HC Deb 24 February 1956 vol 549 cc703-61

11.5 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I beg to move, That this House, noting the good results achieved by many industrial and commercial concerns from the adoption of suggestion schemes which invite and reward employees' ideas for improved efficiency in production, commends such suggestion schemes to all undertakings, public and private, and calls on the Government to provide, through appropriate means, for encouragement, advice and assistance to suggestion schemes; fostering public interest in the submission of such ideas, collection and distribution of such ideas where existing procedure is inadequate; and ensuring generally that new ideas are applied to the best advantage. My object in doing so, as will be seen from the heading to this Motion, on the Order Paper, is to call attention to the need for proper organisation of ideas and suggestions for increasing productivity in industry and commerce. I understand that in the wall of the Doge's Palace in Venice there is a hole into which the public could put suggestions for the good government of their country. Perhaps the counterpart to that in the present day is the letter to the M.P. At any rate, some fifty years or so ago, that slot in the wall gave an idea to one John H. Patterson, of the National Cash Register Company, in Dayton, Ohio. Chatting to one of his foundry workers one day, he asked, "Have you any suggestions for improvements in the way in which we do our work here?" The worker replied "Yes, lots, but it is no use putting them forward—the foreman would get the credit."

Perhaps managements which have not adopted such suggestion schemes might ponder that answer. There is a danger that suggestions and ideas from the man on the job may get lost on the way up, or that someone else may get the credit for them unless there is some organisation within that industry to deal with those suggestions and ideas. That danger may or may not be real, but at any rate the belief that such a danger exists does deter an employee from putting forward his bright suggestions for improvements in production.

John H. Patterson recognised that obstacle. He saw the value of a plan whereby ideas would be brought directly to the notice of the management, and the originators would get not only the credit but the cash for their ideas. He recognised that there should be reasonable rewards for ingenuity. He remembered the slot in the wall which, in his factory, became suggestion boxes in all departments. Later, his company even produced an automatic roller pad register for suggestion schemes though, of course, many firms have no such elaborations. Some, in fact, have abolished suggestion boxes, on the principle that it is rather embarrassing to the employee to be seen tucking his suggestion in the box. Many firms now say, "Post your suggestion to us."

I think it is essential, of course, that there should be available a plentiful supply of forms for the employee to use. It should not be necessary for him to have to go to a supervisor or foreman to ask for them. He should be able to put forward his suggestions unobtrusively and yet be sure that they will reach the management safely. Those are details of organisation, but the details of organisation of suggestion schemes are very important because these schemes have to be adapted and suited to the type of worker and concern for which they are intended.

John Patterson found that his scheme worked so well in Dayton that he came to London and lectured on it. George Eastman, of Kodak, heard those lectures. The Kodak suggestion scheme has now been in operation for forty years; from among 6,000 to 7,000 employees in that firm about 1,600 suggestions are received every year, and one-third of those suggestions are adopted and applied. The firm of Cadbury, too, dates its scheme from George Cadbury having met Patterson about fifty years ago.

This idea of organised suggestion schemes in industry is, therefore, no modern idea. Some of the schemes have been in operation in this country for the past 30, 40 and 50 years. May I describe how one such scheme came into operation? A director joined the board of a company. That director had great faith in suggestion schemes. The board authorised him to form a committee with himself as chairman—an important point, because then the employees realised that their suggestions would get to the top. He chose a secretary who happened to be the assistant advertising manager—a man with a flair for publicity and who could put the scheme over to the workers. Around them they collected a committee consisting of the personnel manager, two works managers, a works engineer and—very important—two representatives of the works council.

First, they had to define their objective. It was to encourage employees to come forward with ideas for saving time, labour, material or salvage—ideas for safety or comfort, for the improvement of machinery, tools, methods and handling, and even for improvements in the finished article. They decided on the rewards to he offered, and, in particular, that even those suggestions which were not adopted should receive some reward if they showed merit. If the suggestions were adopted, the rewards were to be commensurate with the saving to the company.

This committee consisted of busy men. They could only meet once a fortnight, so the secretary was authorised, at his discretion, when he received a suggestion or an idea, to pass it on to the correct department or supervisor so that it could be tried out even before the committee had considered it. The secretary went ahead, publicising and popularising the scheme. Posters appeared on the notice board of the company bearing such phrases as "Coin your ideas", "Win on the pools of ideas", and so on. Notes were put in pay packets, paragraphs were put in the magazine and announcements were made on the Tannoy. As a result, the suggestions rolled in.

The committee found that it had on occasion to co-opt technicians, draughtsmen and even the company's solicitor to deal with patent problems. But it was well worth it, not only in the savings to the company but in its effect on the workers' morale. The quarterly social, at which the awards are made for the suggestions, is extremely popular.

I mentioned the patent problem. That is a difficulty which a company has to face when it is organising a suggestions scheme. If the suggestions or ideas are' patentable, who is to have the rights? Companies frequently state that the patent rights of any suggestion made automatically vest in the company. I think that is wrong. I do not think that any employer should endeavour to filch the ideas of his employees in that way. It is true, perhaps, that in law the invention of an employee in the course of his employment belongs to his employer, but I think that provision should be made in any of these organised suggestion schemes for the employee to retain the patent rights of the invention.

Certainly, the Government do not set a very good example in this respect in their own suggestion schemes. It might assist industry in adopting these schemes if the Government resolutely set its face against any schemes which steal the rights of the employees, because otherwise the employees will be deterred from putting forward suggestions and ideas.

That point was perhaps a diversion from my main theme. I was saying that some of these suggestion schemes are of long standing. A company which has 14,000 employees producing batteries has had a scheme in operation for 35 years, and each year it pays out between £6,000 and £9,000 in awards to employees for the suggestions and ideas which have come up from the man on the job through the organised scheme to the top-level management.

Most of these schemes, however, have either originated or been revised during the past ten years. In recent years there has been a great accumulation of knowledge and experience on this subject, and I should like to acknowledge the sources of the information which I am imparting to the House. I am most grateful to the Industrial Welfare Society, the Institute of Personnel Management, the British Institute of Management and the Board of Trade journal called "Target" for much of the information which I am giving, and particularly I should like to thank a Mr. Clavell Blount, who has for more than a dozen years collected an immense amount of information relating to these suggestion schemes and has untiringly advocated them as being of great value. He has contended—and, I think, quite rightly—that they are of the utmost importance to production and that they are very pertinent to our present search for a cure for our economic worries.

I am no economist. My economic theories are very simple, but because they lead me to give great weight to the subject matter of this Motion perhaps I may put them very briefly. They are as follow: taxed wages plus taxed profits plus the money spent on Government services should—I repeat should—equal the proceeds of production. In fact, at present they do not, and, therefore, we have inflation. They exceed the proceeds of production. Which of these three—wages, profits and Government expenditure—should be cut in order to make the equation correct? The Government have done their duty in endeavouring to keep down Government expenditure and to level down that side of the equation, but industry's effort should be to level up the equation, to bring up production, so that the proceeds of it equal what we wish to be the standard of wages, profits and Government expenditure on social welfare.

As a nation we are not lazy. Individually, we work hard to be efficient in our production, but we are conservative in the methods adopted in industry. These methods frequently occupy time and labour on unproductive effort. We are not as receptive to new ideas and methods of production as is the case in America, for example.

There is always a better way of doing something if we can think of it, and the man on the job very often thinks of it a lot quicker than the backroom boys with their research, the boffins with their theories and the work-study wallahs with their statistics. But when the man on the job thinks of that better way, is he going to walk into the managing director's room and tell him straight out about that bright idea of packing that article this way up instead of that way up? That is very unlikely, and if he tells his idea to someone lower down the line than the managing director, who gets the credit? The man thinks, "Why bother? Let them think it out for themselves," and another good idea is stillborn unless there is some organised suggestion scheme through which his idea can pass—forms to hand for him to write it out, quick consideration of the suggestion, trials of it and awards for it.

There are firms who calculate their savings from employees' suggestions and ideas in terms of five and six figures a year, and part of the purpose of my Motion is to endeavour to persuade the Government to treat suggestion schemes as seriously as do many firms in this country. Perhaps the Government could overhaul such suggestion schemes as there are in the Civil Service and see that good organised suggestion schemes are applied in nationalised industries. They could also do a little bullying of private firms to adopt such schemes, and encourage the public to put forward ideas and suggestions for efficient production.

There is one very important proviso, which is that trade unions must co-operate in such schemes. It is no use an employee putting forward a good suggestion for saving time and labour if the trade union is to place a veto on its adoption. If there is never to be an adjustment in employment there will be the inevitability of unemployment.

One scheme in which the trade unions have co-operated very well is the scheme adopted by Vauxhall Motors, where, in 1953, awards to employees totalled £6,026. The maximum award to any one employee was as much as £350, and 13,850 employees of the firm produced fresh ideas at the rate of ten a day, the number accepted averaging 30 per cent. There is in that firm a clear-cut basis for making awards. It is 10 per cent. of the savings from a suggestion in the first year, and an additional sum not exceeding 10 per cent, can be credited at the discretion of the management advisory committee.

The important point to which I wish to draw attention in connection with this scheme is that the suggestions committee which deals with the suggestions made consists of eight men, seven of whom are workers' representatives, usually high-grade craftsmen, elected by ballot, and one a management nominee. I have here a copy of the Board of Trade journal "Target" containing pictures of employees in that concern who have received awards. One received an award of £70 for a self-metering and spray device, another received £25 for an automatic anti-jamming device, and another £165 for a suggestion for eliminating a component on all four Vauxhall door assemblies.

But even with such examples before it, British industry has not in general applied suggestion schemes to the same extent as they have been applied in America. In 1953, about 4,000 companies in America had organised suggestion schemes. They were receiving two million ideas a year and adopting 500,000 of them. They were awarding 15 million dollars a year in rewards to employees for their ideas, and it was calculated that there was a saving of 300 million dollars a year from the adoption of employees' suggestions and ideas. Those are the visible and tangible benefits to production.

I am afraid that we have no such figures for the United Kingdom. We have individual estimates of the savings from these schemes. For example, Hoover's estimated that in 1953 the company saved £80,000 from employees' suggestions. Other firms decline to give an estimate of that sort because they say that the value of their organised suggestion schemes does not lie so much in the tangible and visible effects on production as in the interest and co-operation which they engender among the work-people. That is of vital importance in this machine age. It needs no eloquence or advocacy from me to impress the need for providing a replacement for the necessarily disappearing pride in craftsmanship as the worker becomes more and more a mere accessory to the machine. Therefore, where these suggestion schemes are adopted they should be adapted to the type of employment and kind of worker concerned, and the schemes varied in pattern from industry to industry.

These schemes are bound to become of greater and greater importance as automation proceeds in industry. They provide a basis for co-operation between management and workers as the structure of industry and commerce changes, and they will assist in getting over the teething troubles of that change. They provide the worker with a realisation that he has a responsible part to play although he is becoming more and more a machine-minder.

