§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
Tomorrow, the House will adjourn for the Christmas Recess and before we return to our labours in January all of us, I hope, will have visited our constituencies. We shall find this year, on returning to our constituencies, that our people will be more anxious and worried about the employment situation than they have been for many years.
The truth is that unemployment, once again, has become the major economic and social problem confronting the United Kingdom. Almost every hon. Member will find that in his constituency, in the cities, towns, villages and valleys, the queues at the employment exchanges will have lengthened, and not only that the number of registered unemployed has increased but that something that has always accompanied unemployment is also increasing among those in work—the fear that it may be their turn next.
I say to right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and especially to the Prime Minister, who has just come into the Chamber, that when they go to their constituencies this year and regale their constituents with the Prime Minister's slogan that they have "never had it so good," it will sound as hollow mockery in many ears and hearts and will add insult to injury.
Let us consider the facts carefully. On 17th November, 536,000 were registered as unemployed at the employment exchanges. That means that two men were registered as unemployed in November for every one man unemployed last November. This is the highest figure of unemployment at Christmas time for eighteen years. This Christmas, therefore, will be bleak for many hundreds of thousands of unemployed men and their families. We are often apt to consider 2.4 per cent. unemployed as a figure which, looked at quickly, does not appear too high, but it is important that we should realise the significance that lies behind that figure for the men affected and their families.
I want to examine the figures rather more closely. The first one to which I want to direct attention concerns one of the important aspects of the problem of 1138 unemployment. Not only is the total number of unemployed increasing, but the number of what the Ministry describes as long-term unemployed is also increasing. In November, 1957, of those then registered as unemployed, 41 per cent. had been continuously unemployed for eight weeks or more. The figure for November this year is 47 per cent. In Wales, the percentage of unemployed who have already been continuously unemployed for more than eight weeks is 52 per cent. and in Scotland 51 per cent. It is clear, therefore, that we are once more reaching out towards long-term unemployment.
I am glad to see the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance and the Minister of Labour present. If the present trend continues, then it may be that early in 1959 we shall reach the stage at which, under the unemployment insurance provisions of the National Insurance Act, 1946, men who have been unemployed for a long time will exhaust their unemployment benefits. Under the provisions of Section 62 of that Act benefit can be continued, subject to the recommendation of a tribunal, without a means test.
If we return to the time when every unemployed man for whom employment could not be found was made subject to a means test, then we are not only acting unjustly towards the men concerned, but we are laying great trouble in store for ourselves. I do not want to hark back to the past, but none of us will forget the period when the means test was applied to unemployed men. That was a period in our history of which we all feel ashamed.
I therefore urge the Ministers concerned to get together to try to deal with this problem. It is certainly a bad problem in some of the worst-hit areas, where unemployment has been serious for a long time and where men are already exhausting their standard benefit and will have to have recourse to the National Assistance Boards. Long-term unemployment as well as total unemployment has thus increased in the last twelve months.
There are other aspects of the problem. How many are now unemployed who are not registered at the employment exchanges, but who represent more unemployment and reductions in standards of 1139 living and in the working force with which the country produces wealth? A new term is being used in the Economist and other periodicals and newspapers—at least, I have not seen it before. It is the term "hidden unemployment". It was used in an article in the Economist last week. The Economist said that there were persons who had become unemployed in the last twelve months who did not find themselves on the registers of the employment exchanges. It called that "a skimming off".
That struck me as a brutal way to refer to putting people out of work. The Economist said that this hidden unemployment wasThe skimming off of old people, married women and others who, though having been put out of work, are not on the Register.If I understand the rather complicated arithmetical argument in the Economist, it is estimated that hidden unemployment applies to 100,000 people, and that that number has to be added to the number registered as unemployed.
Perhaps the Minister saw a letter in The Times of 19th November, when Mr. H. A. Turner, of Manchester University, dealt with another aspect of the problem, short-time working and a reduction in the productive power at work, with a corresponding reduction in the standard of living. He estimated that the reduction in the number of hours for which all workers were unemployed was the equivalent of a rise in unemployment of at least 220,000. It is clear that in all those ways we are reaching a situation in which we shall soon have nearly I million fewer effective workers than a year ago, I million who, in fact, are unemployed. Yet, in February, the Minister estimated that the figure would soon reach its peak and then go down.
Earlier this year we had a debate on the areas which have been badly hit by unemployment and where the situation has been worse than the general situation. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be able to mention the plight of those areas, because I wish to claim the indulgence of the House in referring to the area which I represent. One of the things which my study of the 1140 figures has led me to believe important has been the widespread increase in unemployment, especially over the last twelve months.
Some idea of how widespread the increase is can be gleaned from figures in the Ministry of Labour Gazette, which gives the number of registered unemployed in various towns and cities. There is such a table in each copy of the Gazette as it is published month by month, and 114 towns are included in the list for England and Wales, and Scotland. I have selected the unemployment figures for October of last year and October of this year. In every single instance, unemployment in October this year was higher than it was in October, 1957. The towns are a cross-section of the country and all are affected in varying degrees.
The list makes sombre reading. Many of the names evoke memories. It is clear that the structure of our economy is still such that when we meet problems of a recession the same areas at once begin to show the effects. We still have much to do in building a stable and diversified economy in many areas.
I begin with the North-East. The first town I select is Stockton-on-Tees. Unemployment there has increased in the twelve months October, 1957, to October, 1958, from 529 to 1,454, an increase of 175 per cent. In Jarrow, it has increased from 511 to 1,163, an increase of 128 per cent. In the North-West, a typical town is Oldham, where unemployment has increased from 747 to 5,101, an increase of 583 per cent. In a neighbouring Lancashire town, Bolton, the increase is from 617 to 2,575, an increase of 317 per cent. In the West Riding, in Bradford, unemployment has risen from 877 to 4,669, an increase of 432 per cent. In Sheffield it has risen from 1,320 to 6,746, an increase of 411 per cent. In Cardiff, it has gone up from 2,199 to 4,166, an increase of 89 per cent. On Mersey-side, my last example, it has risen from 15,560 to 25,454, an increase of 64 per cent.
It is, therefore, clear that this afternoon we are dealing with a problem which is causing anxiety and fear among many people and in every constituency, Conservative, Liberal, and Labour alike. We are rendering a service to the country in calling attention to this problem. It is a major worry to our people and hon. Members will find when they go to their 1141 constituencies, and attend meetings and "surgeries", that they will be asked two questions, "When am I going to get a job", and, "Can I keep my job?". Once more we have gone back to that. That is where the Government's financial and economic policy has brought the country after seven years of Tory rule.
I want now to refer to the problem of the distressed areas, the worst areas of all. We have had previous debates on this subject. None of us can have been but deeply impressed by a spectacle which we saw in the House recently. I do not remember anything like it before in my twenty-two, or twenty-three, years in the House. I refer to hon. Members presenting Petitions here, to the mayors of towns of Lancashire being present in the Strangers' Gallery, bringing to our notice the plight of their towns, indeed, the plight of almost a whole county which, for two centuries, has played a notable part in the economic and industrial life of Britain and has made an immense contribution to its wealth.
I was privileged to meet them, as also were hon. Members opposite, as they came from their towns—famous towns, fine communities, with their own traditions, history and pride, the kind of civic pride which it is so important for us in a democracy to sustain and keep. No one could but be deeply moved by the feelings they expressed. They were seeing their principal industry declining, and their communities disintegrating, the young people having to seek work elsewhere. They fear that in a very short time their communities will be full of spare and old men, and that all the life and vigour which we have associated with Lancashire will be drained away by unemployment and poverty.
There are other areas, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will want to call attention to their plight. May I, therefore, say a few words about my own area? If I speak about this, it is not because it is any worse than any other, but because it typifies many of the problems which will arise elsewhere.
South-West Wales, one of the constituencies of which I have the honour to represent in the House, has suffered a cruel double blow in the last few months. It has seen the virtual disappearance of an old industry to which its people, its 1142 skilled men and women and the whole community, have given almost the whole of their lives. I have the facts and figures here, and they are a challenge to us as to the kind of problem that we shall face on the threshold of a new industrial revolution, with technological unemployment becoming one of our major problems. I will mention the figures shortly, because I have given them before.
There was an industry employing 24,000 people. A great change came about. A strip mill came, and instead of having several hundred of the old mills and works employing 24,000 people, and producing a great amount of tinplate, we are to have two strip mills employing 4,000 workers, and producing more and better tinplate than the 24,000 workers did before. That development has come about much more rapidly than anybody had contemplated, either in the industry, in the Government or anywhere else. Here we come up against the technological change and challenge, which has to be faced.
The recession in the steel industry is directly due to the policy of the Government, and the problem is, therefore, aggravated by these changes which we have had to face. At this time, when the steel industry is working at 75 per cent., or even less, of its capacity, and this area is plagued with unemployment already, with nearly 8,000 unemployed, there are still just over 4,000 men employed in what industry remains. They are employed in what I would describe, in contrast to the newer plants as the older works.
The Government, at the request of a deputation of which I was a member, and at the request of the workmen, appointed a four-man team, including technical experts, to examine these older works to see whether they could be adapted to the changed conditions. We have had the report of this team, and it is a very great disappointment to us. We do not accept it, but this report, which I believe the Government have accepted, tells us that this team does not give a long life to the remaining works which still employ 4,000 men. Therefore the problem will be aggravated.
Quite apart from that, with the steelworks and the tinplate industry, other industry has grown up, so that the whole 1143 has become an integrated industry, which is now breaking up. To replace that integrated industry with new industries is a very big problem. Many of the associated industries were engineering works, generally called foundries, dependent on and servicing the steel and tinplate works. They grew up with them. There were 20 of them, employing 12,000 people, who are now mostly on short time, due to the disintegration of this formerly integrated industry.
Now comes the second blow. In this same area, in common with others, we now have to face the closure of mines in West Wales and elsewhere. The closure of mines, in this setting of one industry which is already disintegrating, means that, apart from those to be absorbed in new pits, 1,000 miners are now to be added to the number of unemployed in this area. I should like to say a few words about the mining industry. I believe that I have some right to do so. It is my own industry, I have been connected with it and I am still connected with the National Union of Mineworkers. I hope that I shall not be thought to be too sentimental if I begin by saying that, having regard to the background of my life, I had hoped that I would never again see unemployed miners in Britain. I thought that we had had enough.
When I came to this House, I came here from fulfilling my responsibilities as President of the South Wales Miners' Federation. When I came here in 1936, one miner was on the scrap heap for every one in work, and that was how it had been for a long time. Then came the war, and immediately we began to scour the country for them. On the scrap heap in peacetime, suddenly, in time of war, they became important. Then, after the war, fortunately for this country—and how fortunate—a Labour Government were returned to power and the industry was nationalised.
The first thing I want to say about that is—and I say this to the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George), who is, I think, of my generation and has been a manager in the industry; and I wonder whether he dare reject what I am about to say —how fortunate it is that we face the present situation with a nationalised industry. Suppose we had to face it with private ownership of the coal mines once 1144 again, with years of bitterness having made the relationships between management and men so poisonous that cooperation was impossible.
Fortunately for us, we face this situation, and the nation should be grateful for it, with a nationalised industry, a National Coal Board and a National Union of Mineworkers which are working together and will work together to mitigate this situation, to reduce as far as possible the number of miners who are unemployed and to prevent future unemployment.
Let me put the matter in its proper setting, because this is where the Government have a responsibility. I know something of the hopes and plans of the Coal Board, and that in the anthracite coalfield some pits are to be closed. I reject the temptation to speak about this at length, but I will say that this is a fine coalfield and that the fine men in it are producing the best anthracite in the world. I wish that the coalfield had been nationalised forty years ago, because, twenty-five or thirty years ago, it became the playground of City financiers, who came along and bought up old family concerns from the owners. We knew the owners, because these were old-fashioned family concerns.
These financiers paid them £4 for every £1 share that they held. Then they floated companies on the Stock Exchange and sold the shares at 21s. for every 20s. and made their profit. If one-tenth of that money had been spent on developing the anthracite mines we should not have unecomonic mines today. Eventually, we nationalised them. We had to nationalise them, many of them old, badly equipped; badly equipped because the money Which could have been used on developing them was wasted, thrown down the drain, through Stock Exchange dealings.
So the Coal Board began to organise and reconstruct, and planned two new pits to be sunk. They are the only two new pits we have sunk for a very long time, for nearly forty years. We had to wait for nationalisation to see new pits being sunk.
The tragedy of it is that if the Coal Board could have maintained the old pits in operation for another two years the men could have been absorbed in the new pits. I see the problem of the Coal 1145 Board. I am sure that the Board must be worried about it. It will need these men for the new pits. How will it get them, if the men are to be pushed out of the old pits and on to the road for these two years? The men will have gone, and they will never come back. I do not advise them to come back—unless there is a real assurance that if they give their life to the industry the Government of the day will follow financial and economic policies which, with the imaginative plan of the Coal Board for development, will give the men and their sons a real chance of a reasonable living and security.
I blame the Government for the situation with which the Coal Board and the National Union of Mineworkers are confronted. The Government's policy of economic stagnation bears the major responsibility for what the Board is now having to do.
I read in the Press today—and I hope that my hon. Friends who are concerned about this will catch Mr. Speaker's eye and be able to develop this matter further, if they wish, as I am sure they will—that in addition to the 30 pits that we have already heard about, and which are to be closed in Scotland, another 10 are to close in Scotland. I do not know how many more there are to be in Wales.
Let me admit quite frankly that here we are facing two problems. We are facing, first, the problem of recession, of the economic policy of stagnation. The mining industry would respond and benefit at once if we had a real policy of expansion by the Government. That is a problem that the nation can deal with very shortly by getting rid of the Government and having a Labour Government to do the job. However, I recognise that we are facing another problem, that of alternative fuels.
I want, therefore, to put some considerations about that to the Government, if there is any use in putting anything to them in their declining years—or declining weeks, I hope. I put to them the problem which we have of alternative fuels. There is the problem of where we should work coal and what proportion of deep-mined and opencast coal should be worked.
I hope that none of us will consider that this is just a problem of bald economic facts. I hope that when miners 1146 are unemployed because their pits are closed we shall not desecrate their land by opencast workings. Believe me, I know the problem. It is one to which attention should be given, as I hope it will be, by the Coal Board, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Government.
Then there is the problem of oil and coal, and of atomic energy and coal. We are at the beginning of great changes in the types and uses of fuel. Possibly, the only way to deal with this problem, and to deal with it so as to do the least damage to the nation and the men affected and their communities, is to have a realistic, planned, phased national policy for fuel and power.
I was interested in what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Fuel and Power said the other day. He said that coal must pay its way against oil and the rest. Very well. Take the shackles off. If the shackles had not been there, if the doctrine beloved of hon. Members opposite had not so influenced their policy, the policy of the open market, what would the market have been for coal in the last ten years? What would it have been for the anthracite miners? If the Coal Board had had the right to export anthracite to Canada for dollars the Pits at Cwmllynfell would not be shutting now.
We had a reply the other day which jerked my memory back some years. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty, answering an hon. Friend of mine, said that the Admiralty had bought some coal—not a very large amount, 5,000 tons or thereabouts—from Poland. It had bought it for £4 per ton. I can remember when coal from Poland in the 'thirties was £4 a ton less than Durham, Yorkshire, or South Wales coal, because it was subsidised. It was conveyed from the Silesian fields through Gdynia, a distance of 365 miles at a lower freight charge than that for coal sent from Porth to Cardiff, a distance of 12 miles. Those exports were subsidised by as much as £2 or £2 10s. a ton. The declining market because of the depression in the inter-war years brought the whole European coal industry down and brought the South Wales and Durham pithead price so low that miners were working for six days for less than £2.
1147 Are we to have this fuel war now? If we are, then, believe me, the country will not make a tremendous industrial economic advance. In a war of that kind the nation will not gain. The coal industry of neither country will gain. Therefore, I reinforce very strongly indeed the plea made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) in the debate the other day, that it is now the duty of the Government, in conjunction with the National Union of Mineworkers and the Coal Board and all the people interested in the other fuel industries, to have a real plan. If we have that fuel war, in the end it is the nation which will pay for it, all our people. I urge that very strongly upon the Government.
I return to the problem of which I have spoken already. I shall not detain the House much longer in speaking of it, but there are one or two aspects of the problem to which I wish to refer. I am speaking of the continued unemployment. It is the hard-hit areas to which I especially wish to draw attention. I am glad to see the Minister of Education here. I see that we are going to debate rival plans for expanding education when we come back in the New Year. We are to expand education? For what? Let me tell the House the position now in my area. This week not only will this House adjourn, but the schools will close for the Christmas vacation.
Juvenile employment committees in Wales have met in the last ten days and have made pronouncements. For example, the Advisory Committee for Youth Employment in Wales, presided over by a distinguished member of our community for whom we all have the deepest respect, Dame Olive Wheeler, had a report before it at its meeting in Cardiff last Wednesday.
The meeting was reported in the Western Mail on Thursday, 11th December. I hold out the paper for hon. Members to see. It is about the only stronghold left in Wales for hon. Members opposite. They had, therefore, better have a look at it. This is not the Daily Worker or the Daily Herald. The Western Mail had this headline:Job prospects for Christmas school-leavers bleak.1148 This is what the paper reported:Of the 2,300 summer term school-leavers registered as unemployed last August, 600 were still without jobs…
§ Mr. Griffiths
Three months of unemployment for boys and girls of 15 years of age. This is how they begin their life. Is this how we start them off in the middle of this twentieth century?
§ Mr. Griffiths
The youth employment officer in my county and my town, Llanelly, said that there were 250 boys and girls due to leave school at Christmas, and he added:Apart from casual vacancies, there is almost nothing for them.There is nothing for boys in 1958 in a country where, the Prime Minister says, we have "never had it so good."
The officer reported to the employment committee that two local firms, whom I will not name now, though I can supply the names if required, had between them 17 vacancies for apprentices and there were 200 applications for the jobs. The officer comments, in conclusion, and I hope that the Minister of Education will remember this when he speaks in the debate on education after the Christmas Recess:I can see a most difficult period for the boys who are taking P1 and P2 exams.We all know that in technical education we are falling behind.
Here are our boys, and, I hope, our girls, taking advantage of education. We are very proud of them. We have had Labour at work on their behalf for a generation. They pass these examinations, but when they leave school at Christmas the employment officer says, "I am sorry, but there is nothing for you." That is the situation which causes concern on the threshold of this Christmas.
Recently, the Government brought forward a new Bill to help the badly hit industrial areas. We on this side of the House welcome it as far as it goes, but what is needed is not merely a Bill but firm and sustained action. The overall percentage of unemployed in all the 1149 Development Areas was 70 per cent. greater than in the rest of the country in October, 1958. In October, 1957, there were 79,900 unemployed in the Development Areas and now there are 153,300. I say to the President of the Board of Trade that what we want is not a new Bill. The old Act would have done had tough action been taken about the issue of industrial development certificates.
The proportion of approved industrial building in these areas, expressed as a percentage of the total approved throughout the country, was 30 per cent. under Labour, but under Conservative Government it has been less than 20 per cent. In the first nine months of 1958, it was 18 per cent. We have a new Measure, but we have not the industries and the factories. Indeed, we seem to be losing ground. I say, therefore, that this Christmas we need to face, in a way in which we have never faced them before, the anxiety and the challenge of unemployment.
I should like to set out, as I see it, the challenge of our day. It is a challenge to hold our place in this modern world as one of the leading nations, to maintain more than 50 million people in this crowded island, and to sustain our standard of life. To do all this we shall need to use fully and efficiently all our resources, human and material.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has rendered a great service to the country by recognising this challenge. I believe that our party has recognised in its programmes that if we are to survive as a leading nation, to sustain our standard of life and build it up, we have to find a way—and this is a challenge for all of us —by which we can secure economic expansion, increased production, higher productivity, full employment and stability.
It is not only a challenge to those of us who sit in the House and to the country. As a political student, I think that this is the challenge of Communism to the democratic world. I hope that we have all noted Mr. Khrushchev's statement. When I read it I could picture him— because I had once the privilege and opportunity of meeting him on a famous occasion—as he said:The uncommitted world will vote for us with their stomachs.1150 This is the challenge, and it is because I sincerely believe that we can make a real contribution and give a lead to the democratic world on how to combine democratic freedom with economic expansion, full employment and a high standard of living, that I want to see our country leading. It is not leading now. It is lagging behind. I believe that our people have made up their minds that they will not tolerate long-term unemployment again. I say to all parties, including the Liberal Party, that the people have made up their minds about it, and they are right. This is a challenge to us. They say, "The politicians, the Government and the industrialists must create an economic system which provides full employment." They will not tolerate unemployment, and they will not tolerate a Government that tolerate unemployment.
This, therefore, is the challenge. The charge that we on this side of the House lay against the Government is that this is their greatest failure, because what we have had from them is economic stagnation, reduced production, unemployment, and increased prices. They are failing all down the line. I believe that the answer to these problems lies in the application of the principles of democratic Socialism to our society. The only alternative to Communism is not Tory freedom—that does not mean a thing. The only real alternative, here and in Western Europe and, indeed, everywhere, is a planned society in which democratic freedom and the planned use of our resources are combined in a stable economy.
What a chance we are missing in 1958. With the skill, knowledge and traditions of our workmen equal to any in the world, we ought to be ahead of the world. Our charge against the Government is that with these rich material and human resources at their command they are letting the country down. I believe that the country will say soon to them, "Get out and make way for a Government that will be worthy of our country and of our people."
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Sir David Eccles)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) has the experience, the sincerity of feeling, and the eloquence to bring before us, as I think no other right 1151 hon. or hon. Member in the House could do, the real tragedy of unemployment. At this time of the year particularly, it is a very good thing indeed that we should have our hearts moved, as the right hon. Gentleman has certainly moved us on this side of the House, and I think his own right hon. and hon. Friends, about this problem. I would like to say to him that we are grateful for the opportunity to give an interim report on the employment situation, and for the way in which he has put such sincerity into the words that he has spoken.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and I are to share the giving of the interim report. We had thought, wrongly, that the right hon. Gentleman would wind up the debate. We had anticipated, rightly, that the right hon. Gentleman would talk about the coal industry, of which he knows so much, and that he would also raise the difficult problem of the school leavers. My right hon. Friend will speak about both those subjects, so I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will acquit me of discourtesy if I leave them to him.
One thing that I hope we shall do in this debate is to refuse to give any colour to the idea that there is the remotest chance that in this country we are going back to the conditions of mass unemployment before the war. Here I would like to quote the Leader of the Opposition, who has said that he does not see the chance of a deep slump. I believe that no one who has studied the economic prospects thinks that, and, therefore, I am sure it is a real duty not to stir fears unless we think they are justified; and I do not think that fears on this scale can conceivably be justified.
The national figure for those out of work has risen to about five out of 200, more or less 2½ per cent. We all know, however, and the right hon. Gentleman is right to say it again, that national figures have not much meaning to the man who is out of work through no fault of his own. So we do not wish to harp upon the level of national unemployment as being less than in-other countries, or anything of that kind. We wish to keep in our minds this afternoon the men and women who are out of work. My right hon. Friend made a forecast that the national figure would rise during the 1152 winter months before it improved. I should think that the number of those anxious about their jobs rises faster still. and, therefore, we want to keep them in our minds as well as those people who are out of work now.
The interim report can conveniently be divided into two broad categories of unemployment. There is the national level and there are the local areas of high and persistent unemployment. I know that the national level affects the local areas, but it would be convenient if I could deal with them separately. A number of events have taken place in the six or seven weeks since we last debated this subject which affect the national level of unemployment and the outlook for it. On the gloomy side I would put, first, the continued failure to reach an agreement with the Hong Kong textile industry. This is a matter of great regret to the Government. An agreement is vital to our cotton industry and the delay is preventing growth of confidence in reconstruction plans for the industry.
