliamentary Secretary saying that the design of buildings and their style must be left to individual manufacturers alone. What is the use of that if no buildings are being put up? We want to know what is going to be done about it.
Although there has been a slowing down of the drift from north to south, it still continues. The drain is still going on gradually. Are we building houses just as a kind of blind to satisfy people, or do we really believe in building them so that work can be brought to the people? I have pointed out in this House many times that in areas such as mine and many others in Lancashire the inhabitants depend on being able to live near their work. They cannot get their living in the fields; often there are not any fields.
What is going to be done? Under our noses a distressed area can be growing up. We do not want to wait until it is a fait accompli and then have to deal with such an area. We should be reading the signs of the times and taking action. If necessary, we should be improving legislation to enable us to take action. Here 1387 is an opportunity to improve an existing Act, one tiny, constructive thing that can be done. That would be to widen the scope of the Act so that it would be possible to build factories in areas like mine and get ready for their use.
It may be that those factories would be empty for 12 months; they might be empty for two years. What does that matter in terms of human welfare? It does not matter twopence about a factory waiting for people to work in it simply because those people are already in existing industry if, in a year or two, they may have to be finding jobs in another industry. The course I suggest would be a good investment for a small amount of money.
I ask the Government to state a case on this question. What is their view about it? Do they agree that advance factories should be built in areas where there may be full employment now but in which industry may be vulnerable and where at some time in the future those factories will be needed? Let us take time by the forelock and get on with the building of a few factories, perhaps experimentally. No one would blame a Government who had the pluck to do that. I ask the Government seriously to consider doing it.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
This is a very interesting debate for me because it moves along the lines on which I have been compelled to think. I share the views expressed by the Opposition that the redistribution of the population is imperative and urgent.
No one from Scotland can look at the continued growth of London except with apprehension. The agglomerating of the growth of wealth and strength, power and authority, in the south-east of England is a deplorable circumstance which one day some Government must attack. It cannot be repeated too often that one-tenth of the population of this island lives in a third of its area—5 million in Scotland and the other 45 million spread over the rest of the United Kingdom.
The narrow discussion we have had this afternoon has been a criticism of Government policy for giving up the somewhat rigid view that was held as to 1388 what was a distressed area. Perhaps the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) has been even slower than I have been to read what has been said in "Room to Expand." It states:The Development Areas are not distressed areas. During the last 20 years, some of the older industrial areas have been undergoing a remarkable transformation.That is the position at which my right hon. Friend has arrived. There is no need any longer, it seems to me, rigidly to classify the country into distressed and non-distressed areas.
In the city that I represent, which was never officially a distressed area, we have suffered severe restrictions in the city's development because we were not allowed the advantages of so-called distressed areas.
§ Mr. Collick
The hon. Member appears to have forgotten that these areas are no longer called distressed areas, but Development Areas.
§ Mr. Rhodes
My point was that we should be helping transformation now and not waiting for the new distress to come.
§ Sir W. Darling
Those are pertinent observations, and are supplementary to what I have said.
I was remarking that in the City of Edinburgh, which was not a distressed area, so-called by Schedule, we have been hindered for many years in the legitimate development of our business. The City of Edinburgh is an attractive place, both for industry and in other respects, and we have suffered a grievous disadvantage—a limiting disadvantage—in the fact that the major areas of Scotland—the Clyde area, for example—were scheduled as distressed areas while we were excluded. That did not make for any increased development in the so-called distressed areas but merely hindered the development of Edinburgh. I am inclined to think that the two policies could have run quite successfully the one with the other.
The explanation why people start businesses in certain places is very obscure; none can tell. If the Government or their predecessors knew the reason, they would have the key to the Industrial Revolution. Why, for example, did J. and P. Coates set up the thread 1389 industry in Paisley? There was nothing in Paisley especially to justify it. It was a Lancashire industry because it was based on cotton, but it was set up there because Messrs. J. and P. Coates belonged to Paisley, and they said, "Here and in no other place we will set up an industry and make it a success." The successful initiation of industry depends upon persons—
§ Mr. Rhodes
Robert Owen started the cotton mills in Lanarkshire and the thread manufacturers drew their supplies from him.
§ Sir W. Darling
One of the most gratifying things, on the few occasions when I speak, is the mental stimulus which I give to the Opposition. Usually dull and unresponsive, they are sunk in the natural gloom which now oppresses them in view of the imminence of the Election. I am grateful for the opportunity of stirring them.
I was remarking that the starting of new businesses is not the act of any Government at any time. The great businesses of the world, especially the great businesses of this country, have been started because persons said, "Here and in no other place I will set up my business. I elect and choose to start my thread factory in Paisley. It might be better in Lancashire or somewhere where cotton is the major and staple industry, but I am having my factory in Paisley."
We all know the initials and name of W. D. and H. O. Wills. Those gentlemen, for some reason or other, without Government encouragement and support, said, "We will start the business of manufacturing tobacco in Bristol." At that time they were seriously threatened. Messrs. F. and J. Smith were manufacturing tobacco in Glasgow, and still are, but it was thanks to the enterprise, energy, character and quality of the Wills's that the main centre of tobacco manufacturing came to Bristol.
What I want my right hon. Friend to do is to look for the Coates's and the Wills's of this world, because they are the dynamo which drives businesses into being and creates successful industry.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
I plead guilty to being stimulated by the hon. Member. In the way that he is developing this argument, he is getting himself caught up. He is 1390 extolling as a virtue the setting up of the cotton thread industry in Paisley because a family decided to have it there, and the setting up of other industries in other parts of the country, although earlier in his speech he condemned the unequal and inordinate growth of London and the great centres of population. London has grown to its present ridiculous size for exactly the anarchic reasons which the hon. Member is condemning.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
Order. This appears to be a speech rather than an intervention.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That may be so; but hon. Members can talk as often as they like in Committee, and they ought to await their turn.
§ Sir W. Darling
I was putting forward a suggestion which, I thought, would help my right hon. Friend in the dilemma in which he and other Governments find themselves in trying to discover how businesses come into being. They come into being, not by any act of Government, but because persons of character and ability deliberately say, "Here I will have my business and nowhere else."
Why did Ford go to Dagenham? Why did Morris choose to build a motor business in the neighbourhood of Oxford? There was only the reason of a person's determination to have it there. Morris had a cycle shop and developed it into an engineering business. If the Government in those days had resorted to the direction of industry, which was current during the war and which, apparently, is still in the minds of hon. Members opposite, Mr. Morris would have been told, "You cannot have your motor business in Oxford, within the shadow of this ancient university. Birmingham or Coventry is the place for you—anywhere but Oxford." But the stubborn-minded Mr. Morris said, "It is here or nowhere," and he made it "here." Consequently, one of the most important motor industries in the country—I do not think it is without its disadvantages—is established in the neighbourhood of Oxford.
What, then, is the idea in the minds of hon. Members opposite? Their view, it seems to me, is that the Government, 1391 with their clumsy, interfering hands, should try to direct the establishment of industry in places which are suited to their purposes, which deal with the problems of distress and of unemployment. I do not think that way. I think that the Government of the day must take an over-riding interest in the placing of industry up and down the country; but the initiation of industry, with all the enterprise which is required to keep it going, is not the Government's function, and if the Government attempted it they would fail.
We are, I suppose, rightly proud, and appreciative, at any rate, of what has been done in distressed areas—so-called Development Areas—but do not let us be too happy about it. I have never seen any great reason to be particularly happy about it. At a great deal of expense and at the restriction of industry elsewhere in the country, we have established industries in Development Areas, where they cannot have a permanent root. The hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) knows well the fluctuations which have taken place in the Lanarkshire area, with which she is so familiar. In spite of the fact of first-class factories and ample supplies of labour, the uncertainties of business and the mistakes or misjudgments of industrialists have had their effect and it has been extremely difficult to root industry, which has no natural root, in these very distressed areas.
I am not saying that we should not pursue the policy because it has been unsuccessful, but that the picture of a tremendous overall success for this policy is slightly overdone. I believe that the better way is to trust the natural genius of the people. Let us look for the Wills's, the Coates's and the Morris's. Let us find, if we can, another Robert Owen. When so much is being spoken of the direction of industry, where are the powerful Co-operative Wholesale Society and the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society? They have done something, but they are an organisation animated with an idealism which is foreign, at any rate, to the ordinary run of commercial industry. Where are they in these active fields of development? Why do they not take interest in some of these unsuccessful areas and turn them, as free enterprise has done, into hives of industry and success?
1392 I know that the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society has done something. I know that in the retail distributing side it has invaded the North of Scotland with some success, but that is mainly in the retail distributing side and not in the manufacturing side.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
The hon. Member is putting before the Committee an entire distortion of what has taken place with the Co-operative Wholesale Society. I need mention only the immense development of industry on Tyneside by the English Co-operative Wholesale Society to demolish completely the point that the hon. Member is making.
§ Sir W. Darling
It is claimed—the mention of Robert Owen's name by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne brought it to my mind—that the Cooperative Wholesale Society and the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society have behind them an idealism and purpose which is not to be found in ordinary commerce.
I was remarking, I think with truth, that considering its enormous membership, considering the political power which it enjoys, considering the enterprise we may expect from it, we could turn to that important business enterprise. When hon. and right hon. Gentlement opposite complain that private enterprise has failed to develop in some areas as it might have done, we could ask that co-operative enterprise to do more. No other business enterprise has the backing of an important political party, and I am inclined to think that it could help in the duty of development of this sort, sadly neglected by these practical idealists in pursuit of a dividend, who have been not so careful of the ideals of their country and of themselves as they might have been. I put this suggestion because that enterprise has the finance and political backing, and it has the opportunity, and I should like to see it realised.
The future of the Development Areas, I think, should continue on the lines on which it has naturally proceeded. We have worked this experiment, and we are still working this experiment, very fully and completely. I do not think that any project which a Development Area has put up to the Board of Trade has me[...] with rebuttal or refusal.
1393 The question was posed, what advantages are there in starting up a business in a Development Area? One hon. Member opposite said that, control of building having gone, the Government had no control over what happened in industry. There are, I would remind him, other controls which still exist, other advantages which still exist. If I want to start a new industry in a Development Area I can get financial help from the F.C.I. It is a very important thing in these days to get financial help, to get such financial help as has been given and is being generously given by the F.C.I., which, as the hon. Member knows, is partly supported by the insurance companies and the banks, and is partly supported by the Treasury.
If the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) is thinking of strengthening Birkenhead, and if, among his ardent supporters, are persons of character and idealism which makes them willing to build a new factory in Birkenhead, he can tell them that there is no difficulty about building materials, and I can give him the information to pass on to them that, if they want more finance, which, I learn from Socialists, is also important, they can get it from F.C.I.
§ Mr. Collick
I was not unaware of the facilities provided under the Distribution of Industry Acts, but I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell the Committee what controls there are which prevent industry from being established elsewhere than in Development Areas.
§ Sir W. Darling
Development Areas have certain advantages. If I want to start a factory in Birkenhead, instead of starting it in Edinburgh, I shall have a certain advantage. If I start a factory in Edinburgh I have to find the money. I do not need to do that if I want to start a factory in Birkenhead. That is an advantage. That is an advantage which Birkenhead has over Edinburgh. I do not begrudge Birkenhead that advantage. Birkenhead has produced many famous men, and some of them have sat in this Committee.
Nor do I despair of humanity, as does the hon. Member. I believe that in Birkenhead there are men of ability and character who, properly stimulated, and not discouraged by lethal legislation, may be persuaded to make of Birkenhead 1394 something more than Birkenhead is today. Why should they not? Are all the great men dead? Has industry been smothered by Socialism? Is that what the hon. Member believes? Or is Birkenhead to be saved by the people of Edinburgh or of Bournemouth? Are they to go over to help Birkenhead? Is that the cry? Has Birkenhead lost the ability to help itself? I hope not. If the hon. Gentleman is going to tell that to his constituents he will not be able to lead them into this development which is so desirable.
There is another aspect of the question. There is a suggestion that we should build factories in anticipation of demand for them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, who has left the Chamber, was very eloquent about the importance of erecting large numbers of factories all over the country whether we need them or not, and he said that if we did not need them for three months or six months or for a couple of years, that was nothing. It is an interesting suggestion, and there is something to be said for it. When the building trade, possibly, slackens, I for one should be quite willing to consider it.
