HC Deb 14 June 1956 vol 554 cc761-2
46 and 47. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he will have an investigation made into the effects of auto- mation on the same basis as the hearings on automation and technological change before the sub-committee on Economic Stabilisation of the United States Congress Joint Committee on the Economic Report, details of which have been sent to him by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent;

(2) if he will ask the Ministers concerned if they will consult together in a joint conference as soon as possible and meet informed people on automation in order to prepare a policy to meet the needs that will arise and minimise the friction.

The Prime Minister

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's suggestions, and we can always learn from the experience of foreign countries. Rather than set up a formal investigation, however, we are anxious to lose no time in putting to use what we already know about automation. Those of my right hon. Friends who are concerned will be discussing automation with their various advisory bodies. In particular, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service will shortly be meeting the National Joint Advisory Council. Also, information is being sought from the Engineering Advisory Council and other advisory bodies connected with the engineering industry about the probable adoption of new production techniques and the availability of the necessary special equipment.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Will the Prime Minister draw to the attention of those of his right hon. Friends who are to deal with this the evidence given by Walter Reuther? Will he also bear in mind that Clause 12 of the national agreement between engineering employers and the trade unions provides that systematic short time can be worked in preference to discharging men? As our fellow countrymen have made such a great contribution in full employment during the last 15 years, should not they all have the opportunity of sharing in employment when it is available?

The Prime Minister

We have indeed studied the Report referred to in the Question, which, as the hon. Member will know, is referred to in specific terms in the Report of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research which is before the House.