I can only tell the House that the gap between the two sides appears to us now to be very narrow. I should like to pay a tribute to all the people in Lancashire for their patience during this exhausting negotiation, which has gone on week after week, and the end of which is still not in sight. We believe, however, that before 31st December the industry's delegation will have achieved what it has so skilfully and so patiently tried to secure.
The second uncertainty is that which hangs over the future of trade in Europe. I would like to tell the House that the British proposals for reciprocity and the enlargement of quotas have very great support, not only from all the eleven countries but from many people and some Governments inside the six Common Market countries. Those proposals are now being studied, and if they are accepted next month I think that the way would be clear for a resumption of the negotiations for a multilateral and non-discriminatory arrangement between the six Common Market countries and the rest of the O.E.E.C. members.
§ Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to put two questions arising out of what he has just said? First, supposing that, unfortunately, the negotiations with Hong Kong do not succeed by 31st December, 1153 have Her Majesty's Government any plans for dealing with the situation in Lancashire? Secondly, why was it necessary for the discussions in O.E.E.C. to be adjourned for a whole month at this very critical moment when the Common Market is to come into operation on 1st January?
§ Sir D. Eccles
In answer to the first question, we had better wait and see whether we get the agreement. Obviously, one would not want to say exactly what would be done until we know the conditions, which I hope will not arise, in which the negotiations fail.
In answer to the second question, we did not want the negotiations in O.E.E.C. to be adjourned for so long, but it was represented to us—and I think there was substance in this—that the proposals we put forward, with the strong support of members of the eleven nations, require a certain amount of study, and that as the Christmas holidays were coming so soon it was reasonable to give the seventeen countries—sixteen other than ourselves—a month in which, through the experts of the O.E.E.C., a full report could be made on our proposals.
As a matter of fact, I think that the more they are looked at the more attractive they will prove to be to most people in Europe. Therefore, I do not think that we shall lose very much by having fifteen days of discrimination.
On that point, may I say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), who is not here at the moment, but who raised the point after Question Time today, that the O.E.E.C. Ministerial Council has de-restricted all the principal documents concerned with the work of the Maudling Committee and they will now be published.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Hong Kong agreement is vital, and I need not expand upon that. He has also said that the agreement is not yet in sight. Will he say whether he has made it clear in Hong Kong that, if agreement is not reached, Her Majesty's Government have power, and will use that power, to make sure that what is vital to the Lancashire cotton trade does not go by default?
§ Sir D. Eccles
We have not thought it wise to negotiate with a threat. We hope to get a voluntary agreement.
On the good side, there are factors which I think outweigh the two gloomy ones I have mentioned. The first is that the recovery in the United States has continued strongly. No one, I believe, would have thought that the sterling area could have weathered the recession. although it was mild in the United States, as well as we have done. Now the activity in America is turning upwards and that is bound shortly to affect the trend of world trade.
Secondly, the reflationary measures which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken here are beginning to work their way through the economy. We think that they are adequate in present circumstances. I say "beginning to work their way through the economy" because an interesting fact is that building in 1958 will end at the peak level, that is the same level as in the highest year that we have ever had, and work looks like continuing at that level next year.
The third factor is that British exports have been better than we expected. Of these three good factors which are operating to produce an expansion in our economy, I put the better trend in exports as the most important. About half the increase in the unemployment between the figure today and that of a year ago is due to the decline in the volume of exports—well over 100,000 jobs. That decline was, in turn, the result of a contraction of world trade which, after all, has affected all countries, not just us.
The Government hold very strongly the view that the state of the balance of payments is the barometer to watch when deciding how fast to stimulate production and, therefore, employment in our economy. If we were to put employment in front of the balance of payments and set out to raise production at any cost we should destroy the foundations of high and stable employment. As far as I understand, the party opposite seems to believe that one can force up production in this country without danger to the £ by increasing exchange controls. I do not find anything in experience to justify that view.
When one looks at the countries today in the free world which have detailed and 1155 comprehensive exchange control, I think it is true to say that they are precisely the countries whose economies are in a precarious condition, and that we would not wish to exchange our position for theirs. Exchange control does not stop rising prices at home. What more control would do would be to undermine confidence in the £. Therefore, our view is that we can safely expand here provided that exports are sufficient to pay for the extra imports that will be required.
A new fact since we last debated unemployment is that exports are better than forecast and, therefore, if the improvement continues we shall have a solid basis for pushing ahead faster with our internal expansion. The export results which we are getting now—the October-November results—arise from orders placed a good many months ago. In the Board of Trade, when looking at these figures, we feel that the results they show reflect the export drive which has been gathering momentum over a number of years.
There is a good deal of evidence to show that British industry generally is putting more emphasis on its overseas selling organisations. One can quote such examples as the Dollar Export Council, which held a remarkable conference at Eastbourne at the beginning of the month, attended by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, where, I think, they must have found not only criticism and sound advice but a general feeling of optimism about the expansion of British sales to the dollar area.
Then we recently entertained a mission of German retailers who left this country saying that there was great scope for increasing their purchases here. Indeed, I think that there is a very good chance of a substantial expansion in Anglo-German trade. What is very interesting is that when we examine the November export figures, we find the increase in exports is spread more or less evenly all round the world, including the sterling area, and that is something which we had not anticipated at this time. It is very encouraging, because if that trend continues not only will it give more work to those involved in the production and the transport of goods, but, as I said before, it will lay the foundation for a higher internal demand. A higher internal demand will help us to deal with problems 1156 of local unemployment, to which I will now turn.
The emergence in these areas of high and persistent unemployment, which causes us such very great concern on both sides of the House, is not wholly due to the increase in national unemployment. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly himself said, we live in a technical age in which there are bound to be many and frequent changes in the pattern of industry. We get the manmade fibres eating into the market for the older types of textile materials. We get paper replacing jute sacks, we get more machinery on the farm, which has immensely cut down the labour required for harvesting. We see changes in another field: in the defence programme, aircraft orders are no longer being renewed. All these factors produce very severe local problems, arising not out of general lack of demand but out of changes of one sort or another.
I am sure that it must be true that the rate and unexpectedness of these changes are much more likely to increase than decline as the scientific age develops. From that it follows that we must have really efficient permanent machinery for dealing with this kind of local unemployment, as was well put in the Manchester Guardian leader this morning. I believe that the best way to describe the improvements in that machinery would be to go through the main areas of local unemployment to see what we are doing there.
I should like to take, first, the most difficult and the most worrying case of all. Northern Ireland has had considerably higher unemployment than Great Britain for a very long time.
§ Sir D. Eccles
The Tory Government are not responsible for a number of factors which I will, in a moment, recite. The first is geography. We cannot get away from the fact that there is a sea to cross. Both for fuel, raw materials and for the market for their products, the people of Northern Ireland have to pay extra transport costs. We have always to reckon with that.
Northern Ireland has had to rely, not unnaturally, on old industries like agriculture and textiles, both of which are undergoing severe change and losing 1157 labour not only in Northern Ireland but in Great Britain and, I should say, in all the older industrial countries. Shipbuilding and ship repairing, for which Belfast is famous, are very dependent on the state of world trade.
Then—and I think that this has never been sufficiently estimated—there is in Northern Ireland a comparatively great lack of employment in the service industries. There is only one very large area of population, which is Belfast, and it is only when there are very large congregations of people that we get much employment in shops, transport, service industries, banking, insurance, and so on. The proportion of people employed in those industries in Northern Ireland is substantially lower than that in Great Britain. That is a considerable handicap. Finally, there is the fact that the population increases quickly.
To overcome those difficulties special help has been given. The Northern Ireland Government are responsible for employment in Ulster, but this House has always felt that it had a special duty to do what it could to help them with their very intractable problem. But they are responsible, and it is through them that help is given from this Parliament. Its main form is in subsidies for the building of factories. I can illustrate how much that subsidy is by pointing to some of the advertisements which one sees in the daily Press and in weekly magazines, like the Economist, showing fine new factories for rent in Northern Ireland at 9d. per square foot.
§ Sir D. Eccles
That is the way to get the worker a job. The economic cost would be about 4s. 9d. per square foot, and the cheapest rate at which we let factories on Development Area estates in Great Britain is 2s. 9d. per square foot, so there is a substantial inducement. That has been a material cause in the setting up of many new industries in Northern Ireland. In this year nine new projects and five extension schemes have been approved and started. They will provide employment for 5,000 people. In addition, I.C.I. is to build a Terylene 1158 factory there, which will provide employment for at least 1,500.
But we cannot conceal the fact that as more areas in Great Britain make insistent claims for new industries—claims which are very well-founded—it becomes more difficult to persuade firms to go across the water to Northern Ireland. The more people there are in the queue the more difficult it is. I would tell those firms who are considering going to Northern Ireland that rut only will they find excellent labour there but, if they inquire from those firms who have taken the journey across the sea, I think that in all cases they will get most enthusiastic reports of conditions and of those firms experiences.
Now I come to the administrative pattern for dealing with Northern Ireland. I shall go on to deal with those for Scotland, Wales and England afterwards. The administrative pattern for Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland Government in charge, helped by the Development Council, under the chairmanship of Lord Chandos and, in Great Britain, the Board of Trade doing all it can to bring to the notice of firms who give us a reasonable hope that they might move the advantages of going to Northern Ireland, and, in this way, backing up the Northern Ireland Government. That work, which has been very difficult in the last twelve months, will be eased as the expansion in our own economy takes place.
I now turn to Scotland. I understand that if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland might intervene in the debate. Looking at the position from the Board of Trade, it is certain that Scotland has suffered probably more than her share as a result of the technical changes of the last two or three years, and also from the fall-off in exports.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether the Minister for Welsh Affairs will also intervene in the debate?
§ Sir D. Eccles
I had a nice piece about my noble Friend, Lord Brecon, which I am coming to in a moment.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I am sorry; I thought that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) was referring to Lord Brecon. In any case, I shall have something nice to say about my right hon. Friend the Minister for Welsh Affairs.
Scotland is facing the same problem as Belfast in the matter of ship repairing, which is a very competitive business. When the carrying trade of the world declines, as it has done rather sharply during the last eighteen months, competition for the ships which require repair becomes exceedingly strong. It is, therefore, of paramount importance that our yards should be efficient and able to quote against foreign competitors. I know that some may be able to do so, but at present it is a highly competitive business.
There are also a number of industries, such as jute, iron castings, and the handling of goods at ports, which happen to be concentrated in a quite small area of Scotland, and they are all affected by major technical changes. Then there is steel. It seems that, both in respect of the falling off in export orders for steel and the adverse results of the destocking of steel in the hands of those who have hoarded it for the last ten years, Scotland's steel industry has had to take an extra share, which has been a rather severe blow. But looking ahead, the increase in capacity—in the form of the new strip mill to be built by Colvilles—will help the Board of Trade and others who are concerned to attract to Scotland new types of industry using steel.
Hon. Members opposite have for long been aware of the fact that the range of steel products in Scotland is too narrow to make it easy to get certain types of firm to go there, but in a few years' time that will change.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
Many of our main competitors have their yards subsidised nationally and, other things being equal, it is impossible for our shipbuilders and repairers to compete on equal terms. Is it not possible for us to get an international agreement which would stop this subsidising by foreign countries, which makes it impossible for us to compete with them?
§ Sir D. Eccles
That is a good point, but I am not familiar with the degree of foreign subsidy. I will convey that 1160 point to my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. whose responsibility shipyards are.
We shall go on advertising the very great merits of Scotland as a place to start a factory, and we shall hold out financial assistance. The administration pattern there is the Board of Trade, responsible for the distribution of industry policy generally and then, under the Secretary of State, the Minister of State for Scotland, who is a noble Lord and has great opportunities, which he is using to the full in the Board of Trade, to get round and represent to us the needs of certain districts. Then there is the Scottish Council, under the chairmanship of Lord Polwarth. We have the Board of Trade at the centre, the Minister of State in the field, and the Scottish Council helping.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
It is all very well for the Minister to tell us that things will be all right when new industry is attracted to Scotland in three or four years' time. The Minister of Labour will tell us that there are now 100,000 people unemployed in Scotland. What will be done this winter?
§ Sir D. Eccles
We must hope that the measures for expansion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is what is happening, as we think. The economy is beginning to expand again.
§ Sir D. Eccles
We must wait and see how these measures work.
I want now to turn to Wales. The account of the tinplate industry which the right hon. Member for Llanelly gave, is all too familiar to us, and I shall shortly mention one or two projects which are helping to improve that situation. Wales —I come back to the point raised by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West—also has the advantage of having a Minister of State for Welsh Affairs. I believe that some people still think that the appointment of the Minister of State was a piece of window-dressing. I can tell any hon. Member who thinks that is so that it he would care to sit in the Board of Trade, in its Distribution of Industry Division, he would get a very different impression. My noble Friend is at us every day of the week about the problems 1161 of Welsh industry, and the co-operation between us has already brought results.
Let us take South-West Wales, which is the part of Wales from which the right hon. Member for Llanelly comes. Three projects which have been settled already this year will bring about 5,000 jobs. The one at Swansea—for the Pressed Steel Company—is the largest factory which the Board of Trade has ever built at any time. There is also one in the right hon. Gentleman's own constituency, Llanelly, which will employ 500 people and another at Pontardulais. For all of those projects the Board of Trade is building premises, and we shall continue to hold out to anyone who will come to that part of the country finance for building premises or improving old premises.
In North Wales we are looking most to D.A.T.A.C. finance under the new Act, about which I will say a word in a minute, to attract new industry. The expansion of the steel industry at Newport, which is the other half of the scheme I have already mentioned, will provide employment for a great many men from the valleys. As far as I can see, Newport is probably the town with the most prosperous future in the whole of the United Kingdom. The expansion that will go on there will greatly affect the surrounding areas and provide secondary employment. The pattern of organisation for Wales is, again, the Board of Trade at the centre, my noble Friend Lord Brecon in the field and independent help coming from the Development Council under Sir Miles Thomas.
Last, but not least, I come to England.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not going to leave his reference to Wales without saying something about the South Wales ports, particularly about Cardiff, which is becoming derelict through neglect?
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
The right hon. Gentleman has just told us that he and the Board of Trade will do all they can to induce new industries to settle down in Wales, but will he please say—he knows that I have a very good reason for putting this question to him—how he reconciles that with the refusal of the Department to allow extensions to existing works in South Wales. 1162 and that in an area which has had from 4 to 5 per cent. unemployment for the last two years?
§ Sir D. Eccles
I am going to deal with the extension of factories in Development Areas later in my speech, when the hon. Gentleman may hear something to his advantage. I am now turning to England.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I am also going to say something about dock extensions, but I propose to group them all together later, if I may. We need coal exports. If we could only get coal exports again that would be very helpful to the Welsh ports.
England has neither a Secretary of State nor a Minister of State for English Affairs. How well we should do if we had a Secretary of State! Therefore, we in the Board of Trade have thought it right to make some new, special arrangements for dealing with local unemployment in England both at the centre—which we do for the United Kingdom as a whole—and in the field. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will act as the co-ordinator of the day-to-day work. I have relieved him of some of the duties which a Parliamentary Secretary normally carries out and I have strengthened considerably the staff which will assist him in his work on the distribution of industry side.
My hon. Friend co-ordinates the Departments which have an interest, and there are a very great many of them, in the handling of local unemployment. He has begun a series of visits to D.A.T.A.C. areas. He has been to the Isle of Thanet, to East Anglia and he will be going to Northern Ireland. He will devote a considerable part of the Christmas Recess to this work on the spot. He tells me already that it is extremely valuable to talk to the local people, many of whom do not understand what offers are open to them under the Act which was passed last summer.
There is also, I think, very little doubt that perhaps the most effective job which the Board of Trade has to do is to persuade firms which are applying for an industrial development certificate to go somewhere where we would like them to go. That means interviewing the top executives of the firms concerned. We have also begun to interview the boards 1163 of directors of firms which have not yet applied for an industrial development certificate, but which we have some reason to think have expansion plans in mind. I believe that it will work out better if we can get the idea of going to these areas thought about before firms choose a site which we afterwards have to say is not a suitable one. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is doing that and I have brought back from the regional organisation an officer to assist him in this work.
The instrument which we have for the persuasion of a firm to go where first it does not want to go is money.
§ Mr. Percy Wells (Faversham)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, will he tell me whether the Parliamentary Secretary will be coming to the Isle of Sheppey, where we have over 5 per cent. unemployment at the moment and where the dockyard has closed?
§ Sir D. Eccles
My hon. Friend saw the people from Sheppey last week at the Admiralty, and we have that problem very much under consideration at the moment.
The Act which we passed last summer is taking, and was bound to take, a little time to get into operation. The reason for that is that we are offering public money to help build or equip a factory, and there has to be an investigation before public money can be spent. There are three main criteria. The first is that there must be a reasonable chance of making a commercial success of the project. I should not think that anyone would quarrel with that. The second is that there has to be evidence that all the capital required cannot be raised through ordinary channels on the requisite terms.
What, in fact, that means is something like this. A man might be able to get the money at a suitable rate of interest in order to build his factory on the Great West Road, but if he says, "All right, I will build it in Cornwall," he may find that the lender thinks the risk is greater and that he cannot get all the money or cannot get it at the right rate. Then the D.A.T.A.C. comes in and, quite properly, I think, gives that man some assistance.
Thirdly, the object must provide a fair amount of employment for the money. 1164 To give an example, I do not think that the D.A.T.A.C. would approve a loan to build a cold store where only one man was employed. Those are sensible criteria, but it takes a number of weeks before an examination can be completed. We have greatly simplified the questions asked of applicants and as a result of the increase in the staff in the Parliamentary Secretary's division much more help can be given to applicants to make out their case and bring it forward speedily. The results will soon begin to come through the pipeline, and I should say that by the spring we will have quite a fair amount to tell.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
The right hon. Gentleman has described the possible effects of the Act that was passed in July this year. Surely, however, the main purpose of that Act was to extend to the high unemployment areas outside the Development Areas the powers already existing within the Development Areas. If this is to be of such advantage to the areas outside the Development Areas, why in the last seven years, when the Government have had these powers, have they not been more widely used within the Development Areas or had better results?
§ Sir D. Eccles
Many of the old Development Areas have had no problem of unemployment in the last seven years.
§ Mr. Fraser rose—
§ Sir D. Eccles
I am coming to factory building in Development Areas in a moment, but I should like to say something now about docks.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of D.A.T.A.C., this is a matter of importance in the North of Scotland, where it is one of our main hopes of getting small industry. I have had a helpful letter from the Minister of Labour, and I should like to ask two questions.
1165 First, is it out of the question that the Act might help small businesses which are in difficulty and may not be able to maintain employment? The President of the Board of Trade has said that its normal purpose is for increasing employment. Some industries find it difficult to maintain their existing employment.
Secondly, will there be any comparable service in Scotland to that which is to be offered by the Parliamentary Secretary to England? In other words, will anyone make a tour of the North of Scotland? It would be most helpful to interview people who are in doubt about how to proceed under the Act.
§ Sir D. Eccles
My noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Forbes, will make a special study of the North of Scotland. In reply to the first point raised by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), I do not think we can give loans to firms who have made losses simply to make up their losses. If a firm is viable—that is to say, if it can show that it can continue to employ people—I think there is no reason why it should not put up a case; and I hope that the committee would look at it sympathetically.
To return to docks, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred in his Budget speech to our willingness to help dry dock projects. These seem to take some time to come forward, but I can say that of thirteen projects for which preliminary inquiries were made we have now received five firm applications for assistance. Of those, one—the Prince of Wales Dry Dock Company, in Swansea—has already received approval. Another application is just "on the boil" under negotiation, and three more are under consideration. The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) would, I think, agree with me in regretting that neither the big nor the little dock in Greenock has yet reached the stage of a firm application. Nevertheless, we still have hopes.
§ Mr. A. Robens (Blyth)
Does this apply also to the proposed dry-dock at Belfast in Northern Ireland?
§ Sir D. Eccles
I am not sure whether that would come under the same form of assistance that we give to factory buildings. but I will inquire into that and let the right hon. Gentleman know.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a possibility that this application for the large dock in Greenock will be submitted next week? Am I under a misapprehension in believing that the plan for the smaller dock in the East India Harbour at Greenock has been submitted and is, in fact, under consideration?
§ Sir D. Eccles
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State tells me that the application for the large project is coming through this week. I have been away and did not know the up-to-date details, but I am glad to hear it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will let the hon. Member know about the small project if he intervenes later in the debate. I have been looking forward eagerly to both of these as a help to the difficult situation in Greenock.
I want now to come to factory buildings and extensions to factories owned by the Board of Trade in Development Areas. We have just made fresh inquiries in all these areas to see whether any of our tenants have found extension projects to be started immediately. As a result, in the last week or two £1 million of extensions have been approved in the Development Areas. The House might like to know the details, which are of interest. These projects were judged on their immediacy and their merit. The various totals amount to £180,000 in Wales, £360,000 in Scotland and £480,000 on the North-East Coast.
§ Sir D. Eccles
I should require notice of that. I know of the hon. Member's case of the Hoover Company, but I should like notice of that. Perhaps we can give him a reply at the end of the debate.
Private investment depends largely on the views of boards of directors of the future state of demand for their products. As the economy is now expanding and the demand for their products is increasing, I think it will not be long before that is reflected, as it always has been in the past, in an increase in private investment.
I am sorry to have kept the House so long, but it is important to give as much information as one can about a subject of this kind. We can, I think, send out 1167 an interim report from the Board of Trade in two parts. The first is that an expansion in the economy is on the way. How far it can go will depend upon the level of the export trade. That is why keeping prices stable and our goods competitive is so important to the solution of all unemployment problems. Secondly, we can say that the administration of Government policy in respect of local areas of unemployment has been greatly strengthened and improved. This is a dull subject but I am certain that getting right the day to day methods for dealing with this problem and particularly giving more publicity to D.A.T.A.C. will bring results before long.
I join with the right hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Before the right hon. Gentleman comes to what looks like being the end of his speech, may I remind him that so far he has said not a word about Lancashire. except the Hong Kong agreement, which he has not yet got? He has not said a word of it in his review of all the local areas. He has said that he is inviting firms to go to Northern Ireland, Scotland, to North Wales and to South Wales. Is Lancashire to come anywhere in the queue at all? Has the President anything to say about Lancashire?
§ Sir D. Eccles
We are trying to get a large factory to go to Merseyside at this moment. My hon. Friend is going there on one of his forthcoming visits. We certainly do not forget Lancashire, but I have taken a long time and one cannot review—I wish I could—every single area on the D.A.T.A.C. list.
§ Sir D. Eccles
The hon. Member must not draw me, or I shall never sit down.
I was greatly impressed by what the right hon. Member for Llanelly said at the end of his speech. Of course, he is right. This problem of managing an economy at full speed and preserving freedom is really the challenge, and I think it can be met. I am, however, certain that it cannot be met on a national scale alone. It requires not merely so much the economic planning which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned about our domestic 1168 economy: what it requires far more is high-level strategic planning among the great industrial nations of the free world and their understanding their duty to promote the economic development of the world.
§ Sir D. Eccles
And, of course, the Commonwealth, but that is part of the free world. The Commonwealth, as we saw at Montreal, is capable of giving an example to the rest of the free world. The free world as a whole must, however, follow that example if we are to have steady, high employment as part of our free society. That. I think, is within our grasp.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Rotherham)
The President of the Board of Trade has spent a considerable time in telling the unemployed man exactly nothing. Listening to the right hon. Gentleman's speech, one would have thought that we were debating what was possible and what was likely to be happening round about 1970. This debate, however, is not about unemployment that might be cured in ten years from now but unemployment as it affects the present-day unemployed and, more than the present-day unemployed, the hundreds of thousands of under-employed people.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who opened the debate, I do not want to hark back too much into the past. However, it will soon be Christmas Eve. I was one of those who came back from the First World War having served under the person who was for a long time the Father of this House. Once again, I say that he was a brave soldier and a gallant gentleman.
I found myself buying an engagement ring with my war gratuity, but it went into the pawn shop on Christmas Eve. 1926, to help feed children. I want to say no more about it, except please God that it does not happen this Christmas Eve to any of those who came back from the last lot; but I am afraid that it will. The Government must not try to shelve the blame on to anybody else.