I remember how, during the war, we had to build in Scotland storage to preserve necessary supplies for the people in the southern part of the county. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that to build factories in advance of the need may well be a policy for some distant time. However, what he overlooks, and what, I think, the Committee overlooks, is that if this sort of development of factories in advance has not been taking place it is not because the Government have been idle. We have been building houses, we have been building schools, we have been building hospitals.
If another policy had been followed, if we had been building factories in advance of the need for them, what would right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have said about the Government? They would have said that the Government had built factories for alien capitalists, for Americans to start businesses in distressed areas, empty factories standing idle, and requiring watchmen and all sorts of other labour to be absorbed in looking after them. The Government would have been blamed for having done that instead of having built houses and schools and hospitals.
1395 Instead of building factories in advance, the Government, in a measure which commands the admiration and envy of the Opposition, have been building houses by the tens of thousands. That is our achievement, and I think we may leave that to the consideration of the electors of Birkenhead—if I may return to them, for I am quite familiar with them by now—so that they may consider what relief they have had through this provision of houses, which they would not have been able to enjoy if the Government had followed the somewhat fantastic policy of building factories in advance.
On the whole, the policy of the Government has been a policy which any sensible man of affairs would have followed. If the problem of the distressed areas is urgent and demands drastic measures, then that is one consideration, but now they have largely been drawn into the general economy of the country, and I think that the future policy of the Board of Trade must be, not to direct special attention to special areas, but to direct its attention to the stimulus of industry all over the country, so that the upsurge already manifest, the upsurge represented by a figure of unemployment down to 2 per cent., will be increased, and so that factories are started not only in the old Development Areas but everywhere, as in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Like the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North, I hope that the advance will be most noticeable in that part of the country which she and I have the honour to represent.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I gather from the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) that he is perfectly satisfied with the Government, their policy and their record. That does not surprise me, because he is always a loyal supporter of his party. The Parliamentary Secretary was so obviously satisfied with himself that it would have been extremely disloyal on the part of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South not have come to his support.
§ Mr. Silverman
Of course I am, and if that means that the hon. Member accepts 1396 what I say in the complimentary phrase in which it was offered I am delighted, because I can find nothing else to justify his speech but his loyalty to the Government.
§ Mr. Silverman
There are other qualities which are necessary when we are dealing with the lives of human beings, other loyalties than loyalty to a particular Minister or a particular Government at a particular time, when there happens to be an election coming on.
I can quite understand why the hon. Member was eager to rush in. He does not represent a Development Area. He does not have to go to the City of Edinburgh to defend the Government's policy in the Development Areas, because the electors there are no more interested in them than he is himself, but if the hon. Member really believes one word of what he says—and he is far too intelligent a man for me to believe that that is possible—then I invite him to help me with a personal problem.
During an election there is a great drain upon intelligent and eloquent speakers, particularly when it comes to the end of the campaign. I am at my wits' end to find a suitable speaker at the eve-of-the-poll rally at Nelson and Colne, and if the hon. Baronet will come to Nelson and Colne on 25th May and speak at my eve-of-the-poll rally I can promise him an enthusiastic reception and an audience of 3,000.
The offer will remain open until 25th May. Whatever other offers I receive in the meantime, I promise him that I will accept any offer by him to persuade the electors in Nelson and Colne that the Government's policy in the Development Areas is satisfactory and deserves support. We will send him a car, or an aeroplane if he likes, and give him all the entertainment of whatever kind he prefers, Scottish or otherwise.
§ Mr. Silverman
With great respect, Sir Rhys, if I may say so they are extremely relevant. The value of an argument has to be tested by the audience to which it is addressed and I am inviting the hon. Member to address his argument, in 1397 order to test its validity, to people who are concerned with this matter and not merely to people who want to make swashbuckling speeches in the House of Commons to get the Government out of a difficulty.
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Gentleman said it would be easy to make a speech in the City of Edinburgh on the subject as it is not a Development Area. I can tell him that the people of the City of Edinburgh often are aggrieved about the Government's distressed area policy because they are not allowed to expand their business—and I speak, for example, of an engineering works of which I am chairman.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am certain that all the areas in the country which are not Development Areas and which are represented by Conservative Members are satisfied with the Government's policy in Development Areas. Why should they not be? What I am saying is that the test is for the hon. Gentleman to persuade the people who are affected by these policies that they are right. That is the test: come and try it.
I had no intention at the beginning of the debate of taking part in it at all. It did not seem to me to be worth while. The answers of the Government about this problem, at the end of their term of office, when they are about to go out, are not nearly as important as they used to be, and the argument can be better addressed to the more sympathetic and more constructive minds of my right hon. and hon. Friends who will be sitting on the Government Benches in a month's time. If I take part in the debate at all it is because I was stimulated to do so by the speeches in defence of the Government—but not the speech of the hon. Member. It was the Minister's speech which shocked me into offering some contribution to the debate.
I do not want to say anything unnecessarily unkind. The Parliamentary Secretary has not been in the Department for very long. I think he has only once before had to defend the policy of his Department in a major debate in the House. I am not blaming him in the least for the way in which he addressed himself to his task, which I am sure was quite competent. If the case which he had to present sounded so lamentably 1398 inadequate I am content to agree that it was the facts which defeated him and not his ability in presenting them.
With great respect to him, I do not think he has ever addressed his mind to what this problem is. I do not believe for one moment that the Government as a whole or any Minister in it agrees with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South. The hon. Member is still living in the middle nineteenth century. He still agrees with Bright and Cobden—
§ Mr. Silverman
No, Cobden. My right hon. Friend rightly corrects my history, but I think I am right in saying that those gentlemen were never members of the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
I think that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling) agrees even more with Prince Kropotkin.
§ Mr. Silverman
I will not be led into those realms, If I were tempted to do so I do not think I should get very far.
The Conservative Government at no time and no Government this century have believed that we can safely leave the distribution of industry to the whim and fancy of entrepreneurs. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South can go on thinking so if he likes. He can make eloquent, attractive, swashbuckling speeches which give great entertainment to us, but they have nothing to do with the facts and do not agree with the opinion of any responsible politician.
Nobody believes that we can leave this alone. Nobody with any sense of social responsibility would tolerate for a moment the idea that we can leave all these matters to the private competition of individuals competing with one another and hope that the public benefit, as a kind of incidental by-product, will come out of it, although nobody is thinking of it and nobody is planning for it.
That is not the Government's case. The Government's case is that there are areas in the country which need special assistance in diversifying their industry, in some cases, or in attracting any kind of industry to them, in other cases. The Government feel that they are entitled to special assistance because of something or other in their nature, in the locality, in the historic or economic development, 1399 in the geographical surroundings, in the movement of world economic forces; and because, if we leave it to the industries being attracted to these areas by their own selfish interest, they will not be attracted and industries will not go there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) pointed out that when the Labour Government tried to improve and adapt to post-war conditions the Development Area legislation they retained in their hands the power to make it good. If one retains a power to control buildings, that is not as severe a sanction as to give oneself a power to direct industry to places, but it is a negative sanction in the same direction and a negative sanction can be just as effective as a positive sanction.
As one of their first acts, this Government abandoned that power, yet they retained the belief that industry, for other than purely commercial motives, must be attracted into those areas which, owing to their special circumstances, require special assistance. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South would have been in no difficulty. He says flatly, openly, without qualification of any kind, "If you do not succeed on your own commercial merits in attracting industry into your area, then go without."
If that were the Government's case we would be quite happy to meet them on that ground. But that is not the Government's case. The Government believe at one and the same time that they ought to assist Development Areas to attract industries which would not go there without that assistance and also that they must abandon the only power which they ever had to bring about that result. There has been no answer to this question, although several of my hon. Friends have pressed it: "If you do not control building and you do believe that there ought to be special powers in respect of Development Areas, what are the special powers which you have; and if you have none, what are the special powers which you propose to take?"
The Parliamentary Secretary apparently never thought of it at all. He makes speeches which I and some of my hon. Friends find extremely difficult to understand. I do not know whether they agree or disagree with earlier pronouncements from the Government on the same issue. I hope I am not being unfair, but 1400 the hon. Gentleman, in the answers which he offered, did not seem himself to know whether they agreed or disagreed with previous statements on Government policy. Has there, in fact, been a fall in the proportion of new buildings in Development Areas to new buildings in the country as a whole?
§ Mr. Silverman
Is it possible to get a plain answer to that question by which the Government will stand?
At one time they were saying that 40 per cent. of new building was in the Development Area last year, but the hon. Gentleman presumably intended to be understood as speaking not of last year but of this year, and he said that the proportion is 18 per cent.? Is this a fact or not a fact? Is it admitted or denied that the Government, as a matter of State policy, have altered the ratio of new building in the Development Areas to new building elsewhere, and how have they done it without any control on building?
§ Sir W. Darling
If the hon. Gentleman would allow me, let me tell him of two important industries started in Scotland outside Development Areas, Distillers at Grangemouth and Ferranti at Edinburgh. That was because of a free choice.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member has made his speech and I have said enough to convince him that I understood it the first time without his repeating it every second sentence of mine.
We know perfectly well—and this is the whole basis of the argument—that, if we leave it to free choice, then the people will go where they prefer and the pattern of industry to which we object will not be cured. We understand the hon. Member does not mind that, but, as I have already said, if the Government did not mind either then we would understand their case and would meet them on that ground, though we should not agree with it for a moment any more than we agree with the hon. Member.
That is not their case, however. They say they want to interfere. They do not 1401 think it ought to be left to free choice. They recognise that if we leave it to free choice we shall get a badly proportioned national industry, and some communities, through no fault of their own, will bear a bigger share than they ought to bear of setbacks in industry as a whole or in particular industries. What all of us are looking for, except the hon. Member, is some way of preventing that. What I am asking is, was it the Government's intention and did they deliberately produce the result which is not the result they said they wanted, not the result we wanted, but the result that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South wanted but which nobody else in the country wants?
I understood the Parliamentary Secretary to say that the 18 per cent. which the new building in the Development Areas bears to the new building in the country as a whole, corresponds—I hope I have got this right—to the proportion of insurable population between the Development Areas and the rest of the country. If that is so, then, obviously, we get no advantage at all. The level is exactly the same. There is no discrimination in favour of the Development Areas when it is the hypothesis on which the policy is being advanced by the Government, and all of us say that there ought to be a discrimination in favour of the Development Areas.
If one has understood the Minister correctly, what has happened—if we have got it wrong it is not our fault; we are repeating what he has told us this afternoon—within the space of twelve months is that the Government have altered matters in such a way that whereas there used to be 40 per cent. building in the Development Areas as against 60 per cent. in all the rest of the country, that has now been reduced to 18 per cent. as against 82 per cent. everywhere else, so that the Development Areas no longer get an advantage at all.
If that is what the Government have done and if that is what the Government intend to do and are prepared to defend, why do they have an Act dealing with Development Areas at all? Why do they pretend to have a Development Area policy?
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not want to be too long about this, but I wish to go at once to the particular area in which I am interested. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) spoke just now with his great knowledge of the textile industry as a manufacturer of standing and of long experience in that particular trade. He dealt with this kind of situation as it affected his own constituency and he gave us some figures. He said that out of an insurable population of 50,000, 9,000 were employed in the textile trade. He thought that was a very serious proportion which entitled him to make representations to the Government about his area. He was quite right. I certainly have not a single word to say in dissent from his proposition, but if his figure is 9,000 out of 50,000 who earn their living out of the cotton industry, how much more is it true of an area in which 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. of the insurable population are trying to make their living out of the cotton industry?
The Government, very belatedly, have recognised the difficulties. I have been here nearly twenty years. I spent a great part of my Parliamentary activities, together with other Lancashire Members, in the years before the war, trying to persuade the Government of those days to make Lancashire, or at any rate this part of it, what we used to call in those years a Special Area. They would not do it. It is true that my right hon. Friends when they were the Government between 1945 and 1950 did not do it either; but in those years there was no reason why they should. Those are the only five years in almost a hundred years when there has been no difficulty or unemployment or depression in the cotton industry at all.