Perhaps some organisations feel that they can achieve these results without an organised suggestions scheme. They say that they have joint consultation, and that ideas filter through from that type of organised co-operation between workers and management. I do not think that that is good enough. Joint consultation committees may be the right sort of body to deal with ideas relating to conditions of work, but they cannot deal with the technical ideas and suggestions, the testing of them, consultations on them and the making of awards for them. That is why I ask the House to commend the organised suggestion scheme to industry. That is why I ask the Government to treat it as a special duty to encourage such suggestion schemes.

Perhaps the Government might start by making it well known that there is certain tax relief available in adopting these schemes. Payment by firms of awards for suggestions and ideas are proper expenses deductible from profits. Furthermore, they are not followed by the Inland Revenue into the hands of the employees. Prize money for suggestions and ideas is not taxable in the hands of the employee. I think the Government should go even further than making that known.

If the Chancellor is looking for economies—as, of course, he is—would he look at the Civil Service suggestion schemes to see if they are operating efficiently and boldly? I do not think that reports from heads of Departments are quite sufficient. Of course, they will say that the suggestion schemes in their own Departments are operating very well. I suggest that the Chancellor should appoint a special officer or two with experience of these schemes—the successful ones in industry—to look into those of the Civil Service and to see how they are operated. That could spread also to the nationalised industries. Certainly, there is plenty of scope there for suggestions and ideas for increased efficiency.

I wonder what happened to an idea put forward by a Mr. George Ingrim, who was a member of the Eastern Regional Board for Industry? He recently suggested that a cash prize and a challenge cup should be awarded annually for the most outstanding suggestion for cutting production—

Mr. A. J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)

Cutting production?

Mr. Page

Cutting production costs. He based his plan for a sort of national award on the idea that the broad message urging greater industrial productivity did not sink into the perception of the ordinary person and that something more imaginative was required. He pointed out that it was not surprising that production workers think in terms of a large win on a football pool as their only possible escape from a hum-drum existence, and he suggested that that very human urge might be satisfied and channelled into its most useful end by creating annual national productivity awards for the best idea.

He suggested that each award should consist of a trophy symbolising industrial achievement and be accompanied by a cheque for £500, provided by the Treasury. That scheme, I understand, was put before the British Productivity Council for its report. I have no record of what views were taken by the British Productivity Council of that scheme, or whether it was relegated to the dustbin. It ought not to have been; it ought to have been extended. Mr. Ingrim restricted it to bona fide employees in manufacturing industry and those industries serving manufacturers, but why not extend a scheme of that sort to the public in general?

There are many people who have bright suggestions and bright ideas who are not in an industry where there is a suggestions scheme, or in any industry at all. What about the housewife? Hon. Members, I am sure, can remember many occasions when a mother or wife has protested bitterly at some elaboration of a domestic article which she has to polish or clean unnecessarily, some elaboration quite unnecessary and often unsightly—that knob against which she always knocks her knuckles, that spike on which she breaks her nails, or even that superfluous man who calls. "Why," she asks, "does one man call to read my gas meter, and another man call to read my electricity meter when both belong to nationalised industries?"

I should like to see the Government establish some clearing house for suggestions and ideas from the public, and to see that those suggestions are treated seriously—an organisation whose efficiency would be well known to the public, which would place ideas, see that they are applied and see that they get recognition and credit. Why not have a national award such as Mr. Ingrim suggested? Why not have pool-size prizes for housewives' suggestions—not just "A penny for your thoughts," but "A pound for your idea," or more? We have the British Productivity Council, which deals with suggestion schemes in industry as a sideline. I do not think that this is a matter for sideline or part-time activity. It is far more important than that. We have the Institute of Patentees, a very valuable non-profit making organisation which assists those with patentable inventions, but not all the suggestions and ideas for improved production are patentable.

We are perhaps the most inventive nation in the world—certainly so far as major inventions are concerned, because 25 per cent. of the inventions of the world come from this country—and also in the ordinary practical know-how. How many times has one seen an idea exported from this country for nothing and reimported in the form of goods on which some other country, by using that idea, has expended far less time and labour than we expend in the conventional and older methods of production of the same goods in this country? Other countries so frequently adopt our ideas which we have been too lazy or too conservative to adopt in this country.

At times I am afraid it is neither laziness nor conservatism which prevents us from adopting those ideas, but trade union obstinacy. There have been many occasions on which good suggestions have been prevented from being adopted by an attitude amongst the unions which is a hangover from the past. It is a frame of mind which was described as long ago as 1902 by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, in "Industrial Democracy." I do not think I can describe it better than by quoting the words they used: The individual operatives have nothing to gain by cheapening the process of production and they stand actually to lose by every invention or improvement in organisation that enables their product to be turned out with less labour. Amazing as it may sound, that idea does still prevail in many unions.

Suggestion schemes are useless if the two-man job can be reduced to a one-man job by a good suggestion but the union still insists on two men being employed on it. I am not thinking only of those which have received publicity lately, such as the Cammell Laird dispute and the Hull grain elevator dispute. I am thinking literally of millions of small instances in industry and commerce where there have been the same sort of obstructions to progress. Vermiculite slabs and metal windows have received publicity in the building industry, but what happens if anyone in the building industry suggests a quicker way of doing something. Let any such suggestion be made in the shipbuilding industry for reducing "spelling," abolishing the "all or none" overtime custom, reducing the ridiculous over manning in welding or cutting out one of the five trades who go to produce even one porthole in a ship, and see what happens.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

If these terribly retrograde practices obtain throughout the whole of the British shipbuilding industry, why are we by far the most efficient and able producers of ships in the world?

Mr. Page

I do not wish to derogate in any way from the brilliant production of shipbuilding by this country, but that does not mean that it could not be improved a lot more. I will give the hon. Member one little example of how it could be improved by eliminating waste of time, labour and money.

A company which was producing fully-welded ships needed two riveters merely to rivet holes in the plates. Of course, riveters belong to the Shipwrights' Union. Those riveters were required for only half a day a week. The company asked the Shipwrights' Union and the Boilermakers' Union whether it could use those two shipwrights for the rest of the week on boilermaking work, such as welding. Neither union would allow it, and so the men do half a day's work and sit doing nothing for the rest of the week. That is a situation in which suggestion schemes can never flourish. It is an attitude which is disastrous to present-day production.

Earlier this week, we had a debate on the economic situation. The need for greater efficiency in production has been stressed again and again, and yet restrictions of this kind against efficiency persist. I would wholeheartedly support any restriction of that kind which was designed to protect skill or craft, to ensure that a job was done by the skilled man or to maintain a smooth and efficient production line. But too many suggestions and ideas for improving efficiency in production have been obstructed by the lower union officials solely to maintain the membership of their own unions or their own little empires.

I do not blame the senior trade union leaders—I believe that they are acting with wisdom and responsibility—but because of the structure of the unions, they have, in all good democratic faith, no control over the shop stewards and the branch secretaries in these matters, nor have they any control over the collusion on many occasions between the shop stewards and some managements.

When order books are full and a suggestion is put forward by an employee for cutting down time and labour, it is perhaps easier for managements to carry on with the old methods and to turn down the suggestion rather than have a row with the shop steward. We really must face this position fairly and squarely.

When a suggestion comes forward from an employee, the shop steward sees that it could lead to redundancy. Although there may be plenty of other jobs available for the men who would be declared redundant, the shop steward frequently says, "If this suggestion is adopted, out they come". And so the management takes the line of least resistance and the suggestion is dropped. Until we abandon this attitude of mind, we shall never produce sufficient to maintain the standard of wages and of welfare that we desire.

The solution might lie in payment based not so much on the time that a man spends at his workplace, but on what he produces and the quality of the articles he produces—in short, piece work rates. Suggestion schemes certainly flourish in concerns where piece work rates are paid. I know, of course, that every industry does not lend itself to payment by piece work rates, but I am sure that this form of payment brings a closer relationship between earnings and production, gives an incentive to greater efficiency in production, and certainly gives an incentive to employees to make suggestions and put forward ideas.

Millions of ideas are wasted either because there is no organised channel through which they can be passed or because there is obstruction of the ideas when they are submitted. I should like to see a national campaign to encourage suggestions and ideas and to value them. There should be a national organisation to ensure their use and to break down resistance to new methods.

The position was very well put in a recent letter to the Press by an economist, Mr. John Allan May, who said: If people knew their ideas for improvements would be appreciated; if they knew these ideas would get attention; if they were certain that a useful idea would be paid for and a brilliant idea might make them a fortune; then there could be such an upsurge of productivity that we could remove the strangeness from our strange prosperity and ensure steady and rapid progress for all the community. That is why I should like to see launched a tremendous campaign, a national drive, with Government leadership, to use ideas and suggestions for manufacturing and distributing our products more cheaply, so that living costs would come down and living standards would go up.

11.48 a.m.

Mr. John Woollam (Liverpool, West Derby)

I beg to second the Motion.

In supporting what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page), I should like to supplement the many examples he has given of successful suggestion schemes. Those of us who have read about and studied these schemes tend to associate them with American and Canadian industry and with the dynamic and, as it seems to us, pioneering spirit which so often inspires the leaders of both sides of that industry.

One of the most impressive and influential schemes in private industry, both in North America and in Europe, has been the American Government's scheme which came into being during the war, and for a very good reason. After Pearl Harbour, when the War Department knew that it was facing a phenomenal expan- sion, it knew also that there was increased scope for inefficiency, indifference and incompetence. The War Department introduced its suggestions plan, which in a couple of years became one of the most successful in the world.

I should like first to mention some of the things which the American Government were seeking out, or trying to encourage, and then to show the results as expressed by the Secretary for War at the end of the war. The sort of things which the suggestions plan was seeking were not only quantity and quality of performance, but in particular the simple things, such as trying to eliminate inessential methods, unnecessary records, additional procedure, trying to simplify routine in mammoth departments and organisations trying—and this is most important and so often neglected in discussion of these matters—to improve safety methods throughout all departments and trying to discover improved devices which at that time could help the war effort.

One impressive feature of this American Government scheme was that it was deliberately based on generous cash awards. In 1945 the United States Secretary for War summed up the two years of its operation by saying that it was estimated that in two years suggestions coming from the War Department had initiated savings of at least 100 million dollars; and he also said that employees in the War Department had made 282,000 suggestions, of which no fewer than 43,500 had been adopted in the two years of war-time operation. That scheme, which was such a success in difficult war-time circumstances, had a big influence on past-war American industry and was also a formative influence on the Canadian Government's introduction of their scheme in 1952, the Public Service Suggestion Award Plan.

That is an example of what has happened in a big way in Government Departments on the other side of the Atlantic. I should now like to supplement that by drawing on examples from private industry in this country and I should like to differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby in my methods, because I am not so much concerned with the notable result in the number of suggestions which he admirably put forward, but with giving some very humble examples of the type of suggestion that can come from the operative and worker at the shop floor level. I have deliberately selected humble examples, because I find them most impressive. They show the countless thousands of simple ideas running through the minds of people and which, for lack of encouragement from either side of industry, are not being expressed and therefore not being adopted.

I want to mention one which is simple common sense and which occurred at the Joseph Lucas factory. The firm was experiencing a good deal of fuel waste through fuel faults and leaks in compressed air pipes, until one of the operatives pointed out that the cause of the trouble was that night maintenance men coming on duty had to seek out the various reported faults and that no preparatory work was ever done efficiently to organise the work of the night maintenance men. Through this very simple suggestion, a floor layout was displayed in every department and a fuel watcher in every department located on the layout where the fault was, so that the night maintenance man went straight to their jobs. One might have thought that such an obvious idea would have occurred to somebody many years ago, but it had not, and it was an operative who suggested it and who was rewarded for the suggestion.