"Let us wait and see", said the President of the Board of Trade; "let 1169 us all be nice about it, let us look upon this as something that has happened but is nobody's fault." Everybody knows in his heart of hearts that what has happened is a result of Government action and deliberate restrictionist practices. We have seen the cutting down of capital investment. The right hon. Gentleman said that we are spending as much this year as we did last year, but that is not the criterion. To spend the same amount of money next year as one spent last year does not mean that that money will employ the same number of people. Wages go up, as do the costs of raw materials. Fewer persons will work for £1 million spent now than for the same amount spent in December last year, or in any other year. It is sheer nonsense to argue that because we are spending as much this year as we did previously it will cure unemployment. To go on telling the House about what might be built and what might happen and what ought to be and what should be done is no palliative whatever to the present-day unemployed.
I know a little bit about my own industry of iron and steel. Last February, almost ten months ago—it was the last time I spoke in this House—I warned the Government what was coming. It is all In HANSARD. We were on the road to a terrible slump, and one hon. Member said "Nonsense".
§ Mr. E. H. C. Leather (Somerset, North)indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Jones
The hon. Member shakes his head. It all depends what people think is a terrible slump. It is terrible to anybody who is unemployed. Apparently it does not matter if one looks at a list of a million unemployed. It is terrible in my constituency if one decent Britisher who wants to earn his daily bread is not earning it. In a world in which millions upon millions—thousands of millions, at least—are crying out for a higher standard of life, we in this country should be helping to create and provide them with it, and thereby create employment.
The Government cannot escape the facts. Every year since they came into office, relatively, as against the time when my party was in power, the production per capita has decreased annually. Ours 1170 was an expansionist policy. I know, of course, that there are difficulties. I am not one of those fools who think that if people went to the ballot box tomorrow and returned a Labour Government all our troubles would be over. Too many people, even of my own party, believe that to vote for Socialism means the opening of a gateway to less work and more results from it.
On the other hand, however, many thousands are now rightly expressing their views as a result of Government policy. I speak of the good, decent, honest workman—not the few, to whom I have referred, who want something for nothing, but the millions who are willing to give of their best.
We have heard today of the plight of mining. At one time, I ran almost a one-man band on Saturday mornings working in the coalfields. We were not getting sufficient coal to meet the needs of industry. The reason was the condition of the mines at that time; they were in a shocking condition. We wanted full employment, and we created the policy that produced it. The steel industry, which wanted more coal, could not get sufficient coal at that time. I asked the miners to work Saturday mornings, which they did. Those men have given of their best. What is the situation today? They find themselves by the hundreds being told, in effect, that there is no more work for them after a certain date. Despite all that has been done by the N.U.M., the Coal Board and the Government, and even what the Socialist Government could do when we were in power, men will be thrown into idleness.
I indict the Government for not looking ahead in time. They have been in power not five minutes but for seven years. They knew the change in the industrial pattern. If they did not, they ought to have known. Let me cite one or two instances. Great gun barrels, dreadnoughts and tanks have been going out of existence, and thank God they were. Sixty, 80 or 100 tons of steel is no longer required to be put into two gun barrels. There has been a change of pattern from conventional to atomic warheads, or defence weapons, if one cares to be nice about it. The change in pattern has meant that the Government should have been looking ahead and preparing for the day when all that production which 1171 is not now required for conventional weapons, for instance, should be deployed in other directions.
Government supporters rightly ask what we in the Labour Government did about it. The right hon. Gentleman, however, has not told us much about what the Government are doing about it or intend to do. There should have been a great intensification of the roadway plan. More cars are being put on to the roads, and credit is due to the extent that we are creating them, but we are not building roadways big enough nor fast enough to accommodate the increased traffic coming on to the roads.
There are other means, such as bridge building and the sealing up of foul water-ways which should be put into conduit pipes. Then there is coast erosion. We never hear of that from the Government, but soon we shall be getting the stormy weather and reading in the papers about destruction caused in that way. All that coast defence work should be put into operation. Unemployed men could use tens of thousands of tons of steel in that job. Slag heaps should be taken away and put into the holes. These are things which the Government or even a Socialist Government, should be thinking about.
It is all very well to say, "Wait and see, there are only 600,000 of them". I defy contradiction when I say that there is not a steel producer in this country, working the same number of hours, producing as much steel as he was when working under the Labour Government. I challenge any hon. Member of the Government to deny that. One hon. Member opposite interjected "Nonsense" when I forecast this slump. I challenge him, or anyone else, to tell me of one production steel worker in any plant in Britain working the same number of hours producing crude steel as he was when we were in power.
These are the tests which should be applied. An hon. Member opposite shakes his head, but can he tell me where such a worker is doing it? I happen to be possessed of the facts. I attend meetings where reports are carefully gone into month by month and quarter by quarter, and I ought to know. The situation in South and West Wales is terrible. We know that there has to be automation. We know that in South Wales a man may 1172 press a button and do away with the work of fifty or sixty men. We expected that and knew it was to come. Provision should have been made to absorb those people by methods which can be used. New industries have been mentioned, but we cannot have new industries without there being an effect on old industries. How many polythene buckets and basins and runners for curtains are now produced? They all aid and abet the slump in steel.
The hon. Member for Somerset, North (Mr. Leather) knows something about the Canadian aluminium industry. He knows more about it than I do because I am too busy minding my own business. He knows that that industry is busy and doing everything possible to replace steel by aluminium. There are also many natural causes why the demand for steel has fallen. The right hon. Gentleman tries to get away with it by saying that there has been destocking. Where were the stocks? I never thought the industry had them. If it had stocks the Government stand indicted on that. If steel was being bought from America at £60, £70, £80 or £90 a ton to allow people to stock to the extent that they can now disgorge some of the stocks, where has that all gone? They did not have excessive stocks. Stockists have run down their normal stocks because they bought with cheap money and are not going to replace with dear money arising from Government policy.
The Government say, in effect, that we should send a letter to young people saying, "You are going to be married at Christmas; use next year's unemployment pay on hire purchase now". That is the sort of thing that seems to be happening—at the best, "Mortgage next year's work if you are in work", and, at the worst, "Mortgage next year's unemployment pay on something you do not want to buy because that helps to offset present unemployment". The Government ought to know better than that.
The Government stand indicted on all the charges I have made. There is plenty of room for more schools to be built and plenty of room for more prisons. I have never been in one, even to visit it, and, please God, I shall not have to go as a visitor or an inmate, but every hon. Member knows that the prisons of this country 1173 are shocking places. I know something about military barracks. I have been in them. Some of them are "prehistoric" workhouses which have been given new names in order that it may sound better. The Government should get on with replacing some of them. That is something about which, in my personal opinion, our Government could have done something. This Government should get a move on now.
The right hon. Gentleman, in opening the debate, said something less than I am prepared to say. He said that Communism is at the gates. I, if I may humbly say so, have played my part in fighting it. It is still at the gates and it is in every workshop in the country. What the people of this world want are bread and freedom, but they are going to have bread without freedom if it means that they must have bread alone. This Government, or a Socialist Government, will have enough on their plate to give the people both. It is not just a job for a Government. I am not so daft, as they say in Lancashire, as to think that if we were returned to power tomorrow some Socialist Minister of Supply or President of the Board of Trade would have tucked away up his sleeve millions of orders for this, that or the other. He would not, but we have to create a climate of opinion, not only among ourselves but between trade unionists and people in control, and between ourselves and our French and other allies.
The right hon. Gentleman did not get very far last week. He got less far today. I am not surprised that he did not satisfy the "Froggies". He cannot satisfy decent-minded, pleasant-thinking Englishmen in the House of Commons. That is a big job. We have to get down to the job of letting the world at large know that we as a nation want to supply those who are entitled—made in God's image as we were—to the standard of life we want. I am sick and tired of listening to many of my own people who want the moon. If some were asked to give an hour's work for "Who Flung Dung" in China they would not be prepared to play. Let us get down to brass tacks. This Government have not long to stay in power. We on this side of the House have a job to do, to get our people to pull up their socks in order to get what 1174 Almighty God intended they should have —the right to live as decent citizens.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Sir Alexander Spearman (Scarborough and Whitby)
I am always glad to speak after the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones) because I know that it is very easy to hear almost every word he has said. He blames the economic policy of the Government for creating general unemployment, but I think he will agree that the problem is quite different from the problem presented by pockets of unemployment of which the causes, and therefore the remedies, must be quite different. It is not only in industrial areas that we get these pockets of unemployment. In seaside resorts, even those as prosperous and popular as those I represent, the degree of unemployment is far greater for a great part of the year than in most parts of the country.
I hope that the Act which we have recently passed, and to which the President of the Board of Trade referred, will do something substantial towards encouraging industrialists to put down suitable light industry factories in those areas where there are workers and amenities available instead of in the congested areas. In the industrial areas where industry is contracting—the areas about which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) often talks—I think there is a case for a measure of protection to be afforded by the Government where they are affected by foreign competition which they could not altogether have foreseen. But I think that that protection must only be of a temporary nature while they have the chance to put their house in order and to compete with any competition from anywhere, or, if they cannot do that, transfer their activities to other directions.
It would be possible to get into a position where everyone was being subsidised and everyone was being taxed to pay for it. It seems to me imperative that we should not try to freeze our economy in an obsolete direction. It should be the job of the Government to accelerate readjustment rather than to resist change. I believe that there has to be continual change in the pattern of production in this country so that we are always trying to produce those things those changing things—which other countries want. That I know is painful, but I believe that the 1175 economy of this country is still a growing economy and things that grow are apt to suffer pains. I think the test as to how far the Government can go, is, first, whether their action would materially raise costs, and, secondly, whether it might lead to retaliation by other countries which would reduce the volume of trade, because we in this country are, I suppose, more dependent than any other country on a great volume of world trade being maintained.
In the long run the real solution is to see that there are improved facilities for training and equipping men and women in middle-age to acquire new skills in new industries. Are the Government really doing all they can in that direction? Are the trade unions co-operating to the full extent? The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), who opened the debate, attacked the Government, as did the hon. Member for Rotherham, on their economic and financial policy and its relationship to unemployment. I admit that the Government, by their own expenditure, by their fiscal and monetary policies very largely influence the pace of the economy and that this determines the amount of employment. If the pace is too slow and the demand is too little, we get unemployment.
All of us who are old enough remember what happened in the 1930s, and we are determined that it shall never happen again, but we should remember that, though in many ways bad, the 1930s were not wholly bad. It is sometimes forgotten that the increase in production was greater in the 1930s than ever before or since in this country.
Between 1932 and 1937 the volume of industrial production rose by 41 per cent. [Interruption.] Let me give the figures. The rate of production, expressed as a percentage of the volume of production, was 79 in 1929, a year for which a Labour Government had some responsibility. It fell in 1931 to 71 and it rose to 103 in 1937. During that time the standard of living of those more fortunate people who were employed rose more quickly than it had ever done in the country before. [Interruption.] I have said that that period was very bad, and that the higher standard of living for some was no consolation to those who were unemployed and no excuse, but it is as well to see the picture as a whole.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
Is the hon. Gentleman forgetting that there was not a single day between 1929 and 1937 when there were fewer than 2 million unemployed?
§ Sir A. Spearman
I am not forgetting that in any way, but we must not necessarily assume that because there was heavy unemployment, which was extremely bad, there was also very bad production.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Would the hon. Gentleman therefore say that we have to look at the 1930s in a balanced way, and that if the misery and tragedy of 3 million people and their dependants because of unemployment enabled the rest of the nation to live well, we should take comfort from that fact?
§ Sir A. Spearman
The hon. Gentleman very often listens very carefully. He will recall that I said that it was no excuse for those bad times and no consolation to those who were unemployed, but I still think that it is a good thing to see the picture accurately.
I would refer to a very interesting article in the last issue of Economica, by Professor Phillips, whom I do not know but who, I understand, is one of the most remarkable economists that this country has produced since Lord Keynes. It goes a very long way to destroy what I believe is the fallacy of thinking that in order to prevent inflation and rising prices it is necessary to have heavy unemployment. He says that in order to have stable wages—a thing I hope no one would want —it would be necessary to have high unemployment, but that in order to have stable prices, assuming the normal increase in production and no abnormal rise in the prices of raw materials, and on the evidence of the last 100 years, a comparatively small percentage of unemployment would keep prices steady. He gives a smaller percentage than the 3 per cent. that was stated by the present Leader of the Opposition as the standard for full employment.
§ Sir A. Spearman
The hon. Member says that his right hon. Friend said nothing of the kind. I would refer the hon. Gentleman to column 319 of HANSARD of 1177 22nd March, 1951, in which the actual words appear in a Written Answer. I was not intending to read them out but as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) says that his right hon. Friend never said them, I will do so. They were given in a written reply and were:The Government has therefore decided to make a small allowance for the factors mentioned in paragraph 2 above"—which was a paragraph dealing with the fact that counter measures against unemployment would take time to become effective—and to express the full employment standard of the United Kingdom as a level of unemployment of 3 per cent. at the seasonal peak—.. In the event of severe difficulties arising in the sphere of foreign trade it is possible that even a level of 3 per cent. unemployment might be exceeded for short periods.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) does not usually deceive either himself or the House of Commons, but at the moment he is doing both. My right hon. Friend, when he made that speech from which the hon. Gentleman has quoted was not talking about levels of unemployment or about economics at all, but about the actuarial figures on which the insurance funds were being calculated. If the hon. Gentleman were fair enough to read on for a couple of paragraphs he would put the thing in its proper light and would save himself and the rest of us from this red herring every time.
§ Sir A. Spearman
I have given the column in HANSARD and it has nothing to do with actuarial calculation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Read on."] I have had the full letter handed to me, a copy of which was sent to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The Written Answer went on:The figure of 3 per cent. represents the maximum number of persons registered as unemployed on a given day in any month of the year, expressed as a percentage of the total number of employees. It applies of course to the United Kingdom as a whole and does not preclude the possibility that in particular areas the percentage of unemployment might exceed 3 per cent.".
§ Sir A. Spearman
I will read on. It goes on:A similar communication is being sent to the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe arising out of the recommendation of the Consultative Assembly on this subject on 26th August, 1950."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1951; Vol. 485, c. 320.]
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Gentleman is not making the matter any clearer or improving his own position in the least. He did not begin to quote from a letter. but from HANSARD. What my hon. and right hon. Friends invited him to do was to continue his own quotation and not to take refuge in somebody else's. I am sure that he knows very well indeed that what was under discussion then was not a definition of full employment but the actuarial basis on which insurance payments were being calculated.
§ Sir A. Spearman
On the contrary. When I started that part of my speech I said that I was quoting a Written Answer in HANSARD. The letter from which I quoted comes from the HANSARD report and the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has to accept that fact. The right hon. Gentleman said in his letter that he and his Government would do all they could to avoid 3 per cent. unemployment but that he had to face the fact that these things could happen. It is as well to know what his opinion is.
I was saying that Professor Phillips goes a long way to destroy the fallacy that we must have heavy unemployment in order to keep prices stable. As I said, if demand is too little we have the unemployment which I hope and believe we shall never suffer again on a very large scale, but, equally, if the pace is too fast and demand is too great, we have inflation. Inflation is such a misused word that I should like to say what I mean by it. I mean by inflation a state in which the increases in the income of everyone taken together are greater than the increases in the amount of goods available to be bought.
If that occurs then employers do not hesitate to give more wages because they know that they can put the cost on to the price. The unions do not hesitate to demand more. In fact, they almost have to demand more wages when they know quite well that the employers will grant the increase, even though they might think that it is not good for them in the lone run. The result is that prices must rise. 1179 That, as we all know—no one disputes this—causes great hardship, particularly to those who can bear it least. But it could be worse than the hardship which we have suffered in the past. We have had inflation in this country but we have been saved from disaster—although we have been near it once or twice, in 1947 and 1951—by the fact that other countries were inflating too. If inflation were only in this country there would be not only hardship and high prices but absolute disaster.
I therefore believe that the main task of a Government in economic affairs is to see that there is a proper balance between the money incomes of the country and the national resources. That means that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to walk a tightrope and lean one way or the other with changing circumstances. Hon. Members opposite complain about the Government changing their policy, but they must change it as circumstances change. If I were driving a motor car on a straight road I could steer a straight course, but if I were driving round corners, as sometimes happens in this country, I should have to pull first one way and then the other.
I would say that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has greater control over the machine of the economy, the pace at which it is going, and is directing it more wisely, than has happened in this country before. Those hon. Members who are demanding, as the hon. Member for Rotherham demanded, changes in Government policy should analyse how the present slack has occurred. I agree that there is a slack to-day. Why is it? After all, no sensible doctor automatically prescribes his favourite tonic without trying to diagnose what is wrong with the patient. I believe that the slack today is partly due to the measures taken by the Government in 1956 and 1957 to check increased spending in order to deal with the excessive demand and the consequent inflation. It is partly due to a fall in exports of about 4 per cent. which has occurred this year.
Haw are we to use that slack? Are we to use it by increasing home demand or are we to reserve it for exports? What we cannot do is to use it twice over, because then we should be bound to have inflation and we should not maintain our 1180 exports. If international trade recovers it will probably mean that the prices of our raw materials will rise, and that will mean that our imports will cost us more. It will then be vital not merely to maintain our exports but to increase them.
Those who gaily talk about the restrictive practices of the Government and blame Government policy should bear this in mind. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) will tell us when he concludes the debate tonight whether the would-be spenders believe that there will be no revival in international trade and no rise in commodity prices. If they do, they may be right, but they should give their reasons. Or perhaps they have not thought about it at all. Or is it just that they must have sticks with which to beat the Government and this is the best they can provide?
I believe that the Government's policy today, as I understand it, is to try to fill the gap between the slack in the economy at present and the time when they expect that there will be full demand, with a revival in export demand. They are doing that by removing hire-purchase restrictions, which, I believe, tends to increase immediate demand and to have not much effect on demand in a few months' time. They are also doing it by trying to get Government Departments and local government to spend today what in any way they would spend next year—in fact to speed up their expenditure. They are also doing it by loans and credits to foreign countries, and particularly to members of the Commonwealth, which would not otherwise have been able to buy from us, and thus they have been able to maintain exports at a far higher level than might have been expected.
This policy of trying to fill the gap and showing determination to increase our exports is not the easiest policy for a Government and is not the most popular policy, but I am convinced that it is the right policy for the nation in the long run, because it is the only way in which we can expect to maintain a high level of employment and increase prosperity.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Grey (Durham)
I hope that the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments. I say this with regret, because there are 1181 many matters on which I could join issue with him, but I know that many of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite wish to take part in the debate, and I wish to be as brief as possible.
Of all the debates which could take place now, none is more important, especially in domestic affairs, than this. To many of us the debate brings to mind the grim 'thirties, when many of us experienced unemployment. For the British people to experience the fear of a return to those days is a tragedy. We must admit that the position is not as grave as it was between the two wars, but the trend is there, and if it is not reversed tragedy will be upon us again. I shall confine my remarks to northern regional affairs for the simple reason that I wish to make my speech as brief as possible, but also for the most important reason that the unemployment figure in the northern region is 3.1 per cent. compared with the national average of 24 per cent. If the northern region is experiencing such a high unemployment figure, then this should be stated by me and, if they catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, by my hon. Friends who know and can express the northern regional point of view.
The grim 'thirties are still in our minds. While I will not go into this in detail, I recall the hazards of life then and I emphasise that if nothing is done now by the Government to reverse the trend, that position will arise again. If we allowed that to go by default, then we, as Members representing the northern region, would be guilty of slackness in not bringing to the Government's notice the claims of the northern region.
If the Government believe that the position will suddenly, automatically, adjust itself, then they are much blinder than I thought they were. The President of the Board of Trade must show a more lively interest in northern regional affairs than he has shown so far. I recall the many Questions which were put to him about a fortnight ago and the many replies which were given, and I also recall putting a supplementary question in which I stated that the position was rather grim. On that day, I recall, the President of the Board of Trade had left Questions to his Parliamentary Secretary but the right hon. Gentleman, who was present, 1182 shook his head in dissent, as if he disbelieved what I had said. What has happened since then has proved how right I was, and I hope that hon. Members will share my opinion before I have finished my speech.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) referred to the national unemployment figures. On 17th November there were 536,000 unemployed, representing an increase of 22,000 in a month. On a percentage basis there was a rise in one month from 2.3 per cent. to 2.4 per cent. When the northern, Scottish and Welsh regions bear the brunt of this, it is time that someone was sitting up and taking notice.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
Since hon. Members appear to be putting facts on record about their own regions, may I ask whether my hon. Friend is aware that within a 60-mile radius of the centre of Manchester there are 160,000 unemployed?
§ Mr. Grey
That is a fair point and it emphasises what I have said.
This rise in unemployment in the northern region has been taking place for some months. I questioned the Minister of Labour about it and asked him about the unemployment figures. I am sure that the President of the Board of Trade is aware of the continual rise of unemployment in this area over many months. When I asked for a figure on 11th December—I will not quote too many figures—I was told that the total in October, 1957, was 18,267, which represented a percentage of 1.4; but by October, 1958, the figure had risen to 35,755, representing a percentage of 2.8—exactly double—and from October to November, there was a rise of unemployment of 4,605, which gave a total figure of 40,360, representing a percentage of 3.1.
If this is not a situation to make the Government take action I do not know what is.
§ Mr. Grey
I agree, but we must keep trying in the hope that they will change their minds. I hope that we are not wasting our time by the debate and that what we are saying is falling on good ground.
1183 In addition several coal mines are to be closed, a question which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Jack Jones). I am sorry that I did not hear the beginning of his speech. The position in the coalfields is becoming tragic because pits are to be closed. I know that an attempt will be made to find work for the miners in other pits by the N.U.M. and the National Coal Board, and I would pay tribute to the Coal Board, because it is one of the most human institutions which we have in industrial affairs. No credit is too high for it. In this issue the N.U.M. and the Coal Board are doing what they can to find employment for these men but, with the best will in the world there are bound to be miners without jobs.
The President of the Board of Trade rather depressed me and the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby did not help matters either. For they offered very little to miners who will be out of work. These men were needed in wartime, but they have now got to pay the penalty for an economy created by the Tory Government which makes them valueless and puts them on the scrap heap.
Another aspect of this problem is juvenile unemployment. This is very disturbing. I do not know what the national figures are, but I believe that the pattern is probably the same all over the country. In Durham County the figures between September, 1957, and September, 1958, rose from 631 to 1,409. I do not know what the figures are up to date, but I have every reason to believe that they have not improved. The number of juveniles seeking employment in Durham County and the northern region is likely to increase in the next few years in view of the larger number of children who will leave school. In the administrative County of Durham 1,700 more children will leave school next year than in this year.
We know that there is a wide difference between the two sides of the House on domestic issues. We are firmly convinced that it is part of the Tory Party's political philosophy to have unemployment, but the people who favour this philosophy make sure that they are not in that category. They are always talk- 1184 ing about having unemployment, but they let someone else be unemployed. They believe that this is the only way in which the economy of the country can be bolstered. The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby believes it.
§ Sir A. Spearman
What I tried to say was that if we had excess demand we got full employment, but we also got rising prices. By cutting down demand we got rid of inflation and secured stable prices, but that meant something less than 99 per cent. employment.
§ Mr. Grey
When the hon. Gentleman reads what he said, I think that he will find that what I said was correct. The people are coming to realise that they are in for a rough time at the hands of this Government.
It is about time that the Government made known their intentions about National Service. We on this side wish that the whole thing were abolished. I am not so sure about hon. Members opposite. Is this the only way in which they can abolish National Service, by causing a certain number of young people to be unemployed so that they have to join the Army in search of employment? We want an assurance, because this resembles a repeat performance of what happened between the two wars when millions of young lads could not get jobs and the only thing they could do was to join the Army. If that is the intention of the Government it is a shocking thing, and I can only endorse what a young man said when looking at the Tory poster, "Tory freedom works". He said "Aye, it is like me; it is completely worked out."