But now there is. There is unemployment and there is short time, which is growing. The omens are not favourable. The trends show a rapidly worsening situation. I grant the Parliamentary Secretary that it is not a crisis yet. Do the Government intend to wait until it is before doing anything about it? Almost every day last week we were promised a Government statement about the position of Lancashire and the cotton trade before Parliament is dissolved. There are but three days left. Was the Minister's 1403 speech just now the Government's contribution to the solution of the difficulties of the cotton trade? He hardly mentioned it until he was reminded of it.
The Government, four years ago, at long last made this area the North-East Lancashire Development Area. Is the hon. Gentleman proud of the results? Does he know what they are? There is no answer; no enthusiasm, obviously. There is less enthusiasm in North-East Lancashire. My constituency—and everybody knows that it is as seriously placed in this matter as any other area in the whole of the land—has not profited one scrap or shred by the Order declaring North-East Lancashire a Development Area.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
Will my hon. Friend allow me to supplement that? My constituency is in the South Lancashire Development Area, which the Minister described in glowing and self-satisfied terms, and it, too, has not received one scrap of assistance from the Government in the whole of the four years during which I have had the honour to represent it in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Silverman
There are other places about which, with equal accuracy, the same could be said. Some of my hon. Friends were jealous of us at the time. There was a little debate in the House of Commons when the Order was promulgated to make this a Development Area. There were many of my hon. Friends around me who represent neighbouring constituencies. They were very good about it. They were unselfish and comradely. They did not say a single word against North-East Lancashire having these vast advantages that the Government were offering; but they said that it was a pity that the area was so restricted.
They put in a plea for their own constituencies, many of which, though not quite so hard hit as some of those within the area, come so closely to it as to make the distinction hardly worth drawing. The debate was not one against the Order at all. It was an appeal by the excluded for a widening of the frontiers so that they could come in and share it with us. Share what? They need not have expended so much eloquence. We have got absolutely nothing whatever out of it—nothing at all.
1404 There has been much boasting from time to time by the President of the Board of Trade. He says, "Do not say that we have not done anything at all in North-East Lancashire; we have planned to build the biggest factory that has ever been built by the Government in the area." For four years they have planned to build something, but we have not got it yet; and when we do get it, where will it be? It will be at Simonstone. I am not begrudging it to them. Anyone who can get anything out of this Government is to be congratulated on having got it. It is in the extreme south-west tip of the area, in that part of it which is the least hard hit and in which industry was already rather better diversified than it is in most of the rest of the area; and it happens to be represented in the House of Commons by the only Conservative Member representing that part of Lancashire.
Is the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South now prepared to accept my invitation to come to defend the Government's record on Development Areas? The invitation still stands.
§ Sir W. Darling
When I do accept an invitation the hon. Gentleman protests that I am interrupting him. I will not be discourteous. He has invited me to come to Nelson and Colne and I invite him to come to South Edinburgh on the night before the poll.
§ Mr. Silverman
If an arrangement can be made, and both our Election agents will agree, I shall be delighted to speak in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, either on his platform or on anybody else's. I shall make the same speech whichever platform it is.
§ Mr. Silverman
I leave the point, Sir Rhys, but I say that, whether or not I am able to accept the invitation, if the hon. Gentleman accepts mine there will be no interruptions. He will be listened to with bated breath by as many people as we can crowd into the hall and in perfect silence—the silence of extreme wonderment and curiosity. In all their lives they will never have seen such an exhibition before.
These are the hard facts of the situation. Whatever may be said about the 1405 policy on Development Areas generally, I do not think anybody can argue that where we have a constituency or an area which has all its eggs in one basket—where the sole trade, as with the cotton trade, is an industry which cannot look forward to the same kind of virtual world monopoly that it had in the early days fifty or a hundred years ago—there is absolutely no intelligible argument against Government assistance, Government direction, planned, deliberate, Government policy, in order to diversify industry. Power to do it was given four years ago, but the Government have done just nothing whatever about it ever since.
It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to get up in this Committee and become a kind of Billy Graham of Conservative politics, using a quiet, gentle, persuasive self-hypnotism with the hope that, somehow or other, it will spread and that people will forget their troubles and say, "Well, after all, for the moment, at any rate, things do not seem so bad." I tell him that in Lancashire the people are more realistic than that, that they are harder-headed than that, and that if the Government lose very heavily in the General Election in Lancashire, as I for one hope and believe they will, they will have only themselves to blame.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)
I wish to speak about the North-East Development Area and I start by saying that we are bitterly disappointed at the attitude of the Government towards this area. We have suffered badly in the past few years. The Government banned the utilities and services schemes which had already been prepared. Water and sewerage schemes were banned by the Government and they were scrapped.
In addition, we have had the loss of priority for the Tyne tunnel and the scrapping of the Boldon airport scheme. All this has happened under the Conservative Government and, worst of all, we have had a miserable deal from successive Ministers of Transport on road schemes. We have seen both Ministers of Transport and absolutely failed to get a square deal for the North-East. I had the disappointing job of pressing the President of the Board of Trade for over a year when we had two factories vacant in Sunderland, and could not get a spark 1406 of enterprise from the Board of Trade. The factories were vacant until we were fortunate enough to get a couple of tenants, but meanwhile—and I would stress this to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling)—the women who worked in the factories had to leave the town to find work elsewhere or to "sign on" for the dole. That is what has happened in Sunderland.
We are now convinced that of all the areas affected by the 4½ per cent. Bank Rate increase, the North-East will be as badly hit as any. And why? We are shipbuilders, and ships are built on borrowed money. We have these new enterprises in the North-East expanding on borrowed money. They are now prejudiced, and that is why I am surprised and shocked to observe that throughout the whole of this debate we have not for one minute had the attendance of the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams).
I can understand the hon. Member's sense of immediate insecurity and its distractions. But I should have thought that, as he has done his best to upset many of the efforts we have made in the North-East he would have been here to render his account today. I should have thought that, at least, he would be taking this opportunity to say something on behalf of those in Sunderland and the North-East.
The Parliamentary Secretary talked of advance factories. What is the position in Sunderland? Half the factories there—this is no exaggeration—are no longer occupied by the original tenants. We had the assurance of an advance factory for Sunderland, but when this Government came into office we lost it. That is what this Government have done for the North-East. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and other hon. Members, it is clear that the Government now admit, through a Parliamentary Secretary—who has had no responsibility; he is not responsible for what has happened but has been honest enough to admit it—that they no longer have a Development Area policy.
The best that the hon. Gentleman can say is that as many factories are being built in the Development Area as in the rest of the country. That is not a 1407 Development Area policy. A Development Area policy means that more factories are being built in the Development Areas. In Sunderland and elsewhere in the North-East Development Area we have double the national rate of unemployment. I felt sorry for the hon. Gentleman when he quoted figures. I will quote another figure. When, at last, the President of the Board of Trade saw the Northern group of Labour Members—after shilly-shallying, and he has not yet seen the representatives of the Durham County Council—he was as urbane as usual, and pleased with himself, and he wrote to me afterwards, putting it on record. That is what he said:Between 1948 and 1953 the numbers in employment for the Development Area "—that is, our own North-East Development Area—increased by about 36,000.Well, of course, he was right, but I have asked for the figures each quarter, and what is the position? Out of that 36,000, 35,500 were provided with employment under the Labour Government. Out of that 36,000, this Government provided employment for 352.
If we give this Government credit for all that they have done during the past three years, and bring the figures up to date, whereas, in the three years prior to the General Election, we provided employment for 35,000, this Government have provided employment for 1,500—the figures are in HANSARD. I asked for the figures every quarter. That is the measure of the Government's Development Area policy. The increase under the Labour Government was nearly thirty times the rate of that under the Conservative Government, and all this Government can say is, "Well, we are not doing anything to damage you in the Development Area. You are no worse off than anyone else in the country." That was the burden of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech.
We are worse off than the rest of the country. For the last few years we in Sunderland have been running at a figure of 4,000 unemployed, rather more or less. That is why we want new factories. That is why we cannot tolerate factories being left idle and vacant. In case the Parliamentary Secretary thinks that I am being too extreme in what I am saying, I will 1408 call his attention to the recently published Report of the North-East Industrial and Development Association. These are some of the points it makes. I quote from the Report and would like the hon. Gentleman to answer these points. It states that in textiles, clothing, and electrical goods, unemployment has shown a tendency to rise.
What have the Government done about it? How is aid through Government contracts for firms in the North-East working? Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that today there is acute anxiety in the furniture factories where overtime has stopped and where some will be working short-time? What is he doing about it? I quote again from the ReportThe female unemployment rate in the North-East remains unduly high.Those are not my words. What are the Government doing about it? What are they doing to help the women in the North-East? The Report states that as far as male unemployment is concernedit widened slightly in the first seven months of 1954. A contributory factor was the slack time experienced by the ship repairing industry in the winter and spring.What have the Government done about it? What have the Government done to help us with shipbuilding on Wearside and Tyneside? We had all the difficulties when they bungled the steel allocations but this Report points out that we are being prejudiced in comparison with Tees-side and I want to know what the Government propose to do. I am not prepared to stand idly by and hear the Government say," Well, it is true that your unemployment figure is higher than the rest of the country, but it is not very high." That is an attitude which we in the North-East cannot tolerate. We say, "Why, therefore, have you stopped all these development schemes, these projects which we had in the North-East?"
I will conclude by dealing with the case of Sunderland. That is a matter which directly affects the Government, because the Government built the factories. In Sunderland, we have 1,000 fewer people working in these factories than when this Government took office; and that, in spite of the fact that before this Government took office we brought the Bristol Aeroplane Company to Sunderland. I will give the figures—they are all in HANSARD, because each quarter I asked for them. In September, 1951, 1409 there were 5,544 people engaged in the Trading Estate factories in Sunderland. On 28th August last year that figure had fallen to 4,081 a drop of 1,500.
This is not even a case of saying that we run in line with the rest of the country. Here we have factories in which the Government invested their money and yet by midsummer last year—the latest figure we have—these factories were employing 1,500 fewer people than before. I have not yet the later figures from the Trading Estate Company, but I assume that the figures have recently improved. At a time when we were employing 1,500 fewer people than when they took office, this Government did nothing at all. They said that it was up to private industry, private enterprise, to come and help us in the North-East. Today, if we survey Development Area policy, what do we find? In the North-East as a whole, whereas we were increasing employment by 10,000 to 15,000 a year, under this Government there has been an increase of a few hundreds a year, and indeed the numbers employed in the Government factories in Sunderland have fallen since this Government took office.
I can think of no greater indictment of this Government, and when I heard the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South I could see why. There are far too many back benchers in the party opposite hagridden by free enterprise and worrying the Government. That is why there has been this dramatic change in the Development Area policy. That is why we in the North-East are worried, and it is probably because of that anxiety that the hon. Member for Sunderland. South is not in his place today.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
I regret that the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) is not in her place, because she began her speech by giving some very highly selective unemployment figures for Scotland. She took the latest figure for unemployment in Scotland and compared it with an annual average. The hon. Lady must know that unemployment is always at its highest at this time of the year. Indeed, in July, 1954, unemployment in Scotland was the second lowest figure for that time of year since the war. The hon. Lady should also know that that was after the figure for February, 1954, 1410 was very much higher than it is now—about 10,000 higher. Therefore, we might easily have, and, indeed, we hope to have, at least the same recovery this year as we had last year.
The hon. Lady also referred to possible huge developments in the Development Areas in Scotland. I should have thought that she would have known the facts here, too. For example, in the Annual Report of the Clydesdale and North of Scotland Bank, Ltd., a copy of which I believe all hon. Members received, is given a very detailed account of the many new factories completed in Development Areas, including extensions and factories projected at the present time. I have the list here, and it is a very impressive one.
There is the question, of course, whether all the development should be concentrated in Development Areas. The hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) laid claim for a much larger proportion of new factories than are now being built in Development Areas. It is interesting to note that the Scottish Council for Development and Industry reached the following conclusion:It is the firm conviction of the Executive Committee that the Government's distribution of industry policy requires modification "—this is a non-party Committee—to meet conditions which are very different from what they were at the conclusion of the Second World War, and that the criterion in providing facilities for development at the public expense should be … the general advantage of the community as a whole, irrespective of geographical location.That being so, it is doubtful whether the present policy, so far as Scotland is concerned, is the right one. In actual fact, the proportion of new building in Development Areas in Scotland, according to the figures given in the Report of the Clydesdale and North of Scotland Bank, Ltd., are well maintained at the present time, or were at any rate up to the time of the latest figures given in that Report.