Another suggestion, an inventive one, was made at the National Smelting Company, where an operative in the ammonia sulphate crystallising plant division thought of an idea for operating that plant which cut down the process time from sixteen hours to four hours, a most remarkable contribution to the efficiency and productivity of the plant. Another type of idea which often has a practical bearing on the safety aspect of operations in factories comes from the Brush Electrical Engineering Group. In these works were a number of vertical boring machines which, naturally, had to be very carefully guarded. For countless years the firm had been using a form of guard which required much bolting and unbolting. As soon as that commenced, the machine had to be stopped, of course. Whenever waste material or shavings had to be removed, the time taken for that machine to be stopped was no less than one hour. It took an operative attending the machine to devise a hinged guard, and that hinged guard has cut down the time the machine is out of operation from one hour to one-third of that time.

Those are practical examples. Some are common sense and some technical. Lastly, I should like to take an example where all operate together. I came across this example in the Mains Radio and Gramophone Company. The firm has a two-man ideas team which is especially engaged on this job of looking for ideas and suggestions. Parallel with the work of that ideas team is an operatives' suggestions plan. The ideas team works on many of these suggestions to bring them to the final point of usefulness. As a result of the work of the suggestions plan and the ideas team, the firm has estimated that in three years productivity has gone up by 12 per cent.

Some of the ideas are very simple and one was so simple as to be almost amusing, but among the practical was one relating to the physical conditions and eye-strain of the operatives. One of the problems was that a wiring process imposed a strain on the eyes of the operatives; so white boards were placed between the suspended wires so that as soon as one strand snapped, it was immediately detected. One might well think that such a simple idea would have occurred to somebody years ago, but it was something that had to be deliberately encouraged by a great deal of effort in the suggestions plan and ideas team.

Another idea which greatly appealed to me was to do with the speeding up of the process of polishing and cleaning cathode-ray tubes. The former process was to unpack the tubes from their boxes and place them on a special holder where some one cleaned them. Somebody in the stores department had the idea of leaving the tube in the box, opening the box at the wrong end and having someone come along and polish the exposed wide end of the tube while still in its package. That eliminated a great deal of unnecessary time and expense. The idea is almost amusing, because it is so simple, but nevertheless it is the remarkable fact that that idea occurred to somebody in the stores department of that gramophone and radio company.

Those are examples from Government and private industry. I am well aware that if one starts to encourage these schemes in private industry, one must start to hit human difficulties. One starts to get nuisance suggestions, funny suggestions which try people's nerves and often kill the scheme. One gets the type of suggestion that gets on everybody's nerves, pointing how some shortcoming in the foreman, or the chargehand or in the general supervision of the management. That gradually extends to what is no more than sniping at and reporting on other people. That has a most unfortunate effect on the whole morale of the department or factory.

There is then the bigger problem of trying to sort out who thought of the idea and whether it was the idea of an individual, or whether he talked it over during a break with one of his mates who made just the little touch which improved the idea and who later claims that he should have a share in the award. That problem is one which must be ironed out. It is one for managements and trade unions. It is only a temporary obstacle to the successful operation of suggestion schemes.

Another obstacle comes very much from the employers' side and it is most found in the small or medium firm. There is a type of employer who says that he is paying a man to work; therefore, he has bought him for the time he spends at the factory and the man should not be paid any extra award. The employer says that he is paying the man to think. That is a selfish, narrow and inaccurate view, because, as a result of extra effort and extra concentration, an operative might produce some clear saving to the factory, and therefore to the employer, and that saving should be shared with those who thought of the idea. Those are some of the obvious human problems, but they should not be allowed to defeat the idea of having suggestion schemes. They should be ironed out between management and trade union leadership. That is their job.

I urge the Government to feel that there is scope throughout the country for the imaginative encouragement of suggestion schemes. They should not be satisfied about the way in which such schemes are operated in the Civil Service. Provision should be made for sound procedure for dealing with and encouraging ideas and suggestions in all State organisations, and for making this procedure available to the general public as well as to the staff. In conjunction with both sides of industry the Government should embark on a nation-wide campaign to stimulate the flow of ideas into industry.

12.2 p.m.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes)

I feel that in proposing the Motion my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) has dealt with only one side of the question, and from my own experience I should like to point out some of the problems connected with suggestion schemes and to give my views on what industry, the trade union movement and the Government can do to help.

One of the main problems about suggestion schemes is their eligibility or otherwise for an award. This raises all sorts of problems. First, there is the question of demarcation. Naturally, management has to decide what comprises the work required of a man for the wage he is paid. Management must find out whether the suggestion of an employee is covered by the terms of his job. That results in many ideas and suggestions drying up, because the employee may have a difference of opinion with the management about whether his suggestion is covered by the work he is paid to do.

It is not so difficult to arrive at a decision where production workers are concerned. Normally, a production worker is required to carry out an operation on a machine, and if he makes a suggestion about the quicker movement of material or about an alteration to his machine it is a simple matter for management to decide whether that is a suggestion in the true sense of the word and something which an operative could not be expected to include in the work he was paid to do.

Where a man is engaged on installation and maintenance of plant, the problem becomes greater. If a millwright makes a suggestion about altering a machine which he is either installing or maintaining, the question arises whether it is a recognised part of his job that he should take on certain designing requirements as well as his normal work of installation and maintenance. Such a problem has arisen in many firms and industries and resulted in differences of opinion between management and men about whether a suggestion should receive an award.

It is essential that both management and men should pay special attention to this problem. In most cases the suggestions of greatest value are those relating to alteration and modernisation of plant. There are many industries for which the machine tool industry does not cater adequately. It may cater for certain methods of manufacture, but in some industries the requirements may be a little different. An opening occurs for the utilisation of ideas and suggestions about adapting machine tools in certain industries, and the use of such ideas could result in great saving; but unless a man is satisfied that any suggestion he makes will be properly considered and not regarded as part of the job, he will not be encouraged to make such a suggestion. While that problem remains many men engaged on plant installation and maintenance might be tempted to let the firms find out for themselves because, they would argue, if they made a suggestion they would be told that it was part of their job and they would not receive any reward for it.

Another problem goes far deeper and reflects the attitude of many in the trade union movement to suggestion schemes. Such schemes differ from each other and naturally, wherever trade unionists are employed, they are suspicious of any kind of scheme which it is felt may in any way result in the reduction of employment. Because of this fear of the displacement of workers, rigid attitudes have been adopted to schemes. I know of departments in works where every member of the union who wishes to make a suggestion is required first to present it to his branch executive where it is considered. If the executive feels that it will result in a reduction in the number of employees it is suggested to the man that he should not submit it. That attitude prevents the flow of ideas and suggestions, but one can understand the reason why it is adopted.

Trade unionists should realise that, while a fear of this kind may have been reasonable when unemployment existed and there was the possibility of a continuing level of unemployment, the attitude today should be different now that we may look forward to a continuing state of full employment. Operatives in different firms must realise that if their firm does not keep "up to scratch" with modern ideas and methods and if pro- duction costs are not kept down, it is possible that the very thing will happen which they wish to avoid, namely, unemployment.

Employers also have a responsibility. They must make sure their employees realise, whenever a suggestion is made, that there is a genuine assessment of its value to the company and that upon that valuation an award is paid. Managements could do a great deal to show conclusively to their employees that they do not regard them as ciphers, as purely operatives, to be dealt with in their books as materials on this side and workpeople on the other; but that they regard them, in the scheme of things, as partners who will have, to put it in the parlance of my fellow workers, "A fair crack of the whip." If that idea can be brought about, if employers generally show that they genuinely want suggestions, that they wish to give the employees due reward for any suggestions put forward and will always bear in mind that they are employing a band of human beings and not a number of ciphers, it will be a good thing.

Then there is the suggestions book which many firms use. The suggestions book can be only partly successful. One of the main problems of the suggestions book is that it tends to by-pass the shop foreman. The shop foreman in recent years, in my opinion, has had far too much responsibility taken away from him. The foreman is probably in the best position to properly assess whether a suggestion that is made is valuable or not, and whether it should be passed on to a higher level as being a suggestion which can be incorporated widely in the works or whether it should be put into operation at the shop level. Therefore, it is essential that the foreman should be kept fully-informed of the whole scheme of things. Suggestions should not be put into a box to be collected by the secretary or committee and passed to a higher level without the foreman having any opportunity of saying whether it is a good idea or not.

There is always a tendency for flippant suggestions to be made. Anyone who has been in industry knows that this is a problem. Many flippant suggestions are put into the suggestions book and have to be put on one side. There is, for instance, the suggestion which tells the works manager where to put his instructions. One knows exactly what to do with that. But there are other suggestions which tend to clog up the machine and do not achieve anything at all. These are some of the problems connected with the suggestions book, and I think that more could be done to get suggestions and ideas than by the use of this accepted model—the suggestions book.

I also feel that if we are to obtain from employees suggestions and ideas which will be valuable there should be more general instruction given on what the management think would be most effective by a simple explanation of works study. The average man working in most industries today, knows very little about work study or time and motion study. If he knows nothing about these things, he tends to be suspicious of them. If we are to go any distance at all in bringing about these ideas and suggestions, we must make certain that a simple explanation is given.

For instance, how many employees realise that by reducing the time and energy required in moving components from one machine to another a great reduction in production costs can be brought about by reducing bottlenecks and speeding up the time of passing components, and that this, in fact, tends to bring about the need for more production workers? There is, for instance, the transfer machine in the car industry which speeds up the process of moving an engine block from one operation to another. Automatically the employee engaged in the car industry, if no explanation is given to him, feels that this is the thin end of the wedge to bringing about unemployment. In fact, if we can speed up the number of engine blocks coming off the line more assemblers are needed. I think that more could be done by managements in explaining these matters as simply as possible.

There is one suggestion which I should like to put before the House. It is, in fact, an idea which was operated by a firm for which I worked. I think that it operated fairly successfully. It was all started by a suggestions society. The society was selective in membership. Any employee of the firm who had submitted a certain number of suggestions which had proved workable and valuable, and for which he had received rewards, was allowed to join the suggestions society. That meant bringing together a selected group of employees from all over the factory. They were men who did more than operate the machines. They were men who thought. They had the ability to see what an idea could do when applied to a particular process. That group of people, as a society, met together periodically for lectures and discussions on different matters.

One way in which a firm can go forward is by selecting people in the firm who are capable of thinking and of seeing the value of an idea when put into operation, and bringing those people together. It is also a good plan to give them lectures on general work study and the benefits which can be obtained from it, thereby building up the flow of ideas and suggestions.

Another matter which I think managements should take into consideration is this. In industry many thousands of pounds are saved by simple ideas—they could not be simpler. It is because they are so simple that the trained designer has never thought of them. The trained designer naturally does not think of the simple ideas which come to men now and then—to people like me, who have simple minds and who do not apply themselves to the general design of a complicated machine, but who look at the things which they feel cause problems and put forward simple ideas to put them right.