The answer to the problem, nationally and regionally, is an expanding economy. Factories must be steered to the regions. A Question was asked some time ago about the number of vacant factories in one of the trading estates in the North-East and I believe that it was said that there were five empty factories. I believe it was said that every endeavour was being made to find tenants for these factories. I should like to know whether these factories still remain untenanted.
A lot could be done regionally by developing more public works schemes. I should like to refer to some of the matters which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham. He spoke of bridges, and I should like 1185 to refer to houses. It is shocking to think that there are thousands of people living in unfit conditions while there are thousands of builders out of work. Why cannot public money be spent on providing houses for the people who need them and, at the same time, providing work?
We might also build more hospitals. When I asked the Minister of Health about the number of people waiting for hospital beds in the North region I was astounded to learn that up to 31st August there were 24,000. About 13,000 had been waiting for less than four months, 6,000 had been waiting for between four and twelve months and 5,000 for over a year. These people cannot be admitted to hospital because there is no accommodation. Surely, if there is a lack of hospital accommodation and an army of people is waiting to build, the answer is to build more hospitals. Many of these people awaiting admission might, with treatment, be employable, though, of course, I appreciate that they would have swollen the numbers of unemployed.
Reference has been made to the necessity to build more schools. The Government may be satisfied with their intentions, but even their intentions fall short of what is required in that they are inadequate to meet the need to reduce the numbers in the classes as well as the need which arises when children leave school at the age of 16.
Last month, the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation refused to meet a deputation from Durham to consider certain schemes. This is wrong. Numerous projects and bold schemes could be embarked upon. Why not give a starting date for the Tyne Tunnel? If this and other road schemes could be started, plus the introduction of factories into the area, a lot of good would be done and the Minister would receive the support of my hon. Friends and myself.
I understand that the Prime Minister is coming to the North-East. I do not know where he is going, except that I have heard that he will visit Darlington and Sunderland where, I believe, he has a few political friends. May I suggest that he should arrange his tour differently? I think that it would be a good idea if I were to arrange his tour 1186 for him. It would do his health good and it would educate him. I know that he is supposed to know the North-East, but he has not been there for a long time. If I were allowed to arrange his tour I would first take him round all the employment exchanges in the area and let him mix in the queues of people on the dole and listen to their conversations. If he did so, and took to heart what they said, he would come back to No. 10 Downing Street a much wiser and sadder man.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peel (Leicester, South-East)
This is an extremely important subject, because it involves a very human problem. Any subject that has to do with human beings is one to which we should give great attention. Fortunately, Leicester is blessed in that the level of unemployment is well below the national average. During the last month, no doubt due to the sensible measures which the Government have taken, the level has dropped.
It is high time that the House and the country understood quite clearly how completely erroneous is the impression deliberately put about by Members of the Opposition that the Conservative Party is the party of unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "So it is."] That is utterly untrue. If hon. Members look at the figures, they will see that unemployment has always been higher under a Socialist Administration than under a Tory one. In the economic crisis at the end of the 'twenties and the beginning of the 'thirties, unemployment rose rapidly as soon as a Socialist Administration took over. After the war, in 1947, during the fuel crisis, there were 2¼ million unemployed—
§ Mr. Peel
—yet the Socialists have the impertinence to talk about themselves as being the guardians of full employment.
Since the war, the average level of unemployment has been as good under Tory administration as it was under the Socialists. In fact, it has been rather better under much more difficult conditions. Those difficult conditions were brought about by the profligate dissipation of the American Loan by the Socialist Administration and by trading 1187 conditions in the world becoming very much more competitive since the Conservatives took over government.
The party opposite will never face the fact that, unless we pay our way in the world, which we can do only by trading, we shall have unemployment on an immense scale. If we have serious inflation of the kind we had under a Socialist Administration after the war, a runaway situation such as they produced in 1951, our export trade, on which we depend for our very life and to maintain our standard of living, will be dealt a mortal blow. However good our world record is—I venture to say that it has been very good inded, especially under Tory administration—the world does not feel that it owes us a living. We have, therefore, to earn our living in a fiercely competitive world, and we have to do it from a very vulnerable position. We cannot possibly indulge in the luxury of Socialist rigging of the economy, because it is so dependent upon external trade and external factors over which any British Government can have only limited control.
The real threat to employment is the Socialist desire to distort natural economic forces.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes (Anglesey)
Does the hon. Gentleman deny that the present tide of increasing unemployment is a direct result of the policies of the Government which he supports?
§ Mr. Peel
The only way that a Socialist society can ensure full employment is, of course, by the creation of slave labour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We have seen it in Soviet Russia, which is the country furthest along the Socialist road. I do not believe that the unions really want that.
Occasionally, we see a faint gleam of natural, economic common sense fitfully pierce the dull Socialist gloom of the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The other day, when he was taken to task about his remark in 1951 about 3 per cent. unemployment, he did not attempt to contradict it as one or two hon. Members 1188 opposite have done today. All he did was to say that he added, of course, that no Socialist Administration would sit back and do nothing while unemployment went up to that figure, implying that a Conservative Government were doing nothing about it.
We all know, of course, that that is utterly incorrect. We have done a great deal and we are doing a great deal, very much more than any Administration formed by the party opposite could possibly do, because under a Socialist Government, as we all know, the economic health of the country is so deplorably weak that the Socialists are incapable of correcting any serious unemployment.
§ Mr. Peel
Nobody agrees with unemployment in any circumstances. Nobody for a moment believes in it. It is one of the things which is so deplorable about the Opposition that they say that my right hon. and hon. Friends believe in unemployment. [HON. MEMBERS: "They do."] That is an utterly untrue statement which we have belied time and time again.
It is a great tribute to our stewardship that, despite the change from a sellers' to a buyers' market since 1951, despite the worst recession in the United States since the war, and despite the defence run-down, we have kept employment at such a high level, a great deal higher than in very many other countries.
If Britain is to maintain her standard of living, let alone increase it, she cannot stand still. We must constantly expand our opportunities to trade. I am reminded of what the successful businessman said to the young man who asked him what was the secret of his success.
§ Mr. Peel
He said, "You must always jump at your opportunities". The young man asked, "When do you know that the opportunities occur?", to which the successful man replied, "You do not. You never know when they will come. You just keep jumping". That is what Britain must do.
I hope that the Government and the country will not forget that Great Britain is a great and important European Power, as well as being the heart of the Commonwealth. We have very important duties and responsibilities to Europe, which we neglect at our peril. Those responsibilities are both political and economic. I do not think that they can be separated. If we are to preserve full employment and increase the standard of living of the people in the next twenty-five years, the problem, as I see it, is how to reconcile our position as a leading European Power with our position as the centre and heart of the great Commonwealth and also as one of the senior partners in the North Atlantic Alliance. Unless we can reconcile our position in those three respects, and increase our trade in every direction, there will be a grave danger and threat to employment.
It is clear from the record buying spree over a very wide area at this time of Christmas that, in the main, the bulk of the people are in very good heart. It is a tribute to the Government that in difficult times they have managed to steer a very difficult economy in troublesome seas so well and so safely.
§ Mr. Speaker
I would remind hon. Members that the sands are running out very quickly, and I am sure that the House would be grateful if hon. Members who are called later could be as short as possible in their speeches, so as to allow this problem, which covers so many different places, to be adequately ventilated.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
On a point of order. Further to what you have said, Mr. Speaker, are we to understand that we are now to debate the problem of unemployment in Scotland? I noticed that my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) rose. Will there be a further opportunity to discuss Welsh affairs as well?
§ Mr. Speaker
My hope is that the Welsh situation will be dealt with, too. That is why I appeal to the House for short speeches.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
It is clear from the remarks of the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) that he has no knowledge of the human suffering and misery that flows from long periods of unemployment. He said that we have done well in making the change from a buyers' to a sellers' market and in maintaining employment in comparison with what has been happening elsewhere in Europe. That has been said by many Conservatives from time to time. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland will not mind my saying that he said very much the same thing to a number of my hon. Friends and myself when we had a meeting with him yesterday—that we had done better in riding the American recession than most other countries in Europe. This is one of the fallacies to which Tories have given utterance at one time or another, and, having uttered it and not being contradicted, they have come to accept it as a true statement of fact.
Certain facts ought to be brought home and made known to people outside the House. I have in front of me a statement of the movement of unemployment in ten European countries, including this country, during 1958. I did not select the other nine countries; I asked the statistical division of the Library to give me some figures. I said that I wanted some of the principal countries and I named about four or five. I have here a table of unemployment for ten countries.
In Austria the figure of unemployment in January this year was 9 per cent. In July, the latest available date, it had gone down to 3.2 per cent. In Belgium, the year started with an unemployment figure of 9.7 per cent. By August it had gone down to 6.9 per cent. Denmark started the year with an unemployment figure of 17.3 per cent. By August, it had gone down to 4.2 per cent. Percentage figures are not given for France, but if one takes unemployment in January this year as being 100 per cent. one finds that by August unemployment was down to 76.7 per cent.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
Surely the hon. Member realises that 1191 these figures reflect the seasonal changes in those countries. In fairness to the House he ought to quote figures which are more accurate and which properly reflect the position.
§ Mr. Fraser
I started by saying that right hon. and hon. Members opposite have been telling the House and the country that during the last twelve months we have been riding the American recession more successfully than any country in Europe.
§ Mr. Fraser
It was said immediately before I rose and it has been said many times before.
We find the same position in West Germany. West Germany has declared the lowest unemployment figure since the end of the war. There is nothing seasonal about that.
§ Mr. Fraser
The latest available figure, the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) will be interested to know, is for June this year, when it was 2 per cent.
§ Mr. Osborne
In order to get an accurate picture it is much better to stick to facts, and I congratulate the hon. Member for so doing. But while trying to prove that the unemployment figures in Europe have fallen while ours have steadily increased, it is fair to bear in mind that the hon. Member is starting with 9 per cent. and falling to about 5 per cent., whereas ours starts with 1½ per cent. and goes up to 2¼ per cent.
§ Mr. Fraser
May I give the hon. Member the figures for the Netherlands? The figure was 3.3 per cent. in January and was down in September to 1.9 per cent. [An HON. MEMBER: "Those figures are lower than ours."] Of course they are lower than ours, and so are two or three other countries' figures. But in every one of those nine countries in Western Europe there has been a drop in unemployment, and this is the only country in Western Europe where there has been an increase in unemployment this year.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway) rose—
§ Mr. Fraser
Mr. Speaker has appealed for short speeches, and I do not want to give way unnecessarily.
The figures I have given are no accident. In the last seven years the United Kingdom, which lives by trade, has increased its exports by 17 per cent., but West Germany has increased its exports by 100 per cent. The whole of Europe has increased its exports by 50 per cent. It is no accident that unemployment is rising in this country while it is declining in the rest of Europe. I hope that no right hon. or hon. Member opposite will again say to the country that under a Tory Government we are riding the American recession more successfully than any other European country—at least not so long as there are figures such as those I have given.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State said in the last debate we had on this subject:I do not believe that Scotland is going downhill. I commend the attention of hon. Members opposite to what has happened at Grangemouth; to the chemical industry developments; to the new factories which we have in Scotland and to the new American factories which have come to Scotland.— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th November, 1958; Vol. 594, c. 833.]The right hon. Gentleman went on painting this bright picture; everything in the garden was lovely.
The Minister of Labour made a speech on unemployment in Scotland in July, 1957, and it is relevant to mention it now. We argued in the debate that we had had so little capital investment in industry for a number of years and that unemployment was growing in Scotland, and we said that if there were a recession in this country we in Scotland would suffer more than any other part of the United Kingdom.
The Minister of Labour, speaking in the debate on 18th July, said:People have always felt that if a check came to the prosperity of this country, as a check did come last year, it would affect Scotland first and more steeply than the rest of Great Britain. Taking both unemployment and employment figures, the evidence which I have given would seem to show that that is not so. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1957; Vol. 573, c. 1382.]The evidence since that date shows that the forebodings of the Opposition in July, 1957, were justified and the Minister of 1193 Labour and the Secretary of State were quite wrong in the optimism which they then expressed.
The Minister of Labour went on:I have concentrated, and the debate will concentrate, on the problems affecting Scotland, but I think it would be quite wrong to pretend that the situation is in any way an unhappy one, because the figures of employment and unemployment which I have given show quite clearly that Scotland is a prosperous country…. Shipbuilding activity is at a very high level, and new orders for merchant ships are being placed in Scottish yards this year at a higher rate even than last year. There has been a very useful growth in the big engineering and electrical goods group of industries which continues to expand and during the last year—and this again, I think, has relevance to the analysis I made to the check to employment….In the past year we have seen an increase of nearly 2,000 among the wage earners on colliery books in Scotland. That is the biggest increase in any of the National Coal Board Divisions, except in the West Midlands where a special recruiting drive is proceeding."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1957; Vol. 573, c. 1390–1.]I hope that when the Minister of Labour comes in the Secretary of State or the President of the Board of Trade will tell him I have been quoting some of the remarks he made in that debate on employment in Scotland some eighteen months ago.
That is the picture he painted for us, but the President of the Board of Trade had to admit today a decline in steel production. Scotland's steel industry is running at 56 per cent. of its capacity. Why? Because there is no demand in the shipbuilding industry for steel. Many thousands of our steel workers are unemployed in Scotland, and, of course, all those who are working are on short time. We have large-scale unemployment among the shipyard workers on the Clyde and many berths standing empty. But only eighteen months ago the Minister of Labour painted that picture of full order books, of more orders for merchant ships coming in 1957 than in former years. They are not all built yet. The Minister of Labour told us about 2,000 more workers were employed in 1957, compared with 1956. I can tell him that in 1958 there are 2,000 fewer than in 1957.
Then we had the recent announcement about the closure of 20 collieries, and the further announcement yesterday that there will be yet another 10 collieries 1194 added to that list, making a total of 30 collieries to be closed in Scotland. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will feel now, at long last, after all his misrepresentations of the Scottish position, that the Scottish economy is very sick indeed.
We have now, at 17th November, 94,823 on the dale, 4.5 per cent. I have no doubt at all that by now, since these figures are already a month old, we have well over 100,000 people unemployed. I have no doubt about that at all. We had at 17th November 67,271 unemployed men, by far the biggest number either globally or percentage-wise of any region in Britain—by far the greatest number. We can compare our situation, if hon. Members like, with that in London and the South-East, with three times our population, and where there are 60,000 males unemployed. We have 67.000 males unemployed. This is the picture of unemployment in Scotland, one-third of the land area of Great Britain. That is the kind of unemployment we have got, and it is growing every day.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) intervened during the peroration, or near-peroration, of the President of the Board of Trade's speech today. The right hon. Gentleman was telling use what was going to happen in Scotland in the dim and distant future. He did not know how many years ahead, but it was certainly some years ahead, after we got the production of sheet steel which has been promised. We know nothing about that scheme yet. We do not know how long it will be before the constructional work starts. Nor does he. But when he was casting his mind forward to the future, to the wonderful time which lies ahead of us sometime, my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock asked, "What about this winter?" What was the right hon. Gentleman's answer'? "We shall have to wait and see." That is his answer to the 100,000 unemployed in Scotland. That is the answer of this Government to the 100,000 unemployed in Scotland. I do not think Scotland is very happy at that answer.
The President of the Board of Trade, I thought, wasted our time today drearily explaining to us the organisation of the Department, how his Department works. The 100,000 unemployed in Scotland are not terribly anxious to know how the 1195 right hon. Gentleman has organised his Ministry. What they are anxious to know is when they are going to get jobs. He took a long time to tell us how the D.A.T.A.C. scheme is operating. But we have had D.A.T.A.C. since 1951. We have had D.A.T.A.C. since the end of the war.
We have in Lanarkshire 8.6 of our workers unemployed, in the industrial heart of Scotland. Under D.A.T.A.C., under this scheme whereby assistance can be given to industrialists, unaffected by the Act passed in July, we have had one application approved for £105,000. This is in an area with a population of 500,000, a population, incidentally, equal to the population of Cyprus. The sum of £105,000 was advanced for one scheme last year, and it was done quite independently of the Act which was passed in the summer of this year. The President of the Board of Trade knows full well that this Act passed in July this year is not going to make any marked contribution to pulling down unemployment in any of the black spots in Britain.
In any case, it was quite unnecessary for the blackest of black spots in Britain, for South Wales. They could have dealt with South Wales without the Act which was passed in the summer of this year. They could have dealt with Lancashire without the Act passed this year. They could have dealt with industrial Scotland without the Act passed in July of this year. The Act passed in July of this year has contributed nothing at all to the power the Government had to deal with those areas of really high unemployment, the blackest of the black spots. Yet the President of the Board of Trade talked drearily about its advantages to us, about how his Ministry and the other Departments concerned are going to operate the Act passed in the summer of this year.
I think, in view of your advice to us, Mr. Speaker, that I should probably cut a very considerable part of what I was going to say, but let me just say this. We in Scotland are suffering this dreadful unemployment now. I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House, and particularly Members on the Treasury Bench, to appreciate that this is dreadful unemployment. We are suffering this unemployment in Scotland today because the 1196 Government have failed in their duty to distribute industry properly since they took over in 1951.
Scotland's share of factory building has been a declining proportion every year since the Tories took over. We have been told to concentrate on our basic industries, our basic industries being steel and coal and shipbuilding. Yet all of these are declining. The number of people employed in all of those is coming down, and coming down all too quickly for our comfort, and we have had no alternative employment, no balancing industry, provided. As the Secretary of State and the President of the Board of Trade know full well, because we have not been getting capital investment in the years which have been wasted since 1951, when this recession took place, when the economy of the whole country suffered, the setback which we in Scotland suffered was much more severe, as we said it would be, than that in any other part of the country.
We get these figures from the reports issued by the Ministry of Labour, from the Ministry of Labour Gazette. It is information issued by the right hon. Gentleman, and the interesting thing to bear in mind is that we in Scotland lose 8,000 workers each year across the Border. There are many workers who travel north across the Border to find jobs, and there are many who travel south, but at the end of the day, the Ministry of Labour has calculated, there is a net loss of insured workers from Scotland to England. Not from Scotland to Canada or New Zealand or Australia, and so on. I am not speaking of those who emigrate to other Commonwealth countries and to foreign countries. This is a loss of workers from Scotland to south of the Border.
§ Mr. Fraser
It has not been going on for 300 years. This process has been accelerated since the Tories took over.
§ Mr. Osborne
Will the hon. Gentleman agree that ever since James VI came down there has been an influx of Scotsmen into this country?
§ Mr. Fraser
This, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) says, is much too important a 1197 matter to be dealt with in this way. Why is it that workers are moving from Scotland across the Border? It is because the prospects of employment here are much better than in their native country. We are saying that in this little island of about 50 million people, with only 5 million, or one-tenth of the population, living in one-third of the island, the northern third, it seems to be a bit daft to continue to deport one-tenth of the population somewhere else. We want to spread the population out and organise a movement in the opposite direction, but, for heaven's sake, let us adopt policies to ensure that Scotland retains her present share of the population instead of losing people at a greater rate than ever before.
I noticed in the Sunday Pictorial this weekend a very interesting report. This newspaper, noting the serious problem of unemployment in Scotland, made an offer to co-operate with the Ministry of Labour. In fact, there was published in the Sunday Pictorial this week a statement that that newspaper noted the high level of unemployment on the October figures in Scotland and offered to co-operate with the Ministry of Labour in finding jobs for workers. It said that if the Ministry of Labour would give the newspaper the information as to where the vacancies existed anywhere in Scotland the Sunday Pictorial would, by arrangement with the Ministry of Labour, publish it in that newspaper. It would publish in the newspaper the parts of Scotland where work was available for Scotland's then 85,000 unemployed workers. The Ministry of Labour in Edinburgh thought it was a good idea, and invited conversations. Representatives of the Sunday Pictorial went to have the conversations with them, and officials of the Ministry of Labour in Edinburgh said, "It will not work, because we have no vacancies to announce."
§ Mr. Fraser
The newspaper report is here, but I will not waste the time of the House by reading it all out. Vacancies are so few, and those they had were for such highly specialised and skilled people that there was no point in the Sunday Pictorial using its columns to publicise, for the benefit of the unemployed in Scotland, where vacancies were. In any case, by the time its representatives had met 1198 Ministry officials the number of unemployed in Scotland had increased by 10,000 and the number of vacancies had decreased by 1,000. The Ministry of Labour now says it is helpless. May I quote from the Ministry of Labour reply?Much as we appreciate your offer, we would not be able help, because there is no casual work, and no prospect of any.This is Scotland, not one little town or village, but the whole of Scotland.
In Lanarkshire, the position is particularly bad. If we had in Britain as a whole the Scottish percentage of unemployment we would have one million unemployed now. In Lanarkshire, we have 8.6 per cent., before we get the December figures, which will be higher still. If we had this level of unemployment in Great Britain as a whole we would have 1¾ million unemployed. Would not that be a serious thing in Britain? I think it would be serious. Well, it is equally serious in Lanarkshire now.
I can say that we have in Lanarkshire now many skilled workers who have found themselves out of a job through no fault of their own, and they are highly skilled workers who cannot find jobs. I think this is awful. There is something very wrong with a country which cannot offer employment to people who have spent years of their lives acquiring a high degree of skill which they are willing to sell to the community in return for a decent living. Now, the community is not interested in the skill of these people, and the position in Lanarkshire, in particular, is worse than I can describe at the present time. I am sure that something like nine out of every 100 men are on the dole in what is the industrial heart of Scotland.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
My hon. Friend has been showing that the blackest picture is in Lanarkshire, but the one Member for Lanarkshire on the other side of the House has not even come in to listen to this part of a serious debate.
§ Mr. Fraser
I can assure my hon. Friend that I had observed that the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) has disappeared from our discussions, which is somewhat surprising to 1199 me, because I understood that he was very anxious to participate in our proceedings.
§ Mr. Speaker
In justice to the hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland), who is absent, I think I ought to say that he asked me what I thought his prospects of speaking in the debate were and I told him that I thought the chances were very much against him.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
On a point of order. Is it not a discouraging prospect for those hon. Members who are trying to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, that we should know that the list of speakers is, in fact, cut and dried? Is it not a bad thing that this practice should grow up?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member may have his own ideas on that subject, but I have mine. I had an idea how long the debate is going to last, and I know how many hon. Members wish to speak, and there are far more than can get in. If an hon. Member asks me what I think his chances are, I think it is my duty to tell him. I am always ready to help whoever catches my eye and is entitled to speak.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Accrington)
May I ask whether the hon. Member was notified that he was not likely to be called? If so, is not this a new custom?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am often asked by hon. Members whether I will give them an idea whether it is a debate in which they should stay. Hon. Members on both sides frequently ask me, and I do my best and give them my honest opinion, because if an hon. Member is not employed in the House there is plenty of work for Members of Parliament in other parts of the building.
§ Mr. Hamilton
Further to that point of order. Do you think on reflection, Mr. Speaker, that it is wise for Mr. Speaker to come to the defence of a Member of Parliament who is absent on the ground that you have told him that his chances of getting into the debate were very slender? There are several of us in this 1200 Chamber who know that we have no chance of being called, but we feel it our duty to be here.
§ Mr. Speaker
I felt slightly responsible for the absence of the hon. Member for Lanark. I did it for the hon. Member, and I will do it for the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton), as well as for anybody else.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I really must pursue this. I feel very strongly about it. I have tried to get in on several occasions on this subject, on coal and also on other matters. I have not got in, but I have still attended in the House, though neither Mr. Speaker nor anybody else has ever come to my defence by saying that the hon. Member for Fife, West was absent because he could not get in in the debate.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have never heard that the hon. Member for Fife, West was being attacked for not being here. I thought it was in order to say that, and I hope the House does not think I was wrong. It was done out of my sense of fairness. I do not like people being criticised behind their backs.