Then there is the marginal question, which is one that concerns the constituency which I have the honour to represent. The Lanarkshire Development Area comes down just into Dumfriesshire and stops on one side of the railway line in the middle of a town. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) spoke about areas with all 1411 their eggs in one basket. In his case, the eggs were made of cotton, whereas, in this instance, mine are made of coal. It is the Sanquhar and Kirkconnel district, a coal mining area, in which there is a shortage of employment for women and a lack of diversification of employment, which is always a difficulty, the more so because miners are coming into the area from Lanarkshire, where they have been accustomed to a certain amount of diversification of employment for both themselves and their families.
The fact that diversification of employment does not exist in the Sanquhar and Kirkconnel area means that people may have to go 24 to 28 miles into Dumfries to find employment. That is not always a very agreeable prospect, especially in the depth of winter. Therefore, there is a strong case for marginal adjustments being made to the boundaries of Development Areas.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne also spoke about the need for some form of Government direction in order to get industry to the place where it is most needed. What is to be the form of that direction? During the last few days I have been told of an industry which was virtually directed to go to a certain place. It pointed out that to go there would mean increasing its transport charges very heavily indeed and thus rendering it non-competitive. In the end, it did not go there.
Can we direct firms to go to places in which it is not economic for them to manufacture? We know, of course, that it is possible to make concessions in respect of rent in the early years of factories built by the development estates. That represents a certain aid in the early stages when a factory is seeking to establish itself.
I very much wonder whether a more fundamental solution to the problem is not required. After all, there are many boroughs and towns throughout the country—generally speaking, of medium size—which have strong local traditions. It is in such places that it is to the advantage of the country as a whole to maintain and stimulate the life, and it is necessary to ensure that they will not gradually die.
It seems that in Scotland, at any rate, there is a tendency for labour to be drawn 1412 just from those very places into the Development Areas. We start by bringing work to the people in the Development Areas, and then, at a certain time, the work may well exceed the capacity of the local people and more people have to be drawn in. For example, how many Italians are unemployed at Trostre in South Wales at present?
§ Miss Herbison
Has the hon. Gentleman any evidence to prove that any of the Development Areas in Scotland have been drawing people from the small towns? I think that his point is a valid one, say, for example, in the Border areas and elsewhere, but does he know of any Development Area in Scotland where there is no unemployment at present?
§ Mr. Macpherson
The hon. Lady has asked two wholly distinct questions. Certain types of industry will attract certain types of people to them, and I know of people who have been drawn away in that fashion. What I am saying is that, for the life of the country as a whole, it is important to reinforce the life of these medium-sized towns.
What are the difficulties? There are difficulties of technical training and the acquirement of skill. If we are to direct factories to Development Areas, we must quite clearly do two things. We must ensure in the early days, when that skill is being acquired, that during the development period the firm does not go bankrupt. It must be supported in those early days, and I doubt whether a mere concession in the matter of rent is sufficient to enable that result to be obtained. We must also make certain that technical education is greatly strengthened in these smaller places. This task is being pursued just now, but there is still room for great progress.
I urge the Government to consider the two points which I have made: first, that there should be marginal extension of development areas, where reasonable, and, secondly, that additional encouragement might be given other than the temporary remission or reduction of rent in the early stages of the life of a factory.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
The Parliamentary Secretary has had a difficult time today. I think we can find it in our hearts to be a little sorry for 1413 him, because he is newly come to his office and has to try to deal with the deficiencies of his predecessor and the complete absence of a policy on the part of the President of the Board of Trade. We are grateful for him for one thing; at long last he has given us what we now recognise to be the policy of the Tory Government in relation to Development Areas.
My hon. Friends and I have been trying for a long time to find out from the Government what that policy was. In November last, during a debate upon Welsh affairs, I quoted a speech made by Sir Percy Thomas, who was then the Chairman of the Welsh Board for Industry, and who had said that now that building licences had been withdrawn the attraction of new industries would depend upon the zeal and enthusiasm of local people, and that that would have to be the spur. I dealt with that point in the course of the debate and asked the Minister whether that was the true position. We have never had an answer to that question until today—and now the Parliamentary Secretary has told us that the only policy pursued by the Government has been one of persuasion.
I should like to know how the Government have been implementing that policy. The zeal and enthusiasm of local people—as the Parliamentary Secretary knows—has been demonstrated, at any rate by my constituents in Blaenavon, who have been to see his predecessor on innumerable occasions. We demonstrated the grievous situation which exists in Blaenavon to such an extent that, in the end, the hon. Gentleman's predecessor refused to see our delegations. Nothing has been done. Some correspondence and telegrams passed between the President of the Board of Trade and myself, and in one of the letters the President promised to visit Blaenavon to see the conditions, but he has not done so.
What have the Government been doing in their policy of persuasion? We have been trying to persuade the Government to do something, but as far as we know they have not done a single thing. Is it a fact that instead of persuading industrialists to come to Blaenavon the Board of Trade have dissuaded one industrialist from doing so?
§ Mr. West
I am very glad to hear that, because we know, and he knows, that there was an industry upon which the town depended and which has been closed during the period of this Government's office.
It may not be within the knowledge of the Parliamentary Secretary, but there was a time when the undertaking which was in operation in Blaenavon had as much as £500,000 worth of orders upon its books and ready to complete, provided that it could get some money to carry it over. Application was made to the Government under the Distribution of Industry Acts for assistance to enable it to do so, but it was not forthcoming. The result was that the industry was closed; the orders were lost, and the people were thrown out of employment.
The hon. Member has talked about the increase of employment and of the good employment position both in the Development Areas and the country as a whole, but he has not said that his figures do not show the large number of skilled men who have had to take up inferior jobs, such as labouring. The fact that these thousands of skilled men are having to take up unskilled jobs is a great disadvantage not only to them and to their locality, but to the nation.
The Government have not done a single thing to help the town of Blaenavon. Very shortly after being appointed to his present post the Parliamentary Secretary was good enough to see a deputation from that town. That deputation had seen the Chairman of the National Coal Board, who graciously received us and listened to our case. We hoped that the Coal Board would be able to help us. While in London we were determined that, in one way or another, we would try to have another interview with the President of the Board of Trade, even if we had to be turned out. I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for seeing us in the House of Commons, thus preventing that unfortunate occurrence.
The Parliamentary Secretary was very sympathetic, but we have had expressions of sympathy from the Board of Trade time and time again, and not a thing has been done. We want to know why the Government have not done something to save this town. We have demonstrated that the population is dwindling, that 1415 local government services will become impossible, and that the churches have been holding meetings to deplore the fact that church membership is falling because people have to go out of the district to find employment. All this means that Blaenavon is becoming a derelict town, and this has been happening since the Government have been in office.
The Parliamentary Secretary will not be able to do anything about it in the short time left to him in this Parliament. All I can say, speaking in the closing stages of this Parliament on behalf of Blaenavon, is that we condemn the Government for their inaction and hope that very soon we shall have a Government which will do something to help us.
§ 6.58 p.m
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. N. Macpherson) has now left the Chamber. He said one or two things which I should have liked to take up in his presence, but I do not think that anyone will grudge me the opportunity of putting something upon the record, which he may read tomorrow.
He seemed to take my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) to task for selecting certain figures. Even if he was true in that, it is not an unknown practice in the House, and it did not seem to me that there was very much in it. I was more interested when he went on to say that there was a need for a departure from the policy laid down by the Distribution of Industry Acts, in the sense that their provisions should be extended to wider areas. That was also the theme of the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun (Mr. J. R. H. Hutchison). Their point seemed to be that the building of new factories in the Development Areas—especially in Scotland—was now approximating to the building of new factories in the rest of the country.
If any criticism is to be directed by hon. Members opposite, it should be directed at the Government for not accepting the proposals of the Cairncross Committee, which proposed that Government help should be extended to the building of factories in areas throughout Scotland, and not necessarily only in the Development Area. It became apparent, 1416 from an answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) on 5th February, that the area and value of factories built in 1951 as compared with 1952 was so astounding that they ought to be drawn to public attention. In 1951, the area of factories which had actually been started was 3,449,000 square feet, whereas in 1952 that figure had slumped to 949,000 square feet. I think that in those two figures alone, the contrast between the former policy of the Labour Government and that of the present Government is to be seen.
In the Report on Industry and Employment in Scotland for 1954, the claim is made that more new factory building was approved in that year than in any year since 1946. What it fails to state is that in the two years prior to that the figures were extremely small, and, indeed, it takes the figures for the last three years to equal those for the two previous years of 1951 and 1950. Moreover, it is a great compliment to the Labour Government's activities that the Report has to go back to 1946, the first year after the war, with all its attendant difficulties, when over 6 million square feet was assented to in that year.
The figures of unemployment in Scotland have probably been already quoted, but I want to make one comparison. The monthly average of unemployment from 1949 to 1951 in Scotland was 60,068. The average unemployment figure from 1952 to 1954 was 64,500. In February of this year, the unemployment figure was still 62,177. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will be aware that while the average unemployment figure for the whole of the country is 1. 3 per cent., in Scotland it is 2. 9 per cent.—
§ Mr. Hannan
—which is more than double the average for the whole of the country.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State cannot avoid the fact that in West Renfrew the unemployment figure is 5 per cent., and that within that average there are some areas which still need more attention. He knows, as well as anyone else, how concentrated industry is in Scotland. We have practically all our heavy industry concentrated within 1,000 square miles.
1417 The charge which some of us want to make against the Government is this—that whereas, in the past, the need for labour supply compelled employers and industrialists to go to the Development Areas where the Government had built factories and where, in Scotland, we were very glad to receive them, these pressures, due to the action of the post-war Government, do not now exist to the same degree; and, therefore, comes the new argument from hon. Members on that side as well as on this side that some attention ought to be paid to the other areas outside that industrial belt.
The Cairncross Committee did, as the Joint Under-Secretary knows, make proposals which would have helped that situation, but the Government turned down the Report of the Committee. More recently, we had an example of how the Government could have helped in the spreading out of industry and breaking up the concentration if they had acted in the spirit of the New Towns Act at Cumbernauld, where industry could have been helped exactly in the way which the hon. Member for Dumfries and others have been suggesting.
These things we still require to wait for another Government to achieve. It is not merely in the economic field that the Government have failed, but in carrying out the great social purpose of the Distribution of Industry Act and of the New Towns Act which would have helped Scotland particularly, and we hope that when the new Government is returned—which will be a Labour Government—they will get on with the great job of rebuilding many of these neglected areas of our country.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I am sure that we are all delighted at the great change which has come over the Development Areas, remembering our pre-war experience of them and what has happened since the war. We all realise with joy and delight, what it has meant to people living in those areas. I believe that one needs to live in a Development Area to understand that. But while we have seen this great change, and have gloried in it, it is true to say that many problems are still left, such as those which many of my hon. Friends have been raising, and that the gains which have been made could very easily be lost.
1418 I want, first, to emphasise that this great development in the Development Areas, and the great change that has taken place, are due essentially to the acceptance of the propriety of Government intervention and positive Government planning for employment. It seems to me that the paramount issue on all this has been the acceptance by the Labour Government of responsibility for providing employment in areas where that responsibility was never accepted in the past.
The change in which we glory is due to that positive view about the rô le of the Government in relation to industry. It is that very issue and the proper planning of our resources and the proper use of Government machinery which lie at the root of the difference in attitude between the two sides of the Committee. It is natural that there should be continuing real anxiety about the attitude of the Government when it is well known that the Government reject the whole of that basic philosophy and do not accept the view of those wishing for a positive rô le of the Government in industrial planning and development.
I think it is right to call attention, as some of my hon. Friends have done, to a few of the remaining problems which still cause us anxiety in our own industrial areas. For example, while we are delighted that there was great development almost entirely in the period of office of the Labour Government, nevertheless it is true that today these areas, particularly the North-Eastern Development Area, still depend very largely on the same basic industries as they depended on years ago, before the war.
Diversification has made great changes, but has not yet come to an end. There are still more things to be done. The high level of employment in those areas is very much dependent on the present level of arms production. We all hope that at a not-too-far-distant date it may be possible to limit concentration on arms production, but it is right that we should think about areas like this, which are so largely dependent on arms production work. Realising the value of the employment that has been provided, especially in the years immediately after the war, we need to keep that point clearly in mind.