The House should be grateful to the hon. Member for Crosby for raising this matter, and I certainly support the Motion.

12.19 p.m.

Mr. Robert Edwards (Bilston)

I should like to support the Motion. The industrial workers of this country have vast experience in production. We have only to meet the trade unionists at their branch meetings to realise how wise they are on the whole question of the organisation and productivity of the factory in which they work. Their experience and practical knowledge is very rarely used by managements in this country. Usually, these matters are left to the expert, the man with a degree, and the experience and suggestions of the industrial workers are frequently ignored.

I am happy to say, however, that in the industry with which I am closely connected, namely, the chemical industry, the idea of suggestion boxes has been a common practice for many years. Several members of my union have, from time to time, received modest cheques from their managements for suggestions which they have made.

It would be good for the country and would greatly aid productivity if the experience of the best factories became the general experience and practice of the whole of British industry. The problem is, of course, how to persuade all the factory managements and industrial undertakings to apply the experience of the best factories, because getting the best out of these schemes is dependent fundamentally on close co-operation between management and workers and on the relationship that exists in a factory. If a factory is a harmonious unit, and if the workers and management are working closely together, each understanding the importance of production, then there is a constant flow of suggestions from every level in the factory, to the general advantage of the undertaking and of the nation, because as production increases so the nation is enriched.

One simple practical suggestion I should make to the Minister is that there should be some kind of national campaign designed to get the best out of the many local schemes for suggestion boxes. For instance, we could have a television show, say once every month, which could be called "Out of the Hat," by which we could try to bring hundreds of thousands into the scheme and make it part of a great drive to increase the productivity of the country. I do not know whether there is anything in that idea, but it seems to me that whatever we do in this direction must be done dramatically and in a big way if we are to get continuous practical results of lasting value to the country.

Many schemes for increasing the productivity of British industry are not being used. Lots of vested interests need to be broken down before we can get an expanding economy and the full flow of production. I remember visiting the Don Basin, in Russia, and inspecting an underground gasification scheme for extracting oil, waxes and other by-products from coal underground. The whole scheme was based on the patent of a very brilliant Scotsman, Professor Ramsey, which was never used in this country. Therefore, it is important that in a discussion of this nature we should not overlook the many basic ideas of some of our own people which have never been used in this country, but which, when the patents run out, are used in many other countries of the world.

There are other aspects of this matter with which industrial workers are constantly plagued. I am the general secretary of a trade union, and at this very moment I am concerned with a dispute in Manchester over the application of time and motion study in a big I.C.I. dyestuffs factory at Blackley, where the workers, apparently, are making too much money out of the scheme. The management has brought in experts who are cutting down the prices which were decided on at every level before they were introduced. Conspiracy of that kind against such schemes creates the suspicion in the minds of the workers that as soon as they begin to receive higher wages as a result of any new idea which they put forward to increase productivity the experts are brought in to start cutting their earnings.

I remember another instance when, a few years ago, a very clever young girl engaged on piece work in a plastic factory discovered a means whereby she could place small plastic tips on four fingers, thereby speeding up the job many times over. The increased productivity was of tremendous importance to the firm, but a narrow-minded management called on me to persuade the girl that her earnings of £25 a week as a result of applying her idea were too high, even though the firm itself was making many thousands of pounds from it.

This is not a spectacular or world-shaking Motion, but it is of very considerable human and economic importance that we should get the best out of closer co-operation between workers and management. No new ideas should be introduced into any factory without close consultation with the unions. If that is done, then the workers will not be afraid of producing themselves out of a job. They will be only too happy to co-operate in increasing the productivity of their own factory, thus increasing the wealth of the community and of the whole nation.

12.27 p.m.

Mr. R. Brooman-White (Rutherglen)

I am extremely happy to follow the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. R. Edwards) because of his suggestion about the possibility of a nation-wide publicity campaign, and of putting these ideas on television and of taking other practical steps of that kind in order to arouse public interest. I am bound to confess that when I read this Motion—though I am sure that every hon. Member will agree with its sentiments and objectives—I thought it rather vague. I found myself wondering, apart from the expression of benevolent intent, how one could get such a general statement on to a practical and operational basis.

Owing to the nature of our calling, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can expect any direct reward for the idea which he has just put into the suggestion box, but I hope that he will have the satisfaction of seeing it put into operation and producing some fruitful results.

The speeches to which we have listened so far in the debate have been made by informed practical people with day-to-day working knowledge of production problems on the floor of the shop. I am not in the position to make such a contribution. My approach to the matter is rather different. The union to which I belong is the National Union of Journalists, and journalism does not normally suffer from a shortage of ideas. The main difficulty of a journalist is to find sufficient space in which to develop his ideas. Journalists normally suffer from seeing their choicest ideas cut out by the sub-editors, either because a big news story breaks or because the advertising editor has come along to say that he has sold more space and the news columns have to be cut.

For many years, however, I have been interested in every aspect of the ideas which come under the general headings of co-operation in industry, joint consultation, co-partnership, profit-sharing, and such matters. Some of these ideas are very difficult to put into practice, and some may still be regarded as controversial. But, certainly, the one which has been most generally accepted and has now become almost standard in British industry is that of joint consultation. There are only a very few firms which still do not accept it in some form or another, although the differences between firms is still very marked. The problem is very largely one of how to educate, encourage and exhort the more laggard firms to bring themselves up to the level of the better ones.

In common with other hon. Members who represent industrial constituencies, I have, in my ordinary capacity, visited local works. Even if one is without very much direct industrial experience one rapidly finds that one can form an impression, just as one used to do in the Armed Forces when one went around visiting units. Really, within a few minutes of entering a works it is possible to sense the relationships which exist between officers and men or management and employees. Nine times out of ten, if the relationship is good and things are going well, if one starts talking about joint consultation one finds that a great deal of attention is being devoted to it.

If one then asks the management whether they are getting very much practical benefit from the various suggestions which are made one finds that they sometimes are, but quite often they say, "No. There have been one or two little things, but nothing much for a year or two." However, they go on to say, "But, of course, we are going on with it; it is well worth all the time and attention that we spend upon it." Though they have not analysed the matter in detail, the benefit which they are receiving largely makes itself felt by way of a contribution to the general atmosphere in the works.

The fundamental problem which industry is facing is surely this. With a steadily rising level of education, a fuller life in the home, and the rather wider horizons which everybody employed in industry is rightly acquiring, ways and means must be found of extending those wider horizons in the factories themselves. The boredom, tedium, monotony and the limitations of ordinary factory life constitute a very serious problem.

Anything which gives an employee the feeling that he is one of a team and a sense that, by his own ideas, attention and application to his job he may be able to think a jump ahead, plays a practical part in improving conditions in the factory. Even if nothing very much comes of any such ideas, the mental climate is improved. To some extent it creates an intellectual challenge and stimulus, thereby contributing to the general benefit.

This sort of thing not only adds to the good will in the works itself, but it has a wider implication. It helps to do what the hon. Member for Bilston, as secretary of a trade union, has been trying to do for many years—remove the fear of workers that they will work themselves out of a job. We know that feeling only too well. This sense of partnership which I have mentioned is intangible and hard to measure, but it also helps to build up within the trade union movement the idea that there is no longer any great danger of people working themselves out of their jobs. The position is now reversed. If they do not produce enough they will find themselves out of jobs.

En my constituency area, great difficulty has been found in explaining to men working in a little coal mine that increased production on their part was the only thing which could help to make a practical contribution towards keeping in operation the great steel works further down the river. That was particularly true a few years ago, when the shortage of fuel was very acute. It is very difficult to change a lifetime's habit of thought, and to get behind industrial production in this country the same sort of positive drive, reaching for the stars, and "attack" spirit which exists in industry in America, and which those of us who have visited West Germany and other of our European competitors since the war have seen in their industries.

West Germany has "the jump" on us in this respect. Her people came out of the wreckage of war faced with the utter devastation of their cities and the dismantling of their factories. They were in an almost hopeless position. There were only two things they could do—chuck it, or go in and fight on the industrial front. Whatever one may have thought about them in the past, no one has ever doubted their courage and tenacity. They accepted the challenge and went in and fought and rebuilt.

They have had the exhilaration of seeing their cities rising phoenix-like out of the ruins and seeing their industries growing up again. That has given them the same sort of spirit towards production that exists in America. They have seen the results, and they are exciting. They have seen the fruition of a great creative effort. We have been struggling along to some extent "with worn-out tools" and with the feeling that we have done the impossible during the war and have earned a rest. It is hard to find a formula which can give this "shot in the arm" to our industry and will give our people the same spirit as exists among our American and European competitors.

There is, as has been said, nothing very epoch making in this Motion. It will not transform things, but in small ways it can contribute. And any move in this direction will amply repay all the study, effort and pressure which can be put behind it. What more can the Government do? They can arrange for wider publicity. Even Press publicity for this debate may play its part. The Government can also set an example in those fields of production in which their own Ministries are engaged.

I have visited some of our Royal Ordnance factories. Nobody who has been round such factories would regard them as really outstanding models of dynamic production, or places which inspire one as soon as one enters them because of the progressive methods, zeal and forward-looking approach of management and employees. I do not think that that is the impression one receives, but I do not see why it should not be. Nor do I know how much the Ministry of Supply can help in its own direct work, or even by way of advice—tactfully given—and encouragement by the many people it sends out to various industries. That also seems worth further consideration by those responsible.

The Government can, moreover, do something not only in industries in which they are themselves directly engaged in production, but also in other industries, by spreading technical ideas which have been developed by their own research laboratories or by big firms engaged in large-scale research, the results of which they are prepared to make available to other firms. This is a matter which has been the subject of a considerable amount of study in Scotland, through the Scottish Council for Industry and Development. For reasons of propriety, however, I must not embark upon a discussion of Scottish matters.

Although the results of industrial research undertaken by big firms and Government research laboratories are, to a large extent, available to small firms, the present attitude seems to be to say to the rest of industry, "Anybody can have the benefit of this research if they come and ask for it." The point is that they do not come and ask. It may be deplorable but it is a fact that the small firms which are not particularly progressive or well managed tend to go along merely looking after their orders, although it may be that it is their very attitude which is preventing them from becoming bigger firms. They might well grow if they had the right spirit behind them.

It would be an excellent thing if the managing directors or boffins in these small firms were to spend a little more time going around the country and discussing these questions with their big associates, in an effort to discover anything which may be of interest or benefit to them. But matters do not work that way. It is a little similar to what one so often finds abroad when foreign people say to us "British products are excellent, but you do not take enough trouble to sell them or to find out precisely what we want."

Is not the same sort of thing happening today in the industrial world in respect of technical improvement? That applies, notably to the many small suggestions that come into the suggestions box, but also to the larger ones that come out of Government research or research carried on by big firms. Should we not seek some method of taking these ideas to small firms that might benefit by them rather than leave them on the counter to wait for someone to come along to ask for them?

Could not a central organisation employ a kind of travelling salesman in techniques to go around and give free advice to small firms? He could say, "I am not trying to sell you anything, and it is of no direct benefit to me whether or not you do as I suggest, but it occurs to us that in this branch of your business a certain innovation or certain new techniques that we happen to have learned of might be worth trying. If you would like to know more about them we are willing to help you and put you in touch with the place where you can get the new 'know how'." I do not see why Government finance should not support such arrangements.