§ Mr. Fraser
I think I had better try to bring my remarks to a close rather quickly now. I have taken too much time, but I have had a little interruption.
I was saying that the position in Lanarkshire was particularly bad. We have had the announcement about a lot of pit closures in Lanarkshire, and we know that an additional 2,000 or 3,000 miners will be put out of employment. The Secretary of State for Scotland and the President of the Board of Trade, as two of the Ministers responsible for securing that our people are given an opportunity of selling their labour, have a responsibility to consider whether these miners who are to lose their jobs in Lanarkshire are likely to be re-employed.
The miners who are becoming redundant in Lanarkshire will find it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to be re-absorbed in the mining industry in Scotland—not just in Lanarkshire or within travelling distance of their homes, but in Scotland. In the circumstances, is there not a duty upon the Government to secure that alternative employment is provided for these men in Lanarkshire?
1201 A lot of pits have been closed in Lanarkshire in recent years with certainly no adequate. but almost no alternative, employment being provided in the areas in which the men were becoming redundant. Let not this latest list of closures—the list announced a fortnight ago and the further list announced yesterday—take effect without the Government taking action to secure that alternative jobs are made available in the areas concerned.
We have had recently a statement from Lord Polwarth, Chairman of the Scottish Council. I was not at all surprised that the President of the Board of Trade had something kind to say about Lord Polwarth this afternoon, because Lord Polwarth is no longer merely an apologist for the Tory Government. He has become the principal propagandist for the Tory Government in Scotland. It is he who has now told us that the new steel development in Scotland will produce at least 100,000 new jobs and at best 150,000 new jobs. Where on earth did he get these figures?
Does the President of the Board of Trade know anything about this? [Interruption.] No, of course not. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head negatively. He knows nothing about this, neither does Lord Polwarth, who a little while ago was concerned about employment in Scotland, about not getting enough factories built and that we were losing population each year because the population was being squeezed out by the lack of opportunity. Suddenly, however, on the eve of an election he discovers that everything in the garden is lovely, that there is nothing to worry about and that we have a great future ahead of us.
Lord Polwarth has been supported in that kind of picture by a speech reported to have been made the other day by Sir Robert Maclean, Chairman of Scottish Industrial Estates, who said that last year there were 130 applications for factory accommodation in Scotland. Let the Secretary of State tell us today what happened to these 130 applications. Certainly, they were not successful, because we did not get these new industries. Why did we not get them? Is this just another bit of propaganda? Was this meant to be construed, or misconstrued, by the 1202 readers of the newspapers as 130 successful applications? They may have been fictitious, but in any case they were certainly not successful, if they were real.
There is all the more reason why we should be told tonight what happened to those applications. If they had been conceded, perhaps we would not have had 100,000 unemployed in Scotland and we might have had some hope to offer to our young people who cannot find jobs today. The boys who want to take on apprenticeships cannot get them today. A country that cannot offer even a job to its young people is a poor country and will not succeed in the more competitive days that, we are told, lie ahead.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
Like the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), I should like to deal with some of Scotland's problems. First, however, I would like to put some general considerations on the background of our trading position and, in so doing, to try to meet what I regard as the test of this debate: that is, how we are to discuss the areas of unemployment about which we are most worried without at the same time exaggerating fears for the future. If we were to do that, we should disturb confidence throughout industry, confidence among men that new plant and machinery will not mean that they are working themselves out of a job and confidence with management that it will not have to face the inevitability of change.
As we all know, the whole background of our world trading position depends largely on this delicate character of confidence. At the end of last year a lack of confidence in Britain's determination to keep her prices within reasonable levels and her spending within reasonable bounds led to an inflation which, if we had not tried to check it, would have made it impossible for us to compete competitively or to keep the country at work.
The measures that were taken then, discouraging though they undoubtedly were and although, as has often been said, they have also undoubtedly helped towards our present problems, sought at the same time to tackle the foundation of our economy, which was the position of the £ sterling. Had we let inflation go on at the rate at which it seemed that 1203 it might do, we could well have been forced to a devaluation of the £, as happened under the Labour Government in 1949. The proof that those measures were right is in fact that sterling is now strong in relation to other currencies and that we can build our expansion, which we all want, on a sound foundation.
The controversy in this debate has been whether the Government have been right in their judgment as to the right moment at which to start easing all the restrictions.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
Do we take it, therefore, that the hon. Lady is assuming Governmental responsibility for the 8.6 per cent. unemployment in Lanarkshire?
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
That is quite beside the point. If the hon. Member would wait until I develop my argument, he would perhaps see where I am heading.
Coming, as I do, from a fishing port, it is not inappropriate for me to use a shipping simile. Surely everybody knows that when trying to steer a ship through heavy seas, when the wheel is turned it takes time for the ship to respond; and it takes a great deal of judgment and long years of experience to know exactly when to ease the wheel the other way against the swing of the ship. The Government's duty is to know when to pull back the economy and when to start relaxing the restrictions.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service, when he speaks later in the debate, will tell us his feelings about America's recovery from her recession. My right hon. Friend has recently returned from America. Naturally, we in this country have been disturbed by the extraordinary rumours which have been circulating that the dollar might be devalued. From all that one hears, I do not believe that that is likely, but as we are so bound up with the North American economy it is of the utmost importance to us to know whether America is mastering her own recession. Bound up with this are the rumours of a revaluation in the price of gold. This is a subject on which we will all be interested to hear from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.
Hon. Members will understand that if a lack of confidence generally can lead to a rumour of devaluation of the dollar, 1204 which a few years ago would not have been thought possible, it is not unnatural that the Government should devote all their energies to maintaining the strength of sterling. The hon. Member for Hamilton quoted figures for various European countries, even an extreme figure of unemployment of 17 per cent. coming down to 5 per cent. or 6 per cent., yet we tackled the inflation problem, and in the United Kingdom as a whole unemployment has risen from only 1½ to 2½ per cent. It is in relation to that fact that we say that, generally speaking, we have weathered the recession pretty well.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Does the hon. Lady suggest to the House that the argument which she is propounding explains the fact that there are 5,000 people unemployed at present in Aberdeen?
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I shall shortly propound an argument concerning Aberdeen and then point out to the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) that the figure which he has quoted is entirely incorrect. The figure is 3,754 unemployed on 8th December, and not 5,000.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles) rose—
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I would willingly give way to the hon. Member, but there are many others who wish to speak.
I should like to turn now to the unemployment position north of the Border. As we all know, the problem in Scotland has always been difficult and I cannot find it in myself to criticise the Scots who seek their fortunes not only overseas but south of the Border. At the same time, I am in agreement with all Scottish Members in trusting that the Government will continue to do all that they have been doing to induce industry to go North. As long as we live in an economy where we have no direction of labour and no direction of industry, we cannot instruct industry to go into that area. We can only induce it to do so.
The figures for new building in Scotland are very impressive and include a post-war record last year. Whatever the controversy about the steel strip mill, I think that it can be summed up by the Scottish Council which fought as hard as 1205 it could for it. The Council has said that the mill will bring acontribution to the Scottish economy greater than that of any other single project which has been introduced for many years.I hope very much that it will help such areas as my own part of Aberdeen, and I should like to deal briefly with the position in my own constituency.
I have given the total unemployment figure and I will not refer to it again except to say that we are lucky in that we have a negligible amount of under-employment or short-time working. We have had six applications for financial assistance under the latest Act. We are encouraged by the fact that Spillers Limited are setting up a factory which will cost £600,000. We are grateful to the Secretary of State for Scotland for letting us at last begin the development of our great tourist industry—the beach development which has been hanging fire since the war.
Despite the difficulties with Iceland and the Faroes, there is without doubt a continuing effort to replace the fishing fleet. I have looked at the various categories of unemployment and I find that where we have most trouble is placing unskilled workers, those in the distributive trade, in the building industry and in hotels and restaurants. These give rise to difficult problems because they are the worst hit in the off-season winter months.
I should like to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State whether he is pushing the Law Reform Committee to make a report on the difference between the law in England and the law in Scotland relating to the fact that movables are not considered in Scotland as assets when firms apply for loans or grants. I find that a firm which wished to establish a quick-freeze plant and cold storage would receive only 50 per cent. loan or grant in Scotland compared with 80 per cent. south of the Border.
I should also like to ask the Secretary of State whether he will have consultations with the Board of Trade concerning the initial grant of £10,000 given by the Board of Trade in 1953 to an organisation known as the National Union of Manufacturers' Advisory Service. This is an advisory service to deal with existing industry. It is often felt that we can solve our problems in out of the way parts of the world where we suffer from the geographi- 1206 cal position and the distance from markets by managing somehow to introduce new industries, but I suggest that a great deal can also be done with existing industry.
In Aberdeen there is a large number of the smaller firms and this service, which was brought to my attention by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George), is one to which the Board of Trade might consider giving an increased grant. The service gives advice to existing industry on management, organisation and staffing problems, costing, work study, incentive schemes, production methods, plant lay-out and training. So far, it has given advice to firms with a turn-over of £25,000 to £250,000 and to firms which employ from 25 to 300 people. Those are the types of firms of which there are a great number in my constituency.
This advisory service claims that it has increased production by from 25 per cent. to 75 per cent. It is a non-profit making organisation. If the Board of Trade and the Government feel able to give money in other ways, as we know has been done by means of the latest Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, I suggest that they could look at this kind of service which could increase efficiency in the North.
I should also like to know what is being done to follow up the trade mission which was sent to Canada last year. I had the opportunity of seeing members of the trade mission which came here from Canada. They were, without doubt, extremely interested in the types and variety of work that Scotland can produce. What has been done by the Canadian Government to try to divert even a portion of their trade to Britain which was their declared intention? We know that it is difficult and that there are a great many pressures but, according to the latest figures, our exports last year were up to the United States and down to Canada. After the amount of good will initiated by the joint missions and the Commonwealth Conference, it would be interesting to hear what positive steps are being taken on both sides of the Atlantic.
While, without doubt, from now on trade will always be keen, I feel that the measures that have been taken in easing restrictions, and all the efforts of which we have heard from the President of the Board of Trade, will steadily bring work 1207 to this country as a whole. Because our own local problems are bound up not only with world trading positions and Government actions but also with that very subtle atmosphere of confidence, I suggest that we should all try not to make too gloomy speeches on this matter. What we are here to do is not only to express our own concern about our own constituencies but surely to see the picture as a whole; and I believe that this country as a whole is in sound shape.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
It would not take a very great effort on my part to shake hands with those Scottish Members in whose constituencies unemployment is negligible. Therefore, I congratulate the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) on her ability to say that, and I am glad that in Aberdeen, South the problems are apparently not so severe.
All these added advantages which are coming to her constituency are most commendable, but if the noble Lady would lift up her eyes from the south of the City of Aberdeen to the north and over the county and the north-east part of Scotland she would find that in November unemployment was running at 5½ per cent., which is quite formidable and stands comparison with the situation in Dundee.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I happened to speak in Fraserburgh during the recent by-election, which the hon. Gentleman may remember. The unemployment figure there is 10 per cent. and comprises 800 people. In Aberdeen, although it is just under 4 per cent., the number of unemployed is 3,754 and I do not consider that to be negligible.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir rose—
§ Dr. Mabon
I am never disrespectful to ladies. I merely want to finish my sentence. As I have said, the hon. Lady has given the impressions, perhaps erroneously, that the position in her con- 1208 stituency is favourable and I think she used the word "negligible' in relation to unemployment. If that was not so perhaps she would not have made a bright speech, but a gloomy one.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
I did not use the word "negligible". The hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) started his speech by saying that there was a higher unemployment rate in Greenock than in Aberdeen and that he thought I was fortunate in having such a negligible amount of unemployment in my constituency. I got up again to say that I did not consider it to be negligible, and that is exactly what I mean.
§ Dr. Mabon
I am glad the hon. Lady has joined the majority of Scottish Members of Parliament who have an unemployment position that cannot be ignored. She is now joining those of us who are concerned about it and are objecting to the fact that the Government have allowed this position to drift.
May I remind the hon. Lady and her colleagues that we have had many unemployment debates in the House? In particular, in a debate in 1957 we were all read a sermon about how wicked we were in making gloomy speeches and in raising the question of unemployment in our own constituencies. Perhaps I might be exempted from that censure since at that time there was 6 per cent unemployment in my constituency and today it is 8.4 per cent., which represents 2,800 people and many families.
When my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition visited Greenock he asked me if I knew how many young men were unemployed and how many had been unemployed for a year or six months and I took him to meet quite a number of my constituents who were standing in queues at the employment exchange. I can tell the House that life is not easy, especially for a young man with a young family, who cannot move from one part of the country to another to find a job.
I do not care what the figures are in terms of percentages, or how Ministers may comfort themselves. These are human problems and they must be tackled. I see that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) is just about to leave us. When he was talking about the sacred cow of Beveridge's 3 per cent., I wished that we 1209 would rid ourselves of the shackles of that White Paper and realise that those days are over. We have long passed that position. We have found that in a free society we can run our economy freely. efficiently and effectively under a Labour Government, and even before 1958 under a Conservative Government, with as little as 1 per cent. unemployment.
The reason why a Tory Government can do it is because of the large amount of controllable public expenditure through the Budget—even though at election times they protest otherwise. They are able to prime the pump. At least, they have learned that 25 per cent. or so of the national income can be used profitably by putting it back into the economy sensibly and sanely. My charge against the Government is not that they have failed to do this, because they have done it to a large extent. That is why unemployment has only risen from 1½ per cent. to 2½ per cent. throughout the United Kingdom generally.
The fact is, however, that the Government are unable to plan because they think that planning is contemptible. As the hon. Member for Leicester, South-East demonstrated, they have become prisoners. They have become prisoners of their own dogmas and legends, and this is one of them, namely, that planning is contemptible. In my constituency in June, 1957, the Government sacked 800 men in two months from the Royal Ordnance Factory there, when we already had an unemployment problem of between 4½ per cent. and 5 per cent. in the town. That action was absolute madness. Where were those men to get jobs? Obviously, no Government with any sense would have done that. There were no alternative jobs for those people. There was a general contraction of the Scottish economy that year, so there was nowhere else for the people of my constituency to find work. This was the case in many other constituencies and the unemployment figures rose.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
I was hoping that my hon. Friend would have given way a little earlier, so that I could correct a misapprehension arising from what was said by the hon. Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir). She underestimated the figure for Aberdeen. There are 5,000 unemployed today 1210 in my constituency and the numbers are increasing.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order, order. We have moved from Aberdeen to Greenock and I think that there is a case to be made out for Greenock without interruption from Aberdeen.
§ Mr. Lawson
Is my hon. Friend aware that at present, according to Ministry of Labour figures, 31 per cent. of all the boys under 18 years of age who have been out of work for more than six months are in Scotland?
§ Dr. Mabon
I know that that represents a formidable problem which has been raised time and again by many of my hon. Friends, and I have no doubt that it will become more acute as the months go by.
Reverting to my argument about suddenly dumping 800 people on to the labour market without a moment's thought, it should be remembered that the Royal Ordnance Factories are, after all, Government concerns. They were under Government control and this process should have been phased. How could we find jobs for these men? By having advance factories. In Greenock after the war, as in many other towns, one could see factories constructed by the Government, even rented or sold by the Government to private firms.
These represent the triumphs of Government planning under the Distribution of Industry Act, which we all salute now, not only those of us on this side of the House who created and operated it, but those on the opposite side who say that they are now willing to operate it. I put it to the Secretary of State for Scotland that in 1957 he was then arguing that we should not have any more advance factories in Scotland because there was no demand from industry. So he would not build factories to provide alternative jobs for those who work in Greenock.
I will read to the House a valuable statement made by Sir Robert McLean. 1211 chairman of Scottish Industrial Estates Limited. After all, he is chairman of a quasi-Government body and can hardly be said to be partisan. He said this week:Some difficulties have been experienced in letting a few large factories but inquiries for smaller units of 5,000 to 20,000 square feet have been numerous. In all 130 inquiries have been received for factory accommodation during 1958, a total which stands comparison with practically any previous year.And this is an important sentence:This evidence of the continuing demand for factories, even during a period of general industrial retrenchment, might be regarded as a good augury for future activities.In other words, we are told by one of the most authoritative voices on this matter in Scotland that in 1958 there were 130 applications, most of them for small factories of this kind. I wonder how many there were in 1957 and 1956. The year 1958 is the year of economic contraction. The years 1957 and 1956 were less adverse because the economy was stagnating.
The position is that the advance factory programme which the Government have rejected could have been the salvation of many Scottish towns in terms of what are called pockets of unemployment. Now the Government are beginning slightly to change their mind about rejecting it out of hand and are willing to think about it. I am raising this point because I would like the Government to consider the prospects of an advance factory in my own constituency. There is an excellent example of one at present in a factory which belongs to the Admiralty and which is to be vacated next year. The factory has been proffered by the Government on the open market for rent or for sale. I am sure that the significance of this remark will not be lost on the Secretary of State for Scotland. I hope that the statement by the President of the Board of Trade, jointly with the Admiralty, that the most advantageous terms possible would be offered to any possible tenant or buyer of that factory still stands.
We have, as I have said, this factory there ready and waiting. I believe that we can have an occupier soon. If this does happen then it will be clearly demonstrated that Scotland can, if we have the buildings and are given the facilities for 1212 them, attract people to come to difficult areas. I cannot see, in the light of my own experience as the Member for Greenock, how this advance factory argument of the Government, politics apart, can stand on its own feet solidly and fairly. I think that the only argument in its favour on the Conservative side is the doctrinaire one, that this is another example of the Government interfering in industry and granting direct subsidies of one kind and another to industry. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, if he is to reject once again this idea of advance factories, will provide us with a better argument than he has done so far.
There is ont a single Scottish Member exempt from this. All want a factory of one kind or another to come to their areas to take up the slack of unemployment. Even the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) wants a factory to take up the slack in his area.
I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that we ought to have a substantial Government programme of advance factories, certainly in Scotland and Wales and in the areas of England bady affected to take up the slack. I ask him to plan so that whatever redundancies are likely to arise and whatever industries are dying or contracting, we can have one set of jobs replacing another set of jobs. This is not only Socialism. It is good sense. Surely the Government are not averse to adopting good sense.
It would be ungracious of me if I did not say that I am grateful to the Government for all their earnest efforts in relation to my own constituency. We have now two very formidable applications before the Development Areas Treasury Advisory Committee and I hope that the Government will see their way to grant these. I look forward to the possibility of the torpedo factory having a new tenant. Nevertheless, unlike the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, I want to raise my eyes higher than my own constituency and ask the Government to realise that much more has to be done in Scotland before we are able to overcome the substantial unemployment which is with us.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
I want, in as reasonably a short time as I can, to deal with 1213 a few detailed points and to say a certain amount about the general position. I think that I should forthwith deal briefly with some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) and those who have spoken in the last hour on special Scottish problems.
Let us get this quite clear. Hon. Members opposite lend to talk as if they were the only people in this country concerned about unemployment. Nothing could be more nonsense.
§ Mr. Maclay
I am not simulating anger; I am speaking with a certain amount of deep feeling about this. I am saying that this knowledge of unemployment is not confined to one side of the House. It is not; it is causing all of us concern. I admit that I did not suffer the extreme miseries of unemployment of the 'thirties, but I was directly engaged throughout that period in trying to combat some of the effects of it in the industry with which I was connected. I know what unemployment means. No one wants to see the events of that time come again.
In this time of rising unemployment figures, the matter is of great concern to the Government and to everyone in the House. We must get it in proportion. If I am pointing out some of the things I am doing, it is not because I am complacent. I think that we have a great deal still to do. I have said very often in public that until we have really solved the problem of increased diversification of industry in Scotland, no Government will have solved the long-term economic problem in Scotland. We have all been working on that for a good many years. Hon. Members opposite worked on it for years and so have we since we have been in office.
I certainly do not want this evening to get into statistical arguments—there will be an opportunity for that on other occasions—regarding all that the Government have done in those spheres where it was possible to help by inducement in placing new industries in Scotland. I could give a whole series of figures, but I do not want to get into a statistical argument at this late hour.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
On the point which the right hon. Gentleman is dealing with, does he not remember that I asked him to assist in bringing new industries to Aberdeen and he said that he could not do so but he hoped to do so in the near future, and he has not done so yet?
§ Mr. Maclay
I do not remember precisely the conversation, but if the hon. and learned Gentleman says that I said that, I must have said it. I am quite sure, however, that I did not say it in those particular words.
Of course we are working to try to encourage new industries to go to wherever they are needed in Scotland. I think that it would be useful at this stage if I said something in detail on what is happening at the moment. I have made it very clear that the Government feel by our statements and actions that we are not only concerned about unemployment but we have taken action. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) asked: "What about this winter?"
I will go into a little more detail. I think that he knows what we have done in deliberate action, taken rapidly, to try to help in areas of particular unemployment. I am talking of those departments for which I have direct responsibility. We have been able to bring forward capital investment work to the extent of nearly £4 million, in addition to that included in the normal expanding capital investment programme, and all this is for work to be substantially completed during 1959. It may be of some interest if I break down those figures. This £4 million can be broken down roughly into buildings of various kinds, £800,000; road work, £730,000; electricity for the two boards, £1 million; hospital work, £724,000; schools and college work and matters relating to schools, £250,000; and on miscellaneous local government work covering various types of projects, for example playing fields, £220,000.
That is not all the story because I am studying very carefully other projects which could be brought ino operation very quickly and I have recently asked local authorities for any further suggestions which they may have to make as to work which might be carried out during 1959 and I have said that they would be studied with every sympathy and very carefully.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
We appreciate what the Secretary of State has been saying about this issue, but can he tell us why the Chancellor of the Exchequer was so long in releasing public industries in Scotland, which might have played a part, from the restriction on capital investment, and allowing them to speed up their programme, which might have compensated us at this time?
§ Mr. Maclay
It is not for me to answer for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The programme was started in early autumn. If the right hon. Member remembers the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) he will appreciate that we had a difficult problem this year. We had to master the threat to the £. If we had not, there would have been utter disaster. There is also a question of timing in all these matters. I suggest that we moved in very fast. I would remind hon. Members that all the work that I have been mentioning is of a nature which is likely to help employment, and is spread over those areas where the need is greatest. It is a highly useful form of work. It would have had to be done sooner or later, and what has happened is that its priority has been brought forward. That is the right way to proceed.
I believe that it was the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) who said that the Conservatives had learned from the Labour Party about public works. I would point out to him that hon. Members on this side of the House, as well as hon. Members opposite, have read the works of Maynard Keynes. The only thing I would say is that they got Keynes upside down in 1946 and 1947, and applied his theories in a completely cockeyed way.
The hon. Member for Greenock claimed something else, which is another old myth that we ought to get rid of. He said that his party created the Distribution of Industry Act. When will hon. Members opposite remember that that Act was worked out in the Coalition Government and passed by the Caretaker Government? It is true that it was operated in its early years by the party opposite, but it was operated by us subsequently. This is too serious a matter to mix up with party politics. I am willing to do that on another occasion, but not tonight.
1216 It is too soon to say what detailed effect this work will have upon the total employment figures I have been giving, but a substantial sum like this must have some useful results.
§ Mr. Ross
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us when these works are going to start? It is all very fine to say that schools are to be built, but we had a promise of two technical schools in Ayrshire over two and a half years ago, and they have not been started yet. If things are to take as long as that it will be no good for this winter.
§ Mr. Maclay
This is on top of the normal expanding capital investment programme for Scotland. The works that I have been talking about are being undertaken in the belief that they will be substantially completed in 1959, and the money is spread over a number of different projects.
I have said that certain sums are to be spent in housing of various kinds. Over the past year the normal housing programme has continued at a high level In the first eleven months 29,925 houses were completed, compared with 29,011 in the same period last year, and on the evidence at present available I expect that the figure for 1958 will be as high as it was for 1957, when 32,437 houses were completed. I want to make it clear that the Scottish housing programme has not been subjected to any form of cut. Local authorities have been free to press on with slum clearance and other essential work as rapidly as possible, and this they have done. It is true that many of the smaller authorities have stopped building, but this is broadly because their needs have been substantially met. In the areas of greatest need they have gone on building.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
Will the Minister make it clear that many local authorities have said that the one thing holding up their building programmes was the very high interest rates forced on them by the Government?