1419 Now I wish to refer to the valuable Report issued by the North-East Industrial Development Association, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) referred earlier in the debate, and to mention a very striking paragraph. It says:During the last three years for which figures are available,"—which includes 1953—the Region had an unfavourable balance of migration. This was in contrast to the position in the preceding seven years.That means that there was a net inflow of insured population into the North-East Region during the seven years just after the war, and a subsequent net outflow.
This migration of insured workers calls to our mind bitter memories, and if it begins to appear again it will be a matter for anxiety. I do not want to exaggerate. The present drift of population is nothing like that which we experienced before the war, when the life-blood of areas like this was drained away. Nothing of that sort is happening, but there has been some migration of insured workers out of this area.
There has also been a fall in male employment, although there has been an increase in female employment. We should keep these matters under careful investigation. Quite apart from the desirability of other areas sharing industrial development, it is important that in areas of the size and significance of the northeast area, upon which the whole country very much depends, the proper proportion of skilled workers should be retained. A proper proportion of male workers should also be retained in the area. We would not dream of compelling people to stay in particular areas, but it is a matter for serious thought and consideration if industrial workers are pulled very strongly away from the areas where they live. I should be glad to know where consideration is being given to the matter.
We still have on Tyneside a considerable pocket of unemployed men and women. That is a matter for anxiety, and we all wish to put it right. I am not pretending that the figure has grown, but as long as there is a reservoir of unemployed people we must be concerned about it. It is fair to add that, while there is that reservoir of unemployed, in some industries there is a shortage of 1420 certain types of skilled workers, who have been attracted away to other districts. This is a cause for complaint by important industries, who might be able to take more unskilled labour if more of the skilled labour were available that they need.
This matter may be outside the scope of the Board of Trade, but not of the Ministry of Labour. I hope that this Ministry will consider whether the period of National Service and the effects of the call-up have any bearing on the problem of retaining skilled men in certain industries which need every encouragement at this time.
The Government appear to be too complacent about this position. While we welcome the great changes that have taken place, we ought to recognise that they were brought about by the positive intervention of the Labour Government in these areas immediately after the war. We should be glad to know that the Government are keeping in touch with the developments which have been mentioned in this debate and that they will give attention to the points which I have raised.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)
I intervene in this debate because I have been strongly tempted to break a lance with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling). I am sorry that he is no longer in his place. He delivered from the Government benches a speech which contained the most complete defence of anarchy that I have ever heard. I could not be so unfair as to suggest that the views expressed were those of Her Majesty's Government, but I am entitled to suggest that some of the actions of the present Government during the past three and a half years are a clear indication that their basic policy rests upon anarchy and upon nothing else.
That may be a very strong statement, in a Parliament in which most of us pride ourselves upon being good democrats. Nevertheless, all informed opinion admits that unregulated and uncontrolled industrial development, such as is seen in the great conurbations of London, Manchester and Birmingham, is not only an economic menace but an even greater strategic menace in time of war. Those of us who represent constituencies of that character 1421 are greatly concerned with the problem, because it is apparent that the continued growth of these conurbations spells disaster to the older industrial areas.
Ever since the passing of the Distribution of Industry Act we have recognised that it has had no effect and has failed to do its job. The hon. Member pointed out that the historical growth of industry in this country had very often begun with the individual whims and decisions of private families who started industries in a small way, and then, with great enterprise and initiative, developed them into very great industries. There has been a continuous multiplication of that development over the 150 years since the Industrial Revolution, and now we are faced with the complex and conflicting problem of having pockets of population which are out of all proportion to the needs of the rest of the country.
Let me for a moment deal with that part of Lancashire which I have the honour to represent—the south Lancashire area, adjacent to the old Wigan coal field. That coal field is rapidly diminishing as a source of supply; the seams are gradually being worked out after generations of active exploitation. In Westhoughton alone 24 coal mines are closed and flooded, with millions of tons of coal left underground, coal which cannot be won because of the cost of the apparatus necessary to restore those pits to their former state.
In that area, which has been a Development Area since about 1943, nothing whatever of a practical nature—apart from one scheme initiated by a Labour Government—has been done by the Board of Trade to assist my constituents. I admit that the Government have had no positive powers of direction of industry. It must be understood also that the natural complement of directing industry in particular localities is the direction of labour in particular localities, which most of us do not like facing at all. In times of peace we think it undesirable to direct labour, but were my constituents faced with the prospect of being largely unemployed because industry had left the area, I would much prefer some kind of direction of labour to useful and remunerative employment than that people should, by force of hunger, be compelled to go to other parts of the country or to the Colonies.
1422 As I say, nothing has been done for that area, and I am entitled to protest, and to continue to protest against the fact that—in a part of Lancashire which has been the basis upon which much of our commercial prosperity and supremacy was originally built—as the original industries the out there is nothing to take their place.
I am very glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service because I know that he is genuinely and deeply interested in this question. Nevertheless, I must point out that every time I have drawn the attention of the Board of Trade to its failure to take effective steps to bring suitable diversification of industry to my part of Lancashire I have always received the reply, either from that Box or in correspondence, that there is really very little unemployment in my constituency—that it is only 2. 1 per cent. in Westhoughton, 2. 6 per cent. in Aspull, and only 3 per cent. in some other parts. Actually while the correspondence was going on, it was 9 per cent. in the Hindley area—but let that pass.
I tell the Parliamentary Secretary now that whatever Administration is elected in a few weeks from now—whether it is of the party which I support or of the party opposite—I shall continue to urge that it is completely anti-social and against the best interests of the country, both morally and economically, that whole populations should be forced to travel as far as 20 miles a day to find employment. It is quite beyond the bounds of reason for the President of the Board of Trade to tell me that because unemployment is low there is no need to have new industries in the area.
Is the Minister of Labour confounded by the failure to get suitable labour in certain areas—particularly in the munition areas where there is over-employment—while in an area like mine, according to the local office of the Ministry of Labour, over 40 per cent. of the working population is compelled to travel up to 20 miles a day to find work in another town, with all the complications of traffic, the risk of road accidents, and the loss of wages suffered by workers who must spend part of their wage packet on transport to their work?
Nothing has been allowed in the Budget to compensate those people. As 1423 this is a debate on Supply I might fairly make this point. Nothing has been provided in the Budget by way of relief in the fuel tax on road transport to compensate those people who, because of the failure of the Government adequately to protect their working conditions, have to pay excessive fares. This problem will not be solved overnight. I do not suggest that either a Tory or a Labour Government could find a solution quickly, but I do complain that in the last four years nothing has been done by the Government to give any kind of solace to those whom I represent.
I referred in my opening sentences to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, who so often entertains us with his witticisms and the rather eccentric contributions which we all so much enjoy. Those contributions are usually made from the point of view of the successful entrepreneur who has successfully delved into all kinds of industrial and financial activities. None of us grudge the hon. Member that, but if it is to be seriously put forward that that kind of anarchistic policy is right for this nation, faced as it is with fiercer and fiercer international competition, we on this side of the Committee are entitled to dissent from that view in the strongest possible manner.
I should have hoped that, with the relatively full employment which we have had, the Government would have had a breathing space in which to overtake some of the arrears of industrial building which has been neglected for so long. I greatly sympathise with the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) that, not only in the Development Areas, but in many sections of the old industrial areas which do not carry a Development Area certificate, thousands of people are working in worn-out buildings which are nothing more than industrial slums.
Finally, I would make the appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary that when he replies to the debate he should attempt to give some indication that—even though the Government may be on the eve of political defeat, as many of us hope—they have not given up the ghost in searching for a rational policy for the development of industry. This country cannot tolerate for many more generations the unregulated growth of London, of all 1424 cities. Many of us love London for its great historic and artistic associations. Nevertheless, it has now reached a size which means that traffic cannot move, people cannot breathe and many cannot even make a living honestly. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends considers that that observation is a little subtle, so I had better not expand it.
This Committee, as representing the people who elected us, is entitled to demand that some programme should be drawn up, either by this Government or their successors, which in future will regulate better than we now do the distribution of industry and the provision of work in those areas where such provision is now lacking.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The story which my hon. Friends have told in the last hour applies equally to my division. Whilst it is true that on every occasion on which I have met the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour or the predecessor of the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade they have listened with sympathy to my pleas on behalf of my division for further work to be provided to deal with the abnormally high unemployment there, I am bound to say their influence has miserably failed to bring to Jarrow the employment which it needs.
Last Tuesday I asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade how many factories had been built in Jarrow up to October, 1951, and how many had been built since. He told me that 18 factories, covering 480,000 square feet, had been built under the Labour Government and since the present Administration came in their total had reached 12,000 square feet. In other words, we built 40 times more than they have built.
One of the things which has most disturbed me is that the party opposite recently issued a broadsheet in which they spoke of unemployment in Jarrow before the war as a myth, and in a caption over one of their photographs they used the words, "Booming Jarrow." I wonder what sort of state a country has to be in for it to be booming? If the measure of unemployment in Jarrow today were prevalent throughout the country there would be one million unemployed. I hope that neither the Parliamentary 1425 Secretary to the Ministry of Labour nor the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade think that if we had one million unemployed in this country it would be right to talk about the country booming.
The average unemployment in my division in all the post-war years—including, of course, the years when we were in power, but we were making efforts to remedy it—has been substantially above the national average. One of the biggest problems with which we still have to contend is the question of employment for women. That today is a paramount need.
I think the present Government threw away one of the strongest weapons they had in their hands when they decided to do away with licensing. So long as licences had to be given before any building could be undertaken it was obviously possible for the Government to say, "You can erect a factory here, but we shall not give you a licence to erect one there." It was a formidable weapon. Used with common sense and discretion, it could gradually have taken employment into those areas where it was most needed. But what have the Government done? They have swept away all controls and licensing.
There is a firm in my division—I do not want to mention its name—which came there 18 years ago. The parent body was in Birmingham. Last year that firm intimated that it had now expanded the Birmingham works and would close its Jarrow works. Since then it has rescinded that decision, and for the time being the works remain in Jarrow. But we have a situation in which, in Birmingham, there are 10 jobs vacant for every man signing on at the employment exchange, yet, under this free system, expansion is allowed in that city.
What are the consequences? They are that Birmingham wage rates are forced up all round. Obviously that could be partially remedied by the Government, but the Government were so anxious to allow the former Minister of Housing and Local Government to build 300,000 houses a year that they said, "We are not concerned about new factories in the Development Areas." The Government deserve to lose the Election because of the indifference which they have shown to the needs of the Development Areas. Under Labour, folks living in those areas were given hope and were given back 1426 their self-respect. They felt once more that they had something to live for. This Government have utterly neglected to carry forward the great work which Labour started in the Development Areas. For that reason, if for no other, they do not deserve the confidence of the people on 26th May.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
We have been discussing an extremely serious matter this afternoon. In effect, we have been discussing the life and hopes of nearly 1 million people—more than ¼ million unemployed men and women and their dependants. It is surprising that in this debate ten back benchers on this side of the Committee have spoken and three hon. Members opposite. Does that reflect the basic considerations which motivate the parties? Is it an indication that this side of the Committee is much more concerned about the conditions of the people than hon. Members opposite?
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, who was making his first main speech as a Minister, has had the unfortunate experience of having no one at all to agree with him. No one on this side of the Committee agreed with him. From his own side, he had two hon. Members who said that the Development Area policy ought to be modified. Apparently, the hon. Gentleman did not think so himself. There was nothing in his brief to indicate modifications.
The hon. Gentleman had the very doubtful support of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), who said, "let the Development Areas stew in their own juice. Let them solve their own problems. Leave the industrial enterprise man to go where he likes, irrespective of his social responsibility." That is the position and it was rather significant, I thought, that in what he had to say the Parliamentary Secretary had no support whatever from anyone in the Committee. It is very unfortunate that the Government's concern for the Development Areas has been expressed in the absence of a senior Minister on the Government Front Bench throughout the debate.
The last time that we had a debate of this sort, we did get the President of the Board of Trade himself to speak. If the 1427 Parliamentary Secretary compares the President's speech then with his own today, he will find very substantial differences. As the hon. Gentleman was reminded, the President was talking about modifications in 1953; he was anxious to do something. All that the Parliamentary Secretary has been able to do this afternoon—I do not blame him—is simply to express a lot of generalities. He showed a complacency which was very surprising.