I am sure that every hon. Member welcomes the proposals in the Motion. I hope that the Government will try to devise all the practical means they can for putting them into operation.

12.43 p.m.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

I wish to support the ideas expressed in the Motion, which contains a great many useful suggestions. If they were adopted generally in industry they could result in considerably increasing not only productivity but the earnings of the work-people and the profits of the firms.

I have had experience of trying to work some of these ideas in municipal as well as in private employment. I remember suggesting to an organisation of which I was a member that we ought to have joint consultation with the work-people on the job. This was in the building section. We set up a joint consultative committee in each depot to encourage men to bring forward ideas. At the very first meeting a simple idea which nobody else had thought of cropped up. A large number of painters were employed and they all went to the depot at 8 o'clock each morning for their pots of paint and brushes before going out on their jobs. The storekeeper went there at the same time. The result was that the painters waited an average of half an hour each morning for the paints and brushes to be given to them by the storekeeper.

One of the men suggested, "Why doesn't the storekeeper come in half an hour earlier and get the paints and brushes ready?" We decided to try it. The result was an extra half-hour's work every day for the storekeeper, but, as there were fifteen painters all able to do half an hour's extra work every day, about seven and a half hours extra painting work was effectively done every day by that one small group. The savings to the employer were tremendous.

We shall not get suggestions of that kind from workers unless we remember their fear of redundancy. The industry I know most about is building. Some employers have invited suggestions for the better organisation of jobs, but many men refuse to put forward ideas which may result in their jobs finishing more quickly and themselves being out of work. That situation can be, and ought to be, avoided in these days in the building industry. Employers must be willing to use ideas which are suggested to them. In the building industry the trade unions have agreed to output-incentive schemes. Operated co-operatively with the trade unions on the site these have produced large increases in output per man, a considerable increase in pay to the operatives and savings in the total cost of building.

As Chairman of the London County Council Buildings Committee I know that we have saved nearly £80 per cottage in construction costs by adopting incentive schemes worked out in co-operation with the trade unions on the site. There are such schemes agreed between the unions and the employers, but they are still not working in more than one-fifth of the industry. Trade journals show that there is great opposition to them, because, for example, a couple of additional clerks are needed to work out the details of the scheme. This is worth doing, because the profits from such schemes are clearly proved, the men will respond much more quickly than they normally would and show a greater degree of initiative, while there are greater opportunities for developing the industry.

I recently discovered in a report in the Library that the average amount of horsepower per man in industry in this country is about three and a half. That seemed very small in view of our industrial experience and "know-how," but in the building industry the average is half a horsepower per man. The American building industry records a much greater horsepower per man. The Americans make greater use of mechanical tools, and as a result the workers can build more quickly and in many cases more accurately.

I remember going to a very large building site in London. The roof was being put on. I found there a carpenter, standing in the cold, sawing off the roof beams one by one. It took him hours to do it. I knew that a suggestion had been made on that site that the men should use small electrical tools. When I put it to the foreman, he said that they had no electricity on the site, but in fact the supply ran past the site under the pavement. Representations were made to the heads of the firm, and a cable was connected up, with the result that in a week or two these men were using small mechanical tools and were very considerably speeding up the work they were doing, as well as doing it in much more comfortable conditions, because it could be done under cover.

Therefore, we need not only the ideas which may come from suggestions boxes or from joint consultative committees, but also a wide adoption of ideas which are in fact public knowledge because they are to be found in textbooks and trade journals. These could be applied to all our industries to a very much larger degree than at present. Unless it is done in joint consultation with the trade unions in these industries, however, it will not be done effectively, because there will be doubts and suspicions about it. Some of the men will feel that they are merely being treated, as one hon. Member has already said, as persons whose time the employer has bought, and, because of that, the employer can do exactly what he likes with that workman during that number of hours which he has bought per day.

I suggest that that is a completely wrong conception. The man who is paid weekly or hourly is just as important to the industry, whatever it is, as the man who sits in the board room. Indeed, I think he is of greater importance, and he is certainly as important as a general foreman or manager, and should be treated as such. If that idea were applied, I believe that there would be a vast flowering of suggestions in all our industries, which would make them more efficient, increase their productivity and help in some case, I believe, to a considerable extent towards solving some of our present-day economic problems.

It can be done, however, only in an atmosphere which can be created only through joint consultation with the trade unions; but if that is borne in mind, the proposals in the Motion are well worth considering and might well be of great benefit to this country.

12.54 p.m.

Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)

I listened with special interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson), and I was interested to hear that the county council which I have always regarded as leading the rest of the world in public administration has already, in one way or another, introduced suggestion schemes of this kind. I hope it will be an encouragement to other authorities to go and do likewise.

I am sorry that I was not able to get here in time to hear the opening speeches, because I have always been extremely interested in the idea of suggestion schemes. I can remember, when much younger, trying, as a member of a concern in the engineering industry, to persuade the management of the company with which I was then concerned to introduce one of these schemes. The idea was to put up suggestion boxes by means of which the employees could put forward any suggestions they might have for improving the efficiency of the concern. After the first week, it yielded quite a rich harvest of suggestions, though not always perhaps the kind of suggestion that we had anticipated.

For instance, there were several suggestions about the managing director which caused him some surprise, and quite a large number of suggestions intimating that the foreman should be placed on work for which nature never intended him. The whole effect of the scheme was to upset the management to such an extent that they wanted to stop the idea forthwith. I managed to dissuade them from taking that step, because the whole tone and tenor of their attitude showed that there was something radically wrong in the relations between workers and management, and that was the first valuable lesson to learn. As a result of that, we managed to improve that relationship to such an extent that, when we continued the suggestions scheme, from time to time most valuable ideas came from the men employed by that company, and after two years the managing director acknowledged that it was a first-class scheme which had been of great value to the concern.

I mention that as an experience of my own, because there are many firms which have tried this sort of idea in one form or another, but which have been discouraged by the initial response, which has not always been quite the experience of the firm that I have just mentioned. Sometimes, it takes a long time before the men employed realise what they are being asked to do and before they understand how to use a suggestions scheme.

I think it has to be explained to them very carefully, and that the first thing which management has to do is to tell an employee what the management is aiming at or trying to do, what sort of economies it wants to achieve or what production targets, and what are the snags and problems to which management, at that time, has found no answer. If we follow the idea of individual suggestions on specific points, we shall get the men thinking of these specific problems, rather than thinking generally over the whole range of industry, and from that we might get a great deal that is of value.

Furthermore, as has already been said, though one cannot emphasise it too much, we must be sure that we have the trade union organisation working with us because it is essential to remove progressively the fear that is still with us that, when we bring in these new ideas, they will make it possible to do more work with fewer men, and the men will be working themselves out of their jobs. It is the old Luddite idea—the idea that if we improve our methods by introducing systems which mean that fewer men can be employed on the same job. it means unemployment. The trade unions can play a very important part in cooperation with management in disabusing the minds of the men of that idea and getting them to realise that such a scheme can be of great value.

I think that management has a further responsibility. It must first explain to the men who submit these ideas, very carefully and clearly, in cases where those ideas cannot be adopted, why that is so, so as to disabuse the minds of the men of the idea that the suggestions they put forward are only cursorily examined or discarded without examination.

Secondly, in those cases in which a firm has taken up an idea, the management should tell the man who produced it what is the value of that idea to that particular firm or industry, what it means in pounds, shillings and pence, or as a contribution to the national welfare, and convince them that what they are offered as a reward is a fair amount for the contribution to the industry or the welfare of the nation as a whole. Too often, ideas submitted from the floor of the factory have resulted in a considerable saving to industry, which has not always given an adequate reward to the individual who submitted the idea.

There is another important reason for the adoption of this idea. Too often, suggestions have been put forward by employees which have not been applicable to the firm for which they were working or in the industry in which they were engaged, but it may have been a first-class idea and might well be used in some other industry. At the moment, so far as I know, there is no central organisation to which these ideas can be submitted and by which they can be made available to anyone who may want to use them.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)

So far as the Post Office is concerned, that sort of thing has been done for the best part of forty years.

Mr. Hall

I assume that the ideas do not go outside the Post Office.

Mr. Williams

No, but the Post Office is a vast organisation.

Mr. Hall

I find from my own experience that someone may put up an idea which is excellent in general principle but which is not applicable to the industry in which he is employed. If we were able to make it available generally, a number of other industries might be able to use the idea; I wish to submit a suggestion which might have practical application. I do not think that it is something with which the Government themselves can very well deal.

I think that some organisation like the Federation of British Industries might have a central body which would receive ideas from any sources, whether employees in industry or anybody else, and by which these ideas could be examined. If it was found that there was merit in them, they could then be made available to all the subscribing members of the F.B.I. who would like to have them. Those ideas would thus secure a much wider circulation and be developed, though not perhaps in immediate application to the industry from which they emanated in the first place. I hope that something may come out of this suggestion.

It has been said that an example could be set by the Government. Are suggestion schemes established throughout the Ministries? Are the civil servants themselves invited to submit ideas for the improvement of efficiency? I except, of course, the Post Office, to which the hon. Member for Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) has just referred. If there are such schemes in the Ministries that is excellent, but do they exist throughout the nationalised industries or in such organisations as the Royal Ordnance factories, to which reference has been made this morning?

If such schemes exist, are the ideas made available outside the Government organisations concerned or such public bodies as the nationalised industries? Are they made available to industry or to office organisations as a whole? I can imagine that some of the suggestions coming from, say, the Post Office might be of great value if applied to organisation in other industries. If there are such ideas being put forward it would be interesting to know what they are and what increased efficiency has resulted from them. Perhaps the Government might give some thought to that aspect.

The subject of our debate covers a fairly narrow point. The contribution that a suggestions scheme can make to production is probably not large, but it is one of many things that need to be done to weld an industrial organisation into a team in which men and management work together with the common aim of making that particular organisation as efficient as it is humanly possible to be made, to the mutual benefit of those concerned in the industry and the nation as a whole. It is only one of the things that have to be done to increase productivity but, in its limited way, such a scheme can make a valuable contribution.

It is, I think, a pity that the idea of these schemes is not widely adopted by all firms throughout the country. Like hon. Members who have spoken before me, I hope that this debate will focus attention on this problem, and will make people ponder how best they can use these schemes; perhaps introduce them where they are not already in operation or, if there has been discouragement after an initial setback, start them again. The main point of such a scheme is that it has to be explained quite clearly, and must be operated in close co-operation with the trade unions, so that the men can be quite sure, first, that they will get their proper reward, and, secondly, that their workmates will not suffer as a result of the suggestions that are made.

1.4 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)

Without wishing to pour cold water on what the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) has said about the pooling of ideas as between industries, there enters into that the question of patent and other rights such as we were discussing a little earlier. There is the question as to whether the firm whose employee has made the suggestion should claim the patent rights in it or whether the employee himself is the appropriate party to make such a claim. Conflicting interests could arise and attention would have to be paid to that point.