§ Mr. Maclay
There is obviously an element of cost in the judgment of what any local authority is going to do but where the need is most urgent building has gone on and there has been no falling off of housing activity in industrial areas where the need is really strong.
I turn briefly to deal with what is happening in our heavier industries—
§ Mr. T. Fraser
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of building, will he tell us about the building workers on the dole?
§ Mr. Maclay
I am not going to be drawn into giving other figures. I have been explaining what we are doing in order to try to bring down unemployment.
I want to say a word about the heavier industries in Scotland. I regret that the Scottish steel industry is having a particularly difficult time. This is an undoubted product mainly of overseas trading conditions but it is also affected by the fact that Scotland is still concentrating upon the heavier industries.
I want to say something about the new strip mill, because that is a very important element in the long-term position of Scottish industry. I profoundly welcome the fact that we are to have strip steel production in Scotland. I very much agree with the statement of the Scottish Council, which my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South quoted in her admirable speech. The facts are obvious. First, by the integration of this proposed mill into the Ravenscraig project it should go into production about two years more quickly than would be the case if the mill were built on a green field site.
Secondly, it is estimated that it would mean additional direct employment for about 3,500 workers. Important as that figure is in itself, even more important is what may come as a result of having that strip mill in Scotland. I am not going to forecast any figures in this connection. Lord Polwarth is entitled to his view in the matter, and I was unhappy at the attack made upon him by hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Maclay
I believe that the work of the Scottish Council is first-rate, and that Lord Polwarth is an admirable chairman. The Scottish Council is doing invaluable work in encouraging people to look to Scotland as a place to build in and buy from. A man is entitled to say what he believes to be the potential of a great new undertaking in Scotland.
The hon. Member for Hamilton asked why Lord Polwarth should not be attacked. I am only going on what I 1218 read in the newspapers. I know nothing apart from that. I have close contacts with Lord Polwarth, of course, but I am going by what I have read in the newspapers. That is one person's reactions to the possible ultimate employment potential that might come to Scotland now that we look like having, in a reasonable time, the kind of steel production that we have not had previously and which is becoming increasingly important for many industries in the modern world. The move over towards this kind of steel is very substantial in many industries, and I endorse what Lord Polwarth has said, although I am not going to go into any estimate of numbers of people who might ultimately be employed.
Thinking of the long-term future of Scotland, I say that the advent of strip steel production may be one of the most important things that has happened. I hope that we shall have the help of every Scottish Member in getting it known in all possible quarters that this mill is coming along, so that we shall get people to start thinking in terms of what they might bring to Scotland in order to make use of that product.
I turn now to our other efforts to diversify the Scottish economy, and I speak in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and in the absence of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, who has been present until recently. The co-operation between my Department and theirs could not be more effective, and I am extremely grateful to them for the help that they have given us in all ways. Since the war successive Governments have been making intensive efforts to encourage new industries to come to Scotland. The figures are there to show what has been happening.
§ Mr. Maclay
This process must continue. We have to go on using everything at our disposal, and I believe that the financial provisions of the Distribution of Industries (Industrial Finance) Act and the D.A.T.A.C. procedure coming from it can be of real help in this connection. I do not believe that any one measure will be the answer to all our problems, but the Act which was passed just before the Summer Recess can assist many parts of Scotland in a form which is much more 1219 likely to be of use than was possible under the provisions of the previous Distribution of Industry Act and the old procedure of D.A.T.A.C. loans.
It is worth mentioning, for the record, that my right hon. Friends and I have been conscious that the procedure in the early stages in applying for D.A.T.A.C. loans has been clumsy, but that is being considered, and I think it will be found very soon that the type of form which applicants have to complete is much simpler to understand and to deal with quickly, and is capable of producing a quicker flow of information between the applicant and the D.A.T.A.C. I am certain that my right hon. Friend, or myself through the Scottish Office, will send the form to any hon. Member who wants details, in case he can assist to explain it to people who have to use such forms. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the unemployment?"] We are trying to get everybody working and to get rid of unemployment. We are trying to get them back into work.
It is vitally important that we should work together to be constructive—much more important than that we should argue too much about who is responsible for what has happened in the past. The argument can go back a long time, through the history of any Government. I feel very strongly that it is our duty to do everything we can—all of us, making full allowance for the inevitable politics which creep in, working together on this task which is very important for Scotland.
The hon. Member for Hamilton implied that the shipbuilding situation in Scotland is very serious, and I think he said that thousands of shipbuilding workers were out of work.
§ Mr. Fraser
Thousands of steel workers are out of work; I obtained the figure from the Minister of Labour. I said that there were shipyard workers out of work, too, and that berths were standing empty. That is true.
§ Mr. Maclay
In order to make the position clear—because we do not want 1220 the wrong impression to spread abroad about this—I would agree that in certain of the yards which are building the smaller type of ship there are problems and there are some empty berths, but the advice which I have been given so far is that the yards which build the bigger type of ship—at any rate, the vast majority of them; I hesitate to say all of them because I may not have a complete check—still have order books for two years. It is as well to realise that.
I admit that what will happen to the order book over a period must depend on how world trade picks up. The present level of tramp freights and tanker freights is low, but the long-term future must depend on a revival of world trade, which is why it is interesting to see what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic. One is bound to hope that the signs of recovery are genuine and will last. I am not competent to judge at the moment on that score. If they are genuine, there is good reason to believe that freight markets, in turn, will improve and that before the order books run down the position may be a great deal better.
I do not want to take the time of the House by dealing with detailed constituency points, but I should deal with the question of the dry dock in Greenock. The Government have made it very clear that we are very anxious to help any viable proposal which can be put forward for the building of dry docks, and I have particularly in mind a dry dock in the west of Scotland, in which I have a certain local interest. The importance of a dry dock of this kind, however, goes far beyond the constituency of Greenock and my own constituency, because it can affect the whole movement of shipping into the west of Scotland, which is very important, not only for direct repair work but for all the ancillary work which will flow from it. I am glad to learn from the Press that the company which is considering this construction has reached another stage and hopes to put its proposals forward very soon, and I am certain that everything possible will be done by my right hon. Friend and by the Development Areas Treasury Advisory Committee, which is an independent body, to study this problem as quickly as possible in order that there is no undue delay.
It is tempting to go into a large number of Scottish problems, but it would not be 1221 right to do so this evening. I imagine that we may have other opportunities of debate among Scottish Members. I would end by repeating that we are extremely conscious of the short-term problem and also of the long-term problem of the unbalance of the economy in Scotland. I believe that our record shows that we have done a lot to help to overcome that unbalance. Recent events show that we are doing still more. and I am certain that as long as the Government are in power we shall go on doing effective work for the long-term future of Scotland.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts (Caernarvon)
I will try to be as brief as possible as so many hon. Members have points to put to the Minister, but I want to preface my remarks by saying that it is time that the arrangements for a debate of this kind were reconsidered. Quite clearly, with our very strong regional interests, there should be alternative arrangements for their proper ventilation and consideration.
Having said that, may I pass quickly to some constituency points. I notice that there is not present a Minister who conceivably can answer these questions, and as a Welsh Member I shall have to depend on the doubtful advantage of having two Scottish Ministers in attendance. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed concern about the fact that there are now half-a-million people unemployed in Britain. If the percentage unemployment which we have in Caernarvonshire applied to the rest of the country, the total would be not half-a-million but three million. In my constituency, 2,000 families or more live on the dole and National Insurance. That is the biggest single source of subsistence in my constituency. The House may well imagine the kind of Christmas they and their children face this year.
This situation has been with us in North Wales for many years, and the Government have made absolutely no effective move to cope with it. Let us take the case of the slate industry, which in North Wales resembles coal in South Wales in its relative importance to our economy and the problems it presents. In 1938 the slate industry employed 9,000 of our people. Today it gives employ- 1222 ment to barely 3,000. The Government have not lifted a finger to assist this vital and indigenous industry.
Let us take another example. For years it has been suggested that North Wales might well develop its tourist industry. There are difficulties about that, chiefly arising from the highly seasonal nature of tourism. Our summers, though beautiful, are brief. The Council for Wales therefore suggested a thorough investigation into the possibilities and asked the Government for a small grant of £1,000 to promote such a survey. It was refused. The Chairman of the Tourist Panel of the Council, Councillor David Williams, a man of considerable ability, resigned in disgust—and no wonder.
What is the Government's policy for North-West Wales, which has the highest percentage unemployment in the whole of Great Britain? Is there a policy, apart from the enforced migration of our young people in increasing numbers every year across the Border?
In their approach to Caernarvonshire the Government shelter behind two prospects, neither of them certainties—a nuclear power station in South Caernarvonshire and the interest which a chemical firm has shown in a site near the town of Caernarvon. There is considerable anxiety about these two proposals in the county, and I therefore ask, how firm are these prospects? We are told that even if it is approved the power station will not materialise until 1962. Can the Minister reassure us about these two proposals this evening?
I pass quickly to another point already raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths)—the operation of the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act, passed earlier this year. It seems that the Government expect this little mouse of an Act to work miracles in areas of this type, but so far only three applications have been evoked by this Act in Caernarvonshire. The fact is that the Act offers no inducement to an industrialist to establish himself in such areas, which in many respects are difficult. Before we achieve any results I feel that we shall have either to expand the Act or to abrogate it and institute in its place the full application of the parent Act, the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945.
1223 In fact, the Government seem to have reduced the inducements to industrialists to come to these areas. Before this Act was passed the Development Commission was able to build factories for rent. That offer has now been cancelled. A prospective industrialist now has no alternative but to commit himself to a major capital charge, to build a factory and to pay for it. In areas like Caernarvonshire, that is an inhibition and not an inducement. Are the Government in earnest about rebuilding the economic life of these areas?
North-West Wales, like parts of Scotland, the north-west region of England and Cornwall is, I feel, in different case from the rest of the United Kingdom. There are, in fact, two problems of unemployment in this country. There is the general problem which faces the country as a whole, which is one of recession and which depends upon the vagaries of the market and to some extent the overseas market, but there is a distinct and different problem which is always with us, whether we have boom or slump, and that is the problem of the fringe areas. Inside the general problem of unemployment we have this special problem of the areas which are on the periphery, and the only solution to their problem is an increase of capital investment.
The reason why certain areas in Scotland, Wales, the North-West and Cornwall always lag behind, even though the rest of the country is experiencing a boom, is that they are fundamentally weak in capital equipment, in public services, in factory buildings and in the installations which are essential to their taking advantage of any upsurge in the general economy.
That brings me to my final point. It is necessary to invest much more capital in these difficult areas and to do so partly through the local authorities. The local authorities in North-West Wales do not come under the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, otherwise they could engage in very substantial schemes which would not only provide immediate employment but also build up the area in an attractive way for the new industries which are necessary. Until they come under such legislation, or until the regulations are varied in some other way so that they can spend on public services over and above what is provided for them 1224 in the general grants, no policy will increase the amount of industry and employment available in the area.
I will give one example from my constituency. The town of Pwllheli, with a population of 4,000, now faces the need to modernise its entire sewerage system, which was laid down early in the last century. The cost will be prohibitive to this small municipal borough, because the town itself is below sea level. I am told that if they try to cope with that problem under existing provisions they may well have to add 6s. in the £to their rates. On the other hand, if they came within a Development Area and were treated under the 1945 Act, they would attract a 100 per cent. grant towards this very necessary piece of public amenity. If it were done now in that way, not only would we greatly add to the industrial attraction of the town, which I am sorry to say has 800 unemployed, but it would also provide work for 35 men for the next two years.
It comes to this. There is a clash of principle and philosophy between the two sides of the House. We on this side believe in sensible planning, leading to the location of industry. We believe that to share the work is even more important than to share the wealth. The Government have their own doctrinaire attitude. They have not abrogated the Distribution of Industry Act but they have neglected to use it, with the result that while they have been piling up buildings in the already overcrowded conurbations of London and the Midlands they have created in Scotland and Wales a periphery of misery. In spite of the appeals that we have made repeatedly to this Government for sympathetic and constructive attention to our problems in North-West Wales, we must wait until their successors, drawn from these benches, face the challenge and settle these problems.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thomas (Conway)
I am delighted to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. G. Roberts), and I should like to congratulate him on his good fortune in being called to speak. I have heard him on many occasions refer to this problem which exists in North-West Wales, and I have nearly always been impressed by his objective view of the 1225 situation. I think I can say that in practically all the matters to which he referred today I would not join issue with him.
The hon. Member was not as objective as he usually is. Of course, one would not expect it in a debate of this sort, because I appreciate that the Labour Party is to concentrate greatly on unemployment for political purposes in the next few months. Nevertheless, he presented a true picture of the situation which is extremely difficult. The hon. Gentleman comes from a part of Caernarvonshire which suffers more than the part which I represent, but nevertheless my constituency has difficult problems, and I have written to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade recently on the subject.
I should like to refer later in greater detail to what the hon. Gentleman said, but I feel that first I should refer to the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) who opened the debate. I hope he will not think it presumptuous of me if I say that I thoroughly enjoyed his speech because, as a Welshman, it is always a delight to hear an orator. I also agreed with him when he said that figures in themselves are impersonal things but that we must not forget, even if the figures are low, the misery that is represented to many hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who are contained in those small figures. I could not agree with him more. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I will never lose an appreciation of the misery that unemployment can bring. and I know that most hon. Members will do everything within their power to prevent any return of long-term unemployment with its consequent misery.
Having said that about the right hon. Gentleman. I want to join issue with him because I think he presented an unnecessarily gloomy picture of Wales. He is held in high esteem in Wales; his voice is listened to with great attention, and I think he had a duty to Wales when he spoke this afternoon. It was not right for a man who speaks on behalf of Wales to over-emphasise the depressing features and not to lay any emphasis on the good things. We all know the situation. It is a matter of concern to us all. Nevertheless, when we are trying to attract people to Wales and to attract interest in Wales, it is a bad thing to present a wholly gloomy picture so that people 1226 think that it is a depressed area in which they are asked to take an interest.
I should like to emphasise that, despite the situation which obtains and which we know will improve in the next few months, Wales is a land of the future, a land of opportunity, which has considerable advantages which it can offer to firms wishing to go there and expand. It has excellent labour, excellent sites and services, and it also has in the Government an official attitude which is willing to give any firm every assistance. I refuse to present a wholly gloomy picture of Wales because I think that the prognosis of Wales is good. It is only right that these matters should be viewed as a whole.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned in some detail South-West Wales. We all know the great difficulties which have been caused in South-West Wales due to the sudden change in world demand for tinplate, which brought about the premature closure of the old works. Experts thought the works would not close until 1960. Two years ago they were short of labour in the right hon. Gentleman's area and they had to import 800 Italians to work in that area. Clearly this is an extremely difficult problem which has arisen by accident, but it would be wrong to think that we are about to move into a great depressed situation in that part. I should say that the position of the old tinplate works should have been foreseen when the first brick was laid at Margam. I should have thought that at that time the right hon. Gentleman's Government ought to have made long-term plans to deal with this situation. It was obvious when the new works was under construction that this sort of problem would arise.
My right hon. Friend mentioned the Pressed Steel Company of Swansea, which will provide jobs for 4,000 men and is the largest factory which has been built at any time by the Board of Trade. It is right that those matters should be brought to the public notice so that people may know there is a future there.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the announcement of these three projects which were mentioned today is not new. It.vas made several months ago, and these projects have been referred to in other debates.
§ Mr. Thomas
The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that an old tinplate works can close down in a week, but it is not possible to build a factory in a week. It requires long-term planning. Apart from the Pressed Steel Company, there is the Crawley engineering industry, which will be providing between 300 and 400 jobs. I believe there are two others which will provide between 600 and 800 jobs. I am told that there is hope for another factory which will provide jobs for from 800 to 1,000 people.
I was in Milford Haven a year or so ago on an inquiry dealing with matters which will take place in that area. I could not help but be impressed by the situation in Milford Haven. The Esso Oil Refinery in Milford Haven will give employment to 2,000 people during construction and will employ 800 to 1,000 people when it is constructed. There is the B.P. oil terminal there which I visited and is now employing 320 people during construction. There is the iron ore terminal which will employ many people during construction. I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Llanelly did not mention the new steel works at Newport. It sems to me that every Welshman who is anxious to present a true picture of Wales should say how pleased he is that these new steel works are to be erected in Wales. It will give considerable employment during construction, and when it is completed there will be jobs for 8.000 people, and we should rejoice.
I do not think the night hon. Gentleman mentioned the Development Corporation of Wales under the chairmanship of Sir Miles Thomas. Other hon. Members opposite have mentioned this corporation with, I thought, commendable appreciation. This corporation has appointed an expert staff to seek out continually on behalf of Wales a share of new industries, and I am sure it will do a great deal for Wales. Unfortunately, I was not able to be present when hon. Members met Sir Miles Thomas the other day. but they heard how the corporation intends to cover areas all over the world in their search to assist Wales.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned coal. I do not claim to be an expert in the coal industry. I came into politics at a time when the tragedies which he 1228 mentioned had passed. But I think the right hon. Gentleman in all fairness should have mentioned the great investment programme which is now taking place in the coal industry and which we hope will ensure for the coal miners a bright future. I hope that what Sir James Bowman said is true, that coal will remain a major part of our economy for many years to came.
I regret to say that I have spoken longer than I had intended. I should like for a few moments to refer to what was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caernarvon. As I say, the hon. Gentleman made a number of points in an objective speech, except, I thought, when he said that the Government have not lifted a finger to help. I suggest that that remark was not in accord with his usual objectivity. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to make exaggerated speeches about the situation, but, as he knows, the problem has been with us in North-West Wales for a long time.
Between 1945 and 1951, during the lifetime of the Labour Government, there was only one factory built in North-West Wales with Government funds. That is in Caernarvon, Merioneth and Anglesey. At that time, there was great expansion in factory building, and the Labour Government very properly made a determined effort to try to deal with the future employment situation, but North-West Wales was neglected. It is no use hon. Members opposite trying to make political capital by pointing at this Government and suggesting that they are doing nothing.
Since 1951, three new factories, two of which are in the constituency of the hon. Member for Caernarvon, have been built with Government funds, one at Pen-y-goes and two in Llangefni, and there have been four extensions. As hon. Members know, that is not all; there are many other projects coming along.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
The hon. Gentleman has referred to what I said about the slate industry. I will repeat it: the Government have not lifted a finger to assist the slate industry. Perhaps he will now tell us what they have done. In the second place, between 1945 and 1951, unemployment in the county was under 2,000, and, as he knows, it is today double that.
§ Mr. Thomas
I am sorry if I used the expression about the Government not lifting a finger in an all-embracing way to which the hon. Gentleman objects. If he is referring to the slate industry, I will gladly reply to that. As regards unemployment between 1945 and 1951, he knows that it was still had during that time.
§ Mr. Thomas
As regards other matters. the hon. Member for Caernarvon knows that there are encouraging things taking place.
§ Mr. Thomas
The nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd, for instance, when it is in operation, will employ about 300 people. The hydro-electric scheme at Llanberis is currently employing 340 people. As regards the slate industry itself, the hon. Gentleman says that the Government have not lifted a finger. Neither did the Labour Government. Moreover, it was unfortunate that the Labour Minister concerned with housing, then the Minister of Health, decided that he would prevent slate being used on council houses and gave every encouragement to synthetic tiles, which encouragement has meant that synthetic tiles have now completely outstripped slate in demand and price.
§ Mr. G. Roberts
I challenge that statement absolutely. In 1948 we employed 4,700 slate quarrymen. Today the figure has gone down to 3,000. The hon. Gentleman should ask any quarryman or any quarry proprietor whether the demand for slate for public housing was greater then than it is now. He will receive the answer "Yes".
§ Mr. Thomas
The numbers employed in the slate quarries, of course, have dwindled ever since the war, as the hon. Gentleman knows At the moment, as he 1230 says, the number employed is under 3,000. I believe that 93 per cent. of the total output of the slate quarries at the moment is used for the maintenance of existing roofs. We hope that the numbers will not dwindle very much more.
I will tell the hon. Gentleman what the Government have done. I hope that what has been done will be of assistance. I accept that not a very great deal has been done because, of course, one cannot interfere too much with private companies, as the slate quarries are. An appeal was made by Lord Brecon not long ago to local authorities in Wales to slate 5 per cent. of their new houses. If the local authorities in Wales did that, it would make a great difference to the slate industry of North Wales. The Government have gone further. My right hon Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs has said that he will allow English local authorities to have the same terms as Welsh local authorities in borrowing extra money should they roof their houses with slate. The Government have done that, and I think that it may be of great help to the slate industry.
I had intended to speak about the new Distribution of Industry Act, but I have spoken far too long already. I will just say to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade that there are some queries about this Act. I believe that the Act represents a great hope for places like North-West Wales and other places where there is the problem of local unemployment, but some people are a little puzzled about whether it will be as efficient as we should like it to be. I believe that it can be. If various directives, if that can be done, arc given to D.A.T.A.C., I am sure that the Act will produce the result which we should all like to see.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of order. I apologise to my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams); I will not keep him long. I know that you will acquit me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, of any intention of being in any way disrespectful, but this debate is being conducted apparently on a regionalised basis. Scotland, Wales and other parts of the country have been debated. It is now twenty-five minutes to nine, and the debate must 1231 come to an end soon. So far, Lancashire's voice has not been heard, and the problem in Lancashire is very special and tragic. [HON. MEMBERS: "And Northern Ireland."] Northern Ireland, too. All I wanted to do, without taking up too much time, was to ask whether the areas that have not been heard so far come within the ambit of the conduct of the debate so that we shall not have been completely silent by the end of the debate.
The Chair tries to call representatives from various parts of the country. A large number of hon. Members wish to speak, and I am sorry that if at the end of the debate all the areas have not been covered.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am not making a personal plea. There are many Lancashire Members, but I think that there would be an inbalance in the debate if we were to debate the matter in this way without the voice of Lancashire being heard.
§ Mr. Kenneth Pickthorn (Carlton)
On a point of order. I am sorry to be tiresome. It is one of the ways in which I am not habitually tiresome. For our guidance in the future, may we ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether the question of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) was a point of order or not? It is important that we should know.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
I want to say a word or two about three aspects of the present unemployment problem. Firstly, I want to deal with the serious increase in national unemployment figures over the last twelve months; secondly, the emergence of a new kind of post-war unemployment problem since the end of the war namely long-term unemployment which has not been mentioned in the debate so far; and thirdly, the existence in many parts of the country of heavy pockets of unemployment. My own part of South Wales is one of these areas. There the unemployment figures are well above the national average and we have in a very acute form, the problem of long-term unemployment.
1232 From every point of view, long-term unemployment is the worst kind of unemployment. It is a serious matter for the nation when large numbers of people are unemployed. It is a much more serious matter when large numbers of people are unemployed for a long time. This is the situation with which we are now faced and it is especially serious in areas where there are heavy concentrations of local unemployment.
I regret the need for this debate. All of us on this side of the House deplore the circumstances which make the debate necessary. We are bound to protest against the policy of the Government which produced these circumstances, and which, indeed, made them inevitable. It is depressing that we should have a situation of this kind in Britain. It is profoundly disturbing that in the second half of the twentieth century, in this age of Sputniks, Zetas and other scientific marvels, we should be discussing unemployment on the present scale.
It is true that unemployment today is less than it was in pre-war years, and, because of that, there is a tendency to regard it as a somewhat remote and abstract problem of statistics, averages and percentages, of importance only as a kind of barometer of trends in the economy. But unemployment is not an abstract problem in South-West Wales. It is not a matter of statistics, percentages and figures. It is a matter of human beings, of men and women and their families, their hopes and prospects, and of the communities where they live. For these people unemployment is a grim and ghastly reality. We need figures to measure the trends in unemployment, but we should not forget that behind the arithmetic there are human beings.