It is very easy to bury the tragedies of our economy under general averages, to say that unemployment is lower than it has ever been and to ride off on that sort of theme. This afternoon, my hon. Friends have got under the umbrella of general averages and have brought out the Jarrows, the Nelsons and Colnes, the Sunderlands and the Birkenheads. They have brought out the real tragedies which exist in those areas and which any Government worth their salt ought to be facing.
I agree that we must look at the general averages, but we must not let them blind us to the great amount of work which has yet to be done. The Parliamentary Secretary himself pointed out that the average unemployment in Great Britain today is 1. 3 per cent. In Scotland, it is 2. 9 per cent.—I am using the March figures—and in Wales it is 2. 3 per cent. Said in that way, it does not sound very much, but there are 60,000 men and women in Scotland without jobs and 20,000 without jobs in Wales; and unemployment in those parts of the country is very much worse than in other areas of Britain.
Those averages also hide something else. In London and the South-Eastern area, the average unemployment is . 8 per cent. In the Eastern region, it is 1. 3 per cent.; in the Southern region, 1 per cent., and in South-Western 1. 4 per cent. In the Midlands it is . 5 per cent.; North Midlands, . 7 per cent.; East and West Ridings, . 8 per cent.; North-Western, 1. 4 per cent. and Northern, 2. 3 per cent. When the average of 1. 3 per cent. is used, it hides the fact that if we take out one region from England we get a much lower average than the one which is used.
What is our experience of Government policy? I have quoted London and the South-Eastern area with . 8 per cent. un- 1428 employment. Brighton has only . 8 per cent. unemployment, but we find it splashed in the "Star" of 22nd April that a dozen factories are in production on the town's three industrial sites and that five more are under construction and others are planned. That is in Brighton, with its . 8 per cent. unemployment.
How does Blaenavon or Lanark regard that? Is it because Brighton is not represented by Labour? How far is the policy of the Government influenced by representation? Why cannot Anglesey have at least part of the treatment that Brighton gets? Why cannot Blaenavon have the same attention as Brighton is getting? What is the Minister of Labour doing about this, and what is the Board of Trade doing? Anglesey, with 98 per cent. unemployment, gets nothing, while Brighton, with . 8 per cent., gets 12 factories.
In areas where there is a labour shortage, new factory construction is proceeding at the greatest pace. It is in areas where labour is in shortest supply, where prosperity is highest and unemployment lowest, that we find the greatest rate of construction of new factories. Is that not shown by the figures which were quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison)?
We had the astonishing admission that in 1954 the Development Areas were getting 18 per cent. of the new construction. In 1951, they had 40 per cent.
§ Mr. Kaberry indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The Parliamentary Secretary dissents. I do not know whether he wants me to quote the President of the Board of Trade in the debate of 25th February, when the right hon. Gentleman obviously was referring to the previous ascertained figures. The year might be wrong—it might be 1952 and not 1951—but the point was put specifically to the Parliamentary Secretary: was it 18 per cent. for last year or for this year? As to the 40 per cent. mentioned by the President, there can be no doubt. This indicates that the Government have abandoned the policy of the location of industry.
Let me indicate how things are moving. I happened to pick up the "Star" today. Here is consolation for my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. West). There are one, two, three pages 1429 of advertisements of jobs, and only one page of them is of jobs outside the London area. All the rest are in the London region.
What the hon. Gentleman's policy amounts to is the pressing of industry into the southern areas, without consideration of social consequences or of strategic questions.
§ Mr. J. T. Price
Is my right hon. Friend aware that if one scans the advertisement columns of the provincial Press, of the "Manchester Guardian," for example, one finds that a very high percentage of the vacant jobs advertised are in the London area? Even the provincial Press is being used to skim the provinces of their people, and to bring those people away from the provinces and into London.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I agree. The point I was trying to make was that the amount of expansion of new factory construction is greatest in areas where there is the greatest shortage of labour. This Government have allowed that.
Let me point out how the policy has changed in another way. Between 1945 and 1951, the Labour Government provided, in Wales, 17,807,000 square feet of new factory space. During the same time the Labour Government allowed in London new factory construction of 8 million square feet. In other words, the construction in Wales was twice that in the London region. Under this Government, between 1951 and 1954 Wales has had 10 million square feet and London 13 million square feet. The whole thing has been completely reversed.
How and why did we do what we did? We all agreed immediately after the war that employment should be taken to the people, that industry should be varied and that the Development Areas should have new employment. That was the policy which was followed, and the Labour Government gave expression to that policy in the Distribution of Industry Acts. Under that legislation there was set up, under the aegis of the Board of Trade, a committee to deal with the location of industry, and every application for the building of a new factory had to go before the Location of Industry Committee of the Government. We had to decide where the factory was to go. In addition to that we had the power to issue building 1430 licences, and unless the location of Industry Committee approved the application the building licence was not granted. It was in that way that we induced by negative means the rehabilitation of the Development Areas.
All of us will agree that the main work of industrial rehabilitation of the Development Areas has been done. There are exceptions; there are small areas which still require attention; but for the most part we have provided in the Development Areas adequate employment opportunities. We have Blaenavon, Anglesey, Lanark, and Birkenhead. However, because we have done 90 per cent. of the job, because it has been nearly completed, that is no reason why we should not finish it. Moreover, when we finish the job in one place the same sort of problem breaks out in another. Nelson and Colne is one example.
The instruments for doing the job ought to be retained. What were the instruments? There were two, the building licence and the location of industries certificate. Both of those have gone. The Parliamentary Secretary explained why they had gone. How difficult it was, he said, to refuse an application; the potential employer knew best. If that is to be the attitude of the Board of Trade there will be new Development Areas emerging in this country, and there will be no solution at all of the problems of those spots which are still left with problems not remedied. What hope is there for Anglesey if everybody is to be permitted to build in Brighton? What hope is there for Ammanford if everybody is to be permitted to expand in the Midlands?
It seems to me that the Parliamentary Secretary has run away from the policy that was agreed in 1945, and that while he pays lip service to the policy he has the same attitude as that of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South, which is to let the Development Areas work out their own salvation. Indeed, that is what he told my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts) in an Adjournment debate only the other night. He said, "They have to save themselves. There is little the Government can do."
If both those instruments for working out the Development Area policy have gone then it means that the Board of Trade is without a policy. It may have good wishes; it may want to do things; 1431 but what is the use of wanting to do things unless one has the power to do them? It seems to be illogical to throw away the ability to do things and at the same time to say, "We want to do them."
As for the advance factory building programme, the Parliamentary Secretary had a very poor case. His Department gave him a rotten brief. He does not believe in the advance factory programme. The Department would have put that into the brief if he did. Is there an advance factory programme or not? Has that policy been abandoned, too?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
That is not quite true. But is there a defence programme now? Where are the new advance factories envisaged? It was a policy of the Ministry of Labour. It looks as if the Government have decided that as far as the unemployed of Caernarvon, Lancashire and Anglesey are concerned, they have to be satisfied with an assurance that the Parliamentary Secretary will talk nicely to a potential employer some day somewhere. That is the ridiculous situation to which we have been reduced. My hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) will be able to go back to Birkenhead and tell the people there that the Parliamentary Secretary said that he will talk nicely to the employers, that he cannot make anybody go to Birkenhead, but that he will try to persuade employers to go there. They have been living on that ever since this Government came into power.
Let me put another point to show how this Government have abandoned the Development Area policy altogether. Not only have the Government abandoned the industrial side of it, but they have also abandoned the social side of it. The Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, had as its purpose not only the building of new factories but the rehabilitation of the social services in the Development Areas. Last year, a circular was issued to stop all grants for sewerage and water supplies and within four months after the issue of the circular we were informed from the Government Front Bench that 51 schemes, costing £12 million, had been turned down already under it. "You can have new factories or new housing but you cannot have new water supplies or 1432 new sewerage"; that has been the Government's attitude in connection with the very important Distribution of Industry Acts.
Within the last few days a book has been issued with which, no doubt, the Parliamentary Secretary is very familiar—the Tory Election manifesto.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
This is the 1955 manifesto. Let us see what the Tories say now:We shall press forward with the building and reconditioning of houses and the extension of sewerage, water supplies and electricity.Yet £12 million worth of water supply and sewerage schemes in Wales have been stopped by the hon. Member and his hon. Friends.
He now says that the Government will implement the Lloyd Committee's Report. Let them publish it first and let us know what it is, because the road programme for the Development Area of South Wales is utterly inadequate. They build factories but they do not build roads so that the goods may be taken from the factories.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has drawn my attention to the position at Ammanford. This is an area which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour will know. Pneumoconiosis there is a tragedy which overshadows everything else. Men are waiting for death. The percentage of pneumoconiosis is extremely heavy, and the job of providing work for these men is a sanctified job if ever there were one—the job of giving them a new hold on life.
The factory there is shutting down. The matter has been raised with the Minister for Welsh Affairs. Surely the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to say that he has power to do something about it—or will he merely express pious wishes? The Government have a responsibility for attending to the social and economic needs of the nation and it is not sufficient to say that they depend upon the good will of some one who otherwise would not go to these areas.
When we watch what has happened under the Distribution of Industry Acts and Development Area policy, we on this side of the Committee are satisfied that 1433 hon. Members opposite have forfeited the trust of the country and the confidence of the people. Their behaviour in relation to the Development Areas ought to ensure that they do not sit on those benches after the Election.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Watkinson)
We have had a very good and factual debate, and it is not surprising that politics have crept into it from time to time. If I may say so, in the last days of this Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I said "this Government"—when some hon. Members' minds are probably on other matters, it is a tribute to our normal tradition in relation to the way in which we talk about industrial affairs here that this has been a factual debate in which hon. Members have raised pertinent and practical points.
I know that the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) will acquit my right hon. and learned Friend and myself of any belief that any one man or woman who has not a job is not a human problem to which any Government must pay the most serious attention, and I hope that I may reply to the debate in that sense, and try to be as factual as I can.
The right hon. Member rightly reminded us that we are dealing with people's lives and not with some abstruse economic theory. I must remind him that that applies in Brighton just as well as in Ammanford, and while I do not think he mentioned Brighton in a serious tone, it is a fact that in the winter Brighton has a very serious problem, as have all seaside resorts, including Anglesey and the North Wales resorts, of local unemployment.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. Member knows that I used to occupy the position which he now holds. Would he tell us whether his Department recommended Brighton for new factory development?
§ Mr. Watkinson
Yes. My Department was certainly anxious that there should be further development at Brighton because of this very serious problem.
Another town which most people do not associate with heavy local unemployment in the winter is Torquay, but not 1434 very long ago I had to make a personal visit there because our own local employment committee, which the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, was so much up in arms that only a Parliamentary Secretary would satisfy them.
§ Mr. Watkinson
The right hon. Gentleman can draw his own conclusions. It was a very pleasant visit.
Nevertheless, I will not pursue the point about Brighton, because in this connection I do not think it was made as a vital point.
Of the more serious points, I want to pursue two major issues which the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison), the right hon. Gentleman and others have put to the Government. I will deal with them first, and then, if I cannot cover all the other points made in the debate, perhaps hon. Members will excuse me.
Those two major issues were, I think, first, that of the building of advance factories and, second, the most important issue of the Government's general Development Area policy. If I may, I will deal first with the advance factory building programme. It was mentioned by the hon. Lady and her right hon. Friend, and I think that a reference to it has been included in almost every speech made on both sides of the Committee.
I must first very briefly give the facts. In the immediate post-war years, when the Labour Party formed the Government, they very rightly went in for a large programme of advance factory building—very necessary, and I think a very good thing to do at that time, when industry was turning over from war to peace and there were very difficult areas in which there had been big armament plants. As we all know, everybody had the fear of unemployment in their minds, and the Coalition White Paper of 1944 suggested that sort of emergency action. I am not saying that it was not right: it was right. It is the large amount of building which took place in those years that accounts for the 30 per cent. figure which the hon. Lady used as the average in those years. I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman got his 40 per cent. from, but I will come to that in a moment.
§ Miss Herbison
The 30 per cent. figure was not at all in this connection. I quoted the amount of advance building in Scotland.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am obliged to the hon. Lady. For the moment I am dealing with the general programme of advance building which of course has as much application to Scotland as to anywhere else.