Mr. John Hall

The scheme would have to be worked in such a way that the employee should first make his suggestion to his own employer. If the employer was not interested in it or could not himself apply it, the employee would be at liberty to submit it to the central pool, and the patent rights would, therefore, remain with him.

Mr. Lee

That is one of the matters that would have to be considered.

It is, perhaps, somewhat ironic that we should be discussing this subject in the very week that the Chancellor has announced his capital cuts. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) is now trying to offset the worst effects of the Government's decision, but if he has that idea in mind I applaud him.

The hon. Member for Crosby has made a most serious and sincere approach to this subject, but he does—perhaps inadvertently—a lot of harm by the way in which he presents his case. I do not know with which branch of industry he has been in touch when he speaks of shop stewards who are purely 'negative in their approach to these problems and who exist only to put a veto on suggestions. Until I came into this House—which is now nearly eleven years ago—I had spent all my working life in the engineering industry. In fact, I was a shop steward until the day I entered the House. I was the trade union convener in one of the biggest factories in Britain, and which employed some 25,000 people represented by probably twenty-five trade unions. Never in my experience did I come across the sort of shop steward who seems to obsess the mind of the hon. Gentleman.

Today, he has listened to two trade union officials on this side of the House—my hon. Friends the Members for Bilston (Mr. R. Edwards) and Clapham (Mr. Gibson). It would have been hard to find a more constructive approach than that which they made—and they are by no means the exception. They would be the first to agree that within the trade union movement we have been discussing these matters for years in the same eminently constructive way. If the hon. Member thinks that he is breaking new ground, and that if it were not for the opposition of the shop stewards—with horns, tails, etc.—all would be well, I can only say that he is living in the world of Alice in Wonderland. I have never met such people myself.

During the war, by an agreement which originated in the engineering industry but which was later extended to other industries, there were set up production committees which were rather like the curate's egg. In those factories where the employers genuinely co-operated and wanted to make a go of them the committees were a great success, but a co-operative effort cannot be obtained in factories in which the management tends to sit back and say, "All right, we will hear your suggestion—what is it?" It must be a two-way street all the time.

With some experience of this sort of work, I would say that wherever there obtain the conditions which the hon. Gentleman has outlined, the cause is the negative approach of the management towards this issue. I do not believe that such a negative attitude exists in any of our big factories. On the contrary, I believe that in the big, well-established factories great progress has been made in the co-operation between managements and the workers' representatives.

Someone has said that the job is to bring up the level of the worst to that of the best. That is the problem, I agree, and I hope that this debate will do something to assist in bringing that about—

Mr. Page

The hon. Member is perfectly right in respect of the more modern industries such as engineering. What I was complaining of occurs, I think, mainly in the older industries, which have behind them a great traditional fear of unemployment.

Mr. John Hall

Perhaps I may be permitted to supplement that observation from my own experience. The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) will agree that there have been a certain number of cases in which the introduction of new ideas and new machinery has been very strongly resisted by that particular section of an industry which would be involved, and a very long time has elapsed before the introduction of those ideas and machinery have been able to take full effect.

Mr. Lee

I will deal with that point in a moment.

I still assert that wherever there is uncertainty of that sort, it stems from the lack of a new psychological approach by management towards men. The initiative must come from management. I was a member of a suggestions committee, on the workers' side, twenty years ago. So far from my trade union or any branch of that union resenting that sort of thing, they actively encouraged participation in suggestions committee meetings. I think great good came from the presence of representatives of organised labour on that committee.

There is, however, a further point relating to management approach which is of great importance. For many years, those of us on the trade union side of industry heard two words on every occasion that we mentioned anything about production. Those two words were "managerial functions." It was held by the management that our job was merely to put the case for the men on a specific matter connected with the terms of their employment, but that all questions of production, method and so on, were within the scope of management.

I have already said that in the larger and more enlightened firms that attitude has diminished to some degree, but there are still managements who resent workers presuming to know more about the job than management does. That sort of negative, defeatist attitude will not do if we are to make the progress which we desire.

Reference has been made to what happens when a man makes a suggestion in a department. One hon. Member has referred to the attitude of foremen, and asked whether the foreman is brought sufficiently into consultation at an early stage, whether he encourages the prac- tice and whether he gets credit for the discovery etc. I can tell the House of many instances, in my experience as a member of a suggestions committee, when a foreman felt that he was an aggrieved party as a result of a suggestion having been made.

Suppose that a man has been a foreman of a department for twenty years, during which time a certain method of production has been followed, with which he has been perfectly satisfied. Then some bright young man comes along and says, "It is nonsense. You should not do it that way. I will tell you the right way to do it." The foreman has a vested interest in the status quo, and he rather resents the suggestion of this bright young spark to the effect that the foreman is not very efficient, otherwise he would have altered the method of production long ago.

Therefore, it is necessary that, so far as possible, there should always be the facility for representation at foreman level on suggestions committees rather than that the foreman should feel aggrieved on two counts—first, because the management may feel that he is inefficient if the idea is accepted, and, second, because the man on the floor may get £5 when the idea is accepted. It would appear to the poor old foreman that both are gaining at his expense. Therefore, he is on the defensive and is prepared to defend the method which has been in operation for a number of years. That is quite an important feature of the problem.

One of the basic reasons for changing methods of production is in order to displace one type of labour in favour of another. I suppose that ever since the Industrial Revolution mechanisation of all types and descriptions has displaced the skilled man in favour of the semiskilled and unskilled. That has been the process. Again, we come up against people with a vested interest. Once the skill is broken down in a certain operation, the need for the skilled man dwindles; the people who do the job are paid semi-skilled or unskilled rates, creating a barrier and an uneasiness on the part of the man displaced.

It is ironical that as skill is displaced and semi-skilled methods are introduced, more and more products are obtained from the semi-skilled man and less is paid for them. I know that that is evolution, and provided that there is a basis for full employment it is right that it should continue. But one must understand the psychological outlook of the man who is displaced and who sees far more products coming from the semi-skilled type of work than he, as a skilled man, could produce, and at a cheaper rate. Those are the matters which we must keep well in mind if we are to make progress.

On a number of occasions hon. Members opposite have inferred that the trade unions are engaging increasingly in restrictive practices, and have suggested that we should have, at national level, inquiries to ascertain the extent of these practices. Some of them will recall that I have rather indignantly refuted such suggestions from time to time. It was suggested the other day that legislation on that subject should be introduced. I think that the Minister of Labour has said that there is to be a discussion by the N.J.A.C.

When my right hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Isaacs) and I were at the Ministry of Labour the employers used to suggest that trade union restrictive practices were responsible for delays in production, whereupon the trade union side of the N.J.A.C. offered to set up a sub-committee, in conjunction with the employers, to examine the restrictive practices in industry. When it became known that such a sub-committee had been set up, my right hon. Friend and I were frequently questioned by the then Conservative Opposition on when there would be a report on restrictive practices from that sub-committee, the assumption being that the trade unions were" digging in."

I do not know whether it has been said before in this House, but I can tell hon. Members that it was not the trade unions who were caught out; it was the other side. Perhaps they did not feel quite so keenly about the matter when the facts became known, in view of the extent and nature of the restrictive practices as disclosed by that sub-committee. I suggest to the Government that it is not always, as they assume, the trade unions who are afraid of approaching this problem of restrictive practices. It may well be that even more can be gleaned from such inquiries into the practices on the employers' side.

The hon. Member for Crosby expressed the opinion that as automation was in creasingly introduced into industry there would be more and more opportunities for workers to make suggestions. I rather doubt it. By introducing electronic processes into the production of machine tools, etc., we are eliminating the machine-operator type of employee. I realise that there will be an increasing need for more boffins, technologists and technicians at the centre of the automatic factory, but our educational system at the moment is not producing them.

It may be that we shall have heavy unemployment among the machine-operator type of worker and a great demand for the boffin and the scientific type of worker, which demand we cannot meet. That is one of the reasons why there is a certain reticence within organised labour in this period which I regard as the second industrial revolution. So far there has not been any planning or any attempt to ascertain the economic and social consequences of automation.

I have suggested that the sooner we can set up, at national level, bodies which can examine the effects of these innovations in order that we can either find out the extent of damage that will be done by them or satisfy organised labour that there is not a great deal to fear from them, the sooner will it be possible to facilitate co-operation for increased production and to go ahead at a much greater pace.

One of the great problems of British industry is that new ideas coming from the laboratory or designing departments take a long time to become applicable on the floor of the workshop. One is struck, on examining some productivity reports, at the greater time-lag in Britain in that respect compared with the United States. I believe that the same applies in many factories when suggestions are accepted. My experience has been that a man who has been allocated a monetary award for some idea says, months later, "I am still producing by the same old method although my idea was approved months ago."

Even when a suggestion has been accepted, there is a tendency to carry on in the old sweet way until some agitator or trouble-maker makes a row about it. Innovations involve such a fearful amount of work in providing jigs, tools and plant, etc., that there is a tendency among firms, so long as they are making a substantial profit, to say, "Things are going pretty smoothly and, therefore, there is no need to make any alteration at present." I therefore plead for a lessening of the gap between the time when suggestions are accepted and the moment of their application.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Woollam) mentioned the American Government's war-time plans for increased production and seemed to think that they did an abnormal amount of good. They probably did, but I wish hon. Members would not denigrate the corresponding effort made in this country. No other country in the world made such a vast improvement in its productivity, both in volume and quality, as did Britain, and we were constantly under fire at that time. Factories, machine tools and plant of all types were destroyed and splintered by air raids—things which, fortunately, the North American Continent never had to suffer from.

I can recall a time when the roof of the factory in which I was employed was blown away in the blitz, in weather conditions very similar to those which we are now enjoying—if "enjoying" is the right word. We worked for weeks without a roof over our heads, and to go to work at 7.30 a.m, and get hold of cold steel handles with snow on them was not pleasant. I am extremely proud of the increased productivity which British workmen gave in those conditions during the most arduous stage of the war. Whilst I do not wish to question the success of American schemes, I am sure that our American friends would agree that they did not have to put up with that kind of experience during the war period.

I believe that it was the hon. Member for Crosby who spoke about the need for getting suggestions from housewives. Judging by the fury and indignation of housewives at the disgraceful and obsolete methods of plumbing in this country, I am sure that if the hon. Member raised the flag on that issue he would find hundreds of thousands of housewives willing to flock to the banner and demand that such methods, so out of keeping with the modern world, should be discredited. That suggestion, with all the weight of British womanhood behind it, could hardly be withstood by those who wished to retain old, obsolete methods.

The idea put forward in this debate that awards should be made to groups of employees who make useful suggestions creates a problem. Groups of people will sometimes co-operate and pool their ideas in a suggestion to the management, but here again the question of adequate representation on the suggestions committee is involved. I remember that a suggestions committee of which I was a member used to go to a department, round up the men concerned, and in a chat together find out how and where an idea had originated and then decide how a global sum by way of award should be fairly shared between those who had contributed to the suggestion.

The basis on which a suggestions committee works is that the size of an award is not calculated on the soundness of the idea. Its size depends upon how much will be saved, by adoption of the idea, in the particular job then going through the factory. Some of the best suggestions that I ever saw adopted received the smallest award because, unfortunately for the man who thought of it, the idea was used in the production of perhaps only half-a-dozen units, whereas another suggestion might relate to a running job involving the production of thousands of units, and consequently the reward was greater. I used to feel that it was scarcely fair to the ingenuity of the inventor that he happened to be unlucky enough to make a suggestion which had no great monetary content in the saving it made on a production process.