Unemployment in Britain today is assuming serious proportions. It is developing into a major national problem. Every month, there is an increase in the number of people unemployed. Last month, the number went up by 22,000 and we now have over half a million people unemployed. And there are emerging all those social evils which unemployment on this scale inevitably produces.
The national unemployment figures are higher than they have been since the war. They stand at half a million. I am not 1233 suggesting that this is mass unemployment and I do not believe that we shall have a recurrence of the mass unemployment of the inter-war years. In modern Britain, no Government would survive if we had mass unemployment on the scale that we had before the war. Even if there is no mass unemployment, I am not exaggerating in saying that there is a massive unemployment problem. Indeed, in certain parts of South-West Wales the unemployment figures are now higher than even in the worst days of the depression.
Unemployment on the present national scale, however, is serious enough, because when, as at present, it exceeds the half-million mark, we are bound to have mass concentrations of unemployment in certain areas and we are bound to have long-term unemployment. This is brought out clearly in the figures issued by the Ministry of Labour. I do not want to burden the House with figures, but I should like to quote one or two.
As the national unemployment figures rise, there is an increase in the percentage of people who are unemployed for more than eight weeks. In December, 1957, we had 335,469 people unemployed and of these 38 per cent. had been unemployed for more than two months. Last month, we had 536,000 unemployed, but the percentage who had been unemployed for two months or more had risen to 49 per cent. We now have a quarter of a million people who have been unemployed for more than two months. Unemployment on the present national scale breeds long-term unemployment.
The problem is even worse in areas where there are heavy pockets of local unemployment. It is worse in Wales and it is worse still in certain areas within Wales. In Wales, the percentage of unemployment is well above the national average and the proportion of people who have been unemployed for more than two months is correspondingly higher.
In October, Wales had 38,942 people unemployed. Of these, over 20,000, or 53 per cent. Of the total, had been unemployed. This is a percentage of 4.1—nearly twice the national average. Within Wales, however, there are some very 1234 black spots indeed. In parts of South-West Wales, the percentage of unemployment is four or five times the national average.
In South-West Wales the position is really grim. The economic situation there has been deteriorating for a long time. The area has been overcome and overwhelmed by calamity after calamity. First, it was the closure of the old steel and tinplate works. Then on top of that, in the same area and at the same time, comes the closure of coal mines. In this area, we are faced not with unemployment as a temporary and transitory problem. We are faced with long-term unemployment with all its disastrous social and human consequences.
Unemployment today is a matter of policy. The present unemployment problem is not due to the operation of any mysterious economic forces. We do not need committees of wise men to find the cause of it, though we may need committees of much wiser men to find the cure for it. We certainly do not need any special economic insight to understand the cause of the present situation. It is the direct result of deliberate Government policy. The Government have used unemployment as an instrument of policy. They have deliberately increased unemployment in order to try to combat inflation, and, in deliberately increasing unemployment in order to try to halt inflation, they have sentenced large numbers of people to long stretches of unemployment, and have brought social and economic disaster to many communities.
The Government's policy has produced the twin evils of large-scale unemployment and derelict communities. The outcome of their policy may not have been the aim of that policy. The Government may not have willed these ends, but they have willed the means, and the evils which they have produced were implicit in those means. The fact is that unemployment, as an instrument of policy, is not only a most inhuman weapon, it is also a very clumsy and, indeed, a very dangerous weapon. It is not selective. it is not flexible, and all the ingenuity of the Minister of Labour cannot make it selective or flexible. If the Minister needs half a million people to be unemployed in order to halt inflation, then he cannot choose a different half million 1235 every week, and he cannot spread unemployment equally throughout the country. He is using a sledgehammer, not a scientific instrument. He is committing an assault, not performing an operation.
The result is that places like South-West Wales are being savaged while other places escape unscathed. The Government's policy has created conditions in which large numbers of people are unemployed for a long time. These are the people who suffer most from the hammer blows of unemployment as an instrument of policy. The Government's policy has also created conditions in which certain areas have long-term and large-scale unemployment. These are the places that suffer most from the hammer blows of unemployment as an instrument of Government policy.
This policy is causing irreparable harm to our economy, inflicting serious hardship on large numbers of our people and ruining old established communities like the towns and villages of West Wales. This is not the way to build a prosperous Britain, and certainly not the way to double the standard of living in twenty-five years. We cannot raise the national standard of living by depressing the standard of living of half a million workers and their families, and we cannot establish prosperity in Britain by ruining long established communities which have made important contributions to the life of this country.
The workers of South Wales have suffered severely from the effects of Government policy. They have been condemned to the ordeal of long-term unemployment. They have suffered the hardships involved in loss of employment, loss of income and loss of status. Many of them have already exhausted their claim to unemployment benefit, and now have to suffer the humiliations and indignities of a means test. If the Government cannot provide employment for these people, the least they can do is to treat them in a civilised way. The time has surely arrived for the restoration of the provisions of Section 62 of the National Insurance Act. These men are unemployed through no fault of their own, and they ought not to be penalised and persecuted because they are the victims of Government policy.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mrs. Patricia McLaughlin (Belfast, West)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) spoke of the seriousness of long-term unemployment. That is something which, unfortunately, we in Northern Ireland understand only too well. We have a growing population, and every year now we expect that at least 5,000 more will go on to the working list of people wanting jobs. We have also to remember that we have had the big problem of the number of people unemployed in our agricultural and textile industries.
Time is pressing, so I shall not be able to develop the theme as I had hoped to be able to, but I will as quickly as possible put the main points. First, the credit squeeze hit a number of our firms at a time when they were extremely short of capital and they found it very hard to sell. They recognised, of course, that it was essential for the economy of the United Kingdom as a whole, but it certainly hit them very hard indeed.
We are at present very interested in the discussions going on with Hong Kong. There are certain aspects of the texile industry in Northern Ireland which are watching those with tremendous care. What happens about Hong Kong affects many other parts of the United Kingdom. I know full well, but it affects Northern Ireland very much, and it is upon the effects upon Northern Ireland that I wish to concentrate in the short time at my disposal.
People in the linen and made-up clothing industries wonder what is to happen if the great influx which is now going on is permitted to continue without any restriction or any agreement. We have to face the facts, but I for one rather wonder about this. If we import vases, or some such object wrapped in straw, great care is taken to burn the straw publicly to save the spread of disease in our country. I, for one, wonder whether Asian 'flu is coming into the country in the materials we import from Asian countries where they are worked in conditions which would not be tolerable in the United Kingdom.
The discussions on the Free Trade Area are causing great concern in Northern Ireland. We are looking to the New World 1237 to help us establish new industries to diversify the industry we already have, but at the moment, with the breakdown in the Free Trade Area negotiations, American firms are taking another look at the situation and are being slower to come to Northern Ireland and feel less interested in coming, and, of course, that affects us and means that we ourselves are very anxious to see that the Free Trade Area has a real possibility of coming into being, however hard we must work to achieve it.
Another of the difficulties in Northern Ireland is shortage of capital. We have a number of small firms which did not share in the prosperity there was during the boom years, if we may call them that. Firms which are working with 1935 or 1938 capital in a 1958 economy find it impossible to carry stock and to maintain the standards necessary for them to sell the goods of quality for which we in Northern Ireland are so famous. That is a real problem and I believe that something ought to be done about it.
In passing, I would say that the Bank Rate is too high for small firms to borrow money to help carry these burdens. There must be found some way of reducing that heavy burden on the small firms.
There is another matter which affects us greatly, as has been mentioned already, and that is the fact that while the Anglo-Eire trade is in balance generally, many small firms in Northern Ireland are in a bad way for business because manufactured goods coming into the United Kingdom as a whole from Eire come in much greater proportion to Northern Ireland in particular, because it is easier for Eire to send them just over the land border than it is to send them anywhere else. We have to face that as further competition for our small firms.
Moreover, we have too high transport costs, which have been mentioned before, and which, in the short time available to me tonight, I shall not now elaborate.
My own experiences, and they are numerous, of this problem of unemployment go back to the early 'thirties. One day in the very dark year of 1931 there WAS an incident which will always remain in my mind. As a small child I went with my father, who was constantly visiting in and around the small houses in the centre of the city where men had forgotten what it was like to work. On 1238 this day, at the lunch hour, I remember seeing children in the house sitting down to bread with a spreading of jam.
There was no man in the room and my father went upstairs because we heard that the man was not yet up. I heard him say distinctly to the man, "Don't you think that even if you cannot get a job there is much you could do to help with the children and keep up morale?" I have never forgotten the man's reply which was, "Your reverence, if I do not rise I do not eat." We have come a long way from that situation. We have achieved a tremendous lot and we know that those sort of things cannot and must not ever return.
I speak with great feeling because I have listened to hon. Members putting the case for pockets of a very high level of unemployment. The general figure overall for Great Britain is 2.4 per cent., for Wales 4.1 per cent., for Scotland 4.4 per cent., but for Northern Ireland generally 8.3 per cent.
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
I am speaking now of Northern Ireland only and of the overall figure and I hope that the hon. Member will allow me a few minutes. We have this problem very acutely. I do not know how many unemployed there might be in certain pockets of unemployment, but I will do no more than mention the overall figure and problem. The President of the Board of Trade spoke this afternoon about the special help that is to be given about the difficulties of providing services round, and about new industries and about everything that has been and is being done. We are very grateful for what is being done, but we know that this problem is still being approached in an orthodox manner and that that such pieces of legislation as would allow the development of industry to be on the same level as it is now in Northern Ireland has not helped us in any way and that our problem is still as intractable as ever.
It is a problem with a long history. I remember that during the war we had 4.4 per cent. unemployment when there were no such comparable figures in the rest of Great Britain. Other parts of the United Kingdom had a greater measure of prosperity than had Northern Ireland 1239 We in Northern Ireland are modest, hardworking people. I sometimes think that because we do not shout loud and hard enough we do not get our share of employment.
No Government, including the present Government, has ever succeeded in solving this problem. We had the same problem during the six years of Labour Government. In fact, unemployment was then 0.1 per cent. or 0.2 per cent. higher than it is now. There is no cause for hon. Members opposite to say that the problem should be solved when they failed to solve it when they were in power. I would indict any Government, Labour or Tory, which failed to solve this problem.
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
Party bitterness is brought into this matter, but all we want is that the problem should be dealt with now and not in years to come. Laughing and joking, as some hon. Members appear to be doing, sometimes help to raise the temperature of the House, but it does not help to solve this problem in Northern Ireland.
We are grateful for the arrangements made to give grants to small farmers, because farming is our largest industry in Northern Ireland. These arrangements will help considerably those small farmers who have no other means of making the land as productive as it should be. The Government of Northern Ireland have been trying to bring new industry into the country. They have been successful, and, despite an increasing population and the increasing number of people coming on to the labour market all the time, we have managed to maintain the level of unemployment at a figure of which we are not proud but which would have been much worse but for those efforts.
We have slum clearance schemes, new road schemes, and school building. As much as can be done by us is being done, and I believe that the effort will be increased as and when we are able to do so. We have made a sound advance in technical school training and with a Short & Harlands' apprenticeship scheme, whereby we hope to see that all young people who are so minded have the opportunity of good training. We have a good labour market. We are anxious to exploit it and 1240 to allow anybody who wishes to come in to use it to have a really good shot at it industrially. We have a high exporting value per head of the population. Northern Ireland is a high-dollar-earning part of the United Kingdom. It has a large shipping industry and it has received a fair proportion of Government contracts.
We have many prosperous firms, small and large. We are not a down-and-out area and we are not trying to say that we are. We are saying that we have a problem on which this House is concentrating tonight. We have had a great increase in the "know-how" of textiles. We have had a great influx of new industries. If I may be vulgar, we can make everything from a brassiere to a battleship. The trouble is that we have not enough orders or enough firms filling them to take our unemployed.
Now I will make a few recommendations, because it is no use complaining if one cannot make suggestions. We have our aircraft industry represented by Short Brothers and Harland. Where are the Government orders and when will the decision be taken on the new freighter-cum-trooper for the Armed Forces? When will Messrs. Short's get an opportunity to develop the Britannia, which is a first-class project? We cannot get a definite answer and the men are getting impatient and restless. What about guided missiles? We need that kind of work and Short's is a Government firm. The Government have responsibility for seeing that the firm works, works securely, and works profitably.
Some method must be found of helping the exporting firms to carry their stocks. I will give one example. A linen firm which sends a salesman to America cannot guarantee to fill the orders given in America in the required time. The delay is between six to eight weeks. Why? Because the firm in question must carry 10 or 12 ranges in 10 or 12 colours, and at least 400 yards of each colour in each range must be dyed to make this an economic possibility. How can such a firm be expected to do that without crippling itself by carrying a heavy overdraft at the present high Bank Rate? Although the Bank Rate has come down, it is still not low enough.
Instead of scouting all over the world asking people to come to Wales, to Scotland and to Northern Ireland at the same 1241 time, is it not possible to decide on a concerted theme for Britain, for Ulster, for Wales and for Scotland? We are not greedy. We want to share in what is going. We are hungry for work, but we do not say that we must have it and nobody else. Long before I came to this House I suggested sending a team of fact-finding people to Ulster to discover where we need the capital, where the injection of money should be made, and what should be done. It is seven years since I first made this suggestion and I hope that it will be carried out.
All orthodox methods of solving this problem have failed. I believe that we must be afraid of new ideas, because no new ideas have been forthcoming. Ulster's exceptional position has not been fully realised. Even the question of a dry dock has not been emphasised as it should have been, so that question could be discussed profitably. I say to the Government, "Turn your eyes from the further horizons, for there are people in Northern Ireland who feel that Malta gets more time and attention from this House than those who have worked so hard in the years past, both in war and peace, and who now want some satisfaction on this point."
In an article published recently in the Northern Ireland Queen's University Year Book, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said:Your territory is our territory and your honour is our honour.I know that my right hon. Friend is sincere and that he has an abiding concern for Northern Ireland. I am well aware of the Government's interest and of the time that they have spent in trying to solve our problems. But it is not enough, and I do not want any more pious words or any more of these hopeful remarks. I want to see something done. I want the Government not to let this problem heat them.
I speak for all those people who have served Britain in the past and who ask for an opportunity to serve her in the future. I am holding up to the house the red hand of Ulster, the symbol of Ulster. I believe that if any Government can solve the problem of Ulster it is this Government, and I throw down the challenge to them—" Can you, will you, solve our unemployment problem?"
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) has made a very interesting speech in which she has given a graphic and vivid picture of unemployment in Northern Ireland. which picture, of course, is the same picture of every area affected in that way.
The hon. Lady said that she thought that people would get better attention paid to these evils if they shouted louder and oftener, but I think that she will agree with me that it is not enough to shout loud and often unless one knows what one is shouting for. The hon. Lady made it perfectly clear that the tragedies which she was describing so eloquently could be cured by a Government that intended to cure them. The implication of her speech was—and indeed she expressly said—that people in Northern Ireland and their representatives in this House of Commons were not satisfied that the Government were making any serious effort to cure this problem. If her speech did not mean that, she ought not to have made it. If her speech did mean that, she has to do something more than shout loud and long.
There will be a Division at the end of the debate when those who think that the Government have done everything that can reasonably be expected of the Government will go into the Government Lobby. If the hon. Lady is satisfied that the Government have done everything for unemployment in Northern Ireland that they can reasonably be expected to do, she will, of course, vote for them. If she has no opinion at all on the matter, then, no doubt, she will remain in her seat and not vote at all.
§ Mrs. McLaughlin rose—
§ Mr. Silverman
I have not time to give way. If the hon. Lady means what she said in her speech, then her duty to herself and to her constituents is to come into the Lobby with us at the end of the day and back her opinion with her vote.
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is not quite so sincere in his determination to air the problem of Lancashire. I spoke very briefly to give him a few minutes. He is now taking up the time of the House by telling me what I 1243 should do. I know what I shall do; I hope that the hon. Gentleman knows what he should do.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Lady seems to be making a mistake which I would not have thought it possible for her to make. She knows perfectly well that the problems of unemployment are everywhere the same. A part of her own problem in Northern Ireland is the textile problem. Most of our problem in Lancashire is the textile problem. As for her speaking briefly, I would point out that she took twenty minutes when she was supposed to take five.
I think that the speech made at the beginning of the debate by the President of the Board of Trade was about the most depressing and disappointing speech that has been delivered in the House for many years. He had not one single word of hope, comfort or help to give to any of us. Lancashire he did not mention, except to say that there was one problem vital to it, namely, the problem of the limitation of imports from Hong Kong. That, he knows perfectly well, is only a small part of the problem.
The right hon. Gentleman said that it was a vital problem, that he was trying to cope with it by agreement and that agreement was not in sight, and he left it at no more than that as his contribution to the Lancashire problem. It is most depressing and disappointing—disappointing at any rate to those who still have any faith in the Government's sincerity when they say that they mean to maintain full employment. They know perfectly well that they do not mean to maintain full employment at all. They do not give full employment the first priority, as hon. Members on this side of the House do. They say, and have said repeatedly, "We are prepared to maintain a high and stable level of unemployment, such as is consistent with maintaining the balance of payments and resisting inflation."
In other words, the Government are prepared to allow whatever number of unemployed is necessary rather than give up their doctrinaire objections to the control of our economic resources in the interests of the community. They are prepared to allow Lancashire, Northern Ireland, North Wales, South Wales, Durham, and any other part of the country in which it happens to be possible, 1244 to go to rack and ruin. They are prepared to let them become derelict, to let their populations drift away, to let their factories remain idle, and to maintain an absolute refusal to use the national resources for the national benefit unless there is a war.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
We have been debating a problem which has been created entirely by the policy of the Government in the last twelve months.
§ Mr. Robens
The hon. Member says "No", but the Secretary of State for Scotland said so. He said that the Government had to take the measures they did—which have produced stagnation in the economy and created this unemployment problem—because they had to deal with the more urgent and perhaps more difficult problem of inflation. If the hon. Member takes the view that what I am saying is incorrect, he must see what the Secretary of State for Scotland said this afternoon. At the same time, he said that there was no one on the Government side who liked unemployment; that they were as sincere as anyone else in wanting a low unemployment figure, and regretted the size of the unemployed army at the present time.
Nevertheless, many hon. Members opposite, including some Members of the Government, see some good in a growing army of unemployed. [Interruption.] It is no use hon. Members opposite protesting, because on 18th October the Assistant Postmaster-General is quoted by the Manchester Guardian as having said, in a speech at Liverpool, that the present figures of unemployment were part of the price to be paid for living in an age of change and rapid growth, and he went on to say:It should be seen as a spur to new efforts and new thinking.If the Assistant Postmaster-General thought that a rising army of unemployed was a spur to new thinking he should tell us who should do the new thinking. Should it be the unemployed? Surely the new thinking should be done by the Government of which he is a Member. That is an example of a Member of the Government who regards unemployment not as terribly disastrous but as a great spur to new thinking.
1245 We have had this debate with the background of an unemployment figure of 536,000. The language used tonight has been reasonably strong, certainly by hon. Members on this side, although if the positions had been reversed the language would have been much stronger from hon. Members opposite. But this is nothing to what we have to face, because in a few months' time the unemployment figure will rise by almost 20 per cent., to 620,000. My authority for saying that is the right hon. Member the Minister of Labour, who told us we must expect it. If from every quarter of the United Kingdom we can have strong statements and the expression of Members who feel keenly the problems of unemployment in their areas with an unemployment figure of slightly over 500,000, it seems to me that in a few months' time the arguments will be even stronger, and the language—if it is not in this House—lurid.
The truth is that there is great public anxiety about unemployment. It is no use hon. Members opposite chipping in by talking about the 3 per cent. which one ought to regard as a reasonable measure of unemployment, which was the percentage mentioned in the Coalition White Paper produced by Lord Beveridge. That was a different day and age. We look upon unemployment in the post-war years very differently from the way we looked at unemployment in the pre-war years. If in the pre-war years we could have had unemployment at 5 per cent. we should have said that that was very good indeed. We are not prepared today to accept 3 per cent. as the rate to which unemployment can go and then sit back and say that everything is all right at 3 per cent. We have to have unemployment at the lowest possible rate, and it is not our view that the lowest possible rate is 3 per cent.
That is why we have this great public interest. The News Chronicle Gallup poll the other day showed that this was the second most important subject in the minds of people in this country. This has been followed up by innumerable newspaper articles in most of the daily papers, and certainly the weekly papers, dealing with the problem of unemployment. Figures have been produced and there have been letters to The Times asking whether there is not, in fact, a much 1246 larger number of people unemployed by reason of the hidden unemployment. A good deal of this has been graphically described today.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), in opening the debate, put his finger on even a much greater social evil than the problem of adults in areas of unemployment when he drew the attention of the House to the thousands of school leavers to whom the Ministry of Labour local officials are saying, "There is no job for you". I regard this as most serious, because this is an age of technical development. What possibilities are there for improvements in technical processes in industry and factories if young people who go to technical colleges and who hope to improve their education by night school courses, for example, are told, when they leave school, "There is no job for you"?
One of my hon. Friends referred to young people in his constituency who had still no job although they had left school four or five months ago. I am not very old, but I well remember the 'twenties and the 'thirties and the awful problem for young people for whom there was no job when they left school. I was one of them. I left school in 1926 with a secondary education which had provided me with an ability to do shorthand and bookkeeping and to speak another language besides my own, but I started work mopping a shop floor; that was all I could manage to get after eight months seeking employment.
This situation now applies to many people today, and it is one of the tragic social consequences arising directly from the Government's policy. Unfortunately, although I have spoken of Government policy, the Government are following no overall policy. It is incredible to think that on 29th October, 1957, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer stood at the Box and told us how necessary it was to cut down capital expenditure. I will not quote his remarks because time does not permit, but he went through every phase of our public activities.
The power station programme had to be slowed down; local government work on housing, roads and other public services had to be slowed down; transport developments had to be slowed down; hospital building had to be slowed down; the building of schools and 1247 educational development had to be slowed down. Two or three pages of HANSARD are covered by the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the present Government—a Government with the same Prime Minister and almost the same Cabinet—which came to the conclusion about twelve months ago that the whole investment policy had to be slowed down because they were frightened by their inability to cope with the inflationary situation by any other method than that of creating an army of unemployed.
The Government knew perfectly well that the action which they contemplated at that time would produce unemployment. If they did not know it, they were reminded of it from this side of the House in that very debate. Three members of the Government resigned—the Chancellor and other Treasury Ministers—and we were told that they had resigned because the Cabinet could not agree on a further cut of £50 million in the investment programme.
Twelve months later the Prime Minister made an entirely different speech. He said, "Of course, there will be more jobs in the spring". He said that it is now necessary to spend a good deal more money. He gave the figure of about £150 million more to be spent than had been agreed at that time, and it was said that this would provide about 150,000 jobs.
I ask the Minister who is to reply to the debate, what kind of policy is this to run the economy of this nation, when within twelve months there is a complete switch from pulling down the economy and stagnating industry to these panic measures which the Government have adopted? When all this capital investment flows through the economy it will certainly create jobs. We do not oppose an increase in capital investment; it will create jobs.
What will the Government do then about the inflationary position which that will create? Will they then reduce investment and produce this army of unemployed all over again? It is clear that this is the only policy they understand. They let the economy rip on a free-for-all and then find that the value of the £ sterling is falling and are scared of the position of the £ sterling. They then retract, reduce capital investment and 1248 produce an army of unemployed. We thus go through this process and have this cycle every two years.
Our view is that there is no necessity to have these booms and slumps, providing the economy is properly managed and we have a planned economy. This is the whole argument between the parties. Make no mistake about it. Hon. Members opposite this afternoon have said that we have raised the question of unemployment for political motives. If full employment is a matter of politics, then I stand guilty of that charge. We shall tell the country that it is not possible to have full employment unless the resources of this nation are planned to ensure it, and that under a Tory Government we shall have full employment sometimes and large-scale unemployment at other times. This is the phase that we are now going through.