I am saying that the 1945 Labour Government had a very large programme of advance building. In 1950, they had to curtail the programme very much, and fewer than 20 advance factories were put in hand. In 1951, when they were still in office, with impending financial difficulties, they postponed any further building of advance factories.
I must make it plain that it was not the Conservative Administration which brought the advance factory programme to an end. It was the previous Labour Administration which postponed indefinitely, in 1951, any further building of advance factories. We must get that on the record. Certainly it was not our policy and it is not our policy to stop the building of advance factories. But hon. and right hon. Gentlemen can properly say, "Perhaps we did stop it, but what we ask you is whether you can start it again?"
§ Mr. Watkinson
That is a proper question to ask, and I am proposing to answer it now. It is also quite proper to make it plain that it was not a Conservative Government which stopped advance factory building.
At the moment what I want to make plain is that we certainly do not regard advance factory building as something which in any circumstances we should not do. There is no change of policy now. There is no decision by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that he will not carry out advance factory building. We are prepared to build as and when we think that the situation justifies it.
§ Mr. Collick
But the statement the right hon. Gentleman is making is directly contrary to a Parliamentary Answer that I had from his right hon. Friend in relation to the building of advance factory in Birkenhead.
§ Mr. Watkinson
That shows how easy it is to go wrong in these details, because I know the project which the hon. Member has in mind, and I listened very carefully to what he said in his able speech. Perhaps he will remember—I do not think he was able to be present—when I went to Birkenhead, saw all the local employment committees on Merseyside, and met them in conference to discuss their problems. The Birkenhead local employment committee rightly and properly mentioned this project which the hon. Gentleman described to us this afternoon, and I promised to go carefully into it to see whether that was one instance where we ought to start again to build an advance factory.
I went into the project myself. I do not want to mention names as it would be individious. When we looked at the number of firms we thought we should have to get to fill up the factory in a resonable time—we were not seeking to fill it at once—we came to the settled conclusion that what would be better in this part of the world would be one or two bigger factories that might give a long-term continuity. Whilst it would be wrong to promise anything at the moment, I can go so far as to say that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has some hopes he may have one project which may go there.
I want to make plain that we have not built an advance factory because we thought that was not the best way of meeting the situation, and that is what I said when I met the local committee. I am confirmed in that view, and we are trying hard to get one or two good projects which will occupy that site.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that the Government have not abandoned the policy of advance factories, but this is a problem which is very serious indeed. We have built advance factories which are now part of our national heritage. They are part of the nation, and public money has been invested in them. Take the case of my own constituency—and I am sorry I was not here earlier for this debate. If the factories already there were fully manned there would be no unemployment in my constituency. This not only applies to my constituency but also to others. I should like to hear the Parliamentary 1437 Secretary say something as to the policy of the Government, what powers they have and what they are doing to ensure that these national factories belonging to the nation are fully utilised, so that men who are anxious for work can get it.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am coming to that aspect in the course of my speech. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman if I do not answer him now, but I am coming to the point which he has raised.
I hope I have made plain what is our policy with regard to advance factories. I think it is a great mistake for a Government to have all their wares for a full employment policy in the shop window. If there are not a few reserve packets on the shelf then we shall be in for a very bad time should we meet a recession, and any country might have to 'face a recession from time to time. Advance factory building generally in our view is something to be held in reserve, something to use, following the policy outlined in the Coalition Government White Paper, if it is thought that bad times are coming.
May I give one or two figures? There was a certain amount of argument in the Committee today about this question of the share of factory building that went to the Development Areas. The hon. Lady mentioned it. I want to make plain that the 1954 figure for the whole country is, in round figures, nearly 71 million square feet, and the proportion which the Development Areas had of that is 18 per cent. Let us get that quite clear. That just happens, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said, to be the same as the proportion of working population, namely, 18 per cent. I do not make it as a case except to show the balance—
§ Mr. Watkinson
It is for 1954—the figure is for the whole of 1954.
What I want to add, because I think it puts the matter in perspective, is that the corresponding figures for 1949, 1950 and 1951 were also 18 per cent. so I do not think that the hon. Lady or the right hon. Gentleman—I do not make a great point of this—should tax us too much about some alarming change in the proportion of building going to the Development Areas, because we have approved 1438 to be built in the last full year exactly the same as they did in the last three years when they were in power. We would like to do more, but at least it shows a balance between factory building and the proportion of building—
§ Mr. Collick
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but we have had so much talk about this matter that we must get it right. The hon. Gentleman now confirms what his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said about the 18 per cent. question when he interrupted me. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that he does not think that that is very different from what we did. But I quoted during my speech an extract from a speech of his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in the House on 25th February when, referring to this very important matter—and I repeat it again—he said this:Of the 6,000 factories built since the war, 1,600 were in the Development Areas. If we take the matter by area and value, the Development Areas, which contain about one-sixth of the insured population, have had about 40 per cent. of the building."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1953; Vol. 511, c. 2126.]There is a tremendous difference between 40 per cent. and 18 per cent.
§ Mr. Watkinson
The hon. Gentleman no doubt realises that all these statistics are very confusing. That is why I quote as few as possible, but I am giving the Committee the facts.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The hon. Gentleman means that the President of the Board of Trade did not give the facts.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I did not mean anything of the sort. What I meant is the actual figure for a single year, and that is the figure I have given to the Committee. I repeat that in 1954 we approved 18 per cent. to be built, and the figure is the same for 1949, 1950 and 1951. Hon. Members can draw whatever conclusion they like. I am giving them the facts.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am not confused. The Opposition wants to confuse the issue, no doubt with their Election addresses in mind.
§ Mr. Watkinson
No. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that I give way wherever possible. I have explained this point to the Committee many times, and no matter how many questions the hon. Gentleman asks me, the answer is still 18 per cent.
§ Mr. Watkinson
If the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene about something else I will, of course, give way.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I do not want to interrupt unnecessarily, but I think the hon. Gentleman has made one thing clear, at least to me. Can he say whether it is the policy of the Government to maintain an even balance of building between the Development Areas and the country as a whole—18 per cent. for 18 per cent.; or whether it is the policy of the Government, as would seem to have been indicated in the extract from the speech of the President of the Board of Trade that has been quoted, to give a preference to discriminate in favour of new building in Development Areas so as to give them a greater proportion than their population proportion would entitle them to? Which is it?
§ Mr. Watkinson
That intervention shows that probably, on the whole, one should always give way. I am now able to say, in reply to the hon. Gentleman, that I said that I would deal with policy but that I am not dealing with it at the moment; I am dealing with the facts. I have certainly not said that we have no desire to maintain that ratio. What I said was that it appeared to be about on all-fours and in balance with what the Socialist Government achieved in their last three years of office.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
On a point of order. I should like to ask whether it would be in order to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again," in view of the fact 1440 that the Parliamentary Secretary has now contradicted information given to the House of Commons by the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I will now get on to some more facts.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not like either the success story of my right hon. Friend or the facts which I have given and propose to continue to give. The next point I want to deal with is the question of the long-term policy on Development Areas. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not find it funny. If he does he will convict himself, and I know that he does not mean to.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I am not trying to be funny. I hope that the Committee will concede that I regard this as a very serious subject. I should not like—and this is what I do not like about the right hon. Gentleman—to be accused, by inference, of not trying to treat this matter seriously and of not giving the Committee the facts.
On the long-term question of policy there is a very great difference, which I think we must bring out, between the policy which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would wish to pursue, if they found themselves in office after the General Election, and the one that we have pursued and intend to continue to pursue if we are given the opportunity. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Collick) brought this out very clearly in his speech. He said, and I think I got this correctly, that persuasion is not a policy.
The right hon. Gentleman said that we had swept away building controls and the committee that used to deal with the allocation of industries, and therefore we had divested ourselves of every possible control of industry. Of course, both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman are wrong. We still retain the most powerful control of all, the industrial development certificate. We have retained it designedly. Much as we object to controls in general, we have no wish to be particularly doctrinaire and we have no doctrinaire objection to retaining a 1441 control. The I.D.C. control is a most practical and useful method of negative control.
The right hon. Gentleman was quite right when he fairly said that it was a negative control. That is the next point that I want to put to hon. Gentlemen opposite. As the right hon. Gentleman produced one document, I produce another, in which the Opposition say that they propose to use control, much more firm control, to try to push industry where they think it ought to go. I do not think that that is an unfair statement.
§ Mr. Watkinson
Yes, that is fair; it is the idea of control and compulsion to try to get an industry in a certain place. That is the point I want to make.
What I would say—and I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caerphilly knows this because he was in the very great Ministry in which I have the honour to be—is that in the last analysis there is only one chap who decides where he will build a factory, and that is the chap who is going to build it. However much one may try to compel him, one cannot make him build a factory in a Development Area if he says, "I will not build it there." Unless the party opposite propose to arm themselves with more drastic powers than I assume—
§ Mr. Willey
Is not the Parliamentary Secretary exaggerating when he says that it is only one chap who decides? What the officials of the Board of Trade found was that many of the factories built on the Great West Road in London were built there not because of one chap but because of one chap's wife who was anxious to live in the West End of London.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I do not think that that enters into the argument.
The I.D.C. is a very firm control. In the end one can stop a man, or his wife, or a company, from building a factory by the use of that control. Now one must face facts in this Committee, and, without mentioning names, I will give two examples of two large American companies in this country both of which wish to considerably extend their activities here. Both have said, in terms that leave 1442 the Government in no doubt that they mean it, that unless they can extend their existing premises they will build on the Continent of Europe, where they already have an arrangement to do so.
In a position like that I think that right hon. Gentlemen opposite would grant an I.D.C. Indeed, I think it is on record that in their term of office they did, and rightly so. It is better to have more industry in this country, even if it is not always in the right place, than to lose it altogether.
The point which I wish to make plain—and this affects the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)—is that wherever we can use the I.D.C. control, which is a firm one, we intend to use it to see that factories go to Development Areas. I know that he rather regrets that Glover and Main went to Padiham and not to his own constituency, but I should make it plain that that firm wanted to build a factory in London, perhaps on the Great West Road, and was stopped from doing so by the very control which I have described.
Our policy remains much what the policy of our predecessors was, namely, that we use a negative control as much as we can. Where we have made a difference, however—and I think it is a good difference—is that we think that it is better to go to an industrialist and to say, "We want to persuade you to go to the right part of the country in your own interest and in the national interest." We think that very often that gets a better and more certain result than if we said, "We have imposed a whole set of rules, regulations and controls and you can like it or leave it." That, perhaps, is the difference between the two policies.
§ Mr. Silverman
I should not like it to be thought that I would have wanted the factory, or a factory, not to be in Padiham. I do not grudge them what they can get out of it, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman is right and that the negative controls of the Government are effective. Would he explain why, four years after the Order was made, nothing has come to us at all?
§ Mr. Watkinson
Well, again—and it shows the difficulties of these matters—when I had the great pleasure of going to the hon. Gentleman's constituency I 1443 had tea, and a very pleasant Lancashire tea it was, with three Lancashire mayors, and it would have been a brave man who told them that their area was where factories were most needed. But at least we have two big factories in the hon. Gentleman's area—
§ Mr. Watkinson
We are doing our best—let us put it that way. I want to be fair, and say that while we may persuade a firm to go into a Development Area, we cannot always elect where in the area it will go.
One other point about policy, and again it throws back the point made in the very able speech of the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes). There is a new problem which the hon. Member raised; that of areas where we have old factory buildings which will perhaps have to be knocked down, if we are to put modern factories in their places. The Government accept the fact that that is a different problem. It is not necessarily something which we regard as being normal advance factory building. I cannot commit this Government at this stage but I recognise the problem as a serious one which will have to be faced by the next Government.
The hon. Member is right in saying that the modern techniques of constructing prefabricated buildings—I think it is called sectional building in modular standards—which can be put up quickly anywhere may prove to be some answer to the problem. I cannot go further on that point this evening. We think that the money we have to spend may be spent far better on building factories for specific firms both large and small than on building speculative factories which may be empty for some time.
To sum up our policy, we will certainly build advance factories where we think fit, but that is something we prefer to keep on the shelf at the moment. We consider that our money would be better spent on building new factories for specific projects—and I could give a long list covering the constituencies of most hon. Members who have spoken—as a long-term policy for the Development Areas. The more factories we can build the better we shall be pleased. We shall 1444 not impose any sort of limit. We are retaining I.D.C. control, because we think it a good control, but we think that better results are obtained by a policy of persuasion than by restrictions.