During the war there was a pooling of machine tools and gauges, etc., when factories were bombed out. When a factory lost its tool room, production had to be held up until there was a sufficient quantity of gauges, tools and micrometers etc. available, and there was an arrangement in those days whereby workers in the area pooled their resources. In the same way, I suggest that if there is an idea which is good in essence but cannot be utilised in one factory except in a minor degree, an arrangement similar to that war-time arrangement could be made to ensure the maximum use of the idea.

The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby) spoke about some unions not allowing suggestions to go forward until they had been submitted to their branch committees. In this, as in so many other ways, the hon. Member strikes me as one of the strangest trade unionists I have ever met in my life. Not only are his ideas strange—and he himself said that they were rather simple—but in so many ways he seems to have had such a distorted experience in the trade union movement. I never came across such things in my time. It may be that we do things differently in the North, where good common sense is so prevalent amongst us.

The hon. Member said that the average man knew little about time and motion study. I cannot understand where the hon. Member has been all these years. One would think that he had been working among sub-humans. I have listened to some extremely able discussions in trade union branches on time and motion study and matters of that kind. I do not accept at all that this rather nineteenth century outlook is manifest in the factories where these men work.

I know, of course, that the basis upon which we are going to get co-operation in all these things is stability. No man will willingly make suggestions which he knows will put him in the unemployment queue within a few weeks. He would be a fool if he did; I would not do it, and I do not ask anyone else to do it. For these reasons, I deplore the policies of the Government because, psychologically, they are so harmful to the feeling that there is no need to be afraid of working oneself out of a job.

While I welcome, as their other hon. Friends have welcomed. the Motion, and while I hope the results of this debate will be that more and more attention will be given to this sort of thing in those parts of industry which have not as yet become enamoured of them, I put it to the House that they cannot but be retarded by such experience as we find in some sections of the motor industry where, instead of stability and knowing that one has full employment, men are reduced to four days' work a week, with all that means. That does a great deal of harm to British economy. I hope that the Government can even now see that while those who are interested in this subject wish it well and should support it, the bigger issues bring a cloud over it and make some impact on the minds of men when they are asked to agree to suggestions of this type.

1.32 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour and National Service (Mr. Robert Carr)

I am much happier to follow the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) today than I would have been if I had had to reply to the speech he made last Monday night. I detected at the beginning of the hon. Member'', speech faint echoes of Monday's oratory still reverberating around the Chamber, but I do not intend to take up the controversial political points he made, and I shall not embark, much though that might be useful, on the wider economic issues with which he dealt at the end of his speech.

Nor do I propose to launch into any exposition of the position regarding restrictive practices, which has been raised here, except perhaps to confirm what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour has already said in this House. We do see a fundamental difference between restrictive practices connected with goods and commodities, and those connected with human beings whose wages and conditions of work are the subject of general negotiation between the two sides of industry. I also affirm what my right hon. Friend said, that difficulties of this kind, where they exist, are properly settled between the two sides of industry. That is why my right hon. Friend thought it appropriate to refer the matter to the N.J.A.C. to get the advice which that body can give. The N.J.A.C., which over the years has built itself up into what we might call the Parliament of Industry, contains representatives of trade unions and employers, both private and public.

The hon. Member also mentioned automation and the hope, which I think I remember him expressing at Question Time the other day, that we would set up some body to look into it. I would again repeat what my right hon. Friend said on that occasion, that research is already going on under the auspices of the D.S.I.R. and the Medical Research Council into some of the fundamental problems associated with automotive processes. We are expecting those reports soon and are awaiting them before considering the matter further to see what action may be necessary.

I should like to join the hon. Member in his tribute to the effort which has been made in this country by both sides of industry to increase productivity and the adoption of new ideas. I do not for a moment belittle what has been done in the United States, as referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) in moving the Motion, but, equally, I think we are right to affirm that we have done at least as much in this country. During the time of the blitz I happened to be a shift foreman in an aluminium foundry in the London area and I know there was no lack—that is a gross understatement—of willingness, effort or enthusiasm to do anything, or to try anything at that time. Although it is not perhaps possible to maintain the height of enthusiasm achieved at times like that, I believe the same spirit has been carried on in great parts of British industry to a much greater extent than is often acknowledged.

I want to make clear that in rising at this point I am not in any way trying to wind up the debate or to discourage my hon. Friends or hon. Members opposite who may still wish to take part in it, but I think it is the practice on these private Members' days for a Government spokesman to intervene in the middle of the debate to express the attitude of the Government on the Motion under discussion. I say straight away that the Government have no difficulty in accepting the Motion; in fact, we welcome it and the opportunity which is provided for discussion of this subject. The debate itself, we are sure, will do good service in achieving the purpose of the last part of the Motion, namely, to foster public interest in this matter.

Britain grew rich by exporting technical skill, by providing goods and services which few, if any, other countries could supply. I am convinced that we shall only remain rich and prosperous by doing the same in future. We can never nope to re-establish the unique position of technical superiority which we once held, but each new surge of scientific advance gives Britain the opportunity to make the most of its unparalleled experience and tradition of technical and productive skill. I believe—indeed, it is obvious—that we are at the beginning of a great new scientific advance at the moment. As a country we have to take advantage of the opportunity that this advance gives us to make sure that we put ourselves among the few leading countries of the world in applying this new advance. That is the best and perhaps the only way for us to make sure that in future we shall enjoy full employment and rising standards of living.

The achievement of the progressive and alert economy, on which that depends, is a question of investment programmes and the training of engineers, scientists, technologists and managers and other matters of important policy of that kind. Compared with those greater matters, suggestion schemes for improvement in productivity such as we are discussing may seem small affairs, yet I believe they are neverthless an important part of the same problem. It is all part of the attitude of being ready to apply what is new in technical knowledge and skill and it is on our ability and readiness to do this that our future depends.

The hon. Member for Crosby quoted examples and gave figures for the value of these schemes in America. The equivalent figures are not known in this country, although there are some examples, but I am sure they are not negligible here. Perhaps we are rather slow in collecting them together and publicising them to the extent that that is done on the other side of the Atlantic. I think we ought to do more about it in that way and I hope that this debate will give it some stimulus. Although my hon. Friend gave some examples, he mainly quoted global figures to reinforce his argument on what could be done by these methods. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Woollam), who seconded the Motion, gave what he thought were humble examples, and in so doing he showed a close knowledge of the matter.

The hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), of whose speech I must say I thought a great deal more highly than the hon. Member for Newton said he did, also gave some constructive examples. In particular, one idea he quoted which struck me as being valuable was that the company for which he used to work had a suggestions society. It seems to me that large organisations could adopt this idea with considerable profit.

Suggestion schemes are by no means new. In fact—and this will answer a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall)—the Royal Ordnance factories first intro- duced a suggestions scheme as long ago as 1903. In my own Department—the Ministry of Labour—the first memorandum on a suggestions scheme was adopted by the Departmental Whitley Council in 1920. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby quoted early examples from private industry.

In earlier days, a suggestions scheme was often thought of as simply putting up a box on the wall and waiting. The box usually had disappointing and perhaps sometimes disconcerting contents when opened. From my own experience, I could not help but agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe had to say. The strangest bits of paper from the strangest places find their way into such boxes and they are liable to contain the most revolutionary suggestions, such as, "The boss would be better dead."

Even if such primitive schemes failed in some ways, every now and then they produced valuable results. It is now generally accepted, however, that suggestion schemes need to be much more than simply boxes on the wall. They are part of good management. Good management ought to include suggestion schemes. Equally, I believe that suggestion schemes unsupported by good management are unlikely to be fruitful. It is the responsibility of management to encourage the flow of information and ideas.

It so happens that my maiden speech in the House in 1950 was on the subject of joint consultation, and I find it a happy coincidence that one of my earliest interventions from this rather awesome Box is on a closely related subject. I believe that joint consultation and the spirit of confidence that goes with it are essential if really fruitful use is to be made of suggestion schemes.

The hon. Member for Newton, from his great practical knowledge, spoke of the suspicions which might arise and which must be laid at rest before we are to get good value from the schemes. My hon. Friend the Member for Totnes also mentioned some of the difficulties of demarcation, and so on, which could arise unless these ideas are properly discussed and dealt with.

I shall not go into details of the different kinds of suggestions schemes which might be valuable, but I wanted to em- phasise the background against which they must operate. The basic need is that there should be in the company a good system which commands the trust of the employees—a good system for the collection of ideas, for the assessment of their usefulness and for the reward, both immediate and sometimes continuing, which is appropriate for them. I am not suggesting that this should be done only by joint consultation committees, but simply that the atmosphere of confidence between employers and employed is a necessary background if these schemes are to work.

I agree with the hon. Member for Newton that the leadership must come from management. When management gives the leadership, we look to the unions, both at national and perhaps still more at branch level, to respond to the lead. I agree also about the importance of foremen in all this. I sometimes think that one of the biggest differences between the Americans and ourselves is the importance which they attach to the rôle of foremen in encouraging higher productivity and the adoption of new methods. It would certainly be fatal to any suggestions scheme if the foreman felt himself in any way short-circuited.

The main part of the debate which I feel called upon to answer concerns what we can do to foster the growth of suggestions schemes throughout industry. I fully agree that the Government have a definite responsibility for encouragement, advice and assistance. The only question—and perhaps the only point on which we may not be in full agreement—is how it should be done. I am extremely doubtful about the value of setting up one more national body. We already have a variety of organisations which together can do what is needed and I should be very loath—certainly, until those other methods have been pressed for a longer time—to suggest the setting up of yet another national body. It is possible that such a body would not only co-ordinate, which would be helpful, but also sometimes cause delay and remove the ideas from their point of application. Therefore, I must resist the idea that the Government should at this stage set up any further national body for this purpose.

If I resist that suggestion, what can the Government do? First, they must set a good example themselves when acting as employers. They are doing this to a fairly satisfactory extent. I have already referred to the early schemes in the Royal Ordnance factories, and there are now many more. Today, the great majority of Government Departments have suggestion schemes—I believe that fifty such schemes are now in operation.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby that I ought not to be satisfied merely with what is said about these schemes. The Treasury is the responsible Department and has played a big part since the war. I have in my possession a memorandum circulated at the end of 1946 by the Organisation and Methods Division of the Treasury, headed "Suggestions Schemes in Government Departments". When the Treasury circulated the memorandum, only about nine schemes were in existence. In the next five years, as a result of what the Treasury did, the number grew to fifty. Although harsh words are often spoken about the Treasury, I think that in this instance it has been constructive and forward-looking.

I aim assured by the Treasury that it keeps a watch on these things, not only to give further advice if requested, but actually taking the initiative in inquiring into the working of schemes and seeing whether improvements can be brought about. I am sure that my right hon. Friends in the Government will take notice of this debate. I will do my best to draw their attention to it and to get them, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Derby suggested, not merely to take what is said about the schemes, but to look at them to see that they are working as they should do. I can also assure my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe that the nationalised industries have suggestions schemes.

There is another way in which the Government can and do help. The Ministry of Labour has a Personnel Management Advisory Service which has been built up during and since the war. This service has been obtaining far greater entry into industry than formerly. This in itself is clear indication of the growing confidence of industry in it and an indication of the usefulness of the service, which is organised regionally throughout the country. Part of their work can be—and indeed often is—to advise not only on problems of personnel management, joint consultation and the like, but on this par- ticular subject of suggestion schemes; so there is a direct Government service, operated by my Ministry, which can and does advise on this matter. I can assure the hon. Member for Crosby that I will see that our personnel management advisers are aware of this debate and I will see whether further impetus can be given to their work in this direction.

Another way the Government can help is through their publications. I have not a great deal to say on this subject, except to refer to "Target," which has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Crosby. The Ministry of Labour from time to time publishes various booklets about joint consultation and the like. I can certainly say that if, when we survey the field, there seems to be a gap in the literature and there is a demand for literature about suggestions schemes, we will keep that in mind for one of our own publications.

The Government can also help to foster the schemes by encouragement of independent bodies. In typically British manner, these independent bodies range from those closely connected with the Government, at least started with the help of Government finance and sometimes continually aided by Government finance, to others which are completely private and voluntary. The first among these which I want to mention is the British Productivity Council. The important point about the British Productivity Council is that although it was started with Government assistance, it is an independent body which is not only representative of, but is also run jointly by both sides of industry.

That gives it an authority to and a confidence in its appeal which is unique and extremely valuable. Its work is especially valuable, because of the local initiative which it takes. As hon. Members may know, it arranges exchanges of works visits in local areas. That is a most important stimulant to making people, management and workers alike—because all levels are included in the teams which exchange visits—think about different and better ways. In my experience there is nothing so productive of new ideas as going to the other chap and seeing how he does things. That is very valuable work. It can to a large extent do what my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White) suggested, that is, act as a travelling salesman of ideas. It does disseminate ideas outside the firm or organisation in which they happened to arise.

It also produces publications as well as arranging these visits. Some are directly helpful in spreading new ideas. The British Productivity Council is a still comparatively new body, still mounting in its strength and work. It is a national body with local organisation as well. I want to see how it develops in all these ways of adding to productivity in the adoption of new ideas.

In a rather different sphere, the Government supplies help through the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. This is slightly off the normal works suggestion schemes, but both directly and through its research associations, which are jointly financed by Government grants through the D.S.I.R. and by industry itself, so many ideas which may form in a crude stage in an individual factory can be worked on and developed to a more useful and practical stage. It is interesting to note—and the hon. Member for Rutherglen will be glad to know this—that the D.S.I.R. is trying to develop a regional information service, so that it can help in the dissemination of these ideas. Because so many of the active members of these co-operative bodies come from the bigger firms, which are often the more progressive, the great need is to get information, ideas and methods out to the smaller and medium sized firms to bring the average up to the level of the best. That is why some regional service, which is more capable of selling ideas to the firms which do not know about them, is an important development.

Again, in a rather different line, but I think it is worth mentioning in this connection, there is the National Research Development Corporation. That is on a higher plane than workers' suggestions, but even works suggestion schemes occasionally give us a completely new invention. The Corporation is a body set up by the Government and can assist inventions from sources other than Government Departments. It is true that to merit assistance by the Corporation an invention must be of some economic significance and one which for one reason or another industry is not at the time prepared to take up, but this is another body actively promoting new machinery and new ideas which have come from private people and it is worth mentioning in this discussion.

We move on to a different body of organisations which are playing a valuable part. First, there is the British Institute of Management, which was started and aided with Government encouragement; there is the Institute of Personnel Management, which has already been mentioned and which last year carried out a special survey into the subject of suggestions schemes; and there is also the Industrial Welfare Society which only a few years ago published a special booklet called "Suggestion Schemes," a copy of which I hold in my hand.

Finally—and I am here thinking of housewives and the people who are not in institutional employment—is the B.B.C. Inventors' Club. That is a method by which ordinary members of the public can get across their ideas with the maximum publicity. That is a programme which I am told by many of my friends in industry is carefully watched these days. Watching it is not something just left to chance, but very often it is the specific job of someone in the company. Perhaps, as the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. R. Edwards) suggested, we may find ways of getting even more publicity through television programmes and the like. The Government have, of course, no direct control over broadcasting programmes, but the number of programmes, both sound and television, dealing with industrial matters of all kinds is increasing. Whenever we are asked for assistance in these programmes, I can assure the House that we are not backward in giving encouragement to them.

I have made a survey of some of the methods used and which are available, Government, Government-sponsored and private, for encouraging the free flow of information and ideas in industry and the setting up of actual suggestion schemes. The House will agree that there are many of them. The Government are ready to accept their share of responsibility for encouraging this process through the means which I have described and will continue, to give advice and assistance to industry in this way.

I believe that this discussion will prove valuable in drawing attention to existing services and perhaps giving them some new purpose, impetus and sense of importance and effort. The debate has been an opportunity of commending them for wider use. It is our view that in this country the work is best left to a variety of organisations in different fields and not to any new central Government body, but I can assure the House that we will do all we can to put power and enthusiasm into all our activities in this respect.

Finally, I should like to add that one of the most valuable qualtities of any suggestions scheme is its recognition that people have an interest in their work and that their opinion on how it should be done is something in which the management should take interest. It has been said of joint consultation that the act of consulting implies recognition that the authority behind orders includes the experience of those who are to carry them out. That spirit should also inspire our suggestion schemes. They are not simply a means to get new ideas. They can also be a proper expression of the attitude of present day management to intelligent and responsible groups of employees.

As was said by the hon. Member for Rutherglen, they should help to give a feeling of goodwill, status and responsibility to the individual worker. They should help in furthering a principle which I have always held, namely, that we shall never raise the quality of our society until men and women look to their work for satisfaction as well as simply for material reward. The Government are, as I have said, prepared to accept this Motion in the sense that I have explained, and welcome the opportunity it has given for the discussion of these matters.

2.1 p.m.

Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)

I do not wish to detain the House for long, but I should like to say a few words on this very important subject. One thing that has emerged from the debate is the very real sense of uneasiness which exists among hon. Members on both sides of the House about what appears to be a lack of close relationship between management and labour, certainly in some centres of British industry.

This is a subject in which I have considerable interest, like my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White). The newspaper industry, with which I am concerned—and which is suffering at the moment in certain respects from a lack of co-operation between management and labour but not so far as journalists are concerned—has to have that close co-operation so essential in other industries. What we tend to lack in our industries in this country is the sense of being part of a team which should surely come to all those engaged in the production of material things and particularly of those materials upon which, after all, the whole future of our country depends.

It is an old cliché, I know, to say that there should not be two sides in industry, but one. The fact that it is a cliché at all shows that there is something seriously wrong here, and one thing this debate has done—I think it worth underlining at this stage after the Minister has spoken—is to bring out in the context of the smaller sphere of the suggestions scheme the wider principle of joint cooperation between management and labour.

I have no doubt that, basically, the blame must rest on the shoulders of management, which has not done enough in the past, I am certain, to encourage labour to put forward suggestions, and to take an active share and interest in what is going on in the running of their companies. I hope that one good result of this debate will be to make management of companies realise that now, when we are approaching, as the Minister said, a period in which totally new methods of work and technique are coming into play, is the time when they must start thinking seriously once again of the necessity for active encouragement and help from the labour side of industry.

How can that be done? I believe the essential thing—and this point was made by the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson)—is that before we embark on any suggestions scheme or any other kind of scheme, the management must explain fully both to the leaders of labour in the factory or shop and to the rank and file, as it were, exactly what it is that management is trying to do and what the effect will be, both on employment and on the prospects for members of the industry.

If one may draw the analogy between running a company and running the country, the management of this country, when it wishes to propound some scheme, comes to the House, to hon. Members who might be called the shop stewards of the country, and explains what it is trying to do. We, the shop stewards—some of us may disagree and others may agree with these proposals—should explain to the rank and file what it is that the Government are trying to do. If the Government are wise, they will also use those methods available to them to explain to the country what they have in mind. Sometimes that is successful and sometimes it is not, but clearly it is a rational way of going about it, and that is the way I should like to see the management of firms big and small throughout the country dealing with this basic problem of management-labour relations.

I believe that every firm, small and big, and particularly the small ones, should have one member of the staff whose sole duty is "personnel relations," as I believe it is called. That is not a term which I am fond of, because to me "personnel" seems impersonal. But there should be a man to whom every member of the staff knows he can come with suggestions, grievances or anything else; that the door will always be open and that he will always receive a sympathetic hearing. I hope that when the Government plan a technical education Measure they will not forget that it is as important as training technologists to train men with a knowledge of the human relations side in industry.

This business of suggestion schemes is a cardinal feature in the process of instilling into a man the feeling that he has, as it were, a stake in the game. He should know that a suggestion he makes will not be brushed aside, as has so often happened in the past or, even more seriously—this also has happened in the past—will not be adopted with no recognition or credit for him. He should know that such a scheme will be seriously considered and the result for him will be, if not a financial benefit, at any rate a realisation of the possibility of promotion or a bonus or of being made a key factor in the whole development of that industry. That information will play a very big part indeed in a way in which the Minister did not mention. It has been generally agreed that in this matter we in this country tend to lag behind certain other countries, particularly the United States. I spent some time in the United States working as a journalist and I have seen something of the industrial conditions there. I know that in firms big and small these schemes are running on a far wider scale than in this country.

I should like to see, particularly for the benefit of small firms in this country which cannot afford—apart from anything else—to send people to examine schemes running in the United States or elsewhere, working parties sent out by the Government—as used to be done immediately after the war and, for all I know, may still be done in connection with certain subjects—solely to examine this practice in the place where it is done best, the United States. I should like to see research carried out and the knowledge acquired brought back and provided, through regional development councils and other bodies of that kind which have been mentioned by the Minister, for every factory manager in the land who wished to use it. I consider that incalculable benefit would come from action of that kind.

I promised that I would not detain the House for long, and I do not intend to do so. I wish to say, finally, that one of the troubles—we may as well face it frankly and it has been mentioned by hon. Members on both sides of the House—is the overriding fear of unemployment, which still, after ten years of full employment, is a strong factor in the minds of trade unionists. I am sure that every hon. Member can understand why it is there. Memories are long, people do not forget easily, and no one, certainly no hon. Member on this side of the House, would suggest that it is an easy matter to forget what happened in the years before the war.

I believe that that fear, which has affected not only this particular problem but, to a certain extent, the whole of industry, can be eradicated, if only management will take labour into its confidence at every stage in matters of this and other kinds. If this debate encourages that attitude it will be one of the most worthwhile three hours that hon. Members of this House have spent for a very long time.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House, noting the good results achieved by many industrial and commercial concerns from the adoption of suggestion schemes which invite and reward employees' ideas for improved efficiency in production, commends such suggestion schemes to all undertakings, public and private, and calls on the Government to provide, through appropriate means, for encouragement, advice and assistance to suggestion schemes; fostering public interest in the submission of such ideas, collection and distribution of such ideas where existing procedure is inadequate; and ensuring generally that new ideas are applied to the best advantage.