It is perfectly true that in an industrial society like ours we have problems of world-wide economic effect over which the United Kingdom Government have little or no control, and therefore there will be a fall in exports followed by a rise in exports; but if one has a planned economy, if one is constantly making preparation for the time when exports fall, and begins to put into the machine work for the home market, work that is required to be done in this country on our roads and schools, and in the clearance of our slums—a whole host of work is required to be done—if these are injected into our economy at the right time, instead of having high peaks and troughs we shall have a much more balanced employment situation.
When we come to individual planning within the country, we have to recognise that the changing pattern of industry is also changing the face of Britain. We have got a most remarkable example of that in cotton and coal. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) did not have much time to develop his case on the cotton industry. I know that in his town of Nelson in the last six years 25 mills have been closing and the young people are pouring out of Nelson at the rate of 600 a week. They are going out to get work somewhere else.
In the coal industry, an extractive industry, it is inevitable that the reserves of coal will be exhausted, and we know 1249 well in advance which pits will be closed and almost the exact time, within months, when they must be closed because the reserves have gone. Many of these pit villages rely entirely upon the working of the colliery. It is perfectly clear that with these two old industries going else-where—and I have no doubt that it will not be many years before the number of pits in this country will be half the number at present; it will be a more efficient industry—dotted over the country will be scores of communities without any work at all unless the Government provide that work.
I do not say that in every pit village we must put a new industry—that is not necessary in these modern times—but we must plan in some way. It may be that there will have to be better travel facilities from the mining villages, better roads, and the ability to use the capital assets in the villages which collectively must represent millions of pounds in housing and the social services. These ought not to be lost. We ought not to have young people leaving Nelson at the rate of 600 a week. We ought to plan our industrial potential in such a way that we can continue to use the social resources that we have in housing and so on, and, indeed, take work to the people instead of having people moving away, leaving deserted villages—and not just deserted villages, but leaving old and disabled people who cannot move to new work.
We cannot undertake this big operation without planning. A free-for-all economy cannot possibly meet this situation. Here is the great difference between the parties. The party opposite believes that a free economy left to itself without any control of any kind will in some way sort this matter out. Our view is that it will not sort it out. We must plan the situation.
Let us take the case mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly this afternoon. He spoke of the number of pits being closed in South Wales at the time when the Coal Board was developing two new pits. He indicated that if those pits had been given two more years of life instead of being closed by reason of Government policy, within the next six or eight months there could have been an easy and ordered transfer of miners from pits which were going out of production to the new pits. What kind of Government policy is this 1250 when in the mining industry it is time that is required It is to the eternal credit of men who work in the industry that they have never resisted the closure of pits which were uneconomic. What they have said is: Let us do this in an orderly way. Let us have these transfers in order to minimise the social inconvenience and hardship to the people working in the industry.
We have a situation in which time should be bought for the coal industry, because the Government were responsible for the coal-oil conversion in the power stations. They should take steps to ease the situation and extend the contracts which they have already made. I am not advocating that commercial contracts should be broken, but I am saying that the two oil companies concerned, faced with this problem, could technically quite easily extend their contracts and give the time that the mining industry needs to deal with this change which has been brought about largely by the stagnation of industry in this country.
The Government ought to look once again at what the gas industry is doing about liquified methane. It seems inconceivable that the Government should permit the gas industry to go to enormous expense to bring liquified methane from thousands of miles away, when, on its doorstep, are millions of tons of coal. They ought at this stage to be using scientific advice on how to carbonise the kind of coal which is available.
I recognise, and I believe that all those I speak for recognise, that with full employment one has a number of economic problems. The biggest problem, of course, is the danger of inflation. To overload the economy, to overload any part of industry, indeed, creates a situation in which inflation could begin to rear its ugly head. But, on behalf of all my right hon. and hon. Friends, I say that we would far rather deal with the problems of full employment than allow this burden of misery to rest on the half million people who are out of work.
What the Government have done to get out of the mess into which they have put themselves is to put the burden on this army of unemployed which the Minister of Labour says will reach over 600,000 by January or the end of February next year. They have run away from dealing with the real problems of 1251 this country's economy. That is the reason why we shall go into the Lobby against them tonight, to show that we regard their non-adherence to a policy with the contempt it deserves.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour and National Service (Mr. Iain Macleod)
It may be an odd taste, but I like taking part in unemployment debates, although I frankly say that I do not relish being the sixth speaker to speak from the Dispatch Box in this debate. I am sorry that so many hon. Members have not been able to get into the debate. It has been a constituency debate on the whole, and none the worse for that.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) spoke effectively at the beginning of the debate, and, in doing so, drew from the well of his great experience. I will come to certain of the points he made, if I may, but there is one general matter I wish to take up first of all. The right hon. Gentleman and many other speakers have said that they believe that because, man for man the Opposition have a far deeper knowledge of the problems of unemployment than we have on this side of the House—that is, of course, true—they are therefore more devoted to full employment. I do not believe that for a moment.
§ Mr. Macleod
I do not believe that what a man feels about unemployment depends on the party to which he belongs or whether his party happens to sit on the right-hand side or the left-hand side of Mr. Speaker. After all, the fact is that both parties have had good and bad trading conditions since the war. Both parties have tried, with varying success, to meet different sorts of economic crises.
Just to take comparable figures, the average figure of unemployment from August, 1945, until October, 1951, was 334,000. From November, 1951, until November, 1958, it was 325,400. I am not making any argument about the difference between the two, but nobody, on the basis of those figures, can suggest that one party has been strikingly more successful than another nor, in my view, can 1252 it be suggested that one party is more devoted to the cause of full employment than another.
In a speech at Cambridge a little time ago, the Leader of the Opposition, when expressing his belief—I have already said that I was grateful for it—that there would not be a major slump, laid down five points which he thought the Government should follow. I take it that these remain the beliefs of the Opposition for the right approach to the situation we have now. There are many matters I wish to discuss, and I will take these five points very quickly.
The first is that the publicly-owned industries should be allowed to get on with their investment programmes and be told to speed them up. Apart from the £30 million which was authorised in August, a further large total, between £125 million and £150 million, was announced on 3rd November.
The second point is that Government Departments and local authorities should push ahead with their programme for roads, schools and hospitals. It is in those fields that we have splendidly high programmes and we are now pushing ahead.
The right hon. Gentleman's third point is that interest rates should be lowered. [HON. MEMBERS; "Who put them up?"] This is what the Leader of the Opposition asks us to do. The Opposition cannot complain if we do it. The third point is that interest rates should be lowered much further, and shortly after that suggestion the Bank Rate was lowered again and an alteration was made in the Public Works Loan Board rate.
The fourth point, on export credits, was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in a debate on 4th November, and other alterations ware announced on 2nd December. The Leader of the Opposition's last point is that there should be tax concessions.
§ Mr. A. G. Bottomley (Rochester and Chatham)
Why leave it so late in accepting my right hon. Friend's policy?
§ Mr. Macleod
We did some of these things before the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The concessions on credit facilities were announced on 28th October. The Leader of the Opposition has much more experience in marking papers than 1253 I, but on that basis I give us 4½ out of 5, even on the Opposition's policy. This is the only thing that makes me wonder whether we are doing the right thing after all.
An important argument that emerged many times today, and on which there has been a professorial argument in The Times, was to the effect that the published figures under-estimate the true level of unemployment. I say straight away that the unemployment figures do not tell now, and, in a sense, can never tell, the whole story. I have always tried, as I think the House will recognise, in giving figures of unemployment, to give short-time figures, overtime figures and anything I can that helps to build up the true picture. I do not deny for one moment that when the demand for labour drops it is inevitable that the amount of work some people do is insufficient to keep them fully occupied, and although they are retained by their firm there is a substantial amount of under employment. On the other hand, short-time work over the last few months has not increased substantially. The last full quarterly figures that we have are for August, which show that the figure for short-time was 2.8 per cent., but 21.1 per cent. for overtime.
I wish to refer to only two obvious flaws in the calculations that are sometimes made. An argument that is often used in these debates is that, because in November 14.8 per cent. of the dock workers did not find daily work, this is hidden unemployment, or, any way, unemployment that is not shown in the unemployment figures. This is a misconception of the Dock Labour Scheme, because it has always been accepted—this will be found in the Devlin Report and in many other places—that there is a widely fluctuating demand for dock labour and, therefore, there should be a surplus of labour over daily requirements. This figure has been agreed at around 10 per cent. If we go back to November, 1957, when there was a far higher amount of activity, the average percentage was still 11.7. It is not true to count all these figures—
§ Mr. Macleod
I will deal with some facts about Merseyside in a moment. 1254 Seamen would be included in the figures in the ordinary way.
Again, there is the fallacy, which can be seen in today's newspapers, that, because married women sometimes are not insured, they do not appear in the unemployment figures. This is not so. Everyone appears in the unemployment figures, whether insured or not, as long as they are unemployed and registered as seeking work. This is not an insurance point, as is often mistakenly said. The truth is that over the years many hundreds of thousands of people have come in at times of peak labour demand, and this has been a great gain to us. It seems to me quite wrong to use an argument for 1958 which is not used for 1950 or 1948.
It could be argued equally easily that the figures for the years 1946 to 1948. before the 1948 scheme gave a wider spread to insurance, must have underestimated the amount of unemployment that existed because people had less incentive then to go to the exchanges Many of these arguments, however, are beside the point. We have for a long time accepted under both parties the same definition of employment, and if we are to make comparisons over the years not necessarily political comparisons, we must surely start from the same basis.
A little over six weeks ago, when we discussed the question of unemployment in the debate on the Address, I took what I knew was a considerable chance and predicted unemployment ahead to what would probably be the peak months of next year. I did it deliberately. I thought it fair to the House to do it, because with all the risks involved it was better to try to make an examination and see how best one could bring the figures before the House. I do not pretend that one can forecast these things accurately to one-tenth of 1 per cent., but I can say that what has happened since seems to have borne out my forecast. Indeed, I now think that I shall have a little bit in hand.
Between October and November, the increase of 22,000 was almost precisely in line with what I expected, although I added I must repeat this—that the rise in the number of wholly unemployed in those months was larger than I thought would be the case. Even though the final 1255 figures for November have been out only a few days, from the reports I have had I can now see fairly clearly what has happened in December. I do not have any detailed figures, but the movement between November and December has been more favourable than one could expect.
In a normal year, there would be a slight increase between these two months. I certainly anticipated a quite substantial increase on top of the normal seasonal movement. In fact, it looks as if there has been stability between these two months and, indeed, a slight decrease. [Interruption.] I know that it is a small improvement, but I am sure that the Opposition is as glad to hear this as we are. This seems to be the first month for a long time in which we have done better than the trend. Naturally, there is still to come the usual fairly substantial increase in the figures between December and January, about which I have warned the House.
Between these two months, vacancies show a small increase. Although the figures are microscopic, we have now had four months of a rather better trend in vacancies. This at least may show that the decline has been halted. I now give formal notice that, at least as far as the unemployment figures are concerned, I am going out of the tipster business.
The right hon. Member for Llanelly and the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. D. J. Williams) raised the question of Section 62 of the 1946 Act, and I would like to answer that point. Nobody knows this position better than the right hon. Gentleman, because it was his responsibility to pilot the Act through the House in 1946. Section 62 of that Act was only a temporary device with a life limited by the Act itself—and, therefore, by decision of the Labour Government—to five years from 1948. Therefore, it lapsed automatically in 1953. When it lapsed, the Government of the day, by that time a Tory Government, put up the amounts of insurance benefit to nineteen months in any one spell. These are the highest qualifications ever allowed since tests such as that of genuinely seeking work were properly abandoned. I say quite frankly that I think it would be a retrograde step to go back on that action. I will not give the House the 1256 quotations which I could give, including some from the right hon. Gentleman himself, but I think I should ask this. He was careful to ask what the Government were going to do about it, but I think he was also careful not to say whether he himself would bring back this particular Section.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
May I say that Section 62 was created to meet circumstances in which long-term unemployment meant unemployment with a means test? It succeeded admirably. We are reaching that stage again, and I and my party would restore it.
§ Mr. Macleod
It is a good thing that that should be said, but I do not believe that we are going into that position, and, quite frankly, I think it would be a great pity to go back and to put back into our National Insurance Scheme the sort of qualification which the right hon. Gentleman indicates. If I may quote from the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), from 23rd May, 1946, he said this:…I think it is impossible, being an insurance scheme, that it should march upon the basis that there can be unlimited or unqualified benefit in respect of unemployment… What is impossible in any insurance scheme is to base it upon the principle that there are limited contributions and unlimited benefits."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1946; Vol. 423, c. 661.]I am bound to say, looking back over the years—and we need not debate this now—that that advice was sound, and I rather think that the right hon. Gentleman himself might come to that conclusion.
The problem that has always concerned us all most has not been the overall level of employment but the existence of some of these peculiarly difficult areas, and so I asked for a "dip check" on five places, and these are the only figures I have, for North Lanarkshire, Greenock, Dundee, Llanelly and Merseyside. Between November and December, this is what happened: Greenock remained unchanged at 8.3 per cent. Dundee was unchanged at 4.8 per cent., and, of course, that is a considerable improvement since the high figure in the summer. Llanelly remains unchanged at 6.9 per cent.
In the other two, there has been a very considerable change and improvement. In North Lanarkshire, the total 1257 unemployment has gone down by 640, and the percentage rate has fallen from 8.6 to 8 2 in December. It is still far too high, but, surely, a welcome change. On Merseyside, between November and December, unemployment fell by over 2,500, and the percentage rate from 4.6 to 4.2, but Merseyside has always been essentially a problem of men wholly unemployed, and it is good to see that the male unemployment rate fell from 5½ to 4.9 per cent., the main reason for the fall being the winter overhaul programme and the drop in the number of people unemployed in shipbuilding and ship repairing.
I never try to build too much on one month's figures, but it is certainly true that this is the best news from Merseyside that we have had for a year or more.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Has the right hon. Gentleman any corresponding figures for north-east Lancashire?
§ Mr. Macleod
I shall come to say a word or two about cotton shortly, but I do not think I have the figures divided up for south-east Lancashire, because this count is only a day or two old.
One important point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) on training. He asked whether there are increased facilities for training, and whether the T.U.C. co-operated in this. With the agreement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we have increased the facilities for Government training, but there has, in fact, been very little extra demand—all through these difficult months—for additional training. It remains the policy—and I know it is right and is agreed by both sides of industry—that most of the training should be done by industry itself, and the T.U.C. gives warm support to it. We are also helping a great deal in the Industrial Training and Apprenticeship Council, which is in particular, looking into matters of apprenticeship training.
I have tried to cover all the points, but seeing it has not had a full hearing in today's debate I should like to say one word about textiles, and first of all, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin). She made reference to the linen industry, 1258 and particularly to the holding of stocks in the United States of America. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade would like to look at that in the light of what she has said in her speech.
On the general position in textiles, there has been something of an improvement—still microscopic, but in the last month or two there has been indeed an improvement. The decline in the number of workers, which has been slackening in recent months, ceased in September, and October was the first month since April of last year in which there was no fall. In cotton the number fell by 1,500 in October. In wool the number has remained steady since July. After a small rise in September short-time working fell by 11,000, a quite substantial figure, in October 6,000 of that being in cotton and 1,000 in wool.
I think the great difficulty with which the hon. Member and other hon. Members are concerned here is the application of the Distribution of Industry (Industrial Finance) Act of this year, because the only places at the moment that we put on the list as qualifying in Lancashire are Merseyside and Barrow-in-Furness.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness) rose—
§ Mr. Macleod
I am sorry I cannot give way, but I have such a short time.
The reason for that is that the criterion we have adopted is one of 4 per cent. wholly unemployed, and as of course the House knows, the problem in wool and cotton towns is essentially one of the temporarily stopped. I should like, with my right hon. Friend, in the light of the things that have been said, to examine this criterion, but I think that in general certainly the wholly unemployed is the better figure to take for this exercise, but I have recognised that there are special problems in Lancashire.
We have heard a great deal today about the closing of pits, and I think there was a passing reference today and in an article by the right hon. Gentleman a day or two ago to the switch to oil consumption at the power stations. Perhaps in a sentence or two I could just say this. On, I think, 3rd December in this House the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Power gave some indication of the closure of the 36 pits. We—that is the 1259 Ministry of Labour—have been most closely consulted at all times in this. There are two areas in which this is going to be a very real additional problem indeed. Of course, if there were no other problem this one could be taken. One is north Lanarkshire and the other is West South Wales. We must certainly do everything we can in these areas, which are areas which are receiving from D.A.T.A.C. and other machinery all the help the Government can possibly give. We must do everything we can to take this additional strain as well. In north Lanark-shire I think the long-term prospects, in view of the Ravenscraig proposals, are not by any means unfavourable.
The right hon. Gentleman said they were going to divide on this Motion tonight. On 6th February, in a debate on industrial relations, he said that peopleimagine that the trade union movement is composed entirely of trained economists when, in fact, trade unionists are very ordinary, decent people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th February, 1958; Vol. 581, c. 1360.]This was a distinction to which an added flavour was given by the fact that the Leader of the Opposition was sitting beside him at the time.
I do not know whether this is a correct division of mankind, into economists and ordinary decent people, but certainly the great debate amongst economists all this time, and we heard echoes of it in speeches today, is whether the Government have done too much or too little. The economists are almost equally divided on this, as they seem to be on almost every other conceivable subject as well.
It is our view that we have done about the right amount. Of course, it is immensely difficult to judge. Of course, we could do more, and, of course, it would be popular if we did more. Of course, we could get more votes if we did more. But we believe that we have a great chance, perhaps the greatest chance
§ there has been since the war, of containing inflation now. I do not believe that the prospects of that are in the least affected by such small seasonal movements in the index of Retail Prices as we have seen in these last few days.
§ I repeat that I believe that we have done just about the right amount. Throughout the debate concern has been shown, on both sides of the House. I hope that I have been able to show—and if I have not I should like to say it again—how fully I share that concern. I think that all the debates we have had in the past show that too. But it is not true, it cannot be true, to say that all the troubles have been wholly created by this Government, whatever political views we may have. The truth is that we have survived a world-wide dip in trade wonderfully well.
§ We are told that unemployment will be a great issue at the next General Election. I wonder. Many other lances have splintered in the hands of the party opposite. I have a feeling that, as with the Rent Act so with unemployment, it will be the Tories who will be talking about it when the General Election comes. Therefore, if we are to divide on the Motion we will meet that with confidence. I assure the House that we are ready and indeed eager to put these tests to the country as well.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
On a point of order. I should like to point out that in the whole of the debate there has been no mention of steel and no hon. Member representing a steel-producing constituency has been called.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 248, Noes 307.1265
|Division No. 18.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Benson, Sir George||Brockway, A. F.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Beswick, Frank||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.|
|Albu, A. H.||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Blackburn, F.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Blenkinsop, A.||Burke, W. A.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Blyton, W. R.||Burton, Miss F. E.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Boardman, H.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Baird, J.||Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Callaghan, L. J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Bowles, F. G.||Carmichael, J.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Boyd, T. C.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Champion, A. J.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Cl[...]ffe, Michael||Jones, Rt.Hon.A.Creech(Wakefield)||Rankin, John|
|Clunie, J.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Coldrick, W.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Reeves, J.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Reid, William|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Rhodes, H.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Kenyon, C.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Cronin, J.D.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|crossman, R. H. S.||King, Dr. H. M.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lawson, G. M.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Ledger, R. J.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Ross, William|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Short, E. W.|
|Deer, G.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lewis, Arthur||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lindgren, G. S.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Diamond, John||Lipton, Marcus||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Logan, D. G.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Donnelly, D. L.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Snow, J. W.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McCann, J.||Sorensen, R, W.|
|Edelman, M.||MacColl, J. E.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Edwards. Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||MacDermot, Niall||Sparks, J. A.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McGhee, H. G.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McInnes, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stonehouse, John|
|Fernyhough, E.||McLeavy, Frank||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Finch, H. J.||MacMillan, M. K, (Western Isles)||Strachey, Rt, Hon. J.|
|Fitch, Alan||MaoPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Strauss. Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Fletcher, Erio||Mahon, Simon||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Foot, D. M.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hn. H. T. N.||Mason, Roy||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mayhew, C. P.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Cordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mellish, R. J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Messer, Sir F.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mikardo, Ian||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Grey, C. F.||Mitchison, G. R.||Thornton, E.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Monslow, W.||Timmons, J.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moody, A. S.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Usborne, H. C.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Morrison, Rt.Hn. Herbert(Lewls'm,S.||Viant, S. P.|
|Hannan, W.||Mort, D. L.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Hastings, S.||Moss, R.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moyle, A.||Weitzman, D.|
|Healey, Denis||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Oliver, G. H.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Oram, A. E.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Holman, P.||Orbach, M.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Holmes, Horace||Oswald, T.||Wigg, George|
|Houghton, Douglas||Owen, W. J.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Padley, W. E.||Willey, Frederick|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Paget, R. T.||Williams, David (heath)|
|Hoy, J. H.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'[...]ery)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Williams, Richard (Openshaw)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Pargiter, G. A.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parker, J.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Parkin, B. T.||Woof, R. E.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Paton, John||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Peart, T. F.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Pentland, N.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Janner, B.||Prentice, R. E.|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
|Jeger, Mrs.Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs,S.)||Probert, A. R.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Baldook, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Baldwin, Sir Archer||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Balniel, Lord||Bennett, Dr. Reginald|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Banks, Col. C.||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Barber, Anthony||Bidgood, J. C.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Barlow, Sir John||Biggs-Davison, J. A.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Barter, John||Bingham, R. M.|
|Ashton, H.||Batsford, Brian||Birch, Rt, Hon. Nigel|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Baxter, Sir Beverley||Bishop, F. P.|
|At[...]ins, H. E.||Beamish, Col. Tufton||Black, C. W.|
|Body, R. F.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Har[...]e-Watt, Sir George||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Braine, B. R.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Henderson, John (Cathoart)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hesketh, R. F.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Bryan, P.||HIII, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Neave, Airey|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Burden, F. F. A,||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Butler,Rt.Hn.R.A.(Safiron Walden)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan|
|Carr, Robert||Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Noble, Michael (Argyll)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Holt, A. F.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Hope, Lord John||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hornby, R. P.||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Cole, Norman||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Osborne, C.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Horobin, Sir Ian||Page, R. G.|
|Cooke, Robert||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Howard, John (Test)||Partridge, E.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Peel, W. J.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hurd, A. R.||Pickthorn, K. w. M.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh,W.)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Flnchley)||Hyde, Montgomery||Pitman, I. J.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Iremonger, T. L.||Pott, H. P.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Profumo, J. D.|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Redmayne, M.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Kaberry, D.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Keegan, D.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Kershaw, J. A.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Duncan, Sir James||Kimball, M.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lagden, G. W.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Lambton, Viscount||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.)||Leather, E. H. C.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Leavey, J. A.||Ropner, Col, Sir Leonard|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Leburn, W. G.||Russell, R. S.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Legh, Hon, Peter (Petersfield)||Sharpies, R. C.|
|Fell, A.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Shepherd, William|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Forrest, G.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G.(Sutton Coldfield)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Fort, R.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Speir, R. M.|
|Foster, John||Loveys, Walter H.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n. S.)|
|Freeth, Denzil||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Gammans, Lady||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||McAdden, S. J.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Storey, S.|
|Glover, D.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Godber, J. B.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne).|
|Gower, H. R.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W,)||Teeling, W.|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Temple, John M.|
|Green, A.||Macmillan, Rt.Hn. Harold(Bromley)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Grimond, J.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maddan, Martin||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Gurden, Harold||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Harris, Frederio (Croydon, N.W.)||Marshall, Douglas||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mathew, R.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Wosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Wade, D. W.||Webbe, Sir H.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)||Webster, David||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)||Whitelaw, W. S. I.||Woollam, John Vlctor|
|Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)||Yates, William (The Wr[...]kln)|
|Wall, Patrick||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Woroester)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.|