§ Miss Herbison
The hon. Gentleman has said that the Government prefer to build factories for those who want them and not to have factories empty for a long time. In opening the debate I asked the question whether any representations have been made by the Scottish Industrial Estates. If the policy be as the hon. Gentleman has enunciated, is it not the case that there were almost a dozen applicants for the only vacant factory in Scotland, and that there would have been none of these advance factories left idle if the Government had built even one in any Development Area since they came to power?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I apologise for forgetting to answer the hon. Lady's question. We have had representations from Lord Bilsland's Committee. Indeed, I think the hon. Lady knows, as do those who saw the representations, that they are not so much a once-for-all matter as a recommendation for continuous consultation.
We had the special case of the Port Glasgow factories, which were empty for some time. But I am glad to say that they now look like being filled. I am not arguing about whether the hon. Lady is right or whether I am. I am saying that our policy is to spend money in what we think is the best way, on specific projects, and to hold back advance factory building as something extra to be done where necessary.
I should like to cover one or two specific points which have been mentioned by hon. Gentlemen. I shall have to do so very quickly. As the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. C. Hughes) is not present now I will not go into his problems in detail except to say that we have a new project going to Llangefni which I think will help in dealing with some of his problems.
I have great sympathy with the problem mentioned by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. West), the problem of Blaenavon although I have not gone into it myself. But it does fit into the general problem, and it would seem to me that 1445 the only short-term solution for that sort of thing would be a policy of direction, which we reject. All I can say to the hon. Member—I think he knows it—is that at least we have tried. He may well say that we have tried and failed, and I shall not argue about that. Within our policy, however, we have tried to do everything we can to help in that difficult problem.
I have already referred, in answer to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, to the point about factories going to Padiham. I think we were fortunate to get those people there by using I.D.C. control, and I am only sorry that they did not go to the point in his constituency which the hon. Gentleman mentioned.
Both the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) raised points about their own Development Areas. I must correct the hon. Member for Sunderland, North. At least, I will not correct him, but put a slightly different gloss on the point he made about the 1,000 people who went out of work last year. I think the hon. Member knows that it resulted from the closing down of a big plant. I hope he also knows—if not I am glad to tell him—that there is a new occupant who will certainly try to build up the employment which was lost.
The hon. Gentleman quoted a lot of statistics—I know how pertinacious he is at Question Time in obtaining statistics from Ministers—and I will quote one back to him. In six and a half years under the Labour Government, just under 400,000 square feet of Government-financed factory space was built in Sunderland. In three and a half years this Government have built 280,000 square feet, in other words, 70 per cent. as much in half the time, which is not a bad record.
§ Mr. Willey
With regard to the Minister's first point—the fall in the number of employed, which is the essential point—if he looks at the figures he will see that they fell very shortly after the present Government came to office and before the factories closed. The closing of the factories aggravated an already bad position. Regarding the increased factory space provided since 1951, that has all been provided by way of extensions for firms already brought to Sunderland.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I was not arguing about that; I was only saying that the contributory cause was the situation which I described. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman denies these statistics. We cannot have more employment unless we build more factory space, and I think the whole Committee will agree with that.
§ Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)
Before the Minister leaves the North-East, may I put this point to him? He probably knows very well the Report of the North-Eastern Industrial and Development Association, in paragraph 20 of which, it is stated:The blackest spots on the region's unemployment picture are the persistently high unemployment rates in the Wearside and Hartlepools districts. During recent years, these have continued to fluctuate and are now 4 per cent.I hope that the Minister will note that—On the basis of the present employment … these areas, together with certain parts of Tyneside can clearly establish strong claims to a share in such new industry as is willing to be steered to any part of the region.The hon. Gentleman has said nothing about that at all; he has merely said that the Government are keeping the advance factory programme in their pocket in case there is unemployment. On the evidence of the North-Eastern Industrial and Development Association, unemployment on Wearside and in The Hartlepools already represents 4 per cent. and is likely to remain at that figure in the immediate future. Is that not an indication that something should be done about advance factories?
§ Mr. Watkinson
I did not mention it because the hon. Gentleman did not make a speech, but we are reinforced in our general policy that there is not a Development Area, except the new one in Lancashire, which in March this year had not better unemployment figures than in 1951, or, indeed, at any time since the war. That is something in which I am sure we can all take pride.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. Gentleman has not answered one question which I thought I had put to him rather specifically. It is whether or not the Treasury or the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is going to withdraw Circular 54/52, which cancels the grant for water and sewerage.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I was trying not to take too long. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman was given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government in reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North, who asked whether my right hon. Friend would now make grants under Section 3 of the Distribution of Industry Acts. My right hon. Friend said that, where appropriate, he would. That is our present policy. We will make grants wherever we think a good case can be made out for them.
In ending, I will summarise what I think is the difference between the two sides of the Committee. We on this side are clearly pledged to the conception of partnership in this job of trying to preserve full employment and a rising standard of living. I know that right hon. Gentlemen opposite are just as keen as we are to do that, and I do not impugn their motives. But our methods are different, and I will say why they are different The difference is clearly seen in our policy in regard to the location of industry. We like persuasion. We like to persuade people to do these things, because we believe that they will do them more efficiently, more willingly and more quickly if they are persuaded rather than coerced.
We believe that we cannot have a successful Development Area policy in an economic climate which itself is not healthy. It is, therefore, right that in settling Development Area policy the Government should not be driven off its main policy of providing full employment and rising standards for the whole country. We must always relate our Development Area policy to our general economic policy, because if that is wrong there are limits to what can be done in smaller matters.
Our Development Area policy depends, as much as anything else, upon meeting the needs of our customers in export markets all over the world. If we fail in that we shall fail in our Development Area policy, just as we shall have mass unemployment. Therefore, if it is a matter of a choice between saying, "Stay where you are and build," or "Go abroad," we say, "Stay where you are and build." But if there is any chance of saying, "Go to a Development Area and build," we shall do our best, with the 1448 controls and persuasion with which we are armed.
We shall do so, however, against the background which conditions all our lives, whatever Government may be in power, which is that the success of our policy rests upon our being competitive, meeting the needs of our foreign customers, working together and not letting sectional interests upset the applecart because they want to press certain claims. We believe that all this is best done by hard work, persuasion and working together, as we have tried to do in these last three and a half years.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I rise to put one or two questions to the Parliamentary Secretary. He knows perfectly well—and history bears it out—that what he calls persuasion led to distress for twenty years.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend will agree that the matter can be carried a little further. The Parliamentary Secretary says that the policy of the Government is to try to cure the problems of the Development Areas by applying further the very courses which caused them to exist in the first place.
§ Mr. Griffiths
All I say, speaking as one from South Wales, is that when we tried to persuade Conservative Governments—and I have been in countless deputations to the Ministry of Labour; they are all on record—we always failed.
If persuasion fails, what then? We cannot afford to allow two or three great industrial metropolises to grow bigger, with their over-concentrated populations and with the traffic problem which is becoming a serious menace to the safety and well-being of the whole country. In this crowded island, with its 50 million people, any Government which are not prepared, if necessary, to use authority to ensure that the population is reasonably distributed throughout the country—and industry is the key to this—is surrendering the national interest to vested interests.
1449 If persuasion succeeds, everything is all right, but if it does not, what will happen? If there is a recession and Lancashire is very hard hit in the next five or ten years, does the hon. Gentleman mean that his Government, if in power, will not use effective powers to bring about its industrial rehabilitation?
§ Mr. Watkinson
Of course not. The answer is that the right hon. Gentleman has brought out very clearly exactly the point which I have been making all along. He and his hon. Friends want to go back to direction, control, building licences and every other sort of control and limitation. We say—and we shall take it to the country—that we think that that cannot possibly work, and will lead to a lower level of prosperity in the Development Areas and everywhere else.
§ Mr. Griffiths
We will take it to the country, too, and say this: that industry must be judged by the way it serves the nation. We believe that it is essential in the interests of the country that there shall be a wise distribution of our population. Is there anyone in this Committee who does not now agree that certain conurbations have arisen during the last thirty years? In London, traffic and everything else will soon come to a stop because of the immense development over the last thirty years. We say, "By all means persuade," but, if persuasion fails, as it failed in the inter-war years, I hope we shall have a Government which will not hesitate to ensure that the interests of the people are put before anything else.
We shall argue it out. I am quite willing, in the Development Areas and elsewhere on 26th May, or on any other date, for the record of the Labour Government during our six years to be judged side by side with the record of any other Government in the last twenty-five or thirty years. We stand by it.
I want to put two other specific points. First, I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary this important question. What action do the Government intend to take to ensure that the advance factories, when they have been established, particularly those for disabled men, will be able to carry on? I would point out very seriously to him that this is a matter of very great concern.
Unless we get the fuel and power it does not matter where the factories are 1450 sited, they will be stopped. We do not get coal from London, but from Ammanford. The fact is that in the coal mining industry we have a changed situation which we have never met before. This is a very important problem. During the last few years, for the first time in my life, and for the years that lie ahead, in a time of full employment the mining industry has had and will have to recruit lads to work in it because they want to and not because they have to. I am one of those who had to. I ask the Committee to realise that it is only in the last few years that this has become a very important problem and that it is only the National Coal Board which has faced it.
In its Report the Coal Board bring out very clearly that as a result of the success of the policy of establishing other industries in the coal mining areas, it has to compete with other industries for the essential manpower—the youth of the mining industry. I speak in the presence of others who belong to my generation, and I urge—because I think it is very important—that to leave men of 40, 45 or 50 disabled in the industry, and unable to continue working in the industry because of the nature of their disability—
§ The Chairman
I thought that the Parliamentary Secretary was speaking and that the right hon. Gentleman was intervening.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I had finished my remarks when the right hon. Gentleman, quite legitimately, stood up, and asked me what I thought was a final question, but I have no objection to playing Box and Cox provided you call me, Sir Charles, as often as you call the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Griffiths
This is the first intervention that I have made. We on this side should be very glad if the hon. Gentleman would intervene in the debate again. I 1451 want the Parliamentary Secretary to see this matter in relation to the steps that the Government are taking to ensure that factories which belong to the nation are fully utilised.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade said earlier, I understand—I was unable to be here in time and I apologise for my absence—that the Government proposed to adopt and to implement the Report of the Lloyd Committee. The whole of West Wales is vitally concerned in this matter, so would the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what is the Report of the Lloyd Committee? The Government say that they will accept it, so clearly, the Lloyd Committee has made recommendations. Have the recommendations to do with redundancy in the tin-plate industry, and which recommendations are the Government accepting? These matters are of vital interest and significance to West Wales. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will be able, with your consent, Sir Charles, to answer these questions.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I shall be happy to respond to the right hon. Gentleman if you will permit me so to do, Sir Charles. First, in regard to Remploy factories. I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to say I am simply using soothing words when I say that I understand this problem. One factory looks as if it will be particularly affected. As long as we are the Government, that is to say, during the next few weeks, if there is anything we can do we shall do our best in the matter. I know that these men are dying by inches. Any Government must do what they can to help.
In the future, if we are again the Government and if we can expand Remploy again, it is the kind of thing we want to do. I pledge myself as clearly as I can on this question.
On the question of Government factories which may be partly empty, I know that there have been difficulties on the South Wales Estate. We shall do all we can to get the factories filled again. I cannot say more than that. We do not propose to arm ourselves with direction, other than the industrial development certificate. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman can accuse us of lack of success. We have built these factories all over the country, and they have shown 1452 good results. All I can say is that we will do our best. We will not arm ourselves with direction of factory owners nor shall we arm ourselves with direction of labour, which, I gathered from remarks made by one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite on the subject of migration and conurbation, they would propose.
§ Mr. Watkinson
I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman detailed information without notice at this stage, but I understand that one of the first things we shall do is to build a great trunk road across the heads of the valleys because communications are one of the great needs of Wales.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That a sum, not exceeding £21,831,178, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sums necessary to defray the charges for the following services connected with Development Areas for the year ending on 31st March, 1956.
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded, pursuant to the Order of the House this day, forthwith to put severally the Questions:
§ That the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Estimates and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Revenue Departments and the Ministry of Defence Estimate, and in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Estimates, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates.